Wednesday, July 17, 2024


A new title in the query queue needs your amusing fake plots.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Face-Lift 1463

Guess the Plot

The Secondaries

1.  The Secondaries are the ghosts/spirits of the dead. Their ranks have split into two factions fighting for control of the afterlife. And the only person who can bring peace and stability to the afterlife is a teenager who's already juggling her freshman classes while trying to keep her jealous street-performer boyfriend happy. 

2. After the primaries end in catastrophe when the Republican party realizes that all of its candidates are hot garbage, the state of Arkansas scrambles to acquire new candidates by kidnapping the ten democratic people who live there and putting them through a hunger-games-esque tournament, where only the last one standing doesn't have to apply for candidacy.

3. All sale items after the initial sale become secondaries, sold in the cellar. Joany will admit working in the cellar is a rather dull job, but it is at least a job. That is, until an unusual sale item goes unsold and an intrigue between a goat, a boat, and 10 yards of human hair make things complicated.

4. Phil Philmont II is tired of living in his father's shadow. He joins force with his childhood friends Rich Richardson II, and Dan Dianton II, to prove they are not simply children of self-made billionaires, that they have what it takes to out-party, and out-spend their parents and do it even better. They just need to rewind history 50 years first.

5. Maeve starts an odd-job company which mainly provides backup for important positions: kings, presidents, magistrates, etc. But when Claude, back-up to the archetype hero finally reaches the evil overlord's domain, he discovers Sorsha, back-up to said overlord. Will they do their duty and fight, or talk shop until their shift is over?

Original Version

I'm pleased to submit THE SECONDARIES, complete at 89,000 words.

Besieged with visions of the dead, Seren hopes for a normal life with a new boyfriend, Jackson. But a tangle with an immortal soul drags her into a battle between two groups of spirits for control of the afterlife.

Seren is a college freshman majoring in physics so that she can decipher her dead father's discoveries about consciousness. Since she was orphaned at the age of six, visions of spirits and their tragic human deaths have tormented her. Seren wants nothing more than to be normal, but the visions won't let her.

When she meets Jackson Meins, an alluring clairvoyant, Seren starts to believe [he convinces her] that her strange visions might actually be a gift. But just as she begins to fall in love with Jackson, a long-dead spirit named Finn tells her about the afterlife power struggle threatening the natural order. Finn is part of a group, which he claims includes Seren's father, fighting against the Ascendants, malicious spirits bent on taking control [of the afterlife]. Showing Seren her world through his eyes, Finn tries to convince persuades her that Jackson is helping the wrong side.

When Jackson finds out about Finn, he becomes enraged with jealousy and kidnaps her, keeping her prisoner at the compound where he is planning a mass suicide of his followers to infuse the Ascendants with an army of strong new recruits. [Speaking from experience, kidnapping and imprisoning 
your ex-girlfriend never results in reconciliation.]  Seren must learn to harness her own power to defeat Jackson's plans and restore the stability of the afterlife. [We know she has visions, but can we get a hint of what this power is that she can harness to affect the afterlife?]

THE SECONDARIES can be compared to Twilight (supernatural love triangle) meets Sixth Sense [I see dead people.] and Fight Club. [I'd declare the genre of the book before comparing it to other titles. According to my Internet research, the genre of Twilight is young adult fantasy romance, while The Sixth Sense is a psychological thriller. Your book sounds like an urban fantasy or a blend of that with paranormal romance. If all you provide is those comp titles, you may be giving the wrong impression.]  


Nice. Even if you ignore my comments, I can see this getting requests for the manuscript. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Face-Lift 1462

Guess the Plot

No Alternatives

1. When Bob shows up at the diner five minutes before closing, they're out of everything except the end slice of meatloaf. He was hoping for the chicken and dumplings, but is this worth killing someone over?

2. Tadi just discovered that he isn't unique. There are a dozen more versions of himself, and only the version who is most beneficial to the empire will be allowed to live. Now Tadi has no choice but to do good deeds while avoiding being killed by the Tadis who are bad seeds.

3. The multiverse has been known for a long time. But now, rookie dimension cop Jim, has discovered that in five days time, after a singular event, the multiverse reduces to a singular verse. Can he figure out what caused the event, or will he end up erased? And what will they call this singular verse?

