Monday, December 06, 2010

Face-Lift 848

Guess the Plot

The Spices of Life

1. As the Food Channel gears up for another battle among amateur chefs, the competition couldn't be hotter. Rosemary must face her nemesis, Cinnamon, who not only stole her signature recipe, but her husband too. Can Pepper win back the love of her life and the golden bundt pan?

2. Ginger comes home after a bad day only to discover that all of her spices have disappeared from her spice cupboard, which has become a portal to a world where the food is completely bland. Turns out her spices are the legendary Lost Seasons, but can she get them back in time to finish making her bruschetta?

3. Unemployed banker Nigel Warner goes on a drunken binge to prepare himself for suicide, but as he's teetering on the ledge, his fairy godmother appears and reveals his mission in life: create a line of ice creams flavored with the spices of life, starting with Hope. So he crawls down to begin the Internet research phase.

4. While experimenting with ingredients for a new pizza sauce, Bela inadvertently creates a formula that can reanimate the dead. Does his chance discovery spell the end of humanity as we know it, or will it merely provide Bela with an army of delivery boys who'll settle for less than minimum wage?

5. When Pepper Morgan meets Eric Salt, she immediately knows they were made for each other. Commitment-phobic Eric's belief in destiny, however, is somewhat less strong. While he dallies with a string of quickly forgotten women, Pepper summons her hidden talents and embarks on a quest to prove to Eric that variety is just one of the spices of life.

6. When TV chef Hillary Grimes drives her Porsche into the Pacific off of Malibu, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: no one would ever deliberately do that to a 914, and his wife is probably gonna make enchiladas tonight. Again.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ginger is an average high school sophomore whose one great passion is cooking. She knows the uses of every spice in her beloved spice cupboard, from anise to wasabi, [and hopes one day to know what to do with the allspice and zedoary.] and can make anything from simple scrambled eggs to a triple layer cheesecake. [If that's another alphabetical range, it's not as impressive as the first one. Plus, anyone can cook simple scrambled eggs. Considering the next sentence, if you must name two dishes Ginger can cook, they should be two exotic dishes. From aardvark pot pie to yellow-bellied sapsucker croquettes.] However, as exotic as her cooking can be, Ginger has never considered leaving her small hometown to visit other countries [from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe] with her wealthy parents, who spend much of their time abroad. [This makes it sound like it's highly unusual for a high school sophomore who can make triple-layer cheesecake not to be a world traveler. I don't think we even need the parents in the query.] Adventure, she tells them, is just not her thing.

Then Ginger comes home from a bad day at school and discovers that her spices are missing, along with the entire inside of her spice cupboard, which has become a portal to another world. [That happened to me once, or at least I thought so. Turned out I shouldn't have eaten that whole tin of nutmeg.] Furious, the girl plunges through and finds herself in a strange land where most people have pointed ears [She's on Vulcan?] if not scales or fur, animals can often talk, and worst of all, the food is completely bland. [Actually, it's not that the food is bland, it's just that Vulcans don't show emotion, even when eating. Although it's hard to believe even Spock could remain stoic while eating a chocolate souffle or a jalapeno burrito.]

Turns out her spices are believed to be the legendary lost Seasons hidden by a wizard many years ago, [Where'd they get that idea?] and everyone wants a piece of their power. [Aha. It's Dune for kids.] Everyone, that is, except Ginger, who just wants her spices back so she can go home and finish that lovely bruschetta...

At 60,000 words, The Spices of Life is a middle grade fantasy novel. The complete manuscript is available upon request. I look forward to hearing from you.



Are Ginger's spices the lost Seasons? If so, say they are, instead of saying they are believed to be. If they aren't, you might explain why everyone thinks they are.

Wouldn't it be easier just to go to the grocery store than to cross into a land where people are willing to go to war for her spices?

It's about time home economics students had a fantasy just for them. They must be sick of stories about cooking contests and making dinner for their invalid grandparents.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a fun middle grade story, but the protagonist is too elderly. Think of Pippi Longstocking and Lemony Snicket and make her a 4th grader. Sixth grade at the oldest.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Anonymous 11:15, Middle Grade protagonists are usually 11-13, i.e. middle schoolers, so that their market, Elementary school readers, can "read up". I think Ginger could go as old as a freshman in HS, though. Is there a reason she's a sophomore? You only need her to be older if there's a love interest and they do more than kiss.

Anonymous said...

At what point does Ginger (cute choice of name) discover that "the inside of her spice cupboard" is a portal to another world? If it's when she finds the spices are all gone, you should convey more surprise. Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "inside" -- the contents, or the interior of the cupboard (which I can't visualize being gone anyway)? And I'd give Ginger higher stakes than just the bruschetta.

THAT said, I think this is an incredibly fun and lovely idea. One of my favorite books as a wee tyke was Pitidoe the Color Maker, about a land that bleaches out to pure white one day and then gets it back all mixed up the next.

St0n3henge said...

I'd remove a few sentences of the buildup in the first paragraph and add a few more interesting details about the magical world in the second paragraph.

If you can tighten up the writing a little and leave out some unnecessary words you can "buy' more words to use for the more interesting parts of the story.

Anonymous said...

How many spices are in scrambled eggs or cheesecake?

How about thai curry or some palak paneer, for God's sake?

