Sunday, July 30, 2006

Face-Lift 139


Guess the Plot

Highland Princess

1. Fergus MacPout was fond of his kilt, but yearned for greater finery. Runner-up in the Castle Drogue Drag Contest meant only that he would double his efforts next year to be crowned queen.

2. Aara, Princess of ye Highland Clans, disguises herself as a boy to escape an arranged marriage, only to find--when she poses as his trainee squire--that her fiancé has a surprisingly liberal attitude.

3. What's a girl to do when the clan tartan so does not work with her glorious red hair? For Laird's daughter Shona MacDonald the answer is simple: marry cute Jamie Campbell.

4. The stepdaughter of a Shawnee tribeswoman leaves the Indian village and moves to a castle in Scotland. After marrying her new neighbor, the Earl of Aberhaven, she goes to London, where she's "the toast of the ton."

5. Princess Aashew of the planet Blezhiu is transported to Regency Scotland every time she sneezes. Will her time traveling romance with a Scottish snuff importer survive?

6. With her golden tresses streaming behind her and her tartan gown flowing in the wind, Princess Bonnie MacLeod makes a startling discovery: It's only the men who aren't supposed to wear anything under their kilts.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor, Puppeteer of my Fate:

Graham Brazier, Earl of Aberhaven, has a dim view of the world. The pile of rocks known as Brazier Castle looms over his beloved Aberhaven Manor, blocking the sun and his view of the sea. He can’t raze this unsightly nuisance because his great-grandsire lost it in a drinking contest.

Lady Scotia Bardford, heiress to the castle, returns to Scotland from the Shawnee Indian village in America where her father abandoned her before drinking himself to death.

Graham and Scotia's story begins with them already married; [Perhaps the query should begin there as well.] a result of their bargaining. [What does that mean? Who gets what in this bargain?] Conflict begins immediately. Scotia sees Brazier Castle as a romantic Highland dream; a pinnacled fairytale that makes up for the disappointments of her life. Graham, plagued by debilitating headaches and responsibilties to his native Scotland, has little sympathy for her unrealistic expectations. He wished to raze the castle, at last.

Putting the castle behind them, literally, Graham and Scotia head to London. Away from their looming problem, Scotia trusts Graham with the truth of her turbulent past, and confides that her father married a Shawnee woman, which is how she came to be in the company of Indians.

Graham hopes that a brief stay at an armament filled fortress of war (Stirling Castle) will give Scotia a more realistic view of castle living. [Why can't she get a realistic view of castle living by living in her own castle?] During their visit, Graham's cousin, a Scottish Duke, gives Scotia a curious ancient Celtic dirk that her mother, Lady Lydia Graham Campbell, had given him for safe keeping. If His Grace knows how Lady Lydia came by it, he is not saying. The lovers [They're lovers?] resolve to learn the history of this mysterious heirloom.

Although maturing, Scotia is still impenetrable about the real condition of Brazier castle, and the couple’s bliss soon fizzles. [There was bliss?] Graham chides Scotia for refusing to let go of her childish dream of living in a castle like a princess; indulged long ago by her mother. Scotia rails at Graham for being an ingrate to all that has befallen him.

London holds revelations for the couple, however. Graham learns how badly neglected Scotia was by her father, even before they’d left for America. Scotia learns Graham was previously engaged. With a better understanding of each other, and no more secrets between them — that they know of — they imbibe happily of Town life. Scotia is the toast of the ton. [Sounds like a great title for a historical romance novel. But to make sure it hadn't been used already, I searched Amazon. Amazingly, they list no book with the title Toast of the Ton. But they do list about fifty books with that phrase as an excerpt or as part of the back-cover description. Examples:

Pride and Prescience: "Mr. Parrish soon became the toast of the ton, and I benefited from his popularity.

Brazen Temptress: Hawthorne could expose the double life of Julien d'Artiers, the toast of the ton.

Duchess in Love (back cover): ... to discover that his bride has blossomed into the toast of the ton.

The Marriage Trap: I could make her the toast of the ton. I'd begin by cutting her hair . . .

The Bride Thief: Sammie's heroic rescue from undesired wedlock turned her into the toast of the ton.

The Secret Letters of Marilyn Monroe and Jacqueline Kennedy: I started making toasts to tons of people, Nureyev, Khruschev, Nabokov . . .

The Politeness of Princes: . . . oceans of hot tea and tons of toast were consumed.

Dave Barry's Bad Habits: Melba toast was developed by the British, and it is not really food at all. You could airlift a thousand tons of Melba toast to some wretched, starving Asian village, and . . .]
Even Aberhaven’s English-loathing valet, Napier, is leaving his lord’s lady roses. [A valet giving roses to his employer's wife?]