4. Elizabeth Parker feels compelled to go along with the boyfriend she just can't bring herself to dump, even when he decides to commit robbery, then armed robbery, then go on a killing spree. The only thing she can do after that is make murdering him look like suicide and claim to be yet another victim who he intended to murder. But will Hunky (married) cop Frank Hammer believe her?

Original Version

Tadi is a mistake. [I meant to say Tardis.] At least, that’s what the High Magistrate tells Tadi after he’s dragged into a room full of twelve other versions of himself who grew up scattered throughout the country. [One extra Tadi is carelessness; two or three is a mistake; four to seven is a colossal blunder.; any more than that is intentional, and someone's up to no good.]

They’re an accident, and over the course of three months, twelve will have the pleasure of being hurled straight into the jaws of an Underworld monstrosity. Only the version most beneficial to the Empire of Aughtlock will earn the privilege of existing.  [Is the winner the one who's most beneficial over the next three months, or is it going to take three months to decide which one has been most beneficial since they were created?]

But Tadi’s got this contest in the bag. Sure, his day job isn’t exactly heroic—he basically acts as a human lantern for travelers, keeping away the soulless wraiths that haunt the wastelands between villages. [Wait, why is that considered low on the heroism and beneficialness scales? Unless the Avengers are among the other candidates, I've got Tadi leading the field.] Sure, he’s got a grand total of zero kids, since he still hasn’t figured out how to be attracted to anyone despite his childhood best friend Lanlin’s increasingly obvious attempts to court him. And sure, his competition includes a highly decorated paragon knight and a renowned political assassin… [Assuming politicians are deciding which candidates get thrown to the monstrosity, I'm guessing the political assassin will be the first to go.] but Tadi’s dry wit and friendly smile will definitely be enough to tip the scales in his favor.


Jokes aside, Tadi isn’t stupid enough to think he’ll win this competition, but damn it, he’s going to try anyway. [If he can try to win, I'll assume the winner is the one who's most beneficial to the empire over the next three months. But then why would the fact he has zero kids matter?] If Tadi can use his light to reach the Underworld Wells and somehow stop the flow of wraiths up to the surface, it would have to be enough. [I disagree. Once he stops the flow of wraiths to the surface, his day job becomes superfluous. He goes from highly beneficial to no longer needed.] But for that journey, Tadi needs Lanlin’s help to interpret the runes on the Wells, even though she’s determined to move their relationship further than friendship and he hasn’t determined what to do with that. [If he has to hit the sheets with Lanlin to save himself, I don't think it'll kill him.]  And obviously, Tadi will need to figure out the deal with the assassin version of himself. The one who follows Tadi at knifepoint and promises to steal credit for his achievements before immediately injures himself saving Tadi from the zealots who attack Tadi for being an “abomination.” [That sentence is an abomination.]  [If Tadi is an abomination. wouldn't all the other "Tadis" be as well? How is he different from the others?]

And even if Tadi wins and doesn’t end up as a monster’s dinner, all of it will be in favor of  [fealty to?]  a country which shackles Tadi, erases his other selves, and calls him a mistake. [Is he currently shackled while doing his day job?]

NO ALTERNATIVES is a Fantasy novel of 94,000 words, mixing the wasteland adventure vibe of Hana Lee’s Road to Ruin with the smooth approachable prose and twisted social systems of Robert Jackson Bennet’s The Tainted Cup.

I am a second-year MFA fiction candidate at [place], and I served as the managing editor for the [magazine]. My short fiction has appeared in [magazines]. This story is heavily inspired by my own experiences as an asexual man, struggling with the lines between affection and romance and coping with the expectation that men ought to be sex-driven beings. 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Do all the Tadis look alike and are they all named Tadi? Are they the same species as the High Magistrate? Are they androids? How do you accidentally end up with 13 of the same  . . . person? And shouldn't you be eliminating the monster instead of feeding it?

I can see throwing the least beneficial Tadis into the jaws of an Underworld monstrosity, but the 2nd, 3rd, & 4th most beneficial Tadis should be allowed to just change their names to Toto, Toodles, and Shemp.

Aughtlock sounds like the noise my neighbor makes when he hacks up phlegm.

Technically, is the one who "follows Tadi at knifepoint" holding the knife, or is someone behind him holding a knife?

If Tadi doesn't win, who's gonna hold the wraiths at bay from now on?

