12.28.2005

#39 Crapometer

A post-apocalyptic Regency novel where the paranormal is becoming distressingly normal.

In 2058, the earth's magnetic poles reversed in one, devastating flip, destroying civilization. Over the next 10,000 years the change in alignment influenced human genes, and the human race began to evolve into elves, dwarves, and other strange beings, exhibiting psychic and magical Gifts.

The world had changed, and with it democracy became a thing of the past. Using rare copies of history books and romances, those with power and money modeled themselves on ancient Regency England, leaving the Gifted and different out in the cold. In response, the Gifted banded together in Clans for protection, ensuring a life of peace and a future for their children. Jeroen Alhalla wasn't one of the protected.

As a member of the new aristocracy and heir to her family's fortune, she is expected to be normal. And she is - except for a forbidden Vision gift, berserker tendencies and pointed, dog-like ears. She fears her family will realize just how different she is and cast her out of Society into the Clans, exiled forever from the life she was born to live.

And as if she didn't have enough problems, a handsome, Gifted fugitive, Quoi Sarman, breaks into her bedroom, desperate for a place to hide. Despite her misgivings, she finds herself harboring Quoi, not willing to give him up to a life of imprisonment for crimes she suspects he didn't commit.

Before settling down with a boring, society-approved husband, Jeroen decides to keep this hot, luscious man as her concubine. It is forbidden to associate with him "he's Gifted after all" but he has pointed ears just like hers and a magic she can't deny. She's not about to give up such a tasty piece because her parents are afraid of a little witchcraft.

Quoi has other ideas and isn't about to put up with her machinations. His best friend has been sent to prison for crimes he didn't commit. Quoi must clear both their names and break his friend out of a maximum-security prison if he has any hope of reclaiming his life amongst the Clans. Still, Jeroen is gorgeous, and if circumstances were otherwise he'd be tempted to let her keep him.

Each time Quoi tries to escape, Jeroen thwarts him and tempts him to distraction. Their struggle is interrupted when an army sweeps through town and kidnaps everyone with a Gift, including Jeroen.

Quoi realizes he can't leave her to an uncertain fate, so instead of going after his best friend, he frees her from her kidnappers, then shows her a whole new world ˆ one where her oddities and Gifts are accepted and embraced.

With Quoi's guidance, Jeroen discovers her true Gift. Through touch she magnifies the Gifts of others. Quoi can melt stone with a caress of his hand, but with her at his side he can melt mountains.

He entices her with the promise of a future with him. She wants him desperately, yet she can't let go of where she came from or who she is. Quoi is torn. He wants to stay with her, but it is long past time to continue his quest to save his best friend.

When Jeroen and Quoi are recaptured, Jeroen realizes it is time to stop running from herself and from the armies. It is time to get down to the bottom of who's behind the war or their entire society, normal and Gifted, will be torn apart.

She faces her fate bravely, only to find the perpetrator is one of her own: a Peer of her father's who has craved her since they day he laid eyes on her. A Peer who has been secretly imprisoning the Gifted in a dormant volcano and using them as slaves for his own, selfish purposes.

To save the Gifted Clans, Jeroen is forced to accept what she is, ears and all. Together, she and Quoi combine their powers to liberate his people by melting a hole in the side of the volcano. Now everyone will know the extent of her Gifts, and she will probably be exiled, but it is worth the risk to save so many from enslavement.

In the end, Jeroen refuses to choose between Quoi and her world. Instead, she forces her family to accept who she is and give their blessing to her marriage. Eventually she persuades her Peers to accept her as well, and together Jeroen and Quoi battle against the prejudice and fear of those who are different, forging a path of peace between the New Aristocracy and the Gifted.

While it's not quite the democracy of old America, it's a place to start.


I love the gender reversal here. The plot flows naturally and there isn’t a lot of fancy shmancy adverbial crap.

But, it’s a recitation of events with not much sense of character or voice.

If you’ve got five wow pages to start, I’d probably read a partial on this, but your synopsis can serve you better if it’s zippier.

20 comments:

Ražarelie said...

Nice concept love the societies background

Alicia Paige said...

OK, thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Such a relief to know I'm not completely off target. I'll go back and take another look at the character and voice. :-)

waylander said...

I really severely doubt that a polar reversal would devastate civilization

Alicia Paige said...

