Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Face-Lift 691

Guess the Plot

The Red Priestess

1. Bob thought it might be safe to leave the house again, but SHE was STILL waiting at the bus stop wearing that outfit with the beads, head cone of melting incense wax, and feathered thingy.

2. After ten years training in the Chromatic Church, in which branches of the priesthood are named after colors, Mara is assigned to the Red Order – only to learn that the Red Order has no members. The good news is, she gets to eat all the communion wafers.

3. Sally Rook thinks the only reason she wasn't chosen as chess club president is her gender. She's forced to face the truth when a female transfer student has the boys on the chess team begging for lessons. Maybe Sally should switch to field hockey. Also, dog-hair knitting.

4. In a bid to charm the mystery chick with the diamonds in her hair, Todd accepts her invitation to play cards -- but realizes that might have been a mistake when he sees she meant Tarot, not poker.

5. Shanana thought he was the only Rainbow Warden to survive the Polychrome Massacre. When he hears rumors of another Warden, will he find his long lost love, or the traitor responsible for the pumpkin-cheese affair?

6. In a world in which women hold all religious power, there has been no crime, poverty or war in decades. And the men are sick and tired of it. Eriglio Damon raises an army of men in revolt against the Red Priestess. Hey, if everybody's happy, somebody has to pay the price.

Original Version

Dear (Agent),

I am seeking representation for my fantasy novel, "The Red Priestess".

Mara, youngest daughter of a minor aristocratic house, completes her ten years' training in the Chromatic Church, in which branches of the priesthood are named after colours. She is assigned by its mystical Flame to the Red Order – which causes consternation, since the Red Order has had no members in over two hundred years. [The good news is that she doesn't have to listen to any whiny confessions. The bad news is that the collection plate always comes back empty.]

Rules of Church protocol thrust her into political situations she barely understands, and somehow she has to reconstruct and master the magic of the Red Order, forgotten for centuries. It's a daunting task, but Mara's upbringing has given her a strong sense of duty, and she is determined to succeed.

Her problems are put into perspective, though, when an attempt is made on her life – it seems someone wants the Red Order to stay extinct. [I suspect the Green Order.] Looking for answers and a safe haven, Mara travels to the fortress city of Athraxas and its labyrinthine underground library. [Because when you need a safe haven, nothing beats an underground labyrinth in a strange city.] Here, she finds clues about her enemies – the sinister Pacted Men, and their monstrous master, Esaun-Namhiroth. [Anagram: An author in shame.]

But even here, intrigue and murder follow Mara, and she realizes the only way to end it is to confront her enemy with the magic of the Red Order. Inhumanly old and monstrously powerful, Esaun-Namhiroth is worshipped as a god by a whole nation. Mara knows she has little chance against such a creature – but she knows, too, that she has no choice.

"The Red Priestess" is complete at 126,000 words; it stands alone as a story, but is envisaged as the first volume of a trilogy. A full manuscript is available at your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration - I look forward to hearing from you.


If the red priestess is vital to political situations, it's hard to believe they got along without one for 200 years. I'd leave out the political situations she barely understands, or at least give an example.

The Pacted Men sounds like men who've been pacted, which makes no sense. When you're sinister, and you live in Athraxas, and your god is Esaun-Namhiroth, you need a better name than Pacted Men.

Sinister Pacted Men


_*rachel*_ said...

Pacted Men doesn't sound very sinister or non-sinister, like the nuns a few queries ago. Can you think of a more interesting name, or is there a good reason for this one?

I read Athraxas as Anthrax.

For a gibberish name, Esaun-Namhiroth isn't too hard to pronounce. It's still gibberish.

Apologies in advance--I'm going to be pretty distracted during NaNoWriMo. This is one of the blogs I'll keep following, though.

Anonymous said...

I liked this.

And I think this is very well done: "Mara knows she has little chance against such a creature – but she knows, too, that she has no choice."

Anonymous said...

A new naming system might do wonders for this. Chromatic, Red, and Pacted make it sound like your religion works more like a football league than a philosophy system. Actually, so does the plot. Meanwhile, with a name like that, your nemesis seems to be from another planet.

Khazar-khum said...

If the Reds are so critical, why have they been extinct? The color names are rather off-putting; it sounds less like serious fantasy and more like Rainbow Brite.

vkw said...

I thought it was a fine query and an interesting plot, but perhaps a bit on the blah side.

I think it may be more intriguing to have a few more details about something. Mara, youngest daughter of a minor aristocratic house, completes her ten years' training in the Chromatic Church and is assigned to the Red Order, a sect which has been defunct for over two hundred years. She is given the daunting task of reconstructing the sect and mastering its forgotten magic with nothing to help her but her grit determination.

She thinks this is all she needs until she is nearly murdered by ___________ and she realizes there is a conspiracy at hand to keep the secrets of the order hidden forever. Searching for answers and for safety, Mara travels to the fortress city of Athraxas and its labyrinthine underground library. Here she discovers not only the mystery surrounding the order but that its sworn enemy is a cult ruled by a sinister leader. He is inhumanly old, endlessly powerful and worshiped by an entire nation.

Although facing impossible odds, Mara realizes that in order to save herself, she must unleash the power of the Red Order againist the creature but first she must master it before it masters her.

something like that . . .

I don't have a problem with the names. I am reading a novel now that I thought the names were pretty hokey but . . . they are easy to remember and to pronounce and I find that I like that a lot.