Is this like The Hunger Games or Survivor, with periodic eliminations, or do they just announce the winner after 3 months? 

I have too many questions. Try to describe the plot without inspiring me to ask them.


Tuesday, June 25, 2024


A new title in the query queue needs your amusing fake plots.

Saturday, June 22, 2024

Face-Lift 1461

Guess the Plot

I Am Online

1. The harrowing tale of being lured in and then dragged to the surface against your will, as told by a mackerel.

2. The game "I am Online" started as a way to distract Sheila from her dull life. Except now what she thought was an AI in the game has turned out to be something all too real.

3. An anonymous teenager gets sucked into social media, doom scrolling, and sundry other activities, and their parents, siblings, concerned neighbors, and other persons can only watch helplessly as said teenager endures their compulsory education failures, lack of a job or any prospects, and finally no ability to achieve internet.

4. Nigel Werzen is inside the internet in a Philip K. Dick meets Ghost in the Shell sort of way. If he wants to kiss an actual human being before he dies he'll need to find out how, and possibly why, who and what. And his body. He'll need to find his body.

5. A teenager becomes an overnight internet sensation after his erotic encounters are broadcast online without his knowledge. Is this the ultimate humiliation? Or is it the big break he's been waiting for?

Please find my Query below. I hope you can give me feedback as I have not been too successful submitting it. 

Title: I am Online

Lenght: 240,000 words 
[Okay, I think I see your problem. Your book is actually three books. You just haven't figured out where the first two end. If you want to be able to sell a really long book like Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, you should first try selling a normal-sized book like Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Then make each successive book you write a little longer than the previous one. For instance, your first book could be titled I Am in My Neighborhood. Then you write a book called I Am in Barcelona, followed by I Am in Spain, I Am in Europe, and then this book, I am Online. Eventually you will write I Am in the Universe (Length: 50 billion words).] 

Original Version
Dear Literary Agent,
I am thrilled to present “I am Online,” my debut novel that chronicles the unexpected rise of Sebas, an eighteen-year-old who inadvertently becomes an erotic webcam sensation. [Your title should be italicized. The 2nd half of your first sentence should not.] [Wait, inadvertently? It sounds like he didn't know the erotic stuff he was doing was going out via webcam. If that happened to me, I'd be angry and mortified, but Sebas is apparently thrilled to have finally found purpose in his life.] This narrative explores his journey of self-discovery, the complexities of human relationships, and the dichotomy between virtual fame and real-world anonymity. [That's pretty vague. Work it into paragraph 4 if you must have it, but right now we want to know what happens in your book. Plot specifics.] 
Thirty-eight euros in his pocket, all his life savings, was everything Sebas had on him when he stepped out of the last night train at Barcelona’s central station. Probably Sebas [Maybe he] should have planned his home runaway [getaway] better. But he didn’t. He just could not stand his oppressive home life anymore.  The city, poised to swallow him whole, instead becomes the backdrop for his meteoric rise in the adult industry. 
As the number of his webcam followers grows into the thousands, Sebas grapples with the stark contrast between his online celebrity and his offline struggles.      
“I am Online” weaves through genres, one could say this novel is for “Fifty shades of Grey” what “Pose” is to “Sex and the City”: a kinky story narrated by those whose kinkiness is not mainstream or often understood. It is the antithesis of “Heartstopper,” away from gay-mimicking-straight relationships in a sugar-coated plot, I don’t hold back: Sebas goes through a lot and he gets to see [experiences] the cruelty of human nature and how relationships are often driven by desire and selfishness rather than by love and feelings. Set in the year 2014, this tale also serves as a modern coming-out story, far away from those early-00 cheesy stories, this one reflects a contemporary time when the lines between hetero and homo are more blurred than ever. [2014 was modern and contemporary in 2014. It's now as much ancient history as the early 00's were in 2014.] 
My own experiences as an LGBTQ individual growing up in Barcelona and living across the globe have deeply influenced this work, infusing it with authenticity and a unique perspective.
So far, only few friends have read “I am Online”. [A few have told you they read it. They lied.] Feedback is diverse: “the world is a very f*** up place”, “I am ashamed to admit I wish I had been Sebas” or “this story will make readers disgusted and horny at the same time”. But maybe the best one was “it’s hilarious, it reads itself”. 
I have chosen to query you because your reputation for championing bold, boundary-pushing literature aligns perfectly with the essence of “I am Online.” I believe this novel not only entertains but also opens a dialogue about the evolving landscape of sexuality and identity.

