Monday, January 22, 2007

Face-Lift 264

Guess the Plot

Mathias Corvinus and the Dragon's Order

1. When drab Brother Mathias (the Crow) Corvinus condemns as lascivious the peach colored habit of the Passerine sisters, Sister Erithaca lodges an appeal with Abbot Draco. Soon the Passerines are tricked out in flame red, royal blue, and grass green. And they are breathing fire.

2. 22nd-century genius Elmer Mars devises time travel technology that he hopes to use to save the planet from the lasting blaze of religious zealotry. His plan: convince the 15th Century King of Hungary, Mathias Corvinus, to crusade against the Ottoman Empire and win with secret modern weaponry.

3. Second violinist Mathias Corvinus can't forget legendary conductor Carmen Dragon's advice: "Take up plumbing, car repair, anything but violin!" But he realizes it was more than just good advice when his Pinto bursts into flames over a sewer pipe on the Santa Monica Freeway.

4. Mathias Corvinus discovers that he lived centuries before, in the land of Myrddin, and was killed by Queen Lilith. Now he lives again, and the Queen is a member of the faculty at his university. Coincidence? Or opportunity for revenge? Also, a vampire.

5. Young Mathias Corvinus enlists in the army looking for fun, adventure and $60 a month. But he gets more than he bargained for when the lovely Major Melissa Dargonne, alias "The Dragon," yanks him off the firing lines and puts him on a very personal detail.

6. Obsessive-compulsive King of Hungary, Mathias Corvinus, acquires a hoard of battle dragons with which he plans to conquer the thieving bloodsuckers of Wallachia. The invasion backfires, however, when King Mathias insists, against the dragonmaster’s expert judgment, that the pink one should go first, then red, and then green.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

"I wish I was a vampire..." [Evil Editor wishes you authors would get right into your books, instead of leading off with personal information.] [Be careful what you wish for. Some agents are bloodsucking monsters who'll grant your wish gladly.]

As a 13-year-old street kid, Mathias "Matt" Corvinus had no idea that one wish would change his life, forever. You see, this is not the first time Mathias Corvinus walked the earth. [Some sources don't insist on capitalizing "Earth," but all the other planets get capitalized, so I say Earth should be too. True, other planets are named for gods, but so is the element mercury, and we don't capitalize that, so godness alone doesn't justify capitalizing. If any planet should be uncapitalized, it's Pluto, a hunk of floating debris about the size of a Hummer 3. Earth, one of the four best planets, should be capitalized.]

[Planets listed in reverse order of quality:
9. Pluto (dropped to 9th after recent humiliating downgrade.)
8. Jupiter (It's all gaseous; that's not a planet, it's a giant fart.)
7. Mercury (Skin cancer capital of the solar system.)
6. Neptune (There's a limit to how far even I will go for great seafood.)
5. Mars (Moved up from #7 thanks to War of the Worlds and Snickers bars.)
4. Earth (Would be #3 if it weren't home of Rosie O'Donnell.)
3. Saturn (My favorite day is named after it. Also, cool rings.)
2. Venus (Only planet named after a babe.)
1. Uranus (Never underestimate the comedic potential in Uranus.)]

Centuries before, Corvinus was the vampire king in the lands of Myrddin who met his demise when he willed himself to death after Lilith, the queen and mother of all vampires, tortured him. [How does one become the mother of any vampire, much less all vampires?]

Dying in an alley, a victim of a drive-by shooting, Matt made his wish. As he takes his last breaths, his wish is granted by none other than Vlad Tepes III, otherwise known as Dracula. [That was his wish? That Vlad Tepes III would happen along and be unable to resist a free meal?] But becoming a vampire meant more than just exposed necks. Matt must deal with learning how to survive as well as having to go to the "University", the only school in existance for vampire children. [Also, the only school with all night classes.]

[Classes at the "University:"

Hematology--Tips on improving blood flavor. For instance, a wedge of lime squeezed onto the victim's throat before dining can be most refreshing.
Periodontics--Preventing fang loss.
Zoology 101--Bats, Bats, Bats!
Geography 101--The Transylvanian Alps: Earth's Wonderland.
History 160--Bram Stoker: Historian, or Sensationalist?
Speech 101--Vherein ve vill teach you to pronounce the letter "w."

To make matters worse, the vampire world believes Matt to be their idol

[Songs heard on Transylvanian Idol:

"Drac the Knife" (Bobby Darin)
"Addicted to Blood" (Robert Palmer)
"Oh, Vladdy" (Fleetwood Mac)]

simply because he bears the same name as their beloved king. After having nightmares about being tortured by Lilith, Matt discovers that he was the legendary figure the vampires believe him to be. [Discovers how?] When he finds out that the Queen is a permenant faculty member at the school, Matt ambarks on a quest to get her to admit to her reason for torturing the first incarnation of Mathias Corvinus, and ultimately, causing his death. [That's his great quest? To discover her motivation for something she did hundreds of years ago? Maybe she's just evil to the core. We want to see him seeking revenge, not better understanding.]

