Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Face-Lift 485

Guess the Plot

Shut Up and Ride

1. Katie doesn't like the merry-go-round. She screams at the sight of the Ferris Wheel. Her daddy paid good money to take her to the amusement park, and he's getting really, really mad. Will Katie disappoint her father yet again when he tries to convince her to board the roller coaster know as The Viper? Or will she just . . . Shut Up and Ride?

2. When cowboy bandit Blue Bart kidnaps Miss Kitty from the OK Saloon and forces her to ride through the desert toward Nebraska he has dreams of living happily ever after in a cozy little home on the prairie. But they're actually galloping through a cursed arroyo that's 200 years long -- to 21st century Tucson.

3. Mr. Ed's memoirs, covering his adult life from rebellious young Mustang to smart-mouthed TV star to cranky old nag. Includes his scandalous affair with Connie Hines, who played Wilbur's wife Carol, as well as his emotional trip to the site of the Wilmore Glue Factory.

4. Tiffany signs up for the cattle drive to prove to her hunky new boyfriend that she isn't just a pretty face. Every time she yoo-hoos to him across the herd, though, the cattle spook and her horse takes off, which doesn't help her hairdo. Plus, there's no place to plug in her curling iron. Will she ever learn to just . . . Shut Up and Ride?

5. The true story of Shadrach Jackson, hijacker of the 4:27 express bus from 125th Street to Downtown, with complete explanation of the reasoning behind his actions and his sincere apologies for their terrible consequences, especially to Tiffy Swanson and her poodle, Fluffkins.

6. Kate is fixing up her home to sell it, but her neighbor, Eric, has converted his property into a motocross course. That's gonna narrow down the prospective buyers to Hell's Angels and the deaf. Can Kate work up the nerve to complain, or will she fall under hunky Eric's spell when he tells her to just . . . Shut Up and Ride?

Original Version

Kate Ferguson never takes unnecessary risks, not even in the financial world, where she's known for her careful yet confident portfolio suggestions that make her a top analyst in the investment world. When a ranch hits the market outside of Dallas, she jumps at the real estate opportunity, planning to "flip" it, update it thanks to the talent her eccentric and out-going little sister with a new interior designing degree, then turn around and sell it for a large, lovely profit.

Unfortunately, that "steal" of property came at a higher price than she ever imagined. [Rule #1 in buying real estate: count the number of zeros in the asking price at least twice.] The property next to her is owned by Eric Hutchinson, a distraction Kate does not have time for, even if he's funny, sexy and tends to swoop in and save her more times than her stubborn mind cares to admit. Worse than his ability to see through her guarded walls and false bravado, worse than the fact that she turns into a bumbling girl instead of the confident, successful business woman she's become, all of that is overshadowed by the horrible fact that his land is used for Motorcross practices, not cattle, and Kate realizes the chances plummet of selling her one hundred acres of prime real estate to any serious rancher and could cause her to face real financial ruin. [A 100-acre cattle ranch? In Texas? I thought everything was bigger in Texas.]

Kate has a mere month of vacation to get this house in condition to sell and distractions are not on the agenda. She should have realized it was all over the moment she met the rattlesnake her first day in the new house. [How did Eric get into her house?] Throw in a rooster with an attitude who thinks she's his hen, add her sister getting a "real" job and making Kate face the redesigning herself – regardless that she doesn't have a creative cell in her entire DNA [Actually, I think the DNA is in the cells.] - and her damned attraction to the man who ruined all her brilliant plans, Kate faces a sharp reality: one simply can't plan for everything, and sometimes dangerous risks have the best rewards in the end. [Meaning, Kate quits her investment analysis career and becomes a champion Motocross racer, and lives happily ever after with Eric?] [You're giving us the right information, and the right tone, but it's wordy and unpolished. It needs to be clear and organized, with a smooth and logical progression.]

