Saturday, February 06, 2021

Face-Lift 1413

Guess the Plot

The Rooster Sutra

1. A serial killer who kills only occultists is targeting Tanya, an aspiring occultist who resembles a rooster. Can Tanya's Buddhist mentor, the only pacifist in the occultism industry, set aside her beliefs long enough to rescue Tanya? Also, a beatnik.

2. An illustrated collection of proverbs for children, recited in anuṣṭubh meter by a rooster named Shakuntala and his barnyard pals.

3. Bo-Jo's family has been running a chicken farm for six generations. Rather than a sweeping family saga full of passion and drama, here are the rules they've lived by. And how to cover up a murder.

4. This is not your mother's Ugly Duckling or Chicken Little. Barnyard birds are getting into it, and the other inhabitants of Old MacDonald's Farm are braying, barking, and oinking in prurient glee.

5. Tarragon is a backyard chicken and reincarnation of -- well, Sanskrit isn't easy when you're a bird. Can he convey his wisdom to the world, or will the neighbors convince his owners that the path to his next incarnation should be coq au vin? 

6. Ginger-haired Detective Gallus’s latest case is a fraternity student found dead in a rooster costume on campus. When a second student turns up dead under similar circumstances, Gallus goes undercover into the underground world of a new society known as “The Cockfighters.”

7. Studies show that 4 hours of sleeping upright yields the same benefits as lying prone for 8. Find techniques for "roosting" in this self-help sleep guide to self inducing a trance-like state and selecting a perch for you and your lovebird(s).

8. Sutras, suitors, sutures.... All Bantam knows is that when the chicken hits the fryer (i.e. his Bollywood-style wedding goes up in flames when his fiancée elopes with a Cornish hen), a rooster's gotta do what a rooster's gotta do.

9. Old Man MacDougall is fed up. His hens are hysterical, he's seeing twice the usual number of feathers around the coop, and his precious eggs have actually been hatching... The only clue: mysterious chicken scratches on the wall of the coop. The perpetrator: an ordinary-looking rooster who has discovered that attracting ladies isn't just about looks. This rooster Casanova will give his all to help his sexy hen babes escape the farm.

Original Version

Dear Ruinous Reviser:

Only one of Keket Cheshire’s teammates has died on the job, and she is resolved that that number doesn’t go up. Still, only one death is an impressive record for the only pacifist in the occultism industry, with its 40% mortality rate and sociopathic competition. [Logging and commercial fishing, the two most dangerous professions (besides occultism), have a combined mortality rate of about 1%. The US Civil War had a mortality rate of 20%.] [Is that 40% annually? Because that would wipe out the industry in short order.] 


During a mission gone sour, a high-school girl named Tanya Gallo is nearly killed by Keket’s slip-up. [Does this happen after Keket resolves that the number of her teammates she kills won't go up? Sure, almost killing your teammates is an improvement over killing them, but . . .] [Also, I need to look up "occultist" and find out why they get involved in so many missions that lead to death.]  . . .  [Okay, Wikipedia's List of Occultists is pretty long, but here's a sampling: Plato, Nostradamus, Sir Isaac Newton, Marquis de Sade, Arthur Conan Doyle, Adolf Hitler, Jim Morrison, David Bowie . . . Hmm, what do they all have in common? They're all dead! 100% mortality rate! Why hasn't anyone else looked into the connection between occultists and death?] Tanya is smitten, with Keket, and even moreso [more so. There seems to be some controversy over whether moreso is a word, but Blogger has underlined it in red, and that's good enough for me.] [Of course Blogger also underlines Keket in red, and my phone's auto-correct thinks Keket is kookoo.] with her profession. [Occultism is a profession? I wonder if it's hard for employment recruiters to convince people to go into a profession with a 40% mortality rate.] Occultism promises escape from a reality where Tanya is mired in poverty and powerlessness. [She has a 40% chance of escaping.] Wanting to impress Keket and become an occultist herself, Tanya seeks out tantric magic. An aging beatnik takes her on as a student and encourages her to use magic without hesitation… or concern for its consequences. [Use it to do what?] [Also, since when do high school students listen to any advice from an adult?]


Meanwhile, a moralizing serial killer is spring cleaning the occultism industry of anyone he deems unworthy, with Keket the only exception. [If he kills every occultist except Keket, the mortality rate of occultism will be approximately 100%.] [How do we know Keket is the only exception? Just because she hasn't been killed yet? Or has the killer informed her that she's not a target, and she believes him?] Tanya and the killer soon end up on a collision course and Keket is forced to decide: Is she willing to put her pacifism aside and her teammates at risk to clean up a mess she created, or [will she] turn a blind eye and preserve the life she worked so hard to cultivate? [Not clear how Keket created the mess. There seem to be two messes, one caused by the aging beatnik and the other by the serial killer.] 


THE ROOSTER SUTRA is an upmarket urban fantasy marrying Buddhist doctrine with drugs, sex, and violence [I give that marriage three weeks, tops.] from the alternating viewpoints of Tanya and Keket. It is complete at 97,000 words and will appeal to fans of Jeff VanderMeer’s Dead Astronauts and N. K. Jemisin’s The City We Became.


Thank you for your time and consideration.

[P.S. The title comes from roosters being a symbol of greed and desire in Buddhism, and also Tanya's hair is a red mohawk, so she looks kinda like a rooster. ]


First of all, a serial killer who's killing everyone in a certain profession should be the centerpiece of your query. Look how far it got Jack the Ripper. 

Up until the serial killer arrives, I have more questions than answers. Like what kind of missions do teams of occultists go on? Why do so many die? What did Keket do that almost killed Tanya? What is the job description of an occultist?

