Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Evil Editor's Cancer Diary

Reading someone's cancer diary is usually depressing and heartbreaking, and, if you're like me, scary, because you eventually start worrying that you'll soon be going through the same thing. So you'll be happy to know that this cancer diary isn't the kind where the patient has months to live and gets weaker by the day until there are no more posts, and you end up sobbing over someone you never met.

October, 2015. My doctor's office has been sending me letters and robo-calling me for weeks to inform me that I need to make an appointment. No specifics, like it's time for your rabies shot, just get in here, we haven't seen you in months, and business is a little slow, and you could have a disease with no symptoms and we prefer healthy patients because we don't have to worry about getting their diseases and now's the perfect time, unless you think you might have Ebola, in which case, never mind. So screw it. If I make an appointment, they win. On the other hand, the only way to get them off my back is to make an appointment, so I do. Fuckers.

November 3, 2015. My appointment. I've brought a list of everything that's wrong with me so the visit won't be a waste of time. My nose is reddish, my lips have a blue tint, I have what I think is a skin tag on my neck and a small area under my eye that I think is a chalazion. I made that diagnosis after looking up "sty" on the internet, and finding it was similar to a chalazion, which I'd never heard of, but when I Googled "lower lid chalazion" and clicked on "images", a few of the less-gross pictures resembled what I had. Anyway, chalazions usually go away by themselves, though they can hang around for months. My doctor doesn't care about my red nose or blue lips or skin tag, but he gives me the phone number of a dermatology clinic, telling me to have my eye thing looked at, as it might be something. I think he mentioned the word "squamous" in there. He doesn't seem overly concerned. He doesn't say, Get thee to a surgery.

November 4, 2015. I phone to make my dermatological appointment. The person I speak to says there's one opening next week, so I say I'll take it, and she comes back a minute later and says someone else beat her to it and the next available opening is November 30. I'm thinking, November 30? I could be dying of cancer and you're booked solid for a month? You need to hire more doctors if business is that good. Maybe you should open on Saturdays until you get caught up. I take the appointment, figuring if I stall another minute it'll be gone and I'll be pushed into 2016.

November 30, 2015. As I'm being led back to the room where I'll be seen, I can't help noticing that all the nurses and interns and receptionists I pass have perfect skin. I figure they must know what they're doing in this place. They probably treat all their employees for free and pay for it by upping everyone else's bill. Eventually my doctor comes in and asks why I'm here. I mention my red nose and my chalazion. He looks at me through a giant magnifying glass and says, "That doesn't look like a chalazion." I say, "What does it look like?" and he tells me it looks like skin cancer. I argue that it's a chalazion, and that he'd know that, if he'd ever even heard of a chalazion. He searches for chalazion on an iPad and shows me that my chalazion isn't one because it isn't quite touching the eyelid. I'm not sure I buy it, but that's probably because I'm still in the first stage of my cancer diagnosis, which is denial. (The other stages being demanding a second opinion, reluctant acceptance, life passing before your eyes, booking that vacation you've been putting off, pricing burial plots, scheduling a future appointment with a lawyer to change your will cutting out everyone who doesn't visit you when you're in the hospital dying, and getting religion, just in case.) I ask the doctor if I'm gonna live. He says Yes. I'm thinking, Thanks for burying the lede. You couldn't have opened with It looks like easily treatable, run-of-the-mill, harmless skin cancer? He does a biopsy, gives me a prescription for my red nose, which I know will have no effect, and says he'll be in touch with the results.

December 2, 2015. The dermatologist phones, says he was right, it's cancer. Like he would have admitted it if it turned out to be a chalazion. He says I need two operations, the first to remove it and the second to graft some replacement skin in its place. They can remove it in the clinic, but because it's so close to my eye, there's a specialist who'll have to do the graft (something to do with the possibility that the cancer is close to the tear duct), and the specialist doesn't work there so the operations will have to be done on consecutive days in different cities. Finding two consecutive days convenient for the two surgeons apparently proves difficult, but they book me for January 25th and 26th. I'm thinking, Are you people kidding me? That's like two months from now. I got cancer. I can feel it spreading into my pancreas and lymph nodes and lungs, and you can't move me ahead of all the wart treatments and eyebrow tucks and chalazion removals? I say none of this, because I trust that they know what they're doing and because it's not a good idea to antagonize someone who may soon be in a position to "accidentally" stab your eyeball with a scalpel.

January 7, 2016. I have an appointment with the surgeon who's doing the skin graft on the 26th. It's a chance for him to look at my skin and come up with a game plan for the operation. He looks. He tells me the good news is that I have basal cell carcinoma, and it's more a surgical problem than something requiring ongoing treatment. His assistant takes a couple pictures with her iPhone, probably so she can show them to her friends as examples of the gross stuff she has to look at every day. The surgeon seems like a nice guy. He's there about five minutes during which he does pretty much nothing. Later I'll get his bill for $380.00. Which includes $84 for photography.

January 25, 2016. There was a big snowstorm over the weekend, and I was worried they'd call and say the doctor couldn't make it and they'd need to reschedule me for April, but they called Sunday night to say I could show up late if necessary. Which it is, as it takes about forty minutes for an eight-minute drive. After some paperwork and prep, I sit in "the chair." It isn't an operation where they put you to sleep, although I do have my eyes closed the whole time, because the light shining on my face is the approximate brightness of a sun. Not a yellow sun, like ours; a blue sun like Sirius. They numb the area of the cancer, which is about a half inch by a quarter inch. Then the surgeon slices it off. Since my eyes are closed, I don't see if he's using a scalpel or a cheese slicer. They put a patch over the eye. I had been told I might have to wear a patch, but I was thinking a pirate patch, not just a bandage. When I complain, one of the nurses offers to draw a skull and crossbones on the bandage. They send me back to the waiting room while they look at my now-missing skin under a microscope. Turns out the cancer goes all the way to one edge of the skin they'd removed, and I have to go back so they can take some more from that side, but at least it isn't the tear duct side. That's good news because I'll need my tear ducts to be fully operational when I find out how much of this my insurance covers. At one point I hear the surgeon say, "I need someone to hold the skin apart here," and I reach up, saying, "I'll get it," and several people simultaneously yell "No!" We all have a good laugh. Anyway, back to the waiting room and when they come for me the next time it's to tell me they got it all. This time someone offers to draw a smiley face on my patch. I decline.