SHUT UP AND RIDE is available for review. I am a member of RWA, and shockingly, live on a farm – with a rooster. [Shockingly? No, after only one paragraph I was pretty sure you had access to at least one cock.] I'm also immersed in the Motocross world more than I care to admit, and feel all these aspects come into play to make SHUT UP AND RIDE something the readers of Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips would enjoy as well.

Thank you for your time.

Revised Version

Kate Ferguson never takes unnecessary risks, not even in the financial world, where she's known as a top investment analyst. But when an underpriced ranch hits the market outside of Dallas, she jumps at the opportunity, planning to "flip" it with the help of her eccentric interior designer sister, turning a large, lovely profit.

Unfortunately, her new ranch isn't quite the steal Kate imagines.

The property next to her is owned by Eric Hutchinson, a distraction Kate does not have time for, even if he is funny and sexy and tends to swoop in and save her more times than her stubborn mind cares to admit. It's not his ability to see through her guarded walls and false bravado that bothers her; and it's not the way she turns into a bumbling schoolgirl whenever he's around; it's the horrible fact that his land is used for Motocross practices! Suddenly Kate's list of prospective buyers has dwindled to Hell's Angels and the deaf, and she's facing financial ruin.

What keeps her going after she finds the rattlesnake in her bedroom? And when the rooster decides that Kate's his hen? And when her sister gets a "real" job, forcing Kate to handle the designing herself--never mind that she hasn't a creative gene in her entire DNA? Maybe it's desperation. Maybe it's sheer stubbornness. Or maybe . . . it's her damned attraction to the man who ruined her brilliant plan. Hey, sometimes the biggest risks lead to the best rewards.

SHUT UP AND RIDE is available for review. I am a member of RWA, and live on a farm – with a rooster. I'm also immersed in the Motocross world more than I care to admit, and feel all these elements come into play to make SHUT UP AND RIDE realistic, and a story the fans of Jennifer Crusie and Susan Elizabeth Phillips would enjoy.

Thank you for your time.


I once found myself in Myrtle Beach during Motorcycle Week, with about a million motorcycles constantly roaring up and down the streets. And I did see lots of women riding on the backs of their men's hogs (though I didn't see any of them reading romance novels). But no doubt there are plenty of women who fantasize about leather-jacketed fat guys with Harleys and beards and tattoos.

Hey, I'm just joking; motocross riders are athletes, with hard chiseled bodies, and who could blame you for falling for one of them, even if, in retrospect, it was the second-worst mistake you ever made?


AR said...

I love the rooster touch! I've had some rather horrific experiences with roosters myself. I can't say they were especially funny to me, but given the way my family laughed themselves sick every time I got chased into the woods, I'm guessing it'll work for you.

Nice job.

Dave Fragments said...

I like the romantic plot. It's fun and seems readable. And the original query just required tightening. So good luck with submitting it.

BTW - GTP #1 brings back horrific memories of a Mother who talked her daughter into going on a ride. The kid sat next to me and screamed her head off from beginning to end. Never force a kid onto a scary ride. Bad, bad, bad... I almost lost my shoes and wallet trying not to fall out of the car (yes, it was that rough). And I know that I left my fingerprints in the metal railing. It took three years to recover all the hearing in my right ear.

Blogless Troll said...

I liked this and I think EE's version brought it more into focus. But I think the 100 acres might be a credibility issue. I've got relatives in Texas who have what's considered a tiny ranch of 900 acres. I don't think a "serious rancher" would bother with 100 acres unless he already owned adjacent property, in which case he'd already know about the whoops and table tops two doors down.

Anonymous said...

I'm a little curious how a top financial adviser that doesn't take unnecessary risks - ever - doesn't do basic homework as to what she's laying to a lot of cash for?

Anonymous said...

The size is exactly right for this plot to work. If you make the spread Texas huge, the noise etc of neighbors won't be a crisis. 100 acres is good for a millionaire's hobby ranch. A working rancher is looking for a livelihood and for them the value is in the productivity of the land, they won't pay significantly more if you redecorate the interior of the house.