Dave Fragments said...

scrambled eggs to a triple layer cheesecake.
Seriously? Any Line Chef or Sous Chef or even the scullery boy can cook eggs. In fact, I cook better than that.

This sounds like fun but please, junk that first paragraph.

You could start with:
"Ginger comes home from a bad day in highschool and discovers her spice cupboard has become a portal to another world, a world of bland food and humanoid animals that talk."

In the magic world does Thyme really stop time?
Is summer just cumin round the rye?
Does Rosemary bring its own Nelson? (really obscure BTW).
Are the Red Hot Chile Peppers better than Paul and Mary Bland?
And speaking of Paul and Mary Bland, does Raoul really taste better than veal after you beat him?
And does butter prevent cream from being whipped into a frenzy?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Aha. It's Dune for kids


It's a cross-over: a cozy fantasy!

I do like the idea of this, but the tone of the query and the plot as given here make it seem like a young MG novel, and 15 seems way too old for the protag. Unless everyone wants a piece of their power is hiding something a lot more dark, sinister, and deadly, there really doesn't seem to be much here for those savvier older MG readers who would idolize a 15-yo MC.

But that could be the fault of the query since the query is mostly setup and the plot is breezed right over without giving the reader much to judge by.

It's especially important to get tone and audience right in this case since portal stories are almost as ubiquitous as vampires: you can't give an agent/editor ANY room to say "no" because they know there's another portal story or two waiting in their next handful of queries.

Anonymous said...

I just posted a comment but had long in issues. If it doesn't post, I'll try and retype. Overall a cute story and I'd liten to EE and Arhooley's suggestions!

St0n3henge said...

I'd listen to Dave. It's sage advice. The first paragraph takes up too much thyme. And remember, Phoenix is a real agent so do anything you can to curry her favor.

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Acckkk! No, no, not a real agent. (But you can still curry away!)(Or should that be caraway?)

Chicory said...

This story does sound like fun. Do her world traveling parents have anything to do with it, though? Because it seems like a lot of time is spent on her NOT traveling. Also, I agree that the protagonist seems a little old for the story unless there's a romantic element or the story is a lot grimmer than its whimsical tone implies.

Anonymous said...

Wasabi is not a spice. So there goes that premise. Sorry.

Ellie said...

Perhaps I've just been using the wrong recipes, but I've never heard of bruschetta needing spices. Fresh herbs, yes ...

_*rachel*_ said...

To be honest, I'm not all that good at making scrambled eggs--though I make halfway decent cinnamon rolls--so I'm not as against using it as an accomplishment. Delete the stuff about her parents, though.

This is a bit off-the-wall, but it sounds fun. I'd like to know more about what Ginger and her spices do in this world--are the spices still inanimate, for one?

Are there end-of-the-year awards for minion critiques? Because the puns here are amazing.

Anonymous said...

I love this. Sure, fix up the nits EE and others found, but I bet you have a winner with this - it just sounds so fun.

Anonymous said...

This sounds fun and cute! A little cleaning up, and I think it could be a winner. Just make sure you don't overdo the whole "adventure is not for me" angle. Sometimes it can come off as whiny and boring. Use it as you would a strong spice- sparingly.

Good luck! :)

Anonymous said...

I thought this sounded familiar... it was one of the plot summaries chosen for '30 covers in 30 days' in this year's nanowrimo ...
which is also why it's a suspicious 60 thousand words.
(So its going to be a first draft, probably not even read through by the author yet. Don't they... ok, we, ever learn not to submit blindly after writing 'THE END?') ;)

Evil Editor said...

Submitting a query to Evil Editor is hardly equivalent to submitting a manuscript to a publisher.

Anonymous said...

Cute and fun. But Thai curry - red, yellow, green forget it, too many tastes/shades. Wasabi is a sauce and a hot flavor and a color. Wasabi green is the color of my apartment. Yuk.
Great premise, seasoning seems to have hit chords. Keep a going.

Anonymous said...

Actually, wasabi is a plant, ground down to a paste like horseradish. That's why it's also known as Japanese horseradish.

Not that it's that important...

J. G. Allen said...

Anonymous 5:51, wasabi (which is a root) in a powdered form is, in fact, considered a spice. Sorry.

I agree with many of the above comments, Ginger may be a little old for a MG protagonist. I'd also change your scrambled eggs and cheesecake examples to dishes a little more complicated.

Sounds like a super cute story.

M. G. E. said...

EE: hiiiilarious ;)

Author: Scrambled eggs is not a feat, but an omelet is indeed difficult to do right. Maybe use that instead.

Apart from questions of cooking challenging cuisine, this plot struck me as very "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" because of its spice-rack doorway to another world.

I question whether this plot can sustain an entire novel. It felt like a short-story plot to me, novella tops. Well, 60k basically is a novella, so maybe that's it.

The query is missing an antagonist and the protag's goal. Is she just trying to get her spices back? Or is she trying to get home? Unique premise isn't enough for me.

One good thing about this premise is that spices as reference-fodder are fairly universal. And, as has been shown already, ripe for fun puns of all manner. Almost reminiscent of the Phantom Tollbooth.

Spices Author said...

Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions and comments. I'll do a major rehaul of this before reposting...

@Anonymous 8.36, I like working on my query while I'm editing the story, because that means when I finally have a well-polished draft ready for submitting, I don't have to spend another three months working on a query letter. :)