Guess the Plot
1. Phyllis Jablonski drives into Manhattan at lunchtime, and finds an empty parking space right in front of the building she's going to. And there are still forty-eight minutes on the meter.
2. Jerry Greene opens his mailbox and finds no bills, no credit card applications, and no catalogues. And it isn't even Sunday.
3. Marina is Jewish and a passionate supporter of Israel. She meets an Arab who's handsome and rich. After a few months of torrid sex they get married and move to Saudi Arabia.
4. Tiffany gets more than she bargained for when she claims that she's still a virgin despite being seven months pregnant. If it will bring the Pope on his first-ever visit to Decaturville, Tennessee, however, the town's willing to believe in the miracle. Also, a hillbilly Hitler impersonator.
5. When $523.42 in an unmarked envelope appears in Milo's mailbox -- the exact amount he needs to pay his rent and electric bill -- is it a miracle, or is it a subtle attempt to drive obsessive-compulsive Milo to the brink of a nervous breakdown?
6. The blizzard struck just before a loooong weekend of very important sports TV, when Doug and Smitty had only six beers and one bag of chips. These pious buddies had a portable generator so they turned it on and prayed. They watched TV and ate and drank and ate and drank and on Sunday night they realized -- neither the beer cans! Nor the chip bag! Nor even the generator tank! ever emptied! --- Should they call CNN? Or the Pope?
Dear Mr. Agent:
Marina Lansky has always dreamed of being a spy, but when she gets recruited by the Mossad in her junior year in college, she gets more than she bargained for. Her growing obsession with Ali Chalabi, [With Ahmed Chalabi so prominent in the news in the recent past, is there a reason you've chosen such a similar name?] a fellow student from Saudi Arabia, takes her from New York to Riyadh to the Arabian Desert and almost costs her life.
Marina is Jewish and a passionate supporter of Israel. When she learns that Ali has broken into Israeli military computers, she volunteers to help Israeli intelligence track his activities. Ali likes to brag about his computer-hacking exploits, so spying on him is easy. [Did she learn Ali had broken into the computers from him, or from Israel?] [Does Ali know Marina's Jewish?] It is also a lot of fun. He is handsome and rich, and Marina enjoys expensive restaurants, torrid sex made even more exciting by the deception,
[Mossad: Hello? Agent Lansky? We're calling for your report on Chalabi's activities.
Marina: Let's see, last night we dined at 21. Then we went back to Ali's place and had torrid sex all night. Thursday night we ate at Per Se. Then we went back to my place and had torrid sex all night. Wednesday . . .
Mossad: Has he said or done--
Marina: Listen, call back in the morning, will you? I'm tied up right now.]
and a newfound sense of purpose. When Ali is recalled home to work for the Saudi Defense Ministry, she marries him to continue to spy on him. In Riyadh, she rarely leaves the house, communicating with her Mossad handlers through e-mail. [Typical email from Marina:
Ali brought home take-out last night from Al-Nafoura. I had kabsat dagag. Don't know what it means, but they got the gag part right, LOL. Then we had torrid sex all night. ;-)
Read about my exploits at mossadspy.blogspot.com]
She struggles with isolation and growing suspicions of Ali’s sinister brother. [Osama Chalabi] But Ali is kind to her, he is the only friend she can turn to in this oppressive and alien world. She begins to fall in love with him for real, and she feels no pleasure in betraying his trust. But it’s too late to stop now. [True, as shown here:
Marina: I've grown to love you with all my heart, Ali.
Ali: As I do you, my flower.
Marina: Thus I have decided that henceforth I will stop informing Israeli Intelligence of your every move.
Ali: Most considerate, my darling. Excuse me, I need to use the intercom. Miss Adeela? Would you send in Borgo the Disemboweler, please?]
She discovers a terrorist plot to steal nuclear weapons from Israel but is unable to warn her contacts through the usual channels. [That's so annoying. Spammers selling Viagra manage to send you hundreds of emails, but when you're trying to prevent nuclear war, all your emails bounce.] She can do nothing and cause the deaths of thousands of people or she can warn the Israelis and risk exposure which would bring her a death sentence as a Zionist spy. [What is the communication method she would have to use that would expose her?]
THE MIRACLE is a romantic spy thriller, complete at 83,000 words. Thank you for considering my novel. May I send you sample pages or the complete manuscript?
Thrillers and romances usually get away with a few plot holes, but I thought I'd bring them up anyway:
She rarely leaves the house, but manages to discover a plot to steal nuclear weapons? Who else lives in this house?
The Saudi Defense Ministry needs to fill a position, and they can't come up with anyone better than a college student in America?
Presumably Israel would hire the finest computer minds available to try to hack into their military computers, as a safeguard. Yet this college student pulls it off as a prank? (I assume it's a prank, as he probably wouldn't brag about this accomplishment if he were doing it as a spy operation.)
The Israelis find out this guy hacked into their military secrets, and instead of kidnapping him and torturing him, ask a 19-year-old college girl to keep an eye on him?
Ignore the fact that we have a Jewish student dropping out of college, marrying an Arab, and moving to Riyadh, where she'll be a second-class citizen at best, and dead at worst. Just think about what mattered to you when you were a college sophomore: boys, music, your dreamy psychology professor, movies, passing chemistry, torrid sex . . . Maybe Marina should be a graduate student. A few more years under her belt.
Also, what's the miracle?
Anonymous said...Who's the dumber character? The empty headed chick who marries somebody to keep up the guise, or the blowhard moron who brags about his spying? Why would either the Mossad or the Saudi government want to hire these idiots?
Evil Editor said...or the blowhard moron who brags about his spying?
