Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Face-Lift 354

Guess the Plot

Murder in the Cards

1. In a suspense-filled Pokemon game, 9-year-old Sammy realizes that 8-year-old Jeff has the rare Dark Pikachu that he's wanted for months. Now Sammy must decide how far he's willing to go to complete his deck.

2. Fake psychic Lorna Lipschitz gets a tarot card reading gig at the wedding of her ex-fiance, Jack Ready. But it doesn't take a psychic to see something is very wrong when Jack's new wife is found dead with the Death card stapled to her bludgeoned forehead. Can Lorna clear herself of suspicion and rekindle the fire with Jack? Or will the hunky homicide detective give her a different fortune?

3. Madame Moodra knew her part: deal the Burning Tower to Professor Green and tell him his wife is dancing in Vegas with gym rat Todd Sparks. But whoa! Violent reaction! Good thing Moodra's pistol was loaded. Although now that Green is dead and her cards are all bloody, she's wondering -- was it all a set-up?

4. Geraldine Plick is the reigning canasta player at the Sunset Manor Retirement Home until a challenge from newcomer Betty Drupe leaves her doubting her abilities. When Betty is found dead in the hydrangeas, it's up to Geraldine to find the murderer before she lands in a freecell.

5. Dulci Ash is on the trail of a killer. A Machiavellian medicine man and an octogenarian madman are her chief suspects, but the authorities have arrested songwriter Josh Burnett. Can Dulci use her psychic abilities to clear Josh, or is a murder conviction . . . in the cards?

6. Alice never expected to see poor Jack lying dead outside the little house. When the Queen arrives and orders Alice beheaded for the murder, Alice's only chance at proving her innocence lies in a magical mushroom, a taciturn lobster, and an unfortunate lizard named Bill. Also, a white rabbit.

Original Version

Dear Editor:

I have recently completed a 100,000 word regional mystery novel set in and around the White Mountain Apache Reservation, titled Murder in the Cards. The story combines historical events from the late 1800s with a recent murder that propels part-time psychic and full-time single mom Dulci Ash reluctantly out of her shell and onto the trail of a supernatural killer in the White Mountains of Arizona. [A wordy opening; eliminate the word "regional," since you tell us the region, eliminate the setting in the second sentence, as we already have it, and eliminate "reluctantly," which is assumed of anyone in a shell. Do we need to know she's a single mom in the query?]

Along with way, she meets Josh Burnett, the all too human singer/songwriter who is accused of the crime, [Look Josh, I'm not saying I want to date a monster or a space alien; but you . . . you're just a little . . . too human.] his father Vince Burnett, an Apache medicine man who's Machiavellian politics make the prince look like a dabbler, [Which explains why cunning, unscrupulous politicians who were once called Machiavellian are now described as "a little like Vince."] and a pumped-up octogenarian madman [, Jack LaLanne,] who has been possessed by the spirit of Coyote, the Native American trickster and meddler.

Historical elements of the story center around the fictionalized account of a famous Apache Medicine Man, Goyani (Apache for The Wise One), [And whose letters can be used to spell "yin," "yang," "yogi," and "Nagy."] ["Nagy"? I include "Nagy" only to explain why I was suddenly reminded of the incident with my Jon Nagy art kit, which included a clear plastic sheet that you put over your television screen so that you could learn to draw like Jon Nagy. One Saturday morning I forgot to put the plastic on the TV, and drew all over the actual screen. Turned out the crayon wiped off the plastic sheet much more easily than off the TV. Mom was not amused. But enough about me.] who was apprehended by local soldiers for inciting an insurrection among the Apache people. Goyani had promised to resurrect four dead Apache War Chiefs to lead the people. [I was about to say, If the best leaders you can come up with are four dead guys, you're in trouble. Then I realized how much better off we'd be today if we had elected the Marx Brothers.] A terrible battle ensued between the soldiers who had come to arrest him and the people of Cibecue, which is widely recognized as the last major battle of the Indian Wars. Goyani ended up being murdered, hands tied behind his back, during the fight. No one knows how history might have changed if he had remained alive long enough to complete the resurrection ceremony. [For starters, the Washington Redskins would be known as the Washington Aryans; the Cleveland Indians would be the Cleveland Crackers; and the Florida State Seminoles would be the Florida State Rhythmless White Guys.]

I have worked as a psychologist on the Apache Reservation for approximately eight years, and am able to combine a thorough understanding of modern Apache culture with fastidious historical research – I worked in the editorial department of a weekly newspaper in Detroit for nearly 10 years before deciding to return to school for my PhD.

I would be glad to send you sample chapters or the full manuscript on your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



If this is Dulci's story, we need to know what happens to her. All we get is that she's after a killer. There's more of Goyani's story here than Dulci's, and while I have no doubt that Goyani's story is told in the book, this is a present-day murder mystery, so concentrate on the present-day plot. Who's dead? Who had motive? Why is Josh locked up? Why is Dulci involved?


Dave Fragments said...

A "regional mystery" ?
Like what's that, dude, In Poughkeepsie it's a round mystery but it Akron it's a tire? In Passaic it's a swamp, but in Union it's home to 5 bazillion immigrants?