It's one of those worst case scenario things. It is possible, per the Discovery Channel, that a pole reversal, if triggered quickly, would create internal upheaval and set off volcanos and earthquakes all over the planet and devastate the planet.

Bernita said...

Faint but persuing here,would not this unusual use ( to me ) of the term "regency" which usually applies to a historical period romance, make some scratch their heads and put them off from an otherwise interesting story line?

Anonymous said...

Must agree with waylander. There are in fact published papers on the potential effects of pole reversal (something that's happened time and time again during the planet's history) and it doesn't say anything about destroying civilization. Just, you know, increased radiation leading to more skin cancers. I'd put it down and suggest the writer better do more research.

Dave Kuzminski said...

I have no way of knowing if it would devastate civilization, but electricity is generated using magnetic power. If you flip the poles there might be some other consequences saddled onto that such as a sudden and catastrophic disruption of all power generating equipment which might cause more global accidents than you could shake a stick at since thankfully sticks don't need batteries yet. In other words, the devastation could be explained away by stating that the global magnetism affected everything down to the local level including magnets. Thus you'd have engines become instant junk when the polarity switch, wiring overheating, transformers exploding, and so forth. Anyway, it might not be possible, but you only have to make it sound plausible to the casual reader who just wants something that makes just enough sense.

Scientists kept saying that DNA couldn't be extracted from fossils until they unexpectedly found some soft tissue just this year that had survived. No one's come out and stated if DNA can or can't be extracted from that, but you know someone is thinking of trying.

J.R. Turner said...

Taking "what if's" to the extreme has sustained many a literary career :)

How plausible is it that nanotechnology would escape, enter a human host, and take it over? (Prey)

Or how plausible is it that an alien species will invade earth and make humans their pets?
(Battlefield Earth)

Of course, it's hard to tell if an author has manipulated the science well enough to suspend disbelief in the reader from just a synopsis, but in fiction, anything is possible: it's all in the execution :)

Ain't it GRAND not to be an accountant where "cooking the books" could get you sent to prison? :)

Demented M said...

To me, this plot has echoes of X-Men. Not saying it's a copycat or that it's a bad synopsis, but for me it's got too much of a mutants against the humans feel to it.

The post-apocalyptic angle is interesting and I bet no one has done a Regency this way before.

Good luck with it!

M

Fran said...

My two--or maybe 20 considering the length of my post--cents, for what they're worth, which may be very little....

Alicia, when I read the second paragraph in your synopsis, my internal poor-science meter's needle shot out my nostrils, then out my ears, and then through the top of my head. Writers can often get away with some stuff in fiction because it is supposedly fiction after all. However, that second paragraph made me roll my eyes because IMO it confuses the "bounds" of the geological sciences and stretches the bounds of the biological sciences--the remaining humans "began to evolve" into elves and magical creatures and within only 10,000 years inside likely (I'm assuming from your description) greatly deteriorated environmental conditions--WTF??? I know this is only a synopsis, but it sounds like you should decide whether your story's crossed-over with the fantasy genre or the science-fiction genre (or if you even intend it to be crossed with either). You may seem to be making mistakes in both genres if the synopsis reader assumes the story's crossed with one or the other, and from where I'm sitting, the way you open your synopsis indicates that your romantic story probably is a crossover.

Now my comments may be very inexact because I haven't seen your actual manuscript, and that's one reason why I can't stand all the synopsis-requirement stuff in the publishing industry: a synopsis is a synopsis. It's a separate work unto itself, with its own structure and "rules," and is not the same as the actual work it's supposedly based on. A writer could pen a well-written synopsis based on a poorly written work, or even a poorly written synopsis based on a well-written work; a writer could be a great synopsis writer but a terrible novelwriter, and vice versa. If I were an agent, I'd only look at a few-line description of a novel's story and sample pages of the actual manuscript--always. I also don't like knowing The End before I read/view something, and feel the narrative experience often requires a first experience within the structure of the actual narrative because writers (at least I do) often intend their narratives to unfold a certain way, intend that certain events are experienced within certain contexts only. Also, readers don't normally read and then buy based-on synopses; they read and then buy whole narrative works.