Thank you for considering my submission. I am eager to discuss the potential of “I am Online” and look forward to the possibility of working together.

You must either convert this into a three-book series, or whittle it down to 80,000 words by getting rid of massive amounts of wordiness, repetition, chapters that don't advance the plot, rambling musings about life, etc. Did I say whittle it down? You need an industrial buzz saw.
While I imagine webcams draw far fewer viewers than websites, (Pornhub: 750 million visits per week; Me, Sebas, in my Motel Room: 2000 visits/month), I wouldn't call  a few thousand followers a meteoric rise toward becoming an online celebrity. Maybe you should lie and say he's got half a million followers.
Here's all I know about what happens in your 240,000 words: Guy with oppressive home life catches train to Barcelona, hits the sheets with someone who failed to mention he was broadcasting their activity online, and becomes an overnight sensation. (My version: 29 words.)
Are there any other characters? A close friend, a traitor, a lover, a murderer, a joker, a thief?
What's the most important event in this book? What is Sebas's goal? What's his plan to achieve it? What's standing in his way? What decision must he make to succeed? What if he fails? That's the kind of stuff we want in the query. If you get rid of the red words and my comments, you might have room to answer some of those questions. Even literary fiction needs a story.
On the bright side, it seems like three fourths of all literary agents are desperately looking for books by LGBTQ+ authors, so you have a leg up if you do have a story and characters.

Thursday, June 06, 2024

Face-Lift 1460


Guess the Plot

The Dirt Wars

1. It'a about a war. Over dirt.

2. Her kids and husband have been tracking dirt into the house for years. Marge has finally reached her breaking point. She's stockpiling military-grade vacuum cleaners.

3. The world owes their livelihood to the top six inches of soil. Janus has become involved in a war with the neighboring kingdom over who has the better soil. How does it go? The grass is always greener?

4. The mud slinging in an election year has gotten so bad it's become a national sport, with referees, scoreboards, and cheerleaders. Can 2nd grader Winslow Walsh defeat his arch-nemesis the school principal in this battle of the dirty on the school playground? Or will Mx. Roberts Jr. (3rd grade) succeed in getting the ice cream man elected to the school board?

5. The land in the valley separating two mountainous kingdoms is the only place with arable soil. For years this land was shared, but with population growth, both kingdoms now want it all. Can mediator Eleanor Panko find a way to prevent a war that could destroy the valley?


Original Version

Title: The Dirt Wars*
Backstory: It's about a war. Over dirt.
*Hey, it worked for "Star" 

[Presumably that was not part of the query, but as the title isn't revealed anywhere else (nor the word count) I'll assume you're providing us with only the plot summary so you won't get comments like "It's too short (or long)" or "leave the word 'The' off the title."] [That was a pretty long sentence, but nothing compared to your first sentence.] [In any case, thanks for providing me with the real guess-the-plot, as the plot summary below doesn't hint at where the title comes from.]

Newlywed and recent Genesis graduate, Bobby Gallagher lives a life of privilege as a True Born citizen in Centre 3:2:1 (formerly Dallas, Texas) within Section 2 of New Elysian, twenty years after The Final War, at the behest of watchful [thanks to his] benefactor Sectional Ambassador Jeremy Barnes. Ambassador Barnes’ affinity for Bobby is cultivated before the boy takes his first steps. [I don't like "affinity" or "cultivated" in this context. I'd say "his interest in Bobby began . . . " Note that I also think you should use past tense when talking about Bobby's childhood.] Ambitious and cunning, Barnes takes Bobby under his wing and heralds him as a shining example of what The State can produce; someone who might one day rule the world.

Bobby’s life is going to plan [Barnes's plan?] until he meets Gramps, a mysterious old man from the Before Times who also takes an early interest in Bobby, but from the shadows. Equal parts smart and smart-ass, Gramps is well connected both within New Elysian and with those on The Outside, or as The State refers to them, Ticks. Gramps portends [warns] of evil lurking within The State and accuses [declares] Barnes of being a murderous sociopath. He urges Bobby to disregard the poisonous teachings of Genesis and escape [abandon] the trappings of a life given and embrace his destiny on The Outside. Bobby listens to the old man’s sermons but cannot decide if he is mad or prescient.

