Friday, June 30, 2006
Guess the Plot
1. A soothsaying parrot predicts that Angriel's sons will bring about his death, so he kills them as they sleep. And gets the electric chair.
2. This eighth volume in the Prophecy Jackson decalogy finds him babysitting his eight stepsons while his wife attends the annual convention of their fathers.
3. As if immortality without eternal youth wasn't bad enough, now Sybil's kids are teenagers. "Aw, Mom," they whine, "you think you know everything!"
4. Yet another fantasy in which a dying king's oddly-named sons are the subject of an incomprehensible prophecy that will suddenly seem crystal clear after it comes true.
5. Sequel to "Prophecy's Birth", it sets the scene for later books "Prophecy's Dead End Job" and "Prophecy's Incessant Nagging".
6. A woman moves to London to be close to her two grandsons. She convinces them they must kill their parents to fulfill their destiny.
Dear Evil Editor:
From King Arthur to Harry Potter, fantasy heroes have often been born to fulfill prophecies they never knew existed. [King Arthur? You can at least go back to Greek mythology.] But what happens when you've known from childhood that a prophecy defines your destiny? [As it happens, Evil Editor is the perfect person to ask. Shortly after I was born, a crazed midwife predicted that I would gain fame as a blogger. My mother said, "A what?" Then she reached for the nurses' call button.
The woman also predicted, before she was dragged out of the room by hospital security, that Evil Editor:
1. Would be plagued by hundreds of rotini-shaped growths in his groin.
2. Would, in his later years, become intolerant of cheese salesmen.
3. Would be unable to remember the definition of "ombudsman."
4. Would win an Oscar.
5. Would have knees that bend in both directions, and tusks.]
[Until ten weeks ago, none of this had come to pass. Then I started a blog, and yesterday morning I was unnecessarily rude to a brie merchant. Now I check my groin every five minutes.]
Prophecy's Sons, a 118,000-word fantasy novel, takes place in a world in which prophecies are a tool mages use, not to predict the future, but to shape it to the will of the omniscient force they serve. The story centers on the sons of an ailing king: younger son Aodan, a dutiful soldier who has grown up believing he is the central figure of a prophecy delivered shortly before his birth, and Brannen, the king's rebellious heir. [Didn't we just do this book? No, that one had daughters instead of sons. The rest was the same, though,] Brannen is swept into a world of political intrigue and seduction when he enters into a dangerous alliance with the queen whose downfall the prophecy predicts. Meanwhile, Aodan's quest to find answers to the prophecy forces him to question his faith in it as he struggles with his growing feelings for the strong-minded warrior his brother loves. [He has feelings for the warrior his brother loves? Is this warrior a guy? Because two brothers in love with the same guy would at least make this different from the million other prophecy fantasies.] [What exactly did the prophecy say? The queen shall meet her downfall, even as her sons shall covet the warrior who shaves his chest?] [This sounds more like the plot of an opera than a novel.]
My writing experience has ranged from grant writing for an opera company [Aha! I knew it. You can take the writer out of the opera house, but you can't take the opera house out of the writer.] to short fiction in Quantum Muse, Nanobison, and AIM Magazine. Prophecy's Sons is my first novel and the first book in a proposed trilogy.
I have enclosed a synopsis and a self-addressed stamped envelope for your reply. Thank you for your time and consideration.
How is the prophecy a tool of the mages? Presumably the mages deliver the prophecy in order to get Aodan to do something, but we don't know anything Aodan does because of the prophecy. We don't even know what the prophecy says about Aodan, which would seem to be the most crucial information of all. What is this omniscient force the mages serve? Does it play a role in the book? The query is brief enough that you have room to answer some of these questions. Once you do, it will be fine.
Also, make that part about the strong-minded warrior less ambiguous.
Guess the Plot
1. Supermodel Ariel kicks drug addiction while camping in Yellowstone Park. Then she meets Gaye Carter, a potter from Seattle with some truly spectacular weed. Will the munchies wreck her career?
2. Were they just a tissue match, or were they kindred hearts? A transplant patient falls in love with the ghost of her donor.
3. Were widow Katie and veterinarian Matt destined to be Kindred Hearts? Or was Matt just after Katie's secret files on the KKK?
4. Prosecutor Jake Healy and defense attorney Sinclair Crump receive transplanted hearts from identical twin teens killed in a tragic nail salon accident. When these men meet in the courtroom, can they overcome their urges to giggle, compare shoes, and text message each other?
5. Kanyo's career of competitive eating threatens imminent congestive heart failure. Will his twin, Kinto, agree to share his healthy heart by becoming surgically joined siamese twins?
6. Bo and Daisy's love may have been forbidden, but neither family ties nor Bo's death and reanimation could separate their... Kindred Hearts.
Dear Evil Editor,
Recovering from an accident, veterinarian Matt Foster promises to help hospital roommate Adrian Adams, who traveled from California to Indiana hoping to discover clues to his origins at the Maconaquah County orphanage. [I need clues to my origin, which I might be able to get at the orphanage where I grew up. But first maybe I should see what the veterinarian knows.]
No one knew more about the orphanage than the late husband of Matt's friend, Katie Duncan. But Katie's husband died before completing his research into the Klan's presence in the county. [Died or was killed? The Klan killed him because he was getting too close to the truth, right? Then they made it look like he accidentally fell out of a tree with a noose around his neck.] Adrian, in failing health, views this as his last chance to find answers to haunting questions -- who placed him in the orphanage and why he was adopted out rather than placed with family.
Matt stubbornly keeps his promise to Adrian even thought it means digging into long-kept secrets about a bi-racial baby [What's Adrian's race?] and Klan violence – secrets kept by community elders, investigated by Katie's late husband but locked away for years.
Clashing with Matt over his promise versus her late husband's reputation [How is his reputation affected?] Katie struggles with her growing attraction to him. They try to reconcile Adrian with any surviving family – including his elderly aunt who prayed faithfully for him for years – as well as resolve their community's support of the Klan – before Adrian's time runs out.
It's troubling to learn some scholars say conservative Christians in turn-of-the-century Indiana supported the Klan because it claimed to be an organization about preserving family values. [Why can't scholars just keep their mouths shut?] Set in present-day Indiana, “Kindred Hearts,” an inspirational romantic suspense, is complete at 50,000 words.
Dear Evil Editor,
Recovering from an accident, veterinarian Matt Foster promises to help hospital roommate Adrian Adams, who traveled from California to Indiana hoping to discover clues to his origin at the Maconaquah County orphanage. Adrian, in failing health due to sickle cell anemia, views this as his last chance to find answers to haunting questions: who placed him in the orphanage, and why was he adopted out, rather than placed with family?
No one knew more about the orphanage than Paul, the late husband of Matt's friend, Katie Duncan. But Paul was hanged years ago by a lynch mob, while investigating the Klan's presence in the county. Matt asks Katie for access to Paul's files, files containing secrets kept by community elders, and locked away by Katie as she tried to let go of the past.
Ssearching Paul's files, Matt and Katie turn up long-kept secrets about a bi-racial baby and Klan violence. They also reconcile Adrian with an elderly aunt, hoping she can provide answers before Adrian's time runs out. As she works side by side with Matt, Katie struggles with her growing attraction to him.
Set in present-day Indiana, my inspirational romantic suspense novel, Kindred Hearts, is complete at 50,000 words. It's troubling to learn that conservative Christians in turn-of-the-century Indiana supported the Klan because it claimed to be an organization about preserving family values. Kindred Hearts brings to light some painful truths, while also depicting a satisfying romance. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Okay, so Evil Editor took some liberties. It should be easy enough to correct his errors with specific information.
Okay, so it wasn't a yukfest. At least we have Guess the Plot to take up the slack when a query doesn't inspire Evil Editor's comedic side.
After years of being a journalist and college newspaper adviser, I've decided to start writing a nonfiction book of essays about the lack of awareness among 18-25-year-olds in America today. Parts will be funny, parts will be very serious research, parts will be really interesting (hopefully all of it will be interesting, but I'm trying to be humble and self-deprecating). Question: The book will need to be published in a timely manner, as it will focus a lot on current trends and events. Is it OK to start sending out queries before the book is actually finished to get the ball rolling and to find out if anyone is interested? My students and I read you every day, and they appreciate me more and more because I'm not as evil as I could be.
Evil Editor commends you for realizing that finding a publisher could take a long time. He also commends you for forcing your students to visit his blog, and for spelling "adviser" with the preferred "e".
A timely book can present a problem. It may even require you to make periodic revisions with passing time if it hasn't sold. You wouldn't believe how many manuscripts I've received with titles like, Why the Berlin Wall Should Be Torn Down, or Surviving the Aftermath of the Spanish American War.
You'll be happy to know that while fictional works should be complete when querying (until you're a big shot, anyway), nonfiction books are often "proposed" before they've even been started. There should be no problem with sending off a description of the book, your qualifications to write it, and perhaps a couple sample essays. Hope your target audience isn't 18 -25-year-olds; they'll be unaware the book even exists.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Suppose you indicate in your submission guidelines that you prefer to receive a complete manuscript. A hapless author, realizing that would mean consigning her ms. to 8 exclusive months in your office, sends you a query, short synopsis, and 5pp sample instead. (Which, of course, she also sends simultaneously to all your competitors.)
