Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Face-Lift 681

Guess the Plot

Heirs of the Collective

1. Justin and Eliot inherit Uncle Norman's priceless Borg memorabilia collection, little knowing that the entire Phoenix Star Trek convention is plotting to steal it.

2. Gordon believes his son Jackson is destined to lead the Collective, but other members of the Collective believe that Collectives don't have leaders; that's the whole point of a Collective. But eliminating Jackson won't be easy, for he has developed secret super powers.

3. When the last hippie of the Love Shack Collective finally dies of old age, he leaves everything to a pair of cats, Sparky and Muffin, two of the worst behaved felines Brenda, the new maid, ever met. What is she to do with these vile creatures? And how can she get their hunky guardian, Brent Wiggins, to go for a roll in the sack?

4. 11-year old Jonah lives with his extended family in an illegal beekeeping collective. When Grandpa Henry suddenly dies, Jonah's relatives struggle for control of the operation. Can Jonah survive the infighting and uncover if his grandfather was murdered, all without exposing the beekeeping to the authorities?

5. The year is 1953. Piotr Nikolaievitch Rusanov and his sister Yulia Nikolaievna have just received a broken-down tractor, four hundred kilogrammes of mildewed grain, and fifteen men's boots, left, size twelve. They are forced to conclude that, back in the days of Tsarist imperialist oppression, will readings were a lot more fun.

6. An orange growth on Holly Bond's bathroom ceiling informs her that it's part of humanity's collective conscious. As she scrubs it off, everyone in a small town in Nebraska loses their memory. Can Holly stay one step ahead of the government agents descending on her quiet town?

Original Version

Dear Agent

Since you are looking to build your list with fantasy and paranormal, you may be interested in my debut novel, Home: Heirs of the Collective (92,745 words). Heirs is part contemporary women’s and part paranormal romance* - the first novel in my Home trilogy. It alternates between the two protagonists’ POV:

Pregnant wife, DABNEY, discovers her divine partner, GORDON, is a future leader in a Santerian Collective that “benevolently” inhabits “disposable” (druggies, homeless, etc.) humans, transforming them into thriving citizens. [I don't know what you mean by "divine," by "Santerian Collective," or by "inhabits."] The multi-ethnic group exists in isolation until their procreation efforts go awry, requiring breeding vessels. [I wouldn't mind knowing what you mean by "go awry."] Dabney’s enlightenment requires living among beings born to maximize and utilize their natural purpose for the good of the Collective. An attack by Gordon’s half-brother on her newly conceived child forces her enlightenment. [What is "enlightenment"? What is the "natural purpose" of the beings Dabney is required to live among?] His plan: co-op the fetus since Gordon vacillated on completing the process, [What is the "process"?] and show Gordon’s deficiency as a leader. Gordon’s plan: realize his, and his son’s, inherited destiny despite growing resistance and facilitate acceptance of the woman whose chi matches his own. [Time out. I need a few moments to close my eyes, breathe deeply, and imagine I'm in a peaceful place...] [Okay, I'm back, but let's take it slow; we don't want anyone's head to explode.] Dabney’s plan: salvage her life and protect her son who vowed, from the womb, to protect her. Dissidents also feel they have a right to the heir. They feel a different call to action than Gordon or the Council [The Council? I don't remember the Borg collective needing a Council. Everyone had equal say in everything.] for the continuity of their race, and have plans to ensure that Gordon loses both his inherited destiny and his son. They don’t factor in something else only Dabney knows: Jackson, the first fully successful hybrid, has advanced abilities. [Is that what makes him fully successful? What were the unsuccessful hybrids like?] The wild card exists in that Jackson formed his own sense of propriety almost from birth. [Head explosion imminent. Roll out the tarp and get a mop.] He, also, clearly, [You've, gone, comma, crazy.] to an unknown degree, shares his father fidelity to the Collective. [Jackson is Dabney's child? I wasn't aware he'd even been born yet, and you're talking about him like he's an adult.] Dabney loves the man she hopes Gordon still is and fiercely loves her son. Gordon loves them both with every molecule of his real self, but pragmatically knows that larger issues sometimes eclipse even extraordinary love.

While the market for steamy and erotic paranormal and romance remains constant, I believe that readers are thirsty, not just for vamps, et al in lust, but for all stories, especially with a love element, that provides escape from the ordinary, the doom and gloom. And they don’t necessarily need non-stop erotica: [At the moment, that's exactly what I need.] witness the many adult readers of Twilight, Evermore, etc. Home novels have enough love scenes to interest readers of erotic romance, but more of the elements that interest the contemporary audience. [I'm not sure whether agents find it insulting, annoying, amusing, or just a waste of space when writers profess to know more about markets than the agents do, and thus must explain all this stuff. Get rid of this whole paragraph.]

My Home series is an *urban fantasy/paranormal meets contemporary romance, in that there is equal emphasis on the relationship/challenges and saving their world. It is essentially a love story that encompasses survival and life changing choices. One that asks whether the good of one seemingly superior group trumps potential harmful impact on another.

