Thursday, April 19, 2012

Mysteries For Danielle Svetcov #17

TITLE: JAP Jeopardy
GENRE: YA Mystery

Ready to show her family that she's not a brainless JAP in need of micro-management, 17-year-old Rachel’s chance comes when Granny’s shady cousin Ren asks her to sign over her interest in a worthless Lithuanian property—the ancestral farm, supposedly given away before WWII. Eager to prove her smarts and get away from home, Rachel finds herself matching wits with corrupt Lithuanian police, unwinding decades-old clues from dead relatives, and ruining her nails in the process. Jeesh. Being smart is hard!

I hadn't expected Mom to go all cheerleader at the news of my weekend date with Tommy Arndorfer. In fact, I expected her to ask, "Is he Jewish?" like she asked about every guy I ever dated. All five of them. Instead, she said, "You're not going out with any boy this weekend. Not that I’d allow you to go out with Tommy anyway. Granny has an emergency.”

“What kind of trouble could Granny have that we couldn’t solve over a manicure? I’ll need one for Saturday night.”

“With Papa still in the hospital, Granny wants you with her. . .”

“Not a chance. Love Granny and all, but she can be home alone . . .” Mom looked like I'd slapped her. Big red splotches grew on her cheeks like Diablo sauce on pasta, blurring together until I thought her head would explode.

Through compressed lips, she continued “. . . when her crooked cousin Ren comes from California.”

“Seriously? You’re ruining my weekend for this?”

“Rachel, let me get through that kugel-like brain of yours. Ren just announced his travel plans by fax. This morning. He sent papers for her to sign relinquishing her rights to the family homestead in Lithuania. Which she never owned. He’s up to no good. You know Granny won’t take my help. I’m sorry your brother can’t get back from Wash U this weekend—no doubt he would take care of Ren—but you’re here so suck it up, and do your best."


  1. 95% of the entries fail to grasp what a logline is. It is a short and succinct sentence that (generalizes) peaks interest in your work. If you read the NY Bestseller lists there is a sentence beneath each book. That is a logline. Not this. What you have here is a summary and that is not what the guidelines entailed.

    I didn't understand why she called her mother a "cheerleader" when she was, in fact, stern. I read that and I imagined her mother cheering her on but it was the exact opposite. I think you need a different simile.

    I also don't know what a JAP is and you didn't explain it here. I'm thinking a Japanese due to the WWII reference and if that's the case then I'm afraid some people will deem it offensive.

    I didn't get a sense of mystery with your sample and, to be honest, it felt a little dry. Pardon the term, but sassy girls disagreeing with their mothers is so generic. When you craft an opening you want to attract the reader with something unique and interesting.

    Overall, the writing is good and I loved the voice.

    Good luck!

  2. Logline: The first line isn't bad although I'm not clear as to how signing away interest in property is going to prove she's not brainless. I also don't see how the rest of the things that follow relate to this goal. Does she need to go to Lithuania in order to sign away the property? Are the police and dead relatives going to stop her from signing away the property (thus proving she is smart?) or do they just annoy her in the process? You need to focus on her goal and its obstacles.

    Good luck!

  3. I agree with the first poster.

    The log leaves me confused, and the mc feels self entitled. Teen girls usually are, so that's good, haha, but at the same time, this doesn't feel like someone I'd want to spend an hour with.

  4. As far as the logline, they were allowed 100 words. I think the logline gives a good idea of what the mystery will involve "Eager to prove her smarts and get away from home, Rachel finds herself matching wits with corrupt Lithuanian police, unwinding decades-old clues from dead relatives..."
    I like the sarcastic humor in this, and knowing that JAP means Jewish American Princess, I get the humor. I like what hopes to be a mix of mystery and humor.
    Good luck!

  5. @Linda C - thank you for spelling out Jewish American Princess. I've heard the term but when I first saw JAP I thought of the old derogatory slang for Japanese. Then with Lithuania thrown in I knew it must not be Japanese but still felt stumped.

    It sounds like there's a story here but I think it may help to look at other loglines/pitches to see what will work for you. Also, the beginning of this doesn't read mystery to me, but very much YA. Best wishes to you.

  6. I think one of the earliest challenges to mystery writing is to come up with an effective and believable reason why the MC is the person who must solve the mystery - especially so when they are not law enforcement. I like the promise of some historical intrigue and the potential of Lithuanian adventure and danger. My problem is that I don't get a sense of why this MC is the one to be involved in it. She seems vacuous and wholly unsuited to the job - which could work as humor if that's where you're going. I likewise had thought JAP was a racial term. I'm really not sure it would fly on a book cover.

