Monday, October 30, 2006

Face-Lift 224

Guess the Plot

Devil's Gold

1. Bert Blott knows that the shiny stuff on the wall of Mr. Popek's garden wall is really just fool's gold. But when he finds a bar of real gold in the same garden, he is delighted--until the owner shows up.

2. The Prince of the Underworld has no need for earthly riches - until he meets the American Princess from Hell.

3. Spinster detective Amelia Pettipants is back to solve another case. This time, when the Vicar drops dead at the village cake baking contest, the secret ingredient in the devil's food cake entries makes the recipes pure gold.

4. Deep in the Yukon, part-time prospector Dave Mercey strikes what he thinks is the motherlode. But when the men working the mine start turning into flesh-eating zombies he realizes that some things are better left underground.

5. Glen made a deal with the Devil: His soul for Olympic Gold. He's won his four races and is hailed as the "fastest man in the world," but now he wants out of the bargain.

6. An oil company discovers a bottomless well of "black gold," and conspires to commit genocide in order to ensure no one else "horns" in on their find.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Devil's Gold is a completed 117,000 word commercial novel that I would like to offer you for consideration of representation. [End the sentence after "novel," or say "for which I'm seeking representation." You don't want the agent thinking the book is as wordy as that sentence.]

The biggest gold rush of the twenty-first century…some call it terrorism, others call it survival. [I don't know what that means. How is terrorism or survival a gold rush?] Endless burning gas flares, rivers poisoned by oil, bloodbaths inflicted by corrupt Nigerian militia -- this is zoologist Cassidy Lowell's fight. [This sounds like a fight for Red Adair, Greenpeace, and the United Nations, but if they've already failed, it is time to call in Cassidy Lowell.] From the heart of the Niger Delta to the serene ambiance of Yellowstone National Park, Lowell along with undercover agent Jake Anderson, [He's an undercover agent for what organization?] race against time to prevent New World Petroleum from committing genocide and stealing a bottomless source of oil. [You toss around terms like "endless" and "bottomless" pretty freely. Stealing a bottomless source of oil would be tricky. It would require an endless supply of bottomless oil tankers.]

Chastised for not cooperating with the oil industry, Cassidy is reassigned to the serene ambiance of Yellowstone National Park. [Chastised? Are you saying her transfer from Nigeria to Yellowstone is a punishment? That's like a soldier stationed in Afghanistan talking back to his sergeant, and getting shipped to Hawaii as his punishment.] Jake is selected as her biologist for this assignment. [Selected by whom?] His mission is to determine the nature of the menacing connection between Cassidy's employer, ZEBRA (Zoological Ecological Biological Research Agency) [Actually, zoological would be a subset of biological, so you should replace biological with botanical. You still get to call it ZEBRA.] and New World Petroleum. [And he's going to determine this in Yellowstone?]

Discovering an alarming genetic mutation of the parvo virus [parvovirus--one word] that appears to transfer from canine to human, [I smell a werewolf book here.] Cassidy and Jake pursue its origin before it spreads beyond the greater Yellowstone region, [They discover this genetic mutation? Don't they alert the Center for Disease Control? Or at least ZEBRA? Aren't these organizations better equipped to find the origin than Cassidy and Jake (who's an undercover agent, not even a real biologist?)] [Yellowstone Park is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined, and the greater Yellowstone region is several times that. Two people are going to keep the virus from spreading beyond this region? Let's face it, we're doomed. Doomed, I tell you.] their relationship taking a slight detour from professional to personal. [If Jake doesn't become a werewolf at some point, you've missed a golden opportunity.] The media strikes at Cassidy, accusing her of transferring a biological weapon from the Niger Delta to Yellowstone. [Someone in Montana gets parvovirus, and the media immediately decide it was brought from Nigeria by Cassidy?] She's been set-up by New World Petroleum who is preparing to release the mutated virus on a vast scale and commit genocide within the Niger Delta, opening the door for unmonitored mass production of oil pushing New World Petroleum to the forefront as the most powerful oil conglomerate in the world. [If they commit genocide, who's gonna do all the labor involved in pumping the oil? Wait, they can import slaves.]