January 26, 2016. I'm late again, this time because of rush-hour traffic. I'm to be put to sleep for this operation, not the mask over the face way, just the IV, like I'd had done for colonoscopies. First I fill out some paperwork where I have to tell them whether I have a living will or a do-not-resuscitate order, etc. And where the possible side effects of the operation are listed, including brain damage and death. I start thinking the skin cancer isn't so bad. My glasses hide most of it and I'd probably die of old age before it got bad enough to kill me. They lead me into a prep area behind a curtain where I have to remove all my clothes even though they're only working on my eye area. Surgeons have learned that patients are less likely to make trouble if they don't have their clothes. At least they give me a warm blanket to lie under. A nurse comes in and asks how I'm doing. I tell her I need her to remove my patch so I can rub and scratch my eye for about ten minutes. I'm joking, but she looks at me like I'm a giant blood-oozing chalazion. She asks me if I mind a couple people observing the operation. Med students, I assume, or possibly Syrian refugees. I grant permission because it never hurts to have witnesses if you die on the operating table. She starts asking me questions, all of which I answered a couple days earlier when they phoned me, and then she accuses me of looking at her like I think she's crazy. I have a patch over one eye and without my glasses the other eye has blurry vision, so I don't see how she can tell I think she's crazy. She must have ESP. The surgeon comes in, tells me he's going to get the skin for the graft from near my eyelid. The person who was there to put me to sleep finds the IV isn't working because the nurse who hates me put it on wrong. She gets it going, and the next thing I remember it's all over. They let me look at the results. It looks like terrorists attacked me with box cutters. My "wound" and bruising area is about twenty times the size of the cancer.

January 28, 2016. Here's my first-ever selfie:

It looks even worse when I look at it in the mirror because my glasses magnify it. On the other hand it already looks a lot better than it did right after the operation; now it just looks like I've been in a bar fight.

February 3, 2016. Followup visit. My various concerns, such as I can't open that eye as far as the other one and my vision in that eye is blurry and it feels like there's some kind of bone spur or tumor on the edge of the eye and I look grotesque get brushed off as temporary. Also, there's still a swollen area about the size of a cigarette butt under my skin, possibly because the surgeon was smoking during the operation and dropped it in and left it there just to amuse the observers and the nurse who hates me. Better a butt than a retractor or a scalpel, I tell myself. As I'm leaving, they stop me because they forgot to take more iPhone pictures. Can't let me get away without that $84 charge on the bill. I'm guessing they want all these pictures to illustrate a textbook on successful skin grafting. Or unsuccessful, depending. They tell me to come back in a month so the surgeon can admire his handiwork and charge me another $380.00.  Technically I think I can call myself a cancer survivor.

Friday, February 05, 2016

Face-Lift 1303

Guess the Plot

The Iron Legacy

1. Why aren't robots allowed to submit crazy plots?What would Issac Asimov say?

2. Beautiful, fiery Lily St John is the only child of railroad tycoon David St John. Scheming, cunning, and an insatiable desire allow her to build the most powerful railroad network in the South. Then she meets Conner Reed, scion of a coal mining cartel. Will her heart allow for a union of interests, or must the mighty iron horse prevail?

3. Wolf is the son of legendary WWI ace Manfred von Pferdenthal. With WWII about to break, can he follow his father's lead in the air--or will his fear of failure doom him to the typing pool?

4. Sharlene likes keeping clothes neat and well-pressed. So she's got her trusty Rowlenta packed, her luggage full of clothes, and she's on her way to Kuala Lumpur for the International Extreme Ironing championship.

5. Gintal learns that great-grandfather Henry invented the electric iron. But Gintal's family received no royalties. He decides General Electric owes him. Gintal proceeds to murder the top executives of the company. Hot detective Marcy Clarke, winner of the women's Ironman competition, heads the homicide investigation. By coincidence the two meet and fall in love. What could ever go wrong with this romance?

6. Planet Earth has been overrun by alien beasts, all except the city of Alexandria, thanks to its iron gates. Now the city's chancellor has decided to open those gates, and it's up to teenaged Bailey to stop him from letting the nightmares in and ending the last bastion of humanity.

7. Mining was Jadder's family's livelihood until the empire burned their village, killed everyone, and sealed the mines claiming plague, black magic, and treason. Now an undead warlock spreading pestilence throughout the empire, Jadder figures he'll finish making the empire's lies real by killing the emperor. 

8. Despite their kindness to Aunt Loo Loo, the iron legacy was enacted in her will, leaving her three doting nieces, Poppa, Pippa, and Penelope with just ten thousand dollars and Aunt Loo Loo's "friend", handsome Joe Smiles with the rest, a cool 50 million. The three distraught nieces go on a retreat in California to recover and discover that they can communicate with dolphins, who want to build a fusion reactor.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

Bailey MacKinnon’s city, Alexandria, is bursting at the seams with slum kids and drunks, so honest folks like herself are rare. [I don't think you need "so honest folks like herself are rare." It suggests that the presence of slum kids and drunks is responsible for the scarcity of honest people.] After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth, they also sent her mom to an early grave, so she’s spent years training to become a soldier. Once she travels beyond the city gates with the military, she’ll give the Tuads hell. However, the day she joins the ranks, she overhears a conversation that would sentence [destroy] her city—their Chancellor’s plan to open the gates and let the nightmares inside. [Hard to believe beasts capable of overrunning the entire planet can't get into this one city because the gates are closed. Has every place that has a gate been spared? Are the gates opened to let delivery trucks bring in food for the slum kids and alcoholic beverages for the drunks? Probably not, as there probably aren't any farms or distilleries that haven't been overrun. Why haven't the military killed all the slum kids and drunks so there'd be more food for the military, as would happen in real life?] [What does the Chancellor think is the upside to opening the gates?]

No one buys the tale, not from a green recruit like her, so she gets proof by breaking into the Chancellor’s office. [I'm pretty sure she couldn't possibly do that.] Or at least, she tries.

The military catches her and kicks her out, [Out of the Chancellor's office or out of the military?] and once that roundhouse kick is delivered, her friends ditch her too. [Her friends probably tried to talk her out of joining the military in the first place, but now they ditch her when she gets thrown out? Nice.] No one believes her, until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies [With the Earth overrun by beasts and the city bursting at the seams, are there actually carnivals in operation? Or are these carnies actually ex-carnies who prefer the moniker "carnie" to "street trash"?] who trump themselves up as druids. ["Trump up" is accurate only if they aren't really druids. "Claim to be" is better if it's not clear whether  they are or not.] She might be honest, but she’s no idiot. Bailey doesn’t believe their claims of magic [Despite how terrible it felt when no one would believe her story, now, when she finally finds someone who does believe her, she doesn't believe their story? Nice.] until they reveal the fate of Alexandria they divined—the same plot she overheard. With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their [her] corner, [I love (out of context, anyway) the descriptions we get on this blog of those who help the main characters in their quests, like "With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their corner." Here are a few more, which took me very little time to find:

Aided by a cranky witch with authority issues and a mysterious priest who is too comfortable in combat situations, 

aided and impeded alike by many bizarre individuals, including a constantly babbling imp, a werewolf whose handsome looks hide inner turmoil, a talking stallion who prefers a good debate to a good fight, and a dwarf who would rather invent magical potions than mine gold,

Aided by her newfound friends, the advice of a monk, and only a moderate dose of sarcasm, 

helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything.

with the help of a pet-shop owner who seems to know too much and is close to the leader and a doctor on a quest for a mythical recipe for Twinkies.