A fuller 2-page synopsis and bio follow this letter. The Heirs conflict continues in Home: Escaping Destiny (editing)-synopsis available upon request. I’m completing the third, untitled, installment, and am also toying with a prequel on the Collective’s origins in the Mayan jungle. You can also read additional writing samples at (link deleted)/

I am grateful for your consideration of Heirs of the Collective, and look forward to sending the entire manuscript. I hope the characters I love pique your interest. Thank you.



You make this sound like hard science fiction while calling it romance. The audience for these genres is different. You also seem to imply that contemporary romance is non-stop erotica. The average contemporary romance has two to four love scenes that may be erotic, and surrounding them is an actual plot.

Whattaya mean when you say the Collective inhabits the homeless? All of the Collective? How big is the Collective?

This somehow manages to be too technical while being too vague. Here's what I think your plot may be:

Dabney has given birth to Jackson, the first human/Santerian hybrid and destined to one day lead the Santerian race. Jackson's father, Gordon, a member of the Santerian Collective, is torn between his love for Dabney and Jackson and his loyalty to the Collective. Dissident members of the Collective want Gordon and Jackson out of the way, but they don't know that Jackson has latent super powers. Can Dabney protect her son from the Collective--and possibly his own father--until he develops his powers and reaches his destiny?

I may have it wrong, but the point is that I've attempted not to dumb it down, but to clear it up. Trash the whole thing and focus on the heart of the story.


writtenwyrdd said...

Wow. This is very confusing. I think EE's right and you need to start over. Why not try asking yourself what the main storyline is? Your protagonist wants something, and something (a complication) is getting in the way.

As far as the plot you describe goes, I found one big plot hole (or perhaps a clearer explanation will clear it up): How can someone be a hybrid when dad's body is human, he's just 'inhabited' by an alien (or whatever) from teh Collective? That flat doesn't make sense as presented.

Unknown said...

I think I need a score card. But, I can tell there's a good story in there, you're just so emeshed in the story that you can't effectively streamline it.

If the main POV is Dabney then the Query should focus on her challenge and issue and make it sound like it's in the right genre. So, maybe something like:

Dabney thought she'd met the perfect man in Gordon. That is, until she found out he was the leader of an alien race that possesses human hosts and she's inadvertantly become entangled in an other worldly power struggle. When XY, Gordon's half-brother, . . .

Remember the main thread in all romances is the Romance. The way the current query describes it, the romance between Gordon and Dabney seems a bit beside the plot.

Also, in many ways this sounds a lot like "The Host" by Stephanie Meyers. So you will probably want to highlight elements that distinquish you from that book.

All that being said, it sounds like once you clean up the query it would be a story I'd read.

Steve Wright said...

Um. Er. Right. I'm sure this all makes perfect sense to you, in your head. But that would be because you know your own story. I don't. Actually, when I started to read this, I knew absolutely nothing about your story. Now that I've read it, I'm convinced I know even less.

For example: "The wild card exists in that Jackson formed his own sense of propriety almost from birth." - What on Earth does that mean? All the words appear to be in English, but the whole thing makes no sense to me.

Simplify. Please.

Mame said...

Yep. The first paragraph had me grinding my teeth. I skipped the query and went right to EE's notes.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

That second paragraph looked really long. That's gonna be hard on the eyes in a query. I'd suggest breaking it up if possible.

I felt there was a lot I, as a reader, was expected to understand when there existed no context for me to understand them. Simplify and explain.

Mame said...


Eric P. said...

This sounds strangely like the old story of the Renorian Vlax. Maybe you've heard it: The Renorian Vlax must proactively utilize its inclinations to be reclaimed from an uncertain destiny that is becoming increasingly clouded by warnings of synergetic changes that may occur before the recapitulation of the Vlax causes all life to resurge in a way that will halt the recovery of the Chosen One retroactively. The characteristics of all Renorians are at stake in this sexy thriller with elements of Western, Sci-fi, Fantasy, and the Beatles, which I read on your website are your favorite band.

Multiply by 10 and now you know how we feel.

My suggestion: Print this out on a fresh sheet of white paper, crumple it up viciously and toss it in the wastebasket. You'll feel better. Then start over. For gosh sakes, lose the catchwords and the cliches and tell us the story, if you have one. (The formula: Character is an A who wants B because C but D stands in his way so he must E to prevent F....)

_*rachel*_ said...

I don't get this. At all.

Round it to 93,000 words (a decent length), give the title and genre (you may want to rethink your genre), and any applicable bio points. Then give us a clear plot.

Glue Man Dumer said...

Is very bad to steal Jobu's rum. Is very bad.

batgirl said...

Is the author ESL? The sentence structure and wordchoice leaves me uncertain that the author can write smooth narrative - though it isn't really fair to judge someone's narration on the basis of their exposition.

