Monday, July 24, 2006

Face-Lift 133


Guess the Plot

Bell Tower Memories

1. Missed shots, lost loves, and Euclidean geometry. A sniper tells all.

2. When her brother is murdered, Julia wants revenge. But she's only twelve, and her parents insist she wait until she's eighteen, old enough for a revenge killing.

3. Quasimodo reminisces about his eventful life and rails against the pigeons.

4. A man, a mistress, and the bells of St. Catherine's Cathedral . . . will they ever relive the ring of past love? Or will the bell tower memories haunt them forever?

5. Mike flashes back over ten years spent throwing water balloons out the Bell Tower's window, even as his vengeful neighbors toss him out the same window.

6. A retired campanologist looks back over 40 years on the professional bell-ringing circuit, and the day in 1976 when he came that close to a full peal of Reverse Canterbury Bob Doubles.


Original Version


Dear Ms. (agent who handles YA),

Bell Tower Memories, 64,000 words, is a young adult novel about fear and revenge in tropical Micronesia. [And what young adult isn't on the prowl for a book about that?] The story, set against a background of Pacific island cultures, alternates between two main characters, Lambert and Julia, as each struggles to grow up after a disturbing murder.

Lambert David Taisague is a 10 year old Chamorro boy who lives on the paradise-like island of Saipan. His funny bone amuses his friends. His world is filled with unlocked doors, familiar people and friendly hospitality. Julia James is a 12-year-old Chuukese girl who lives in Saipan, also, but as an outsider. She is kind to stray dogs, considerate of her elders and strongly attached to her older, learning-disabled brother, Jimmy. [Don't the learning-disabled get picked on enough, without their parents saddling them with a name like James James?] [What's his middle name, James?] When Jimmy is murdered, Julia is devastated. The police fail to solve the crime and Julia’s family whisks her back to their homeland of Chuuk. Julia dreams of returning to Saipan and getting revenge for her brother’s murder. Lambert, an unexpected witness to the murder, finds life much less funny, much less safe. He dreams only of escape from his nightmares and memories. [Is a dream in which you escape from a nightmare considered a good dream or a bad dream?] [Evil Editor once woke in a cold sweat from a nightmare in which I was asleep and dreaming that I was a hopeless insomniac. Then I woke up for real in the nightmare--turned out I had been dreaming about the cold sweat part. Or . . . was it all a dream?] Clyde Barrow Barcinas won’t let Lambert forget, [How does Clyde know? Is he the killer?] and intimidates Lambert with quiet threats and tell-tale signs of his presence in Lambert’s home. When Julia, at age 18, returns to Saipan after a dangerous journey by outrigger canoe, seeking revenge, Clyde takes a lustful interest in her. [Have you considered changing her name to Bonnie Parker James?] Lambert must decide between his own escape or Julia’s safety.

I have lived and worked in Saipan for more than twenty years and know the setting and cultural content for my novel well. I have one published YA story in an inspirational publication (________, March 2006) and have contributed a monthly children’s book review column to the local newspaper, ____________, for three years.

This is a non-exclusive submission. Enclosed please find a synopsis, the first two chapters and a SASE. I would be happy to send you the completed manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Ms. (agent who handles YA),

Bell Tower Memories, 64,000 words, is a young adult novel about fear and revenge in tropical Micronesia. The story, set against a background of Pacific island cultures, alternates between two main characters, Lambert and Julia, as each struggles to grow up after a disturbing murder.

Julia James is a 12-year-old Chuukese girl who lives on the paradise-like island of Saipan. She is kind to stray dogs, considerate of her elders and strongly attached to her older, learning-disabled brother, Jimmy. When Jimmy is murdered, Julia is devastated. The police fail to solve the crime and Julia’s family whisks her back to their homeland of Chuuk.

Lambert David Taisague is a 10-year-old Chamorro boy who lives on Saipan as well. His funny bone amuses his many friends. His is a world of unlocked doors, familiar people and friendly hospitality--until the day he sees Clyde Barrow Barcinas murder Jimmy James. Now he wants only to escape from his nightmares and memories.

But Clyde won’t let Lambert forget what he's seen, and intimidates him over the years with quiet threats and tell-tale signs of his presence in Lambert’s home. When Julia, at age 18, returns to Saipan after a dangerous journey by outrigger canoe, seeking revenge for her brother's murder, Clyde takes a lustful interest in her, and Lambert is forced to decide between his own safety and Julia’s.

I have lived and worked in Saipan for more than twenty years and know the setting and cultural content for my novel well. I have one published YA story in an inspirational publication (________, March 2006) and have contributed a monthly children’s book review column to the local newspaper, ____________, for three years.

Enclosed please find a synopsis, the first two chapters and a SASE. I would be happy to send you the completed manuscript. Thank you for your consideration.


