Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Face-Lift 252

Guess the Plot

From Gray Mists, Returned

1. A faerie uses a human guy to destroy the "Gray Mists," thus opening a portal that allows all the creatures of mythology to enter our world. Chaos ensues.

2. Rainforest dweller Amanda "Gray Mists" Park, thinks she's rid the world of another unbearable cooking show hostess. But two of the stamps fell off the bomb, and after failing to answer the postman's knock, Amanda opens her door to find the deadly ticking package -- returned.

3. After being lost and given up for dead in December, a team of six mountaineers descend from the misty heights of Mt. Wiqwee in February. But all is not well -- they're undead abominable snowmen, and they're freezing all the ninnies in Malibu.

4. Amanda Marsland's car breaks down in a fog. Walking for help, she finds herself in a village in AD 1240, unwillingly involved in their problems--especially those of the handsome knight of the manor. On the next foggy night she finds her way back to her car and our time. But now, the one thing she wants in life is to return to 1240.

5. When aspiring writer Logorrhea Witherspoon receives a package, she hopes for the best. Tearing open the plain brown wrapper, she finds her manuscript, with a form rejection and a request from Gray Mists Publishing to never submit again. Will she find the courage to write on?

6. For fifty years librarian Millicent Bottomweather tsk-tsked when patrons claimed they had returned books which clearly they had not. Now, one foggy day in November, hundreds of goblins emerge from the mists to return the thousands of missing books. Will Millicent succeed in collecting their late fees?

Original Version

Dear Editor,

Demitri is an ordinary guy who wakes up one night and finds his house on fire. The fire kills his wife, and is about to kill him. [Lucky for him the fire started on her side of the bed.]

All these things are the least of his problems. [Those may be the least of his problems, but I don't recommend putting them on the back burner.]

A Faerie appears and snatches him away, moments before certain death. But now, Demitri is in even greater danger as the Faerie uses him to destroy the Gray Mists, a barrier which seperates our world from another world -- one that contains all of the creatures of myth and all the magic that have long since been absent from our own world. [Maybe it's just me, but I don't see living in a world where Pegasus and Hercules and Narcissus are real as more dangerous than imminent certain death in a fire.] She uses him and then discards him, a battered man, burnt from the house fire and on the verge of death. [Why did she use him? Did she need a burnt guy?]

He doesn't die, though, and as the strain of returning magic begins to tear the world apart, it falls to Demitri to try to re-seal the portal and repair the damage. He doesn't understand why something like this should fall to him, [Nor do I. I assume you're about to explain.] but it does [But it does? That's the explanation?] and he's the only one who can stop the unfolding chaos. [How about a few examples of the unfolding chaos. Are there centaurs and minotaurs and unicorns roaming the world? Are guys trying to push huge boulders up hills? Because that would all be cool.]

FROM GRAY MISTS, RETURNED is an urban-fantasy novel, complete at 100,000 words. It's about how the world changes around us, sometimes despite our best efforts. [Sometimes, despite all our precautions, we find Medusa, Cerberus and Chimaera in our coat closet.] It's about doing the right thing, even when it's the hardest possible thing you can do. It's about change, and loss, and it's about finding your place. [In short, it's about vagueness personified.] [The eighth labor of Hercules: destroying the Vagueron, an invisible creature that did things to stuff.] It is also, I hope, just a good story.

Although this is my first novel, I have been writing short fiction for many years now. I am also an assistant editor for a science fiction magazine, Blood, Blade & Thruster.

It is both your reputation as an agent, as well as my enjoyment of the works of your clients which gave me reason to send my novel to you for consideration. [Aw, I bet you say that to everyone you query.] I would be happy to send the full manuscript at your request.

Thanks for your time!


The paragraph telling what the book's about needs specifics, or you may as well leave it out. It says nothing after the genre and word count.

For that matter, after the fire, I don't know anything that happens in the book. And the fire could be on page one. How about some facts/events/concrete examples?