...will be helped by others in her quest: Saska, who also wishes to be trained as a summoner; the priest Denson, who knows much about Nerea's past; the angel Seth, and his summoner companion Arentil; Melody, Arentil's book-wise granddaughter, and even the goddess Yethde, who directly opposes Onago's plans for Nerea.

With the help of an ancient Oak, 

Accompanied by his annoying little brother, Caden; his skull-collecting neighbor, Alex; and Idona, a teenaged girl with purple hair and a temper, 

With the help of a bawdy, female dwarf, a delusional peasant who believes herself the banished heiress of a long-decrepit estate, a small potatoes thief, and a mediocre wizard who has a serious shapeshifting problem,

Aided by Gordie, an obsessive bagpiper with a penchant for Shakespeare and mischief,

...he somehow winds up with a ragtag group of companions: The stubborn mule of a centaur constantly complaining about his age and grumbling about how magic is always the first to go; the timid princess with unrequited feelings for Lim who runs away from home to escape an abusive father; the young rebel maid, rescued from a dungeon, whose general brashness and idealism disarm the boy's good sense faster than he can say "infatuation"; and the young dragonling who, after a near-fatal misunderstanding in the forest between his mother and Limorek, joins the quest as a sort of "studies abroad" outing.] Bailey’s ill-equipped to expose the Chancellor. [That depends on which carnies she has with her. For instance, the carnies who run the tilt-a-whirl and man the ring-toss game would be useless on this mission, but the ones who are good at guessing people's weight or hammering in tent stakes might come in handy.] However, if she can’t get her broken city to listen to the truth in time, the gates will open, and like the other husks razed by the Tuads, Alexandria will fall. [A "husk" is the outer covering of something. I'm guessing it was the cities that were razed and their husks are what was left when the razing was all over.]

"The Iron Legacy" is an 87,000 word YA fantasy.



The word "iron" is common in steampunk titles. Not that you shouldn't use it in your title if it conveys something about the plot. Where did the title come from?

I would condense the first paragraph to something like:

After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth and sent Bailey MacKinnon’s mom to an early grave, Bailey vowed revenge. Now that she's old enough, she's joined the military. But her first day in the ranks, she overhears talk of their Chancellor’s plan to open Alexandria's gates and let the nightmares inside.

Or, as the main plot seems to be stopping the chancellor, maybe we don't need Bailey's motivation for joining the military. We could open: Military recruit Bailey MacKinnon overhears a plot to open the gates of Alexandria, letting the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overrun the city. She tries to warn the populace, but no one will listen--until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies.  That leaves a lot of room to talk about their plan and what goes wrong and what will happen if they can't come up with something better. Devote less space to the situation and more to how Bailey and company handle it.

Years ago we had a query for a book titled The Theft of the Daidanna Dankenka Maru. If you could combine this book with that one, the query could begin: "When the Daidanna Dankenka Maru is stolen by the Tuatha De Danann," thus getting rejected before the end of the first sentence.

When she's eavesdropping on the conversation about letting the beasts into the city, does Bailey know it's not a couple soldiers joking around, or discussing a rumor? Is it the chancellor himself she overhears? If not, why haven't the people she overheard backed up her story? If so, does she hear him explaining that opening the gates will be a good thing because it's preferable to everyone starving to death? Or because it will clear the streets of all these damn carnies? Is he just an insane megalomaniac, and no one else has realized this and tried to warn the people until Bailey came along?

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Face-Lift 1302

Guess the Plot

Heartless Joe

1. Joe Hartman fell in love, had a happy marriage, and an unfortunate, but friendly, divorce. Eighteen times. His exes have another name for him. These are their stories.

2. Joe is a zombie and proud of it. Now if only these well-meaning folk would stop trying to "cure" him and just let him eat their brains.

3. Jenna is so upset when she discovers her husband Joe has a mistress (and bought his mistress a goat farm), she dumps Joe and marries one of the many lawyers who've been comforting her. Also, a giant man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat. 

4. The Iron Age has left much to be remembered, and it is coming back with a vengeance. Follow the story of a boy named Joe as he attempts to change the past to save the future.

5. The doctors at St Mary's thought the derelict was just another junkie, but when they take his vitals, they find --no pulse. Horrified, they run a CAT scan, and find that the confused man literally has no heart. Have they found an angel, a demon, or something else?

6. You all know the story of the Tin Woodsman and the lengths he went to to feel love again. Well, this is the tale of his twin brother Joe who didn't mind being... heartless.

Original Version

Title: Heartless Joe

Joe is a smug, 40 year old, happily married successful executive in San Francisco with a taste for remote mountain trips. His most recent trip to Timbuktoo [Remote, yes. But if it's a mountain he wants, he should have stayed home, as Mt. Davidson in San Francisco is higher than Timbuktu.] ends in disaster and his Guardian Angel Michael is forced to exchange Joe's heart for his life. [Literally? He stays alive despite the removal of his heart?] The purchaser is Gretta, fairy godmother to Joe's long-forgotten high school flame Alyssa. Gretta gives Alyssa Joe's heart as a present, which makes Joe fall in love with Alyssa. Alyssa has always been in love with Joe and is now a disheveled, middle-aged, single mother of two young children living near poverty in Baltimore. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her fairy godmother more than a human heart. Did the FG at least wrap it in a tasteful Valentines Day gift bag?]

Joe recovers from hypothermia in hospital in San Francisco [Hypothermia caused by exposure to the cold temperatures in Timbuktu, on the edge of the Sahara Desert?] with his lovely tall, blonde, lawyer wife, Jenna, sitting next to him stroking his hand, and finds that he can only think of Alyssa. Puzzled, he contacts Alyssa, who he hasn't thought of for two decades, flies to Baltimore, meets her, and despite Alyssa's reservations they become lovers. Joe buys them a farm and visits every month. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her successful executive lover more than a farm to run.] Alyssa establishes a wildlife refuge on their property, taking in stray horses, goats, cats, dogs, and sheep. [Finally someone's doing something about all the stray horses, goats and sheep wandering around Baltimore.] They spend many hours with the animals and set up a donation center. [Is it for donations of money or unwanted goats?]