They return to Scotland, having learned little more about the ancient dirk.

Tensions about the disposition of the castle still exist, but the lovers are moving toward compromise. However, a fire destroys the thatched-roofed manor house. Scotia is suspected. Angry and hurt, she takes refuge alone in the castle ruins after her husband’s valet, Napier, [No need to tell us who Napier is again.] presses the dirk box into her hands. She does not ask him how he managed to save it, or why.

Scotia clings to her independence in the makeshift castle keep she now realizes is uninhabitable ruins. [Now realizes? Didn't she even attempt to live in the castle when she first got to Scotland? If not, why not? Where did she live before marrying the Earl?] Fighting her conflicting emotions, and bent on survival, she employs all the skills she’d learned from the Shawnee. [Skills like skinning bears, beading moccasins, and tracking the white man.] Living in the ruins, however temporary, proves to be a garden of reflection for Scotia.

Graham is not the sort of man that would leave his wife – the woman he loves – in deprivation. Heading to Edinburgh on business, he believes his wife safe in the village, not counting on her playing the part of a wild Indian to prevent his steward from carrying out strict orders to bring her to safety.

A local weaver-woman pays a visit to Scotia, [At the castle?] bringing tartan plaid for her to wear. Together they uncover Napier's rose garden conservatory, [In the castle?] and the dead body of Graham’s former English fiancĂ©e— [Which has been there how long? Is it a skeleton?] a victims of Napier’s obsession with the Jacobite past.

Graham returns to find Scotia looking every bit the Highland Lady in tartan plaid, and faring well enough despite the gruesome discovery. [This query appears to break Evil Editor's 4th rule of submission: A query letter may not be longer than the book it promotes.]

In the confession of the half-mad Napier, Scotia’s heritage is revealed. She is directly descended from the Countess of Carrick— Robert The Bruce’s mother. The dirk, Napier explained, is a historical place marker, passed down through matriarchal generations to the true Carrick heiress. Having foreknowledge of this, Napier plotted the destiny that would put his lord and future queen together. [I see the name Napier, but I keep thinking of Newman, on Seinfeld.]

Scotia is of ancient Celtic blood, and a true Highland Princess— but more importantly, a princess of Graham’s heart. Together they rebuild their home, overlooking the sea. [Only to discover that three unsightly oil derricks have been constructed off shore.] With a new foundation of love, honor and mutual respect, they raise a family.

Highland Princess, a 90,000-word work of historical fiction, features an intelligent Scottish lord and a spirited woman, joined in a marriage of conviencience [Of what? It seems unlikely they would enter a marriage of convenience, immediately start arguing over the castle, and yet still be described as lovers experiencing bliss.] and a battle of wills over a dilapidated castle and the Scotland they both love.

[Unimpressive list of writing credential here] [As we'll be lopping off three fourths of the letter, this list will be the first thing to go.]

An SASE has been enclosed for your reply. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor, Puppeteer of my Fate:

When Lady Scotia Bardford inherits Brazier Castle, she sees it as her fairytale dream home. But Graham Brazier, the Earl of Aberhaven, who would own the castle if his great-grandsire hadn't lost it in a drinking contest, wants the unsightly pile of rocks razed. It blocks the sun and his view of the sea from his beloved Aberhaven Manor. Despite this conflict, the two find it financially and politically advantageous to marry.

Putting the castle behind them, the newlyweds travel to London, where they imbibe happily of Town life. Graham's cousin, a Scottish Duke, gives Scotia a curious ancient Celtic dirk that her mother, Lady Lydia Graham Campbell, had given him for safe keeping.

Upon their return to Scotland, tensions about the disposition of the castle remain, but Scotia and Graham have grown to love each other, and are moving toward compromise. When the earl's valet, Napier, sees the dirk, he recognizes it as a historical place marker, passed down through matriarchal generations to the true Carrick heiress. Scotia’s heritage is revealed. She is of ancient Celtic blood, and a true Highland Princess— but more importantly, she is a princess of Graham’s heart.

Highland Princess, a 90,000-word work of historical fiction, features an intelligent Scottish lord and a spirited woman, joined in a marriage of convenience and a battle of wills over a dilapidated castle and the Scotland they both love.

An SASE has been enclosed for your reply. Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

That was way, way too much plot for a mere query letter. Yet even with all the extra space, it raises questions that don't get answered. I made a change or two to the facts in order to leave the dead body out. Don't worry about it; chances are the editor won't ever get to the part that's inaccurate, and if he does, he'll have forgotten what was in the query anyway.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Someone was taking advantage of EE's good-but-evil nature by disguising their synopsis as a query letter.

December Quinn said...

