Thursday, August 30, 2007

Face-Lift 411

Guess the Plot

One Highland Night

1. How many Highland Nights does it take to stuff a Scottish kilt? After an unfortunate wager and six pints of Skullsplitter Ale, Gregor Gilroy is about to find out.

2. Brianna is excited to be spending her vacation at a real haunted castle. But when the ghost of Duncan MacNeil appears in her bedroom, will she be ready to meet all his demands?

3. A spunky lass who couldn't keep her knickers on. A laddie with an eye for the ladies. A secret meeting, a warm night in the Highlands--what were the chances it would lead to . . . alien abduction?

4. Traveling in the Highlands, a physicist is suddenly transported 300 years into the past, and must try to prevent the notorious Earl of Breadalbane from committing the infamous Glencoe Massacre.

5. A prim English maiden, lost in the wilds of Scotland. A handsome Scotsman, who's also a vampire and can't come out in the day. Can they find true love . . . One Highland Night?

6. Due to Planet Askew's eccentric orbit, night usually falls only in the lowlands, while the highlands bask in perpetual sunshine. But once every 30,000 years, there comes . . . One Highland Night. Will Ja'na come out of hibernation to propose to Sti'su?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT is a time-travel romance in the vein of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and the Highlander series by Karen Marie Moning, among others. [No, I think the Highlander series by Ms. Moning is only by Ms. Moning.] [Also while those series involve time travel and romance, I don't believe they're so similar that a book could be in the same vein with both of them.] [Also, it's not so important to tell us whose books you think yours is like. It's a time travel romance is sufficient.] Complete at 100,000 words, it is set primarily in the Loch Awe [That sounds like the noise I make when I hack up a phlegmball.] area of the Scottish Highlands, 1691-92, and includes the historical backdrop of the infamous Glencoe Massacre.

Physicist Elizabeth Martin travels to the Highlands of Scotland in an attempt to flee the heartache of a broken engagement. Her cheating ex becomes the least of her worries when she ends up trapped over 300 years in the past, [Can you furnish a clue to how she ends up 300 years in the past? (You didn't think you were going to just slip that past us, did you?)] pursued by the politically avaricious Earl of Breadalbane who wants to use her "Sight" to further his consolidation of power. Her only choice is to take refuge with an outlaw clan. [I'd divide this long paragraph into two, right here.] Despite her desire to discover a way back to her own time, she finds herself falling for handsome Alec MacGregor: protector, son of the laird, and the only person who knows her true origins. [How did that conversation go?

Liz: Alec, there's something I need to tell you.

Alec: What's that my darling?

Liz: I'm from a strange world where there are flying machines, where there's a tunnel under the English Channel, where popcorn can be made in a bag, where--

Alec: Hey lads, stoke up the fire, we've got us a witch!]

Together they try to prevent the treacherous massacre at Glencoe—Breadalbane's doing— [Doesn't Liz know that changing history could lead to disastrous future consequences, like Evil Editor's blog not even existing?] but Alec is captured and sentenced to death. She spends one night in his arms on the eve of his execution, [What is this, a conjugal visit? Awfully generous of Breadalbane. (I assume she didn't time travel into his cell, as earlier she was hoping to discover a way back to her own time, which led me to deduce that she didn't have time traveling abilities.)] then secretly surrenders herself to the Earl in exchange for Alec's release. When he learns of her sacrifice and subsequent death at the Earl's hands, [Why would the Earl kill her? I thought he wanted to use her "Sight."] Alec's only choice is to attempt time-travel himself to be reunited with the woman he loves.

ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT is my first novel. I am a member of RWA national, as well as my local chapter and the Celtic Hearts chapter.

The synopsis, partial, or full manuscript are available at your request; I have included the first five pages for your review. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.



It's one thing for a 21st-century physicist to attempt time travel. I'm not sure I'm buying a 1692 Scotsman from an outlaw clan figuring out how to do it.

We need to know how one time travels. If Liz could do it at will, she'd time travel out of the Earl's clutches as soon as he released Alec. In Highlander, time travel is a power of the characters; in Outlander, it's accomplished by walking between certain stones. Do your characters have any idea how it's done?

Speaking of which, when Liz offers herself to the Earl in exchange for Alec, what's to keep the Earl from keeping both of them?

Elizabeth should refer to the Earl as Beetlebrain for comic relief.

I hope Alec's plan isn't to time travel to a day in the 21st century before Liz went back in time, because a guy showing up and claiming he's your lover from the 17th century isn't going to go over too well. We have special places for guys like that.

