Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Face-Lift 881

Guess the Plot

Hungry Coyote's Gambit

1. Coming down from the mountains and into what the people call a town is a risky business... but it’s a risk this hungry coyote’s gotta take.

2. Tired of chasing the uncatchable roadrunner and enduring mishaps that ought to have killed him a hundred times over, Wile E reviews his tactics and settles for easier prey: naïve Route 66 tourists.

3. Ever since Priscilla opened her diner, she’s had her doubts about the name. Selling eggs and sausage to truckers at one in the morning is tricky business, but she never expected her place to become the new hot spot for roadrunners. And who sent her the huge Acme brand anvil?

4. A Chicago business tycoon believes his days of struggling for existence are behind him--until he catches a glimpse of his old rival running down a back alley. This time, he swears, things will be different. This time he OWNS the Acme company!

5. All his life, Lloyd Coyote's felt someone's stacking the cards against him. Then he finds the contract between his dad and a Native American shaman, selling Lloyd's successes for 100 bucks and a keg. Now, Lloyd is off to find Raven and Badger. Can he trick them into giving his successes back?

6. Nezahualcoyotl is tired of people pronouncing his name wrong, so before he sets out to take his land back from Emperor Tezozomoc, he changes his name to Hungry Coyote. Now, win or lose, at least historians will get his name right.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In Hungry Coyote's Gambit, a young prince, determined to take back the city stolen from him by the conquering emperor, endures ten years of lies and deception that lead him from the high courts of his enemies through the caves of his exile.

The catch?

The prince is real. ["This prince actually lived" would make it clear what you mean.] [Also, I don't think "catch" is the right word. Maybe "kicker." Or just say, "Amazingly, this prince actually lived."]

Nezahualcoyotl, an Acolhua prince of Texcoco, hides up a tree and watches his father be [as his father is] assassinated by so-called allies. Before fleeing to a safe city, he risks his life trying to find a way to honor his father's last command--take back the throne. [It seems to me that if you've reached the point of fleeing to another city, you don't make a quick stop to try and take back a throne. You get out, regroup, gather a massive army, and then return to take the throne.] In exile, he develops his reputation as a gambler and a playboy, content to idle away his hours, [Drop that last phrase.] as a cover for his campaign to recover his beloved city. But the death of the conquering emperor Tezozomoc forces Nezahualcoyotl [These names are brutal. Maybe everyone should call him Nez. I feel certain these guys went by Tez and Nez.] to take drastic action by plotting against the heir, Maxtla. The prince-in-exile brings together diverse city-states in order to destroy outside tyranny, and in the end, personally cuts Maxtla's heart out on the sacrificial altar. [I'd drop this last sentence, despite the cool heart-cutting-out; the paragraph is hard enough to follow without bringing in diverse city-states and outside tyranny.]

Over the 157,00 words [Either there's supposed to be another 0, in which case this is awfully long, or that comma is supposed to be a decimal point, in which case it's awfully short.] in Hungry Coyote's Gambit, Nezahualcoyotl comes alive as a riveting blend of playboy, statesman, and warrior, all wrapped up in a poet's insight. [How about "blessed with a poet's insight?"] This sensibility has led modern historians to call him the only human in pre-colonial Mexica (Aztec), [ Is that supposed to be "Mexico?"] [You'd think modern historians would be more politically correct than to claim everyone else was subhuman.] making him an excellent ambassador to spread understanding about the long fallen empire that once stretched throughout Central America.

Thank you for your time,


It's not clear whether this is a novel whose main character actually lived, or a history book. If it's fiction, say so. Tell us what year this takes place. Those names are a major stumbling block, so you'd better make sure everything else is crystal clear. Or update it to a novel about Nez, the alcoholic CEO of Texaco.

I don't see why the death of
Tezozomoc forces Nezahualcoyotl to take drastic action. Can't he wait and see if Max turns out to be a nice guy before literally cutting his heart out?

The first sentence is vague, and the rest of the query doesn't clear it up. Is it his own deception he endures, or someone else's? If he fled to a safe city, what are these "caves of his exile"?


Anonymous said...

All right, I'm a total history buff and I never heard of this guy, so that's good. Uncovering an untouched bit of history for your historical novel is great.

However, you still have to sell the story. This query reads as if major selling points are that the character was a real person, the events really happened, and they can show us something about our own day. None of that is a selling point. It may be true, but it's not a selling point.

I've sold some historical fiction. What you want to do is describe the character and make him interesting, just as you would in a query for any other kind of fiction, and then at the end mention that it's based on a true story or actual events or whatever-- briefly.

150 said...

The only human? ^_^ Well, I guess if your intended audience is all fifteenth-century Europeans...

Wilkins MacQueen said...

That has to be some ms. I was carried along on your enthusiasm for Nezahualcoyotl (1402 - 1472).
Maybe work a date into the query to anchor it. You can call him by many names "Coyote Who Fasts" or "Coyote in Fast" to suggest alternates.

Do what Evil suggests. Historical biography? I would read this! Iron out the problems, you have a few as pointed out, and all the best.

I'm not really helpful, but I found a charming or sparkling element in your presentation.

none said...

The only human? Seriously?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

When the Spanish landed and effectively tossed thousands of years of pre-Columbian civilization out the door, neither side thought the other was human. The Pope cleared that up in the 1500's and declared the native folk human. He kind of had to after forcing conversion for decades and decades.

Coyote Who Fasts very likely could have been declared the only "human" when the aboriginal folk were considered not human until the Papal authority sorted it.

Need to put it in context.

Anonymous said...

"...assinated by so-called allies."

Et Tu, Quetzalcoatl?

Wilkins MacQueen said...

One of Coyote Who Fasts Poems

I love the song of the mockingbird,
Bird of four hundred voices,
I love the color of the jadestone
And the enrapturing scent of flowers,
But more than all I love my brother: man.

Look on the 100 peso bill, small print

Anonymous said...

In agreement with what's here. Cool that you've found a nugget of history not widely known. Clean it up a bit and I agree with Alaska, the reason people will want to read the book is the character and the story, not that it's a real story.

Khazar-khum said...

The story sounds terrific. The query, less so.

Nahuatl will be a stumbling block for some and an attraction for others, especially the people who are interested in Aztec history. Nahuatl names are difficult at first but do eventually become familiar, although whether an agent or publisher will be that patient is anyone's guess.

Aika said...

Logic niggle: if the father loses the throne by dying in a surprise assassination, how can he give a last command to take it back?

If you follow everyone's advice, you'll get something like this. Lots of room to beef up Nez's character and his personal stakes:

Nezahualcoyotl, poet-prince of Texcoco, hides up a tree and watches as his father is assassinated by so-called allies. Nez wants the throne back, but first he'll have to transform himself into a statesman and warrior, and that's not straightforward. In exile, the young prince poses as a gambler and playboy, cover for his secret campaign to unite a handful of city-states against Texcoco's new tyrant Maxtla. But his real goal? Personally cutting Maxtla's heart out on the sacrificial altar.

Hungry Coyote's Gambit is a 157,000 word historical novel based on actual events in Mexican history. Thank you for your time,

Ink and Pixel Club said...

I think you're leading with what should be the end of your query.

You don't want the fact that Nez was a real person to feel like an excuse for your story seeming dull or confusing. You need to make Nez and his story seem as clear and compelling as any work of fiction. Then you can hit your query readers with the added bonus that your story is based on the life of a real historical figure. Because that's what it should be: an added bonus, not the main selling point of your story.