We know who's in your book but we don't know much of what happens. 

High school student Tanya Gallo wants to be an occultist, like her idol and mentor Keket Cheshire. Even when Kekel informs Tanya that a serial killer has been targeting occultists, Tanya still wants in. In fact she joins the team of occultists hunting the killer.

Something like that would be a way to start this off if it were what actually happens in your book, which it probably isn't, but you get the idea. 

Are all the occultists in the occultism industry in one city or even country? If not, this serial killer seems to have taken on an impossible task. Maybe we should narrow it down geographically.

The decision Kekel must make doesn't strike me as difficult. Ignore a serial killer while he continues killing and could be coming after you next, or engage temporarily in activities designed to neutralize him. I know what the Buddha would do.


Anonymous said...

Here's what I get from your summary, and some of it is certain to be wrong:

Keket is on a team of occultists -- not as the captain, but as a member. One death is an impressive record for any occultist, and it happens to belong to her, coincidentally the only pacifist. (By the way, "only one death is an impressive record for the only pacifist in the occultism industry" might also mean that most pacifist occultists are particularly deadly, so Keket's one death is impressive.) And a moralizer wants to kill literally every occultist except Keket.

Things that your book doubtless answers but that look like logic holes in the query:

What does the team captain say about this recent death? Why is Keket taking the lead on preventing more?

How do pacifism and militarism figure into the occultist profession at all, and why are pacifists exceptional in the profession?

Aren't all occultists on a collision course with this serial killer, not just Tanya?

Plus all of EE's questions. I can't figure out what Keket does all day.

Mandakinz said...

Hi Author,

I too was confused by some of the word choices: occultist, tantric, beatnik, serial killer.

Occultist brings to mind mystics. To me, an occultist could range anywhere from incense and wearing crystals to fortune tellers, to secret societies where members are dabbling in dark arts like necromancy or awakening an old god.

Tantric: makes me think immediately of tantric sex. In my 15 second google search, it looks like tantra refers to a mind+body focus technique. Is that the context you meant it in? As a method for using and accessing magic, it would be cool to see done in a Buddhist / Indian approach.

Beatnik: When I think of 'beatnik', I think of 1950s poets, wearing berets and black turtlenecks. First impressions as it's written is that an aging poet teaches a 15 year old high school girl in the ways of tantric sex. I assume you meant that the high schooler finds a mentor who is willing to teach her the ways of magic.

Serial Killer: this could be a nitpick, but i think of a serial killer being a murderer who targets random, unsuspecting, innocent civilians. The way you describe it seems more like a self-righteous fanatic who is hell bent on wiping out all occultists, either for revenge or religious reasons. The occultists have missions, and most are not pacifists, and they seem aware that someone's after them. I feel like 'serial killer' would fit better if there was a string of murders of 15 year old girls with long brown hair and Tanya fit his profile and was in danger of being his next victim.

Like I said above, I like the concept of a Buddhist approach to fantasy and wondering what that looks like.

I thought the relationship between Keket and Tanya came across well. It's easy to follow that a poor girl with few prospects would be inspired by this woman who saved her life, has strong moral principles, and has some sort of strength/power.

Your plot sounded nicely contained. Keket saves Tanya and opens her eyes to this world of magic. Then Keket, Tanya, and her team defeat a threat. You don't seem caught up on a lot of different sub-plots. I mean that in the nicest way. Some queries have trouble focusing on the main plot. You don't seem to have that problem but some information is missing. I wanted the answers to EE's questions.

I hope my comments are helpful. I don't mean to nitpick but I wanted to share with you what impressions your word choices brought to mind.

Like EE said, it would help a lot to know what these occultists do and what their missions consist of. What is the goal of this team?

Anonymous said...

Query writer, I think you need to take a few steps back from your book. You know who's who and what's what and how it's all connected a little too well. It's not coming across for the rest of us.

In a romance/buddy story, the relationship between the two characters is the focus of the book and the query should highlight how that relationship will develop. Any other genre, it's usually better to stick with a single main character. What's their main goal? What problems do they need to overcome? What's bad about them failing?

Pay attention to cause and effect when relating the plot. Since this happens, that happens. Because that happens, the other happens.

Details are your friend. If an event is worth mentioning in the query, it's usually worth being specific. How/why did someone die? It sounds as if this might not be unusual, but I can't be certain with what you actually have said. Is it important to the plot that some nameless person died in an unspecified way doing something unspecified? Are they the first victim of the killer? If they don't have anything to do with the main plot, it might be better not to bring them up. What were Keket & co trying to accomplish that almost got Tanya killed? What mess did Keket create that's going to require violence to solve? etc. etc. etc.

Not all questions need to be answered in the query, but the query should be written so that it does answer the ones it brings up. An agent reads a query wanting to know "Can I sell this?" If the answer is "I don't know/I can't tell" the response you get is "Not right for me."

Good Luck

JRMosher said...

The obvious subtitle for "The Rooster Sutra" is "How to Handle Your Cock", so make sure that figures prominently in your query, on the cover, and in marketing materials. Then change the main character's name from Keket to Kegel, describe her exercise routine in vivid detail, and you've got a bestseller.

Teo said...

I am not sure if this query works or not. On the one hand, the concept and the atmosphere are unusual enough to grab my attention right away. This pitch stands out. It's fresh and it's crazy in a good way.

On the other hand, I have trouble with the many unexplained terms thrown around. It is not a big issue and, I believe, it can be solved. You could, for example, leave the 'occultists' in the text (it is clear that they are magic users of some kind), but cut the beatniks.