The writing isn't the problem, it's that the plot is eliciting questions that aren't answered. Answer some of them. If something's too complicated to explain, omit the material that's inspiring the question.


Dave Fragments said...

EE says:
I hope Alec's plan isn't to time travel to a day in the 21st century before Liz went back in time, because a guy showing up and claiming he's your lover from the 17th century isn't going to go over too well.

and the author says:
Alec's only choice is to attempt time-travel himself to be reunited with the woman he loves.

There is a good reason that every so often I crap on Star Trek, ST-TNG, ST-Voyager, and ST-enterprise. And the reason is Time Travel. They handle it so poorly, it gives me headaches.

There is a huge time paradox here. You know the time paradox? Can I travel back and in and kill my father before I was born and thus, I no longer exist...
When you leave the present for the past, you cease to be in the future. That means, you no longer exist in the future. So EE is right when he points out that to save Elizabeth,

{POSSIBILITY NUMBER ONE} Alec must prevent her from going back into the past. That is, he must travel to her time before she left for his time. But if that's the case, then as a consequence, he never meets her in the past and has no reason to travel to the future. Also, If Alec doesn't travel back tot he past, then he ceases to exist back there and quite possibly, he never has the confrontation with Brendelbane
- - - ooooh, the pain, the pain. My head hurts.

{POSSIBILITY NUMBER TWO} Alec goes into the future and informs Elizabeth of her history in the past. That arms her with the knowledge of the future that in her timeline hasn't happened yet. It predestines the future. Since if she prevents her death, Alec has no reason to time travel and hence, he never tells her of her future.
Now we have a awkward problem, at that point. She has to leave a message for herself about the two previous pasts so that when she travels back her first time, she has the knowledge of two possible futures. Because, you see, she went back and died, he time traveled and then she went back the second time, didn't die but then he didn't go forward, so she sent herself a message to return the third time knowing what happened the previous two times.

pain, pain, pain...

Anonymous said...

Author here...

LOVED #3. And "Planet Askew"...hehehe. *g*

Thanks EE. I was so worried about keeping it succinct, some of the stuff I cut out is the stuff you asked about. Go figure.

Short answer on the time travel: it's accidental, but she theorizes how and where it can happen - being a physicist, after all - and explains this to Alec. But neither can be sure it works until they try, and getting to where they need to be to do so is difficult (see the "long" answer for why).

Long answer on the time travel: it's through a wormhole which is energetically stabilized via higher-dimensional resonance with a meteoritic crystal (containing an allotropic form of diamond that happens to have higher-dimensional properties). These wormholes spontaneously form and collapse at "points of confluence" where two layers of space-time sit "near" each other. One of these POC happens to be in Kilchurn castle...which is Breadalbane's.

I do deal with the potential paradox issue.

And yeah, in the first draft I mentioned she "bribes her way into his cell" on the night before his execution. Guess I should leave that in.

I also deal with why Breadalbane doesn't just hold both of them after she goes to him to bargain.

As for why he kills her (or tries to), let's just say she pisses him off and he becomes convinced she's no use to him.

Alec does travel forward, but to a point after she's returned from his time. Though the scenario you described would be interesting, if he convinced her not to commit him on sight and then had to win her back. (Don't worry - I'm not thinking rewrites!)

I will take this all off and let it simmer, along with what the minions say, and see what I come up with. Gah, queries...

Thanks again.

Dave Fragments said...

I keep thinking about my post.

If you do time travel, then you have to subordinate the technical aspects of the time travel to the plot.

When all is said and done and the novel is over, history must remain as history and all of the time travel changes or possible paradoxes must be resolved.

Take for instance, Timeline by Michael Crichton - there is no paradox - - - -
either because the climactic battle was won/lost by the intervention and remains that way in history, or the story begins in one universe and ends in another universe of the multiverse. As much as we want to think this isn't a love story, it is. Also the story of a son coming to aid his father.

Another good example of how to plot out some wildly flaky time travel is the Back to the Future trilogy. but again, the lesson is that the story of Marty McFly, doesn't require time travel. Although he does learn more about his character, the journey from hothead failure to patient and thoughtful success could be done without time travel.

The lesson is, make the time travel transparent to the story of the characters. Then all this gobledy-goop will hold together.

pacatrue said...

Whoa, whoa! The protagonist ends up (at least for a while) dead after letting the bad guy assault her to save her loved one? Is that a little... rough... for the genre, or do protagonists often die (for a while) in time travel romances?

