Saturday, September 29, 2012
Evil Editor Classics
Guess the Plot
Bless the Dying
1. Bless the dying, it is said, for they make way for our children. "Fuck that," Oscar Munker says, and so begins his hilarious quest to find a way to cling to this mortal coil forever.
2. Dear old Father Gabriel spends his nights at the hospital, ministering to the terminally ill. But only Ian, the vampire who works in the lab, knows that 'Father Gabriel' is really a devil known as Gabron. Can Ian destroy Gabron before he harvests any more souls?
3. After a routine medical test, a cop checks into the hospital. He's been poisoned! The head of public relations for the hospital suspects he's dying, which would be bad pub, especially if the routine test was administered at the hospital. She decides to solve the case.
4. When evil scientist Ray Winegast accidentally infects himself with homemade zombie microbes and starts an epidemic, it's up to Thor Jones and Bongo Mugwump to save voluptuous Screaming Mimi from the roof of Virus Central before the US Air Force flattens Pittsburgh.
5. Sally Bless has only one month in which to make her handicraft store show a profit, or the bank will seize all her assets. Then she meets Oliver Quilby, an aging hippie who shows her the forgotten art of tie dying. Suddenly a craze for tie-dying hits the USA and Sally finds herself richer than she ever dreamed. But will her new millions alienate the hippie she has grown to love?
6. Candace always wanted to see Africa. When a brutal coup occurs, though, hunky CIA agent Tom Thomas whisks her off to a secret resistance base in the jungle. Can she win his heart by going undercover as a nun into the new regime's hospitals and extracting useful secrets from its soldiers while administering last rites?
Dear XX: [Nothing assures a rejection like spelling the editor's name wrong. That's EE.]
When a policeman falls ill after taking a routine medical test, his former lover, head of public relations for the hospital where he’s been admitted, suspects the worst. [I have no idea what "the worst" is because the test and the illness aren't specific enough:
Was his poisoning an accident, or did someone prescribe the test knowing full well the outcome?
[Doctor: Where's Crampton?
Nurse: I sent him to the lab to have some blood drawn.
Doctor: Excellent. Mwaahhh ha ha! Soon he will be dying from a slow-acting poison administered by lab assistant Igor, and we can move on to the next phase of our diabolical plan!]
That’s the premise of a character-driven mystery I’ve written titled BLESS THE DYING.
When not writing fiction, I’m [Whoa! That's all we get? The premise?] a feature writer for the Houston Chronicle. I spent ten years in health care public relations [So this is autobiographical. How does your ex-lover the cop feel about you writing this book in which he dies an excruciating death? Or did that really happen? Did you administer the routine test?] before becoming a journalist, and still have many contacts at the Los Angeles Times, Orange County Register and other media outlets, which will prove helpful when publicizing the book.
My short stories have appeared in BorderSenses Literary Journal, Farfelu magazine, and Texas Magazine. A portion of BLESS THE DYING, which comes in at 65,000 words, was honored by the Florida First Coast Writer’s Festival in its annual competition.
Written in the vein of Irene Allen’s Elizabeth Elliott series, BLESS THE DYING is the first in a planned series of mysteries. The second novel follows the protagonist as she’s called upon to defend a physician accused of molestation. [BLESS THE MOLESTED will be followed by BLESS THE SNEEZING, in which the protagonist must deal with the aftereffects of pollen being released into the hospital allergy clinic. Accident? Or Mother Nature's henchmen?]
Please feel free to phone or e-mail if you’d like to read BLESS THE DYING. Thank you for your time.
The premise and a bunch of stuff about you isn't enough to get me to read this. If you tell us what the cop was being tested for and what his symptoms were, we'll have some grounding, but this being a mystery, I assume someone gets murdered. Is it the cop? He dies from the poison? Who wanted him dead? Who had opportunity? Who had motive? Get us interested in the mystery.
How do they know the routine test had anything to do with this? Obviously if you have your hearing tested and later get a stomach ache you aren't going to connect the two. If you have an illness you assume it's caused by the usual suspects, not a medical test you had recently.
The cop's former lover is going to be your protagonist in a series of mysteries, and we don't even get her name? The only character named in the query is Elizabeth Elliott, and she's not even your character.
Is a hospital's PR head really qualifieded to solve a series of crimes?
If editors had to decide which manuscripts to request based on two-sentence premises, they'd have to request everything or nothing. I, for one, would go with the latter. Come up with eight or ten sentences summarizing your plot. Your premise can be two of them.
Sarah said...We seem to be getting a rash of queries that contain very little about the novel and a lot about the author. Is this a new trend?
Part of me hopes so. That way the editors and agents I send my stuff to will be zipping through their slush at a faster rate.
WouldBe said...There'll probably be little substantive comment since there's so little query to comment on. The author could claim to be Steven King, yes THE Steven King, and the query would then be just fine.
Xenith said...Getting the novel down to a one sentence statement isn't something to be sniffed at though ;)
(Actually, it can be a good exercise wrtiting a logline, because you need to really focus on what the novel is about. Once you're got that done, I find the query and synopsis become easier to write.)
talpianna said...I gather that the cop has been poisoned via the "routine test;" but this is problematic, as EE pointed out. However, it might be made to work if you used a routine SHOT or vaccination. I recently read a story in which one of the plot points was that the teenaged heroine was allergic to eggs, so her parents decided not to have her vaccinated before moving to the African jungle because the smallpox vaccine is cultured in eggs. They figured the chances were remote that she'd ever be exposed to smallpox.
There are also drug allergies, as for example to penicillin. I myself am allergic to tetracycline.
And in 1952, when I was getting shots before we were sent to Europe, I had a very severe reaction to the typhoid/typhus series. Fainted dead away at a Bluebird Father-Daughter Dinner.
pjd said...I'm not sure there's anything that can be said that EE didn't say. Except I like GTP #2 and hope that Ian the Vampire shows up in more GTPs in the future. And in GTP #4... why, exactly, would we want to stop the US Air Force from flattening Pittsburgh?
Robin S. said...I liked the prostate test bit, with the bug eyes.
(I laughed my ass off watching my husband mince around like he'd been violated after he came home from having had his first prostate exam. We had a little chat about stirrups in exam rooms for women's exams, and why they were there, and all about how much fun, and how painless, childbirth is. And how one finger up his lubricated little...well, you know. Anyway, BFD, Sport.)
OK- on to the query.
I have to say I've read certain agents like to hear about applicable pub credits, about what genre your novel is and where you think it would "fit in" in the scheme of things - I've also heard some say they like (reasonable) comparisons to published authors. I've also read agents wanna know you have more than one book "in you". Then I've read other agents' wants-and-want-nots lists, and they prefer a polar opposite approach to each of these little nuggets. So I'd say this is (obviously) going to be a case-by-case deal.
When I've written a query that EE doesn't dismiss top-to-toe, I'll feel more comfortable saying more about the premise/setup portion of people's queries. As that hasn't happened yet (and as I may chicken out and never rewrite one for him, fearing the wrath of the gods if I screw up again), I'm bowing out of this portion of your query author, except to say, I know it's hard as hell, and I wish you the very best of luck.
pjd said...robin, that is such a cop-out on the query.
I am laughing my prostate off at your story about your hubby, though. I am at that age for my first such exam, and I think I scored big points with my doctor (a woman) when I said, "If my wife can go through childbirth--twice--without drugs of any kind--then I can handle this." I refrained, however, from doing my best W impression and saying, "Bring it on!"
Church Lady said...So glad EE didn't go to medical school.
Posted by Evil Editor at 10:12 AM