Whether Ali is a spy isn't clear. He brags about his hacking exploits. Sounds like his brother's the bad guy.
Anonymous said..."Marina Lansky . . . but when she gets recruited by the Mossad in her junior year in college. . ."
Is this an internship or something? Would such an important job be given to someone this early in their schooling? How is she recruited? Needs a little explanation to be believable. I agree with EE that maybe she should be older - grad student makes more sense.
Maggie Stiefvater said...Rightly put, EE. On the surface sounds quite pleasant to read but with any thought at all sounds like something that could only happen in fiction.
Anonymous said...I would say this was wildly implausible but Israeli spies do keep getting into the most embarassing situations. Just this weekend an Israeli "diplomat" was reportedly discovered sprawled on his front yard: drunk and clad only in "bondage equipment". So you got 100 free believability points.
writtenwyrdd said...As presented, your story sounds weak and (as EE points out) full of plot holes, Author. I don't say you can't make it work; but it sounds like a highly implausible series of events to me.
Besides the plot holes EE mentions, I thought I would suggest that 1) they'd recruit her after she married and not before; 2) she would probably screw things up because she's a civilian playing at being a spy; 3) and romance wouldn't really be there in any book about spying on your husband I can think of...unless she's really a sociopath and excellent actress (or a multiple personality).
I'm not an agent or editor, but to have a book called a 'romantic spy thriller' makes my wtf alarm sound. It gives me the sense of plot schizophrenia, at any rate, as if you don't know what it is you wrote. One theme/plot dominates the other, so use whichever one you think that is. I'd assume it's a thriller, based on what you wrote.
Good luck with this. I suspect you may need to revise the plot some, based on this letter, but it has some gripping elements that could make for a good story.
Brenda Bradshaw said...I have no problem with the use of "romantic spy thriller". My brain stumbles over it, but I get the idea. I'd probably rephrase it to "spy thriller with romantic elements" IF they're romantic. This sounds more like EROTIC elements though. Maybe "sexy spy thriller" would roll across the brain easier.
Anonymous said...I totally thought GTP#3 was a joke...
Wonderwood said...I like Brenda's suggestion, call it a sexy spy thriller. This story does stretch the limits of my willingness to suspend disbelief, so the writing would have to be pretty dang strong to keep me reading. Though I am reading The Last Templar right now, so go figure.
blogless_troll said...The Miracle is the author said Israel has nukes and there aren't any anonymous comments condemning her/him as Anti-Semitic.
Katerina Kramova said...I am the author. Thanks to EE and to everyone for the comments and the questions. Here are a few answers:
Ali brags to Marina about hacking into an Israeli military computer even though he knows she is Jewish. He is arrogant and self absorbed and he thinks, not without reason, that she is in love with him. Marina alerts the Israeli Consulate expecting them to stop him. But once the Israelis find out that Ali intends to give whatever he finds to his brother who is an intelligence analyst in Saudi Arabia, they begin to feed him misinformation to confuse the Saudi intelligence. They ask Marina to find out more about his family and its political connections and to copy log files from his computer whenever she gets a chance. Ali's brother uses the fake intelligence Ali gives him to further his career in Saudi Arabia but runs into resistance from rivals who question the validity of the new intelligence source. Ali is recalled to Saudi Arabia to work for the ministry so he can defend his methods and bolster his brother's credibility. Marina is willing to marry him and go there because it is only supposed to be for a few months. Marina makes a bargain with her control officer that once she is back, she gets to move to Israel, go to Mossad spy school and become a “real” Mossad agent.
In Riyadh, Ali and Marina live in a family compound with extended family, including the evil brother, who brings paperwork home from the ministry and leaves it lying around. Marina scans it into the computer and sends it to the Mossad also, along with whatever she finds on Ali’s computer. The brother is connected to a terrorist group in Syria and is the mastermind of the plot to steal nuclear weapons. The plot is made possible by the vulnerability Ali supposedly discovered in the computer at Dimona (See the very informative post above about Vanunu). In fact, the vulnerability is an illusion, a plot by the Israelis to lure the previously elusive terrorist group into a trap. But Marina does not know this, and when she finds out about the plot, she panics, and sends the disks with the entire contents of Ali's computer though a package service. The package is intercepted by the secret police and she is arrested. She is condemned to death as a Zionist spy, taken out in the helicopter over the desert and forced to jump. The miracle of the title is that she survives. (Though I really like the fake plot about finding a parking space in Manhattan). Now if I get this far in the query, people will want to know how she survives and why. This will easily take another half a page. and I am out of room already.
I can see from the comments that this query is no good. The previous version had more detail, but was criticized for being a synopsis by Miss Snark in the Crapometer. How much detail is the right amount? I welcome any suggestions.
Evil Editor said...The first five sentences of your comment contain information that answers most of the questions the query inspires. Some of it can easily be worked into the query without lengthening it much, while some of it would add a few sentences.
What happens in Riyadh isn't so important to the query, and can be covered by saying she plans to be there two months tops, but her cover is blown before she can get out.
pacatrue said...I doubt anyone is reading this anymore, but, Katerina, if you are, I clicked over to your profile and there are a couple items there which I think need to be in the query. The main one is that these novels are already published, albeit in Russian translation. Won't any agent or editor want to know that? I assume that your contract with the Russian publisher does not cover the U.S. or English market? If correct, the fact that these are published already is a strong point in your favor. It means that someone in the world has read the books and thought them worth publishing, albeit in a very different market. It's a credit.
Another approach you might try is instead of selling them as a debut novel, try to sell them as the English version of the Russian novels. What I'm thinking of is stuff you see on the American agent blogs, where they contract with other agents to sell various world rights and the like. Maybe what you are selling is American rights to a previously published Russian novel.