Five years later, Jenna finds out about Joe's other life when [she realizes that Baltimore, where her husband's been flying every month for five years, is neither remote nor mountainous.] her friend from Maryland tells her about the "Joe and Alyssa Wildlife Fund". [Does she tell her that the Joe in "Joe and Alyssa" is her husband, or does she just tell her there's a wildlife fund called Joe and Alyssa's, and she better make sure it's not "her" Joe? That would be like phoning her to say, I just passed a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland called Joe's Crab Shack, so you better get your ass over here.]  She hires a private detective known to her law firm and discovers Joe's double life. [I've got bad news: your husband's been leading a secret life as a shepherd.] Jenna is very upset, but gets comforted by all of the men in her law firm. [They're lining up to comfort her.] She dumps Joe and remarries very quickly.

Meanwhile Gretta and Michael make peace with one another, despite the fact that Gretta confesses to having hired the giant pan-dimensional Space Goat, Gorem, [Thanks. Guess how many people are gonna guess which plot was real now.] to devour Joe's comrades on the trip to Timbuktoo. [Why?] [Wait, you can just hire the Space Goat? How much does it charge?] Michael invites Gretta to join his card-playing group of angels, but she politely declines.

Joe and Alyssa live happily ever after and adopt three hundred cats. [Okay, NOW you've gone too far.]

Heartless Joe is a 70,000 word novel, fantasy romance.


I've said it before and I'll say it again: if there's a giant, man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat in your book, it must be mentioned up front. 

Why is Alyssa's fairy godmother hiring anyone to devour Joe's comrades?   

I don't see why Joe's guardian angel has to pay Gretta anything for Joe's life. What does Gretta have to do with Joe? Was she in Timbuktu? If so, why? I expect my guardian angel to protect me, not to wait till I'm dying and then pay someone else to save me. And if he's gonna give up one of my body parts to save me, my heart is the last next to last one I'd want to do without. 

Why does Alyssa's fairy godmother wait until now to bring her together with Joe? Can't she cast a spell to make Joe love Alyssa instead of hiring a hitgoat to kill a bunch of innocent people so she can save Joe and demand his heart in return? 

If the space goat is mentioned up front, we might think this is a farcical fantasy comedy. As it is, we think it's a disorganized kitchen sink story until we get to the space goat, and then we assume it's a hoax. Whatever it is, I wouldn't call it a romance when Joe was happily married to begin with and is together with Alyssa only because of a magic spell. 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Synopsis 48

This is a story of a young, seemingly perfect, but often turbulent love. Told in first person from the female heroine’s perspective, it takes you deep inside a young girl’s heart, into her challenging quest to be with the boy she loves so desperately. The story begins in the present and goes back in time from 1977 to 1990, concluding with a dramatic turn. [A synopsis tells the story. You're not telling the story, you're describing the book. Dump that and get to the plot.]

In 1977 Cassidy is an awkward teen who meets Danny when her family moves to a new house. Infatuated from the first moment she lays eyes on him, her whole world changes in what feels like a minute. Cassidy tries to understand a moody, young Danny, who seems to love her deeply, wildly and passionately. Yet, at times, his feelings seemed [seem] to change to an almost crushing indifference. Still she believes in her heart that they both love each other because somehow, they continually return to needing each other desperately.

When they are older they decide to try again, even planning for marriage and a future together. Cassidy finally believes they will get their “happily ever after” and that their troublesome journey to be together will end. Then Danny shatters her world when he admits that he has gotten another girl pregnant. Cassidy also thinks she might be pregnant and deep down, she hopes that maybe it will be a way to hold on to him. When she finds out she is not pregnant, she must face a harsh reality as Danny decides to do the honorable thing and marry this new girl. [He was getting someone else pregnant while discussing marriage with Cassidy, shattering her world, and she wants to hold onto him? Does he have any redeeming qualities?]

Cassidy finally moves on, yet deep down she still hangs on to her only true love, her destiny, her dream. Even while married, Danny calls her off and on, tells her how much he still loves her, and misses her. [He's the psychological equivalent of the dungeon master in a medieval torture chamber.] This tears her apart and leaves her deliriously happy at the same time; her conscience tells her this is wrong but she finds she cannot refuse Danny or resist her own desires. Her deep and all consuming love for him motivates her decisions and actions, despite the eventual repercussions. [What decisions and actions are you talking about? What are the repercussions?]

I invite you to come along on this journey of tumultuous, irresistible love and the heartbreaking struggles that come with it. The story of Cassidy and Danny will have you experiencing the entire gambit of emotions. Even some that will make you shout at the heroine to leave it be and forget Danny once and for all. You will feel hope and frustration for her, along with admiration and even sympathy, as she tenaciously hangs on and fights for her dream of achieving true love.

By the end, you may feel changed by this story. You may stop and wonder if Cassidy is truly na├»ve and entirely too submissive. Or, is it that she is stronger and smarter than you realized? What could happen in your life, if you never gave up, fought the odds, and faced all the hardships head on? Would you finally achieve the happiness you deserved? Maybe even win the battle for that first love that all of us most likely lost at one time in our lives, when we were too young and just didn’t know any better. [These last two paragraphs don't belong in a synopsis. Or anywhere. Just tell the story. Your three plot paragraphs at least have some specific information, unlike the plot summary in the query letter (previous post), but you could provide the same info in half the words, leaving room for a lot more about what happens. Tell the story.]

Thank you for your help!


If she kills him, say so. If she doesn't kill him, why not? It's fiction. Even if it's based on a true story, you can change it in fiction and have her kill him. Do you want readers to throw the book against the wall or burn it and vow not to buy your next book, or do you want them to set the book down after finishing it and sigh with satisfaction, looking forward to your next book? Kill him.

Face-Lift 1301

Guess the Plot


1. Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Follow their journey as they do pretty much nothing, knowing their love is either destined to endure or destined to end.

2. Destiny and Precious live in an abandoned house near the strip mall. Follow their journey as they change and grow while foraging in the dumpsters.

3. Terry and Sarah lose their parents when they're twelve years old. Follow their journey as they brave the wilderness of eighteenth-century Colorado to avoid being taken in by their abusive Aunt Sophie.

4. In an effort to dam the flood of doorstopper fantasy novels featuring prophecies and chosen ones, a literary agent valiantly takes on the mantle of Fate's Guardian, forbidding the use of destiny-based plot devices.