Do you fly into a rage and blacklist the author for not following directions? Do you understand her pathetic attempt to cut down unneccesary wait time, grit your teeth, and read the query? Or do you send her a silent thanks for not shouldering you with 200 more pages of purpleish prose?
You being you, I assume that all three paths end in rejection. I'd just like to prevent the four-month wait between "no"s.
Make a list of every publisher or agent that handles what you write. Put the ones that want an 8-month exclusive at the bottom of the list. Put the ones that take simultaneous submissions and respond in a week at the top. Most of your list will be in the middle. If you don't want to work with those at the bottom, tear the list at your cutoff point and throw the bottom half away. Feel good about it. Who do they think they are?
Now you have a list of those whose terms you can tolerate. Tolerate them.
Don't submit to all of them at once--you may decide tomorrow that what you're submitting is crap, and you'll want some options open after you fix it.
Guess the Plot
1. Two escaped convicts, handcuffed together, die when Aretha Franklin falls through the stage they were hiding under, crushing them.
2. After 40 years of grits and gravy, Hank's doctor warned him his near-terminal constipation could be cured only by a diet of spa cuisine. Can he learn to love celery? Or is he . . . Soulbound?
3. Aspiring blues singer Blind Lemon Morton comes into possession of basketball sneakers that enhance the wearer's leaping ability.
4. Corrig Ironshield sold half of his soul to a demon. Now whenever he sleeps, his soul goes to hell for quality time with his better half.
5. When a promising-but-sinful young novelist dies in a tragic, grief-induced auto-erotic asphyxiation accident, he learns, too late, that his own personal version of hell is to spend eternity as the subject of his recently-mourned female editor's kinky sadomasochistic sex fantasies.
6. Each time the train stops, a new passenger boards and asks Lana about her past. As she recounts significant episodes from her life, she wonders whether the train is bound for heaven or hell.
Dear Evil Editor,
What would you do if your family was murdered by an evil wizard? [Evil Editor would sell 49% of his soul to a demon for the power to avenge them.] If you were Corrig Ironshield, you'd sell half your soul to a demon for the power to avenge them. [Half? Corrig should have consulted Evil Editor. This is not going to go well.]
Becoming Soulbound isn't all its cracked up to be. Sure, you can eat magic [explain] and fight a werewolf with your bare hands, but whenever you sleep, your soul goes to hell for quality time with your better half. [Why is his better half in hell?] Oh, and did the demon mention that after a meager century you burn in hell forever, vengeance attained or no? [I don't think so . . . unless it came up while I was distracted by the naked woman juggling flaming clarinets.]
In pursuit of his nemesis, Corrig rescues Wick, an innocent boy, from a town bully. This leads him down the trail of an alleged werewolf with the help of Lieutenant Denl, a compassionate guardsman, and Ithra, a fearless innkeeper's daughter. Destroying the werewolf's [Alleged werewolf] magic puts Corrig to sleep.
While he is helpless and tormented, Yros, the werewolf's [Alleged werewolf!] wizard master, captures and imprisons Corrig and Ithra. Aided by an angel's blessing, Wick and Denl mount a rescue mission. In the process, Ithra and Wick discover and come to terms with Corrig's demonic nature and sorrowful past. Yros plans to use Ithra's soul to obtain immortality.
Ultimately, Corrig is forced to either murder Ithra, which will save her soul, or kill Yros. He chooses to kill the wizard, but as a consequence Ithra becomes Soulbound as well. [Something tells me Ithra's going to have issues with Corrig, especially in 100 years.] This sets the stage for book two. [I call it Soulbound 2: The Soulbound Two]
Soulbound is the first of three novels that follow Corrig and Ithra in their pursuit of revenge, solace and redemption. I believe that these themes are highly relevant due to America's grief, anger and pursuit of revenge for the 9/11 attacks. [Yikes. If every author whose book involved grief or revenge or anger played the 9/11 card . . . Chances are your letter is going to New York City, and to someone who was there that day. Do they want you telling them your book is relevant because of 9/11? Your book about werewolves and wizards? Even if you intended this as an allegory for the war on terror, let the editor figure it out.] The issues are handled compassionately and are carefully woven into the action of the story. I have included a SASE for reply purposes only. This is a simultaneous submission. Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.
Dear Evil Editor,
What would you do if your family were murdered by an evil wizard? If you're Corrig Ironshield, you sell your soul to a demon for the power to avenge them.
Becoming Soulbound isn't all it's cracked up to be. Sure, you have magical powers and the strength of many men, but whenever you sleep, your soul resides in hell. Oh, and did the demon mention that after a mere century you burn in hell forever, vengeance attained or no?
In pursuit of his nemesis, the wizard Yros, Corrig is joined by Ithra, a fearless innkeeper's daughter. When Yros captures Ithra, planning to use her soul to obtain immortality, Corrig is forced to choose: either kill Ithra, saving her soul, or kill Yros, leaving Ithra Soulbound like himself.
In the end, Corrig kills Yros. This sets the stage for book two in a trilogy that follows Corrig and Ithra in their pursuit of revenge, solace and redemption. I have included a SASE for reply purposes. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Evil Editor has made what may be slight changes in the plot. Don't worry, by the time the editor gets your manuscript he'll have forgotten these minor points. Though he may wonder where the werewolf came from.
Guess the Plot
Stephanie Steps Up
1. Bored with her tiresome literary agent husband, Stephanie decides to splurge on a depilatory regimen and try to bag a New York book editor.
2. Stephanie has spent ten years sweating at the bottom of the corporate ladder. When information that compromises the CEO appears in her inbox she blackmails him into making her vice president. Then she gets greedy.
3. Stephanie is a failure - financially, romantically, physically. When she finds herself a guinea pig for a revolutionary new exercise regimen, will things get better or worse?
4. Some say Stephanie should step somewhere. Some say Stephanie should step somewhere else. Still, Stephanie seems stupified simply stepping somewhere she shouldn't, silencing sophomore soccer standout Stephen.
5. Stephanie has always stunk at volleyball. But when her team needs a new player, she steps in and leads them to the elementary school league championship.
6. Second rate baseball player Stephen Norcross thinks he’s found his entry route into the majors . . . disguising himself as a woman and playing the Sexual Equality card.
For the third year in a row, sixth-grader Stephanie Marak isn't quite good enough to make the school's volleyball team. This year, she was the thirteenth best player at the tryout. Unfortunately, the coach only took twelve players. Stephanie asks for and gets permission to practice with the team to improve her skills for next year.
When the team's star player moves away mid-season, Stephanie is brought up to replace her. Replacing the best player in the school is terrifying, [Technically, Stephanie is replacing the 12th-best player on the team, who's replacing the 11th best player etc. Stephanie can expect to warm the bench, except when she's handing the good players their Gatorade.] but Stephanie receives anonymous notes in her locker encouraging her to keep trying. Will Stephanie step up and help her team win the championship? [Yes, her overhand jump serves and kills directed at the face of the opposing team's hapless 4th grader win the day. Of course, the 4th grader is ostracized for the remainder of her school days, until she develops laser beam eyes and takes bloody revenge on her classmates and community. But enough about the sequel, which should be much easier to sell.] [Maybe if you're going to ask this question, you should put a spoiler alert on the title.]
"Stephanie Steps Up" is a 22,000 word novel [Expect to hear from Dwight the Troubled Teen.] appropriate for girls aged 8 - 12. [That's one skinny book. Maybe 100 pages, which means 50 sheets of paper. Aren't kids in this age group reading Harry Potter novels?] [Not that I know any 12-year-olds, but this seems kind of tame for anyone over 9. Or are the anonymous notes in the locker from Chad, captain of the boys team, who has the hots for Steph? That's what this book needs, a romantic angle.] I am a certified elementary school teacher with four years of experience in the classroom and in coaching girls' and boys' volleyball teams. I understand the trials and tribulations of a team and the realities of middle-grade girls, and my novel reflects this. I am now a full-time writer with several published stories and articles to my credit.
I am including a synopsis and SASE as well as the first three chapters. Thank you for your time and consideration.
The query seems fine, if rather bland. If there's a villain in the book, you might bring that up to add interest. If there isn't, you might invent one (for the book, not just the query).
Oh, and the "only" should be in front of the "twelve," not the "took." That's a problem that's come up in about a dozen of these queries, so I thought I'd mention it finally. Jam the "only" right up against the word it modifies, or you change the meaning of the sentence.
How do you and your minions feel about professional editing services? I have no doubt critiquing groups are helpful for most, but I have limited p-a-t-i-e-n-c-e (I hate meetings unless cocktails are served) and how would I know if the critter is proficient enough to be helpful; it takes special talent to offer good crits (applause for Mr. Evil). Isn't it worth the investment to pay a professional?
It's not clear how you would know the editor you're paying is proficient enough to be helpful, either, though I suppose if you could get the same advice for $500 that you could get for free, you'd be more likely to take it if you paid for it. Have you tried editing the book yourself, early in the morning, before you've had your cocktails? Or setting the book aside for two months, then reading it? Often you'll spot areas that are problematic.
