Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Face-Lift 570


Guess the Plot

Rose Lodge

1. Come to where the boys are: Rose Lodge, the home of the anatomically correct mannequin maker, Rose Cowry. Also, haunted sewing machines and weeping bloody walls.

2. When Laurel buys a lodge in Oregon, she's not looking for romance, but it's not long before the carpenter she hires to restore the place falls for her. Then the carpenter gets murdered, and other attacks convince Laurel the lodge is haunted by the malignant spirits of a secret society. Will she survive living in . . . Rose Lodge?

3. All the kids in town are sure the ruined Rose Lodge is haunted by the ghost of a teenaged girl murdered by twin brothers in 1897. Twin brothers Dave and Darren decide to investigate. Will they find the truth . . . or only death?

4. Henry Dreadlock falls in love the moment he lays eyes on the woman of his dreams, Valerie. Except she resides at Rose Lodge, one of Rose City's oldest hotels and one rumored to be haunted. Soon Henry is wondering why Valerie is always dressed in medieval garb and will never let him spend the night.

5. It was supposed to be a happy weekend of singing and cookie-baking, but when Bootsie Campbell arrives at the family reunion, an eerie wail from the forest signals that they must, again, contend with the banshee.

6. Jenny and Rick are booked into Rose Lodge for their honeymoon, but the place is nothing like its brochure. Not only is it a dump; they have to share a bathroom with the adjoining room, which is occupied by an annoying couple who spend more time in the bathtub than in their room. Can Jenny's marriage survive the honeymoon from hell?


Original Version

Dear Perceptive Agent:

Rose Lodge is a 100,000-word contemporary romantic suspense story.

Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees notoriety and suspicion in Seattle and buys Rose Lodge, a derelict inn deep in the coastal mountains of Oregon. She's looking for community and trust, not romance, but soon two men vie for her attention. One is an engaging carpenter hired to restore the lodge, the other is her neighbor Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who opposes her living in Rose Lodge, for reasons he will not name. [But which may have something to do with the effect on property values of having a serial killer living next door.]

When mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate, she has reason to suspect everyone close to her. [When you just moved deep into the mountains in a new state, it doesn't seem like you'd be that close to anyone.] Even the lodge itself seems to be trying to harm her. Then the carpenter is murdered, Laurel's handywoman is viciously assaulted, and Laurel's best friend vanishes. [Her best friend in the Oregon mountains, or her best friend forever?] The attacks cease and Laurel believes the perpetrator has been stopped--but by whom? [What do the police believe? I assume they're investigating the murder, if not the other attacks.]

Laurel finds a hidden cellar [Hidden in the attic, the last place anyone would look for a cellar.] containing a trunk holding clues to the inn's troubled past. The clues lead to a labyrinthine lava tube, which she learns was the "place of spirit" of a shamanist secret society. During the chaos of a hurricane-force windstorm Laurel is kidnapped by her best friend, who insists that Davis committed the Seattle murders and plans to kill Laurel by the same brutal method. [Let me get this straight. Her friend wants her to believe that the person who killed her husband in Seattle happens to be the same guy who lives next door to the lodge she bought deep in the Oregon mountains, bought after the murder of her husband? No one would expect someone to buy that. Have you held back some key information that makes this somehow reasonable?] Laurel escapes to the unexplored and unstable caves. Fighting for her life, she must decide whom to trust: her friend [from whom she escaped after being kidnapped,] or the man she loves [who tried to convince her not to live in Death Lodge]. [Tough decision.]

Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Rose Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence. Laurel creates a place for herself in her new community, and she and Davis open themselves to love.

I have sold romance stories to True Story and True Romance. For many years, I lived on the Oregon coast, where I survived more than one hurricane-force windstorm.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


Notes

This has several similarities to The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. In that book the house is called Rose Red, rather than Rose Lodge. The place is under construction, it's in Seattle, built on a native American burial ground, has a life of its own. The heroine has a cheating husband. Gruesome murders occur in the house. It might be worth having Laurel start in California instead of Seattle, and giving the lodge a different name to reduce the similarities.

As he gets murdered anyway, we don't need to know the carpenter has a romantic interest in Laurel. On the other hand, you might mention her attraction to Davis earlier, as this is a romance to some extent, and it's a little jolting to describe him near the end as the man she loves, when all we know about him up to then is that he didn't want her in his neighborhood, and he might be a murderer.

The plot portion could be made shorter by leaving out some of the information that inspires questions, questions that may not come up when reading the book:

Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees notoriety and suspicion in San Francisco and buys Doom Lodge, a derelict inn deep in the coastal mountains of Oregon. She's looking for community and trust, not romance, but soon finds herself attracted to Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who lives nearby.

When the carpenter restoring the lodge is murdered, Laurel's handywoman is viciously assaulted, and mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate, Laurel begins to think the lodge itself is trying to harm her. She finds an old trunk holding clues to the inn's troubled past, and learns that the lodge is built over a maze of caves that were once the "place of spirit" of a shamanist secret society. Suddenly the idea that the lodge is haunted doesn't seem far-fetched.

Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Doom Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence. Laurel creates a place for herself in her new community, and she and Davis open themselves to love.

10 comments:

Mary said...

I was also reminded of Rose Red. That could explain all the hauntings in the Guess the Plots.

Anonymous said...

