Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Face-Lift 495

Guess the Plot


1. When wealthy members of the elite South Worbeach Country Club start turning up dead with, quite literally, rods up their asses, suspicion turns toward the often verbally abused janitorial staff. Can Manuela find the real killer before her team run out of broom shafts?

2. From Rod Serling to Rod McKuen, Rod Stewart to Hillary Rodham Clinton, and A-Rod to Rod the Roofer, these hot Rods prove again and again just how agile, untiring and imaginative celebrity Rods can be -- especially when thrust into tight circumstances.

3. Two high school dropouts named Rodney, manning the control panel of the local nuclear power plant, decide to hire hookers over the Internet on the facility's control computer. While waiting for the ladies to arrive, they inadvertently cause all the fuel rods in the plant to superheat. Can Candi and Mandi satisfy the Rodneys and still have time to cool down the nuclear fuel rods before the destruction of the entire Earth?

4. At an outpost in the furthest, blackest reaches of the universe, ruling descendants of the original colonists have evolved beyond the need to see. When a visitor crash-lands and resurrects the science of artificial light, will it upset the planet's delicate balance of power?

5. When Chance McCloud goes to California to settle his late brother Jim's estate, he discovers that Jim was working on a top secret project. As he tries to get to the bottom of Jim's death, Chance must seek the aid of the people who have gathered in Jim's front yard, waiting for a big rod-ship in the sky to beam them all up.

6. When last year's winner of the Mississippi Bass Fishing Championships is found dead in his boat with a boning knife in his eye, every fisherman in this year's tournament is a suspect. Fortunately, detective Bo Seldon, an avid fisherman himself, is on the scene. Unfortunately, the murder weapon belonged to Bo, and the other competitors are providing each other with alibis.

Original Version

Dear Evil:

I have recently completed an 85,000 word thriller, titled Rods, set in and around the China Lake Naval Weapons Base in California. [If only because most book buyers are women, this sounds much more promising than the manuscript I received yesterday, titled Tits.] [Try to negotiate some input on the cover art; I have a feeling it's going to make or break you on this one.]

When Navy Engineer Jim McCloud dies in a plane crash, it's the responsibility of his brother Chance to go to California and settle Jim's estate. [You're kidding. It was GTP #5? Even I didn't get it right this time.] When Chance arrives at the naval base where Jim worked, however, Chance finds out that there is a lot more going on than a simple airplane crash. [You got something against pronouns?] [Suddenly I'm getting the horrible feeling someone who won a National Book Award has recommended no more than two pronouns per book. With pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, similes and alliteration eliminated, how long till we can't use nouns and verbs? How long till books contain nothing but prepositions?]

Jim was involved in designing and implementing a program involving rods, the elusive “sky fish” that have become a cause celebre among paranormal researchers. [For those who don't want to look up "sky fish" on Wikipedia, I've done so and will save you the trouble. Some people believe there are creatures that move through the air so fast you can't see them, although a camera can catch a blurred image of them. They're shaped like rods. They've been sighted not only in the air, but also in caves and underwater. I'm not sure if they call underwater rods "sky fish." Possibly they just call them fish.] [The existence of underwater fish has been theorized for some time now.] While many serious scientists regard rods as an artifact of modern photography at best and a hoax at worst, [many quack scientists actually buy into them.] Chance realizes that his brother not only believed in the existence of rods – he had found a way to prove definitively that rods really do exist. [He was planning to catch one with his patented sky-fishing rod.] [Once you call something "definitively proven," it's not necessary to add "really."]

It takes all of Chance's skills as a high-end security specialist to outwit a corrupt Navy captain and find out the truth about his brother's death. Along the way, he is helped by an unlikely group of confederates – a test pilot who considers her job the world's biggest flume ride, a physics junkie who was Jim's biggest fan, and the collection of “rod nuts” that have gathered in Jim's front yard, waiting for that big rod-ship in the sky to beam them all up.