Considering how many of Evil Editor's minions seek input on their work, and how many comments appear saying, That book sounds interesting, I'd read it, maybe Evil Editor should match up those minions who want critique partners. An online partner eliminates the need for meetings, and you can drink your cocktails while writing your critiques.
I'm one of the minions who submitted "guess the plot" summaries filled with brutal eunuchs. Where did they all go? EE, can't you post some of those, maybe in an entry titled "Loser Plot Summaries"? I was hoping to see some good stuff by other minions.
You're referring to plot summaries like:
Dr. Rich Tapestry performs triple-bypass surgery on a brutal eunuch despite suspicions that the eunuch has laid the groundwork for a malpractice lawsuit.
Detective Tom Stevens is thrown into a world of intrigue when he discovers that the collection of Magic: The Gathering cards his son stole is actually the key to an ancient code protected by brutal eunuchs.
Here's the inside scoop on getting into Guess the Plot (which you may do by visiting Evil Editor's Gallimaufry. I usually wait until I have about ten plots. I need five fakes and the real one. The truly witty ones are in. The real one is in. At least one fake that has a chance people will buy it gets in, to satisfy those who want the game to be a challenge. If there are still openings and I can alter any of the fakes to make it truly witty, that one's in. If there are still openings, and I can come up with a good one myself, that one's in.
What's "truly witty," of course, is subjective, but clearly the more often eunuchs and zombies and sorcerers get mentioned, the less funny they become. You've seen how a Saturday Night Live skit will get laughs, and suddenly the same characters appear every week, and by the fourth time you're wondering why no one in the live audience has shot the actors?
Also, new readers find this blog daily, and start from the latest post, and have no idea what's funny about these older jokes, which weren't necessarily old when you submitted your plots, but have become old by the time the query is critiqued. You'll just have to trust Evil Editor to know what's best for his minions.
Must I have a decent plot? May the characters simply be vehicles for my commentary? Is the plot more important than that which happens along the way? Am I reading this book for kicks or for a lesson?
Feel free to write again, after the drugs wear off.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Guess the Plot
1. When a pregnant woman goes into premature labor at a truck stop in Delphi, Georgia, she takes it as a sign. But growing up is hard for her young daughter, Prophecy. Do the other kids really like her, or do they just want to copy off her tests?
2. A blind child is born to a woman with a history of mental illness. The infant speaks, but only the mother can hear her.
3. Sibyl the oracle is bummed. She’s pregnant, and the fetus is contradicting her prophecies. Will expulsion of the baby allow her to regain control of her omphalos?
4. The fate of Ishalia rests in the hands of Princess Laleena's unborn child, but a crazed midwife is holding Laleena captive.
5. Prophecy, a plantation slave girl, claims an immaculate conception to protect her secret lover - the slaver's son.
6. Before the Athenians can learn what the future holds, Aeschedia must endure the unusual pain of passing a prophetic scroll through the birth canal.
Dear Evil Editor,
When Princess Laleena of the Ishalian court ran away from her home and the marriage arranged by her ruthlessly ambitious sister, she thought she would be taking control of her life. She never imagined she would be running into the grips of a prophecy that would plant the fate of the island in her womb. [What island? Is Ishalia an island?] The Three, the prophecy giving mistresses of the mountain, explain to the sisters that one of their unborn children will determine whether the island is to plunge into darkness, or ascend to glory. [How do they explain this to Laleena, when she ran away? Is she back already?]
With the weight of the island on her shoulders Laleena separates from Fraser – the sailor she’s fallen in love with. She becomes employed by a sage Embroidery Mistress, and is held captive by a crazed midwife. [Just when Evil Editor was thinking he would never find a mate for the brutal eunuch, a crazed midwife turns up.] [If "Embroidery Mistress" deserves to be capitalized, so, surely, does "Crazed Midwife."] [Please, Minions, no "Guess the Plots" involving a Crazed Midwife.] Meanwhile, Fraser is befriended by an innkeeper’s family, and it is alluded that he may be the reincarnation of the legendary First King. [Alluded by whom?]
When the royal council presents evidence that High Princess Taryne may be “unfit to rule” she takes matters into her own hands, and plots the death of her father the King, arranging it so her sister, Laleena, is framed for the crime. [Laleena couldn't have done it; she's trapped in the lair of the Crazed Midwife.] [Laleena would be a good name for a cartoon llama.] [In fact, Laleena llama is a great tongue twister--say it five times fast. That's right up there with my favorites, boy goat and ski sash.] [I always have trouble pronouncing llama, because I can never remember which "l" is silent.]
PROPHECY’S BIRTH is a 100,000-word epic fantasy novel, for which we are seeking representation. It is the first book in a series of six Ishalian novels, which will be comprised of two trilogies: the story of Laleena and Taryne, and the story of their prophesied children, Luciana and Donovan. [How did Donovan get in there? It's like naming your characters Ann, Mary, John, and Brihnth'huangue.] [So you're looking for a publisher willing to commit to six novels? Just asking.]
We have been writing together for about five years, with the intention of publishing. An SASE has been included for your convenience. Thank you for considering our manuscript.
Dear Evil Editor,
When Princess Laleena of the island nation Ishalia ran away from her home and the marriage arranged by her ruthlessly ambitious sister, Taryne, she thought she would be taking control of her life. But she soon finds herself in the grips of a prophecy that could plant the fate of the island in her womb: the Mistresses of the Mountain foretell that one of the sisters' unborn children will determine the island's future glory--or shame.
With the weight of the island on her shoulders, Laleena doesn't know where to turn. She separates from Fraser – the sailor she’s fallen in love with. She works as an assistant to a sage Embroidery Mistress. Later she is held captive by a Crazed Midwife. Meanwhile, Fraser is befriended by an innkeeper’s family, and it is hinted by their Soothsaying Goat that Fraser may be the reincarnation of the legendary First King.
When the royal council presents evidence that High Princess Taryne may be “unfit to rule,” she takes matters into her own hands. She plots the death of her father the King, framing Laleena for the crime. Can Fraser save Ishalie from Taryne's madness? Or is the island DOOMED?!
PROPHECY’S BIRTH is a 100,000-word epic fantasy novel, for which we are seeking representation. It is the first book in a series that will tell the story of Laleena and Taryne, and of their prophesied children, Luciana and Donovan.
We have been writing together for about five years, with the intention of publishing. An SASE has been included for your convenience. Thank you for considering our manuscript.
You can take off that sentence that ends "DOOMED," but try to add another sentence in its place.
I know authors are supposed to tell the story until the tale is told and not worry about word count. Still, while concerns on the upper volume of word counts are often mentioned (i.e. 120,000 words is too much for a genre fiction novel), minimum word counts are rarely discussed. I once read that a submission to a publisher with less than 80,000 words will not be taken seriously as a novel. If the story is completed around 75,000 words is an author likely to get a better response by adding scenes to get it to 80,000 words? Truth? Urban myth? What is the minimum word count that you feel differentiates a novella from novel?
Minimum word counts may rarely be discussed elsewhere, but the subject seems to come up here every time Evil Editor critiques a query for a book shorter than 60,000 words. Rather than provide the usual examples of short novels, and engage in the usual arguments over whether these qualify as novels, and whether the same rules apply to first novels, Evil Editor now definitively declares the cutoff between novella and novel to be 50,000 words. Any fewer, and the book will be so thin you can't read the title on the spine.
Obviously it's cheaper to produce shorter books, but if people don't buy them, publishers won't print them. Evil Editor's bookcase seems to be 80% thin books, so someone is publishing them.
If you find your 50, 000-word book needs another 30,000, you're pretty much stuck unless you've left some gaping plot holes that can be filled in with several long chapters. But if you're merely trying to get your 75,000-word novel up to 80,000, try this:
At the beginning of the first paragraph on each page, place the sentence, It was raining again, hard, as if it would never stop. At the beginning of the last paragraph on each page, place the sentence, The rain had finally let up. That should do the trick.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Guess the Plot
1. Researching a method to harness energy from tornados, hurricanes, and cyclones, a reckless young scientist is blown away by what he finds.
2. James Doolin has discovered how to capture tornados and harness their tremendous power. As he struggles to find a good use for this power, Greenpeace has a more sinister idea.
3. Stan Huber can't understand why FEMA vetoed further farm subsidy payments for his tornado farm--so he's sending some free samples off to Washington...unless a lowly government meteorologist with unusual powers can call up a cold front in a hurry.
4. When Amanda Gudmundssen inherits the family farm in Mississippi, she is determined to make a living where her father failed. Betting everything on a high risk cotton contract, she must bring in the crop before an approaching hurricane destroys it.
5. A soldier, a diplomat and a mechanic team up to end an interdimensional war between galactic empires. Impossible? Not for these resourceful babes.
6. Billions of crickets, locusts and giant mealworms fight an epic battle for survival in the heartland, their larvae and immortality hanging in the balance.