Alicia, when you say the "paranormal is becoming distressingly normal," what are you referring to? There is evidence that the Earth's magnetic poles have periodically reversed many times already--that's seemingly a normal occurrence. It's possible you mean a geographic pole reversal (like on this more fantastical pseudoscience-sounding page http://www.nasca.org.uk/Strange_relics_/reversal/reversal.html), but if that ever suddenly happened, there would likely be little life of ANY kind left on this planet. And even if there were any remaining life, the rate of "evolutions" would more likely (continue to) decrease for various reasons, IMO at least.

Here's a link to check out, and other sources should be checked too as they may have different info (much--and possibly even all--of scientific observation is likely subjective, as is any method of observation probably, at least in my opinion and experience):

http://www.geomag.bgs.ac.uk/reversals.html

"Is there any danger to life?

Almost certainly not. The Earth's magnetic field is contained within a region of space, known as the magnetosphere, by the action of the solar wind. The magnetosphere deflects many, but not all, of the high-energy particles that flow from the Sun in the solar wind and from other sources in the galaxy. Sometimes the Sun is particularly active, for example when there are many sunspots, and it may send clouds of high-energy particles in the direction of the Earth. During such solar 'flares' and 'coronal mass ejections', astronauts in Earth orbit may need extra shelter to avoid higher doses of radiation. Therefore we know that the Earth's magnetic field offers only some, rather than complete, resistance to particle radiation from space....

Human beings have been on the Earth for a number of million years, during which there have been many reversals, and there is no obvious correlation between human development and reversals. Similarly, reversal patterns do not match patterns in species extinction during geological history."


I've written this post partly because you might someday submit your story to a science fiction and/or fantasy house that's started publishing romance crossovers. If I'm not mistaken (and I may be), a few sci-fi/fantasy houses are doing this now, but the problem is: those editors are likely familiar with real science, and asking them to suspend too much disbelief right off would probably be a mistake. I think that if you (impersonal) include some science content, especially if it's the primary explanation behind your futuristic world and especially if it appears right at the beginning of your submission, you should probably maintain a certain level of accuracy--or at least plausibility. Or maybe you should avoid using any science.

Alicia, if I were you, I'd consider removing the pole-reversal thing entirely and using a more magical, fantastical explanation for why humans and human civilizations in your fictional world become what you've described in the amount of time you've described. But my comments there are very inexact as I don't know how you've specifically handled this stuff in your actual manuscript.

Lastly, I like the rest of your synopsis's content: any story with gender-role reversals and/or male concubines is a story I'd like to read and might even buy without looking at any of the actual text, which is something I rarely, rarely do. I want a male concubine--no, I want more than one. Maybe I'll take out an ad.

Wanted: a slim average-height 20-year-old male concubine with a mop of thick hair, who is dumb as a doorknob and hard as a rock.

Anonymous said...

Magnetic pole reversals happen quickly on the geologic time scale. "Quickly" in thas case means 100 to 1000 years time frame. The scenario just isn't plausible.

I'm a big SF/F fan, but this seems to violate the "one make-believe element per book" rule. If you posit a world with elves and dwarves and ask, "what happens?", I'll play along. If you posit a devastating magnetic polar shift and ask, "what happens?", I'll play along. But *both* make-believe things in one book? Nuh-uh.

Seriously, this polar shift thing doesn't seem central to the plot. Why have it in there? I know in my case, *I* won't read the book, just because of that.

Anonymous said...

Does it matter *why* the genetic mutation stuff happened? Perhaps a different reason can be used, or even none at all. All that stuff about polar what's-it's seemed like overexposition anyway. The story is about the characters, not geology/geography.

Alicia Paige said...

OK, OK, didn't mean to start a shit storm here. :-)

Yes, my reasons for why all this happened are far more fleshed out in the book. I need both a pole reversal to devastate civilization so it has an excuse to start over, and also because the magnetic change changes people's DNA. This is an ALTERNATE earth, so the implication is that this has happened before. With each pole reversal, we switch back and forth from elves to humans to elves. This is certainly not meant to be a hard core sci-fi, but perhaps an interesting mix of fantasy come to life on an alternate earth.

The idea of a devastating pole reversal came from the Discovery Channel, which tends to speculate a bit farther out there than in scientific papers. I'll be careful to frame it in a way that makes it casually believable as suggested. :-)

Bernita, perhaps I need to use a different word than "regency". The synopsis is aimed at editors and agents who would know instantly what that means, but I wouldn't expect an average reader to know it nor do I use it in the story. Basically, 10,000 years later, the rich people are in the midst of a fad of mimicking what they know about the regency period to reinforce their class status. Sort of a fun way to play with historical elements most readers of romance will recognize, but I don't have to be historically accurate.