Stacia said...

What is Elizabeth's "sight"? Is it her knowledge of history, in which case, she's kind of dumb for spouting off five minutes after landing, or is it actual psychic abilities?

Why is her only choice to take refuge with an outlaw clan? Why doesn't she travel back? You need to address this.

Also, this is a romance, which means the conflict between the romantic leads needs to be paramount. Telling us Elizabeth meets Alec and they fall in love doesn't tell us what the meet of the story is. If it's only external issues keeping them apart (being captured, etc.) then the book won't work as a genre romance. There must be an internal conflict, a reason aside from time travel or mean old Earls why these two people do not believe they can be together. It's probably in the book. It needs to be in the query, right up front.

I also agree about changing the past. A modern physicist would know that no matter how much she might want to, it's not a good idea.

When you say she "surrenders herself to the Earl", so you mean turns herself in (which I don't get, because isn't she right there in Alec's cell?) or that she surrenders herself, which could be kind of hot. But again, not strictly genre romance.

And yeah, why does the Earl kill her?

All of this needs to be in the query, but the conflict of the romantic characters is the most important thing. There must be something that keeps them apart aside from the plot.

none said...

On reflection, that should have been "aestivation". Oh well :).

I think this suffers from the usual problem of the time-travel story--we can anticipate that the attempt to prevent Glencoe is either going to fail or cause some kind of changes "upstream", as it were. Maybe play down that aspect, and play up the romance angle? How do the lovers even communicate?

Anonymous said...

I don't know what the protocol is for how many times I can comment *g* but I'll keep plugging away until someone says "shut that girl up!"

I do appreciate all the comments/questions raised, because it helps me see what I need to do to make this understandable.

I think one thing that is tripping people up is: Elizabeth doesn't actually die. From Alec's POV, she does, because that is what he is told. But then he comes to believe she traveled back to her own time instead, and goes looking for her there. I tried to leave the mystery in as a "hook", but maybe I should clarify that.

To answer Dave, I'm going with a (self-consistent) "causal loop" explanation. As a character says to Elizabeth at one point: "You canna change the past, you can only do what you have already done." Therefore, Elizabeth's memory of the history of Glencoe includes her own actions, though she doesn't know it beforehand.

Or, to borrow from the Matrix, "What's really going to bake your noodle many would have died if she _hadn't_ been there?"

I'm actually a physicist myself, so I'm trying to work these things out, I promise. *g*

(Loved Timeline, BTW. My favorite book of Crichton's. The movie...meh.)

To answer December/Stacia, yes, her "Sight" is her knowledge of history. The Earl confiscates her possessions when she pops up in his castle, and these include the notebook in which she's been writing down the historical trivia from her trip to Scotland.

She can't travel back at first because she's not sure how it happened, and then once she figures that out (or guesses) the only place to do so is inside the Earl's stronghold. She takes up with the MacGregors after she flees the Earl the first time, so getting back to travel without being captured is a tricky proposition.

I will play up the romance conflict. Some part of her knows she has to go back, and for a while she still thinks she wants to get back together with her ex. Also, Alec has to make a good marriage for land and dowry and alliance, since his clan is having hard times. Elizabeth, as a "coigreach" (stranger/foreigner) doesn't have the status to marry the Laird's son. That changes once he's a convicted outlaw and about to be executed.

To answer buffysquirrel, yeah, I guess I played up Glencoe to highlight the historical background (and the research I did for it) but I'll change tack in favor of the romance. As for communication, Alec - being an educated man of the time - speaks English, French, Latin, and Greek in addition to Gaelic. Elizabeth has to learn Gaelic to communicate with most of the rest of the clan, but the educated members of his family can speak to her in English.

Anonymous said...

Can you furnish a clue to how she ends up 300 years in the past?

Weren't you paying attention? She went to Scotland.

Robin S. said...

Time travel is appealing as a story line, and I can't imagine that changing.

Being able to step back in time is, I think, a human desire as old as "if I only knew then what I know now", and/or the yearning to relive (and change) your own personal past, or could find a literal or figurative /restorative fountain of youth.

I think you've chosen an interesting departure point for your story- events surrounding the Glencoe Massacre. I love Scotland -and I love men in kilts.

I wish you luck with your manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Author, I agree you need to work some of the explanations back into the query. But I wouldn't worry about all the "Grr- I hate time travel" comments. Some people do hate it, but many folks love it (I do), and as long as you either don't bring up stuff that's too complicated to explain, or explain it concisely, it should be fine.
I forget -- did you mention in the query that you're a physicist? 'Cause that would give you some credibility.