Dear Big Name Agent;
I am seeking representation for my completed 100,000-word novel entitled Whirlwind Harvest. The genre is science fiction, with a dash of fantasy thrown in just to keep things interesting.
Barbara Gantry is an ambassador for the Terran Empire. When an interdimensional portal brings the empire into contact with a set of alternate worlds, diplomacy becomes the order of the day--at least at first. Then they inexplicably declare war on the Path. [Earthlings always choose war over diplomacy. Evil Editor blames it on fast food.] The six-armed Pathchildren are the most technologically advanced of the new worlds, and attacking them may not be the brightest idea her planet has ever had. But the situation doesn't get really complicated until she visits Gaia and meets her Atlantian doppelganger. [Her what?]
Stardancer is a Pathchild mechanic living at the interdimensional crossroads created by the empire. [Also known as Deep Space Nine.] Not quite an outcast from her anarchistic people, the last living descendant of the ancient and despised royal family is not quite accepted either. When the war begins, her fear is not that the Path will be defeated, but that the tactics they use to win may destroy everything they stand for. [Actually, everything they stood for was pretty much destroyed when they killed off the royal family.] After a Gaian secret agent offers her an alternative, she realizes that the Atlantians themselves may have manipulated Terra into declaring war for exactly that reason. [The people of Earth will never stand for renaming the planet after the plantation in Gone with the Wind.]
Denise Cooper is an army grunt with an unhealthy tendency to talk to the people she's supposed to be fighting. [She's the equivalent of trash-talkers in basketball.] When her squad is taken prisoner on the Path, she uses that talent to convince one of their captors to help them escape. [The Path: most gullible race in the eighth dimension.] However, as they travel across the planet, she remembers why getting to know the enemy can be dangerous. When her people take him prisoner in turn, she has to decide between her duty to the empire, and her responsibility to the man who risked everything to save her life.
Chaos Dancing follows these three women's stories separately as they try to survive the war, and then brings them together as they try to end it. [Evil Editor is aware that ballroom dancing can bring people together. He's not even sure what chaos dancing is.] [Actually, maybe it should be the title. I haven't figured out why it's called Whirlwind Harvest, and Chaos Dancing is a little catchier. Let's vote on whether to make it Chaos Dancing.] [It's a good idea, by the way, when sending off a query letter, to have settled on one title for your book.]
I have one short story in press at Analog. This is my first novel. Although it could be a stand-alone, I am hard at work on a sequel and have ideas for several other books set in the same universe. I have enclosed an SASE for your reply, and will happily send a partial or full upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.
Dear Big Name Agent,
I am seeking representation for my completed 100,000-word science fiction novel entitled Chaos Harvest.
Barbara Gantry is an ambassador for the Terran Empire. When an interdimensional portal brings the Empire into contact with a set of alternate worlds--Atlantia, Gaia and Path--diplomacy should be the order of the day. But without warning, the Terrans declare war on the Path. The six-armed Pathchildren are the most technologically advanced race of the new worlds, and attacking them may not be the brightest idea.
Stardancer is a Pathchild mechanic living at the interdimensional crossroads created by the Empire. When the war begins, she has no fear that the Path will be defeated. She does worry that the tactics they use to win may destroy everything they stand for, and that the Atlantians may have manipulated Terra into declaring war for exactly that reason.
Denise Cooper is an army grunt with a remarkable gift for persuasion. When her squad is taken prisoner by the Path, she uses her talent to convince one of their captors to help them escape. However, when her people later capture their liberator, she must decide between her duty to the Empire, and her gratitude to the man who risked everything to save her life.
Whirlwind Dancing follows these three women's stories separately as they try to survive the war, and then brings them together as they try to end it.
I have a short story currently in press at Analog. Although Dancing Harvest could be a stand-alone, I am hard at work on a sequel (Whirlwind Chaos) and have ideas for several other books set in the same universe (Dancing Chaos, Whirlwind Harvest -1, the Pre-prequel, etc.). I have enclosed an SASE for your reply, and will happily send a partial or full upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.
The format was fine; it seemed a bit unclear here and there, however.
What's the worst that can happen if an agent says this:
I only read on an exclusive basis so if no other agents are reading at this time do send a synopsis and the first three chapters
...and I send my three chapters to her anyway, even though I've sent them to other agents?
To my fellow minion commenters: Have you ever sent out a partial to someone who requested it exclusively and have it come back to haunt you?
Evil Editor once needed to have his entire house recarpeted, owing to the frequency with with I happen to be holding a large glass of Pinot Noir when I keel over drunk. I phoned a carpet company and asked for an estimate. They said they'd come to my home, measure the room, and prepare an estimate on condition that I request no other estimates during the time period when they were preparing theirs. I figured this was probably the way all carpeting companies did business, and agreed. Two weeks later they phone me and say they don't want the job. They only work for the truly famous, and their research has shown that Evil Editor has not attained rock star status (this was years ago, before EE's career had even eclipsed that of Ben Affleck). Naturally I organized a boycott of the company and drove them out of business. You should do the same.
However, if you insist this is the agent you want representing you, I can't recommend ignoring her policies at this stage of your business relationship.
If my novel gets accepted by a small press, would it be an insult to the editor if I got an agent to help with the contract? I simply do not have '"contract brain cells." Would an agent even want to deal with an author on a contract for a small press, as there is typically so little money involved?
An insult? No. A surprise? Yes. I doubt an agent will be interested in 15% of your take on this book, so you'll have to convince him that taking you on will be lucrative in the long run. Which means he'll have to read your book. And if he doesn't like it, you're back to square one. (On the other hand, if he loves it, he may tell you he can get you a $30,000 advance from a major publisher.)
It would be faster to have someone to look over the contract for a fee, a lawyer, for instance. Agent or lawyer, you might end up spending as much as you'll make. Consider finding a sample contract online. There are some model contracts at http://sfwa.org/contracts/. And other places. Compare your contract to these. If you find a major discrepancy, ask Miss Snark if you're getting shafted. Tell her Evil Editor sent you--that way there's no chance she'll call you a nitwit.
Guess the Plot
1. A serial killer threads fishing line through the limbs of his victims and makes them "dance." They call him . . . "The Puppeteer."
2. Cyrano meets Mr. Magoo when Maggie Jane misreads Arthur's love letter as saying, "Take me to the dunce." Hilarity ensues.
3. The wine, the song, the bread, the man, the woman. The divorce, the alimony, the custody battle over the Jack Russell terrier.
4. In the mists of time, dark druids worked foul magic. Their most diabolical spell: the "Dance." Can Guthric rescue his wife before the music starts?
5. As a rite of passage, Briana knows she must dance naked around the bonfire on the solstice. But if Alric sees her birthmark, he may guess the dark secrets of her past.
6. It's two weeks before the winter formal and Eleanor is determined that, for once in her life, she is going to have a date. And if that date turns out to be a demon who makes her classmates dance themselves to madness, well, at least he looks good in a tux.
Dear Mr. Editor,
What happens when the voices in your head are real? [1. Turn off the ipod. 2. If voices are still there, turn the ipod back on, quick.] Find out in my 82,000 word Dark Fantasy Thriller, The Dance.
Jerry and Nina make a formidable team. He is serial killer with a flair for the sadistic [And she sells power tools at the local hardware store?] and she is a figment of his imagination or so he thinks. In reality, she is an ancient demon, using him to give her strength.
Tom Wiley is the lead detective on the case. He has no idea what he’s up against as he follows the trail of bodies to a standoff that will nearly cost him his sanity.
They collide in a dark and twisted tale that will keep the pages turning. [The voices inside Evil Editor's head, which were just saying, This could be interesting, are now saying, Uh oh.] Take a journey into the mind of a serial killer as you watch Jerry transform from a murderer, wrestling with his demons into a supernatural predator who embraces them. Enter a world of death, insanity, loss, magic, love and the eternal struggle where the lines between good and evil are hard to discern. Enter the world of…The Dance. [Are you writing a query letter or doing the voice-over for a '50's B-movie trailer?] [The voices inside Evil Editor's head are screaming, Next query letter!]
My name is _______. I have [List of credits].
Never one for idle hands, I have completed an outline and commenced work on a sequel to The Dance, entitled Hell A. [It will be followed by Hell B, Hell C, etc. Stupid names, but it saves me the trouble of coming up with something decent. Of course, if I make it to Hell O, I may have to rethink the idea.] [Brilliant. It's like those Sue Grafton mysteries, A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, except you don't even have to think of a different word every time. It's always "Hell."] [If Ms. Grafton had thought of that, she could have saved a lot of work: A is for Alibi, B is for Alibi, C is for Alibi . . . ] I am also in the beginning stages of an, as of yet, untitled collaborative short story with author, David Niall Wilson. [Collaborative in that I write the story, and then he removes all my commas.]
If you are interested in reading The Dance, please use any of the following information to contact me: ________________
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Synopsis [Synopsis? Are you trying to take advantage of Evil editor?]
Jerry was insane long before he met Nina. He calls the deeds he does The Dance because he makes his victims perform to music as he has his way with them by threading fishing line through their limbs. The unusual condition his victims are found in causes the media to dub him The Puppeteer. Nina sees his actions as a means to make her whole. She incorporates a spell into Jerry’s music to turn The Dance into a ritual that gives them strength.
