Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Face-Lift 212

Guess the Plot

Unholy Alliance

1. A minister, a priest and a rabbi walk into a bar. Hilarity ensues.

2. Geraldo Rivera refuses to give up his obsessive quest to expose The Pope and Osama Bin Laden as Friday night drinking buddies.

3. In the year 2017, amid an ongoing world war between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Athiests unite in a fourth political bloc which is quickly labeled as "godless" by the other three.

4. Nik has a highly enhanced sense of smell, but will that help him when the Archpriest of the Church of Vordis contracts to have him killed?

5. Father Michael O'Malley learns what defrocking is all about with Sister Perpetua out behind the sacristy.

6. Portia Peebles' 1984 Renault Alliance, 'Chuck', is possessed by the Devil. Will a conjugal visit with Stephen King's 'Christine' put him back on the road?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Seventeen-year-old Nik is a thief blessed with an almost magical sense of smell. Abandoned by his mother as an infant, he is raised by a society of thieves, the only family he's ever known. After a theft gone wrong, Nik is barred from his home, desperately trying to steal enough to re-enter the society’s good graces. [I see where this is going already: he gives up his life of lawlessness and becomes a superhero, sniffing out criminals as . . . The Proboscis! Muzzle Man? Schnozzola? Captain Olfactory? Wait, I've got it: Odor Eater!] But his crèche brothers, jealous of his abilities, do everything they can to prevent his return. [Jealous of his abilities? Why, his abilities are a curse! Who wants to live in a community house with a bunch of smelly thieves when you have a nose like an anteater's? The guy on the other side of the room farts, and it's like the wind just shifted your way from the hog farm next door.]

As the days go by with little success, Nik takes a gamble. Ignoring the warning of his senses, he steals a large sack of gold from a temple guard. The guard, disguised as a courier, is delivering the payment for a political assassination ordered by the Archpriest of the Church of Vordis, the most powerful man in Arosa. A damning note enclosed with the gold causes the Archpriest to put a price on Nik's head and suddenly the family he trusted is now trying to kill him. [Fortunately, he can smell them coming from a mile away, for he is . . . The Snout. What kind of costume would The Snout wear? Would he look like a giant nose with legs? A normal guy with a huge beak? Maybe he'd have several elephant trunks emanating from his head in all directions, not real elephant trunks, but scientifically designed trunks that enhance his ability to smell anything in a three mile radius.]

In an effort to unravel the note's meaning and discover why he's been forced into hiding, he enlists the help of Beth, a fifteen-year-old prostitute. [Not the person I would enlist in such a quest, but perhaps he feels she'll be good to have along now and then. Hey, it's not easy finding a girlfriend when you've got a half-dozen elephant trunks sticking out of your head.] Together, they unwittingly become involved in an 'Unholy Alliance' between the Archpriest and the leader of an opposing nation intent on invading not only his home city of Lanberg, but the entire country of Arosa. [I highly suggest you change the name from Lanberg, Arosa to Limburger, Aroma.] [I'm not sure their involvement should be called unwitting, when they were specifically trying to find out what was going on.] The more Nik tries to extricate himself from danger, the more he becomes involved, pulled in by the lure of discovering his parent’s identity and the reason he was abandoned. [What makes him think his parents' identity has anything to do with the current situation?] Soon it seems the fate of the entire country rests upon the shoulders of a thief who’s little more than a boy. [Shoulders? You've totally lost track of your theme. The country's fate rests in Nik's nostrils.]

My 100,000 word fantasy novel, Unholy Alliance, is the first in a trilogy titled, Covenant of Lies. [In book 2, we meet a hero whose sense of taste is so highly developed, he has taste buds on all of his skin. Known as The Tongue, he's quite popular with the ladies.] [Book 3 features Touchy-Feelie, the superhero whose sense of touch is so powerful she screams out in pain whenever dust particles land on her skin. She's no good at fighting crime, but she adds comic relief when she teams up with The Snout and The Tongue.]

