Friday, November 18, 2022

Face-Lift 1429

Guess the Plot

To Dance with a Blade

1. Susan thought it would be a normal dance class. Little did she know she'd joined a dance troupe whose main source of income was assassinations. The tango is just the beginning.

2. When multiple countries combine armies to take on the brutal conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz, they know they'll need more than just their soldiers. They'll also need dancers.

3. There was bloodshed at the Bolshoi when the Sabre Dance in Khachaturian's Gayne ballet went terribly wrong. Who rigged the prop with a real blade and left superstar danseur Sasha Pashavich on the stage, legless and lifeless? Ace private eye Ivan Denisovich - after solving six Moscow opera and ballet stage murders in as many months, is pretty sure a pattern is emerging.

4. When the most handsome man at the ball asks Edwina to dance, she's thrilled. And that's before she knows he's the finest swordsman in the kingdom. And I'm not talking about the sword in his scabbard.

5. Charlie's mom always told him to never run with scissors. But she never told him not to waltz while holding a razor blade. So how is it his fault that his dance partner's back is gushing blood?

6. Seoun wants to join the ballet but his family has performed sword dances for the emperor for generations. With bankruptcy and a military draft waiting in the wings, can he convince his family there's more to art than a couple feet of sharp steel?

7. The complete history of fencing scenes in movies, from The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo to The Princess Bride and Star Wars. Comes with a free Zorro mask. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

Zae Mir leads the spell-dancers sent with a multi-country army fielded to oppose the enslaving conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz. [Immediately I'm wondering if the enslaving conqueror is a cat and the soldiers and dancers are mice. Then I have some other thoughts: 1. You  don't send a multi-country army to oppose someone, you send them to crush him. 2. If all armies sent dancers to accompany their soldiers, the world would be a better place. 3. Who sent the dancers? Were they ordered to go, or did they volunteer? I can't imagine any of the competitors on Dancing with the Stars volunteering to go into battle against an enslaving conqueror. Or being ordered to do so. 4. When I encounter the names Zae Mir and Thaeredn Khatsz before even reaching sentence 2, the only reason I'm not tossing the manuscript in the wastebasket is because they might be cats and mice.] The dancers expect to support the soldiers with healing, magical shields, and spells that enhance fighting abilities.  [How does that work? The armies see the enemy coming at them with swords, and the general says, "Dancers! To the front!" and then the dancers move up and start doing a foxtrot to Black Sabbath's "Johnny Blade"? And this creates shields that the enemy can't penetrate?] They hope to enlist the aid of perilous supernatural beings along their march. [I don't think "perilous" is the right word when describing beings. It goes better with actions. I'd go with "powerful" or "unpredictable" or "powerful--but unpredictable--"] [A multi-country army with healing, magical shields, and enhanced fighting abilities needs supernatural beings' aid? Does the enslaving conqueror have his own supernatural beings?]

After a genius dancer doesn't return from negotiating with one of these beings, [Can a dancer who approaches powerful--but unpredictable--supernatural beings alone really be called a genius?]  Mir stages a rescue.  He risks creating a powerful enemy at the army's back.  However, he's both reluctant to lose his colleague's skills and determined to bring all the dancers home from the war. ["Reluctant" doesn't sound strong enough. Dump the red words, or at least replace them with something like he needs his colleague's unique skills. Of course if he couldn't afford to lose this specific dancer, maybe he should have sent a more expendable negotiator.]

Meanwhile, one of Khatsz's closest henchmen sees in Mir the potential to further their own treacherous agenda. [Is "meanwhile" the right word? Is this happening at the same time as the rescue operation?]  Incognito, they help him evade capture and survive attacks.  Their continuing assistance will be the army's best chance to defeat Khatsz.  Even if it is a setup. [In view of the book's title, I would argue that the dancers are the army's best chance to defeat Khatsz.]

To Dance with a Blade is a stand-alone fantasy adventure with series potential complete at 97K words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Assuming the book progresses to the encounter with Khatsz, I don't see the need to include the paragraph about the missing negotiator and the rescue attempt. If you tried to condense the history of World War II into three paragraphs, you wouldn't devote one of the three to the saving of Private Ryan.

Is Khatsz pronounced like cats or cots?

Do the dancers use music? I mean, I know they don't have a band, but do the soldiers sing a cappella numbers to help the dancers stay in unison?

Do the dancers have swords while they dance, as the title suggests? That would lead to cool choreography, but it could get messy if they actually have to use the swords and get them bloody or stuck in peoples' guts.

Here's what I'd put in each of three paragraphs. Expand these with additional sentences as needed.

Paragraph 1: Zae Mir, leader of the "spell dancers," whose movements can mystically enhance fighting abilities, agrees/is ordered/volunteers to bring his squad/troupe/company to [place name] to assist the soldiers attempting to crush the enslaving conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz.

P2: When Khatsz's forces begin to gain the upper hand, Khatsz's closest henchman sees in Mir a tool to further his own treacherous agenda, and helps Mir evade capture and survive attacks.  

P3: Mir must decide how far to trust this traitor, knowing that doing so may be the army's only chance to defeat Khatsz--or may lead to a quicker and more devastating defeat.