Detective Tom Wiley will stop at nothing to put an end to the reign of terror. He pursued the mad man nearly a decade ago, but the murders suddenly stopped. He renews the game of cat and mouse only to have his partner die in a tragic accident while investigating the case. He returns to the bottle that cost him his marriage and nearly his children. [You just said he would stop at nothing; two sentences later he's drinking himself into an early grave.]
Nina uses her power to manipulate evidence in an effort to throw the detectives off the scent. She implicates Jerry’s shrink, Brian Pearlman. As the statewide manhunt ensues, no one knows Dr. Pearlman fell victim to Jerry’s perversions soon after he slipped back into his old habits. Jerry preserves his body and keeps him in his basement. Because he recognizes he is ill and the good doctor had once helped him to overcome his urges. He hopes Dr. Pearlman can one day help him regain his sanity.
Tom’s new partner, Anna Perez, helps Tom turn his life around by pushing him to be a better person and a better cop. They continue to follow the trail of crumbs strewn out by Nina, but each failure still manages to bring them closer to the truth.
Eramael [Who?!] shares his origin with Nina. He realizes her intentions and is doing everything in his power to prevent her plans from seeing fruition. After several attempts, he realizes he can’t defeat the duo alone. The Dance has given Jerry powers that nearly rival his own. He uses his influence to guide Tom on the right trail.
Convinced Tom is getting too close, Nina and Jerry kill Tom’s ex-wife, making him a single parent over night. To push their point home, Jerry threatens Tom’s kids if he doesn’t give up the pursuit. The threat only strengthens Tom’s resolve.
Nina is nearly at the peak of her power. She requires one final ritual to make her fully flesh and blood. Jerry cast the spell and as she begins the transformation, Tom interrupts the proceedings. With Eramael’s help it looks like Tom will be able to save the day. As the fight ensues, Jerry manages to disarm the detective. The duke it out until Jerry gains the upper hand. As Jerry chokes Tom into unconsciousness, a third eye materializes in his forehead. [Whoa, Tom has three eyes? Is he an alien?] [If an alien race has third eyes, wouldn't it be more useful to evolve the third eye on the back of your head, instead of the front? It should be on the back of the neck, actually. Women would have to have short hair or pigtails. Or they could hide the eye.] [Imagine a guy following a woman up the sidewalk, planning to start a conversation with her, and suddenly a gust of wind blows her hair aside, and there's an eye looking at him. It would be one of the great movie scenes ever.] [It was a tough call whether to use the puppeteer line or the third eye in "Guess the Plot."] Anna arrives late, but just in time to save her partner. Eramael takes Nina back to the darkness that spawned them.
The experience brings the two detectives closer together. A relationship is sure to follow.
Fill in the first three paragraphs with some information from the synopsis. Dump the synopsis, which isn't helping you. It somehow makes a plot about a serial killer, demons, cops, and the eternal struggle between good and evil sound boring. It reads like a newspaper report, mostly short declarative sentences. You don't want an editor to think your book sounds like that. It doesn't, right?
So, by rejecting the author who did simultaneous submissions, you screwed yourself out of publishing a future star. And then bragged about it on your blog. And then advised people to do simultaneous submissions if the editor takes too long. Good work.
Um, were you aware that you were writing to a fictional character?
Perhaps you'd like to fire off an irate letter to Ebenezer Scrooge next, complaining about his treatment of Bob Cratchit.
Monday, June 26, 2006
Do you think an editor/agent would get upset if I said in my query letter something to the effect of: "Please respond via SASE if you would like to see more, otherwise no reply is needed."? I've come to the conclusion recently that I'm tired of lame form letters/emails. Why waste your time and mine and the letter carrier's? After 2-3 months I just assume it's a no anyway and gradually forget about it. Forgetting about it feels a lot better than actually being rejected.
Evil Editor had the same attitude after his colonoscopy. I told the doctor not to bother sending me the results unless it was good news. Two weeks later I was on the phone, begging him to tell me the results got lost in the mail. He said I was fine, he just wanted to see how long I could hold out without calling. We had a good laugh over that.
Don't worry that agents/editors will be upset by your note. In most cases your rejection slip will be safely sealed inside your SASE long before they reach your instructions to withhold it.
Perhaps the best solution to your problem, one that eliminates the anxiety of worrying that your acceptance letter has been lost in the mail, is to send two SASE's. Label the rose-colored envelope "Acceptance Letter," and the black envelope "Form Rejection Slip." Enclose a smiley face sticker, with instructions to the editor to affix it to the black envelope if he has scribbled a personal note of encouragement or advice in the margin of the rejection slip. Your instructions should be at the beginning of the query, to ensure the editor sees them. The query would read:
Enclosed are two color-coded stamped envelopes and a smiley face sticker. Should you care to request my manuscript, please contact me using the rose-colored envelope. Use of the smiley face sticker is optional on this envelope. If you don't care to see my manuscript, please advise of same using the black envelope. In this circumstance, use the smiley face sticker only if you've written a note on the rejection slip to the effect of, "Not quite for me, but try me again."
Also, if you wouldn't mind, please return the envelope you don't use inside the envelope you do use so that I can reuse the envelope you don't use. Oh, and I'll be discarding the black envelopes with no smiley face sticker, without opening them, so be extra careful not to put an acceptance letter into the black envelope.
One more thing: should you decide to contact me by email, please use the subject line "Good News from Luxor Publishing" or "Bad News from Luxor Publishing," depending on which it is, so that I may delete the latter without opening it. And should you decide to contact me by phone, let it ring once, hang up, and dial again if it's good news. Two rings, hang up, dial again will be bad news, in which case you'll get my machine, on which I've recorded instructions on what to do if it's really bad
news, or mildly bad news.
The book is available upon request. May I send a partial or the complete manuscript? Thank you.
Guess the Plot
Murder at the Mall
1. Emily was distressed when the detective at the door informed her that her husband had been murdered at the mall--until she remembered that she'd just left him in the living room.
2. When Josie grabbed the last pair of rhinestone-studded, stiletto-heeled slingbacks in the shop window, she didn't know Veronica would eat her heart out. Literally.
3. When two centenarians duke it out over a handicapped parking space at the Outlet Mall of Augusta, they initiate the great Kennebec County Retirement Community Jello War of 2002.
4. When a loitering high school dropout is found dead in the food court, it's up to teen sleuth Amber True to solve the case - and exonerate her best friend.
5. When Eddie Bauer is murdered while visiting a banana republic, detectives Abercrombie and Fitch can find only one witness: Vickie Sbarro. And she's not talking. What is Victoria's secret?
6. Changing room clerk Ida Charles loves reading murder mysteries. But when she discovers body parts left in the pockets of the clothes she's to rerack, she becomes party to a gruesome real-life mystery.
Dear Evil Editor;
The query: Short and to the point, like the novel:
Title: Murder at the Mall
Genre: Humorous mystery
Word count: 53,000
Blurb: Someone's been shot at the mall in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. [Someone from Queen of Siam, New Mexico.] After retrieving the victim's license, bumbling Upper Merion Township detective Roger Dodger [Roger Dodger? That's the name of a movie. A pretty good movie, actually. That's like naming your character Jerry Maguire or Nurse Betty or Lawrence of Arabia.] [Besides, it rhymes, sounds silly, and no kid would survive childhood with that name.] [Change it to Bry'nhth Sirocco.] must go inform Emily Anderson that she has just become a widow, only to find her husband Wayne Anderson, the shooting victim, alive and well at their home. Identity theft? Perhaps. But whose? [Wayne's, of course. Someone had his license. And, apparently, his face.] And why?
Author: I am a recreational shopper living in King of Prussia. [Evil Editor can hardly call that an irrelevant credit for this book, now can he?] For the last twenty-five years I have watched the mall evolve from a collection of connected outdoor shops to the magnificent retail temple it is today. [Join me for weekly worship services outside Godiva Chocolatier.] In my spare time I practice medicine, am raising a family, and read voraciously. [But trust me, all that goes onto the back burner whenever there's a sale at Frederick's of Hollywood.] I also write from time to time.
Enclosures: First five pages; SASE.
Personalized closing: Bearing in mind the volume of queries viewed daily by the typical agent or editor, I believe this format will be a welcome change. [Thank you. Those full-page queries are so tedious. I swear, if someone would send me a one-sentence query, I'd buy the book sight- unseen.] I look forward to your public evisceration (of the query; not the finale of Braveheart starring Evil Editor.)
The fact that the dead guy is now alive, and presumably not as a zombie, piques the interest, but I think we want more information about the book, and less about the author. We don't even know if the Andersons remain key characters, or if they have nothing to do with anything. Were there witnesses to this shooting in a mall? Are there suspects?
Guess the Plot
1. Anatali is bored with immortality. He spends every moment attempting suicide. Unexpectedly, the fruitless attempts awaken a creative spirit in Anatali who begins to pass the nights inventing new and interesting ways of self demise. He then publishes his book: 1,000,000 Ways to Off Yourself.
