Sunday, January 31, 2021

Face-Lift 1411

Guess the Plot

Byzantine Purple

1. Turkish bare knuckle boxer Muhmat “The Byzantine” Balkan is easy on the eyes, but his new uppercut is not.

2. Competitive ballroom dancer Viorel is entranced by the moves of a street woman in a purple dress. He’s desperate to make her his partner, but first he’ll need to convince his club to accept her. And before that . . . he’ll need to find her again.

3. When strange corpses appear with purple goo in their veins, Leudora realizes that the prophesies of her family's enemy, the notorious Dalmatian Serpent, are coming true, and if she doesn't act fast, all Byzantines will be exterminated. 

4. When fashion student Cassi Folter is transported back to ancient times she's more horrified by the clothes than the sanitation. Can she revolutionize the textile industry or will wearing the wrong color land her in prison? (And can she convince the jailers that style is always possible?)

5. The Byzantine Empire was once the Roman Empire just as Istanbul was once Constantinople. So Byzantine Purple must be about the dye from snails, right? Wait, what? The modern color? Robin's history report is about to get a creative spin when her time traveling adventure was about the wrong thing.

6. Fortune hunters from all over the world have long sought "Byzantine Purple," a fabled gemstone believed to have been owned by Constantine the Great. John Niedenaker is the latest. Intrigue ensues when his team crosses paths with seekers of the Maltese Falcon and the Ark of the Covenant and they all have to sort out their quirky native interpreters, intrepid girl-reporters, arch-villains, and other stock characters. As for John, he swaps away his brunette femme fatale for a ginger and goes off to find the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

7. Kelly Mercado, chemist for struggling paint company Adore, is sent to Istanbul by new corporate consultant Leo Ione to join an archaeological dig to find inspiration for a color that can beat rival Heritage’s “Lost Atlantis”. Corporate espionage, a game of cat and mouse in the Grand Bazaar, romance, a prince and more!

Original Version 

Dear Evil Editor, 

The blood on her hands no longer troubles Leudora. What keeps her awake at night is the chilling suspicion that her crimes might have been in vain. 

The massacre she committed a decade ago was necessary. The death of her brilliant enemy, the Dalmatian Serpent, was unfortunate but inevitable. [I know nothing about the Dalmatian Serpent, but I feel confident there was nothing unfortunate about his death. Did he die in the massacre? Because when you stage a massacre, you have no right to complain that the death of your victims was unfortunate.] [I would call the Dalmatian Serpent's death necessary, rather than inevitable. Pretty much everyone's death is inevitable. Of course you've already called the massacre necessary, but I'm not convinced that it was. For instance, if she massacred everyone in some village because she knew the Dalmatian Serpent was there, she could have avoided the massacre by asking the villagers which house the Dalmatian Serpent was holed up in. I think you'll find that history books rarely (if ever) refer to massacres as necessary.] Only through violence could Leudora save the Veil. She will live with her guilty conscience for as long as the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness remains intact. [Shouldn't that sentence be "She lived with her guilty conscience for as long as the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness remained intact."? She "will live" implies that she currently lives with her guilty conscience, but you said the blood on her hands no longer troubles her.] Only it is no longer so. [Aha! Reinforcing my argument.]

Whenever parts of the Veil fade, strange corpses appear with purple goo in their veins. ["Goo" sounds somewhat childish. More mature synonyms include guck, goop, and gunk.] [Also, if the Veil is an invisible barrier, how can you tell if parts of it have faded? In other words, how do you know whether the fading caused the goo or the goo caused the fading? It's like a chicken/egg thing, except it's a Veil/goo thing.] Determined to stop the Veil’s decay and justify her past actions, [You mean justify massacring that entire village? Unjustifiable.] Leudora follows the bloody trail. [Is it a bloody trail or a gooey trail?] All the evidence that she uncovers confirms her worst fears: The Serpent was right in his theories. It is Leudora’s Byzantine kin that stands [who are] behind the Veil’s degradation. [That was his theory? That his enemy was to blame? You don't have to be brilliant to blame your enemy for everything that goes wrong. ] But Leudora knows one more truth. It will not take long for her family’s political opponents to connect the same dots. When they do, they will have a perfect excuse to exterminate not only her, but all Byzantines. [Do you really need an excuse to exterminate Byzantines?] Before that happens, Leudora will [must] find a way to restore the Veil, eliminate the murderers [That one's easy: massacre them.] and bury the Serpent’s research. [You keep calling him the Serpent. It's the Dalmatian Serpent.]

A disgraced scholar with an unsavory reputation, Leudora  [Whew, for a second I thought the plot summary was done and you were starting your bio.] seeks allies and knowledge. Potential allies want her to bring them to power and overthrow the unstable government. And knowledge remains hidden in the works of her defeated enemy. The deeper she delves into the Serpent’s secrets, the more Leudora finds herself drawn to his fascinating mind and dark science. If Leudora follows in his footsteps, her own people will turn against her. If she does not, the Veil will not endure, and her own demise will become the least of her problems. [I'm more interested in what will be the worst of her problems.]

