Saturday, May 20, 2006

Face-Lift 29

Guess the Plot

Murderer Among the Mourners

1. Only fourteen people came to pay their last respects when Chatsworth Carmichael died, but by the end of the funeral, eight of them were dead.

2. Michelle and Brianne reunite at the rural funeral of an old classmate. When Michelle's husband is killed and Brianne's fiancé is kidnaped, the small town sheriff has a startling revelation: he suspects foul play.

3. Abner was pleased to see the turnout at his brother's wake--though he wasn't sure what O.J. Simpson was doing there.

4. The metal detector at the door of the funeral home was supposed to keep the Gennaro family out, but the Manzinis never thought to check under the Father's cassock for an assault rifle.

5. The mourners at Aunt Eliza's funeral were singing "Amazing Grace," all but one, Jeb, who had his iPod playing "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead."

6. Detective Aaron James knew the murderer would show up at Paul Lee's funeral. And he knew that the murderer knew that he knew. He even knew that the murderer knew that he knew that he knew. But what he didn't know was that the murderer knew that he knew that he knew that he knew.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After the suspicious death of an old classmate, Michelle Hendrickson and Brianne Roberts rediscover their friendship – only to have it tested after the murder of Michelle’s husband, [Brianne killed him. (After years in the business, it gets easier and easier for Evil Editor to spot the guilty parties.)] which leads to an intrepid hunt [EE thought it was hunters, not hunts that were intrepid, but he will wait for confirmation from the many experts among his minions.] for the truth, a race for their lives, and the clues that unwittingly lead them [They may unwittingly follow the clues, but it seems strange to say the clues unwittingly lead them.] [By "strange," I mean "wrong."] [Evil Editor seems to be in an unusually picky mood today.] to a major international crime. My co-author, Brook E. Smith, and I are pleased to have you consider it for representation.

Murderer Among the Mourners, a 103,000 word suspense novel, is the story of Michelle and Brianne, two friends who separated after high school and reunite over a decade later in their rural hometown. When Michelle’s husband is killed and the authorities suspect foul play, [Based on the dagger protruding from his back.] Brianne is there at her side. The emergence of an old flame, kidnapping of Brianne’s fiancé, and an unexpected pregnancy for Michelle [Did you ever have one of those days?] propel the women into searching for the truth behind the deaths.

["I'm pregnant."
"How did that happen?"
"I have no idea."
"There's only one way to find out. We've got to solve the murders."]

However, as they plunge further into the intrigue, they realize their very lives are at risk. After a chilling turn of events, Michelle and Brianne face cracking a case of international proportions as they struggle to decide who to trust with their lives and their hearts.

Murderer Among the Mourners targets women who enjoy a book about relationships but want a more compelling plot than the typical romance. [Uh, oh, you're gonna hear from the romance writers on that one.] [Romance writers: please elect a couple spokespersons, rather than crash the server. Thank you.] [In fact, let Evil Editor anticipate what will be said, so we can reduce the number of times it actually does get said:

Are you kidding me? You concoct this preposterous plot in which some nobody gets killed in a rural town, two women come to pay their last respects, and the next thing you know, one of them has a murdered husband and an immaculate conception, and the other has a kidnaped fiancé, and they end up setting aside their grief and anxiety to crack an international crime case, and you call that compelling? Try farcical, asinine, insane. Obviously the one romance you've ever read was some tame Barbara Cartland historical, and even that was probably more compelling than this irrational absurdity. I'm so filled with rage, I've a good mind to never return to this site again, except I can't do that because Evil Editor is such a sweetie, and I couldn't live without his hilarious discourse, even if he never seems to get around to doing my query letter.]

Murderer Among the Mourners combines the emotional human drama of Jodi Picoult and the fast paced suspense style of Mary Higgins Clark [to create the fast-paced emotional humanity of Jodi Higgins Picoult].

I was a staff writer for The Jefferson Star newspaper and am a member of The League of Utah Writers. Brook was a staff writer for The Jefferson Star and has presented research papers at the American Society for Public Administrators 65th National Conference.

