Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Face-Lift 112

Guess the Plot

After Goya

1. Whenever Goya, a Maltese cat, slinks by, Frisky lunges on his chain. One day the chain breaks in this picture book tale about grisly death to help children prepare for life in the real world.

2. Coded clues in microtext on the canvas of two faked Goya paintings give the location of the real long-lost Goyas. But will Sabine realize it?

3. One Mexican restaurant, two dueling Mariachi bands, and an extra large order of refried beans lead Special Agent Kit Thomas to a deadly gas consortium.

4. When famed Spanish painter Francisco Goya and a smuggler accidentally swap matching suitcases, Goya loses his clothes, but gains the Holy Grail. Suddenly, the smuggler, ruthless grail collectors, and even the Spanish Inquisition are . . . after Goya!

5. Goya has stolen the Panther’s Eye –the world’s largest emerald. When Goya discovers his “client” never intended to pay him, he keeps the stone. The “client” sends his henchmen . . . after Goya.

6. 18th century Spanish painter Juan Rodrigo de Goyat could have been one of the most influential artists of his era, if only the Royal art commissions hadn't been appointed alphabetically.

Original Version

RE: AFTER GOYA: 95,000 word commercial fiction: adventure-thriller.

Dear Agent X,

I’m actively looking for representation in the United States. I’ve read your agency’s information and thought you may be interested in my novel AFTER GOYA.

AFTER GOYA [It's okay to shout the title once. After that, a calm voice will do.] is a fast moving, very visual, story of intrigue, deception and betrayal woven around the recovery of two lost miniature paintings by the great Spanish artist Goya set against the background of a terrorist bombing campaign in contemporary Spain.

AFTER GOYA [Okay, I got it. AFTER GOYA.] tells the story of how two Goya miniatures, looted during the Madrid air-raids, inspire a deadly hunt across Spain.

AFTER GOYA’s premise is built on the documented fact of a series of Luftwaffe and Italian bombing raids on Madrid between November 19th and 22nd, 1936.

AFTER GOYA [Are you trying to hypnotize Evil Editor?] takes readers on a journey into a Spain’s physical and metaphorical interior whilst engaging them with a good yarn based on real, documented events.

The following events unfold over a three-week period from mid-May to the first week of June.

Spain is in a state of tension. [Wait a minute, what's the title again? I forgot.] Radicalized Islamists, ETA remnants, and other malcontents, commit increasingly spectacular terrorist outrages…or so the public is led to believe.

When Málaga police detective, Jordi Cotelo, is ordered to follow an English associate of a Russian gangster he has no idea that events will lead him to uncovering a well developed plot to destabilize his country.

A Russian gangster, whose grandfather organized military intelligence during the Civil War, arrives in Spain with a posse of ex-special services thugs to acquire two Goyas looted by a Soviet airman in 1936.

A young German woman has been bequeathed the very same paintings by her grandfather, a former Condor Legion airman, who acquired the paintings following the Soviet pilot’s capture, interrogation and execution.

An English art researcher, hired by the Russian to authenticate and acquire the Goyas, befriends the German woman but fails to betray her. [Englishmen are too polite to betray a woman, even if they've been paid to do so.]

An ambitious young police detective is asked by his sherry-princess fiancée’s family, influential members of Blood of Spain, a neo-fascist conspiracy, to intervene and acquire the paintings so that they can be sold to raise funds for the cause. In truth they fear that discovery of the paintings will reveal that their iconic founder has a less than saintly past; having given birth to an illegitimate child (fathered by the German airman) during the Civil War. [A paragraph with more than one sentence!] [A neo-fascist conspiracy that calls itself Blood of Spain is worrried about how it will look if the world discovers their founder had an illegitimate child seventy years ago?]

A legal clerk, seeking retribution for his grandparents’ murder in Dachau, initiates a rogue operation by a section of an American funded Nazi art recovery program.

An American special operations agent is hired in to protect the anonymity of the Nazi art recovery program by doing what it takes to close down the rogue operation.

When the English art researcher, James Howard-Graham, apprehends an intruder attempting to steal one of the recovered paintings, he kills him, and takes the Goya as insurance against retribution from his Russian client.

[When Evil Editor finds a book is getting complicated, he likes to make a character chart to refer to while reading. Perhaps it will also work with a query letter:

1. Jordi Cotelo (police detective)
2. Englishman (associate of Russian gangster)
3. Russian gangster (After Goyas)
4. Grandfather of Russian gangster (ex-military intelligence officer)
5. Posse of thugs (After Goyas, in employ of Russian gangster)
6. English art researcher (possibly same as #2) (after Goyas)
7. Soviet airman (looted Goyas)
8. Young German woman (was bequeathed Goyas)
9. Her grandfather (former Condor Legion airman; took Goyas from #7)
10. Ambitious young police detective (secretly after Goyas)
11. His fiancée (sherry-princess)
12. Her family (Influential in Blood of Spain--see #15)
13. German airman (possibly same as #9)
14. Goya (painter responsible for this whole mess)
15. Blood of Spain (neo-fascist conspiracy; after Goyas)
16. Their iconic founder (less than saintly)
17. Her illegitimate child (fathered by German airman #13 during civil war)
18. Legal Clerk (brings Americans in to get revenge on Nazis; after Goyas)
19. His grandparents (died in Dachau)
20. U.S. special ops agent (hired to hush up rogue Nazi art recovery operation)
21. Intruder (after one Goya)]

When the Russian responds by ordering the kidnapping of the German woman, Howard-Graham (#6) attempts to redeem the situation by commissioning a couple of Goya pastiches and arranging a hostage-paintings exchange before giving himself up to the police.

