Friday, March 07, 2008

Face-Lift 499

Guess the Plot

Love Inferno

1. Hunky fireman Jett Avery has been depressed ever since the fire that killed his best friend. But when he meets Nurse Roxanne he ignites a flaming inferno deep within her, and discovers that playing with fire can be fun.

2. It's business as usual at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic for Dr. Percival Green-- the arrival of yet another new venereal disease, the Love Inferno. Can the good Dr. find love without flames? Also, a horny panda.

3. Porn stars Viv Lickum and Gary Coonch are shoe-ins to win the year's Best Love Scene Award, until they learn of a young couple who are burning up the cameras. Can Viv and Gary turn the heat even higher in their new movie Love Inferno, or will they have to kill the competition?

4. When the New York Vampire Clan - Big Apple Blood Suckers - hold their spring social, Scarlet Emmenecker learns more than the tango, samba and electric slide. Her hunky dance teacher introduces her to the latest craze - the Love Inferno - and she, in turn, drains his blood.

5. An elite society of Dante fanciers hears that one of their own has been murdered. They promptly agree that it's none of their affair. Unfortunately the murdered member's spirit begins attending meetings and informing them of points of agreement between Dante's Hell and his. He can't rest until they publish a new translation of 'Inferno' with his notes. But is the world ready for an explicit, sexy romp through Hell?

6. There's a new gentlemen's club in LA: the Love Inferno, with the usual exotic dancers and overpriced drinks. It also has a VIP Room, where customers seem to vanish, only to reappear later, weak and disheveled. Just what does lurk behind the velvet rope?

Original Version

Dear Ms. Agent,

I watch your blog with interest and have queried you in the past. I would like to submit my newest romance novel, currently untitled, [Untitled? Sending a query for an untitled book to an agent is bad enough, but sending one to Evil Editor is worse. Have you noticed that the other 498 Face-Lifts on this blog start with Guess the Plot? Lucky for you EE was able to come up with the perfect title for your book.] complete at approximately 55K.

After suffering the devastating loss of his best friend's death in a recent warehouse fire, fireman Jett Avery has been haunted by flashbacks of that fateful night. Using sex as a balm to bury his pain and grief, his own brand of psycho-therapy helps to keep the agonizing images at bay for a while, but the flashbacks begin to incapacitate Jett with sleep disturbances, anxiety, and depression. [Then he sees an ad for Viagra and realizes he can continue his psycho-therapy indefinitely, depression or not.] Driven by a need to cure his PTSD, he's in search of the one woman whose touch can douse the flames of his own personal hell, [Aquawoman.] without strings or commitment. [He wants a relationship without commitment? It sounded like he already had that. Who's he been having sex with, the other firemen?]

With her thirtyith [Did you run spellcheck?] birthday imminent, Roxanne Carter is more than ready to settle down. She dreams of a family of her own, complete with white picket fence, 2.2 children, and a dog. [Spoiler alert: she gets the fence and dog but has to settle for 1.75 children.]As the big Three-0 approaches, [No need to open one sentence "With her thirtieth birthday imminent," and another sentence "As the big Three-0 approaches." Lop one of them off (preferably the one with "thirtyith").] she's doubled her efforts on the single scene to find the perfect man. Speed dating, double dating, blind dating, and internet dating have proved fruitless, leaving her [with no choice but to rear-end guys' cars and then ask them out.] [Hey, it would work on me.] stuck in a kind of dating purgatory made worse after Jett Avery tries to pick her up in a bar. As an emergency room nurse, she thought she could handle any catastrophe to come her way. But suddenly, the hot fireman with sinful abs and crystal grey eyes is everywhere, extinguishing her attempts to find the perfect match. [Not sure I'd compare this situation to an emergency room "catastrophe."]

Roxanne tries to resist the flaming inferno bad boy Jett ignites deep within her, knowing he's definitely not husband material. For Jett, playing with fire has never been so much fun, and soon, he discovers he's caught in another blaze beyond his control.

I'm a member of RWA, I recently contracted with The Wild Rose Press, selling my first book, XXX. [Is that the title or the rating?] I'm an intensive care nurse currently residing in Arizona, and draw a lot of my ideas for my books from my work [and my bar-hopping]. I appreciate your time and look forward to sending my manuscript for your review.