As Bobby’s allegiance to Barnes wobbles, his wife, Caroline finds herself torn between her loyalty to The State and to her husband. In the end, only one will survive. [I can't tell if you mean only one of her husband and the State or only one of Bobby and Caroline.] [Perhaps dump this paragraph, as Caroline doesn't figure much in the rest of the plot summary.]

Bobby rejects [suspects] Gramps as [is] a traitor but does not report him. Bobby buckles and agrees to go with him on a mission to The Outside where he discovers a world that makes him question everything he has ever known. Section 2 leadership learns of Bobby’s treachery and, with the help of an unlikely ally, unleashes the full force of Section 2 upon Bobby and anyone who stands in their way. [That's the end? While I see no way Bobby can withstand an unleashing of the full force of Section 2, I expect you to provide a glimmer of hope. Instead of that last sentence, give some specifics about what he finds in the Outside. Then say he realizes Gramps was right all along, but it may be too late because he's now being hunted by the all-powerful State.] 


Elysian is an adjective, at least here in the Before Times. Elysium means paradise, and is more likely to be the name of a place.

It's not clear why everyone thinks Bobby is the key to everything. He seems like just an average naive kid. Are Gramps and Barnes the main characters? If Bobby's the MC, focus on what he wants, how he plans to get it, what will happen if he fails.

Why does the State want with Bobby now that he's shown his treachery? They probably don't want him as the ruler of the world anymore, so they should look for a new potential ruler of the world. Not waste time and resources chasing down this kid. I'm surprised Barnes doesn't want the position.

Getting rid of the red words or whichever ones you can do without would leave a little space for some more information. Maybe something about the geography of this world. I can't tell whether the Outside is everything surrounding New Elysian, or if New Elysian is the old USA or the old Texas.

Are the State and the Outside at war? Over dirt? How can there be a war if the last war was the Last War?

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Face-Lift 1459

Guess the Plot

Christophina's Wings

1. Fallen angel Christophina joins the air force for the opportunity to fly once more ... just in time for Armageddon. Christophina must pick a side before her past catches up with her. But she really only wants to fly. Also kiwis. 

2. Christophina gets a full back tattoo of a beautiful pair of wings covering the entirety of her back. She's sure her boyfriend will love it . . . until she finds the feathers under her shirt.

3. Thanks to Christophina's prize-winning barbecue sauce recipe, Christophina's Wings is the hottest restaurant in town . . . until Bud Wilkins opens his hot wings and drumsticks joint right across the street. Now Christy must decide: add thighs to her menu, sabotage Bud's sauce . . . or murder him.

4. Invited to a swank party, Christophina, a working-class woman, creates a pair of wings to wear. Maybe the wings will get her noticed by a rich, famous guy, who'll sweep her off her feet. It works! But what will happen when the guy returns to his home on planet Earth?

5. Angel Christophina is tasked by God to lead the three kings to Bethlehem. Along the way she gets lost and separated from the kings, leaving them to navigate by looking at a star, which is obviously impossible, but luckily Christophina finds them just in time to complete their journey. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Christophina lives on Celestia, a luxurious playground for the spacefaring wealthy, miles above the surface of the Earth. For people like her who work the menial jobs to support that luxury, it’s not so glamorous. In her tiny apartment in the heaviest of gravities, she escapes her service worker life by immersing herself in StarCity, a virtual world where she can create and explore without limits.

Through her creations on StarCity, Christophina earns a ticket to a swank party on Celestia where the elite mingle. There she meets Ethan—rich, famous, gorgeous, and with a British accent she can’t resist. One stolen kiss later, she’s swept off her feet into a world of sumptuous pleasures beyond her wildest imaginings. [Wait, exactly what kind of "service worker" is she?] [Also, I don't think the menial job workers at fancy resorts have any trouble imagining the sumptuous opulence enjoyed by those whose dining tables and bathrooms they clean. They're surrounded by it.] Ethan inspires and encourages her to take her creativity out of StarCity and into places she hadn’t dared to try. [That suggests she could have tried them if she had dared. Which seems unlikely. I'd call them places she never dreamed she'd experience.] [I doubt a maid (or whatever) could get away with skipping her work shift to partake of the paying customers' luxuries. I mean, if I spent $200,000 for a vacation on Celestia, I'd be pretty pissed if I couldn't get into the orgasmatron because all the janitors were lined up to use it.]