Rods, and the debate about their existence, has been the subject of several television documentaries. [My research shows there have been three such documentaries: The Great Rod Debate: Is Bigger Better?; Is That A Sky-Fish in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy to See Me?; and Buddy, If You Can't Find Anything Better Than This to Watch, You Might Want to Spring For a Dish.] There is also an institute for rods research in Roswell, New Mexico (where else?). [I went to the Institute for Rods Research once. I had a completely wrong idea about what they did there, which led to no small amount of embarrassment when I dropped my pants shortly after entering . . . though I must admit, Miss Dunbar, the receptionist, wasn't complaining.] Rods is a day-after-tomorrow thriller [That's what I used to call Grisham's books. I'd keep asking him, "When are you gonna finish that book?", and he'd keep telling me, "Day after tomorrow." Eventually it was either dump him or kill him.] with up-to-the-minute science and a paranormal twist. I would be glad to provide you with sample chapters, or the entire manuscript, at your request.

Thank you for your time,


I would rather you said what rods are than say that they're a cause celebre among paranormal researchers. That could apply to anything. You could even start out with the explanation:

Navy Engineer Jim McCloud was on the verge of proving the existence of rods--creatures that move so fast they are invisible to the naked eye--when he was killed in a mysterious plane crash. Now his brother Chance has arrived to settle Jim's estate, and finds that something fishy's going on--something sky-fishy.
This leaves more room to discuss motives and suspects. It also lets you bring the cause celebre line down to lead off your last paragraph (which can then be divided into two paragraphs after the Roswell sentence), the paragraph in which you try to convince the reader that you didn't make all this invisible flying fish stuff up, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.


Anonymous said...

Every GTP was so good that I now have a new goal - to write a separate novel based on each one, each titled Rods. Instead of each book having a unique title, Ill just pick a different pen name. Although, I must say that Manuela and the falsely accused janitorial staff was my personal fave. And the fishing tournament. And the two dropouts named Rodney who work at the power plant. Once again, EE's minions are the best!

And, EE, your comments on the query are great, as per usual. Thanks!

Polenth said...

The premise is fun, but it is too vague about the rods/sky fish. It would be safer to assume the agent has no idea what they are, and explain it early on.

Anonymous said...

Now, I'm no celebrity; not like the folks I've worked for.

Me, I'm just a simple man. The air in my nail gun, that's all the power I need.

pacatrue said...

of to in by




over under around about


under again

writtenwyrdd said...

Hey, I've met Stanton Friedman, and he's never once mentioned... I just can't say it, the straight line is just too easy! Anyhow, I have met Stanton Friedman on several occasions (for what it's worth) and he has never mentioned the sky fish. Or UFOs. He has mentioned road conditions and asked for directions. My point? Claiming that anything outre' is a cause celebre seems like you're trying to hard.

The premise seems like it could eithe rbe comic or a thriller, so I'd avoid some of the more colorful language lest you seem to be aiming for comic.

I'd actually like to read this book, I think, so don't take what I say here as a criticism of the plot elements you reveal.

writtenwyrdd said...

Also, I like EE's reduction immensely.

talpianna said...

EE, who's the rod expert you consulted--The Amazing Randi?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

This query caught my interest, but not for the reasons the author would care about.

1) I recently saw an episode about rods on MonsterQuest. I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know what they were at the time, so I only had an hour to speculate about them before they were debunked as a trick of the camera. But are they? mwahaha.

2) I used to live right outside of China Lake, way back when I was a wee lass.

3) I was born in Roswell.


4) How could I pass up a chance to feature our own simple, air-powered Rod the Roofer in a GTP?

How long till books contain nothing but prepositions? But if you can't end a sentence with a preposition, who would dare even begin one (besides the inimitable Pacatrue?)? Ah, the conundrum.

Along with EE's rewrite and spot-on suggestions, perhaps find a way to make this more thriller-esque. I'm not getting that pulse-pounding excitement from the query, especially when you end the hook with such a cutesy line. Not a thriller voice, I'm afraid. And maybe throw some stakes on the grill here. Because you include that last line about the rod nuts and the big rod-ship in the sky, I can't tell whether Jim really, really proved rods exist and they are some alien thingies threatening humanity or if this is a less-thrilling mystery about why a guy was killed for non-alien reasons.

PJD said...

