Friday, October 06, 2006

Face-Lift 209

Guess the Plot

A Matter of Faith

1. Dan Strummer is engaged to his boss’s daughter, who he loves dearly--or at least he thought he did, until he met Faith, his boss's wife.

2. Gifted research historian Brent Rasmussen uncovers irrefutable proof of the existence - and identity - of the one true God. The world's religious leaders have mixed reactions to the evidence that they were all wrong.

3. Faith Moreno, music director at her church, is suspected of murdering the organist. Will she save herself by admitting that she was in the bed of Father Pat at the time, thus ruining his career?

4. A new high school football coach is the only one in town who believes that freshman cheerleader Faith Caldwell can quarterback the football team to the state championship.

5. Hope and Charity have uncovered the evil plot in the physics lab, where their sister's mentor has created anti-matter. Can the girls rescue Faith before her matter is converted into a force that will destroy our planet?

6. Faith Boodle has always listened to Father O'Malley. But his definition of "good girl" changed when she turned sixteen. And his idea of communion was, well, disgusting. Will the new altar boy save her from her doubts? Or at least get Father O'Malley out of her hair?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

On January 1, 2006, a wealthy Marshfield businessman is found shot dead at the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. [For those who are familiar only with the Grand Canyon of Arizona, don't be fooled. The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is a small ditch on the side of the Schuylkill Expressway.] The investigation stalls. Four months later, frustrated Sheriff Anna Wells laments, "Only divine intervention can move this case forward." She only has to wait another week. [At which time the case will be turned over to The Saint.]

Earthly and spiritual mysteries become linked, and their answers [Questions have answers; mysteries have solutions.] rest with the fate of sheltered Faith Moreno, the 25-year-old parish music director at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church. [The solutions to linked spiritual and earthly mysteries rest with Faith's fate? I have no idea what that means.] On Easter Sunday, Faith's father dies unexpectedly out-of-grace. His death intensifies pressures on Faith, as she struggles with doubts about herself, her church, and now, her God. Adrift, she questions God's plan while pursuing Father Pat, a handsome priest newly returned to town with whom she shares a special bond from their past. [Pursuing romantically? A priest? Okay, admittedly a handsome priest, but isn't there someone she could pursue who's available? Say, a detective?]

Meanwhile, Detective Roger Stark balances new fatherhood [I meant an unmarried detective.] while investigating two cases. Who is stalking Faith with increasing menace? Who killed the substitute organist inside St. Mary's, for which Faith is a suspect? [What idiot thinks Faith killed the substitute organist, and why?] [It was clearly Father Pat.] Wells and Stark unravel the mysteries, but God extracts a high cost. [Never mind those mysteries; what about the guy who got shot in the Grand Canyon? You haven't shown that that has anything to do with your plot. Connect it.]

A Matter of Faith is a completed 90,000 word mystery set in Marshfield, a fictitious mid-sized Pennsylvania city. This is my third complete novel, and the second one set in Marshfield with Detective Stark. A fourth novel, also set in Marshfield, will be completed by mid-2007. I've published several Internet articles on writing and received the Gary Provost Scholarship for the 2006 Writers Retreat Workshop.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Does this book have a main character? I can't tell if it's Faith, Stark or Wells. If it's Stark or Wells, you might concentrate more on that person.

Why not mention what the special bond between Faith and Father Pat is?

What does Faith see as God's plan? Pursuing the priest, or not pursuing the priest? She questions His plan, but it's not clear what that means.

What is this high cost God exacts for the unraveling of the mysteries? Is God playing an active role here? God's intervention leads to the solving of the Grand Canyon murder? I'm not sure mystery readers would go for God solving the crime. Although it's better than the detective proving God committed the crime.


Anonymous said...

The query just left me super-confused. What the heck is happening? I can't tell what the plot is supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Me too.

Is the answer God moves in mystery series ways?

HawkOwl said...

Buwaaaaaahahahahahahaha! You said "the Saint." Tooooooo funny.

Seriously, though. Terrible query. I hate queries that are all questions, for one thing. As a reader, I might enjoy a mystery (though experience shows I don't); as an agent (if I were one), I just want to know what the book is about, so I can tell if I want to try selling it. So just tell me what actually happens, not that something happens that you're not gonna tell me. But that may be just me. Authors here seem to loooooooove the "mystery plot" style queries.

So maybe more importantly, I have no interest what so ever in the spiritual musings of someone who would actually pursue a catholic priest. Especially when she's the church organist and therefore clearly acquainted with catholicism. We're not talking about some freshly-immigrated non-English-speaking shinto practitioner, who might not know better. So your protagonist, apparently, has no integrity and no respect for her own religion, let alone for other people's choices in life. And I want to read about her why?

Not to mention that someone dying "unexpectedly out-of-grace" is only a plot point for a very limited demographic. And this demographic happens to be the people who would be most offended by the "chasing the priest" plot point.

I didn't like it as a New Beginning, either, but now I really dislike it. If I were an agent, I don't think I'd have read to the end of your query letter. If your protagonist is actually sympathetic, you really need to rewrite your letter.

Anonymous said...

"The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania is a small ditch on the side of the Schuylkill Expressway."

You know, EE, we here in Schuykill county don't exactly consider 4-1/2 ft deep "small"... What are the ditches like where you come from anyway? (I'll bet our potholes shame yours too!)

Steph_J said...

This reading went smoothly for me, though there seemed too many sub-plots to handle all at once. I enjoy mysteries and stories with religious themes (doesn’t matter what religion). I would continue reading to see what the earthly and spiritual mysteries were about. The last sentence of the third paragraph was a little disturbing for me. I don’t understand why God would exact a high cost just because Wells and Stark started unraveling the mysteries. I thought God intervened to move the case forward.