I must say it - too many words.
You can simply say " In 'Murder in the Cards,' a 100,000 word mystery set in the White Mountain Apache Reservation, Dulci Ash, part-time psychic and single mom, must defend Josh Barnett who is accused of murdering (insert name). Along the way, Dulci must contend with Josh's father, Vince and indian medicine man who believes he can reincarnate the fabled War Chiefs of Cibeque, evil spirits bent on revenge.

That's rough. It might even be the story. EE asks five very astute questions for you to answer. Point your arrow in that direction. Paint your wagon, and set out with your Corps of Discovery.

Anonymous said...

Why does everyone have such a hard time with the 'regional' part of 'regional mystery?' its a real genre - Tony Hillerman being a prime example. Or. . . wait . . . is he the only one that calls it that? Is it some cruel joke on Hillerman's part designed to humiliate poor ignorant amateurs like me? And am i too old to get drafted into the Florida rythymless white guys?

Chris Eldin said...

Your query needs work, along the lines of what EE and Dave suggested. But your book sounds fascinating. I'm praying that you write well, because this is definitely a book I would snap up.


Chris Eldin said...

Oh, I forgot to say. Sorry, but your title doesn't give justice to the way you described your book. Can't you work something 'Apache' into your title?

Anonymous said...

I like your premise, especially since your background will lend authenticity. I'd read this.

I'd ditch "come out of her shell" because you don't want a glaring cliche in your query.

These two sentences bumped me:

"A terrible battle ensued between the soldiers who had come to arrest him . . ."

Are there any battles which aren't terrible? Battle = death.

"Goyani ended up being murdered, hands tied behind his back, during the fight." --

What goes first, comes first. Goyani had his hands tied and then was murdered, right? Not so tragic if they're tied post-mortem.

Like others have said, I want to know how this history relates to the present-time murder. Beginning with, who was killed?

PJD said...

If I take a look at where you started and where you ended up, I get confused. You start with a recent murder, a part-time psychic, and a supernatural killer. But you end with this: No one knows how history might have changed if [Goyani] had remained alive long enough to complete the resurrection ceremony.

Are you saying that in your book, Goyani returns? Or does Vince do the resurrections? Or is some other supernatural killer on the loose, and all this other history somehow ties in?

A couple of simple errors: "Along with way" ... "who's Machiavellian politics"

The story sounds interesting in that regional sort of way. I'd probably look at a few pages to see whether I liked the writing or not. Hopefully it reads more like a mystery than a history...

verification word: upfagipk
meaning: text message from a British guy who just dropped and retrieved a cigarette?

Anonymous said...

hey, is it kosher to shamelessly appropriate evil editors description of my plot when I rewrite my query letter? I read it, and thought "damn, that sounds like a good book!"

Twill said...

an Apache medicine man who's Machiavellian politics



Lyvvie said...

I'll not be able to see Jack Lalanne again without bursting into giggles. Why have you done this to me??

Bernita said...

I doubt it is wise to tell an agent you've "recently completed" your novel.

Anonymous said...

Bernita, you're going to have to explain that one - I have no idea why you shouldn't tell an agent that the novel is recently completed, but I'm willing to learn. Also Twill - God bless you. Whose ever you are :)

Anonymous said...

GTP #1: When I saw the title, I immediately thought Pokemon, too!

When re-writing your query, try not to dilute the things about it that are the real hooks: your psychic MC and the Apache aspect. Suggest the historical elements. The query doesn't need to go into a full recounting. And tie Dulci more into the plot. My attempt to pull it together and tighten it up follows...

MURDER IN THE CARDS, a 100,000-word mystery with historical elements, pits psychic Dulci Ash against a supernatural killer in the White Mountain Apache Reservation of Arizona.

When [an outspokenly bigoted army captain] turns up murdered [in a hotel room on the reservation], investigators accuse [the last man seen arguing with him] -- Josh Burnett, [long-haired, tripped-out] son of an Apache medicine man known for his Machiavellian politics. Dulci's psychic ability however, "sees" quite another possibility: the return of Goyani, a nineteenth-century Apache insurrectionist responsible for the [Cibecue Rebellion], the last major battle of the Indian Wars.

Dulci can't rid herself of the image of Goyani vowing to resurrect four great Apache War Chiefs to lead the Apache people against their oppressors. But it takes the ranting of an octogenarian madman possessed by the spirit of Coyote, the Native American trickster and meddler, to help her uncover the chilling truth of how a legend, dead for 120 years, still has power to strike in defense of his people.

Eight years as a psychologist on the Apache Reservation gives me unique insight into the modern Apache culture. Ten years in the editorial department of a weekly newspaper in Detroit gives me the skills for conducting fastidious historical research.

I would be glad to send you sample chapters or the full manuscript on your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Bernita said...

Deb, because (1) it's irrelevant( why would they care if the completion is "recent?") and (2) "recent" may imply to them that in your enthusiasm you have rushed the revision process(see "who's").

Anonymous said...

Point taken - what i would like to work in is that it's complete - although, i guess if i give a finished length, that's implied. suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Deb, I think most agents will understand when you mention the word count, and at the end that you can send a full manuscript, that the work is complete. I agree with Bernita that saying "recently completed" is unnecessary and kind of screams "enthusiastic amateur".

Anonymous said...

Ouch! (said enthusiastically!)