Monday, April 14, 2008

Face-Lift 513

Guess the Plot

Witch Ever Way You Can

1. Two doughy spinsters experiment with different food preservation methods. But wait --is that a broomstick in the corner, over by the simmering black pot?

2. Yet another hot teen witch enrolls at Crossland High School. It's getting so there's no room for bicycle parking anymore, with all the broomsticks.

3. A Wiccan wannabe sets out to train an orangutan to perform religious rites. Hilarity ensues when the ignorant ape guzzles the ceremonial ale and then starts grinding the ritual cakes into the derrieres of female attendees.

4. A guide to love potions, magical incantations, and a few summoning charms that will help even the worst writer get the attention of an agent.

5. Practicing Witch Deirdre Connelly's reward for procuring the Star Stone is dinner with her crush, actor Rob Addison. Hilarity ensues when the Star Stone becomes permanently fused into Dierdre's hand, causing her to keep setting Rob on fire.

6. Vesta Marcotte knows there are only three ways to become a witch: innate talent, years of study, or paying someone from the occult black market to steal some witch's powers and transfer them to you. Having chosen the easy way, hilarity ensues as Vesta tries to master the powers of Allora, the most powerful witch in the western hemisphere.

Original Version

Dear Adorable Evil Agent,

When best-selling author and practicing Witch Deirdre Connelly gets a call from billionaire Stewart Tyler asking her to use her magic to open a mysterious box, she has no idea she will end up with an ancient mystical crystal permanently fused within her palm or handsome actor Robert Daniel Addison by her side as she fights for life, love and control of the powerful Star Stone. [No need to cram the whole story into one sentence when you're about to cram it into two paragraphs. If you shorten this to something like When best-selling author and practicing Witch Deirdre Connelly gets a midnight phone call from a billionaire, she has no idea her life is about to turn inside out, you can tack it onto the front of the second paragraph.]

Witch Ever Way You Can is a completed 74,000+ word paranormal romance featuring a protagonist who is strong, quirky and wry. [She's wry? I haven't heard that word applied to a person. Usually it refers to a comment made by a person. Perhaps you meant to say your protagonist is wheat, sourdough and rye. That would make even less sense--unless your protagonist is the Pillsbury Doughboy.] [You might want to trade "wry" for "bewitching" or "enchanting."] Although Witch Ever Way You Can is a stand-alone book, it is intended as the first in a series and the second book is already underway. [Already?! Incredible.]

Deirdre’s life is going just fine until the midnight call from eccentric billionaire Stewart Tyler. [Have you ever noticed that billionaires think they can call you any time of day? They're totally inconsiderate, and I'm sick of it. Yes, I'm talking to you, Gates.] He makes her an offer she can’t refuse: in exchange for working a simple bit of magic, she gets dinner with Robert Daniel Addison, the television star she’s had a crush on for years. Dinner goes well, but it’s all downhill from there. The treasure her magic reveals, the otherworldly Star Stone, ends up inside her instead of in the hands of its intended owner. [After you change the first sentence you'll have to change "ends up inside her" to "gets fused within her hand." Otherwise we'll think she ate it.]

Now she and Rob are hostage-guests at Tyler’s isolated Montana ranch [I think hostage situations would go better if all criminals treated their hostages as guests.] and Deirdre must find a way to return the Stone. Or else. [Or else what? The billionaire will have her killed?] Can she master the powers of the Star Stone before it masters her…or drives her crazy? Can she find the answers to the Stone’s long-lost secrets from an unexpected spiritual guide before it’s too late? And most of all, can Deirdre and Rob find love in the midst of all this madness and magic? And will he still love her if she keeps setting him on fire? [There's a limit to how many consecutive questions people will listen to without getting any answers. Four is over the limit.] Only time will tell, and time is running out.

My award-winning short story, “Dead (and Mostly) Gone,” is included in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction: 13 Prize Winning Tales (forthcoming from Llewellyn in October 2008). I have also published two non-fiction books; Circle, Coven & Grove: A Year of Magickal Practice (Llewellyn 2007) and Everyday Witch A to Z (Llewellyn 2008) and have just sold my third book to Llewellyn. I am practicing Witch and a Wiccan High Priestess [Listen, there are a few people I need turned into toads. Email me.] with a number of articles and a weekly column in a Pagan publication.

I would be pleased to send you a synopsis, sample chapters or the entire manuscript on request. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work. I have enclosed a SASE and look forward to hearing from you.



Considering how many fake plots I received involving orangutans, you might want to come up with a title less like the Clint Eastwood movie.

I don't care how big a crush I have on some TV star, if someone wants a favor from me, and he's a billionaire, he's gonna have to do more than get me a dinner date. I'll bet he offered the actor a lot more than dinner.