Here's how it looks: Jett is picking up women in bars and sleeping with them because of his flashbacks, but it isn't satisfying and he wants to find Ms. Right. His solution: pick up another woman in a bar. If he doesn't want a committed relationship, what exactly does he want from Roxanne that he wasn't already getting? And if he does want a committed relationship, why is he picking up a woman in a bar? (Not that you can't find Ms. Right in a bar, but where's he been finding his Ms. Wrongs?)

Also, saying he's "everywhere, extinguishing her attempts to find the perfect match" makes him sound like a stalker. Is he following her around?

She's doubled her efforts to find a guy, yet she's still in dating purgatory . . . yet a hunky guy who's attracted to her is unappealing? Assuming she went into the bar hoping to find someone who might conceivably be husband material, what was wrong with Jett? I think it needs to be more clear on why he thinks she's the solution to his problems, and why she thinks he isn't her solution.

Other possible titles: Flames of Passion, Burning Desire, and My Loins are on Fire, and You'll Do.


Anonymous said...

"After suffering the devastating loss of his best friend's death in a recent warehouse fire..."

He lost his best friend's death?

Anonymous said...

Things can get pretty hairy when you lose your death.

Firemen heroes are a staple of category romance.

Sarah Laurenson said...

'Dear Ms. Agent'? Hmmm. Is there something you haven't told the rest of us, EE? Or is this harking back to you being a woman from Argentina?

This does sound like your formulaic romance. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl have major communication issues. Boy and girl have sudden realization that they're in love and communication issues disappear.

*picks up soap box and puts it in cabinet*

Moving right along and not saying anything about the romance genre in general...

Aside from the standard romance formula - which I'm guessing is a good thing in this genre - there's a lot of potential here. But there's also some confusion, which EE points out.

What I'm getting from this:

Jett is trying, but not succeeding, to extinguish his nightmares in the flesh of his nightly conquests. Roxanne is on a seemingly futile search for Mr. Right who wants the white picket fence and children. They both go to a bar to find what they're looking for.

They meet and sparks fly, but their goals are incompatible. Jett thinks he's found the one woman who's touch can soothe his personal demons. Roxanne feels Jett would be Mr. Right if only she can get him to see the error of his ways and settle down.

So what happens to change that? Jett suddenly realizes he's fallen in love and becomes the man Roxanne knew he could be? And Roxanne changes how? Or is the man changing to meet the woman's ideal the only scenario allowed in romance. Oh, excuse me.

*Throws soap box in the trash*

Where was I?

What makes this romance novel different from the hundreds of other romance novels out there? I know you want to bring your nursing experience in here as a selling point, but I don't see how it's pertinent to this story. Maybe there's something missing from the query description that would make it more obvious.

Good luck!

Wes said...

The query gave me a head-fake by starting with Jett so I thought he was the protagonist. Perhaps the paragraph on him should follow the introduction of Roxanne.

There seems to be a conflict in logic where Jett is looking for "the one woman" yet he wants no strings or commitments. If he wants no strings, he probably wouldn't be searching for just one companion. Wouldn't the plot work just as well if he wants to continue his sport-*&^%ing, but he's drawn to Roxanne against his will? Or rather than search for THE one, he might realize his cheap and superficial lifestyle is unsatisfying. Personally, I think cheap and superficial is underrated. (Just kidding)

EB said...

Jett? Methinks you should have scrapped the subliminal and just called him Gushing Fountains of Luv. At least the query was free of hoses and couplings.

In the film Roxanne, weren't the men chasing after her firemen?

I don't quite see the potential for change, since both characters are stuck in a rut (stalking the singles bar scene, albeit for different reasons) and their way out of the rut is to...continue stalking the singles bars. If I'm reading the query correctly, Jett has been drowning his sorrows in fury of one-night-stands, but it's left him feeling empty as a tanker after a 5 alarm fire. (Hey, don't blame me. The query started it.) So he's looking to settle down. Roxanne is likewise looking to settle down. Where's the problem, since their passions burn with the fire of a thousand suns? What, exactly, is keeping them apart when they seem to have the same goal in mind. Or, as Sarah suggests, is the conflict how Roxy sets about a-changin' the man?

pacatrue said...

I had silly comments, but I'm going to attempt to steer them in a direction not completely useless for the author.

