Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Face-Lift 282

Guess the Plot

Tarina's Lady

1. Jim Luck is trying life out as a girl, desperate to improve his circumstances. He's got a huge wig, a fabulous outfit and a blind date -- with Ike Tarina. Little does Jim know, Mr. T is a notorious drug dealer looking forward to a night of crime.

2. During the French revolution Count Tarina hid his family treasure under a Parisian mansion. The family was killed by a mob, but the treasure was never found. Centuries later a ghostly countess urges Tiny Jim to excavate the cellar. Will he find gold and jewels? Or will the undermined house collapse in a sinkhole, killing the tragic figures who dwell within?

3. Jewel thief Bud Winkerstein and cat burglar Stella Deluxe join forces to relieve a ruthless billionaire of the painting Tarina's Lady, but plans change when they discover a gallery full of stolen masterpieces in the billionaire's basement -- masterpieces which hold encoded secrets that spell d-o-o-m for an unbearable cooking show hostess.

4. The cruel Lord of Tarina Manor dies of Plague. His oppressed wife takes over and manages the estate very well -- simultaneously inventing the pop-over, increasing chicken and barley production, decoding the secrets of strange relics from an ancient barrow, and carrying on torrid affairs with numerous well-endowed neighboring royals.

5. After Jasper the Jubilant gets thrown out of his home, his ex-lover, Madi, lets him move in with her. Out of gratitude, Jasper the Jubilant writes a song to honor Madi, titled "Tarina's Lady." Will Madi be impressed? Will she want to rekindle their romance? And what about the children?

6. The tiny Italian mountain town of Tarina was bombed to splinters in World War II, but the town's statue of the Virgin Mary survived without a scratch. Now a descendant of the statue's sculptor wants to know who stole her so he can retrieve the ancient fortune hidden inside.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Tarina’s Lady is set in a world where magic is commonplace, and offers its own challenges to the inhabitants. Jasper the Jubilant senses his brother’s impending death but is helpless to prevent it. [For his brother is named Irving the Incurable.] A penniless bachelor, Jas defies tradition in order to raise his brother’s orphans himself. When his landlady throws them out, Jas has no one to turn to except his former lover Madi [the Magnanimous]. Jasper has his doubts about the wisdom of moving in with Madi, but the security of the children is more important than any risk to his heart.

A corporal in the city guard, Madi prides herself on being as tough and ruthless as her job requires, but she can’t resist playing the gallant knight to Jasper’s damsel in distress. She welcomes Jasper and his niece and nephew into her home, expecting them to be nothing more than a temporary nuisance. [Don't you just hate it when you invite your ex-boyfriend to move into your house, and he never leaves?] Then her feline familiar spots a corpse floating in the river. Madi performs a ritual on the body and discovers that the death was no accident. Shaken by what she has seen, [She prides herself on being tough and ruthless, but she's shaken at the discovery that a body floating in the river is murder?] Madi returns home and finds unexpected comfort in Jasper’s arms -- a comfort that is shattered when Jasper’s sister Ingrid [the Ignominious] catches them together and demands the return of the children. [Return of the children . . . to her? When did she ever have them? They can't be the children of Jasper's brother and sister. Unless . . . Ewwww.] Outraged by Ingrid’s behavior, Madi vows to help Jas keep the children.

For his part, Jas refuses to surrender his niece and nephew to his unfeeling sister, but the case against his guardianship claim grows stronger by the day. In a desperate bid to strengthen his claim, Madi proposes marriage, [She dumped this guy a year ago because he was a penniless mooch. Now he's a penniless mooch with two kids in tow, and she's willing to marry him? Basically to irritate his sister?] and Jasper has to decide just how far he will go to keep the children with him. Can he really trap the woman he loves into a marriage of convenience? [Hey, that was her idea.] Or worse yet, condemn his bereaved niece and nephew into the hands of a woman who cares more for the dead than the living? [I assume you mean Ingrid, but it's not clear what you mean by she cares for the dead.]

A fantasy novel with a strong romantic plot line, Tarina’s Lady is complete at 92,000 words. I am currently working on another novel set in the same universe. [Thanks for narrowing down the setting of your next book to only one universe. Could you go a little farther and reveal whether it's set in the same galaxy as this book?] Thank you for your time and consideration.


[note on the title: Tarina is the name of the patron goddess of female warriors, and "Tarina's Lady" is the name of a song Jas writes about Madi.]


If the corpse in the river is a vital plot point, tell us more about it. Who is it, and what does it have to do with these characters? If it isn't, drop it from the query, because right now it's creating more questions than it's answering.

I'd like more about the ramifications of magic being commonplace. Madi has a familiar and performs a ritual. Who else has magical powers? Everyone? Ingrid? If the Jas-Madi relationship (Jas-Madi? Isn't that a brand of rice?) is the main plot thread, how is it, specifically, affected by magic?