I have stories appearing in the anthologies, The Stygian Soul, Chimeraworld #2 and F/SF, as well as the upcoming anthology, A Firestorm of Dragons. I’m also a contributing author for The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, and the upcoming, The Complete Guide to Writing Science Fiction, due to be released early 2007, features Piers Anthony and Orson Scott Card among others. Both are Dragon Moon Press publications. [Dragon Moon Press? Again? What, does Dragon Moon Press require its authors to query EE for the free publicity?]

The complete manuscript is available upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Outside of a couple minor points (misplaced apostrophe in "parent's," no need for both "suddenly" and "now" in last sentence of paragraph 2), it reads well. More about the Archpriest's plot and Nik's parents' involvement could replace the prostitute, who doesn't do much of anything in the query. Also, I'm sure it comes into play in the book, but I think I'd leave the super sniffer out of the query. It sounds a bit silly.

You might want to stick in something about when and where this takes place fairly early so the reader knows what kind of book he's dealing with.


Anonymous said...

If Nik's magical sense of smell is central to the story, the you need to bring this out more in the query. As it stands now, it's hardly mentioned, so I'd agree with EE and leave it out entirely.

If you haven't read it already, I suggest you put "Perfume" by Patrick Suskind on your list. Incredible story based on a similar premise (or maybe not so similar).

Unknown said...

"The Snout" snort

Anonymous said...

My husband has an excellent sense of smell and it is no bit of magic. sure he can sniff us out in a store, but he also has lots of sinus problems and one not so fresh smelling person nearby can make him unable to eat. I can tell you right now if this is all pro and no con I'm not going to buy it one little bit.

Anonymous said...

This is a good attempt to come up with something original (or at least something that's not beat into the ground like Dragon Swords). It seems that the more original the idea, the tougher it is to write. I would say don't drop the idea, just listen to the advice you'll get from the minions and keep working on it. -JTC

Word verification: zatfpd -This is what it is called when michelle lee's husband can't eat because someone nearby smells bad.

Anonymous said...

Short of working as a bomb detector, I honestly can't think of any situation where super-smell would actually be useful. And dogs are probably cheaper.

Dave Fragments said...

Shostokovich wrote an Opera (yes my dear philistines, a whole Opera) based a short story by Gogol titled NOS (It translates to English as THE NOSE).

It is the story of a man who loses his nose at a barber shop and sets out to find it. He tries to place an ad in a newspaper but is thwarted. Then he goes to the government office where the clerks mock him for losing his nose. He also confronts his girlfriend who merely laughs at him. His nose makes an appearance as a fat man at a RR station just to mock him. In the end, he finds that his nose is back on his face.
The opera has a very famous five minute long percussion interlude (one of the very few solos for percussion)...

In case you haven't realized it, this is a comic opera of grand proportions.

If ya don't believe me, go look it up. I wouldn't lie about this, honest, I wouldn't...

Anonymous said...

Dave, You may be thinking of Iron Butterfly's Inna-godda-davida.

HawkOwl said...

The Guess-the-Plots were especially good this time. Under the current pope, I can totally buy #2.

Anonymous said...

Terry Pratchett has a character in his Small Gods book named Vorbis, who is a murderous Archdeacon. You might consider changing the name of your church, since a lot of people, particularly fantasy fans, read the great Pratchett.

This does sound like a different sort of fantasy, and I'd be intrigued enough to give it a fair shot if I were standing in a book store. Good luck with it!

I know someone who has a well-developed sense of smell. She says there is no up-side to having a super-sensitive schnoz.

Anonymous said...

"or at least something that's not beat into the ground like Dragon Swords"

no, no!

Something that's not beat into ploughshares like Dragon Swords

Lord, why waste an opportunity like that? :-)

Would a great nose be good for making perfumes?

Wonderwood said...