So my silly thought was basically, what is it with angst-filled men who apparently can sleep with women at will to drown away their sorrows? Maybe I needed to get my best friend killed when I was single so I could get some decent action. Now, granted most of my friends have three heads and furry backs, but they actually have difficulty finding women on a routine basis to sleep with. (And that's just the married ones, ba-dum-bump.) But Jett can apparently find a warm body virtually at will. Why? (And here's where perhaps things become more constructive.) I assume he's got some serious stud going on. We know he's got abs. What else is attracting women to him? Is he funny, charming, beguiling, mysterious, free with the liquor, friends with Obama, what?

I think what we need is to understand why Jett is so awesome and then understand how he's subverting his awesomeness with this sleeping around. After all, plenty of men who are healthy, kind, and attractive go to singles bars; not just ones trying to escape their demons (though demon escaping is apparently very, very hot in men). Therefore, his behavior has changed in a way we don't quite understand from the query letter. If we know in more detail just how Jett has fallen (has crashed to the earth, has gone down in a ball of flames, has had his engines go out), then we can understand better how our heroine's love might restore him (ready him for take-off, set him soaring, find lift-off) without magic.

Anonymous said...

If the author can show me the clinical study declaring that sex is an effective treatment for PTSD, then I might begin to think seriously about the rest of the query.

The gist of this is: sex isn't working for Jett, so he looks for more sex. Simultaneously, going to bars isn't working for Roxanne, so she keeps going to bars. These two characters are logically challenged, besides having their story based on an impossible-to-buy-into premise.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, there's no indication in the query that either of them has ever been in a bar before the night Jett puts the moves on Roxanne. I would guess Jett has, but Roxanne has been speed/blind/double/Internet dating.

Matt Larkin said...

"Roxanne tries to resist the flaming inferno bad boy Jett ignites deep within her, knowing he's definitely not husband material."

This sentence gave me a strange mental image and a few chuckles. Maybe it's just me. I do think, however, that's its idea that Jett would be a poor husband should be stressed earlier to explain why she would speed date but spurn his advances.

I agree that opening with Jett made it sound more like his story than hers. But the story itself seems to focus more on her.

Clair D. said...

This query seems to me like a string of different cliches (even some of the less cliched phrases seem off, maybe because they're surrounded with cliches.)

I'd have to be worried that the story would be full of them, too.

(And at least I'm not the only one here who got hung up on the fireman inuendos... =)

Dave Fragments said...

This is the troubled hunk fireman meets woman who can't find Mister Perfect and they have hot sex before they realize and decide that they make a couple.

Nice romance material, but the story is not why they haven't met Mister or Miss Right, it what they do when they meet. I can see the book as (let's just say) ten chapters - one chapter introducing him, one chapter introducing her and eight chapters of them romancing each other. (I'll be nice and not say eight chapter of hot sexual encounters).

That's where the query goes wrong, it seems to me. The query isn't about where they came from but where there are going to - romance city and how they deal with each other.

Hey, but what do I know, I don't write romance and I only read it once a year.

Blogless Troll said...

Hey, this is 499. Do we get to do the blue stuff again on the next one?

Robin S. said...

Whoa, BT- you're right.

Godd Lord, EE. 500 queries done!!!

You're the marathon man.

talpianna said...

Another alternate title: IS IT HOT IN HERE, OR IS IT JUST ME?

What strikes me, as it has so many others, is the stupidity of the protagonists. Why doesn't Jett get counseling, maybe anti-depressants, since the sex isn't working? Why doesn't Roxanne try one of the tried-and-true methods of finding a man who isn't commitment-averse: joining a church or hobby group, taking a course at night school, picking him up in the produce section at the market or in Barnes & Noble?

I think it would be much more interesting if Jett and Roxanne bonded over something other than sex that they both cared about--say, a severely burned child rescued by Jett from the fire that killed his family, who is being cared for by Roxanne. In trying to heal him physically and emotionally they are drawn to each other. This would also permit them to observe each other's qualities besides the abs and gazongas.

Or it could be something light-hearted and less fraught, like they both want to adopt the same Dalmatian puppy from a shelter and engage in some sort of crazy contest to either win the dog's affection or prove to the shelter staff which is the most deserving. (Remember the recent flap when Ellen de Generes adopted a dog, found it didn't fit in with her other animals, and gave it to another family, and the shelter people seized it back? A lot of people thought their rules were ridiculous--some variation of that could be played with here. Maybe the shelter only allows engaged or married couples to adopt pups?)

