Friday, June 27, 2008

Face-Lift 537

Guess the Plot

The Iron Queen

1. 1870. Patrick O'Byrne is a member of the Molly Maguires, the underground organization of Irish miners in Pennsylvania. What his fellow miners don't know, however, is that Patrick is really Patricia, doing men's work to support her children. When handsome Thomas Fitzgerald arrives, will she be able to keep her secret, or will her heart betray her?

2. Queen Voula rules with an iron fist, especially when it comes to her servants. But that doesn't keep Linea, the zombie maid from shirking her duties to be with Leo. When Leo dies and becomes a zombie, can he and Linea kill Voula before she destroys their souls?

3. "Plain" Jane Beaner's life is changed when her late aunt's lawyer informs her she has not only inherited a fortune, but her aunt's hidden superpowers as the Iron Queen. Suddenly her life is way beyond cool. But will she be ready when she finds out the guy she's been crushing on since forever is now her nemesis?

4. When Clyde introduces an Employee of the Month award at the laundry, he never expects to start finding contestants' bodies in the mangle. Someone is desperate to become The Iron Queen, but can Clyde find the killer before another presser is murdered? Also, handy tips for removing blood from fabric.

5. Bendacia has ruled Gorar with an iron fist for nearly forty years. But now the aging, spinster queen must chose a successor. Can she find someone worthy amongst the various princes? Also, a blind wizard.

6. When Noah Washington steals an antique metal chesspiece from a neigborhood pawn shop, he has no idea it's part of a set created by a 14th century alchemist to hold the secret of the Philosopher's Stone. Now he's being hunted by agents of the Vatican, servants of a modern would-be sorceror and the sycophants of a wealthy industrialist who owns the other pieces.

Original Version

Dear Evilest of Editors:

Linea's compulsive questioning wouldn't be a problem if she were a normal teenage girl. But Linea is a zombie, and Dark Queen Voula doesn't like her servants asking questions. Cleaning musty catacombs has Linea bored stiff, so she ventures to the living world in search of a little excitement. What she finds is Leo—a confident, headstrong guy who instantly captivates her. Soon she questions everything about her life in the Underworld.

[Leo introducing Linea to his parents:

Leo: Mom, Dad, I want you to meet my girlfriend, Linea.

Mom: Correct me if I'm wrong, Leo, but isn't this woman a zombie?

Linea: Brains. Must eat brains.

Dad: She does have nice hands. Is there some way to reattach them?]

Linea breaks all the rules to be with Leo— [How does Leo feel about this? I mean, it's a little awkward when someone is infatuated with you and the feeling isn't mutual, even when the someone in question isn't interested in eating your brain.] she spends time on the surface, ignores her duties, and reveals her true identity for love that transcends death. When Leo is killed unexpectedly, she then finds her boyfriend transformed into a zombie, but not for long. Through their relationship Leo becomes a Lich— [Not clear what you mean by "through their relationship."] Queen Voula's most feared enemy. Before Voula discovers the truth about Leo, they must find her weakness and kill her, or else she will destroy their souls. [If they kill her, will she become a zombie? If not, what determines who becomes a zombie?]

An 80,000-word YA contemporary fantasy, The Iron Queen is my first novel and has an option for a sequel. Thank you for your time. I look forward to your response.



If it's "Dark" Queen Voula, why isn't the title The Dark Queen?

It's okay, but there's room for more information about zombies and Leo. Do zombies look and act like normal people? Are they a threat to normal people? Does Leo have anything against Voula, or does becoming a Lich make him automatically her enemy for no good reason? Can a romance really work when one of the participants is dead?


Whirlochre said...

The first paragraph has a zip to it whereas the second reads more like a list in comparison.

As it stands, it's OK, but in contrast to recent overlong query submissions, you've erred on the side of brevity and maybe you could flesh out the 2nd para with a little more detail, like what she spends her time doing on the surface and who kills Leo.

Natalie Whipple said...

This is great, so much to work on, thank you! Oh yeah, I'm the author.

All your questions are answered in the book, so I'll just have to make sure they get answered in the query as well.

Zombies look like normal people for the most part--thanks to a great team of plastic surgeons and replacement parts.