Byzantine Purple is an adult fantasy set in an alternative version of Eastern Europe, told in multiple POVs, complete at 103,000 words. The novel stands alone but is envisioned as the first book in a trilogy. It combines the conflicted protagonist of The Masquerade Series and the political intrigue of A Memory called Empire. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, 

[ The title alludes to the purple mantle traditionally worn by the Byzantine Emperors. ] [And here I thought it was the purple goo.] 


The plot summary is too long. And I find it difficult to follow, especially with all those blue words interrupting it. The connections between sentences don't seem obvious enough. I have to work to come up with guesses at how they're connected.

What are Leudora's kin doing that's causing the Veil to decay? Why don't they quit doing it? Is the solution to this threat somewhere in the Dalmatian Serpent's notes?

If I'm looking for someone to help bring me to power and overthrow the government, a disgraced scholar with an unsavory reputation won't be my first choice. I assumed Leudora was a political or military or rebel leader. Who is she?

Try the often-effective three-paragraph plot summary:

P1. Who's the main character, what's her goal, and what's her plan to achieve it.?

P2. What obstacles might prevent her from doing so, and what decision must she make to hopefully overcome the obstacles?

P3. What's at stake? What happens if she fails? What happens if she succeeds?

Limit the plot summary to ten sentences. We'll let you know if that improves it or not.


Mandakinz said...

It sounds like you have some cool ideas in here, but like EE said, the dots aren't quite connecting. In writing my comments, I referred back to the letter a lot and by the end, felt like I understood it better.

What I'm getting out of this is that L had an "ends justify the means" mentality and killed the DS. But it's not clear why he was her enemy at the beginning. What was the conflict about when she killed him?

It would tell me more about your world and setting if I knew how she killed him. Was this like wizards shooting energy spells at each other? Or was it a sniper with a gun?

So time goes by and the Veil decays (again?). In para 1, the Veil shields civilization from madness (not sure how, but cool).

In para 2, it's corpes with goo. Are you talking zombies/monsters getting through a degrading portal? Or dead bodies appear each morning with the dew? Also, this detail may not belong in a query but is the goo significant? Is it like ectoplasm or something?

While investigating, she finds out that her relatives are behind the Veil's degradation, which the DS suspected/knew all along.

I really like the idea that L killed the DS years ago, because she thought it was the right thing to do and now is realizing that maybe he was on to something. Now she has to look at her actions in the past with this new perspective. That what she did back then was a mistake and completely irreversible.

I like the part where she's reading his notebooks and learning about his dark science. I had the impression she starts to fall in love with him from reading his diary and I'm totally digging this concept, so if it's not already in your book, consider adding it in. Can she at least lovingly stroke a portrait of his face at some point?

Is it through reading the DS journals that she realizes the truth about her kin? Or she discovers the truth about her kin and starts reading the journals to stop the veil degradation? Why does his research need to be buried?

It sounds like at the end of the query that her choices are to become the new DS using his science and notebooks (which makes her a target much like he was) or...the veil degrades and she dies? Like EE asked, is she the only one who found the secret to restoring the veil in DS notebooks?

Simple version of my takeaway
L feels that whatever she did in the past was necessary. End justifies the means. Bad things start happening again. At some point she finds out her family is behind the trouble. Just like they were back then. Her former enemy's writings may hold the key to solving the trouble. But by taking on DS former role, will make enemies of her family. But if she does nothing the bad things will get worse.

I hope my lengthy comments are helpful in seeing what a reader with no knowledge of your story got out of your letter. I hope my questions are coming across as curiosity and not criticism. Maybe the answers to my questions don't belong in the letter but hopefully it will give an idea of what questions your letter is raising.

As always, I would defer to EE in all matters.

Good luck!

J.M. said...

It seems like an intriguing crux. Girl sacrifices a bunch of people to get one Bad Guy who threatens all of humankind, then it turns out that her own people were the threat, so now she needs to get to the dead Bad Guy's secrets, utilize them, and bury them. But the problems about "allies" and her "kin" are confusing.

"Leudora seeks allies and knowledge. Potential allies want her to bring them to power..." Who's got the strong hand here? Why does Leudora need allies if she's got the path to power?

If the Dalmatian Serpent's knowledge "remains hidden," how will Leudora's people know whether she "follows in his footsteps"?

How did Leudora become "A disgraced scholar with an unsavory reputation"? I thought she was the only Byzantine who realized she might have been wrong about the Dalmatian Serpent. If she's disgraced already, why would her people care what she does or whom she follows? And how can a disgraced scholar with an unsavory rep bring people to power?