Minion GIR said...

The story sounds promising, but in addition to the problem with a cattle ranch of only 100 acres, there's the problem of savvy investor who doesn't get full disclosure on the property. Or, apparently, even go out and look at it first.

If she's that smart, the problems that she's facing don't even happen. Which would stop me from even picking up the book. Now if she's the interior decorator who is getting tired of hearing contractors brag about flipping house and decides to do it herself, you've got me hooked.

Robin S. said...

[Shockingly? No, after only one paragraph I was pretty sure you had access to at least one cock.]

This is hysterical. Made my afternoon. Now I have to go lose my afternoon some more.

Deborah K. White said...

I, too, had some credibility issues with the story (as presented in the query). You make Kate out to be cautious and smart, yet somehow she ends up buying the land without discovering WHY it's being sold so cheap and without discovering that her intended market (serious ranchers) wouldn't be interested in such a small place. Not to mention she plonks down serious money without first securing a commitment from her sister that she will help with the project. This comes across to me as "smart woman turns idiot" to force the plot forward rather than "smart woman makes a bad decision" which all of us occasionally do. EE's version fixes those problems in your query, but not in your book.

And, ahem, if my rooster ever got obscene ideas about me, he wouldn't be among the living for very long. I think he knows that because he tries to avoid me when he sees me coming...

writtenwyrdd said...

You know, this sounds rather like a twist on the NASCAR romance line I've seen. Also, it sounds like a fun read.

Although the racy (pun intended) title is cute and catchy, I don't get a feel for how the title fits the book. I understand the double entendre, of course; but it doesn't quite mesh with the story you're promoting in this letter. (Or maybe it's just me.)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Shockingly, I, too, own a rooster. Well, eleven of them, actually. And I live about 1.5 hours outside of Dallas. And I own 20 acres. I let my neighbor graze his 5 cows on my land while I'm having a barn built and before I start collecting large animals of my own. To be cost-effective, you can't graze more than 1 cow per every 2-3 acres, and then you need to divide the land and rotate the livestock, so 100 acres could support about 20-25 head. That's gentleman ranching.

There's a cycle park about 2 miles away, and they occasionally hold events there. It's a small park, but I can hear the loudspeakers and the cycles when the wind is right. Plenty of horses and cows and houses around the park. And while I have thought about flipping a house or two myself, around here houses are so cheap that flipping isn't worth it. I really, really wish it were. Dallas metro property, yeah, but forget about country stuff. Or even the stuff in the small towns around here. As for ranch land being prime real estate? Uh, not where I live. It's EITHER ranch land well off any highway that would appeal to a rancher (meaning it's cheap), or investment acreage on a highway that would appeal to an investor who would then LEASE the land out to a rancher to graze cattle on.

But, to your query. EE's version is right on target (how'd that happen?! It's romance, after all!). You didn't give a word count, but I'm assuming you're going for category. Tweak up the credibility issues just a bit, and this sounds like just the right kind of light, fun fare for that market!

EE, can we expect more romance-themed queries and openings in the coming week?

Anonymous said...

“…’flip’ it with the help of her eccentric interior designer sister, then turn around and sell it for a large, lovely profit.”

To “flip” a property means to turn around and sell it for a profit.

I don’t know if I could read this for the simple reason that I hate hearing about Real Estate deals, I hate Realtors, and I HATE Real Estate investors. In this current market, I don’t know many people who wouldn’t get slit-your-wrists-depressed if they had to read about someone else buying property and possibly going under financially.