I'm happy to see you think it's too short, WO, we had quite a debate on my blog about whether or not to keep the 3rd paragraph. I decided to take it out to see what people thought, but here it is:

"Their answer to Voula’s demise lies in the unlikeliest of places—a gruff paladin named Ajax, who informs them that Voula is more than the Dark Queen of the Underworld, she is the fallen goddess Aphrodite who killed many gods in a fit of vindictive rage. With the impossibility of killing an immortal Queen, they seek out Thanatos—death himself—who can give them the power they need to kill Voula once and for all."

Would that make it feel more whole? Or should I just work on adding the information that EE questioned?

Natalie Whipple said...

Oh I forgot to say that "The Iron Queen" is Persephone's (the queen of the Underworld) epithet and the book has strong mythology themes. That's why I chose it, but I'm not in love with it. I'm still trying to come up with other options.

none said...

The second line contains a non sequitur, perhaps because it's not obvious to us that being a zombie=being Voula's servant.

Natalie Whipple said...

Arlyle, they are subterranean. And I never thought of Casper or Antz, but now that you mention it, I find it totally obvious. That's great:)

Anonymous said...

The label "contemporary fantasy" threw me off. Do you mean that it takes place in an otherwise modern world? Because nothing in the query indicates what Leo's half of the world is like.

Natalie Whipple said...

Ah, excellent point 150, it does take place in a modern setting. I'll be sure to work that in.

Anonymous said...

"All your questions are answered in the book, so I'll just have to make sure they get answered in the query as well."

Sometimes it makes the query letter better if the questions never come up. The query letter isn't the place to list every character and plot line. I'd simplify rather than embellish. It'll be a better hook that way.

Anonymous said...

What does "...has an option for a sequel" mean? I suspect you mean that you have an idea for writing a second book. It sounds very legalistic / contractish, though, being that "option" is a powerful word in the entertainment/lit. world. I'd leave it out anyway but at least rephrase.

Renee Collins said...

I agree that the first paragraph is the strongest. And that's perfect, because it hooks us in.

As for the unincluded third paragraph, I still like it. However, it might work better if there were some kind of indication in the first paragraph that the story would go there.

Something like: She begins to question everything about her life, leading to the discovery that the Underworld, and Queen Voula herself hold deeper secrets than she ever imagined.

Anonymous said...

this has to be kiersten writing under a pen name.

Dave Fragments said...

Hmmm... Aphrodite gone bad...

Even with the third paragraph the query loses its punch.

I don't understand the phrase "for love that transcends death. Plus, I don't think the last three words add anything. She's dead and she can love so therefore - love transcends death. Don't say the obvious.

I am at a lose to help with the transition of Leo becoming a Zombie. I am guessing that she has some emotional difficulty with his death (transition from alive to zombie)... Help us there. Mostly because death usually implies sorrow.

But then, Leo dies and becomes a zombie. The phrase "And not for long" can mean many things. It distorts. He remains a zombie but becomes a "lith" ... His fate as one of the undead is to confront the evil queen and destroy her. He cannot escape it.
But we care about Linea and her story. We need to know her reaction to Leo's death, his zombification and his new purpose as assassin.

In the end, she has to join Leo for love or because Voula will destroy him or both of them.

But the hardest part of their new struggle is that Voula is Aphrodite fallen from her pedestal and for Leo & Linea to SURVIVE he/she/them must gain new powers from Thanatos.

Focus your query on Linea and her struggle to live happily ever after with Leo.

Natalie Whipple said...

Anon, if you're referring to me being Kiersten, nope. Not. I did go to high school with her though, so yeah, I KNOW her.

Renee isn't Kiersten, either, if you were referring to her:)

Dave, thank you! That second paragraph really does need some reworking. I'm still trying to figure out how to boil down the complexity of how he actually becomes a lich and what that means for Linea and the Underworld. You gave me some great places to refocus.

none said...

Let's hope it doesn't have the same gender issues as Antz....

Kiersten White said...

lol to this being me under a pen name. I adore Natalie, and am very flattered. And it's true, we discovered we went to high school together after becoming blog pals through EE. That's EE for you--bringing people together.

We are currently racing to see who can finish their WIP first. I'm just hoping she gets a move on so she can get an agent and introduce me.

Natalie, you know how I feel. Third paragraph! Or at least incorporate the info.