5. As the Destiny Star approaches, assuring complete annihilation of life on Earth within 100 years, one scientist figures out how to use micro-black holes to tunnel out of the Milky Way to a planet that can sustain life.

6. The Johnsons wanted one thing for their daughter: to be the best stripper at the Dallas airport. Now all grown up, Destiny is about to embark on the job interview of a lifetime.

7. "You may be a winner!" screams the envelope. So 89-year-old Marge Doherty decides to try and win. Trouble is, there are so many confusing rules and codes and fees, she has no chance. Heartbroken, penniless, she dies alone. And somewhere in a building in New York, another demon gets its horns for tricking someone out of money and time.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Based on a true story…A heartfelt account of a lifelong love. [Get rid of this. It doesn't tell us anything you don't say later on.]

Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Their tumultuous relationship brings misery and happiness to Cassidy. The story is told from her perspective and brings the reader into her emotions and trials. Determined and loyal, the once shy girl fights for a love that she cannot let go of. Her belief that Danny is her destiny perpetuates her longtime fight to bring them together. [This is all vague. In what way is their relationship tumultuous? What happens that brings misery and happiness to Cassidy? What emotions and trials is the reader brought into? Why does she have to fight for her love, when Danny is in love with her?]

Tragedy befalls her in her twenties [What tragedy?] and she has to face the fact that she has lost Danny. [Did he move away? Marry someone else? Die?] Still, their love seems to live on[You just said she had to face the fact that she had lost him. One sentence ago.] and she meets the obstacles head on. [What obstacles?] The story walks the reader through her difficult life. At times, you may want to scream at her….to just give up. [I do want to scream or just give up. You got that part right.] Her journey will pull at you [It will pull at me? What does that mean?] and make you feel many emotions: love, betrayal, rage and a desperate heartbreak. [The query alone is making me feel at least one of those.]

Can they learn to let go of a love that always seemed to prevail, [Why should they learn to let go of it?] or has destiny set a path for them that’s beyond their control?

A unique raw love story [Don't claim it's unique; tell us what's unique about it.] based on true events [What true events?] that will take you back to your own teen years, [I don't want to be taken back to my teen years.] DESTINY is a 58,000 word Chick-Lit, which will have you reliving all those [humiliating, misery-inducing] first love experiences. [I think of Chick Lit as predominately lighthearted. The Devil Wears Prada. Shopaholic. Bridget Jones Returns Yet Again. This book sounds like Literary Fiction. Tragedy, misery, heartbreak. If it's not a downer, show us the funny side.]

In the interest of full disclosure, this book was briefly published by an indie publisher Linkville Press, but due to the publisher violating their contract, they have returned the full rights back to me. [If your cover was as unappealing as the other ones on their site, they did you a favor.] The book has since been completely revised with the assistance of a professional editor. [Is that how the publisher violated the contract . . . . by not completely revising the book?]


You don't tell us anything that happens in your book. I'm not sure anything does happen. Millions of people fall in love as teens and move on (or don't) in their twenties. What makes this story different from all the others? Start over and provide some of the specific events that drive the plot toward its remarkable conclusion.

Not that it should be in the query, but what was it your publisher did to violate your contract?

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Face-Lift 1300!

Guess the Plot

A War Bride

1. A collection of poems written in half-awake prose with themes of nature and images as diverse as wolves and jerky. Also, includes the poem "A War Bride."

2. Six years ago, Nora married handsome American soldier Jerry and moved to New York. After enduring Jerry's crude manners, filthy socks, and creepy friends, she's starting to think that maybe she should take her chances with an American jury.

3. It's 1919, and David Smithers is returning to the little French town where he met gorgeous Marie. Entranced by the daring pilot, she quickly agreed to become his wife. But when David gets there, he runs into a few problem, namely her three brothers--and all the other daring pilots she agreed to marry.

4. Daisy O'Hara plans to marry her lifelong friend, Joe Birmingham, before he is shipped out after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, Queen Boudica who shares Daisy's body is not willing to wait at home for her man, or even join the WACs. She's got a war-ax to grind.

5. Marcella was married to the king of the neighboring kingdom to seal a peace treaty. However, she knows the incompetence of her homeland armies. She plans on poisoning her husband and leading his armies against her homeland to join the kingdoms and ensure peace. Too bad her husband's a cutie.

6. Ares, god of war, has found a spouse for each of his children. Now he just needs to find a bride for his seventh child, a son. When he finds the perfect candidate, he's torn. He may just take her for himself.

Original Version

Thirty-five poems reflect on nature as a cycle of death and life, a master who tempts subject after subject into a life of devotion; a beautiful place to wake up, and a rocky catalyst for love. [I can't tell if that list includes two items, separated by the semicolon, or four items, separated by commas and a semicolon, or if it's one lengthy description of nature.] Pictures of the woods flit in the book's half-awake rhythmic prose, trapping the reader at the same moment that they free him.  [I don't like "flit in." Maybe "flit through" or "dart throughout."] [Wait, "enshroud." Yes, it has that feeling of poetic language you're going for, the kind that inspires the reader to think, WTF?] The facet of the outdoors beams first vicious then softly caring as the reader dares himself further into the book. [WTF?]

[I've dared myself further into the query. Hope it turns out better than the time I dared myself to eat a dozen jelly doughnuts.] Until the last poem, "a war bride", the author struggles with the burden of having one foot in the civilized world and the other strapped in a snowshoe, ready to migrate. [What this book needs is a poem about an ostrich that tries to migrate while wearing one snowshoe.] From the convincing lines about fall's surreality, to the suicidal epic of "we two can't die", the poems muse through moods that meet their extreme in the wild outdoors. [You had some good alliteration going there, but you dropped the ball. How about "...they muse through moods that meet their match in Marrakesh, Morocco."?] As "A War Bride" appraises a human lover and, soon after, winks slyly at the wilderness as the true object of adoration, this book chases after images that words have yet to define until now. [I was going to say it's highly unlikely that you are the first person to describe the images in your book with words, until I realized I'm probably the first person to describe in words the image of an ostrich wearing one snowshoe.] 

The tempting and scary sense of being pursued as the sun goes down, and the urge to tear away in a hunt of one's own as spring melts the snow, plant their feet into the scenery of "A War Bride". With images of wolves, dry jerky, and affection that vows, "no matter the land / I will call to you", the poems of "A War Bride" lead the reader to the middle of the forest, where words - and the silence between them - are at their most powerful.

[Sample poem:

Ode to Dry Jerky

Whether at home or land afar,
I will call to you,
O strip of dry meat, 
Salty and lean.
Ostrich, elk or venison, 
Bacon, boar or kangaroo;
All enshroud the buds of taste
But to a poet, just one will do,
And that, of course, is turkey jerky.]