Is the TV actor a hostage? What's keeping him from leaving? How does the billionaire know Dierdre would rather have a date with Rob than a million dollars? Would a TV actor drop what he's doing and go to Montana for dinner? Has the billionaire tried opening the box with a hack saw? Note that Evil Editor is allowed to ask five consecutive questions. That hardly seems fair, and yet it is.

Being a practicing witch and Wiccan High Priestess may be solid credentials for a nonfiction book going to Llewellyn; as this romance novel query is going to an agent, possibly a sane one, it may not be so important. Sure, I know this is all cool and spiritual etc., but I doubt Anne Rice admitted that she was a practicing vampire and Queen of the New Orleans Blood Cult until after she was a bestseller.

Same with a weekly column in a Pagan publication. You say Pagan; the unenlightened think The Wicker Man. Possibly your credits should just read, I have sold three nonfiction books on witchcraft to Llewellyn, and my short story “Dead (and Mostly) Gone,” will be included in The Pagan Anthology of Short Fiction: 13 Prize Winning Tales. Your description of the book doesn't lead me to believe a working knowledge of witchcraft was vital in writing it, any more than a staff writer on Bewitched needed to be a witch, so don't go overboard.


Anonymous said...

I'll bet the story is good but there are so many plot points as presented in the letter that just don't add up. Why does the witch, powerful enough to get the magic stone, need some dopey billionaire to end up at the same table as the movie star (or any celebrity?) If she's powerful that the billionaire came to her for help, how is she so easily detained at the ranch? Why would the rich movie star need the billionaire to set up blind dates? And it seems a little too convenient that after being dragged to this dinner, he fell so in love with her that he followed her to Montana and threw his lot in with her.

I think the query letter has too much information, really. These questions are probably non-issues in the story but they're red flags here.

Anonymous said...

...possibly a sane one...


Anonymous said...

The questions were very annoying for me. But I dont like open questions in query letters, seem cliched to me. Just my opinion though.

Anonymous said...

NO matter how good the query letter is, will any agent want to pursue a relationship with a certified witch? Seems like a risky proposition, real or not.

Bernita said...

"will any agent want to pursue a relationship with a certified witch?"
I suppose that's why the first four comments are all anonymous?

Sarah Laurenson said...

Ah, but think of the publicity possibilities. A real witch writing witch romances. And the book burning fanatics will generate lots of free publicity. It's a gold mine in the making.

I think there are too many details that don't connect logically here (as has been said). I get a feel for your voice, but perhaps not enough. Lots of good possibilities with this story. Paranormal romance is hot right now.

Good luck!

And EE, thanks for the morning laugh. This is a good one!

E.D. Walker said...

I think if you're going to mention your Wiccan creds you should relate that to the story itself more. Why does being a practising Pagan make this book about witches more original and compelling than every other book written by a non-pagan about witches out in the market right now? (Let us know when you get sick of the questions. We are evil minions, after all). Also, and this is just my own curiosity, but isn't one of the tenets of Wicca that you aren't supposed to say you are one? Sort of a "The first rule of fight club" thing. That's what my Anthro prof in college told us, anyway.

Query notes:
EE's right. Your opening hook is not hook-y, it's synopsis-y (i just made that up) What I mean is, there's no grab to the opening lines.

"74,000+ word" You could just say 75K word. No need to get TOO specific with word count.

"is a stand-alone book, it is intended as the first in a series and the second book is already underway" It's good you've already started your next project while you're querying. It's bad that you're writing the next in a series. What if you don't sell Book One? Then Book Two gets to sit in a trunk for forever. Is Book Two as stand alone as Book One? Yes. Ok fine. If not, then I strongly suggest moving onto another stand-alone manuscript.

Can anyone explain to me why having all those millions inherently makes someone "eccentric"? This sounds very cliche. I don't know how this comes off in the book obviously, but maybe find a more unique way of describing your bad guy for the query.

"Or Else"? Can we get some specifics here? Boiled in acid? Flayed alive? Forced to watch a marathon of The Simple Life for a week straight?

The multiple question thing...can you try and create suspense and tension in this letter without it? Even turning questions into statements might make it stronger.

I think this query is, overall, too generic. Its the specifics that make your book interesting in a query. From this query there doesn't seem to be too much fresh or new in this book. I'm sure there is in your book, so show us that stuff if you can.

writtenwyrdd said...

moth, to answer your question, No. There's not a rule saying witches/Wiccans/pagans must never divulge their religious status. There might be some traditions which feel otherwise, though. All I can tell you is, nearly 20 years in the pagan community and I haven't heard that rule.

Author, I'd leave your pagan creds out. They don't add to your validity, IMO. It's great writing that does that.

Sounds like a great basis for a story, but the letter is pretty tangled at this point. Basically, ditto what everyone else has said.

Anonymous said...

I'm a practicing genie. I should have thought of writing a novel.