What's Ingrid's motivation? Is she better able to support the kids? Does she have a long-standing feud with Jas? Jas being penniless, you might make it clear why the kids are better off with him. There are hints that Ingrid is an ogre, but why not spell it out?

Is Jas pronounced Jass or Jazz? And what's he got to be so jubilant about?


Dave Fragments said...

I have a question.
What are the limits of magic on this world? What can a character do and what can't they do?

You see, without limits, all Jaspar has to do is enchant Madi and his nephew and niece and all their troubles are over. Or doesn't that work?

shaded-lily said...

I was so hoping it would be GTP #3.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps indicate how magic is integral to the story when you revise the query. I'll quote Lawrence Watt-Evans', who says, "[i]f you're going to the trouble of writing a fantasy story, then the entire plot should evolve from the fantasy elements."

Robin L. said...

I find it disorienting when an author introduces a character, then calls him or her by a nickname like an old buddy. This is a formal, business letter and I'd keep the way you refer to him formal, and keep pronunciation issues at bay. If he's called Jas in the book by Madi - that's fine - but no need for the narrator or author to refer to him that way.

Anonymous said...

If you hadn't said magic was commonplace we'd never know because most of what you mention is ordinary stuff for Family Court and these people seem unable to solve any problems. It sounds like 87% plain ol' custody battle. If the commonplace magic can't solve a mere housing shortage, I'm not too impressed. Can't he even get a shovel and dig a nice burrow? It sounds like a too-elaborate set-up to "make" an unwilling Jes take refuge in the briar patch of the unwilling ex gf's place. The premise seems to boil down to something like this:

Madi is a busy sorceress with a murder to investigate. When her homeless ex-boyfriend, Jes, comes crawling back with his orphaned relations and his mojo on the fritz, she gives them refuge in the basement, on the condition they do all the cooking, cleaning, animal care, shopping, and doorbell answering because the sinister Murderer might show up any minute and Madi needs a fall guy she can afford to sacrifice. Jes hopes he can get his mojo working, but he just can't and everyone in his family is a troublemaking nightmare bitch except the cute little orphans. Madi and Jes have no love for each other but will they marry for the children's sake? Or will the Murdering Maniac suddenly end all their struggles for happiness? Stay tuned next week for another installment of As The Witch Turns...

Sounds like soap opera. If it was my story I'd shrink the custody battle to a few pages of backstory, crank up the efficacy of that magic, cut the convoluted and illogical "I don't want to marry you but I must" subplot, and get on with the murder mystery.

Wonderwood said...

Fantasy isn't my genre of choice, so I may be way off base here, but I would think if the story happens in a land where magic is commonplace, it needs to be more evident in the query. Some examples of how the characters use magic or are affected by it. The query gives me no compelling reason to read the book. It sounds like a custody battle in a land of magic. Big deal. What are the stakes? Custody of the kids? What are the consequences if the sister gets the kids? Is their well-being in danger? If so, it needs to be clear in the query. What happens if ol' Jas gets the kids? They become jubilant also? Also, what's the ex's motivation for marrying Jas? If it's the safety of the kids, make it clear, and if it's not, what is it?

writtenwyrdd said...

I actually liked anon's humorous plot synopsis. It does read like a soap opera, but it could still work as a comedy.

My thoughts as I read this query were that the magic doesn't seem necessary, and that's bad; and that the pov character, or the significant one anyhow, seems to be Madi. She rescues the deadbeat Jaspar and his orphans; she is a guard mage hunting for a murderer, etc. So, perhaps consider having Madi be the focus of the query letter.

Rashenbo said...

Bud Winkerstein is the best name EVER! :)

I was surprised with the "evil" sister coming into the picture. I'm left wondering what is more pivotal to the plot... the sister and kids... or the dead body.

Nancy Beck said...

This sounded more like a romance novel set in the middle ages as opposed to a fantasy novel. You've told us that magic is commonplace; can you give us an example?

It also seems to me that Madi is the MC, not Jas. She's the one going around doing things, while Jas is doing...what?



PJD said...

Bud Winkerstein is the best name EVER!

I disagree. I think's it's another of those names that would be better spelled backwards.

Anonymous said...

I second the above opinions. There's not enough magic in the plot (as described) for mainstream fantasy, and not enough escapism and HEA for one of the specialist fantasy romance lines. There are fantasy novels with no magic in them, but they usually rely on swashbuckling and intrigue to supply the entertainment quotient. This on the other hand sounds like a mainstream women's novel set in a rather bland generic medieval fantasy world. Meh.

On the other hand if it were anonymous's suggested take on the characters - Madi as MC investigating the murder, with Jas's problems as the subplot - I'd be much more interested.

Oh, and Jasper the Jubilant sounds like a name from a kid's book or a cheesy comic fantasy - it just doesn't fit the serious tone of the rest of the query...

Don't give up on the book - I think you could have a good story here that's either being poorly represented by your query, or needs reworking into something more saleable in the fantasy market.