Natalie Whipple said...

Haha, no, no gender issues.

This is really shaping up, thanks you you all. If you are interested in seeing a revised draft, I'll be posting it tomorrow on my blog.

Beth said...

A zombie romance. With ties to Greek mythology. Cool.

I think the second paragraph could be trimmed a tad -- for instance, you don't need to explain that Leo became a zombie before he became a lich. And either explain how their relationship caused lich-hood to happen, or leave that part out.

Now about the souls being destroyed... do the undead still have souls? I wouldn't have thought so. Does the queen have their souls imprisoned or something? And is there life after undeath? Because obviously not everyone becomes a zombie when they they?

Anonymous said...

Your story sounds fun!
I’d like to hear more about Linea’s teenagerness. Does she sneak out (up) to see Leo? Does the Queen nag?

You’ve introduced the ideas of compulsive behavior and questioning. Are they important?

“Linea's compulsive questioning wouldn't be a problem..."

I'm still looking for a twist or a bit of humor that will delight the intellect.

Maybe she's tired of dusting the catacombs, because they need more not less. Maybe push the inconvenient nature of her deadness or emphasize it.

even Linea was bored stiff...

These are all small complaints. The story sounds very interesting. I'd read it.

ril said...

Hmm. I think I dated a zombie one time. Very highly strung, she'd fall apart at the slightest thing.

talpianna said...

I'm sorry, but the ick factor in zombie romance is just too great for me, though I don't reject the idea of postmortem romance: I loved Peter S. Beagle's A FINE AND PRIVATE PLACE (which, by the way, he wrote when he was only nineteen. Don't you just hate people like that?).

Not only do they have bits falling off, but zombies are supposed to be mindless as well, so how can they plot?

Natalie Whipple said...

Talpianna, the zombies sure have you fooled! They are not mindless or falling apart, though they make sure to act that way so the poor mortals don't suspect what's really going on.

It's amazing what a little gory makeup can to do to keep mortals in the dark.

Nah, seriously, I get the gross factor. I'm perfectly aware that my idea is weird. Totally cool, but weird.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Can a romance really work when one of the participants is dead?

EE, you of all people should know zombies are the undead.

Hi Natalie:

This sounds like a fun read. The query just needs a little sharpening and fine-tuning. I took a stab at it, fwiw...

16-year-old Linea needs a life -- preferably someone else's. Stuck in the underworld cleaning musty catacombs for Queen Voula bores her stiff. If it weren't for the occasional trip to the cosmetics counter for a new face or shopping for replacement parts at the cemetery, she'd be ready to eat her own brain.

Determined to leave her cruel mistress and dead-end job to find some excitement, Linea escapes to the living world. There she meets Leo -- a confident, headstrong guy who instantly captivates her. Before long, she does something completely unthinkable and unnatural: she falls in love with a guy who's still breathing. Worse yet, he loves her back. And it's not puppy love, either; this is forever love. The kind Queen Voula most despises. The kind Queen Voula vows to crush.

When Leo is unexpectedly killed under suspicious circumstances, heartbroken Linea defies the rules and resurrects him as a super-powerful zombie. Together, they plot the overthrow of Queen Voula before she can destroy their souls -- and their love.

It's only when they discover Voula's dark secret that they realize they're going to need the help of Death himself to give them the power they need to stand up to the Queen of the Underworld.

At 80,000 words, The Iron Queen is a standalone YA contemporary fantasy with potential for a sequel. Thank you for your time. I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.

Dave Fragments said...

Over the years, I've met normal people who played ZOMBIES in George Romero's "Night of the Living Dead" and the "Dawn of the Dead." (Which was set in Monroeville Mall.) The TV man in "Night" was the real TV announcer in Pittsburgh (Bill Cardille) and I met him and his toupee twice.

Those are the characters that most people remember as zombies. The slow, dim-witted, flesh-eating monsters with their arms out muttering "brains, brains, brains..."

These apparently are different zombies. Notice how Phoenix carefully skirted the issue of the different zombies.

Natalie Whipple said...

Wow, Phoenix, thank you. You gave me a lot to work with. Looks like I'll be giving it another try this evening.

Beth said...

Phoenix, that was brilliant. It was coherent, clever, and funny. How much can I pay you to write mine????