Friday, January 08, 2010

Face-Lift 717

Guess the Plot

Captain Kissy-Face

1. Hero apprentice Brian Wade learns the hard way why you should never offend the notary whose job is to assign your Superhero Name.

2. Captain Kissy-Face is the latest student to arrive at the school for superheroes. None of the other boys can figure out what his superpower is. The girls, on the other hand, all want him as their lab partner.

3. Every mini-skirted, wonderbra-ed space hottie Captain Kirk ever shagged - human, Vulcan or transdimensional energy being - is back for revenge. Revenge for broken hearts, for being dumped after each mission, and most of all for that nasty strain of Romulan herpes.

4. The crew of B17 'Lucky Lulu' aren't too happy when movie star Bill Rollins comes on board. He's always posing with the plane, blowing kisses to his fans. Tonight they're heading for Germany. Will they survive their run, or will the Luftwaffe make them all kiss their asses goodbye?

5. Miriam, nearing her 30th birthday, can't keep a boyfriend. After three potential Mr. Rights disappear without forwarding addresses, Miriam thinks they can't handle her 17 cats. But her suspicions change when she gets a message through her online dating site saying, "no mor boyz!!1! teh next captin kisy-face gonna die!!!!1!!1 lolz"

6. Felix Kissy-Face rose through the ranks from private to corporal to sergeant. But now he keeps getting passed over for promotions. Is there really a glass ceiling in the army? Or is it just that no one can respect a man with a name like Felix?

Original Version

I am seeking representation for my middle-grade novel Captain Kissy-Face, complete at approximately 25,000 words.

It takes more than superpowers to be a superhero. [True. It also takes a tolerance for latex and a secret identity. But don't overestimate the importance of the latter. Most superhero disguises wouldn't fool anyone with an IQ. Superman came up with the idea to put on a pair of glasses so he could mingle with lower beings. That it worked can only be attributed to the intellectual capacity of his circle of friends. Then there's Aquaman. He spent months coming up with his secret identity, but everyone knew it was him anyway, because he breathes through gills. It's a dead giveaway when you're out on a dinner date and you keep running over and sticking your head in the lobster tank. As for The Thing, here he is as a superhero:]

And here he is in his secret identity as an Elvis impersonator.
Didn't really fool anybody.
] [Superman disguising himself by wearing glasses is like Evil Editor disguising himself by wearing an ear stud.]

[Did you recognize me? Lois Lane wouldn't have.] Several newcomers have arrived on Red Cloak Island. The kitchen lady whose face is the same size, shape, color and texture as a basketball is unusual. The substitute teacher whose face is lost in shadow even when he stands beneath the light is bizarre. But the strangest of all is the new sixth-grade student who will come to be known as Captain Kissy-Face. He’s polite, smart, and a bit shy. He looks and acts like a completely normal boy. He introduces himself as Kevin McFarland, which is beyond weird. [I'm afraid I have to disagree with your assessment. Basketball-head is the strangest. Does she have a nose and mouth, or do they have to stick a needle in her valve to get her oxygen? I'll bet when she walks down the hall all the students torment her by blowing whistles and calling her for traveling.]

Secret from the world at large, unaffiliated with any nation, Red Cloak Island looks like a volcano rising out of the sea. Deep within, protected by a cleverly designed dome, is a school for superheroes. One girl has a tendency to raise her hand higher than anyone else – all the way to the ceiling, in fact. [They call her Bighand.]

[No one's figured out what good she'd be on a team of superheroes, but the Incredible Hulk insists on keeping her around.] One boy calls himself Invisible Max and likes to keep teachers guessing as to whether he’s actually in class or not. Others can fly or crush boulders or create tornadoes in the classroom. In the history of the school, Kevin is the only one who ever passed up the chance to show off his powers to his new classmates. [My money's on explosive kisses.] He hasn’t even given himself a super-cool hero nickname. [Flamethrower?]

Speculating about the new kid’s abilities and even trying to force him to reveal his secret power becomes the focus of half the sixth-grade class, until something more sinister steals their attention. An illness is spreading across the island, stripping students and teachers of their powers. Could polite, shy Kevin McFarland be to blame? [No need to tell us he's polite and shy a second time.] Why does the new substitute go to such great lengths to hide his appearance? And what secret of Red Cloak’s earliest days lies hidden in the books no one is allowed to remove from the library? [Has anyone tried reading them while in the library?]

Captain Kissy-Face was written as a standalone novel, but I’ve already begun working on related titles in what I’ve been calling the Sixth-Grade Superheroes series. I have included the first 10 pages below in the body of this email, and would love to send you the full manuscript to consider.

Thank you.


Sounds like a winner. I'd shorten it a bit. Get rid of: It takes more than superpowers to be a superhero. It's on an island with no transition into the next sentence.

There are several lists, and more set-up than plot, but that isn't so bothersome in this type of book. That said, you can do without Bighand.


Dave Fragments said...

EE is hot and sassy today.

jrmosher said...

This absolutely made my day. Hell, made my whole year. The GTP's were hilarious, and EE's commentary had me in stitches.

My favorite part, of course, was this: "Sounds like a winner."

What a way to wind up the week.

Thank you, EE.

angela robbins said...

The premise of the book is kind of cute.
Your stuff in blue made me pee my pants, EE!

Anonymous said...

I like the premise, good luck with it.

EE's comments were great. I was reminded of the movie Mystery Men when they have the conversation about why the news reporter(I think) can’t be Captain Amazing because he wears glasses, which blared out the level of their intelligence.

PJD said...

Sounds fun, and great title. I only have two problems:

First, it seems a bit short (25,000 words) for middle grade with so many odd characters and a full mystery to unravel. I'm a little concerned that it's too short for 5th-6th and too long for 3rd-4th (and 7th-8th wouldn't even pick it up). But my kids read all kinds of books, so maybe this is just fine.