Sincerely,

Notes

It wasn't 100% clear whether Clyde was the murderer, though it's one obvious way he knows that Lambert witnessed it. If he isn't the murderer, some minor tweaking of the revised query will, of course, be needed.

It wasn't bad, but it seemed paragraphing would be helpful, and once it was paragraphed it seemed a bit of reorganization was in order.

If you're wondering about Guess the Plot #6, Reverse Canterbury Bob Doubles is a change ringing peal. Google can help you educate yourself about change ringing. That's how I found this site. Perhaps after you know everything about change ringing you'll find The NineTailors, by Dorothy L. Sayers, more interesting.

14 comments:

December Quinn said...

Oh, dear. Clyde Barrow Barcinas? Did his parents want him to grow up to be a criminal?

At least the author resisted the temptation to name one of the James children Jesse or Frank, which would have made the whole book seem like a Little Archie comic for the criminal elements. (Although Jimmy James was the name of the boss on NewRadio.)

And am I the only one for whom the line "his funny bone amuses his many friends" sounded like the kid was actually waving a bone around?


Nitpicks aside, I think this sounds great. I'm definitely intrigued by the story, even though I know nothing about the area or the cultures involved. I absolutely would have read something like this as a young teen. Or even now. :-)

Zombie Deathfish said...

"Lambert, an unexpected witness to the murder, finds life much less funny."

Less funny than having your brother murdered? What could be less funny than that?

JerseyGirl said...

Suggestion: Just make it Clyde Barcinas; I'd dump the middle name of Barrow (like december quinn said, did his parents want him to grow up to be a criminal?).

Other than that, this sounds like an interesting tale. I'd probably pick this up, because I've always been fascinated with stories about unknown cultures (unknown to me, that is).

~Nancy

Poohba said...

I knew it was this one because, as far as I could tell, it had nothing to do with the title.

Anonymous said...

For all I know, Julia, Jimmy, Lambert, and Clyde may be common names among the Chamorro and Chuukese. If they really are, this may be a situation where you want to place fictional effect above strict accuracy. Names that don't sound like they come from a small town in Midwest America would be more evocative of an exotic culture.

Evil Editor said...

I knew it was this one because, as far as I could tell, it had nothing to do with the title.

Which is why the instructions for submitting a query suggest letting EE know where you got your title, when it isn't obvious in the query. So I can toss a bell tower into the correct answer.

moth said...

Julia James is also the protagonist in Ally Carter's novel Cheating at Solitaire.

Anonymous said...

If the book is aimed at a Western audience, it might be a good idea to make one of the main characters an ex-patriate.

evil editee said...

Julia James is also the protagonist in Ally Carter's novel Cheating at Solitaire.

I wouldn't worry about this. It's not like she's naming the character Scarlett O'Hara or Holden Caulfield.

Or Clyde Barrow.

moth said...

I wouldn't worry about this. It's not like she's naming the character Scarlett O'Hara or Holden Caulfield.

No worries. :)

Xiqay said...

Thank you so much, EE.

Thanks to everyone with comments, too.

Jimmy's "real" name in the story is Simiram, which I'll use instead. The nickname is the Americanized version of his name, a common feature of names here.

And yes, Clyde's dad wanted him to grow up "tough" and he has a pathetic sister named Bonnie. (But I think she's been revised out of my "final" version.)

And the murder takes place at the bell tower. Oops. How did I leave that out of the query?!

Thanks, all.

Anonymous said...

So EE omits the bit about "non-exclusive submission."

Don't agents want to know this? (Some website submission guidelines say they do.) Or is Miss Snark on the money when she says it's assumed that you're querying widely?

Just wondering.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Every Wed night they practice change ringing in the 12th century church tower up the street from me. Once the vicar's wife, who used to lead it, took me up there to visit. She told me that every 70 years or so across the UK there's a fatal accident, so they're due any day now.

Funny enough, when I lived in Boston MA I was a sometime visitor to the Church of the Advent, to which EE linked.

Oh yes, the story. Nice; I'd read it, and I'm not even a young adult. I'd be more interested in the 2nd page, or the last. But I'd move the setting from Micronesia, which sounds like a disease or a bacterium or something, to an uncharted south Pacific island inhabited by seven fearless castaways. Or maybe to the Australian outback, and have the murder result from a dispute about a poker game. If this is for YAs, it might be good to introduce a pet...a cute iguana, or (if it's in Australia) a wallabie named Hoppy.

Anonymous said...

Radicalfeministpoet--

Writer of the YA story involved here. Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia--do they all sound like diseases? It is set on a remote Pacific island (in Micronesia). Does Saipan sound better? (name of the island) What about Chuuk (name of another island where some of the action takes place)? Or maybe I should just say the tropical Pacific?

Just curious.