2. On the planet of Q'xtlm, emperor Rlpbzp forbids all vowels and terrifies with his army--until a warrior takes the name Anatali and incites revolution.
3. Lanrete Ilatana, an Anatali warrior from the Im地ken tribe, sets out to recover the Amethyst of Eternity from the Mountain of Death to defeat Lord Blackheart.
4. Aboard the S.S. Anatali, a week before Academy finals, an artificial life form runs a gauntlet of student riots, corrupt cops, and zombies, trying to keep her roommate from being expelled.
5. Geeky Baskin-Robbins scooper Bobby Hullet falls for the mysterious woman who makes daily visits for frozen treats. Will he melt her chilly heart? Or will the path to her love remain a rocky road?
6. Puzzle book author Eric Lynn can't spell. But his books of anagrams fly off the shelves because no one else can either . . . until his 4th grade teacher reappears in his life, determined to right a decades-old wrong.
ANATALI : ETERNAL is a 100,000 word space opera, blending cyberpunk and paranormal though an intimate voice. [Intimacy and cyberpunk: they go together like bacon and butterscotch.]
Dark Energy Theory, a cutting-edge science, fuels humanity's exodus from our solar system [The grass is always greener on the other side of the universe.] by harnessing the universe's most abundant--and dangerous--resource.
S.S. Anatali - January 27, 4128 - A week before Academy finals, Lillian, a prototype Artificial Lifeform, embarks on a midnight crusade to save her roommate from expulsion. [Why is her roommate being threatened with expulsion? Why would an Artificial Lifeform care whether her roommate was expelled? Why should we care? Is this Artificial Lifeform your main character? Artificial Lifeforms have to take finals? Do they ever fail? I mean, Data was an Artificial Lifeform, right? Even if he forgot to study, Data would never fail an exam. He'd be one of those annoying guys who finishes the whole exam and walks out while you're still on question 3.] When a hacker's security virus throws her dormitories into bedlam, Lillian and her friends run a gauntlet of student riots, corrupt cops, undead assailants, [Please use the scientific term: zombies.] online gaming, a love hexagon, and baking-- [Baking?] yes, baking. Center stage in a paranormal power play, [Hockey riddle: What do they call it when the New Jersey Devils are a man up? A paranormal power play!] the truth about Dark Energy Theory and her own mysterious design are about to collide.
I've included a brief sample, per your submission guidelines. At request I can send the entire manuscript or any part thereof. I use my website as a forum for short stories and new content, and as a device for building an online community around my project. Thank you for your time and consideration.
More information about the plot is needed. Is this book about dark energy or Lillian's roommate, or something you've barely touched on? Where is the Anatali? Where is it going?
As dark energy theory exists in 2006, it seems unlikely to be a cutting edge science in 4128. In fact, it seems unlikely it'll still be a theory. Setting this book more than 2000 years in the future means assuming that hackers and viruses and corrupt cops and baking--yes, baking--will not be long-forgotten, just as chariots, gladiators, and sandals are today.
What are your thoughts on simultaneous manuscript submissions to editors? If an un-agented author is lucky enough to generate interest from two houses at a writers conference or through querying, is it okay to send said manuscript to both houses at the same time?
Once Evil Editor was having lunch with a fellow editor. I mentioned to her that I had received a manuscript from an unpublished author I felt showed great promise, and that I was preparing to make an offer. My colleague remarked that she, too, had discovered a manuscript from a future star. I asked her the title of the book, and she replied, "Grapefruit Gives Me a Rash, But Hey, You Only Live Once."
I said, "Now here's an interesting coincidence: my author's title . . ." To make a long story short, we agreed to send simultaneous rejection slips. Also to blackball the author at every agency and publishing house on the planet.
But that was just us. Not every editor would be bothered by reading a 500-page manuscript, loving it, contacting the author, and hearing, "Oh, that. I got an offer last week. Should I have told you?"
To which Evil Editor would say, "You haven't signed the contract yet, have you?"
The author, suddenly hopeful of a bidding war, replies, "No."
And Evil Editor springs into action, blackballing the author at every agency and publishing house on the planet. The book never sees print, and Evil Editor feels great.
But again, that's just me. In truth, the answer to your question depends on whom you ask. Do the two houses in question have submission guidelines posted somewhere? Do the guidelines mention simultaneous submissions? If not, have they posted their response times? If Publisher A responds in three weeks, and Publisher B in six months, I'd say send the fast reader your manuscript, and if you haven't heard back in four weeks, send it to the slowpoke (you could politely demand an explanation of Publisher A first).
If they both claim to take nine months to respond, screw 'em, send it to both (informing them you're submitting to one other publisher). Even Evil Editor admits it's not fair to have to wait a year and a half for two rejections, especially when:
1. They'll probably read only two pages anyway. If it takes you nine months to read two pages, you need to hire more staff.
2. They undoubtedly accept simultaneous submissions from agents, so they can hardly react like you've committed murder. (Goodness, is Evil Editor becoming a softie, taking the writer's side?)
3. The odds that both of them will actually want your manuscript are so small they can best be expressed in negative numbers. (Ah, that's better.)
Sunday, June 25, 2006
Guess the Plot
1. When Gnflzot, the commander-in-chief of the army ants, learns from his scouts that an immense sugar bowl is going to materialize at the turn of the new year, in a far-off land called Atlanta, he springs into action.
2. Corporate CEO Vanda Harjoni from the nation of Jepalasia arrives in New York and hosts an open house at his office, where his basket of betelnut and sugar bowl of lime sit on his desk. When FBI Agent Harold Newson wanders by, he mistakes the sugar bowl contents for cocaine and arrests Vanda, who must find his way through the twisted maze of American justice.
3. With the town’s only bowling alley brothel threatened with foreclosure, the girls take matters into their own hands and raise the money – the hard way.
4. After winning their 10th straight national title, the Texas Longhorns could be at the end of their dynasty. But, the world will never find out if Max Ridgecliff can’t save Nokia from bankruptcy in time to sign the endorsement check.
5. With the season winding down, and a Sugar Bowl bid on the line, star quarterback Jake Zarephath is accused of rape. If it was lacrosse, the season would be called off. But this is big-time football.
6. White granules and shards of porcelain on the kitchen floor. An innocent-looking cream pitcher standing on the table. It was shaping up as Detective Coffee's toughest case.
When walk-on tailback Jake Zarephath helps the West Virginia Mountaineers upset seventh-ranked Pitt in October, he thinks life couldn't get any better. The euphoria doesn't last, however, and Jake's fall from grace stems from an incident that occurs that very night. A week later the local police visit Jake to question him about a rape accusation made by an acquaintance, Robin Dunellen. Unable to remember what happened and unsure what to do anyway, Jake initially leaves his case in the hands of the football program without asking any questions. [He gets accused of rape, and tells the football coach to handle it?]
Unfortunately for Robin, the team is weeks away from an invitation to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl game. In Autumn nothing is more important to the university and the city of Morgantown than Mountaineer football, and this is shaping up to be the season that is talked about for years to come. Trying to avoid the loss of a key player, [He's a walk-on tailback; how "key" can he be?] assistant athletic director Phil Berg slams Robin using the resources of a well-funded athletic department.
In her first year away from her small hometown Robin becomes the target of an orchestrated campaign of public humiliation and character assassination. Life is difficult for her until Jake begins to have qualms about hiding behind his corrupt protectors as Robin is bullied. Finally, when the bludgeoning continues after the Sugar Bowl bid is in hand, Jake has had enough. [Stop attacking this sweet girl who's accusing me of a rape I didn't commit. I'm sure she has a logical explanation.] He and a local sportswriter, Ham Newton, learn that Robin's friend and self-appointed guardian, Michelle Brigantine, was herself the victim of a violent rape at another university. It doesn't take much for Newton, Jake and even Robin herself to realize that Michelle goaded Robin into making the accusation as a way to retaliate for the crime that was committed against her. [Maybe you should call her Michelle Destroyer instead of Michelle Brigantine.] [In fact, it would be cool to give all your characters ship names: Ham Sub, Robin Dinghy, Jake Junk, and Phil Frigate.]
Jake's anger at this revelation is tempered by the heartbreaking story Michelle finally tells about how she was drugged and assaulted by perpetrators who were never punished. [Okay, let's make sure we've got this straight. Michelle, on a weekend trip to Villanova, gets brutally assaulted. Rather than tell the authorities, she goes to her friend Robin:
Michelle: I was raped while I was in Philadelphia.
Robin: Oh my God! Are you okay? Did they catch who did it?
Michelle: No. I didn't tell anyone.
Robin: You have to go to the police!
Michelle: I know. But now that I'm back here at WVU, I think it would be more convenient to accuse someone here. Saves me the trouble of traveling back and forth to Villanova all the time.
Robin: You're going to accuse someone who didn't do it?
Michelle: No, you are. I've been through enough.
Robin: Well . . . okay. Who should I accuse?
Michelle: The quarterback of the football team.
Robin: But what about our Sugar Bowl bid?
Michelle: Oh yeah. Okay, make it the walk-on tailback. We have to teach someone a lesson.