My only other problem is that this secret, hidden school has a substitute teacher. I know the job market is tough for teachers and all, but... really?

_*rachel*_ said...

The GTPs and EE's comments were so funny, I had to copy and paste it to Word so I could read without them.

That said, this is really good. A tad listy, but in a fun, non-confusing way.

I'd read this. Be sure to tell us when you get results.

Methinks EE is at his best in superhero novels. Methinks also that I am one of the few people who uses the word methinks.

Eric said...

See, this is the great thing about EE's site; you just have to figure out how to write the book as great as the parts in blue and you'll be all set.

Nice work all around. I'd recommend trimming the query by about 10% to tighten the prose a bit (just because you always can.) Interesting concept with a lot of promise-- though I do hope the ending revelation turns out not to be that polite, shy Kevin is (gasp!) actually the villain!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Laughed quite a bit through this one and not only at EE's comments. You've got a nice style and your voice shows through. Good luck!

Kathleen said...

EE's comments were hysterical.

story is intriguing. good luck author!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Is it too early for 2010 nominations? Better shortlist this one, EE.

Of it all, I have to say I found this bit to be the most farfetched (what universe are we in?):
He’s polite, smart, and a bit shy. He looks and acts like a completely normal boy.


Keep us posted on this one, JR!

_*rachel*_ said...

I don't know about too long for 3rd/4th grade, pjd. I know first-hand that Redwall books are quite the rage among 4th graders right now, even if they don't quite understand them yet.

wendy said...

At the risk of being crucified down the way I am going to take the road less traveled with this one. According to a variety of web sites “middle grade” fiction is for kids ages 8-12. From what I can tell in your query this story feels like it’s for younger kids.

And, how can your lead be hiding his secret powers? Isn’t that what they are at the school to practice? Otherwise they could all be mainstreamed in public school. What are we going to watch them do - their multiplication tables?

Also you’ve told us nothing about what it’s like to experience being a student at the school on Red Cloak Island, so I can’t identify with why anyone would want to go there.

And, yes, you’ve told us that an illness is messing with the kids’ mad skills, but you haven’t delineated what’s at stake if they are lost.

It takes more than weird to make a fantasy novel.

I have a feeling those high stakes situations may actually be in the novel, but you haven’t shown your hand enough for my taste. And so far, all I can see is what physically exists on the Island, but I haven’t been able to get behind anyone’s eyes to experience it. How does the conflict between the students manifest itself in their behaviors?

It seems like the story’s there but your query isn’t showing it yet. I am very enticed by the idea that the Island's secrets "from its earliest days" might be the key to saving the students.

I truly wish you the best of luck with this. Hopefully the rest of the gang is right and I am way off base. Wouldn’t be the first time.

_*rachel*_ said...

Dunno, wendy, I think it's Sky High for middle school.

Marie Simas said...

I liked this book better when it was a movie, Sky High-- starring Kurt Russell. Anybody else see it?

This manuscript sound re-hashed. Not fresh.

I would give the lead a more compelling problem. Step it up a notch. A case of teenage crabs, perhaps?

Oh, wait-- is the target audience 8-12? Better make it acne.

Those are awful.

Kelsey (Dominique) Ridge said...

It sounds like you've got a really interesting book on your hands, but I felt like most of the query was just raw info. Leap into the conflict of the books sooner and let your style shine.

Jeffthewriter said...

Laughed out loud at this one - but I have to make note of an age-old Superman comic about HIS unknown super-power, the one that enabled him to fool everyone with the glasses disguise. In the story, they revealed he had the power of super-hypnosis and showed how everyone saw Clark Kent: as a heavier, more round-faced version of the one we saw in the comics. Can't say I bought the idea, but at least the writers tried! (Personally, I thought a more effective disguise than "Clark Kent" would have been a female wearing a berka.)

Matt said...

Sky High. I was killing myself trying to think of the movie this reminded me of.

Sky High wasn't anything original though. The powerless main character turned into superman and his girlfriend was Poison Ivy. The bad guy, if I recall, was a lady version of Doctor Doom (the inspiration for Darth Vader).

jrmosher said...

Author here. Thanks for the great feedback and comments, all.

PJD: I've just about done editing and the final draft will be closer to 26K. It's geared more toward the 4th-6th crowd. From what was able to find on the 'net, it seems word counts for that can range anywhere from 18K to 40K, depending on who you ask. I don't want to throw stuff in there just to bump up the count, but I'll keep this in mind when submitting. Also, every school needs subs -- even superheroes get sick sometimes, and someone has to fill in. Plus, some of the teachers in this school occasionally get called away for emergencies, so there are extra staff members on hand to fill in when needed. Seemed reasonable to me, and since part of the book deals with an illness that incapacitates teachers and students alike, it was a necessary piece of info.

Wendy: Critical feedback is what I came for. Thank you. First, the book takes place over the span of just a few days. Realistically he can't hide his powers for longer that (and he's hiding them only from his fellow students; the teachers know who he is and what he can do.) Everything you mentioned is, in fact, in the novel. I can't imagine how I'd fit all that info into a query, however, or whether it all needs to be there. It never stuck me to "wonder why anyone would want to go there." I mean, it's a school for superheroes ... who wouldn't want to go there? :) But you've given me some good questions to think about, so I'm go to try a couple of other versions of the letter with some of that info in there and see what I get before I decide on the one I'll send out.

Lots of mentions of Sky High here. I haven't seen it. Guess I'll have to check it now and hope it isn't anything close to the book except in the most general sense. Bummer if it is.

Thanks, all!