  7. It's interesting reading everyone's comments. You raise a good point regarding the term JAP. I figured it was Jewish American Princess, especially after the "is he Jewish" comment and the comment on the "kugel-like brain." Or maybe I instinctively did it because I grew up in an area with many Jews.

    This storyline intrigues me because the main character seems flighty, yet she obviously gets heavily involved in the mystery. It makes me want to see how the circumstances change her. I also love stories with an intergenerational mix, and this sounds like it might be one.

  8. Like the others, JAP to me is a derogatory term from WWII; you know, the people Wild Bill Kelso (John Belushi) fought in the movie "1941".

    Fine, so I learned most of my history from Hollywood. But I was wondering if it would work if you spelled it like "J.A.P."? That makes me think less WWII slang and more abbreviation.

    Overall, I liked the voice and the concept a lot. It sounds like fun and like we'll have more story than just another "see the dead body" mystery. I did get a little confused where you split up mom's sentence about not wanting Granny to be alone when Ren comes marching in, but that could just be me. I'm excited to learn more about Lithuania and I could use a manicure myself!

  9. Not sure why this girl is the person to solve the mystery. I agree there is the promise of a good ride in there but I find it confusing about land deals in Lithuania - first the Nazi's came and then the USSR and I find it highly improbable that any records from that time even matter or would be honored. World events have taken over so to speak. I also like many had a reaction to "Jap" which I thought was a racist term. I know now that it means something else to the writer but it still makes you go ewwwwwwwww. And Happy Dolphin is right - it would never find its way onto a book cover.

  10. I know both connotations for JAP, but I wasn't sure which you meant until I started reading. Whether it works, I think, will depend on the cover font. If it's pink, cursive, fancy, and wearing a tiara, then you might get away with it. Tread lightly, though.

    The logline had more information than most, but for me, it was a little jumbled. Isolate the most important thread of the story and streamline your text. For example, you can shorten "worthless Lithuanian property--the ancestral farm, supposedly given away before WWII" to "ancestral farm in Lithuania she doesn't even own."

    I was also a little put off by the fact that her goal is to prove she's not brainless, yet the logline ends with confirmation that she's an airhead.

    The voice is YA and realistic, given the character you're trying to build here. I wasn't sold on the setup, though. I have no idea why her family would trust her to have Granny's back when the corrupt cousin comes to scam her. Her family views her as completely unsuited to handle things, and yet they put her in charge of this major issue. Is she an expert in Lithuania property law? Does she have a "pitbull" mode she can enter to put Ren on the defensive? What qualifies her for this?

  11. I find the setting fresh and intriguing, and most likely the answers to the questions posted are found beginning with word 251. LOL I see the mystery's set up as a YA mystery and, according to the log line, the MC has something to prove to her family. I see this mystery as a tool for her to grow up and prove herself. While she may seem wholly selfish at first, I would expect to see a lot of growth from this character as the story evolves.

  12. Do kids actually use the term JAP anymore? Seems dated to me, and somewhat offensive (even in this context).

  13. I also think JAP needs to be cleared up. Just in case spell it out the first time, because I did recoil at first.
    I would love to love this MC more, and maybe showing her bond with her grandma would help. Or showing why this weekend is special and emotionally important for her to go out. Or if it's just that she's selfish then I hope she has a nice arc of change.
    I like the idea of this teen in Lithuania though, and I would look forward to learning more about that culture and her reaction to it. Also I like dead relatives leaving clues. What is special about manicures?
    Happy Writing and good luck, Megan

  14. Not getting any mystery yet or sense of it..the logline says she wantes to prove herself but she does nothing to indicate that in her conversation with Mom. She just sounds bored and precious. Also, not sure why she is in a position to do anything in Lithuania. In other words, why is THIS person the BEST person to solve the mystery? or the ONLY person who can. I also had a reaction to JAP which I felt was racist. Even when it was explained I thought - um, it is still disparaging.

  15. Interesting premise, but I found the execution a little too schticky for my taste, the set-up a little too tidy, the dialogue a little too programmed (instead of felt).

  16. Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I especially value your feedback on the use of and suggested punctuation change to J.A.P. Thanks Miss Snark for the opportunity to fly my kite in stormy weather.