At your request, I would be happy to send the complete manuscript of Murder Among the Mourners [It never looks good when you get your own title wrong.] for your consideration. I look forward to your opinion.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After the suspicious death of an old classmate, Michelle Hendrickson and Brianne Roberts rediscover an old friendship in their rural hometown. But before the casket has even been buried, Michelle’s husband is murdered, Brianne's fiancé is kidnaped, and the two women find themselves in a desperate race for the truth.

The emergence of an old flame and an unexpected pregnancy complicate matters as Michelle and Brianne try to unravel a deadly mystery. When clues lead them to a major international crime, they realize that they are in extreme peril, and that they don't know whom they can trust with their lives.

Murderer Among the Mourners, a 103,000-word novel, combines emotional human drama with fast-paced suspense. The book is a collaboration between myself and Brook E. Smith. Both of us have worked as staff writers for The Jefferson Star newspaper. At your request, I would be happy to send the complete manuscript of Murderer Among the Mourners for your consideration. I look forward to your opinion.



It was stated that the friendship between Brianne and Michelle was tested after the death of Michelle's husband. Yet Brianne is there at her side, so in what way was the friendship tested?

Evil Editor regrets the ranting of the romance writers, but feels it was better that you take your medicine immediately than over the course of many weeks.


Anonymous said...

Eh, the romance writers need to get over it. Romance might not be particularly flat and cliched now, but for a long time it was. And lashing out at the uninformed isn't very useful unless your aim is to whip your fellow genre writers into a frenzy of stroking your ego and bashing the ignorant person. Which might be fun, but it's not particularly effective at winning friends.

I wonder what the 'major international crime' is, myself. I'm voting either slavery, the drug trade, or ripping the tags of mattresses prior to sale.

Also, would it be just as correct, since this is a collaboration, for the query letter to come from both of the authors?

Anonymous said...

OMG, you have us romance writers pegged! Thanks for saving me the trouble of thinking up my own vitriolic response.

Oh, no, wait, I can't resist. Sorry. Lots of romance novels also contain strong suspense elements--that is the only point I would have made. I think the story sounds kinda interesting, something I would pick up.

Anonymous said...

I should apologize for the generalization; not ALL romance writers need to get over it. Just the really loud angry ones who got the RAGE! over this sort of thing.

McKoala said...

Is anyone really here to look for friends? I'm thinking that they might want to try a different site for that.

Anonymous said...

Um, tlh, is your point that if something may have been true say, 20 years ago (though there is no evidence to suggest that's the case) it's ok to believe it's still true? tlh, you have it backward. Romance writers do not need to get over it. People who trash romance need to get over it -- [all the stuff that Evil Editor said.]

Lyvvie said...

For a romance novel, It doesn't really hint as to where the romance is, and between who...unless Brianna and Michelle find there's more to their friendship than they ever could admit to as teenagers.

If it's romance, then we should hear more about the "emergence of an old flame" than just that wee hint. A name would help.

Is it possible this story is trying to tick too many boxes?

Stacia said...

Oh boy! I'm so glad someone has finally written something so much better than all us lousy romance writers have been able to come up with.

This does sound like an interesting story. But I think if you're going to try to sell it as romance, you really ought to be careful what you say. Agents/editors who rep/buy romance tend to roll their eyes and look for the nearest trash can when presented with queries that belittle romance. (Just as agents/editors in any genre do, btw.) Why not just find out who the agent you're targeting reps, and mention your story is so much better than the pap they produce?

It's not genre pride talking here, it's common sense. Is that effective enough for you, tlh? :-)

Anonymous said...

It looks like the authors are billing it as a suspense, not a romance. Yeah they probably shouldn't bash romance authors, but the story does sound like something I'd read.

Brenda said...

thl said, "...lashing out at the uninformed isn't very useful..."

That's the problem, the uninformed. Romance as a genre has probably had the most overall changes in the last several years on what makes it a "romance", and if people still think it's all about Fabio and bodice-rippers, they need to read more, know the market, and broaden their scope of genres.