It would be easy to fall in love with Ethan, but Christophina knows she mustn’t. He won’t be on Celestia for long, and when he goes back to Earth, she won’t be able to follow. [Why not? Does he want her to?] But how will she go back to her modest life just as she’s learning to spread her wings? [That's not the dilemma she should be having. She and Ethan have bonded, and they need to find a way to be together on Earth or Celestia. Which may mean she needs to find a way to make him realize this.]  

CHRISTOPHINA’S WINGS is a 63,000-word science fiction romance for your consideration. Thank you for your time.

Note: The title comes from the wings that Christophina creates both virtually for her StarCity shop and physically for her to wear to the party


I'm sure it's explained in the book how something done in a virtual world earns you a ticket to a party with the rich and famous, but in the query it feels like a gimmick to get Cinderella to the ball. Maybe if we leave StarCity out of the query there'll be more room for the romance aspect, which seems more important than the science fiction aspect. (Maybe call it a futuristic romance, rather than a science fiction romance.) Here's a shorter version of the first two paragraphs, leaving you room for building up the romantic angle.

Christophina lives on Celestia, a luxurious playground for the spacefaring wealthy, miles above the surface of the Earth. For people like her who work the menial jobs to support that luxury, it’s not so glamorous. So she's thrilled to receive an unexpected invitation to a swank party where the elite mingle. There she meets Ethan—rich, famous, and gorgeous, with a British accent she can’t resist. One stolen kiss later, she’s swept off her feet into a world of sumptuous pleasures. 

The third paragraph starts off okay, but the last sentence could be something more like: Unless . . . dare she hope Ethan wants/feels/will . . . whatever.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Your Manuscript Edited by Evil Editor!!!

Some of you may remember the Brenda Novak Auction for Juvenile Diabetes, wherein people could bid on lots of cool stuff, much of it of particular interest to writers. Evil Editor annually donated the editing of someone's book, and over the years brought in more than $20,000 for a very good cause.

Another organization (Literary Agents of Change) is holding a similar type auction in June. Their goal is to make becoming a literary agent more accessible to under-represented people. You can read about them here. These links aren't working the normal way for me. You may have to return to this page the long way.

Here's the auction page.

And Evil Editor's item:

The starting bid on my item is rather high (Donors did not set the price), but this same offering brought in well above that in the Brenda Novak Auction every year, one time going over $4000. There are lots of other critiques available from literary agents, authors, and editors. I'll remind you when bidding opens. (6/10)

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Face-Lift 1458


Guess the Plot

Moonlight Disco

1. This comprehensive biography of Elon Musk includes a stunning interview where the zillionaire lays out his grand plan for humanity: use SpaceX to cover the moon with mirrors, then live-stream on X  as millions of Neuralink-implanted partiers are driven by their autonomous Teslas to a midnight dance in the desert. Because only one of his many companies is Boring, and, well ... because he can.

2. When her plan to fund her college education by selling stars fails, Rhode comes up with a better idea: posing as a deity to scam people out of money. She calls herself Moon Goddess. Her popularity skyrockets, her face gets plastered over the Internet, and who cares about college? Also: Disco.

3. Disco is dead, but having an undead revival. It's safer for the Weres and the Vamps to have a dance-off than the usual bloodletting boiling over into the daylight world. So, sequins, bell bottoms, and chest hair, with a side order of Romeo/Juliet romance. And there's still plenty of bloodshed.

4. Former dance king Freddy "Phantom" Lichten overhears what he thinks is the code phrase to get him into a new underground club. Further misunderstandings leave him as a courier on the run from hostile government agents, the mob, and an ex-girlfriend The fate of a few countries rides on a  successful delivery. He was told there might be dancing along the way.

5. Some werewolves celebrate the full moon by gathering in stadiums and dancing to disco versions of "Werewolves of London," "Hungry Like the Wolf," and "Mama Werewolf." But people would rather read about my werewolves, the ones that go on killing sprees in nursing homes.