Steve Wright said...

Well, I suppose I'd better own up; this is one of mine - I did mention I wrote fantasy tat as well as horror tat, didn't I?

Some of the comments about "Esaun-Namhiroth" are interesting, particularly the one about him seeming to be from another planet (because he is) and about it being gibberish (it's deliberately meaningless. Though I'm sorely tempted, now, to insert another "a" into it somewhere, so that it actually is an anagram of "an author in shame". (Not that I have any shame, of course.)

The political aspect; hmm. Because she's the only member of the Red Order, Mara is automatically the head of the Order, and the head of an Order has, notionally, a great deal of authority. (Particularly as the Church is a rather hidebound institution.) So, there are quite a few people around who want to make Mara's nominal powers actual - so long as she uses those powers to benefit them. (Which is a nuisance for Mara, as the political stuff gets in the way of the finding-out-who's-out-to-kill-her stuff. She is bright enough to have her priorities straight, there.)

The Chromatic Church worships a creative principle it calls the Divine Light (it's a very Apollonian sort of religion). They hold that no one can handle the Light in its entirety, so their priests get restricted to specific wavelengths, as it were. The Green Order, for example, are concerned with fertility and healing, while the Blue Order are travellers and missionaries. (So what does the Red Order do? - Well, that's the question, isn't it?)

The Pacted Men... I'm sure I've seen "pact" used as a verb somewhere, but doesn't back me up... never mind; as a linguist(ician), I hereby give myself permission to innovate. People who rise high enough in the hierarchy of Esaun-Namhiroth (or similar beings) get to make a formal pact of allegiance to it; they actually wear this document (in a protective case, chained to their chests), so they're instantly recognizable by that. So, well, that's why they're called Pacted Men. (They are mostly men; in addition to all his other evilness, Esaun-Namhiroth is not an equal opportunities employer.)

Of course, EE's cartoon has given me a whole new perspective on the Pacted Men... When Mara finally offs Esaun-Namhiroth (yeah, big surprise there, the heroine wins against appalling odds), all his Pacted Men immediately lose all their powers and keel over, drooling. And now I know exactly what sound effect goes with that. Thanks, EE. I think.

So, how much of that background detail needs to be condensed into the query, and how?

(Rachel - sympathies on the NaNoWriMo front; as one of the MLs, I'm already swamped with work, and I haven't even started novelling yet!)

Joanna said...

I didn't find the query particularly enticing or offputting. After reading your explanation I want to read the book--the Chromatic Church sounds much more interesting than the name had led me to believe, and the political scramble sounds intriguing too. I never learned to write remotely enticing queries, so can't be of much help.

Hanne said...

I understood pacted, though I also realized you'd made up the word.

The way the colours work in the church do sounds interesting enough to be in the query - but maybe only if the whole Light in its entirety is needed to defeat Esaun-Namhiroth? Now you've made me wonder whether Mara defeats it with red powers or whole-spectrum powers.

Perhaps the politics don't need to be in the query? They sound more like a nuisance than her central dilemma.

_*rachel*_ said...

Reds=Dragon Army-40.

"They are mostly men; in addition to all his other evilness, Esaun-Namhiroth is not an equal opportunities employer." This sentence needs to go in your query letter. Seriously.

batgirl said...

Off-topic, how many minions are doing Nanowrimo? I'm bmlg there.

Steve Wright said...

Maybe we should start a thread on the "Writing Groups and Clubs" forum on the NaNoWriMo boards?

_*rachel*_ said...

Done. Let's move all NaNoWriMo content from this blog to there:

See you there!

Adam Heine said...

This story hits all the right buttons for me, but something about the query still seems to be missing. It's an old story -- a good one, but old. Maybe that's it?

Is there something personal in it for Mara, other than saving her life and saving the world? Those are noble goals to be sure, but all the would-be heroes I can think of had personal stakes as well.

Xiexie said...

So, how much of that background detail needs to be condensed into the query, and how?

I think the some of the stuff about the church should. I also agree with Rachel on the Anthrax/Athraxas reading. I also want to pronounce ah-thra-cas for some reason.

I think the pizazz can be upped in the query by some streamlining. VKW did a great job.

I'd offer more but I can barely think as it's 4AM right now and I have to finish a wire sculpture for my 9AM class.

Best of luck!

Mother (Re)produces. said...

When I read the chromatic church, all I could think of was the Chakras and the red chakra which symbolizes sex (or basic survival, depending on who you ask). That and Douglas Adams and the coming of the great white handkerchief...

Ten years training in the church, and she still has to reconstruct and master whatever magic/doctrine she needs to know, and she doesn't understand the politics? What the heck was she learning for those ten years? Other than having a sense of duty brainwashed into her. Doesn't give me much faith if she's picked up that little after 10 years.

Pacted- well, I didn't think of pacman until I saw EE's cartoon; I thought of wisdom teeth, as in impacted.

I would like to hear why Esaun-Nimrod is such a threat. What, exactly does he do? What nation worships him, and what have they got to do with it?

Intriguing, though...

Hepius said...

I liked it--even the Pacted Men. I'd add more about the church. I would simplify Esaun-Namhiroth.

Chelsea Pitcher said...

You use "monstrous" twice to describe Esaun-Namhiroth. I think another adjective might work better the second time around. Otherwise, I found this very concise and well written.

Jeb said...

Despite agreeing with most of the objections noted here by the Minions, I found this query quite lucid and would look at pages.