Saturday, October 11, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Rain Coming

1. In the ancient land of Krjaksja, there is a myth of a thing called Rain – when water comes from the sky, instead of the big river across the desert. An intrepid explorer sets out to debunk the myth.

2. Not a drop of rain has fallen at Stony Grange in 10,000 years. When Brad and Diane take each other's virginity in the middle of the rock, they release a curse that could destroy the world.

3. When Cathleen takes a job at a desert bar called Centerfolds, she has a premonition that something big is about to happen - but her expectations don’t include meeting Bubba Mac.

4. Any one of Rain Penumbra's used-up lovers could have told you that she was a passionate woman, and that she needed her own space--or an apartment with soundproofed walls.

5. Waiting out the monsoons in a run-down tropical resort, a motley group of travelers decide not to tell each other their stories, but to listen to their ipods and do crossword puzzles instead.

6. When down-and-out flower-child Rain washed up in the desert town of Scapegoat, she was surprised by how friendly the locals were. She didn't know that her arrival portended the end of Scapegoat's drought and the beginning of prosperity--after her heart's blood was sprinkled on the withered fields, of course.

Original Version

Dear Agent of My Dreams (that would be Ms. Snark, at her office, the proper way):

Into each life some rain must fall. [Interesting. Apparently Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is querying Evil Editor from beyond the grave.] United by destiny, torn apart by tragedy, a group of former friends resists the reunion hoped for by one of their own who comes looking for answers, and finds unexpected miracles. [You lost me already. Let's start over.] Truth is stranger than fiction [Now a Mark Twain quote? Clearly this is from a literature major.] in Rain Coming, a story of love, loss and the unbreakable bonds of friendship, played out against a backdrop of sex, drugs and rock and roll. [Ian Dury and the Blockheads. If this is a game of Identify that Quote, you'll have to do better than this to stump Evil Editor.]

Cathleen Carrington is a refugee from a dysfunctional family. When she’s offered a job at a bar called Centerfolds, she has a premonition that something big is about to happen - but her expectations don’t include meeting Bubba Mac. [No one in history ever had expectations of meeting someone named Bubba Mac.] Brutally handsome, charming to a fault, he’s the Pied Piper of the group: [The one who leads the rats out of town? The one who steals all the children?] the one all the women want to sleep with, and all the men claim as their best friend [while secretly also wanting to sleep with him.] [Different Pied Piper, obviously.]
As Cat is drawn in by the near-magical group of friends who frequent Centerfolds, she plunges into a steamy relationship with Bubba – until a devious trick played by a rival for his attention forces her to leave Memphis and cut herself off from the friends who have become her family. [Something that forces a woman to leave her home and abandon her family of friends sounds a lot worse than a "devious trick."] When she realizes she must return home to win Bubba’s heart, she calls to announce her decision – only to find out there’s been a fatal accident that has driven the friends apart and scattered them to the winds. [Bubba Mac's pickup truck blew up when it ran into Billy Bob's still.]

With her world shattered, Cat picks up the pieces and moves on, eventually settling in Colorado; but the past refuses to be laid to rest. Twenty years later, [in my sequel, Rain Gone,] [The past was happy to be laid to rest for twenty years; now, like a zombie, it's back.] she must return to Memphis, where she receives messages that are unmistakably from beyond the grave; [Maybe they're from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.] [Wait, they're from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's zombie!] [I hope Longfellow liked the name Henry, because going by his middle name was not an option.] and one by one, long-buried secrets, betrayals and esoteric mysteries are revealed as she struggles to reunite the friends in this paranormal tale of love and redemption that will leave you wondering what is real[Evil Editor has received entire query letters that were shorter than that one sentence.] I have been a daily columnist for the Vail Daily and Summit Daily newspapers in Colorado, recently sold two ghost stories to Firefox News, and have been both student and tutor of metaphysics for more than twenty-five years.

Selected Comments

BuffySquirrel said...That's Miss Snark, unless your evil dream is to be stilettoed by a tam-wearing poodle.

busywriter said...I bet if the author started at '20 years later' and wove the rest in as backstory, she/he could cut a significant number of words. According to the query, that's where the real story begins anyway, right?

Then again, maybe the author's already done this....

Rei said...A 155,000 word paranormal romance is like a 54,000 word SF/F novel ;) Sure, it's possible, but if this is your first novel, I wouldn't bet on it.

One issue, however:

"Twenty years later, back in Memphis, she receives messages that are unmistakably from beyond the grave; and one by one, long-buried secrets, bitter betrayals and arcane mysteries are brought to light."

EE: Please correct me if I'm wrong on this, but while semicolons are allowed when there's ambiguity due to commas, it is still awkward to begin the clause after a semicolon with a conjunction. Furthermore, semicolons suggest a strong degree of correlation between the clauses -- stronger than that of a period. Certainly the two clauses here are related, but not as much as say:

"I am in Washington; I had to travel for business."
"Bob programs computers for a living; he uses the printer all the time."
"Microsoft stock was a good buy in the early '90s; it's value rose significantly every year."

I don't see that degree of correlation here -- do you?

I'm just curious as to your take on this. I'm a grammar nazi at heart, although I still have much to learn. :) I also used to have a problem with using semicolons too often, so I might just be oversensitive.

Evil Editor said...I rarely micro-edit down to the punctuation level here; but since you asked, a comma would be fine; although I felt there was a strong correlation, namely that the messages from beyond the grave were messages revealing secrets, betrayals and mysteries. Of course it may be that the secrets etc. are coming to light through some other means; and the messages from beyond the grave are things like, "My God, it's hot down here!"