Original Version

Dear [First Name Last Name], [More common: Dear Title (Ms., Mr.) Last Name]

I am seeking representation for MOONLIGHT DISCO, an 80000 word sapphic young adult contemporary fantasy novel inspired by the Japanese folklore [folk tale] The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It combines the ambitious heroine of If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang and the [reason] of [title] by [author]. [Princess Kaguya is an ambitious heroine, so I see no reason to add a comp title based solely on its having that same feature.] [That many adjectives in a row should be separated by commas. Better yet, get rid of some of them: 80,000-word, young adult retelling of the Japanese folk tale...  [Putting this paragraph after the plot summary would be better.]

Sixteen-year-old Rhode Ouyang catches stars to sell each summer to fund her future college expenses. However, this summer’s star sales is [are?] a total failure as her middle-aged buyers no longer want a star from a no name teen. [They want a star from a star.] Rhode also gets chastised by Sei, her childhood friend and fellow star catcher, for attempting to sell hand painted stars to drive up the price tag. The greatest source of her stress comes when she’s forced to pay back Sei’s dad for freeing the rabbits he captured.  [Okay, I've tried to be patient but you're losing me. Whattaya mean, she catches stars? The stars up in the sky, the ones that are giant balls of fire bigger than 300,000 Earths? Even if a star were a mile away instead of 20 trillion miles away, and the size of a bird, I don't see how Rhode catches them. Can she fly? If she can catch them, and she can sell them for enough to pay for a college education, wouldn't everybody be catching them? If hand-painting the stars drives up the price, wouldn't everyone hand-paint them? Or is she hand-painting rocks to look like stars?Easier than that would be to buy some cat's-eye marbles, which are pretty cheap and look kind of like stars and wouldn't need to be painted if she just used the yellow ones.]

 [All my comments could be avoided if you change "stars" to "starfish."]

When Rhode wakes up with her hair turned white, she has an idea: instead of worrying about finding a summer job, she’ll pose as the Moon Princess, the village deity. With help from other villagers, Rhode begins selling self-dubbed “moon blessed” stars to tourists for hundreds of dollars. [This is almost as bad as Trump selling Bibles.] [How many stars would I have to buy to get a degree from Rhode University?] For a price tag of thirty dollars per person, she’ll include fortune telling and photo opportunities. Even malformed stars can sell for one hundred dollars if they come from her hand. Not everyone is enthused about Rhode’s fame, one of whom is Sei. Rhode agrees to compete with her for who’ll earn the most money from selling stars. [Not a fair fight: Rhode's stars are moon-blessed.] The loser must pay the winner and do whatever they are told to do. [That's vague. What do they want each other to do? Is this where the "sapphic" part comes in?]

Except, it’s easier to fantasize about wealth and success than it is to achieve it. As Rhode’s popularity skyrockets, her face gets plastered over the Internet, gaining clout but also recognition. [You make it sound like recognition is a bad thing. It would lead to more sales. Plus, she'd be like Sybil the Soothsayer in the movie Network, with her own segment on the number one rated TV show.] Rhode must make sure she doesn’t get outed as a fraud or she’ll end up paying back the money and even be sent to juvie. [Any tourist trap worth its salt is gonna be crawling with hucksters selling overpriced souvenirs. When the tourists get home, they either display their junk, or they toss it. They don't take the huckster to court, because admitting they fell for the sales pitch would be humiliating.]

[bio here]

Thank you for your consideration.


It sounds like Rhode's moon-blessed stars brought in enough to pay for the rabbits, which, for some reason, was her greatest source of stress. Main problem solved.

Somehow, a contemporary novel involving college expenses and summer jobs and the Internet doesn't jibe with a village deity known as the Moon Princess.

Such details as the rabbits, the white hair, the malformed stars, the fortune telling and photo opportunities aren't moving the plot forward. In a description of an 80,000-word book, the price Rhode can get for a malformed star is trivial.

I'm not sure who's going to out Rhode as a fraud. The villagers helped her sell her moon-blessed stars to tourists. That makes them co-conspirators in the fraud, if there is a fraud, which I've already pointed out there isn't. When I went to New Orleans, there was a guy on the street who had painted himself gray, and he would stand still pretending he was a statue. Tourists would walk up to him and then suddenly he'd move. It was pretty cool, and the tourists would throw money in his bucket. I doubt he was taken to court because he wasn't really a statue. Tourists would consider the Moon Goddess part of the experience, and buying a moon-blessed star would be like paying admission to an amusement. No one was forced to buy one.

Anyway, even if we accept the catching and selling stars part, which we must because it's something that happens in this fantastical world, I still don't find the stakes believable. She's not going to juvi, she's becoming a celebrity who doesn't even need college because she's rich, rich rich!

