Thursday, March 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1010

Guess the Plot

The Hot Season

1. When a slight shift in the Earth's axis leaves the UK closer to the sun, the race is on for a new SPF formula. Can British scientist Tony Edwards save his countrymen or is this the end of paleness as we know it?

2. Every season is the hot season in Thailand. Especially when your visiting cousin is found dead and the police don't care and you get involved with a ring of human traffickers in Cambodia. Hey, every season is the hot season in Cambodia.

3. Marine Biologist Sam Whittaker has had enough of single living. He joins and flies Bruna over, but her Latin temper threatens the ice cap when she learns Antarctica is not America.

4. For Alaska native Will Parker, the worst thing about returning to Earth from the International Space Station is that it's August and he now lives in Houston, which is one step up from the Sahara Desert. So you can imagine how he feels when a booster rocket malfunctions, throwing the shuttle way off course and forcing Parker to crash-land on Mercury.

5. After growing up in Antarctica with her scientist parents, Alberta-Marie is ready for warmer weather. A move to tropical Ecuador means she will finally buy a swim suit. But in the hottest summer in 20 years surrounded by even hotter men, which heat will she succumb to first?

6. CeeBee knew the job at Disneyland was going to be tough. Screaming kids, crying parents, meltdowns, high humidity, and pure misery at the Happiest Place on Earth. She just didn't expect to find them all at the toll booth for the parking lot. Now it's August, and if she hears one more whining kid, that .38 is coming out.

Original Version

Dear ….,

I'm writing to ask if you would accept a submission for The Hot Season, a mystery novel of 83,000 words. It's the story of an American journalist in Thailand who confronts ancient superstitions and modern day crime, as she searches for the truth behind her cousin’s death.

I’m currently based in Bangkok, and before devoting myself to writing I spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. I’m also a published author in Australia. My first book, XXX (XX, 20XX), [For those who've forgotten their Roman numerals, allow me to translate: 30 (20, 2020).] is a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. It was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards.

[I Googled XXX Awards and it took me six hours to pry myself away and back to this blog. Fascinating stuff.]

In The Hot Season, Sam Beckman, [Hang on a minute, switching my mouse to my left hand as my right is inexplicably inflamed.] [Okay, ready.] a foreign correspondent for a US radio network, is visited by a teenage cousin who’s backpacking through Thailand. She’s delighted [Readers may assume "she" is the cousin, as the cousin is the most recently mentioned character.] at the chance to mend some of her frayed family ties, but within days her cousin is found dead on the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

Worried about damage to the lucrative tourism industry, Thai police write the death off as a drug overdose. [Tourism isn't aided by the knowledge that the corpses of drug ODs are occasionally found on the river bank. Unless you're trying to attract drug addict tourists, wouldn't it be better to write it off as a boating accident?] When Sam suspects foul play, she’s warned to stop meddling. But keeping quiet and playing dumb are not in her nature. [Playing dumb is generally considered a smart strategy.] She’s quickly drawn into a web of human trafficking stretching from Bangkok’s urban jungle to the killing fields of Cambodia and beyond. [The more successful human traffickers wouldn't kill one of their humans the same day they abduct her.]

Sam’s search is helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything. [Thai food will give anyone hallucinations. Travel tip: Don't order Neua Pad Prik in Phuket.]

A good dose of humor and a sassy heroine counterbalance the serious issues in The Hot Season. I hope this novel will be the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

If you would like to read more of my work or have any other questions, please email me at XXXXXXX. You can also call me in Thailand on XXXXXX [(Monday)]. [On XXXXXXX I'll be in Somalia. Then XXXXXXXXX I'm off to North Korea for a well-deserved vacation.] I look forward very much to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


This might be better described as a thriller. I usually expect a mystery to have several suspects. As the cousin didn't know anyone, Sam is basically trying to get to the bottom of what happened, not whodunnit.

The plot summary is three paragraphs. The other stuff is four paragraphs. Cut those four down to two. One way to do this is to open with:

The Hot Season is a stand-alone mystery novel of 83,000 words, and the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked, including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

Then: Sam Beckman, a foreign correspondent for a US radio network . . . Run through the plot, and finish with:

I've spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. My first book, ______________, a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein, was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards. If you would like to consider The Hot Season, please email me at XXXXXXX.


Faceless Minion said...

She’s delighted at the chance to mend some of her frayed family ties, but within days her cousin is found dead...

I read this as she killed her cousin. --Possibly just me.

The main plot here seems to be the search for the Truth. I'd be interested in hearing either a consequence for not finding the truth or what she plans on doing once she'd found it.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...

Are "the killing fields of Cambodia" still a going concern? Because I thought that all went out with the Khmer Rouge, 30-some years ago.

Don't open with your qualifications; you may give the impression that you're relying more on them than on the story you're telling.

Laurie said...

What everyone else has said - there are some confusing bits (as your heroine is named "Sam," I also defaulted to the "she" referring to the visiting cousin). And yes, your qualifications go at the end.

But that being said, I'd like to read this book.

Rashad Pharaon said...

Being a Thailand lover and having visited just a few months ago, I'm immediately drawn to this.

But instead of saying "a good dose of humor and a sassy heroine"-- why don't you inject some of those qualities into the query? Humor? Is there a ladyboy cop?

james said...

Wow. I think this may be the first time I guessed which was the real plot. And I've been checking in on EE's blog for years. Number 2, right? And this time, I didn't pick a fake plot I wrote myself. Alright! Time to celebrate with another beer.

Anonymous said...

Trivializing the Killing Fields (and the international trial that is ongoing) is offensive and insensitive.

There are very few people over the age of 45 left in Cambodia today.

I like the opening, good luck. I like the suggestion of a ladyboy tossed into your mix of characters.

ozgirl said...

Thanks very much for the feedback! Those points will be very useful in revising my query.

Re: the killing fields...even though Pol Pot was ousted some 30 years ago, the impact of his rule is still being felt today in terms of poverty, injuries from the millions of landmines left over from that period, damage to society and so on. This will take many more decades to overcome. The terrible legacy of the Khmer Rouge is one of the reasons why even today Cambodians are vulnerable to human trafficking. I don't see why it is insensitive or offensive to discuss serious issues like human trafficking in a novel. The humor in the book comes mostly from self-depreciating wisecracks by the protagonist - it does not contain jokes about human trafficking or genocide or trivialize these issues. I agree, that WOULD be offensive.

Thanks again for the feedback!