Umbrella Girl said...Ouch! Thank you, Evil Editor. I'm grateful to have you trash my query letter and I've got my little snipping scissors right here, ready to cut some more. You'd personally give birth to a cow if you had any idea how long it was before I cut it. Somehow, I thought if I got it down to 155K it would be all right because that's the same size as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I don't think of it as being a very long book at all.

Rei - where does it say this is a romance novel? While it does have a romantic element, it's mainstream. Think The Mercy of Thin Air, The Problem with Murmer Lee, or The Lovely Bones. However, you are so right about the semicolons. One of my crit partners is a punctuation nazi, too (thank dog), and she's always getting onto me about it. I'm surprised she didn't point them out to me first.

Thanks again, Evil Editor. I remain your faithful minion.

Pat Brown said...I'd like to know how anyone thinks you could take a lover called Bubba Mac seriously. I can just imagine her in the throws of passion calling his name "Oh, Bubba, Bubba darling..."

Amra Pajalic said...Pat-I don't think it would be "Bubba darling." It would be "Do me, Bubba." The name just conjures up images of a good ole boy with a mullett. The only other Bubba I've come across in fiction is in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. He's Elvis brought back to life as a vampire and so a bit dim so I guess that's where that connotation comes for me. At least it's a pretty memorable name for a character.

kis said...For me, the name Bubba will always conjure an image of two cowboys on a dusty main street, tumble-weeds blowing in the distance. They chaw frantically, then blow. Bigger, bigger, bigger--POP! The loser's gum explodes all over his face and sticks. And the victor--well, HE chews Hubba Bubba.

Lauren said...Oh, good god. Cliche City. Or is it Quote City. Or both? It's hard to believe this writer is a columnist, though I do love the Bubba Mac part.

Umbrella Girl said...At the risk of inviting every ignorant incest joke you know, and for the purpose of educating you, Bubba is a very common name in the South, which means “brother,” particularly “little brother.” Not everyone in the South is a redneck. We happen to have turned out some fine writers like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, John Grisham, Fannie Flagg, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, Barry Hannah, Robert Harling, and Beth Henley.

Lauren – “Good God,” and “Cliché City” are cliché. Duh.

And Pat, it’s the throes of passion, not the throws of passion. And for a man named Pat, you don’t have much room to be talking.

And finally, for those of you who make rude comments and don’t leave a link back to anything you’ve written so that others can learn from your Royal Hindass, we can only surmise that you either haven’t written anything, or you’re ashamed of what you have written. I’m torn between two more clichés – one with a moral; people who live in glass houses … and one that simply states how I feel – f**k off.

Anonymous said...You go, umbrellagirl (is that a cliche?).

Anonymous said...Umbrellagirl, lighten up a little. You gotta admit the name Bubba has a certain, special something. As for cliches, everyone uses them, that's why they're cliche. That doesn't mean I don't cringe every time one comes out of my mouth. (Or my keyboard.)

Cliches are like that third glass of wine--I know I shouldn't, but for some reason, I just can't help myself.

Now personally, I haven't submitted my query to EE. That's because it's currently circulating among agents, and I don't want them to see it picked apart and ridiculed here until they've found some other reason to reject me. I did use EE's wisdom to tweak it, and think I have something decent.

What you need to do is close your eyes, count backwards from twenty, and realize that we're laughing at ourselves too. And maybe Bubba, just a little.

S. W. Vaughn said...Can't we all just get along? :-)

I think Umbrella Girl has a point. The problem with this; with query letters in general, actually; is that it's so hard to get a sense of the actual writing when you have to condense everything to a few paragraphs...

And, of course, separating the personal issues from the professional ones is gut-wrenching. We're all writers here, and we're all struggling toward the same goal. Let's be supportive.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I'm prone to fiercely defending the South myself, and yet somehow the fact that John Grisham is from there has never occurred to me as an argument.

Maybe it's because the murderer in his books is always the Yankee.

(Except in those books where the Yankee just makes a cameo appearance, coming to town to sneer and be rude.)

SB said...

Are people from the south really that hung on up the whole North/South thing still? As someone from the northwest (an area not really around during the Civil War), that strikes me as kind of funny and sad.

And on a related note, it must really annoy southerners when non-Americans refer to all Americans as Yanks. Seems like that would sort of be like Americans referring to all British people as English.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

No, they're not hung up on the North/South thing. But they have a strong cultural identity.(Probably the biggest surprise to most northerners is that they have a strong Southern identity without regard to their own skin color.)

I lived in the South for about five years. In my experience white people over 60 were brought up on the Lost Cause but those younger weren't. (Black people over 60 heard about it, but didn't buy it.)

John Grisham mentions in one of his books that he was taught as a child that the South won the Civil War. Maybe he's not over the shock yet. Anyway, I never met anyone who was taught that. I met many older white people who were taught to call it "The War of Northern Aggression", though.

I remember a sweet old guy who stopped to help me (with a forklift) when I was stuck in a ditch. He said, "Are you from up north?"

I admitted to it.

He said, "I've only been up north once. Maryland."

So there are degrees of "south", of course!

SB said...

Thanks for the explanation, AR. It's always a bit impressive how many cultures America has. And yet most of our movies/TV make it look like the only places in America that exist are New York City and LA.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Yup. That's certainly the impression people in other countries get of the US.