Sunday, June 26, 2011


The book featured in the query below (from 2006) was published last year by Champagne Books, a Canadian publisher. Its inspired setting has been referenced several times in other query Face-Lifts. The author dedicated the book to his wife rather than to us.

Guess the Plot

Friends in Deed

1. In order to inherit the deed to his Grandmother's mansion, Dave must keep at least 10 of her 35 cats alive for twelve months after her death - otherwise the entire fortune goes to his cousin, a gold medal sharpshooter.

2. Tilpin Alexander deeds his 600-acre island getaway to his friends in a last-ditch effort to divest himself of assets before his avaricious wife, Nancy, divorces him and takes everything.

3. Aston's old friends Lars and Elijah blackmail him into joining their organized crime family. Then they give him his first job: breaking one of their own out of the prison planet Lycus IV.

4. Long-time friends Bill, Ralph and Ted pool their money and buy a house together. But it isn't long before their cozy bungalow begins to tear their friendship apart.

5. Meter man Harry Burkhart doesn't know what the fellow in 15B is up to, but he knows that he needs 500,000 watts of power to do it.

6. Where do souls go when they aren't good enough for heaven, nor bad enough for hell? Deed, Montana. Trevor Montgomery just woke up in Deed, and he is about to begin the adventure of his after-life.

Original Version

Have you ever had friends who weren’t really as close as you once believed? Have your so-called friends asked you to do things you wouldn’t normally do? [What is this, an infomercial?]Have they ever forced your hand and given you no way out? [Then you need Popeil's new Cloak of Invisibility.]

Space scavenger Aston West goes through this very situation in my young adult science fiction tale, Friends in Deed. Long ago, he and twin brothers Lars and Elijah Cassus were exiled to the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV. [Is it ever cost-effective to transport prisoners to another planet?] The trio made a daring escape, a task that had never been done before and has never been repeated. [Of course not. Escaping from the prison is easy enough; there are no guards. The hard part is getting off of the planet.] [To understand what's involved, imagine Earth is a prison planet. You're imprisoned in Alcatraz, and you pull off a daring escape. You're feeling great, until you realize that technically, you're still in prison, and to get out you have to make your way to Cape Canaveral and hijack a space shuttle.]

Aston again crosses paths with the twins in what seems a strange coincidence. Everything goes well as they catch up on old times, until they blackmail him into joining the organized crime family they operate. His first mission? Returning to Lycus IV to rescue one of their own, Dinah Minx.

The nature of the organization becomes clear soon after starting the mission, when innocent victims are massacred in cold blood. After the successful rescue, however, he and Dinah fall for each other. Torn between his blossoming love for her and his hatred for the organization, [Love for her, hatred for them . . . love for her, hatred for them . . . And he's "torn?"] he convinces Dinah to attempt escape from the twins. [I'm not sure it's an escape if they aren't captives.] Success means a life together on the run. Failure means certain death. Will the two lovers succeed?

Aston West is an atypical protagonist [Atypical in that most heroes haven't done something so horrific they've been sentenced to a Gohr prison planet.] and embodies “everyman.” He prefers to stay in his comfort zone, though he’s never quite able to do so. [Anyone would have trouble settling into his comfort zone on a Gohr prison planet.] When push comes to shove, Aston does what he thinks is right [Even it it means spending the rest of his life on Lycus IV. Not Lycus I, where they put the murderer-torturer-rapists. Not Lycus II, where they put the deranged cannibalistic serial killers. Not Lycus III, where they put the mass murderers of millions. Lycus IV! Where they put the worst of the worst.] [And this guy's the hero?] and reacts to situations the same as your best friend would, a quality sure to endear him to his fans. [He has fans already? This is his first book.] In addition, the universe I’ve created is ready-made for other media outlets. [For instance, I've already written a country music song called "I escaped from the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV, but I'm going back for Dinah." And I've developed a reality program where a bunch of idiots are stranded on the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV, and the last one alive wins a million dollars. Not to mention the Aston West action figure.]

