Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Face-Lift 492

Guess the Plot

Wild in the Night

1. When a blood-drinking serial killer starts operating in New York City, no one knows if it's a vampire or a psycho, but two things are certain: someone's got to stop him, and the best person for the job is a street-smart wolfwoman.

2. Mother Superior has asked the nuns to reach out to the run-down community of St. Clare's parish. Can Sister Serena, the Tattooed Nun, convince her colleagues that they should bring Jesus to the local biker gang? Can the sisters be holy in the day and wild in the night . . . without giving up their old habits?

3. When the gibbous moon shines fully bright
And bathes the world in frigid light
Lord Ardred and his werewolf den run . . . Wild in the Night.

4. Down-on-her-luck waitress Betty Wilde swallows her pride and takes a job at Night Magic, Denver's most notorious strip club, where the skimpy uniforms and drunken patrons guarantee a steady haul of tips. But when the star pole-dancer twists her ankle just before the big number and begs Betty to sub for her, Betty discovers a talent she never knew she had.

5. The noises wake Mikey Tolliver up every night for weeks. Despite pulling the blankets over his head, he’s unable to sleep. Armed with his trusty teddy bear, he finally tracks the noise to his parents’ bedroom door. Will solving this mystery bring him peace, or will it haunt him for the rest of his life?

6. Even for a biology grad student, Stephen was fairly sedate. Yet when his mentor sends him off to study the nefarious mating rituals of the nocturnal hyena, little does Stephen expect that his guide will turn out to be a bewitching woman who's love of natural history is surpassed only by her desire to shimmy out of her Banana Republic shorts. Also, a rain of vampire frogs.

Original Version

Dear [agent / editor, or in this case Mr EE];

I am seeking [representation for / publication of, delete whichever is inappropriate] [Is this whole thing gonna be multiple choice? If so, here's one for you: Dear author: I didn't make it past your (first paragraph / salutation)] Wild in the Night, an urban fantasy novel of 90,000 words.

Asa knows the ground rules for being a werewolf in contemporary society: 1) [always keep shaving cream and a razor handy and] spring for the really good fake ID, 2) smile with your mouth shut, and [use a pooper scooper, especially if you take a dump on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Burger's place] 3) don't attract attention. What the "dentally gifted" fear most isn't silver bullets but exposure; telling people you're 400 years old and can turn into a wolf will get you either into a mental hospital or onto the front page of the National Enquirer. [Personally, I'd take either of those over a silver bullet, but that's me.]

New York City is a great place to be anonymous, and has enough of Asa's kind of people to allow her to let her hair down (or out) once in a while. The "community" help each other deal with the petty annoyances of life: finding pets-allowed apartments, faking life histories on job applications, explaining the facts of life to newbies who have just turned and think they're God's gift to Goths [and finding affordable full-body wax jobs]. Life is pretty good, especially compared to that "Dark Ages" stuff the oldies keep complaining about, even if you do have to pull up stakes whenever the neighbors start complementing [sp.] you on the way you maintain your youthful appearance. ["Charlie, you don't look much older than when I met you thirty years ago. Sure, your hai--fur is a little grayer, and there are wrinkles in your . . . snout, and . . . You know, Charlie, it's kind of annoying when I'm talking to you and you start licking your balls."]

But when a blood-drinking serial killer starts breaking rule #3 in a big way, the community find themselves under unwelcome scrutiny from the police

[Captain: Carlton, there's a blood-drinking psycho on the loose. Go down to the "community" and see what you can turn up.

Carlton: The community, sir?

Captain: Oh, right, you're new here . . . the werewolf district.]

and the media. Whether the killer is a rogue vampire or just a psychotic normal, ["Just"? You make it sound like it would be a relief if the blood-drinking serial killer were a psychotic normal.

Carlton: Captain, you were right: someone's killing people and drinking their blood. I think we might have a rogue vampire on our hands.

Captain: Relax. It's probably just a normal psychotic blood-drinking killer.]

the community wants him found and stopped - dead - before any awkward secrets get spilled.