Romantic suspense is just what it says: There's real suspense with an added love interest, with the reader having more of her emotions brought into the book than a straight suspense would, more at stake, etc. Somehow I think Sandra Brown's ENVY and WHITE HOT, for example, aren't your "typical" romances, but if writers aren't reading a vast scope of books, they won't really know where their book belongs and feed the continuing idea that romance is something it's just ... not. It's not about "whipping your fellow genre writer" - it's informing them if they can't educate themselves.

The excuse of ignorance in this instance isn't valid.

Anonymous said...

Um, tlh, is your point that if something may have been true say, 20 years ago (though there is no evidence to suggest that's the case) it's ok to believe it's still true?

Three problems with your statements here. First, I didn't say it was still flat and cliched, I said 'for a long time it was'.

Second, there IS proof for it, and more recently then twenty years ago (although it was certainly far worse then); I have a box in the closet full of romances best described as 'eye-crossingly silly', some older and some newer. And they aren't all Harlequin one-inchers, either.

Third, I never said it was okay to trash romance writers. I said it was not okay to lash out at people who made the mistake.

It does you no service whatsoever to shout at people who are honestly misinformed about your genre. And they *must* be honestly misinformed, because you've just said that the genre isn't like that any more -- so you're picking on them for not knowing any better?

It's certainly not as effective as a gentle, "Hey, things have a changed a lot since romance first developed as a genre, and you seem to have some misconceptions. Why don't you check out some of my favorite authors to get a feel for it?"

tlh, you have it backward. Romance writers do not need to get over it. People who trash romance need to get over it -- [all the stuff that Evil Editor said.]

I think maybe we're reading a different Evil Editor. It seemed to me that EE's mini-rant in the center of the review was a parody of what we've all seen many times before on message boards, not an endorsement of it or a scathing punishment for the author of the synopsis.

And saying what you think will be the most likely response by a particular group does not necessarily mean you support that viewpoint, or that you dislike it, just that you're aware of it.

This, of course, is just what I took away from reading the post; I can't really state with certainty what EE's intentions are, because I haven't asked.

Evil Editor said...

People, people. Evil Editor's home is a place for fun, laughter, and, of course, praise of Evil Editor. Those who step out of line will be sent to Miss Snark's office.

Brenda said...

I'd love to be sent to Miss Snark's office. She has gin. Lots of it.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

Really, can you think of any genre that doesn't have its share of cliched, derivative dreck? And its share of uninformed characters who think they're all that way? Science fiction has to deal with stereotypes as "bad science combined with bad fiction," fantasy is accused of being an endless series of Tolkien re-hashes, etc.

And there are usually enough memorable examples of books that fit those stereotypes, but it is a big mistake to stereotype any genre.

Anonymous said...

Am I missing something? Is comparing your novel to successful authors rule #3 or something? Does rule #4 state that the comparison has to include at least two successfull authors with distinctively different styles? A lot of query letters have this and it is so lame. It sounds really stupid and (some other word that means lame and stupid). -JTC
Disclaimer: I know nothing about query letters and this is just my opinion in case I piss-off a bunch of romance writers.

Anonymous said...

The best--rather, least pompous-sounding--way to work a comparison to other authors into your query is thus: "I believe readers who enjoy the books of Jodi Picoult and Mary Higgins Clark would also enjoy my drek-filled tome," or whatever.

Any closer a comparison than that just comes off sounding egotistical. One agent even went so far as to put on his website that he would ignore any adjectives you might use to describe your own style--although I believe 'ignore' in this case would be decidedly optimistic. I had the impression that were he to find any such adjectives in a query, he might sprain his eyeballs from rolling them too hard.

As for all that nonsense about romance, everyone needs to get over it. I think genre writing, in general, has improved over the years, and will only continue to do so. There's something to be said for an intersting story written with proper grammar in a language its readers can understand. I once started a literary novel by a very well-known author who decided there was no room in his book for basic punctuation--not even quotation marks. I'd read anything by Holly Lisle or Stephen R. Donaldson before trying to pick my way through something like that again. At least I won't have a migraine by the end of it.