Whom do Americans blame for the current foreclosure crisis in the US? “Kate” and the other cocky Real Estate investors like her, who had no idea what they were doing and didn’t really care how their “risk” would affect homeowners. They drove up the market by making bad Real Estate deals, and then dumped the property when they couldn't find someone stupid enough to buy it, leaving the surrounding homeowners to suffer the after effects, homeowners who just wanted to provide a nice home for their family, not make a risky Real Estate deal. Knowing she’s a “clueless,” first-time Real Estate investor, I hate Kate already. I’m sure she ends up keeping the property that she bought low, opting to live the simple life with Eric, driving down the value of all the surrounding property, causing a dozen or so foreclosures. Man, I HATE her! That little arrogant, self-centered blankity bleep bleep bleep.

Evil Editor said...

EE, can we expect more romance-themed queries and openings in the coming week?

I was hoping for two weeks of romance leading up to Valentine's Day, but that was the only query I got. Maybe if everyone posts this on their romance loops:

Submit to Evil Editor!

Evil editor wants to critique romance queries and openings all week. Send them to Advice from Evil Editor and his minions is free and comes with a money-back guarantee.

Dave Fragments said...

Anonymous 4:31pm is in bad need of a valium.
Chill out...

The professional "flippers" commonly construction companies who buy a house, rehab it within a month or two and sell it for a profit DO MAKE MISTAKES.
They buy a house at auction and find termites (pesky pest infestations) or rotting floors or hidden repairs, bad construction, and cheap materials.
Then they lose money. It's a business.

Real Estate developer isn't a bad word.

Most people don't understand how much work they have to do to flip a house. Or how much time they have to invest in the work. But that's not the reason for the Sub-Prime Mortgage crisis.

I hope your rant was cathartic. I hope venting your spleen did somehow release some deep, dark anger.

Brenda said...

Thanks guys.

I knew this wasn't tight when I sent it in but couldn't put my finger on it.

It's supposed to be 1,000 acres. I'd changed that in the part I'm writing NOW and forgot to change it in the query (and in the first chapter, which I just caught! Argh.)

Okay, trying to hit all the concerns:

It's a ranch. Doesn’t say what kind of ranch. However, 100 is perfect for goat ranching (and with our Hispanic population, there are tons of goat ranches where I live). 100 is perfect for hay ranches, where they grow feed for the mega-large ranches. So is 1,000 acres great for feeding purposes, rotation purposes, etc (which this is after my correction), and it is also a great size for HORSE ranches. Alpaca too. Emu. Ostrich. You get the idea. The size isn't the issue: it's how she perceives this "problem", but I saw a lot of you got hung up on that issue.

She views it was a "good buy" because she researched the cost of the land, she had the house inspected so she knows it's structurally sound (no big costs like foundation, electric rewiring, etc). She had no doubt her sister would help her which the sister DOES agree to before other things come up... well, anyway, there's only so much you can put into a query letter and there's no room to explain it all but I don’t find her doing this adventure as one that makes her “dumb” because there were problems she didn’t perceive.

Phoenix got this more than anyone, I think, from the area, the ranching, the way sound carries. I haven’t lived in the DFW area in awhile, so I’m considering relocating this to Austin, closer to where I live and I know the market better (“ranching towns” like Hutto and Taylor are being bought up as Austin area outgrows even the Round Rock city limits). Phoenix: I’m in Dallas all the time. We should meet up for lunch one time. Are you a member of DARA? I may already know you!

It’s kind of that entire “write what you know”. I know ranches, I know roosters, I know MX and the sound and the dust, etc. Obviously, I didn’t get it to all come across as well as I’d hoped in the query though and thanks to you all for helping me out! Love you guys!

Anon 4:31: No, she doesn't keep it. No, Kate's not the cause of real estate issues around the Nation. Here, have a Xanax... or an orgasm may help. Relax!

Thanks for the feedback!

Oh, P.S. – the title is a sex move. She’s “Shut up” and he’s “Ride”. (It’s a GREAT move – maybe one day I’ll describe it.) Okay, although that’s all true, it’s also a play on her to shut up and stop over-thinking everything and just enjoy the ride – the risks – that he shows her.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

OK, but only because you've resorted to begging and I love it when you beg, here's what I sent to the RWA PRO's loop:

For those of you who haven't visited Evil Editor's site, you're in for a treat. An editor's critique of your query (always humorous, sometimes scathing, usually quite helpful) and a host of comments by other writers to follow. Fast turnaround.