One of the reasons I DON'T read most romance novels is that I like more story than relationship, which is why I go for romantic suspense. The characters, in my opinion, need to have something going on that causes them to show what they are really made of, not just "a relationship" consisting of nothing but sex and emotion and quarrels over commitment. Danger and adventure do it best; but problem-solving and comic conflict work, too.

Brenda said...

Nothing like having one's genre bashed. Please remember that the umbrella of "romance" includes women's fiction (Jennifer Crusie, Julie Kenner... gasp - Nicholas Sparks), suspense (Lisa Gardner who is downright scary sometimes and would make The Man Stephen King raise a bushy brow, Iris Johanson, Allison Brennan) to paranormal and sci-fi and every. other. genre. out there.

I flippin' DESPISE sweeping generalizations.

Does this need work? Absolutely. Why? Because it's a query letter that needs work, not because it's a ROMANCE query letter that needs work. God help us -gasp- "romance" sells 61% of booksales, at least, last figure I heard. I'm sure that number is updated, but it's still a g'damn impressive number, is it not?

It's only 55K. It's category. Perfect word count. I'd like to think it's targeted for Blaze, but not sure. Send it to me, I'll read it and actually HELP you with your query. First name last night at

Mega congrats on your recent sale to Wild Rose. Bottom line: You've already accomplished more than most will ever know.

EE - feel free to edit this if you feel it needs it. And remind me not to send out requests for queries on the RWA loops.

Whirlochre said...

Tortured fireman hooks up with twentyverysomething nurturing time-limited ovaries?

OK - so this is romance.

Not my genre but here goes.

The query letter hints at the potential for a certain buzz in their relationship, but unless their fiery romance erupts against the backdrop of some other event - a towering inferno perhaps (at the hospital?) - I can't see that this is going to provide enough of a story to fill out a whole novel.

Granted, it isn't the standard Boy Meets Girl in that you've placed numerous obstacles between the otherwise done & dusted combo of Jett's plentiful hose pipe and Roxanne's vacuum womb, but unless you can work a few wonders with the haunting flashbacks, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, speed dating, body clock etc (without it becoming melodramatic), I concur with Sarah that it's difficult to see anything new in this.

Anonymous said...

Sex as a cure for depression? In my experience, most sex is depressing and disappointing. Sigh.

writtenwyrdd said...

In my experience, many romances would sound ridiculous if you broke the plot down. The writing is what makes them work. What this letter needs is to have the writing work to make the characters sound intelligent instead of TSTL (too stupid too live). Not sure how you are going to do that, but cliches are not helping here.

I don't get the impression anyone is bashing romances, brenda.

none said...

Well, Tal, it may be stupid for Jett not to try counselling or pills, but it's also very common. Thousands of people live with untreated mental illness. Men especially are unwilling to admit they have a problem.

However, a relationship isn't going to fix his PTSD.

EB said...

In 2004, romance titles accounted for 39% of all fiction sales. $1.2B in a $25B total booksales market, or 5% dollar-wise.
(Numbers from the wiki entry on the genre which are in turn from RWA.)

It's a robust genre, but not 61% of all booksales.

Sarah Laurenson said...

Hmmm. Not trying to bash romance in general. Just harping on what this query seems to be offering - the same story with the same characters only the faces and names have been changed.

If that sells - and apparently it does - ok, whatever. Personally, I like to read about strong women characters who kick ass, don't take shit from anyone, and don't come across as being idiots. So maybe my take on this is not valid.

talpianna said...

Not trying to bash romance here, either. I'm on several romance blogs & forums and I have read criticism of the genre from Northrop Frye to Pamela Regis.

Even category romance, with its strict formulae, can be well-written and intelligent. I used to read a lot of it back in the 60s and early 70s, and some of those books I still enjoy. And many of the top writers of today, like Nora Roberts, Jayne Ann Krentz, and Elizabeth Lowell, to name only the top few, got their start writing categories.

Just because I am not particularly interested in a story that is JUST about romance doesn't mean that I'm biased or that the story is necessarily bad. But you'll notice that there is usually something else going on in even the categories by the above authors--something that lets the H/H find out what the other is made of.