Bernita said...

I'm a firm believer that the main purpose of time travel is to ensure the future-present, not change the past-present.
A re-living, as it were.
To avoid the infinity of a time/being, recursive, Heideggerian fugue, and other phenomenological exercises, I just have a time traveller conclude, somewhat cursorily - because she's to busy to do otherwise - that she must with what is.

Since your time traveller is a physicist, she naturally would speculate on the mechanics, and so you don't have an easy out.

Blogless Troll said...

Short answer on the time travel: it's accidental...

Long answer on the time travel: it's through a wormhole which is energetically stabilized via higher-dimensional resonance with a meteoritic crystal (containing an allotropic form of diamond that happens to have higher-dimensional properties).

Is the long answer explained in the book? To me, the long answer suggests there is someone or something behind it. It seems a convoluted route to take if in the end it's accidental, especially in a romance. Unless finding and using the crystal is how Alec travels to the future, in which case it's not accidental.

Evil Editor said...

Excellent time travel books that aren't heavy into science of time travel:

The Chronoliths
The Door Into Summer
To Say Nothing of the Dog

none said...

The Door Into Summer is one of my favourite books ever. I love the bit where it's 50/50 whether he travels into the future or the past, and he ends up in the nudist colony. Hilarious.

Heck, never mind the time travel, just put in a grouchy cat :).

Dave Fragments said...

I took a swipe at Star Trek earlier and today, I found this on Aint' it Cool News.

Okay... you know the scene in BACK TO THE FUTURE 2? Where Doc Brown explains alternate timelines? Well, this is sort of... ummm... TREK TO THE FUTURE, I guess you would call it...
Picture an incident that throws a group of Romulans back in time. Picture that group of Romulans figuring out where they are in the timeline, then deciding to take advantage of the accident to kill someone’s father, to erase them from the timeline before they exist, thereby changing all of the TREK universe as a result. Who would you erase? Whose erasure would leave the biggest hole in the TREK universe is the question you should be asking.
Who else, of course, but James T. Kirk?
If Spock were in a position to change that incident back, and then in a position to guard that timeline and make sure things happen the way they’re supposed to, it creates...

Now they have a chance to rewrite all of Star Trek and make everything work out different. With young characters and actors, they can make many more films without being constrained by the previous body of work.
Diehard Star Trek fans are going to go batshit crazy.

And the unfair part of it all, is like Bobby waking up from a dream in the Shower, mistakes can be erased at will by a flick of the Deux Ex Machina of time travel.

A cautionary warning of what not to do to your reader.

Anonymous said...

Kind of hard to take seriously comments about time travel being so much crap on Star Trek from the guy who gave us a rather implausible stargate/portal awhile back. Do as you say not do?

It's time travel romance, not hard SF. Willing suspension of disbelief and all that. It doesn't need a scientific reason; just consistency.

Dave Fragments said...

I'm not allowed to have an opinion?

And by the way, Anonymous, post your writing up here for criticism. I'm not afraid to do that, or to show my face, or to provide a way to know who I am. You apparently can't take iany criticism. We never know who you are, or how you write. We just know how you criticize.

I didn't post that as critique of the face-lift or the plot. But then, Anonymous, you wrote and didn't read. I complained about just such a complex time-travel plot device in the first post.
Jenny (the Author) has already said that she doesn't use a plot device like that and she will emphasis the romance in the next query.

And I don't shove trashy TV shows down the throats of adoring fans. That gang is going to write a new Star Trek crap and proclaim it good. The last series - ST Enterprise - was nothing but time travel and it so was awful, no one wanted to renew it.
Plot devices like they propose to use are death to the writing. All gimmicks and no reality.

Ali said...

Overall, I thought it was a good query, though I agree with some of the changes already mentioned (a non-scientific clue about how she time travels, clarity about the fact that she doesn't actually die at the hands of the Earl). Something's been nagging at me, though, and I might be completely wrong here but it seems like time travel back to Scotland has been done. I'm thinking that a publisher is going to need to see something extraordinarily unique about this book as compared to the others. So, instead of saying "in the vein of Outlander and Highlander," which basically emphasizes the fact that the idea's been done to death (sorry)--tell us what distinguishes your book from those. What makes it not a copycat?

batgirl said...

Anon 10:29 - I think you win this thread.