Cassidy and Jake arrive off the coast of West Africa to uncover what is driving New World Petroleum's actions, salvage her career and protect the Niger Delta region from more environmental damage. Cassidy is betrayed by one of her own [Her own what?] and infected with the virus. Jake undertakes a successful search and destroy mission, bringing down New World Petroleum and saving the woman who now ranks No. 1 on his "most important" list. [Is this a romance?] [One guy brings down New World Petroleum? That's as believable as a cow destroying the city of Chicago.] [How does he save Cassidy from the virus? New World Petroleum was using the virus to commit genocide, yet Jake can cure it?]

I have previously been represented by Madame X of The YZ Literary Agency. Ms. X submitted this manuscript to MIRA. [Mira Books? Or Mira Sorvino?] In addition, the movie rights were optioned through July of 2006 and garnered interest from George Lopez [George Lopez? Too bad it wasn't George Lucas.] in conjunction with Clint Eastwood. The script was also submitted to Bruce Willis in June of 2005 [With all this name dropping, I'm beginning to think it was Mira Sorvino.] where it met with favorable interest but ultimately there was concern that the locale was too similar to Mr. Willis' Tears of the Sun. [More likely there was concern that the box office gross would be too similar to that of Tears of the Sun.] As far as I know, the script has not been returned or officially rejected. [Apparently film producers are just as slack as publishers about sending out rejection slips.]

Thank you for your time and consideration of this query.

Revised Version

When zoologist Cassidy Lowell's work in Nigeria comes into conflict with the interests of New World Petroleum, she is transferred to Yellowstone National Park. There, working with biologist Jake Anderson, she discovers an alarming genetic mutation of parvovirus that transfers from canine to human. The virus appears to have originated in Nigeria, and Cassidy is accused in the media of bringing it to the US.

She's been set-up by New World Petroleum who are preparing to release the mutated virus on a vast scale and commit genocide within the Niger Delta, opening the door for unmonitored production from newly discovered oil fields, and making New World the most powerful oil conglomerate in the world. Jake reveals that he's actually an undercover CIA agent, assigned to investigate the connection between Cassidy's employer, ZEBRA (Zoological Ecological Bio-Research Agency) and New World Petroleum.

Cassidy and Jake arrive off the coast of West Africa seeking to salvage her career and protect the Niger Delta region from environmental catastrophe. When Cassidy is infected with the virus, Jake has only a few days to sabotage New World Petroleum's operations and to save the woman he has come to love.

Devil's Gold is a completed 117,000 word commercial novel. I would be delighted to provide the full manuscript or a partial and synopsis. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I didn't see mentioning Bruce Willis as a selling point. Publish my book because Bruce Willis doesn't want to star in the movie?

The screenplay will be about 120 pages, while the novel will be more like 400. That means you have to fill in all the glaring plot holes that will exist in the ridiculous summer blockbuster.

My plot probably isn't quite yours, but it might give you a blueprint for a more cohesive query.


Dave Fragments said...

What bothers me were phrases like -- release the virus on a vast scale to commit genocide. Those are powerful words. Releasing a truly virulent virus on a vast scale in this day and age of jet travel would spread the disease worldwide.

There's a neat little book out there called "The Hot Zone" that describes how virulent diseases spread. It's truly horrific to read how efficient a virus can be andhow much like an intelligent person a virus can act. . . Consider that the faster a virus kills, the faster it must spread, the more easily it must infect. If it doesn't spread fast or infect easily, it dies out when it runs out of victims.

I like the idea and the plot but this plot is like all the "Michael Crichton" type thrillers in that the author need to contruct a plausible pathway for the spread of the virus and methods to safely handle and cure the virus. Perhaps this mutated parvovirus infects only in hot tropical climates and its effects will be limited to Nigeria or Africa. (Beware of the confusion between Niger and Nigeria).

I'm not advocating turning this into a techno-thriller, but a couple of the right words here and there would make it all more credible. This is already a good, pulse-pounding adventure read. If you make it authentic, it will be even better.

acd said...

Why is it never the GTP with zombies?

Anonymous said...

The plot is completely ridiculous. But it's no worse than the plot of SAHARA. I could see Hollywood taking this on. They never have any problem papering over plot holes by adding gun fights, love scenes, boat chases and zombies.

Instead of submitting to Bruce Willis, I'd suggest the Wayans brothers. It would probably be less work to tweak it into some kind of spoof than to clean up the plot holes.