Lava tubes are really kind of straightforward as far as caves go. Tough to get lost in one, since they pretty much just go from point a to b at more or less the same level, but with a bumpy floor. If you want a Tom Sawyer type labyrinth, make it a limestone cavern, they're a lot more 3-D and prone to having multiple passages, crawl-spaces, collapsing floors, underground pits and rivers etc. There aren't any of those in Oregon, but you could set the story in Missouri and have it be a tornado instead of a hurricane and add tortures by poison ivy and venomous snakes and that'd be even less like this other book they're talking about. Plus make the manly attractions a little more attractive, they don't sound especially charming here. And instead of a lot of silly shamanic hippies, you could have a really scary Charles Mason type creepo. OR maybe he's just a friendly farmer who just won't stop talking about his chickens and pigs, and she just needs a little anti-psychotic medication to get over the hallucinations.

Or keep it like it is, whatever. It just sounds kind of convoluted and contrived as described here.

Robin S. said...

One is an engaging carpenter hired to restore the lodge, the other is her neighbor Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who opposes her living in Rose Lodge, for reasons he will not name. [But which may have something to do with the effect on property values of having a serial killer living next door.]

Thanks for this. It gave me a good smile during a crappy, hard day at the office.

The story sounds like one of those 60s and 70s haunted house movies - and I liked those, contrived or not. But I have no idea about the query, author. Sorry!

benwah said...

On my first reading of the query, I thought the story seemed contrived and stuffed with too much detail. But EE's rewrite sounds more like a readable story.

"Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees..."

This immediately brought me up short. If she was acquitted, it meant there was sufficient evidence to arrest and try her. While I'm sure it makes sense in the story, it made me wonder if your MC was, in fact, guilty. Perhaps it's enough to say that she's making a new start of it after the murders.

"When mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate..."

This is the first time you reference the mysterious attacks. Escalate implies there were previous attacks.

When there's another murder, an assuault and a disappearance, I'd think the local cops might investigate a bit and find that their newest neighbor was recently on trial for murder. Your MC might be suspicious of the geologist, but I bet everyone else would be beaucoup suspicious of her.

"Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Rose Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence."

Your query tells the story from Lauurels perspective, but now you're telling us about Davis...the same man who you've recently made suspicious through the kidnapped (or is it kidnapping? or both?) best friend. This science/spiritual duality thing seemed a bit forced here. Like "here's a theme!" Again, may be the case, but best leave that to the reading.

Jeb said...

This reminds me a tv movie I saw last winter, involving a bright but lonely young woman new to a small town, and a serial-killer-next-door who follows her after she moves to the west coast. There were no caves, but a fair bit of groping down long, dark hallways (some in cellars) in a windstorm.

Could be good visuals, though - lots of lovely coastal rainforest surrounding the dilapidated lodge, things that go bump in the night, strong women carving out a place for themselves in near-wilderness conditions... could be a really inspiring read.

The heroine under suspicion of having killed her ex/his mistress is a good start at making this query stand out from the general run of fem-jep. Ask yourself how you can emphasize differences all the way through the query, to intrigue agents into hoping it transcends all the other queries of similar plot.

Whirlochre said...

I'm a little confused by the various friends, but essentially, this sounds like a 'house with a presence' story with a romantic element, so it's a fairly understandable and workable premise.

Not sure if there's enough that's sufficiently new, though Laurel's past sounds interesting.

writtenwyrdd said...

The name Rose Lodge reminded me of Rose Red, too, and the comparison doesn't help you when we learn about the horror/paranormal aspects. If this is a romance, I would play up the romantic aspects in the query.

The story elements you mention don't sell the book to me. I'd walk away from a book of this description. That said, if it's a romance you are selling,you can likely get away with a fairly implausible series of coincidences.

Kate Thornton said...

Man, I love paranormal romantic potboiler movies - it's why I have Lifetime Movie Network and my own TV. (Or Lemon Movie Network, as my DH calls it...)

I could really like this story with the tweaks suggested by EE - and yes, please, Rose Lodge just gets me in mind of Rose Red, too, not a comparison the author will want as Stephen King has done *so* much better ("Rose Madder", for instance.)

Romance, creey houses, murder, ghosts, windstorms, cellars, attics, handsome guys who work for a living - it's all there, and I love it. Write me one I can buy!

Anonymous said...

Geez. You read and you read and you read, but you don't read Stephen King, so you don't know that the Ellen R. book is a case of King stealing your story (before you thought of it).

I'll have to think carefully about changing the name. Rose Lodge is a real village named after an historic post office and inn, which in turn was named after its first postmistress, Rosalie, who planted roses around it. I passed the town many times and was in love with the name and its history, always saying to myself, "I'd like to write a story about this place."

I know "But it's based on a real story/place/person!" is no defense, but I'm still reluctant to change the name. Would I change it to sell it? Oh, yeah.

Thanks, EE, for your sensible suggestions. Thanks, minions, for your perspectives. All are appreciated and will be considered carefully as I rework this query.

It is romantic suspense--in fact, it is contemporary gothic suspense. The story purposefully has many traditional gothic elements. It does depart from the tradition in several ways, also--enough, I think, to make it a fully original story. Bringing that out in two or three paragraphs remains challenging, so your comments are welcomed.

EE, if you look at this thread again, could you advise me whether saying in the query that the book is a contemporary gothic would help or hurt the pitch? Others' opinions?

Gratefully,

Hapless Author

Evil Editor said...

As you say in the paragraph before asking your question, It is romantic suspense [with] traditional gothic elements.

That might be better than gothic romance, especially if much of it is set away from Rose Lodge in Seattle (or San Francisco).