Monday, December 21, 2020

Feedback Request

The author of the book whose query appeared in Face-Lift 1410 would like feedback on the following version of the query.

Dear Evil Editor, 

When the villagers of Lambahvras are forced to evacuate their homeland by an invasive toxic weed, they decide to take up residence in an abandoned island fortress, Carraig Runda [anagram: agrarian crud]. The villagers choose it as a place to escape the poison plants [agrarian crud] and maintain their independence from the rest of the world.  

Upon reaching it after a difficult journey, they must establish a steady food and heat source before winter freezes the lake. As they explore, they find evidence of the previous inhabitants: furnished rooms, garden ruins, glyphs. They also discover remnants of advanced technology that would make habitation here self-sustainable. [How'd that work out for the previous inhabitants?] But how to activate the mechanisms eludes them. 

Rue, the priestess of Lambahvras, believes the structure is a temple. And that a human sacrifice would awaken the gods and allow access to the power here. Her target is Petal Longseed, [sister of Pippi Longstocking and] an orphan village girl. 

Mathieu Westerhall is not one of the Lambahvras. He’s a scientist who journeyed with them from the village to the fortress. He volunteered to care for Petal when her mother was killed and superstitions ostracized her Petal. He’s come to love the gentle, studious girl like a daughter. To protect her from Rue’s religious faction, he’ll need to convince everyone that blood won’t unlock the secrets of Carraig Runda. But if not blood, then what? 

SEEDS IN SHALLOW SOIL is a 108,000 word fantasy novel. It is a standalone book with the potential to become a series. Comparison titles for this work would be Joe Hill’s The Fireman, [and] The Wicker Man (1973), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Oregon Trail computer game. [Including those last two will make the reader wonder if this is a hoax query.]


Way better than the original. Now we have a story with some conflict.


JRMosher said...

This is definitely better than the earlier version, but it still feels like things are out of place, and / or some of the stuff here is not needed. From the earlier query, and the beginning paragraph of this one, I got the impression that the "toxic weed" was a focus of the story and overcoming it would be important. But with this version, it sounds more like the battle is between science and superstition / religion and the toxic weed was just a means to get the villagers to where the mysterious machine is. If so, then a bit of the beginning could be cut away to get to the machine and the planned sacrifice earlier, perhaps like so:

Forced to flee their homeland, the villagers of Lambahvras find refuge in an abandoned island fortress where they discover remnants of advanced technology that could sustain their society. But how to activate the mechanisms eludes them. Rue, their priestess, believes the structure is a temple and that a human sacrifice would awaken the gods ...

That puts you into the meat of the story in the first paragraph (unless of course I am wrong and the plants actually are the meat of the story, in which case you need to change your title to "The Legend of the Impossible Whopper.")

Mandakinz said...

High praise from EE! Hooray!

For all the words in red, I considered deleting them. Apparently, I made the wrong decision, but I'm glad that none of EE's suggestions were surprises to me.

Adding the Fiddler on the Roof and Oregon Trail comps was a joke and bait for EE as I have no idea what comps for this book would be. EE can expect an upcoming Q&A email on the subject of comps. I was actually surprised The Wicker Man slid through. I don't know if the movie is based on a book or short story or originated as a movie script.

In the first version, I was going for specificity (right down to the shoes) and trying to create intrigue. The questions EE and the other commenters posed were helpful in considering which questions to avoid raising. Also served as a reminder to focus on the heart of the story -- not just the setup.

If I took JRMosher's advice and started with "forced to flee their homeland" without mentioning the plant monsters, would that raise questions that aren't answered in the query? (why are they fleeing? who's after them? why can't they just...?) Does it just depend on how important the plants are to the overall plot?

*Plants. 'Meat' of the story. "The Legend of the Impossible Whopper" -- love it!

Chicory said...

I don't think `forced to flee their homeland' would raise unanswered questions. Presumably the editor or agent reading the query will be used to people summarizing in order to keep things concise and also focus attention where it matters. Of course, unlike EE I am not an editor or agent, so I could be wrong.

Anonymous said...

If the mystery of the fortress and the survival of the people is the main conflict in the book this is pretty good. If the story progresses into MC going back to plead the people's case in the capitol and stuff happening with that, it might be a good idea to at least hint at such.

How do they know the tech will make habitation self-sustainable if the tech doesn't work?

It might help to give a logical reason (and it hurts suspension of disbelief when there isn't some logic even in a made up religion) the priestess thinks a human sacrifice will work, or alternatively what she has against the girl (or what superstitions ostracized her, if you can be concise) that makes her pick her as the target, and/or what her real agenda is (assuming there's some complexity here). And why a complete sacrifice? Why not just everyone donate a pint of blood on a rotating schedule?

I'd also like a hint as to how they go about looking into/solving the mystery of the tech (I love me some mysterious tech vvv)

FWIW I'd be more interested in a unique story about plant monsters than yet another diatribe of science vs religion (although the people treating science as if it were religion without realizing it vs actual religion might be interesting).

Good Luck.

Mandakinz said...

Thanks Chicory and Anon!

Definitely NOT a science v religion diatribe. I usually hate those stories. (Off topic: The TV show Evil is an exception and is good about balancing both sides, although the religious characters still fall back on "have faith" and "mysterious ways" phrases too often.)

The priestess as a villain was a late addition to add in more character conflict. Without her, it was too much of "the get along gang".

As for everyone donating a pint of blood, I thought of that too and it reminds me of the scene in Pirates of the Caribbean!

Book II will circle back to the plant monsters!

I'm going to send submit some pieces for New Beginnings so I hope you'll indulge me with more feedback. Also, I'd be happy to provide feedback on anybody else's stuff. I arrived at the blog late, so I haven't had a chance yet.