And after the athletic department throws all their resources into destroying Robin's character, she continues to stand by her story?] [And you thought the fantasy and romance novels had unbelievable plots.] Even after Robin recants her accusation and the charges are dropped, Jake vows not to play in the Sugar Bowl so long as Berg remains in the employ of the athletic department. [A "key" player threatens not to play in the big game? Who's gonna buy that?] A nasty struggle in the press and in the back rooms of Mountaineer Field. After the university president fires Berg just before Christmas Jake is free to return to his team. Surprisingly the unbeaten Mountaineers find that a national championship is within their reach on New Years Day, [West Virginia? Playing for the national championship? That's the most unbelievable part of all.] [Besides, the national championship is decided after New Year's day, in the BCS National Championship game.] and Jake will be there with no strings attached. My novel, "Sugar Bowl", consists of approximately 100,000 words. Besides some realistic football action, the very real issue of sexual assault in the world of college athletics is touched upon. The subject matter is somewhat timely, given the recent debate in the news about alleged sexual assault by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. [Though by the time the book comes out, that will be ancient history.] Please let me know if you're interested in taking a look at the manuscript.
With seven scholarship tailbacks out with season-ending injuries, walk-on Jake Zarephath finds himself a starter for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Life couldn't get any better--until an acquaintance, Robin Dunellen, accuses him of rape. Unfortunately for Robin, the team is in the running for an invitation to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl game, and she becomes the target of an orchestrated campaign of public humiliation and character assassination, led by assistant athletic director Phil Berg, who will do anything to avoid the loss of a key player.
Eventually Robin admits she wasn't raped, but was goaded into making the accusation. The athletic department doesn't let up on her, and when the bludgeoning continues even after the Sugar Bowl bid is in hand, Jake has had enough. He vows not to play in the Sugar Bowl so long as Berg remains in the employ of the athletic department. A nasty struggle in the press and in the back rooms of Mountaineer Field result in the university president firing Berg just before Christmas. Jake is free to return to his team, and the unbeaten Mountaineers find that a national championship is within their reach.
My novel, "Sugar Bowl", consists of approximately 100,000 words. Besides some realistic football action, the very real issue of sexual assault in the world of college athletics is touched upon. Please let me know if you're interested in taking a look at the manuscript.
Although the query sounds cleaner now, it still leaves the reader wondering why Jake is sympathetic to Robin, when she falsely accused him. And while the Michelle-Robin relationship is out of the query, it's still in the book, and not easily explained.
If you think West Virginia U. came down hard on Robin, wait till you see what they do to you, if you publish a book that makes them look like jerks.
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Guess the Plot
A Faerie's Tale
1. A ragtag band of misfits--a winged sprite, a talking horse, and a eunuch trying to come to terms with his own brutality--journey to the mystical land of Webster in their quest to find the true meaning of gallimaufry.
2. It was all going well until that tramp Wendy showed up in her WonderBra. Tinkerbell's steamy memoir will leave you breathlessly chanting, "I believe, I do, I do."
3. Truckdriver Harlan Hills has never seen a more ragged hitchhiker – until her spell enlists his help to overthrow the Irish government.
4. When 13-year-old Kelly discovers that she comes from magical stock, an obsessive bagpiper aids her in battling an ancient evil hell-bent on sending her to the Dead Faerie Department.
5. Melithariel, Princess of the Seelie Court, must put down a coup by disaffected sprites who object to her insistence on using an ostentatiously poetic spelling of "fairy".
6. Flitterbamf the faerie submits a novel to Pixie Publishing, and is rejected! Enraged, she begins stalking Grimoire Goblin, the editor. However, Grimoire was already stalking her, for inclusion in Lady Cottington's next Pressed Fairy book.
Dear Evil Editor,
A Faerie’s Tale is a young adult fantasy set in the Scottish Highlands. Shape shifting, faerie blood and a prophecy seem an odd prescription for grief, yet for orphaned Kelly MacBride, sent to live with an unknown grandmother, they nearly succeed. [For some reason, the word "prescription" as used here has come to mean "recipe," rather than "remedy" (at least in Evil Editor's experience), thus giving the sentence a meaning somewhat opposite to that which was intended.] But questions of loyalty and betrayal confound Kelly at her grandmother’s manor, where no one is quite what he or she seems – including Kelly. [For instance, Kelly's grandmother is actually Lord Baltusrol, and Kelly is a Cornish hen.]
Brid, said grandmother, is difficult to describe, because Brid’s more about what’s not said than what is. [That sentence should be not said.] [Brid sounds like the dog that didn't bark in the night, in the Sherlock Holmes story, "Silver Blaze."] [For those unfamiliar with the reference, the conversation goes:
Inspector Gregory: "Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"[Here's an old joke one or two of you may not have heard: Holmes and Watson were on a camping and hiking trip. They had gone to bed and were lying there looking up at the sky. Holmes said, "Watson, look up. What do you see?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Inspector Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."]
"Well, I see thousands of stars."
"And what does that mean to you?"
"Well, I guess it means we will have another nice day tomorrow. What does it mean to you, Holmes?"
"To me, it means someone has stolen our tent."]
Yet, with a thirteen-year-old’s resourcefulness, Kelly invests some of her own stock in the secrets’ department. Aided by Gordie, an obsessive bagpiper with a penchant for Shakespeare and mischief, she uncovers riddles penned in ancient runes; she unlocks hidden tunnels that lead to a secret library; and she discovers a how-to guide on shape shifting.
Nor is Gordie Kelly’s sole stock in the friends’ department. Master David, the visiting bard, mentors Kelly through the tribulations endemic to life at thirteen. It’s worth mentioning that Master David has secrets of his own.
Plots lurk just out of view like water bugs in dankness. [You've been reading some of Evil Editor's recent query letters, haven't you?] A late-night ambush leaves Kelly near death. Someone spikes Master David’s wine with belladonna. Applying her nascent shape-shifting skills, Kelly adopts the forms of manor creatures as she tries to reduce the stock filling the threats’ department.
A series of otherworldly visitations reveal that Brid is not Kelly’s grandmother, [Aha! So Brid is the dog!] thereby voiding the trust department. Brid discloses she’s one of the Tuatha de Danaan – the faerie folk of Celtic myth – and that Kelly descends from her and also carries faerie blood. That’s the good news. The bad news is, an ancient evil is hell-bent on snuffing Brid’s line.
As Kelly grapples with life decisions, Master David’s counsel is, as always, expansive and caring. That’s why the top blows off the reality department when Kelly discovers he’s the would-be assassin. Following a bloody battle, he confesses before dying that he loves Kelly, but his beliefs had to come before his friendship.
Brid realizes Kelly is the one foretold in prophecy – the one who will shape the destiny of their people. But Kelly’s destiny is the stock of another tale and will, for now, remain a secret. [In the sequel department.]
Please contact me should you wish to read the 92,000 word manuscript.
Dear Evil Editor,
Shape shifting, faerie blood and a prophecy seem an odd remedy for grief, yet for orphaned Kelly MacBride, sent to live with an unknown grandmother in the Scottish Highlands, they nearly succeed.
With a thirteen-year-old’s resourcefulness, Kelly explores her grandmother's manor. Aided by Gordie, an obsessive bagpiper with a penchant for Shakespeare and mischief, she uncovers riddles penned in ancient runes, unlocks hidden tunnels that lead to a secret library, and discovers a how-to guide on shape shifting.
Sinister plots lurk just out of view: a late-night ambush leaves Kelly near death, and someone spikes a visiting bard's wine with belladonna. Applying her nascent shape-shifting skills, Kelly adopts the forms of manor creatures as she tries to get to the bottom of the mysterious occurrences.
A series of otherworldly visitations reveals that Kelly’s grandmother is one of the Tuatha de Danaan – the faerie folk of Celtic myth – and that Kelly is the one prophesied to shape the destiny of their people. That’s the good news. The bad news: an ancient evil is hell-bent on snuffing out the faerie folk.
My young adult fantasy, A Faerie’s Tale, is complete at 92.000 words. Please contact me should you wish to read the manuscript.
Not sure what all the "stocks" and "departments" are doing. Perhaps it's a reference to something in the book. I didn't find the phrases with "stock" to be very clear. Assuming the author was aware of the "departments," it was probably done to add a light informal tone. Which is fine once or twice, but eventually it becomes distracting. Evil Editor found himself so obsessed with the cute department names, I couldn't remember the plot, and had to take an ice cream break. (Cherry Garcia Department.)
Friday, June 23, 2006
Guess the Plot
Angels at Almack's
1. The Los Angeles baseball team comes unraveled in a scheme to discover which of them first caught herpes and spread it to the rest of the team via infected vaseline. When suspicions center on the rookie pitcher from Sepulveda, things take a turn toward the macabre.
2. Charlie retires and opens up a greasy spoon on I-85. When a band of highwaymen make off with the diner's safe, they get more than they bargained for.
3. While shooting for a Victoria's Secret catalogue at the site of the legendary Almack's, cover model Vianna channels the outraged spirit of an infamous 19th century courtesan who'd been banned from the tonny establishment.