Asa's good nose, street smarts and natural snoopiness make her the best wolfwoman for the job, until the killer starts stalking bona fide vampires [They're the worst kind.] - and Asa. Facing down a madman who is willing to wade through a river of blood to become "King of the Undead" is bad enough, [I once waded through a river of blood. The white socks I had on still haven't come clean.] but doing so in a way that won't expose them may take all the ingenuity and experience Asa and the little community of all-too-mortal gifted can muster. [Can you muster experience?]

Thank you for your consideration. I would be delighted to send a partial or full manuscript upon request.



I'd change the ending (right now it's a bit wordy) to something like:

Facing down a madman who wants to become "King of the Undead" will be hard enough, but doing so without exposing the community? That'll take all the ingenuity Asa can muster.

The idea of a werewolf community being threatened with exposure by a killer is clever, though I'm not sure why exposure is considered a disaster when it's been stated that they regularly pull up stakes and move anyway (whenever anyone compliments their youthfulness).

Having read the list of ground rules in the previous paragraph, I wasn't crazy about the lengthy list of petty annoyances. Obviously you want to set an amusing tone, but it starts to feel like you're putting off getting to the plot. I'd cut that second list to the two funniest items, maybe the pet-friendly apartments and . . . the body wax.


Sarah Laurenson said...

I like the voice here and it sounds like quite a good story. Don't have anything to add to EE's notes.

PJD said...

I always thought that the whole werewolves and zombies schtick here was a joke... there are real books about werewolves and zombies? I know about vampires of course, but really... there are books about werewolves?

My only comment is that Asa is one of those names that would be better if you spelled it backwards.

By the way, EE's GTP is pretty much the perfect hook for this. You might consider leading with that and then introducing Asa.

Anonymous said...

Damn. I was hoping it was the stripper one.

Dave Fragments said...

- a gibbous moon - no one seriously writes about a gibbous moon. Not unless they want to write the next great literary fiction that pretends to have a story and pretends to have character development.
- surpassed only by her desire to shimmy out of her Banana Republic shorts. and slide onto his pole?
- the Tattooed Nun. Does the book have a Imprimatur and Nihili Obstat? Cardinal Ratso Rizzo might excommunicate the author...
- Betty happens to be 300 pounds of luscious love.
- vampire frogs is an interesting concept
- Mikey says either (a) "Daddy, why are you laying so close to mommy?" or (b) overhears "Sam, the ceiling needs painted"

It's a nice query but it presents too much backstory fun and tone and not enough story. Tell the reader about the plotline and characters. Are the werewolves and vampires at odds like the Sharks and Jets?
Or tolerant like the winning Giants and disgraced Patriots?
It's the interaction between the two groups that make your story. It's Asa's solution to the mystery that we need to know about.

I like this, it's fun and inviting.

Bernita said...

I liked this too - and the "rain of vampire frogs"

Those were all wonderful plots.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Dave: too much backstory, bring us to the conflict quicker.

Regarding "the community," it seems like they go to great pains to keep a low profile. So when the cops start sniffing around (there's a hind-end pun in there somewhere), how is it they know to find "the community?" I imagine as the cops learn more about this killer, they uncover other, strange things, namely your werefolks.

You list three rules of the were-behavior, then later you state that the blood sucking killer violates rule #3. This suggests the killer is a member of that community. I may smile with my mouth open, which is a clear violation of rule #2, but the rules don't apply to me since I don't go howling at the full moon.

Whirlochre said...

There's a lot of good material here, though some of it would be better suited to the dust jacket when the tighter synopsis (along the lines of Dave's suggestions) has worked its magic.

Full moon tomorrow btw...


Anonymous said...

I generally thought this was a good job; I was rooting for it to be GTP #1, and I think the one-line summary that EE wrote for it would make a really good hook.

I'm annoyed at the idea of immortal werewolves and the name Asa (I've only known boys called Asa), but those are personal peeves that most people probably wouldn't share.

Good luck!

pacatrue said...

I'm curious, paranormal fans. Are there any works where werewolves and vampires get along? They're always going at each other as far as I am aware.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps they need the Mummy to mediate.

Robin S. said...

I like this. Even with EE's funny stuff sprinkled throughout - I still like it. I do think Pete is right- and EE's cut-to-the-chase GTP intro for this might be a good addition to your query. But I like it.

Evil Editor said...

Are there any works where werewolves and vampires get along?