"Half-awake prose" doesn't sound like a description of poetry. Even if it is, I don't recommend being half-awake when you pen thine epistle.

If you want to impress the editor with your poetic language, include a few of the poems. This is a business letter. Start over.

Poetry books don't fly off the shelves, so few agents will bother with them. Find a poetry publisher accepting manuscripts, and not asking you to pay them. Describe your book, how the poems are connected, how long it is, previous poetry publications if any. If they haven't told you not to, include samples. It might help to submit the poems to magazines in hopes of getting some credits. Don't be surprised if you end up self-publishing.

Feel free to send us a revision of the query with a sample or two.

Also, feel free to use my sample poem in your book, but only if you mention me in the acknowledgements.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Synopsis 47 would like feedback on the following revision.

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelp - Synopsis [I see his name's been changed from Phelps to Phelp. Let's hope there are more constructive changes.]

Some teenagers obsess about music and boys, but all Lucy Brown cares about is getting good enough grades for a college scholarship to rescue her from her current life. Ever since her dad abandoned the family, Lucy has taken on the burden of caring for her six-year old twin brother and sister while her mom, married straight out of high school, works two menial jobs to keep the family afloat.

Pretty much the only remnants left of her happy childhood are her best friend, Nancy Martin, who still recalls Lucy’s fun-loving dad with fondness and Lucy’s home address on a safe, suburban street where nothing bad ever happens...until the night two gun shots ring out at midnight. It’s an unseasonably warm autumn evening and Lucy is at an open window, finishing up her homework.

On a street where most residents take their hearing aids out at ten o’clock, no one but Lucy heard the gunshots. When her wheelchair-bound neighbor isn’t at his usual spot in his window the next afternoon, Lucy investigates and finds Mr. Phelps dead with a single shot to the heart.

Everybody suspects the gun-obsessed, twenty-something man who lives next door to Lucy and when the police raid his home and make an arrest, things are set right again on Cottonwood Street. Neighbors breathe a sigh of relief, stop locking their doors, [No need to lock your doors, folks. The police have arrested a guy who is obviously guilty because he owns some guns, although none of his guns is a match ballistically for the bullet that killed Mr. Phelps.] ] and return to the previous topic of conversation - a developer has offered over-market values for two of the houses on their street. The first offer was made to elderly Ms. Peabody, but Mr. Phelps had received the second offer and he had refused. His estate will surely have no qualms about selling now and the neighborhood is up in arms. According to the city planning office, the Owlins Development Corporation has purchased a wide swath of land behind the two houses for luxury condos, but a protected woodland makes Cottonwood Street the only access point. With the neighborhood upset about increased traffic, Ms. Peabody agrees not sell after all. [Why isn't Phelps's land alone enough for access to the condos? All it takes for access is enough land for a connecting driveway.]

Lucy is also ready to move on, except for two tiny things. The police never found the second bullet or the gun that fired the shots. Since the only person who heard two gunshots is a fifteen year old, no one, not even her own mother, has put stock in her report. [As I suggested previously, if one person hears two shots and everyone else hears one shot, maybe you disregard the one person whose story differs. But if one person hears two shots and no one else hears any, and you know there's been a shooting, you can't disregard the only witness just because she's fifteen.] But Lucy is certain there is more to this story. With the twins trailing behind her, Lucy searches for clues and discovers a discarded window screen with a bullet-sized hole. She remembers seeing a tear in Mr. Phelps’ screen window at the crime scene. [Why aren't there two bullet-sized holes in the discarded screen?]

When Lucy fits the screen into the garage window of Mr. Phelps’ next-door neighbors, the holes make a straight line from the garage window into Mr. Phelps’ living room. [If the killer wanted to shoot through his garage window at someone in the next house, surely he would remove his screen first, as going through a window screen would alter the bullet's speed and direction.] The gun wasn’t fired from inside Mr. Phelps’ home but from inside the garage of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, the only other non-geriatric residents on the block. The police are called back and ballistics show that Mr. Wilson, new father and all-around friendly neighbor, owns the gun that killed Mr. Phelps. [Why hasn't he disposed of the murder weapon?] 

However, Lucy’s pride in her sleuthing skills is replaced with anxiety when Mr. Wilson is released on bail. As Mr. Wilson later explains to the neighbors on Cottonwood Street, the gun accidentally went off during a cleaning. He had no idea the bullet hit anyone, as Mr. Phelps’ [Phelps's] body wasn’t found right away. [I saw no need to go over and see if my gunshot caused any damage because no one informed me that a body had been found.] In Lucy’s state, involuntary manslaughter only applies to people engaged in an unlawful act. Mr. Wilson, registered gun owner and upstanding citizen, has been charged only with accidental discharge of a firearm. As the neighbors digest this information, Lucy is left wondering why Mr. Wilson is looking at her with menace.

She figures out why the next day, when her mind wanders during Chemistry class. The key to the mysterious death of Mr. Phelps is the second gun shot. Why would a second bullet be discharged during a cleaning? Lucy thinks she knows. She also thinks Ms. Peabody is in grave danger. Since Lucy has been taking care of herself since she was eleven, asking for help never even crosses her mind. She plunges into the task of saving her neighbor, leaving nothing more than a cryptic message for best friend Nancy.

Arriving home unexpectedly in the middle of the day, Lucy walks in on Mr. Wilson trying to steal a gun from her family’s gun safe. Unable to escape, she hides and dials 911 while Mr. Wilson searches the house for her. He is inches from discovery [finding her] when they hear the distant wail of sirens. Mr. Wilson flees as the police arrive. Lucy reveals him as the developer trying to buy the two homes on Cottonwood Street. Owlins is an anagram for Wilson. When Mr. Phelps wouldn’t sell, Mr. Wilson planned his death, knowing the lax laws in his state would protect him from even a negligence charge. If he hadn’t missed with the first shot, Mr. Wilson would have never been caught. But he had to fire twice, and Lucy heard both shots. Mr. Wilson tried to steal the Brown’s gun so the weapon in Ms. Peabody’s death wouldn’t be traced to him.

The local paper writes up [publishes] a story about Lucy’s sleuthing. But Lucy’s moment of glory is shattered when Mrs. Wilson accuses Lucy of dooming the Wilson child to grow up fatherless, just like Lucy and the twins. [Most people would rather their children not live under the same roof as a murderer.]

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps is a 66,000 word novel aimed at 13-15 year olds. The story is self-contained but there is series potential with best friend Nancy Martin solving another crime after she and her family move onto Lucy’s street. 