Shouldn't Demitri be spelled Demetri? Then it would be like the goddess Demeter, and the numerous Demetriuses, including Demetrius and the Gladiators, in which Jay Robinson plays Caligula. Yes, the same Jay Robinson who played Lord Petri in the Star Trek episode "Elaan of Troyius," in which Kirk must teach the arrogant Dohlman about the ways of love. Actual lines from a deleted scene in that episode:

Uhura (listening to Spock play the Vulcan lyre): I'd certainly like to learn how to play that.

Spock: I'd be glad to give you the theory. The mathematics are somewhat complex. To my knowledge, no non-Vulcan has ever mastered the skill. You see, we Vulcans have natural rhythm.


Bernita said...

Why a house fire to trigger all this?
Why should mythic creatures want to dissolve the barrier?
Be specific.
And learn to spell "separate."

Anonymous said...

You might take a look at the query hooks over on Miss Snark's blog. She's of the main-character/villain/conflict/stakes school of querying. That might be the sort of brevity the AbsoluteWriters were suggesting.

Good luck.


PJD said...

Why do the creatures from myth want to come here? Is it because we have high-speed internet and Evil Editor?

I can't help but wonder what Medusa's profile on might look like. Would Sisyphus start a blog? And would it be any more boring than 99% of the existing blogs out there? Would Narcissus have a MySpace page? Would sea monsters start appearing on modern maps? Would we have to sacrifice to the gods and examine the entrails of goats to see whether we should do things like invade Iraq? (Come to think of it, that might have been a better way to decide that question.)

While I am a little distracted by the Why questions (why were myth creatures banished to another world, why does the barrier exist, why does the faerie want to destroy the barrier, why do the creatures want to come back to this world, why can the faerie come through the gray mists to snatch Demitri away when Zeus can't get through the barrier, etc.), I understand that the story is fundamentally about the characters--in the same way I am willing to forgive all the inconsistencies and holes in the Harry Potter world. It sounds like the story itself could hang together, but your query gives so little about the story that we can't tell.

EE's comments on the query itself, of course, are spot on. (The Vagueron is a nice touch.) The only other thing is, why GRAY mists? Does calling them GRAY mists make them seem more eerie and dramatic? Mists are normally gray. If the mists that form the barrier actually are gray, I would think they'd just be called the Mists or the Barrier or something like that. Maybe Puce Mists or Burnt Sienna Mists would be more edgy and mysterious.

Anonymous said...

#4 is an especially great idea.

If you read the crapometer hooks you'll find unwilling chosen heros are genre standard and after a few dozen variations on that theme, they all sound alike. Toasting yours in the beginning is odd. Severe burns realistically portrayed would not seem compatible with fast paced narrative and active heroics. Unrealisticly portrayed or mild burns sound like you just used the afflictions-make-him-interesting character building gimmick.

Anonymous said...

"Demitri is an ordinary guy who wakes up one night and finds his house on fire. The fire kills his wife, and is about to kill him.
All these things are the least of his problems."

"All these things."? Isn't that only one thing, two at best? I usually do not notice those things, but this time I did so you may want to take a look at it. It could just be me.

As for the story, to quote Austin Powers, "That sort of thing's not my bag, baby." -JTC

roach said...

I used a different formula suggested by Miss Snark in the last crapometer:

"Just answer these questions:

"Who is the protaganist?
"What dilemma does he face?
"How does it get resolved?

"Answer each question in less than 25 words. That's the skeleton for a good query letter. It may not be your finished version, but it will give you the bone structure you need."

We'll see if that formula is any good when EE gets to my query.

Anonymous said...

Acutally, I like the idea of the burned hero -- disfigured, in pain, and with limitations. Sort of reminds me of Thomas Covenant, but hopefully without the sour attitude.

On the "reluctant hero" thing. I think readers and editors/agents are willing to accept a certain amount of genre standards, but only if there's something else fresh in the story. Right now, you don't show that.

Stacia said...

I love urban fantasy, and I love the idea of the guy dealing with the loss of his wife on top of everything else, which makes me feel for him right away.

The revision over at AW is better.

I'd definitely read this book.