I love the idea of the beginning conflict, with her dreams of living like a Princess and him wanting to get rid of the eyesore (although I wonder how she knows about castles and stuff when she was raised in a Native American village. They were kind of low on information about Europe.) It doesn't sound like there's a lot of conflict in the rest of the novel, though--you want to emphasize the continuing conflict between them in a query.

Stirling Castle isn't in London. The writer is probably aware of this, but when you say they went to London (why?) and then say they're at Stirling Castle, and then mention London again, it gives the wrong impression.

Bernita said...

Why is it always the Shawnee who get landed with these lay-about Brits?
When I saw her first name I had hoped for something Nova...

Kanani said...

You really need to find a way to make money from this effort, EE.

Anonymous said...

I was the toast of the ton once, then discovered Weight Watchers.

Perhaps this query would do well on a Weight Watchers diet, too.

ls

jeb said...

"Scotia is still impenetrable... and the couple’s bliss soon fizzles."

If staying in a dank, draughty castle filled with armaments of war isn't enough to get the woman in the mood, there's not a lot of marital bliss going on.

As for whatsername's being 'discovered' to be related to Robert the Bruce, isn't that a bit backward? Her lineage would have had to be established before the beginning of the book. Courts Probate don't normally hand over castles, however ruined, to just any returning colonist with a good story.

And dontcha just love how this genre overlooks other practical matters, such how a woman raised by natives on this continent in the 1810's would automatically fit in seamlessly with London's haut ton of that era? Although some might say that your average laird didn't have the couth for London either....

Catherine (aka Cathy) said...

I will confess to being the nitwitted minion who sent Evil Editor that gawd-awful attempt of a "short" summary as a query letter. I took my previous blurb and tried to add more information. Too much, obviously and by so doing, not enough...

I apologize for not reading the rules on word-count beforehand. I like EE's rewrite, but it sounds like his voice, not mine. Of course it does!!! However, I can get there from here.

Thank you, Evil Editor -- xoxoxoxoxoxoxoxoxo

Cathy

P.S.: I love the Writing Round Robin thing you've started

Anonymous said...

Well, I guessed the right plot from among the fakes. (I liked number 3 the best, though.)


Other than that, I can't say much. EE's revision is much better, but this isn't a story that grabs me. And the synopsis in the original query convinced me that I did not want to read this story. Sorry.

December Quinn said...

And dontcha just love how this genre overlooks other practical matters, such how a woman raised by natives on this continent in the 1810's would automatically fit in seamlessly with London's haut ton of that era?

Dontcha just love how people make generalizations about entire genres based on one query for an unpublished novel?

Elaine said...

It started promisingly, but...

And the writer needs to learn how to use a semi-colon. I would've rejected it on that alone.

Jessica said...

I dream about being a princess. Maybe I'm really a princess. No, no it only works like that in stories. Damn you, Cinderella!

Cathy said...

Anonymous --

This version of my query/synopsis sucks... but since you're not May Chen at Avon (at least I hope you're not), I'm not TOO discouraged.

December --

CORRECT! My heroine was abandoned to her step-mother, a Shawnee Indian, after her English Lord of a father drank himself to death.

This query sucks, admittedly, but the manuscript has garnered me contest finals. Obviously the whole thing needs work.

Thank you, EE.

Jeb said...

"Dontcha just love how people make generalizations about entire genres based on one query for an unpublished novel?"

Dontcha just love how people make generalizations about other posters based on little more than an assumption about their gender from a nom-de-blog?

I'm female and have spent considerable portions of my reading time, for more than 30 years, wading through unrealistic scenarios in historical romance novels. Hence the word 'genre' in my original comment.

Is Mercury retrograde or something? This is the about the third time today I've seen writers getting antsy about imagined slurs through not comprehending all the words in a sentence at the same time. And I've only visited three blogs so far.

Zombie Deathfish said...

"Blossomed into ... toast" - Bwhahahahahahaha! I love it.

I am confused as to what a dirk actually is though.

December Quinn said...

Dontcha just love how people make generalizations about other posters based on little more than an assumption about their gender from a nom-de-blog?


Who made an assumption about your gender, jeb? I sure didn't.

I also fully understood your sentence, and your use of the word "genre"--which was why I responded by saying that there's no need to judge the entire genre based on one thing.

Perhaps you don't think claiming a particular genre is inaccurate all the time is a slur. I do, but I certainly wasn't getting antsy, saying that there's no need to judge an entire genre based on one thing, since your comment seemed aimed specifically at this query. Had you mentioned you were a regular romance reader, I wouldn't have thought that.

Your gender (as opposed to your genre) had nothing to do with it.


If you've read anything at all on my blog, you'll know that I consider readers and their opinions pretty much sacrosanct.