Santeria? Isn't that the proper name for the Voodoo / Vodoun religion? I read this as being about a religious commune of sorts, rather than an alien group-mind. Not that it makes any more sense that way.

batgirl said...

PS: is the plan to co-op the fetus or co-opt the fetus? A collective might do either.

Anonymous said...

Eric P., wasn't there a North Going Vlax and a South Going Vlax?

Faceless Minion said...

What I think is going on:

Dabney discovers her husband is part of a group, the Santerian Collective (a group of aliens/supernatural creatures/super-evolved humans), that rehabilitates/brain-washes/possesses the dregs of society to make them into thriving citizens.

The members of the Collective are no longer able to produce children among themselves so are starting to try to interbreed with normal humans. They haven't yet had any successful hybrid children.

Dabney is a normal human. Her unborn child is (somehow) attacked by her husband's half-brother for political reasons involving the Collective.

The attack awakens Dabney's unborn child to consciousness and gives it the ability to comunicate with at least Dabney. The attack also brings Dabney to enlightenment which either makes her part of the Collective or compels her to live with the Collective (for some reason).

Dabney wants to protect her child. (Does she want him to be raised as a normal human?)

Dabney's husband (and fetus?) want to take over the Collective (because it's his/their destiny?)

Others (dissidents, Gordon's half-brother) want Dabney's child because the child will (somehow) give them control over the Collective.

Assuming the above is correct:

I'm not sure what Dabney wants for her child.

Why/how is the child going to give anyone control over the Collective? Is there something special (that everyone knows) about him besides the fact that he's the only successful hybrid or does his existance just give Gordon a political edge?

Hope this helps.

If you want to try again, we'll give you more feedback.

Anonymous said...

Wow. As Miss Snark would say, wtf??? Just the sight of that long long paragraph scared me, but I sallied forth, regardless, and wow, what a tangle of headache-inducing ficto-techno jargon. Which strangely claims to be romantic eroticism. Or what. I don't know. It had a repelling effect, like when you take a shortcut through the alley to catch the bus but encounter magnetic reversed polarity that throws you backward. Can't get there from here.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

Wow. So homeless people and druggies need to tune into materialism to be thriving citizens, so as not to remain disposable. And they turn into execs from GE and Enron, right, and the world is just a wonderful, better place!

Is that how this is supposed to sound?

By the time I heard that Dabny's fetus vowed to protect her from the womb, you pretty much lost me. I may just be completely lost here, but these fetus communicating, homeless blaming, breeding "vessel" needing, let's-keep-the-erotica in the bedroom Santerians seem to very much resemble pro-life right wing religious human extremists. Again, I could be reading this wrong, and the Santerians may actually turn out to be the antagonists, but at this point I'm not sure.

Anonymous said...

Putting disposable in quotes doesn't make it sound any better. I would go adjectiveless here if I were you. Just say "inhabits" (???) homeless people and drug users. Possibly you could get away with "people on the margins" but given that in this economy many families and children are homeless, disposable, even quoted, sounds, well, bad.

Also, I don't think we need some book-as-metaphor to teach us
"whether the good of one seemingly superior group trumps potential harmful impact on another." Asked and answered via a cursory survey of human history.

Beyond that, this makes precious little sense to me, but I don't think you need the added burden of coming off as offensive. Just saying.

Dave Fragments said...

Intelligent Fetus, don't scoff:
This is from the Wikipedia synopsis for DUNE (by Frank Herbert):

Jessica becomes a Reverend Mother, taking the concentrated spice while pregnant with her second child; her unborn daughter Alia is subjected to the same ordeal, dangerously acquiring the full abilities of a Reverend Mother before even being born.

Mame said...

"This sounds strangely like the old story of the Renorian Vlax...."

Great comment, Eric. I almost fell out of my chair. 5 stars.

pacatrue said...

I think the most important of the comments towards revising your query is to put the romance back right at the center of everything -- if this is supposed to be marketed as a romance.

none said...

The squirrel has experienced a malfunction and must close. Do you wish to submit an error report? YES/NO

_*rachel*_ said...

I bet the Renorian Vlax likes Vogon poetry.

Adam Heine said...

Paragraph 1: Round the word count. Choose a single genre; for example, urban fantasy or paranormal romance. Not "contemporary women's paranormal romance fantasy with a little erotica thrown in" (not that you said that, but that's what it sounds like). Drop the part about POV switches.

Pp 2: Start over. Write a single sentence that answers the question: "What is your book about?" From there, flesh it out only with information necessary to understand everything in the original sentence.

Pp 3: Delete per EE's comment.

Pp 4: Delete. You said the genre in pp 1. The rest would be better shown in pp 2 rather than told here.

Pp 5: Don't include a separate bio unless the agent/editor asks for one in their submission guidelines. Replace all but the first sentence with: "HEIRS OF THE COLLECTIVE is a standalone novel with series potential."

Pp 6: Replace with "Thank you for your time and consideration." Combine with pp 5.

Make sure it fits on a single page and no paragraph is longer than 3-4 average sentences.