Oh. My. God. I'm not sure I've laughed as often as I laughed at the blue text in this one. Of course, I long ago completed the two-drink-minimum, so my judgment is impaired (as is my typing, so I apologize for any typos).

the manuscript I received yesterday, titled Tits.

the horrible feeling someone who won a National Book Award has recommended no more than two pronouns per book

I'm not sure if they call underwater rods "sky fish." Possibly they just call them fish.] [The existence of underwater fish has been theorized for some time now. (my favorite, still giggling)

Though I'm not entirely sure your revision improved the GTP I submitted. (I know, sacrilege, but like I said, I passed the two drink minimum ages ago.)

Author, I apologize for not offering anything constructive on the query itself. And to everyone else who took the time to read this comment: I apologize for having nothing more constructive to say than ha, ha, ha, ha. But it's not like I'm the minority.

Anonymous said...

I'm actually saving all my pronouns for my pulitzer acceptance speech. Or maybe it's my wurlitzer acceptance speech. But, Phoenix, I saw the same documentary a couple of months ago, and that's where I got the idea for the book. The whole thing just seemed like such a hoot, it was irresistable. AND, I have a relative who worked as a civil engineer in china lake, and used to visit there as a kid. it always seemed like an interestingly bizarre place, because it's so isolated, and so full of really, really smart people. And kids that work at fast food places. I'm still thinking that if I smushed Manuela the janitorial detective into the two Rodneys at the power plant (after all, janitors need to work somewhere) i'd have the plot for another book. Now, if it was bass instead of hookers . . .

Evil Editor said...

Though I'm not entirely sure your revision improved the GTP I submitted. (I know, sacrilege, but like I said, I passed the two drink minimum ages ago.)

Sometimes revisions aren't to improve the GTP, but to improve the chances someone will guess it. Which one was yours?

PJD said...

Sometimes revisions aren't to improve the GTP, but to improve the chances someone will guess it. Which one was yours?

The Rodneys at the nuke plant.

Now, of course, you'll post my original and prove to everyone that I'm all wet and that your revision was leaps and bounds better than my original. Sigh.

pacatrue said...

Hi Deb, I hope you don't mind my having a bit of fun at your title's expense. It's just that Rods so clearly opens the door for an entire series, and I couldn't help but think of the critic's historical survey of the Rods series in a decade's time. Here we go:

When P. Envy's first novel, Rods, appeared on the scene, it was no one night stand with critics or readers. Fans loved the proud upstanding nature of the main character and many a dignified literary critic had to confess even they loved spending a night alone with Rods. P. Envy's success continued naturally with Pricks, in which our hero is thrust over and over into the clutches of a beautiful but sinister acupuncturist. The follow-ups, Cocks, with Chance on a poultry farm was a fine sequel, though perhaps a bit obvious, as was the 4th story in the series, Dicks, with Chance investigating a Private Eye drug ring. While the critics weren't so fond of Dicks, readers couldn't get enough, arguably making Dicks the climax of the series.

Naturally, as soon as one hits the high point in a series like this, a little mediocrity is inevitable. Book 5, Dickheads, featuring Chance investigating Congressional fraud inside the Beltway, was amusing at times, but summed up nicely by one critic who stated that, "it seems to be lacking some piece that we'd gotten used to in the earlier novels."

After such a lukewarm reception, Envy clearly tried to pursue virgin territory with the series, mostly to disastrous results. First up was Penises, a book seemingly obsessed with sexual humor and innuendo. The seventh book, Assholes, was little more than a thinly veiled attack on the author's former publishing company after a contract dispute, while the attempted Cozy for book 8 called Pussies, with Chance in a pet shop, seemed to signal the utter collapse of the series. Indeed, many female readers who had formed the core of the Rods audience seemed to smile slyly as they shifted in massive numbers to the Rabbits books by D.I. Yourself. Readers may remember this time as the same period in which candles, scented oils, and old Harrison Ford movies were so in vogue again.

However, as soon as everyone had given up on the Rod series, P. Envy hit a home run, going all the way to home base over and over, with book 9, last year's Manhood. Manhood's transformation of the series in which the old adventure novel format was meshed with Alice in Wonderland-type motifs, including various pills that made important plot devices grow bigger and smaller just as needed, brought everyone back in droves. The almost universal experience was that reading the book was like seeing an old friend again, a friend that was a lot more fun than you remembered.