The manuscript comes in at just over 55,000 words and I would be happy to send you a synopsis or the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to hearing from you.


It occurs to me that referring to the "Gohr" prison planet, Lycus IV implies that there are other prison planets that aren't Gohr. Possibly there's an entire solar system of prison planets, Lycus IV being one of them, and each of them affiliated with a different civilization. And if there's still an empty planet in this solar system that Earth can use as a prison planet, I think we should grab it.

I'd dump most of this. Some of the plot description can stay, but basically all we have that needs to be in the query is this:

Aston West is forced by mobsters to rescue Dinah Minx from the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV. After he gets her out, they fall in love. But can they walk away from the mob and live to tell about it?

Throw in some additional plot points, but nothing about media outlets, fans, when push comes to shove, Everyman, or those questions at the beginning.

[Note: Based on the Amazon description, the character Dinah Minx is Leah Jordan in the published version. And Aston was condemned to life in the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV for spitting in someone's face.]

Selected Comments
Luna said...And for the love of everything, change the female lead's name from 'Dinah Minx' to something that doesn't sound like "Dianetics" when you say it fast.

xiqay said...Yay! I chose the correct plot from among the fakes. EE, loved your humor--"Not Lycus I...Not Lycus II..." Amusing. Although you insist that these comments are added only for humor and that we minions should not look for meaning in them, I think they're helpful, too. Author, the plot doesn't strike me as YA. As I understand it (and EE or others, please correct this if wrong),a YA novel is by definition a "coming-of-age" story. This seems more of a space-gangster combo (like Star Wars is a space-western). And with adult characters, it definitely fails one of the main YA tests. The only thing that looks like YA is the word count. How does it measure up on the sci-fi genre scale? (Is there any reason it's set in the future? Or could it be anywhere? anytime? Just wondering.)
pacatrue said...There absolutely must be, must be I tell you, a scene where there's someone in the kitchen with Dinah. Someone in the kitchen I know-oh-oh. Preferably that someone or Dinah will be strumming on the old banjo, though that is not required.

magz said...Oh I'd LOVE to write the book described in plot one! As usual, a great job on the Face-Lift EE. I'd read this, tho I agree it doesn't sound particularly YA.

BuffySquirrel said...Erm, no, I don't think all YA novels have to be coming-of age, nor are all coming-of-age novels YA. My understanding however is that the protagonist in YA should not be more than about two years older than the age group at which the book is targeted, and in any case not older than 21. Further, the book should be written contemperaneously, not as an older person looking back on their youth--as many c-of-a books are. I think there are more aspects that typify YA, but I no longer have access to the board where I used to read about this stuff.

Anonymous said...xiqay--YA does not (and should not) always equal coming-of-age story. You are right about the age of the characters. How old is the MC?

Anonymous said...I had the inclination to change the name from Dinah Minx to Dinah Mite.


Spooks said...Dinah Minx? I too started thinking of Dinah Mite, or Dinah-Mix (sounds like a fertilizer)ausys...please change the name, please...

mark said...The problem I have with the name Dinah Minx is, in a SF novel, I have trouble not imagining her wearing a bra with a laser gun at the tip of each cup. (And yes, this is a problem, unless we are in Satire Land.) As for YA, it's fine for that audience, especially since SF is its own world. YA SF need not even feature teenage protagonists. The only necessary differences between it and regular SF are the shorter format and simpler vocabulary. (Think "geeky thirteen-year-old boys," and you see that the target audience does NOT usually want coming-of-age stories.)


Anonymous said...For young adult, you do not need a simpler vocabulary. These are kids who are reading Shakespeare in school, for crying out loud. And the one guaranteed kiss-of-death for YA is writing down to the audience.

AnonymousAnonymous said...I liked the cat story ;)
AstonWest said...I enjoyed #1 too...Lots of good info/advice in the Face Lift...

1 comment:

Xenith said...

Damn. Makes me want to write a story set on a prison planet just to see if I can make it work. Noooooo.