Thursday, May 25, 2006

Face-Lift 35

Guess the Plot

Reality Bites

1. After seventeen years in the psych ward, Oscar is finally released. Two days later he's back, begging them to admit him.

2. A psychic FBI agent can't believe her visions: pschic vampires are running amok in Cleveland.

3. Gala Peterson thought it sounded like fun: joining the cast of a new reality show, to be filmed in the remote Pacific islands where pirates and cannibals had once ruled. But the last challenge for the tribes is a deadly one--eat or be eaten.

4. After a traumatic car accident, Joe discovers he can no longer view the world continuously. Instead, he sees life in separate 30-second pieces. Can a compassionate therapist help him put his life back into a narrative?

5. Vampire puberty sucks bad enough, but when it's Chance's time to Turn into a full-fledged vampire, he's drafted for the wildly popular reality television show Fang Time.

6. Space diva Reality Jones has too many assistants, too many lovers, and too many years left on her contract. With the help of a promising young cloning scientist, Reality is going to chuck it all and head for the isolated paradise planet of Yarnow.

Rather than include a revised version, which tends to be boring when not much is changed, Evil Editor has decided to cover two queries in this post. Also figuring in this decision, is the fact that the two books have the same plot.

Original Version 1

Dear Agent/Editor

Vlad the Impaler died centuries ago, but his cruelty lives on in a series of bizarre murders in Cleveland, Ohio where six people have been staked and bled dry. [It's a reverse vampire; it stakes its victims, and the only way to kill it is by biting its neck.] The only thing they have in common? Psychic abilities. [Sorry, but sensing that you're about to die, when you're locked in a room with a bloodthirsty vampire, does not make you psychic.] [Apparently there are so many psychics in Cleveland, even a vampire that drinks only the blood of psychics can get along just fine.]

Psychic FBI agent, Robin Lesange, [Is there anybody in this novel who isn't psychic?] is used to seeing to bloodspattered crime scenes play through her mind, but what's happening in Cleveland defies even her jaded experience. [For one thing, the blood spatters have all been licked.] For the first time, her clairvoyance shows her things that, not only shouldn't happen, but shouldn't exist either. [The second comma in that sentence, for instance, or the second word "to" in the previous sentence.]

Like vampires. [Them too.]

Nor is Robin the only one after the killer. Ambrose D'Avignon, a handsome, [psychic,] so-called 'vampire', [Having already said "so-called," no need to also use quotation marks--or even apostrophes.] claims the killer is a genetic mistake, a vampire that failed to evolve from drinking blood to feeding on human energy and must be destroyed. [Vampires who feed on human energy, however, don't need to be destroyed; all they do is turn people into couch potatoes.] He has been sent [by whom?] to make sure the killer quietly disappears, and isn't about to let Robin get in his way--though that doesn't keep him from trying to seduce her.

Ignoring Ambrose's advances, Robin continues her investigation expecting to find a more conventional answer than what her psychic skills have revealed. [Six victims with their blood completely drained, her psychic sense screaming, "IT'S A #$%&$# VAMPIRE, IDIOT," and she wants another answer? Like what? Someone's trying to make the world's biggest Bloody Mary in his hot tub, and misunderstood the recipe?] But when the killer starts to stalk her as his next victim [Evil Editor saw that coming a mile away.] just as Ambrose draws her deeper into his mythic reality, Robin has to face the fact that monsters do exist, and it's up to her to stop them...even if it means becoming one herself.

Complete at 80,000 words, REALITY BITES is a paranormal thriller with a strong romantic subplot. Per your guidelines, please find enclosed a synopsis and the first three chapters.

I have always enjoyed STORIES by X and wrote REALITY BITES with that readership [Myself.] in mind. Knowing you represent X, I thought you might find my manuscript of interest. [Actually, if I'm looking for a book that will be enjoyed by readers of X, and I happen to represent X, I think I'll start by checking in with X to see what she's working on. But you can be Plan Y.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


Original Version 2 (Relentless Dawn)

Dear Ms. Editor so-and-so:

Thank you for meeting with me at the (local RWA chapter) retreat at (location). I enjoyed our [(fawning adjective)] discussion of my paranormal romantic suspense manuscript, Relentless Dawn, and appreciate the opportunity to submit my work to you.

In Relentless Dawn, homicide detective Samantha Lawford is on the hunt for a mysterious killer known as “The Biter.” [I realize "Hannibal the Cannibal" is already taken, but The Biter?] After a series of dead-end cases, these high profile murders could be her chance to prove herself worthy of her badge.

As the Vampire Enforcer of Vegas, [Are we talking about someone who enforces vampires, or a vampire who's an enforcer, or both?] Damien Commons [Damien? He's a vampire, all right.] must catch the rogue vampire before he bites again—otherwise, Damien’s own life could be forfeit. [Explain.] He also needs to keep the sexy detective off the blood trail and prevent her from being the next one bitten…unless it's by him.

While Relentless Dawn is a stand-alone book with a satisfying conclusion to Samantha and Damien’s story, I am developing the (series title) series, which intertwines the lives of each vampire in Damien’s family [It must be tough growing up in a whole family of vampires, what with all the fighting over who gets to drain the Domino's guy's blood every night.] as they embark on sexy adventures that lead to love.

