Friday, September 13, 2013

Face-Lift 1153

Guess the Plot

The Lair of the Twelve Princesses

1. I know it's blindingly obvious that the title's a reference to a calendar, but Prince Ydloown doesn't know that, so let's see how far along I can string him, OK?

2. The Vatican has rejected Jack's petition to join the priesthood. The Pope cites Jack's proclivity to do any Royal within arms reach as the reason. Now a King wants Jack's head and eleven others want him dead. The beanstalk is starting to look more tasty everyday.

3. Sean thought the book's title was interesting enough, and after he opened it twelve lovely ladies were at his service. Every night after midnight they pulled him in, but they forgot to tell him about their jealous master with red eyes.

4. King Croody has discovered a new and entertaining means of selecting his successor. His twelve daughters enter the lair... And only one will emerge.

5. Bay will be executed if she can't solve the mystery of how many princesses can dance on the head of a pin (twelve). Should she use one of the three wishes she's been granted by her imp in a bottle to get her out of this? Or should she save the wishes for a real emergency?

6. Each hour, from noon to eleven PM, a different princess emerges from the lair of the twelve princesses, and says nothing. After which Prince Rupert has until midnight to choose his bride, the future queen. It's kinda like The Bachelor, but he doesn't have to talk to them.

Original Version

[Author's note: This isn't a query, but jacket copy for a short story I'm re-releasing soon. Similar idea, so I thought the minions might have some solid advice. (And if the queue's empty, it's better than nothing.)]

Recently discharged from the losing side of a war that claimed her homeland, [When I think of the losing side in a war, I think of a country rather than an army, so "discharged from" doesn't sound right.] Bay has nothing to show for her service but the clothes on her back, a bad leg, and a sardonic imp in a bottle who's more harm than help. When she comes across an open call for investigators into a royal mystery, she thinks its rewards might be enough to reverse her fortunes. But everyone involved in this strange curse seems determined that the secret stays hidden--including its "victims". [You speak of "this strange curse" as if we know all about it. You haven't mentioned a curse. Is the strange curse the same as the royal mystery? Same with "the secret." What secret?]

Luckily, Bay has a trick up her sleeve. Her imp owes her three wishes, and is desperate to grant them. She's been hoarding his magic for an emergency, [She was just on the losing side in a war that claimed her homeland, but that wasn't enough of an emergency to warrant using even one of her three wishes?] but it might be time to cash in: if she cannot solve the mystery of the dancing princesses in three nights, she'll be executed the following dawn. [When they put out this open call for investigators, was the execution clause buried in the fine print, or is that a new development?]

This 9000-word novelette first appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show in January 2012. This ebook edition includes two bonus stories [Set in the same world?] and an essay. [An essay? I was on the fence, but now I must have this.]


You could open: With nothing to show for her three years of military service but  the clothes on her back, a bad leg, and a sardonic imp in a bottle who owes her three wishes, Bay is seeking a way to reverse her fortunes.

That increases the space with which you can tell us about the mystery/curse/secret. You don't have to give everything away, but just tossing out the words mystery, curse and secret isn't intriguing enough.

Of course this also puts into the first paragraph the problem that was previously in the second, namely, there's no explanation of why Bay doesn't reverse her fortunes through imaginative use of her three wishes rather than by trying to solve the mystery of the dancing princesses, with death as the price of failure. Presumably there are major limitations on her wishes?


Chicory said...

This sounds like a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, except the soldier is a girl. Am I right?

Author said...

This sounds like a Twelve Dancing Princesses retelling, except the soldier is a girl. Am I right?

Right! I thought it was too obvious to bother mentioning.

Tk said...

Hi author, I don't know anything about jacket copy, but from reading the stuff, I'm not so sure it's quite the same as a query. It often seems shorter, to give away less of the book, and to focus on the exciting selling points rather than giving an overall picture of the plot. And very often, it includes a quote from the book. Maybe? I'm just looking at what's on my (print) shelf, I don't have any ebooks.

For example, here's what it says on the back of Roald Dahl's "The Witches". (More or less - I'm translating it from another language.)

This book is not a fairy tale, but the story of REAL-LIFE WITCHES. You won't find stupid black hats or broomsticks here,; the truth is much more APPALLING. Real witches wear ordinary clothes and live in ordinary houses. They look like anyone else. And once you realize that a witch spends all her time making FIENDISH plans to catch children, you'll understand why you absolutely HAVE TO READ this book!

Unknown said...

I guess I missed the 12 Dancing Princesses story in my youth. This jacket copy doesn't entice. I hate (?, yep, hate is the correct word) TSTL heroines and that's rather how your protag reads, to me.

Why anyone undertakes a quest with death as the outcome---where there is no initial threat---is truly beyond my own ability to reason.

Also, 9000 words is a short story. You are combining 3 short stories of unknown length as an ebook. I've read all sorts of serial fiction of late and find this compilation to be puzzling. Particularly so if they don't share protag's.

Evil Editor said...

Actually, both the Hugo and Nebula Awards (which cover this genre) would categorize this as a novelette. &500 words is their upper limit for a short story. And I've never seen jacket copy on a story collection that gave the lengths of the stories.

It would, however be nice to know how (if at all) the 4 items in this e-pub are connected.

Author said...

You guys are always so helpful.

The essay is an "about the story" blog I was asked to write; one of the others is a flash piece I mentioned in the essay, an earlier dancing-princesses retelling, and the second story is another flash piece meant to advertise my whole collection of retellings, by showing some variety. I included (plan to include) them because they're related and some people balk at throwing down even a buck or two for a single novelette. The idea was to add value with a couple bonus pieces. Maybe I should just not mention them?

Bay relies on the imp to read for her, and he neglected to mention any penalty for failure until she had signed up. He is not a fan of being reserved for emergencies. The wishes are limited only in quantity.

Unknown said...

Okay, so Bay is also illiterate? Yet another reason for me to not find her an appealing heroine.

The original post called this a "short story" so I went with that description.

I guess I don't get the point of the flash pieces. The novellas or serials I've been picking up pretty much give a bonus a teaser for the next story. The way these read it sounds as if they are blurbs of other unrelated works. I suppose it might work as a tease but I'm not convinced of the added value. Perhaps it's because I'm a sucker for serial fiction more so than for other work.

I wish you luck. I also wish Bay was more in control of her story.

Tk said...

I had to google flash piece, and I don’t think it’s a selling point if they are really just a few hundred words. I would feel cheated if I thought I was getting a short story collection and there really was only one. So. Possibly you want a starting point more like this? Show the wish dilemma and Bay's agency?

Owning a wish-granting imp in a bottle – sweet deal! Nope, not for Bay. Her imp is determined to make each wish go terribly, catastrophically wrong. So when a distraught king advertises for someone to solve a mystery, Bay is sure she’s hit on a simpler, wish-free way to make her fortune. Too bad the imp didn’t bother to translate the fine print on the royal contract for her. Now Bay’s got just three days to find out where the princesses sneak off to each night, evade the royal executioner, and, yes, come up with three foolproof wishes...

The Lair of the Twelve Princesses is a twisted take on a traditional tale by the author of [blog name].

Author said...

I finally got this up: Thanks to everybody for your work on the description and contents!