Until someone has requested a synopsis, I recommend focusing on editing the book rather than working on a synopsis. 

Also, if you've clicked on "Submit to Evil Editor" in the sidebar, you may have noticed that we have a 400-word limit on synopses, and this one seems to be at least twice that long. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1295 has submitted the following revision and seeks your comments.

Dear Evil Agent,

Ever since her dad abandoned the family, Lucy has taken on the burden of caring for her six-year old twin brother and sister while her mom, married straight out of high school, works two menial jobs to keep the family afloat. At fifteen, Lucy’s world has narrowed to little more than childcare and homework. [We don't need to know that Lucy's dad abandoned the family, that her siblings are twins, when her mom got married, that mom's jobs are menial... If you must tell us about Lucy's home life, you can get by with: At fifteen, Lucy has time for little more than homework and caring for her younger siblings while their mom is at work. Though possibly you should dump even that and begin the query with the next sentence, adding Lucy's age.] When Lucy’s [Lucy] discovers her elderly neighbor shot dead, the police make a quick arrest, but they disregard Lucy’s report of multiple gun shots because Mr. Phelps has been killed in his home by a single gunshot through the heart. [Shooting twice and hitting once is probably pretty common, either because the killer misses the first time, or thinks the first shot might not be fatal, but misses the second time because he's freaked out by the loudness of the first shot. The police know this, so they aren't going to assume that because one bullet hit the victim, there aren't any other bullets.]  On a street where most residents take out their hearing aids and crank up the television volume at night, no one can corroborate Lucy’s story. [A guy was shot, and the police are disregarding the report of the only witness who heard two gunshots, because all the potential corroborating witnesses were essentially deaf? And thus heard no gunshots? That's like a murder taking place at the Braille Institute and the police ignore the UPS guy's eyewitness account because everyone else present was blind, and thus couldn't corroborate his account.] Lucy tries to move on, but she can’t shake her conviction that the wrong man has been arrested. [The fact that there were multiple shots doesn't mean the man they arrested is innocent. Maybe he shot twice. Tell us what makes her think someone else did it.] With her siblings trailing behind, Lucy begins sleuthing, but when her clues lead to the arrest of a different neighbor, and then the police decide to let him go, [Thanks to Lucy we have enough evidence to arrest you for murder, but screw it. We've decided to let you go.] Lucy fears her own life may be in danger.

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps is a 66,000 word young adult novel with series potential.

Thank you for your time,


That long paragraph should be broken into two or three paragraphs. 

But it's probably best to scrap everything about Lucy's home life and focus on how she succeeds where the police have failed. Police can be as careless and incompetent as other people, but the better detectives usually work homicide cases and go over a murder scene with a fine tooth comb, not just to find hairs left behind by the killer, but also fingerprints, fibers, bullet holes, spent shells....

Better to just say Lucy's the only one who heard the shots than to add an unlikely explanation for why she's the only one and why the police don't believe her. Get rid of the stuff I suggested, and you'll have room to tell us what clues Lucy finds that lead to the arrest. 

If the killer knows Lucy found these clues before he's been arrested, you can convince us she's worried about her own life without telling us the police simply decide to let the guy go.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Face-Lift 1299

Guess the Plot

Wolf Heart

1. Julie and Paula have a very unusual ingredient in their award-winning pecan pie.

2. Wolfgang Hart blogs under his new assumed name. He names names (except his own) and isn't afraid to point the finger. Because nobody will guess his true identity.

3. Jack Deering's pawn shop hasn't done so well lately, but maybe the magic from this more-than-5000-year-old Sumerian wolf heart will change all that.

4. Princess Sukkia wears a diamond collar and has a pedigree that goes back a thousand years. When jealous King Lupin doubts her fidelity, he dresses as a traveling bard and tries to seduce her. 

5. Though born human, Fang Song was adopted by wolves and has the heart of a wolf. "I am wolf!" she cries. Then she meets Howling Wolf, the handsome human who makes her heart jump. Maybe she should be wolf just a couple days each month. 

6. By the light of the harvest moon, Lampton town brings in the crops. One by one people disappear. When a ravaged corpse is found, the villagers lynch Alan "Wolfgang" Shepherd. Yet, the numbers continue to dwindle. Who is harvesting the harvesters? 

7. By day, Peter is a quiet young chemistry major. Once a month, though, he transforms into yet another attempt to wring money out of the public via a hunky wolfman for the girls to swoon over.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

The wolf way says she must adapt or die, but Fang Song refuses to choose either. [You can refuse to adapt, but if refusing to die worked, we'd be packed in like sardines.] [Also, it's pretty much always better to delete a one-sentence opening and start with the second paragraph.]

According to legend, eighteen-year-old Fang Song is destined to save Heartland, her island home, from a king set on supreme magical authority. [I wasn't sure what "supreme magical authority" meant, so I Googled it. Apparently the Count in August Strindberg's most famous play, Miss Julie, is a supreme magical authority. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the play, so I'll just assume this king wants to be the leader of a team of super wizards and mages such as Merlin, Harry Potter, Gandalf, Doctor Strange, and Penn and Teller.] Born human and adopted by wolves, [Did she adapt after she was adopted?] Fang Song tenaciously cries she is wolf, but the rest of the world disagrees. [By "the rest of the world" do you mean all the people, all the wolves, or all the people and wolves?] With two wolf siblings by her side and the lines of an ancient song ["Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"] to guide her, Fang Song must convince everyone, including herself, that she is the champion Heartland needs. [Why must she convince everyone? Convincing ninety percent of everyone isn't good enough?] 

When she leaves her wolf pack and the wild places she calls home, and journeys to meet her familial tribe, the Wind Walkers, Fang Song is determined to remain untouched by the changes. [differences?] [If she's going there to recruit humans to help defeat the king, say so.] She soon discovers the human world is as beguiling as it is terrifying, and though she longs to be wolf, there is an undeniable spark calling her to be more fully human. Everything Fang Song thought was true now seems uncertain, [Everything?] and her greatest enemy remains to be fought. How much will she have to sacrifice to save her home? And what is she to make of Howling Wolf, the striking Wind Walker who makes her heart do unexpected things?

The people Fang Song trusts most [I'm surprised to find she knows any people well enough to trust them. Has she been interacting with humans on a regular basis?] have their own secrets--secrets that could shatter her dreams. When those secrets and the schemes of the king collide, will Fang Song find the key to Heartland's survival? Or will she find her own annihilation? [That paragraph is too vague. What are these secrets? What are her dreams? I don't know what you're talking about.]