Following a bloody showdown between the Russian gang (#3, #5), Howard-Graham (#6), and Special Operations police (#20+), during which Howard-Graham (#6) is killed, Cotelo's (#1) young colleague (#10) reveals his hand and attempts to take the paintings. During a struggle the young German woman, Sabine Hassell (#8), kills him. Cotelo (#1) tampers with the evidence to make it appear as if he was the killer.

A week later Cotelo catches up with Sabine and, with the help of an academic, [Aha, # 22.] expert in the history of the Spanish far-right women's movement, unravels the story. [Can we have their notes?]

The fake paintings used during the attempted exchange are returned to Sabine. The fakes embody a message, written in microtext, [Recommendation: change title to The Goya Code.] telling Sabine where she can collect the genuine Goyas.

I would be pleased to forward the completed manuscript for your consideration, [Does it come with a study guide?] or, if you prefer, sample chapters, by either email or surface mail. I enclose an SASE for your response.

Yours sincerely,

Revised Version

Dear Agent X,

I’m actively seeking representation in the United States. I’ve read your agency’s information and believe you may be interested in my 95,000-word novel After Goya, a story of intrigue, deception and betrayal set against the background of a terrorist bombing campaign in contemporary Spain, and woven around the recovery of two lost miniature paintings by the great Spanish artist, Francisco Goya.

When word leaks out that Sabine Hassel has inherited two long-lost Goya paintings, looted during the Madrid air-raids of 1936, a Russian gangster hires a posse of thugs and English art researcher James Howard-Graham to acquire the artwork. But they aren't the only ones after the paintings. A neo-fascist group calling themselves Blood of Spain wants them, as does a rogue Nazi art recovery operation financed by a legal clerk seeking revenge for the murder of his grandparents at Dachau.

Málaga police detective, Jordi Cotelo, is put on the case. Ordered to follow Howard-Graham, he has no idea that one of his fellow detectives has his own reasons for wanting the paintings. Nor is Cotelo aware that events will soon catapult him into a well-developed terrorist plot to destabilize his country.

After Goya's premise is built on the documented fact of a series of Luftwaffe and Italian bombing raids on Madrid between November 19th and 22nd, 1936. The novel takes readers on a journey into Spain’s physical and metaphorical interior, while engaging them in an exciting yarn. I would be pleased to send the completed manuscript for your consideration. I enclose an SASE for your response.

Yours sincerely,


The query was more like a time-line graphic you might see across the bottom of a major story in Newsweek. No need to tell the entire book in your letter, just enough to make it sound like the fascinating, engrossing, "good yarn" you know that it is.


Anonymous said...

The story sounds like it would be a decent read because I think the details in the complete book (hopefully) will help uncomplicate (is that a word?) the story. -JTC

AFTER GOYA! I just had to shout it once.

Anonymous said...

I bow to Evil Editor. How you made sense of that mess amazes me. Now, the story sounds quite interesting. I just hope the book is as ordered.

Luna said...

Yay revised version! After reading the original, I thought "no way would I ever pick that up" but the revision made it much more clear (even a LITTLE clear would have helped, compared to version 1.) I love plots about stolen stuff and Nazi war criminals. I'd read it. Just one question though...HOW LONG did it take you to make sense of version 1? Longer than it took Goya to paint those mini-works of art, I bet...

Fish Monkey said...

The beginning of this query reads strangely similar to 'Guess the plot'.

Also, "A Russian gangster, whose grandfather organized military intelligence during the Civil War"
Which Civil War? Not obvious with such an international cast.

Mad Scientist Matt said...

That was an excellent job of pruning!

Anonymous said...

Awesome revised query, EE. Now the story actually sounds interesting.

Loved the character list, and the helpful numbers assigned to the various players.


word verif: nklodhgk (Russian gangsters?)

pacatrue said...

EE's daunting skills of deduction as well as dedication to this blog were certainly on display in this deranged and documented derring-do of a dastardly query. Sorry, got lost in my alliteration and started piling on. Another way I might want to write this:

An editor dedicated to beautiful women and making fun of others starts a blog on a whim.

A dedicated Spanish author composes a fun story and attempts to explain it all to the editor.

A reader in America attempts to understand the author's query but gives up after character number 12 is introduced.

An editor, the same editor as before, finds the essential story in AFTER GOYA from the long list of one-sentence paragraphs.

An American reader and a Spanish author are now happy.

Anonymous said...

Wow...EE, you totally rock. That was an amazing revision/decoding. Reading the original version of the query letter was rather like reading the textbook to my statistics course from way back when.


Anonymous said...

Many, many thanks EE for an excellent job. You made me smile, you made me laugh. And thanks too to everyone who took the time and effort to post comments.
the author of (just one last time for the cheap seats at the back) AFTER GOYA.

Anonymous said...

To the author--if you succeed in getting this published, it will be ironic when the publisher changes the title! Be prepared.

Anonymous said...

AFTER GOYA - le deluge

EE - excellent decoding of the mysteries of the Goya Code. You made it sound like a real book instead of a real mess. Hope to read your version.