Mathias Corvinus and the Dragon's Order is a 65,000-word young adult fantasy. I admire authors such as J.K Rowling and Katie Maxwell, who write novels that both amuse and delight their readers. It is my hope that this novel will appeal to the same audience.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I hope to be hearing from you soon.



Was Matt the same guy who lived centuries ago before Dracula bit him? If so, how did he come back to life? If not, it's just a coincidence that he has the same name as the ancient vampire he becomes?

I think we need higher stakes if we're going to care about Matt's story.


Anonymous said...

There are so many "teenager becomes a vampire and must go to vampire training school" books and manuscripts out there already, this one better be good.

Is AMBARKS a word? I've never seen it.

Anonymous said...

Drive-by shooting of a 13 year-old kid named Matt? Anything's possible but drive-by shootings usually don't just happen to any old 13 year old kid, especially one named Matt. I hope there's some logic behind it. Otherwise, I'd make it a mugging or a random accident.

Is it just coincidence that the queen that killed him hundreds of years ago happens to be a "permenant" faculty member of his school? Seems pretty unlikely, unless she's the nexus of time travel itself. She's even been there long enough to be tenured. I'd make him work a little to find her unless there's a good reason she's so close.

Anonymous said...

"When he finds out that the Queen is a permenant faculty member at the school, Matt ambarks on a quest to get her to admit to her reason for torturing the first incarnation of Mathias Corvinus, and ultimately, causing his death."

That's a scary sentence. I'd suggest:

1) "permanent", not "permenant"
2) "embarks", not "ambarks"
3) "admit her reason", not "admit to her reason"
4) "and ultimately causing his death" without the comma after "ultimately"
5) I'm not sure that "Queen" should be capitalized in "the Queen".

Really, it's about three sentences worth of information. Most of it will be bypassed the reader, who wants to take a breath at some point.

Anonymous said...

I'm really confused about the timeline here - Corvinus died centuries before, right, so how does Corvinus II end up dead in an alley? Is it totally random? Did Lilith torture Corvinus I for centuries until he expired in an alley in the 20th century?

Plus, I have to say the "now I'm going to vampire school, and, yikes!, everybody thinks I'm their savior!" plotline sounds like it was cribbed directly from Harry Potter, and not in a good way.

Plus, the real Corvinus is fairly well known and I, for one, would be sad to see his real accomplishments ignored in favor of vampire politics. Maybe the two are well-integrated; I don't know.

And no, ambarks is not a word. Embarks is.

Anonymous said...

Oh, now I get it. The queen isn't an administrator at just any school, it's at the institution previously referred to as "the University" which is all about vampires. That's better, it isn't a coincidence at all.

I thought at first that she just happened to be vice-principal at Matt's junior high school. You might want to refer to the university/school in the same way throughout the letter.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that "existance" should be "existence".

One more thing -- are you sure this is young adult "fantasy"? I don't read any fantasy but I would read this. It sounds like just plain young adult even though it has vampires.

Anonymous said...

Man, that was too funny, EE. One for the ages.

I was hoping for GTP #5.

Not the kind of thing I would read and I only know 2 things about query letters -Jack and Schidt. -V95

Anonymous said...

"Modern kid at supernatural school" is an ornate setting, not a plot, and it's not exactly unique to your story. Dracula and the vampire schtick are not your inventions, either. The original "Lilith' was a Biblical character. It sounds like you might've relied heavily on history for the Mathias Corvinus incarnation of the main character. Which means you need an especially engaging voice and a gripping plot which are apparent in the query.

You mention numerous subplots, which tends to reduce focus and continuity. You might want to cut some and develop others. As described here the drive-by shooting sounds like a needless complication. And the medieval king vs murderous vampire queen subplot is more interesting than "I wonder why teacher killed me three lives ago?"

Blogless Troll said...

I thought GTP#2 was the real one. Matthias (with two t's) Corvinus was the actual King of Hungary who at various points sided with, imprisoned, and eventually released Vlad Tepes III. Far as I know, he was never a vampire king of Myrddin, which I think is another name for Merlin, further confusing the matter. Point is, I understand "alternate history," but why use these names at all when the story seems to be about a 13 year-old kid attending Vampire University? Why not name him Benn Franklin, the once noble corsair who molested Constantine at the Battle of Waterloo?

Marissa Doyle said...

Oh, my. You outdid yourself on this one, EE.

However, I'm amazed no one did a "Guess the Plot" featuring a line cook or smart-mouthed waiter who screws up his tickets and ends up as...the Dragon's Order!

This sounds promising. It also sounds like it needs work. Most of this letter is set-up for Matt entering the University (please, find a snazzier name than that). So what happens after that? Is finding out Lilith's reasons for past misdeeds the only action or possible conflict in the book? Is he in danger from her again? Does anything else happen? I hope so...

Anonymous said...

Because I'm picky like that, Lilith isn't Biblical--she's from Judeo-Christian myth. I agree with the point the previous anon was making anyway. There's not much here that makes me want to invest my time in the story. Doesn't mean you haven't got anything, but it's not presented in the query.