Thanks all for posting your questions. I agree it is frustrating to convey something this complex in a simple synopsis. Drives me batty.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

Alicia, you go for it girl! Listen to Miss Snark and fix the mechanics. I think the story idea is cool!

I like the story, and yes, I too watch the Discovery Channel, and yes, a polar shift of catastrophic magnitude could happen in the blink of an eye.

They have found mastodon remains at the North Pole that had buttercups in their stomachs. The consensus was that a meteor hit earth with enough force to cause a polar shift that turned green grass at the poles to miles of ice, in an extremely short period of time.

The point is, that just like with movies, there will be people who can stretch their imagination to encompass an extreme plot premise...and then there are those who won't or can't put aside their logical abilities to enjoy the story for its entertainment value.

Just my 2 cents!

Mad Scientist Matt said...

I'm not surprised, given how many SFF fans there are in the online reader community, that the magnetic pole shift idea got pounced on. Having the magnetic poles move causing anything more annoying than altered compass readings is the sort of thing that will draw hard-SF critics like, if you'll pardon the pun, a magnet. You should see how the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics page treated The Core.

Sometimes it's best if you don't explain your science. After all, your characters are so far away in time from what happened and do not seem to be living in a technological age, so they may have come up with all sorts of more mystical theories - or no explanation whatsoever. An explanation that isn't provided is nitpick-proof. Given the paranormal elements, for that matter, the people might even hold a mythological explanation of how civilization collapsed in 2058 and have their mythology turn out to be 100% fact!

Or you could use one of the more standard reasons for wiping out civilization - asteroid impacts (which can tilt the earth's magnetic and geographic poles along with causing general havoc), warfare, genetic engineering gone horribly wrong, social deterioration, or plagues.

But I must admit that I found the idea of mixing post-apocalyptic and Regency romance to be a very creative and original idea. If it's told as straight fantasy / paranormal, I might want to buy this... and I don't even read romance novels.

Rick said...

Alicia -

Is the (rather iffy) postapocalyptic SF background really needed for what amounts to a fantasy novel set in a Regency-inspired world? After all, fantasies set in worlds similar in flavor to the historical past are common, usually medievaloid but not always (mine is Renaissance). The world doesn't need to be explained; the reader accepts it.

Unless your story requires it - and I don't really see it - my willing-suspension-of-disbelief meter would far more easily buy into a frankly imaginary world, that I can accept on its own terms, rather than a strained effort to put it in the remote future.

So far as genre goes, it is not a Regency - it is SF/F with a Regency flavor. Readers of only traditional Regencies would probably be offput by the SF/F elements. Regency fans who are open to it are already haunting the SF/F section. (There are several Regency-flavored fantasies, though set in an alternate England, not a separate world, but that should not be a problem.)

The title and - especially - cover would cue in the reader: probably something like Jeroen, with her pointy ears but wearing a Jane Austen style dress.

Shadow said...

"OK, OK, didn't mean to start a shit storm here. :-) "

Don't sweat it, Alicia. Getting people riled up is another way of getting them excited. I think you got more responses in the comments column than anyone else! That rocks, IMHO.

McKoala said...

Completely different question from me and it's pretty trivial, but I was thrown at first by the name Jeroen, as it's a name that I know only as a boy's name. Was that a deliberate decision, or is it also used as a girl's name e.g. in the US (I know it as a Dutch name)?

Alicia Paige said...

Mckoala, I like names that aren't cutsie girly, and it is very within her character to have a name that is masculine. She's a bit dominatrix oriented and a small part of the story line is that her father wanted a boy for an heir, didn't get one, so raised her as if she were one. Of course, he gave her a masculine name as a part of that.

To everyone else, thanks so much for all your comments. I think I'll keep what I have, but make the magnetic reversal and subsequent evolution as sort of a hazy, legend-oriented event that can't be fully explained because people just don't know exactly what happened. This certainly isn't hard sci-fi, so I don't want the book/idea to be judged by those standards.

You all rock for taking the time to let me know what you thought. :-)

Rick said...

Hazy and legendary will help a lot - it removes any hard-SF expectations, and whatever happened 10,000 years ago is really way in the backstory.