4. Lady Sally Jersey thought she was issuing the Almack's voucher to Miss Jane Peabody. Turned out it was Janet Peabody, a common housemaid. Will Lady Sally ever live it down?
5. A cadre of young financiers anger King George III by secretly providing seed funding to businesses friendly to France.
6. A cherub named Nimba tries to bring the Lord of Blackmoor and Princess Adina Verbena together. But is true love worth destroying the future of Great Britain?
I seek representation for my paranormal historical, Angels at Almack’s, a 100,000 word romance set in Regency England and the Highlands of Scotland.
Highland laird Rannoch MacQuaide, Lord of Blackmoor, needs a noble English wife to further his political goals and ensure Scotland’s return to prosperity. Maltese princess Adina Verbena needs a strong, dependable husband, free of religious fanaticism, to protect her from the evil forces that caused her to flee to England. The Lord of Blackmoor is more than Adina could have hoped for. Adina is everything to Blackmoor except the one thing he needs. Their hearts are determined, as is the cherub tasked with bringing them together. When the evil that has followed Adina from Malta descends upon London to hunt her down and cause political disaster for Britain, even a cherub’s intercession looks hopeless. With the future of Britain hanging in the balance, Adina and Blackmoor face the most difficult decision of their lives: sacrifice love to attain their goals and protect Britain, or succumb to love, but lose everything that matters. [It's the same decision as in Casablanca. Except Rick and Ilsa didn't have a Cherub trying to talk them into the selfish decision.]
My novel incorporates the endearing qualities of some of the bestsellers in fiction today. [Here we go. And this was going so well.] Nimba, a whimsical cherub, provides insight into the complex lives of the characters, reminiscent of [Puck in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and] Julia Quinn’s Whistledown Series. Paranormal forces affecting human lives offer a bit of the fantasy of [Tolkien's Lord of the Rings series and] Karen Marie Moning’s fairy world Highlander series, mixed with the excitement of [an Indiana Jones movie or] a Frank Peretti novel [I always say, if you're going to compare your work to others, you may as well go with the best, because the editor isn't going to believe you one way or the other.] (minus the affiliation with any one organized religion). Angels at Almack’s delivers a sensual, intelligent hero and a strong-willed, exotic heroine who experience a lasting and passionate love together.
I have recently finaled in two writing contests with a previous manuscript. In addition, a good part of my professional life has been devoted to writing promotional copy, public relations articles, script and speeches for the Fortune500 Company where I work. I received a degree from American University in Communications.
I have enclosed an SASE for your reply.
I seek representation for my paranormal historical, Angels at Almack’s, a 100,000-word romance set in Regency England and the Highlands of Scotland.
RANNOCH MACQUAIDE, LORD OF BLACKMOOR knows that the fastest way a common Scotsman can penetrate London’s influential social circles, and bring about positive change for Scotland through political influence, is to marry the daughter of an English peer. Failing is not an option, as he’s already sold out to England, a country his forefathers died fighting against. Blackmoor’s efforts to achieve his goal include forsaking his family's Catholic Jacobite past, purchasing a home in London, and obtaining a voucher to Almack's so that he might begin his search for a proper English wife.
NIMBA, an embodied cherub, is assigned to matters of the heart. Appearing as an Almack’s patroness, Nimba issues vouchers to her assigned couple—two persons who might not otherwise have been afforded entry to the exclusive establishment: The Lord of Blackmoor and Malta’s Principessa Adina of the royal House of Verbena. Princess Adina Verbena needs a strong, dependable husband to protect her from the evil forces that followed her to England, intent on hunting her down and causing political disaster for Britain.
Adina is everything Blackmoor could want in a wife, but not what he needs to ensure Scotland’s return to prosperity. He's fallen in love, however. With the future of Britain hanging in the balance, Adina and Blackmoor face the most difficult decision of their lives: sacrifice love to protect Britain, or succumb to love, but lose everything that matters.
Angels at Almack’s delivers a sensual, intelligent hero and a strong-willed, exotic heroine who experience a lasting and passionate love together.
I have recently finaled in two writing contests with a previous manuscript. In addition, a good part of my professional life has been devoted to writing promotional copy, public relations articles, and speeches for the Fortune 500 company where I work.
I have enclosed an SASE for your reply.
Evil Editor had access to the author's synopsis (which isn't part of the deal, so don't start sending synopses), and noticed that the start of the synopsis described the situation more clearly than the query did. He also stole a few points from the synopsis, feeling additional information was more valuable than comparisons to other writers.
Guess the Plot
1. We all plant walls around ourselves. These walls slowly unravel and lives are smashed to shreds when Sally suddenly finds that she can't stop mixing her metaphors.
2. When a runaway tractor-trailer plows into a wedding party, killing the bride, bridesmaid Julie finally has a chance at the groom, Peter, whom she's secretly been lusting after since high school.
3. Hidden for years behind her concrete veil, Aisha’s world is rocked when she slips and falls – and Abdulrahman is there to pick up the pieces.
4. A longtime nun begins to question her life's choices when she falls in love with a man on a visit to Rome, a man who proves to be the Pope in street clothes.
5. Dave is revolutionizing his families' business: the manufacture of religious garments. Hip Mormons loved his spandex temple garments, and his edible yarmulkes are selling like hotcakes. But things go horribly wrong when he attempts to make a ceramic burqa.
6. A disaster survivor relives cloudy memories, only to realize they aren't his memories, but those of a woman so obsessed with architecture she's fallen in love with her house.
Mr. Evil Editor [or insert whomever],
May I submit the following manuscript with the intention of publication?
FRACTURED VEIL is a novel of speculative fiction in which the identity of a brain damaged narrator is explored through fragments of memory, possibly not his own. Told in a floating first person narrative, the memories are of four separate people, constantly replaying and overriding his consciousness. The struggle has greater implications as, after awakening at the site of an apparent disaster, the narrator finds himself the only survivor.
Please see for sample chapters: ______________
or the E-book: _______________ [In other words, if you want to see if my book is something you want to publish, buy the ebook version and read it.]
(editors are credited back obviously) [Huh?]
More traditionally, the 169k word (courier meth.) [Yes, but how many words is it in Times New Roman?] manuscript is available for your consideration, in digital or print form.
It can easily fall into the literary or speculative fiction realm. You may just find it works on several levels: spiritual, psychological, symbolic, literal, mythic, surreal or even perhaps strongly science fictional. [Wouldn't it use less space if you just listed the levels on which it doesn't work?]
More Detailed Information Below [Just in case you haven't already decided to make an offer.]
The four identities each unfold through their own story lines within the novel, though they are experienced or interpreted through the narrator.
These main currents of the novel follow:
Jon Chivy Coyote, a disgraced former detective, teacher, and pseudo-celebrity of native/aboriginal descent, enlisted to use his tracking skills to find a bizarre serial killer hunting in a metropolitan park. The killer may be, in some way, the herald to the impending disaster.
Naiya McCloud, a gold-digging female scientist obsessed with architecture to such a degree she is gradually falling in love with her house. [Whatever else anyone says about this query, they have to admit that that is brilliant.] Her hypersensitivity and sexual episodes are indicative of the change in reality which is gradually taking hold.
Aurora Vitellius, one of three identical triplets born of royal ancestry, whom after the death of their parents, become the controlling force behind one of the biggest fortunes. Though still practically prepubescent, these legally emancipated girl-prodigies can now apply their sinister intentions without limit.
Guy Connel, a perpetually unlucky construction worker who survives a seeming industrial accident to a wholly new, bizarre, and transcendent life.
[These characters are hilarious. I say drop the brain-damaged guy, drop the plot (whatever it is) and build a comedy around these characters.] [I'll get you started. The sinister triplets hire the aboriginal pseudo-celebrity detective to investigate whether their uncle is trying to squeeze them out of the fortune. Meanwhile, the woman in love with her house finds that her lover has termites. She has the place treated, then hires the unlucky construction worker to replace damaged wood. The cops come to arrest the construction worker, thinking he's the serial killer, but before they get to him, he gets eaten by the coyote. And that's just the prologue.] [Take it and go with it. I guarantee it's a better book than this memory thing.] [If you don't get anywhere with this book, can I use those four characterizations in a "Guess the Plot?"]
Common themes throughout the novel are:
· The fluidity of perception, memory, self, and reality.
· Consciousness, physics, extinction, selection, and survival as forces both beyond, and sometimes within, human control.
· The main archetypes present in human nature, as expressed by the central characters, which are colored in mythic, spiritual, surreal, and often symbolic terms. [This is the same list of words you used to describe the levels the book works on. Except you forgot psychological and literal.] [You've taken three bullets to say as little as Evil Editor does below, with only one bullet:
The theme of the novel is:
· The fluidity of the main archetypes present in human nature (consciousness, perception, physics, extinction, selection, and survival), expressed in mythic, spiritual, surreal, and often symbolic terms by the central characters, and colored in memory, self, and reality--forces both beyond, and sometimes within, human control.
As always seems to happen when an author forgets to include anything about the plot, Evil Editor finds himself at a loss to provide a revised version.