For Valentine's week, he's hoping to showcase more queries (and novel openings) from romance writers. Send them to Advice from Evil Editor and his minions is free and comes with a money-back guarantee.

Visit to find out what you're letting yourself in for :o)

Maybe we can at least spike some traffic!

PS: I was going to use the "Submit to EE" thing, but then I couldn't get rid of the image of a gaggle of romance writers prostrating themselves before a bare-chested man with a nipple ring and muttonchops. That's another couple of therapy sessions right there.

Anonymous said...

Flipping it implies quickly selling at a handsome profit. Stating each of these decreases the creditility of your protagonist being an analyst for a portfolio manager. Which raises the question, is she a portfolio manager or an analyst? Big difference. Yeah, I know it is nit-picking, but these are points that might help.

Seems like there's a lot going on that diverges from a central plot.

Best wishes.

Dave Fragments said...

Yay! Love stories, romance, soft lights, tender music, oysters and champagne with roses and chocolates!

Anonymous said...


When I was a kid growing up on a farm, we had a rooster who chased and spurred women and girls. Never sure why he didn't go for guys, except maybe he knew he'd get the shit kicked out of him.

Can I write shit on here?

Stacia said...

Phoenix, I'm so jealous! I love chickens.

I agree about the factual problems with the story/query (are you allowed to just set up a Motocross course on your land in a residential/farming area? Don't you need permits or something, and wouldn't the seller need to disclose that sort of thing?) but if you can find a way to smoothe those over, it's a cute conflict. I like EE's rewrite.

Robin S. said...

In other news....blogless now has a blog. Or he did a minute ago, anyway.

Brenda said...

No, you don't need permits. It's not an official Motocross course anyway - it's a personal practice course on private property. And no, this wouldn't be a disclosure issue.

The bantam rooster I have right now isn't bossy like my old rooster was. And he never attacked - he just tried to "herd" me to where he wanted me if I was outside. And tried to get on the screened in porch with me when I sat out there. He liked to sit in there with me. I then bought him hens and he had no more need for me. (Sigh)

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hey Brenda: Didn't know this was yours. You said you'd be submitting something, though, didn't you? Well, I KNOW we'll get an HEA out of you, at least :o)

Some minor cosmetic surgery is all this story seems to need. And EE's rewritten query. It's right on tone for category, I think. Was this one you submitted to Nathan?

I'm not in DARA, and the goats and chickens and rest of the menagerie keep me close to home, but I do venture down (I'm north) to Plano/Dallas occasionally when they need me in the office. I'd love to hook up for lunch sometime!

Oh my, Dave. You don't read much romance, do you :o)

Blogless: I'd waste 5 minutes for you any day.

Anyone need fresh eggs? I'm heading out to gather some now...

Stacia said...

EE, I posted it on the Romance Divas forum. :-)

Xenith said...

Phoenix: what are you doing with 11 roosters???

(Although at one point my family had 4 young learning-to-crow cockerals in a very small suburban yard, the corner bit left over when the rest of the block was divided up, but that's because they were bought too young & were supposed to be pullets).

Anonymous said...

Did somebody say somethin' about a barn raisin'?

Robin S. said...

Oh, Rod, we shoulda known you'd show up on a romance query.

Love that picture, by the way.

Brenda said...

Err... Nathan??

I don't know if this is going to be category or not. I'm just writing it, although if it does go category, I'll target Blaze.

And absolutely an HEA!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hi Xenith: I've got me a little cock-fighting ring set up back behind the pit bull kennels...not!

Five of the roosters are bantams and pretty sweet. I have one big flock leader and the balance are standard-sized cockrels that I hope will stay sweet, too. I don't/won't eat them! And I have about 30 hens.