WOLF HEART is complete at approximately 67,000 words, and is the first in a potential young adult fantasy series of the same title.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



Was Fang Song adopted after she was old enough to have learned the Wind Walkers' language? Is the ancient song whose lines guide her a human song or a wolf song?

With his striking looks, Howling Wolf can have any woman in the tribe. I don't see him being attracted to a woman who's spent most of the last eighteen years living with wolves.

We need to know what life will be like on Fang Song's island home if the king attains supreme magical authority. You haven't said how it'll be any worse. Maybe he'll be a benevolent king, bringing peace and prosperity to all. Hey, maybe the king can use magic to turn Fang Song into an actual wolf. 

"According to legend, eighteen-year-old Fang Song is destined to save Heartland..." Is everyone aware of this legend? If so, why does she have to convince them she's their champion? If the legend doesn't specify who the champion is, what makes her think she's the one?

Four of the last five plot sentences are questions. You should be providing answers, not asking us questions.

Fang Song sounds more like an Asian name than a Wind Walker name. In Chinese it means to accept relaxation. Fang Song Gong is an exercise program. Fang Song is the name of several Chinese people including an accomplished actress/director. Did she get the name from the Wind Walkers or from the wolves who adopted her? 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Face-Lift 1298

Guess the Plot

The Corner of Burch and Grace

1. Akshually th coroner (mispelled thet) ov birch (misspeled tat) aand grapes (misspellt that that)- uh ghyde fer whoredikulcher docters evereehwere.

2. Here's the Google Street view of "Corner of Burch and Grace." It looks like a residential neighborhood in the middle of fucking nowhere, so I'm guessing this is a coming of age story or some shit like that.

3. Six-year-old Grace Burch is tired of being a pawn in her divorced parents custody battle, so she raises money through a Kickstarter campaign, files for emancipation, and sues both her parents for child support. Told in the alternating viewpoints of her dog, Princess, and her cat, Mephistopheles.

4. Burch and Grace are conjoined twins awaiting the surgery to finally separate them. Yet their life afterwards is not as separated as they may hope.

5.  There's a little diner at the corner of Burch & Grace, where the lonely, the lost and the loveless come for food, coffee, and maybe some pathetic attempt at human interaction. And that's the way they liked it, until the night the Glam Girls of Glendale showed up.

6. Nothing of interest has ever happened at the corner of Burch and Grace in Buffalo, New York . . . until the night they dig up the children's skeletons.

7. The haunting true story of the image found in Edward Hopper's masterpiece, "Nighthawks".

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My memoir, THE CORNER OF BURCH AND GRACE, was written about the first 14 years of my life growing up in Buffalo, New York, in the transformative 1960s. [The 1960s may have seemed to go on forever, but I'm pretty sure they didn't last 14 years.] 

While everyone will enjoy this collection of stories at face value, they are especially powerful for every adult who had a difficult childhood, and, [Commas not needed.] for every adult who ever had a relationship with someone who had a difficult childhood. Finally, these stories are for every child who became an adult and chose to never look back. [Maybe it would waste less space if you just told us who these stories aren't for.] [I'm not sure what "at face value" means in terms of enjoying a book. Is it related to judging a book by its cover?] [It sounds like what you're saying is, Everyone will enjoy this book at face value, but those who hope to enjoy it on a level other than face value must fall into one of the following three categories, which include pretty much everyone.]

From the deterioration of my mother, my family and me [If you just say "my family," we will deduce that you and your mother are included.] amidst a backdrop of shame and silence, to the heartrending testimony and rollicking humor of life lessons learned, both sweetly and harshly - in the neighborhood, at school, and at home - THE CORNER OF BURCH AND GRACE is a call for all of us to consider, both literally and metaphorically, what makes us turn out the way we do. [This is all totally vague. It's like saying, "My family: the good, the bad and the ugly, here there and everywhere." Except that would use less space, leaving more room to tell us some specific things that happen in the book.]

My wish is that these poignant and humorous tales will show every reader that it is often necessary to dig up our childhood skeletons and set them down - right alongside the happy memories. [I think the skeletons you're talking about are in the closet, so no need to bring a shovel.]

It is in the spirit of service that I offer this variety of pieces from my manuscript. [Not sure what that means. You are doing the recipient of your query a service by including pieces from the manuscript?] The book is finished and is awaiting a good literary home. I've inserted the manuscript within this email, per your guidelines. [How long is this book? Hard to believe anyone's guidelines include inserting the entire manuscript within an email.]


[Not clear if this next part is part of the query or intended solely for EE, but it doesn't belong in a letter to a literary agent. Or to EE.]

Once a journalist, I now maintain a [website where I post pieces of various genres]. I invite you to visit me there. I have chosen several pieces for your perusal – simply click on “Selections for Literary Agents” under Categories.

I am available for journalistic assignments, essays, columns and features, and of course, other books - as there are even more Tales from Burch Avenue and beyond. [What happened to Grace?]


Shame and silence; heartrending testimony and rollicking humor, sweetly and harshly; literally and metaphorically; poignant and humorous; skeletons and memories. My mother, my family and me; neighborhood, school and home. These pairings and lists of nouns, adverbs and adjectives don't tell us anything about your book. Except that everyone will enjoy it, for it is all things to all people. 

Once you call it a memoir of your childhood, I expect it to consist of vignettes starring you and your family. Possibly you don't need to also refer to it as a collection of stories, poignant and humorous tales, a variety of pieces... It sounds like something along the lines of Winesburg, Ohio, halfway between a novel and short story collection, in that it consists of stories, but with the same setting and characters. 

We need the word count so we can complain about it.

Pretty much no one wants to read about the first (or any) fourteen years of anyone's life in Buffalo, New York, so if you want to sell this, you're going to have to convince us that your first fourteen years were truly remarkable. You haven't told us anything that happened to you in those years.

Of course it's hard to describe a collection of stories in a few paragraphs, but at least these stories are unified. You could give specific brief summaries of two or three of the stories, then hint that these are but a sampling of the fascinating tales in your book. For instance:

In 1960, a young girl tosses a stone at Lake Erie and watches it skip across the surface nine times before plunging to the depths. She immediately applies for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In 1965, this same girl is swimming in Lake Erie when the surface of the lake bursts into flames, an event that inspires her to invent a delicious recipe for chicken wings.

Two years later, a singer convinces this same gal to come out of her Buffalo, New York house at night and dance by the light of the moon.

These and a dozen other stories compose my memoir of growing up in a deteriorating family in a deteriorating neighborhood in a deteriorating city in the transformative 1960s.

You can make the summaries slightly longer, but make sure they're at least as interesting as my examples.