I am published in book length non-fiction with (title) from (respectable publishing house). Additionally, I am a member of the Romance Writers of America and the Washington Romance Writers. I am an attorney and member of the Virginia State Bar.

Enclosed please find my first chapter and synopsis for Relentless Dawn. Upon your request, I will be delighted to send the completed 100,000 word manuscript and have enclosed an SASE for your convenient response. You may also contact me via email at (my email address) or via phone at (my phone number). I appreciate your consideration of my work and [(adverb expressing submissiveness)] look forward to hearing from you [(vague time period)].



There's room for some more information in the second query, especially after the part about being a lawyer is removed. The first query could be shortened by eliminating the paragraph about X and moving the two-word paragraph to the end of the previous paragraph. Then the race is on, because no agent has room on his list for two novels about a female law officer trying to solve a bunch of blood drainings, and falling in love with a vampire who's also after the collar. Better get those queries out today.


Anonymous said...

Hi Evil Editor. I noticed your tag line 'Why You Don't Get Published', and am wondering, does perfecting query letters really have that much of an impact?
Yes!, I hear you all say, because it leads an agent to request your work... But so what?
As Miss Snark often reminds us, it's the writing that counts. So does concentrating on the query letter help anywhere near as much as, say, concentrating on the first few pages? Surely the first pages (included diligently with the letter) are much more of a deal breaker than queries.
I'd really like to know what editors think when they read those first pages. How often do you get past page one? Do you roll your eyes and put the page down three sentences in? Miss Snark's original crapometer round dealt with first pages, and I found those so much more valuable than queries, synopses etc. I really got to see why an editor would reach for rejection. I mean, what's the point of spending months tweaking and polishing a great query if you lose the editor before the fourth paragraph?

Anonymous said...

What is it with vampire stories lately?

Anonymous said...

Vampire romances are pretty much the hot genre right now, allis--which makes me question E.E.'s implication that there's not room enough for two with the same plot.

-A, who hasn't read a vampire book since "Dracula" but loves werewolf movies to death

Anonymous said...


I think what's up with the vampires is that paranormal romance is a hot market right now, erotica is on the upswing, and vampires are considered to be both paranormal and (inexplicably, IMHO) erotic.

Blood. Ick. What's sexy about that?

Evil Editor said...

Evil Editor's claim was that there wasn't room on one agent's list for two with the same plot. When the agent pitches a book to a publisher, and the publisher says, No thanks, what else have you got, the agent would prefer not to come back with the exact same plot.

Anonymous said...

what's this about first pages?? EE are you doing first pages now?? Like an evil Crapometer

Anonymous said...

So does concentrating on the query letter help anywhere near as much as, say, concentrating on the first few pages?

I don't think it's an either/or; it all (even the stuff after the first few pagesI has to be good.

Brenda said...

[Actually, if I'm looking for a book that will be enjoyed by readers of X, and I happen to represent X, I think I'll start by checking in with X to see what she's working on. But you can be Plan Y.]

I find this incredibly interesting. We've been told to read your favorite books, your favorite authors, ones who write similar stories with similar tones and see who their agent/editors are because they are who you should be targetting. This is the stuff they obviously like. But what EE said above makes me wonder about that. I don't want to write something, send it to someone who I think, based on their clients, will like it too, and then them turn and ask their current author if they have anything going on before considering me.

And this, overall and in more areas than just this one, drives me nuts. We're all trying to learn everything we can, and so often, the advice contradicts itself from the different sources. Argh.

Anonymous said...

Query #1 - Yipes, people-with-weird-powers who don't believe in other weird stuff...totally illogical, pulls me out of the story. Unless it's very tongue in cheek, IMHO it doesn't even work well in comics, to say nothing of books.

Susanna - EE's an editor, not an agent, but even Miss Snark points out that some agents don't even want sample pages with a query. From EE's inaugural post, some probably stop halfway through the query and reject then. So, the query seems to be important, too.

But even if an agent loves the few pages with the query, wouldn't they read the query to make sure the book's right for them overall? I wouldn't be surprised if good writing + horrible query sometimes gets a "not for me but send me your next one" -- or, worse yet, "not for me" with no explanation that the query made the book sound sucky.

Just my two (non-agent, non-editor, but perhaps slightly evil) cents....

Anonymous said...

Brenda, I think we are told to read what and who we like so we can get a feel for the way it is written and an example of a successful style. But, we must each develop our own style based on a successful formula. This includes being as original as possible. It is very tough. Which is why so few are successful. Someone once said (I think it was me), "Don't think. Write." -JTC

none said...

The ants say (I think I've got this right; those feelers move fast), Can We Have Our Room Back.

It might be Broom.

BorderMoon said...

These two synopses made my vampire-fan co-worker turn the color of a ripe avocado as she struggled to keep her Coca Cola down and prevent it from escapng via her nose. I WARNED her not to drink while reading them, but youth never listens....

Brenda said...

JTC - Got it, and totally agree. After EE posted about it, my tired brain woke up and said, "Duh".

No one should attempt to BE someone else and that's not what I was trying to say (or imply!). But I think a writer should know if their work leans more toward a Lisa Gardner audience than Janet Evanovich.