Yeah, the "supposed to be pullet" thing will get you every time. :o)

So Rod, do you charge by the hour or by the, um, job? Oh yeah, bring the crew. Choice is always good.

EE: How many times are we allowed to say 'cock' on your blog?

Anonymous said...

Ma'am, we generally take the measure of what's in front of us, then charge by the length of it.

Robin S. said...

Good questions one and all, phoenix.

And I'm totally with you on the Rod thing - "Oh yeah, bring the crew. Choice is always good."

Dave Fragments said...

ME? read romance?
THe last romance I started was "Agnes and the Hitman" if that's a romance ... I got about 100 pages into it and had to wrap it up. It was always intended to be a Christmas gift for my Mother and I ran out of time. I'm kinda the quintessential absent minded professor - I know 2nd order partial differential equations but not much romance.

Hey, I got teary eyed when I read the book on the solution to Fermat's Last Theorem.

Brenda said...

Ahhhh, Agnus and Shane...

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Rod, I do see from your picture that you carry a yardstick rather than a ruler for measuring the length of what's in front of you.

Perhaps you could give me an estimate of what it would take to raise my barn?

Robin S. said...

Rod, women often take the measure of what's in front of 'em as well.

What they actually do with what's in front of 'em, however, is a different story. Depending on the woman in question. And if she charges.

Anonymous said...

Well, Ma'am, I'm not the man I once was, so it takes a bit of time for me to get anything up these days; but one of my boys is good with the longer jobs and could show you a figure you'd find real pleasing.

Now if you'll excuse me, Ma'am, I do need to go take care of a leaky downpipe.

talpianna said...

[A 100-acre cattle ranch? In Texas? I thought everything was bigger in Texas.]

EE, are you familiar with the expression "all hat and no cattle"?

The hero of Nora Roberts's BLUE SMOKE flips houses--but he's a carpenter by profession and knows exactly what he's doing.

Incidentally, some of you may have followed the Cassie Edwards/blackfooted ferrets/plagiarism scandal on the SBTB blog. The writer of the original blackfooted ferret piece, who wrote it up for NEWSWEEK, was interviewed on the blog; and he has been sent a copy of Nora's NORTHERN LIGHTS so he can see what a GOOD romance is like. It's a good choice for a guy who wants to dip a toe into the rose-petal-strewn waters of Romance, so I recommend it to you guys.

Chris Eldin said...

Hi Brenda,
I like the story behind this. It's something I'd take with me to the beach and breeze through.

That said, I agree with anon about the real estate. They say that the highest number of mortgages to adjust (upwards) will be in March. That of course means more foreclosures. And since I'm living in Dubai, I get the financial news re: the Gulf countries and the U.S. Saudi Arabia and other countries are seriuosly talking about not pegging their currencies to the dollar anymore. It's causing inflation here (Gulf region). The real estate issue in the States is going to get messier before it gets better.
If it were me, I'd hold onto your manuscript for a couple of years. Unless you can tweak it to match up with the times (ie real estate is not sexy anymore)

Like your voice and your idea though! Good luck!!

Evil Editor said...

Real estate can go from sexy to unsexy to sexy in less time than it takes to get a book published.

Deborah K. White said...

When I was a kid growing up on a farm, we had a rooster who chased and spurred women and girls. Never sure why he didn't go for guys, except maybe he knew he'd get the shit kicked out of him.

Um, I'm a woman and my rooster tried to spur me once. I kicked the sh*t out of him, and he's not tried that again with anyone, male or female. Are you telling me that most women just run away? That boggles my mind.

I'm glad the query simply meant the rooster tried to herd Kate around. That's cute.

BTW, author, I wasn't saying that Kate was acting stupid, I was saying that the way you set the query up made the situation sound that way. As in, a slight re-wording might be very helpful to shift that perception. It's probably fine as is, though, now that the 1,000 acres thing is fixed.