GutterBall said...

That's as believable as a cow destroying the city of Chicago.

Okay, now I have to write this story. I can just see the tag-line.

"For want of a milking, a city was lost."

Anonymous said...

I think the author is trying to do too much in one story which is creating those plot holes and making folks say it is more likely to be a spoof than a serious tale.

"The Hot Zone" is an excellent book. Perhaps this author should read it for research or just a reality check. -JTC

Kate Thornton said...

I knew, eventually, Mrs. O'Leary's poor cow would get dragged in. Is nothing sacred?

A fast-acting (and of necessity, as Dave points out, fast spreading)virus is such a plausible frightener that we have quite a few thrillers out there with this theme already. I would need to see something *different* in there to pull me in. How about a romance? Aliens? Zombies? Orchid breeding in a New York brownstone?

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but this reads like a romance with a silly "action" plot tagged on. An implausible action plot at that.

What really bothers me is that at the end of the day, the damsel needs rescuing by the hero. That's so 80's. Read some action romances. These days, the women kick ass and don't need a man to rescue them.

Anonymous said...

Why is it always the worst GTP? Oil, evil corporation, killer virus...way too much stuff. But yeah, go ship this to Jerry Bruckheimer or Michael Bay, sounds right up their alley.

Unknown said...


Actually, there really are no plot holes in the book only in the query - obviously. The virus is well researched and a joint creation between myself and a biologist who specializes in that field. And it does have a plausable transference rate as well as "burn-out" factor. Should I put all that in the query? It's covered in the synopsis.

I've read the Hot Zone not to mention conducting a boatload of research which included interviewing doctors and specialists on the front end of saving the Niger Delta.

I don't think I went to Nigeria -- that was EE. ;)

And, LOL -- werewolves creep in but not in the classic sense. But, dang, I could add them?

I'm a huge Clive Cussler fan (at least I was -- prior to him turning the reigns over to his son.) Books not movies. So I take that as a compliment.

I am well read in all genres. But you're right Marie-Anne -- the reason it was rejected by MIRA was because it was too heroecentric (sp?). This is not a romance, though. That element is a definite subplot.

Thank you all for your comments. And especially EE who rocked on the revised version and didn't fail to entertain.

Anonymous said...

I don't know. I think Michael Moore would want to buy the rights to make this docudrama.

Anonymous said...

The virus is well researched ... Should I put all that in the query? It's covered in the synopsis.

No. What EE did with the query is exactly right. Your version tried to cover too much detail and ended up sounding incoherent. You need to step back and describe the big picture (just what EE strove to do).

The plot described in the query doesn't even need to be exactly what's in the book - it just needs to get the basic idea across in an understandable fashion (which the original query did not do) and sound like it would be interesting.

Daisy Bateman said...

I'm sorry, but "Zoological Ecological Biological Research Agency" just cracks me up. There's absolutely no reason to go with such a long and redundant title except to get the cool acronym, and that just screams "author" to me (as opposed to, you know, "believable"). I suggest you reduce it to just "Biological Research Agency", which makes more sense, and just think of the fun you could have with it:

"Don't worry, BRA has us wired."
"You see, Miss Lowell? Your BRA can do nothing to help you now!
"We could never have done it without the support of BRA!"

Unknown said...

LOL @ BRA. But I'll stick with ZEBRA, thanks so much.

Yep, you're right Whitemouse. Reading EE's revisions, I see exactly what I wasn't accomplishing. Huge...HUGE, help.

Michael Moore ROFLMAO!

When I originally began my research and wrote the initial version of this book, very little about the Niger Delta plight had been publicized. It's been on a rollercoaster of revisions for so long that in all reality it's missed the window of opportunity as a fresh topic. Oh well, onward and upward. I'll query a bit more (don't want to waste EE's efforts) but I've already moved on beyond this project.

Anonymous said...

"Zoological Ecological Biological Research Agency" just cracks me up. There's absolutely no reason to go with such a long and redundant title except to get the cool acronym

Actually, I remember talking to an experimental scientist in high energy particle physics once, and she complained about how in order to get good funding, scientists feels pressured to come up with some sexy acronym for their new projects (like calling a b/b-bar meson project BaBar, after the elephant in the children's novels).