It's easy to see where his super-powered sniffer will come in handy, assuming he has an "odorific memory" and can remember someone's scent after one sniff. He can identify his pursuers:

sniff sniff "There goes ol' Roy"
sniff sniff "Better duck, that's Jimbo"
sniff sniff "Mmm, Jennifer. Gotta get me summa dat" sniff

word ver: yyqvyt - the sound Nik makes when the village prostitute strolls near.

Anonymous said...

Okay, the sense of smell thing is just bizarre and I agree with the others that it seems to be more a curse than a gift. Potential jobs: wine taster? Methane detector? I'm just not feeling the love here.

Second, why was Nik abandoned? Surely it wasn't for his superior sense of smell--how would someone know he had this until he could talk?

Not a bad idea, but the smell thing just doesn't make any sense.

Anonymous said...

I've read Perfume. Great book! And yes his sense of smell is important, and while it does help in some instances, it also is a major hinderance.

Thanks for the comments.

writtenwyrdd said...

EE you outdid yourself in your comments on this one! ROFL!

I'll argue that a strong sense of smell can work in the book. However, I would suggest that the strongest sensory perception will affect the personality. Look at dogs, scent hounds specifically, and how they react to the world. Anything with strong odor, no matter how repulsive to us, is yummy to them. Dogs will roll in a dead deer carcass and be confused when mom and dad get upset and immediately give him a bath. your character's life affected by being the Odor Eater; and, if so, how?

EE is the expert, so when he says to omitmention of the smell-o-vision power, perhaps do so. Me, though, I think you should leave it in.

Dave Fragments said...

Dear JTC,
No, Inna Gadda Da Vida (In the Garden of Eden, Baby) is entirely different. I used to play it on piano and Hammond organ (as opposed to Wurlitzer). I once played Purple Haze on Bagpipes while in uniform but I had to run away very fast after that--pipes, skean dhu, dirk and all that stuff.

HawkOwl said...

Dave: you're my new musical hero.

We're so music-deprived up here, I'm considering driving 12 hours each way this weekend to go see James Ehnes in Edmonton.

Kate Thornton said...

Dave: You're my new musical hero, too. Purple Haze on the bagpipes in full regalia. I think I'm in love.

Anonymous said...

Dave, I'll grab my bass and we'll do two shows a day -free of charge, of course. -JTC

Dave Fragments said...

I knew you guys up north would recognize all those strange words: dirk, skean dhu and tartan, plaid, and badges, spats, double reeds, goose juice and lubricant ... (sigh).

Playing bagpipe back in University was a trip. The music majors hated the pipe band for two reasons (1) we could march 8 to 5 better than they could and (2) bagpipes are not tuned to a well tempered scale. They had to play offkey.
Of course, the music majors had perfect pitch and playing to an instrument detuned was painful for them.

We marched to Jigs and Reels and the Band would play Big Band, jazz, and six part stuff that no one, no one ever thought you could march to. One rather silly decision I made was NOT to attend the first showings of a student written musical titled "Godspell" when they wanted 50 cents and comments.

This was where I first heard Copland, Shostokovich and my beloved musical god, Mozart.

Anonymous said...

"A damning note enclosed with the gold causes the Archpriest to put a price on Nik's head and suddenly the family he trusted is now trying to kill him." Why is that priest hiring thiefs to kill someone? Isn't it better to get a mercenary to do the job? Also, if Nik's such a good thief, then how does the priest know who to kill? If he did it well, no one knows he's the one that has the gold. You better have a good reason to bring in the prostitute. For one, you can be in all sorts of legal trouble with underaged prostitution, but storywise it doesn't make sense. What has she got to offer him to help him in his quest?

Leah said...

The Vordis/Vorbis thing drove me batty, too.

But speaking of Discworld... Beacuse there is a werewolf in the City Watch, criminals use scent bombs to confuse her tracking. I hope your villains are as clever.

Anonymous said...

One of Spider Robinson's sf novels involved people with a super-developed sense of smell. I believe this information was carefully omitted from the back cover copy and the fly-leaf excerpt. Trying to remember the title ... Telempath?