Anonymous said...

I was born on Mars but came to this planet in a work-study program. Should I put that in my query letters?

Dave Fragments said...

I like this. I don't know why y'all are kvetching about the author being a Wiccan. The witches might be more like real women than the images of MacBeth's trio, harpies or bitchy drag queens. (no offense to drag queens in general, just the bitchy ones).

I tried looking up Robert Daniel Addison. I didn't even get good images wen I added naked. Just a bunch of gray-haired old civil war geezers. How unromantic.

Diedre, best-selling author and first-class witch, has had a lifelong crush on George Clooney and her millionaire buddy has just the date she would love - a week with George on his isolated ranch if, and only if, Diedre opens Pandora's Box.

Now, I know that you won't use Pandora's Box to describe whatever the Star Stone is contained in, nor will you call it a Cryptex or even put a rose on it. But I chose this way to open the query because it solves the "how did they get together" problem. It's basically Hot-to-trot witch gets to meet Hunky StudMuffin Dreamboat, object - - {blush}. And all of this is thanks to the Millionaire Buddy.

I suspect the Millionaire buddy knows that the star stone is powerful and wants to use it but is himself incapable of opening the box. Well, none of these people are virgins, so that eliminates one avenue of plot twists.

When the magic contained within the box rejects Billionaire Stewie for being a Stewie and merges with Diedre, hollywood Hunk George must turn into John McLean and pull off the rescue of his screen life in real life or watch his blind date turn into a fire-breathing monster capable of destroying the world.

Gee, that's not quite your plot but it's entertaining. I'm sure your real plot elements are that entertaining.

Your tone is great and you have the pieces of a good query. The story sounds like fun and romantic. Just make the fun and romance come across in the query. If this is a hot sexy romance with "boomphing" then give the query a little "boomph" (sexy wink and nod).

Some practical advice: It's Llewellyn Worldwide because it took me a few minutes to find them. They don't list the anthology yet. Shame on them.
The two non-fiction books show that you understand editorial processes in the fiction world. I wouldn't fuss about a weekly column unless you are going to use it as a platform to sell the book. That might be good for a few hundred to a thousand copies. There are other minions who could speak with more authority than I can about that subject.

Anonymous said...

I'm leaving an anon comment, therefore it's incumbent upon me to be a smartass.

Nancy Beck said...

Perhaps you meant to say your protagonist is wheat, sourdough and rye. That would make even less sense--unless your protagonist is the Pillsbury Doughboy.

LOL!! :-) That was great, EE.

Okay, the first sentence is a doozy. I can understand the one sentence thing if you're having problems describing your story, but the idea is to expand it from there. :-) So, yes, I'd agree with EE that splitting it up into 2 sentences is fine.

The treasure her magic reveals, the otherworldly Star Stone, ends up inside her instead of in the hands of its intended owner.

This had me confused; it's fused onto her hand, right? So it wouldn't be inside her. Just a simple change will do away with the confusion, methinks. :-)

EE has a point as to those questions in the 4th para: Made my eyes glaze a bit. Is there some other way you can rephrase all that, or maybe eliminate one or two elements outright? (I know that's easier said than done.)

I think the non-fic stuff in the last para are fine; not sure if being a practicing Wiccan is that important to a fiction agent/publisher. To me, having the non-fic items shows that you have the ability to sell (I know; it's not fiction, but I still think it's okay to leave that in there).

Your profession? Not sure if that's really necessary. I mean, if it's a more technical thing - like you're trying to sell a medical thriller and you're a doctor - that would be an important credential, because you'd have to sound like you knew the medical terms your characters were bantering around in the story.


Nancy Beck said...

BTW, I don't care if someone is a practicing witch/Wiccan/whatever. My thinking is that it's just not necessary to point it out in this instance; I think the author's writing, coupled with the fact that he/she has sold stuff, would be at least get an agent to ask for a read.


Anonymous said...

Since the book is about a witch, I can understand the thinking behind 'I'll mention in my query letter that I'M a witch.' I don't know how an agent will react but I see the logic.

Whirlochre said...

Looks like Blogger ate my last comment, but the jist of it was: ditto.

And lose the title. It's a skit on a movie that will have everyone visualising an ORANG ORANG ORANG UTAN—and this movie title was itself a skit on another movie featuring an ORANG ORANG ORANG UTAN.

Dave Fragments said...

Every Which Way But Loose (1978)
Any Which Way You Can (1980)

It's bad enough that these two movies were Clint Eastwood creating a reason to show off his (then current) wife's tits. (OK, don't yell - bosom, OK, don't hit that hard, acting talents.) Well, he wasn't showing off Clyde, the orangutan. That's for sure!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 even spoofed it.