Start over. Possibly focus more on how Rhode learns (too late?) that her friendship with Sei is more important than money and rabbits. If that's what happens.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1456 would like feedback on the following version of the query.

17-year-old Dulani is stuck in hell, and it’s his own fault. Desperate to escape a broken home, he flees into an alternate world that manifests humanity’s myths—from dazzling El Dorado to gorgeous Elysium. Greatness and power he’s coveted, now his to claim. But he overlooked that there's always a catch. Everything, mainly demons, wants him dead. He must now think as fast as he can run from death, alone—until he meets Milliana, a girl with a chip on her shoulder. 


16-year-old Milliana’s brain is too big a target for the bullets flying around her neighborhood. It’s not the sort of excitement she craves, so she escapes into a realm only “Visitors” like her can enter. She finally feels safe—until her soul starts attracting hyper-persistent demons that want it. While hiding, she encounters a young man as dog-tired as she is. Dulani’s reticent, but a good listener and (almost) as smart. Since they can’t run or hide forever, she suggests a daring idea: use the enhanced abilities and mysterious powers that come with being Visitors and fight back.  


They trap and kill a demon leader, whose death purifies some of the realm so it’s slightly less hostile. At last, a breakthrough. But the demons won’t rest until they have a Visitor soul so they can cross over to Earth and devour humanity. Dulani appreciates getting to control his fate for once, while Milliana relishes a challenge for her intellect. But as they learn more about the realm, and each other, fighting back could mean playing into the hands of gods more sinister than mere demons.   

MEMORANDUM (90,000 words) is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. It combines the otherworldly danger in L.L. McKinney’s Nightmare-Verse trilogy, the grief-processing in Jessica Kara’s DON’T ASK IF I’M OKAY, and the tense adventure of Marc J. Gregson's SKY'S END.  

Like Dulani, I’m Black, and I channel my experiences with “othering” into his and the cast’s stories. As a Research Assistant with a MS in Engineering, I find new solutions to strange problems while shouldering a lot of responsibility—just like the heroes of this story. 


Thank you for your time and consideration. 


One question: How should I position this story/concept less as a “portal fantasy” and more “beleaguered young adults fighting against treacherous powers that be?”


You reduced the portal factor (in the query) somewhat by leaving out the part about flipping a magical coin to cross over. Based on your statement "she escapes into a realm only “Visitors” like her can enter," you don't need a portal to reach the realm, you just need the "it" factor. What have these kids got that allows them to . . . Visit?

If that doesn't address your concern, you could say MEMORANDUM (90,000 words) is a fantasy standalone with series potential, in which two beleaguered young adults fight against treacherous powers with the fate of humanity on the line. That seems a bit over the top.

Here's a shorter version of your plot summary:

Desperate to escape a broken home, 17-year-old Dulani enters an alternate world that manifests humanity’s myths—from dazzling El Dorado to gorgeous Elysium. Dulani appreciates controlling his fate for a change--but there's more to mythology than just beauty, love, and honor, as he discovers when he finds himself fleeing demons that want him dead. 


The bullets flying around her neighborhood aren't the sort of excitement 16-year-old Milliana craves, so she escapes into a realm only “Visitors” like her can enter. Here, she finally feels safe—until her soul starts attracting hyper-persistent demons that need it in order to cross to Earth and devour humanityWhile hiding from the demons, Melliana encounters a young man as dog-tired as she is: Dulani. 

The two teens can’t run or hide forever, but they can use the enhanced abilities and mysterious powers that come with being Visitors to fight back. They trap and kill a demon leader, whose death slightly purifies the realm. At last, a hopeful breakthrough. But as they learn more about the realm, and each other, they realize fighting back could be playing into the hands of gods more sinister than mere demons.

If you want to focus more on the fight against treacherous powers, you could combine the first two paragraphs something like this:

Desperate to escape broken homes, 17-year-old Dulani and 16-year-old Milliana escape to an alternate world that manifests humanity’s myths—from dazzling El Dorado to gorgeous Elysium. But there's more to mythology than beauty, love, and honor, as the teens discover when they find themselves fleeing demons that need their souls in order to cross to Earth and devour humanity

That gives you two paragraphs instead of one to talk about their plan and what's at stake.