Evil Editor said...

I'm amazed no one did a "Guess the Plot" featuring a line cook or smart-mouthed waiter

Evil Editor limits the GTP's to five fakes. You'll be happy to know there were submissions along the lines you mention:

Mathias Corvinus was disappointed with his career slinging hash at Joe's Diner, but he did his best to act casual and work without riling the cook until the day a green Dragon walked in and ordered Roast Princess -- which wasn't on the menu.

A waiter at a Greek restaurant accidentally pours tabasco sauce on a grilled cheese sandwich before delivering it to Bernita's table. Hilarity ensues.

At fourteen years old, Mathias Corvinus ascends to his birthright: the drive-through window worked by his father and his father's father before him. But as a fire-breathing beast approaches on leathery wings, will Mathias have the courage, the strength, and the basic math skills to fulfill his destiny?

shaded-lily said...

I'm beginning to suspect that "Evil Editor" is a team of writers. One person couldn't be that funny that often.

Marissa Doyle said...

Thank you, EE--those were all great. And surely, poor hapless Matt wouldn't be the only one eating crow after messing up the dragon's order.

Anonymous said...

Oh my gosh that planet list is too funny. Thanks, EE

Virginia Miss, posting as anonymous because this Blogger-to-Google thing keeps swallowing my comments

Dave Fragments said...

Where are the dragons in the story?
I can't find them. It is Order of the Dragon, after all.

I hope the dragon's name isn't Sedna.

Anonymous said...

EE, Hilarious.

(I was momentarily worried that you hadn't caught on that Pluto is no longer a planet, but a "has-been"-but obviously you know. Great listing.)

You forgot ninjas and pirates. Oh, and dragons.

I agree with the others who've commented that you have too much going on, so the plot, as shown in this query, has little focus.

Mathias Corvinus is an interesting subject. His connection to Transylvania and vampires could be fun alternate history.

Find your story. Focus on it. (Use spell check.)

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

To answer EE's question, Matt is the reincarnated soul of the first Mathias Corvinus, and Vlad senses that as he knew Mathias in his past life.

Thank you to everyone who reviewed. The book isn't finished yet, but I've been working on the query because I am not very good at them- and decided that I would let EE have a go. I do have to say his comments were hilarious :)

Anonymous said...

OMG, EE! You made my night. Maybe my week.

writtenwyrdd said...

EE was hysterical again!

I'm not going to say this won't sell, but it sounds like the little boy version of the ghastly "I'm really a fairy princess" stories little girls tell themselves when they are six years old.

Even though it's about vampires, which of course are totally fictions, this plot pushes the credibility envelope too far.

Anonymous said...

Author, you may find it easier to rewrite the query after the book is finished! But not a bad idea to get going on it early.
No one else seems to have seized (in nitpicky fashion) on the first sentence yet, so I'll do it. I wish I WERE a vampire. Subjunctive. It's dying out, sure, and since this is a kid talking, he might well say "was" instead. BUT are you sure you want to start a query with what could be perceived as a grammatical glitch?

Rural Catholic Woman said...

This post should have come with a warning label. I think I snorted nearly an entire cup of fresh Earl Grey tea onto my keyboard.

Thank you, thank you for the tips and the laughs.

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I nearly blew out my sinuses as the fresh steaming cup of Cuban coffee came boiling out onto my keyboard, and I was consumed by paroxysms of hilarity. I understand it is quite stylish to say that you've ruined a keyboard when reading something from EE's blog, and I want to be part of the cool crowd.

Not really, but it was mildly amusing.

Anonymous said...

I NEARLY poured several vats of freshly brewed coffee on my keyboard, CPU, iPod, blender, ZIP drive and optical scanner because I roared with laughter at EE's joke about banana peels!!!! I ALMOST ruined my keyboard, CPU, iPod, blender, ZIP drive and optical scanner!

Blogless Troll said...

Sometimes I pour a whole can of Budweiser on my LCD screen just to fit in.

Anonymous said...

No one else seems to have seized (in nitpicky fashion) on the first sentence yet, so I'll do it. I wish I WERE a vampire. Subjunctive.

"Now at that point I wanted to say 'You mean you wish you were a vampire, 'cause grammatically...' But I let it slide, I didn't want to ruffle any feathers..."

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that the dragon is connected with Vlad Dracul. I believe Dracul means Dragon.

Anonymous said...

Oh, EE...that was hilarious, luckily I wasn't drinking anything so my keyboard was safe. Haven't been here for a bit - was good to come back to such hilarity...


Heather Dudley said...

I just don't like it. The idea doesn't resonate, and it reads like undead Harry Potter.

And come on, the entire point is for him to talk?

I realize this is a YA, but we need SOME action. Seems to me like the worst thing he endures is being shot, and that's at the beginning, then nothing!

Heather Dudley said...

Oh, and one thing you forgot to mention...

What exactly is old Matt supposed to save the vampires from? He's a savior, right? Well, what is he supposed to be the savior of?