Depending on your definition of "get along," yes. In Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter series, Master Vampire Jean-Claude often has a werewolf or two working with him. He even works with alpha-werewolf Richard on a few occasions, when they have a common goal (though they hate each other).

Also, one could say that Oz and Angel were allies. They were on the same side in one episode of Angel, and while I don't recall them sharing much screen time on Buffy, they were both the good guys on some episodes.

talpianna said...

There are quite a few paranormal romances featuring werewolves, though they are far outnumbered by vampire romances. Personally, I prefer the former, especially since I like wolves. Most of the stories that include both tend to have them opposed for political reasons; they are usually stories in which the political maneuverings of the uncanny are to the fore.

If you want to explore more, I highly recommend Charlaine Harris's Southern Gothic Vampire series, featuring Sookie Stackhouse, ordinary human waitress--except that she can read minds. But not those of vampires, which is why she's happy to date one. She also gets involved with a werewolf and a weretiger.

I don't care for vampire paranormals, but occult mysteries with vampire detectives can be pretty good. The hero of Poul Anderson's OPERATION CHAOS, which I mentioned recently, is a werewolf. Susan Krinard has written a lot of werewolf romances; they are very popular. I myself didn't care much for the one I read--but as an SF/fantasy fan, I often find myself disappointed by paranormal romances. There is a classic short story, "The Compleat Werewolf," by Anthony Boucher. The hero is a mild-mannered professor of German named Wolf Wolf, who finds himself with a whole new career in the movies as Rex the Wonder Dog.

Peter David's HOWLING MAD is a very funny book about a wolf that gets bitten by a werewolf and turns into a man when the moon is full.

Anne Rice's sister, Alice Borchardt, has written several historical werewolf novels.

writtenwyrdd said...

I think that the plot you describe sounds sellable and interesting, but the tone of the letter fails you. for me, it seemed like you weren't talking about a dark urban fantasy, which is what I inferred this was supposed to be, what with blood-drinking serial killers and all.

Anonymous said...

PS - Is Asa a man or woman? Asa is a man's name, at least in the last half-dozen generations of my family...

none said...

A "rogue vampire"? When did the default for vampires change from drinking people to death?

Anonymous said...

Hi everybody! Thanks for commenting.

I stole the name Asa (minus a few diacriticals) from a 17th-century Icelandic folksong. I am flabbergasted to learn that there are people named that nowadays, and irritated to learn that they seem to be exclusively male...

I plead guilty to stalling on the plot description; the plot is kind of... hairy, and I'm not sure how much I can put in the query without either a) running way too long, or b) causing several "wait - how did that happen" moments.

dave f: this is one of the few books where the vampires and the werewolves think each other are just peachy. :) (there's even inter-species dating!)

writtenwyrdd: Try Christopher Moore. He's made pretty much an entire career out of funny books about blood-drinking serial killers.

talpianna said...

Wereauthor: "Asa" as a male name is from the Bible. I think you want "Ase," which is, among other things, the name of Peer Gynt's mother:

Gender: Feminine
Usage: Swedish

Short form of Old Norse feminine names beginning with the element áss "god".

It just doesn't come out right without the diacriticals. You might try "Anitra," from the same poem, also exotic in a Bedouin sort of way.

A superb reference on nomenclature is behindthename.com.

Anonymous said...

talpianna said:
"Asa" as a male name is from the Bible. I think you want "Ase," [snip] You might try "Anitra," from the same poem, also exotic in a Bedouin sort of way."

Hmmm... well, I quote the folksong (not Peer Gynt-related) a couple of times, so I'd like to stay within the same general area. "Ase" might work, but I'd be afraid people would see it as "ace", or worse, "ass". "Anitra" is pretty, but it seems not to have existed before Ibsen's play, plus I'd like to stick with something Scandinavian. Maybe I should ditch the whole idea and just call her "Janet"...

writtenwyrdd said...

wereauthor: I've read C.M. and if this sort of humro is what you are attempting to sell, I suggest presenting that wacky style in the query letter. It did not come across as a funny book.

talpianna said...

Wereauthor: Here's a list of ancient Scandinavian female names from behindthename.com:


You can search the site further for more modern names if you don't like any of these. It's really a great resource.

Harry Markov said...

That was lovely. I hope that Asa can handle the psychotic normal or whatever that is. Nothing to add. Love this blog!