From Wikipedia:
The soundtrack has many popular country music hits, including the title track by Eddie Rabbitt and several numbers by Charlie Rich. One song Charlie Rich performed in the movie, "I'll Wake You Up When I Get Home", hit number three on the charts in 1979 and was Rich's last Top Ten single.

Classy Line: We're gonna meet a real lady now Clyde, so no spittin', pissin', fartin', or pickin' your ass.

That's not what I would call a romantic line.

Anonymous said...

Okay--you should all start practicing saying "ribbet" right now.
Just kidding. (Except you, EE. I'll be happy to teach you how...all I need are a few simple bribes. Some chocolate and an agent ought to just about do it.)

Thanks for all the interesting and useful feedback. I'll try and answer as many of the questions as I can (as long as I don't ask more than four in a row.)

EE--Thanks for the suggestions on changing that (really long) first sentence. I will rework this. Interestingly enough, I have had a pretty good response to the query letter so far--out of 12 submissions, 5 requests for partials. So it must be appealing to someone. And apparently the Witch thing only scares your readers, not agents:) I guess after dealing with writers and editors, Witches just aren't all that scary. And my protagonist is actually pumpernickle, but it's not polite to say so.

The actor stays because he is worried about Deirdre. (He's a chivalrous guy that way. Besides, he's on break from filming and she's hot.) They are not actually hostages, although at one point Deirdre is subtly threatened. It is just obvious to them that if they try to leave, it will probably not be allowed.

Yes, he's used hack saws, chisels and severe scolding. Nothing has worked. And there's a book that says he has to use magic.

There are sane agents?

And it's not like I'm any good at being a Witch...I'm still practicing, after all.

anon: as for why the Witch needs help meeting her dream guy, we (Witches, that is) are not allowed to do anything that interferes with free will, so she couldn't do a spell to "fetch him." And the movie star doesn't need anyone to set him up on a date; the billionaire persuades him to meet this woman (in NYC, actually, where he already happens to be, not Montana) by offering a large donation to his favorite charity. As for convenience...have you ever read a romance? Or been in love, for that matter?

In answer to anon's question about would anyone want to work with a Witch: Wicca is a recognized religion, and the fastest growiing religion in the US and Canada.(Most of you probably already work with a Witch--you just might not know it.) I think that most folks won't worry about that. And having a witch book written by an actual witch might be a good thing.

Moth: secrecy used to be the norm, but not anymore. And even then, it was more a matter of self-protection than anything else. Since I am firmly out of the broom closet, I don't have to worry about that (except here, maybe). These days pagans are trying to spread understanding about who and what they are, so more and more of us are standing out in the open. And ducking fast when necessary.Of course, in theory, we're not supposed to go around telling all our secret ways to non-Witches. I could tell you why, but then I'd have to kill you.

As to it maybe being bad that I am writing the second one in the series--I have read that agents/editors etc. are big on series at the moment, and want to know if you have one in the works.

Or else? Well, or else he will kill her to get the stone back. But that makes him sound so mean...

Dave F. I love you, you are my new favorite commenter. Robert Daniel Addison is actually a made up character (us authors do that, y'know), although based on a real-life actor. Sorry, no naked pics of him either. Damn.

Yes, the rich guy knows it is powerful and can't get into the box himself (it requires magic, hence the witch).

nancy beck: thanks--the fused/inside phrasing has been a question all along. Clearly I need to revisit it, as well as the many questions. "Witch" isn't actually my profession, if that's what you meant. I'm an author/artists' cooperative manager/jewelry maker/a bunch of other things. But that seems a bit long.

Thanks all for the comments (and the occasional laugh). Keep up the bad work!

talpianna said...

The Wiccan rule is that you are not supposed to reveal that SOMEONE ELSE is a witch without their permission. And I think it's as valid a credential as being a medical professional would be for writing a medical thriller.

My main problem is that it seems to me that your basic Ruthless Billionaire would probably just drug her and have her hand amputated.

The successful stories about witches these days seem to be paranormals, set in a somewhat altered world where magic and/or supernatural beings like vampires and weredingos are real, if not the norm. Your story might work better if you did something like this, with more supernatural antagonists instead of just the Ruthless B.? Perhaps a magical guardian of the Star Stone wants to set it free? Or Ruthless B. is a Left Hand Path type and wants to sacrifice her in some way in order to warp the Stone to his evil designs? Or Rob turns out to have powers himself he didn't know about: he's a medium, or a telepath, or a weredingo? And you need to work out some sort of rules as to how the magic works, whether they are straight Wicca or not.

E.D. Walker said...

I would probably put "Or she's dead meat" or something rather than "or else". Death is much more specific than "or else".

Anonymous said...

Actually, he tries both and they don't work, because of the power of the Star Stone. But good thinking! And some of the "guardian" element does enter the story towards the end (good not bad, though). Things get much more supernatural in book2, by the way. But you're pretty on target!