It allows for better marketing - which is to say, it's easier to get layperson politicians excited about funding the project if you can hype it up to them in terms they can understand, and give them a name for the project that they will remember better than "b/b-bar meson factory".

The author can keep the ZEBRA acronym; that really would be a believable conceit in today's scientific circles.

Anonymous said...

This definitely has the feel of Dirk Pitt (without the car collection). I like ZEBRA--it has so much potential for a very cute logo. EE's rewrite made a lot more sense (as it usually does).

And Clive, Clive, Clive--why, oh WHY did you bring your son on? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Malia, I made the same mistake with a query letter that was savaged here over the summer. It was "Sugar Bowl". Like yours, the story is reasonable but the query letter introduced things that it didn't subsequently explain. So the end result is it sounded outlandish. I was so depressed about the feedback (which I printed and filed away) that I put that away and started writing something else.

I think there's an art to writing a query letter that demonstrates what's special about a story and yet doesn't introduce anything that looks like a plot hole. I haven't mastered that art yet!

...dave conifer

Unknown said...

I forgot to add:

[Or perhaps there was concern that the box office gross would be too similar to that of Tears of the Sun.]


Daisy Bateman said...

Okay, but it's still redundant.

Anonymous said...

GTP #2 -- too wonderful!

"That's as believable as a cow destroying the city of Chicago."
A cow -- no. A cow with a lamp, now that's another story. Mrs. O'Leary had something there (well, until her barn was toast).

"Consider that the faster a virus kills, the faster it must spread, the more easily it must infect."
I recently read a book that turned this logic on its head -- the faster a pathogen *can* spread, the more virulent it will be. It was written by a biologist in the field (Plague Time by Paul Ewald).

"The virus is well researched and a joint creation between myself and a biologist who specializes in that field." -- and yet, you misspelled the name. Perhaps some more proofreading?

Anonymous said...

I just this morning mailed queries off to four agents. Writing those suckers was harder than writing the novel (as many have said before me). What gives me hope is that Evil Editor "writes good query", and does it in less than a month (the length of time it took me). Therefore, it must be a skill one can improve with practice.

Hence the hope: my queries for my next book, and/or rewritten queries for my currently submitted book, will be better and won't take so blooming long to write.

It's not surprising that a query for a page-rattler like Devil's Gold falls flat. What surprises me is when they're good.

(Primate of Pulp)

HawkOwl said...

There was so much blue, I had no idea what the query was talking about. But the word "terrorism" was used, and I don't read terrorism stories, so pass. Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...

Now, who's the main character here? It starts out as Cassidy, but when she gets sick, suddenly it's up to Jake to save her. Why not keep her the MC and have HER save HIM?

And now y'all have done it with the cow and Chicago thing -- there's a song running through my head and I can't get it out --

"One night late, when bed we all were in,
Old Leary Lady left the shed the candle in,
And when the kick cowed it over,
She eyed her wink and said,
'There'll be an old time
In the hot town tonight!'"

Unknown said...

EE says tomaytoes, I say tomahtos. EE also generalizes the locale to Nigeria, I don't and probably won't in my revised query. I'm already being non-specific with "Niger Delta." I don't think I'll widen it to Nigeria. But who knows, maybe I'll change my mind.

Anyhoo -- there's no typo. There's a specific reason I went with two words for parvo virus but for the life of me, I don't remember. This was two books ago. Will I double check? You betcha booties. Will I just blindly change it? No.

Beyond the entertainment factor on this site, EE provides such a valuable lesson. Color me learned. Thank you, EE.

And Daisy -- redundant or not, ZEBRA stays. It works. It's realistic. Having worked for the RTC, FDIC and CDC -- trust me, I know. Stupid acronyms are indeed part of everyday business.

Dave C -- I hope that because you were savaged here is not the reason you've stopped querying your work. I really hope not. There are some posters that are rude ... some who are just brutally honest ... others that always have a kind word ... and those that really don't care at all and just strictly read for entertainment. Remember, this isn't a critique group. Find yourself a safe haven and get some help with your query. Don't waste your book because of a bunch of rabid bloggerheads. (I'm including myself in that group.)

Even in this sorry state -- my query has received positive responses and I have partials out to agencies. But I want a much better response and hopefully my new and improved, EE blueprinted query will do the job.