P. Envy claims to be writing the final 10th book of the series, one more notch in the author's belt you must suppose. The title is as yet unrevealed. Many are voting on Shaft, but surely that name has been taken already and besides the plural, Shafts, sounds undignified. Weiners is a clear possibility, but why would the author want to set anything at a dog show after the earlier failure with Pussies? This critic is betting on Bald-Headed Giggle Sticks.

none said...

Damn, I read Fortean Times every month just to find out about oddities like rods, and it's let me down. Still, sqrls being sqrls, I'm much more interested in the mysterious plane crash than the artifacts.

Still laughing about the theoretical underwater fish.

Bernita said...

I'm waiting for the Great Sky Hook.

Anonymous said...

pacatrue, the only thing that was offensive to me was that I didn't think of the pen-name P.Envy myself. However, I did want to correct one bit of information. The newest info in Publisher's Weakly states that our author's latest novel is actually "The Shaft", in which the hero plumbs the depths of degeneration in the loosely regulated mining industry, when the owner of sub-standard shaft must decide: expand into a swollen travesty of the company's former sleek silhouette, or wilt.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Hey, Paca, I had "long" and "upstanding" in my GTP, but they got cut like a bris gone bad. Perhaps EE and P. Envy know one another?

Evil Editor said...

Now, of course, you'll post my original and prove to everyone that I'm all wet and that your revision was leaps and bounds better than my original. Sigh.

You're in luck, I can't find the original. As I recall, there were four GTPs I liked when I started working on this. I think we can agree #2 had no chance of fooling anyone, and #1 had close to the same. Thus, to satisfy those who like the GTP feature to be mildly challenging, I considered the other two. #4 closed with the line that Rods was a follow-up to the book Cones. A clever line I'd have left in if # 1 or 2 had been guessable, but no one would guess #4 with that line. As I recall, the substantial change in yours was removing the name of the nuclear power plant, which was Three Eye Island. As with #4, funny, but sounds more like a minion gag than a minion's book.

Again, I'm not looking for five fakes that are guessable, but a couple. I could have left #3 or 4 as they were and changed Rod the Roofer in #2 to Rodney Dangerfield, but that still wouldn't have fooled anyone.

The fishing fake didn't figure into the mix because I didn't have it until I wrote it myself when it was time to post and nothing else appealing had come in.

So you see, I liked your piece enough to want to use it even without what you probably consider its most appealing feature. You should feel honored.

Precie said...

Damn. Paca's survey of P. Envy's career is too good to be tucked in the comments section.

Whirlochre said...

Has penis envy replaced Rome as the ultimate destination of all roads?

I'm beginning to think so - this is the second time I've come across it online today.

But, to the biz.

Too many mentions of 'rods' in this query, and it's distracting - to the extent that discussion of them (plus knob jokes) has hijacked the discussion.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Great review there, Paca!

I loved the premise of the book and you've gotten good comments here. So I'll just say Good Luck!

Chris Eldin said...

Bald-Headed Giggle Sticks is blocked from here. So I'm guessing it must be good. Could somebody email me a photo of what one of these is?

Surprised Dave F. isn't here espousing poles.

EE remains at the top of his game!

Anonymous said...

Sure, have your fun with the Rodistas. See who's laughing when Father Rod comes...when Father Rod arrives and takes us to Uran...Mars.

Dave Fragments said...

"Rodney Stickshift"
There, that should provide a giggle.

EE and Paca provided the real humor. I can't beat them.

Sarah Laurenson said...

No photos to mail, Chris. It's Woody's World of Penis Euphemisms. Not that exciting after all.

Dave Fragments said...

Actually, if you want some hot rod (cars and those things), E.E. Cummings writes about his automobile in:
She Being Brand


PJD said...

So you see, I liked your piece enough to want to use it even without what you probably consider its most appealing feature. You should feel honored.

Feeling honored was never in doubt.

Can I use this as a pub credit now?

Evil Editor said...

Only if you list me as co-author.

PJD said...

I was at first surprised you did not ask for top billing, but then I realized that would be compulsory.

Chris Eldin said...

Thanks Sarah!

And I forgot to acknowledge Paca's brilliant piece! The long one, not the short one.


pacatrue said...

Oh, my piece is long, baby, yeah!