I'm sure the book answers these questions, but in the query they make Leudora's obstacles and goals a bit unclear.

Teo said...

Dear Evil Editor,

Thank you very much for your insightful comments. I can see how the word massacre is out of place here. I should have mentioned that the main character got her major political opponent and his radical supporters killed. She is underhanded and unscrupulous, but she is not Pol Pot. (it's definitely a problem if she comes off as a hard-core genocidal maniac) Also, I should stress that the MC is indeed a politician (with a scholarly background - yes, but nobody cares) and clear the rest of the mess. Thanks for addressing so many issues. Also, the 'guess the plot' parts were great. Especially the one about Viorel.

Dear Mandakinz, thank you for your detailed reply. You got it right, although I tried not to dwell on the love aspect too much. Yes, Leudora indeed falls for the Dalmatian Serpent, which makes her whole situation and the consequences of her actions truly tragic. I was not sure how to address this point in the query (do I need to mention it at all?) and I am surprised that it did come through.

I should, perhaps, drop the goo part and mention that she discovers a connection between the Veil's decay and her people's experiments instead: she assumes that some of her relatives are involved and wants to stop them before they get everyone killed, but she needs proof and information. In the end, Leudora's choice is either to serve her people as she always did, betraying the man, whose legacy and life she stole (and, yes, she also falls in love with him), or to betray her people, saving the Veil. This course of action may as well lead to the destruction of Leudora's people.

Dear J.M. I appreciate your feedback. Thanks a lot. Yes, the 'disgraced scholar' part needs to go. It's confusing and it does not explain why anybody would care about her scholarly background if Leudora was/is a prominent political figure. I should also mention that she stole the Serpent's research, fearing someone may as well use it against her people. Yes, she is the only Byzantine, who realizes she might have been wrong about the Serpent.

I am not certain that I have enough space to talk about worldbuilding (without confusing everyone), but I will definitely concentrate on the MC and her goals.

Dear minions, dear Evil Editor, I don't want to abuse your time, but I was wondering if it is possible to resubmit the revised version of the query. I can imagine that you are all busy people and I appreciate your time and effort. I also hope that someone can learn from my mistakes. Once again, guys, thank you very much.

Evil Editor said...

Revised queries are welcome. And I suspect very few evil minions are busy people.

Anonymous said...

A query letter is a tool to convince an agent that they can sell your book for beaucoup bucks. Last time I looked, multiple POVs weren't enough of a selling point to be worth mentioning unless the agent specifically has stated they like them. ymmv

The way the plot is stated sounds overly melodramatic to me. "Purple" in the title doesn't help :/

The purple goo sounds like something for a younger audience, and it doesn't seem to cover anything more than what you state a different way anyways (the veil protecting humanity from madness is having issues)

It might help to give a bit more about the political situation if we're supposed to care about the political opponents one way or the other. Worldwide madness seems like it'll be a bigger problem.

I'm not sure why we're supposed to be rooting for your MC if one of their main purposes is to cover up that their family is trying to cause worldwide madness (if that's just a side effect of what they're really after, more info might help). Why isn't she joining forces with the people who want to fix the problem, or just getting out of their way? Is there a problem with them winning other than she would also be on their hit list?

J.M. said...

One thing I'll say, Teo, I got the love story between Leudora and the Serpent loud and clear, and I wouldn't say anything more than you do. I think you'll ruin the tease if you spell it out.

Mandakinz said...

I certainly can't say I'm very busy, considering my last comment was about the length of your query and EE's comments combined! I would love to see a revised version, but I encourage you to take your time. EE's suggestion about trying to explain the whole plot in ten sentences helped me when I re-did mine.

I'm pumped I was right about the love angle, but I agree with JM. It's between the lines, so you don't need to play it up any more. I would think it belongs in the query, because even if there wasn't a love interest, it connects the dots between what's wrong with the Veil, who's behind it, and the choice she's going to have to make.

The part about dark science piqued my interest too. I'm wondering if it's alchemy or some kind of Frankenstein experiments.

Oh I forgot to tell you that I liked the fantasy / alt history in Eastern Europe culture / setting / influence.

Piper said...

Now I wanna start my bio with "A disgraced scholar with an unsavory reputation".

Teo said...

Thanks for all your comments, people. I am now working on the revised version and, hopefully, it will be less confusing than this one.

And, yes, Piper, you should totally start your bio with "a disgraced scholar" just to see people react.

Mandakinz said...

Are you going to submit a passage as a New Beginning? You already know the part I want to see, but I won't try to pressure you into sending a segment you might feel vulnerable about.

Can we get a sneak peek?

I forgot to praise EE's very funny write-up. I especially enjoyed the more mature synonyms for 'goo'.

I empathize with you, Teo. Fantasy stuff is especially hard to describe without sounding crazy / confusing / ridiculous. This is coming from someone writing about a village on the run from plant monsters, so I feel your pain.