Thursday, December 08, 2016

Face-Lift 1336

Guess the Plot

Princes and Pawns

1. Darryl and Carl think they've got a sure thing in their new RPG, Princes and Pawns. But when their friend and play-tester Kyle runs to a publisher with a beta copy of the game and gets it accepted, they'll be damned if they'll let this would-be game master rook them.

2. It's time to determine which of the princes is to be heir to the throne, through a series of trials. But one of the princes is trying to sabotage the other, and a  notorious gambler is trying to rig the trials, and someone on the Council is using dark magic to kill both princes. Christ, this is worse than the FIFA World Cup.

 3. Annoyed at eight princes lined up to inherit, eight peasants hash out a plan to get out from under their collective thumbs and bump them all off. Starting off with creating a game on a checkered board with a hidden message, and nary a prince in sight.

4. The Prince family's pawn shop faces closure after four generations due to plunging profits. But when William Prince finds a rusty old lamp containing a genie, he might hold the solution to their problems. In your face, E-bay, your days are numbered.

5. The heir to the underwater throne is annoyed with a local crustacean for altering the tidal pattern and starts a turf war and . . . what? Oh, pawns, not prawns? Never mind.

6. Drytown is a dystopian hellhole in the desert, where the people are controlled by a fascist military dictator. Philip, son of the last of the desert's true monarchs, wants to fight for his kingdom as the rightful heir, but he's just sixteen and secretly loves the niece of the dictator, who is secretly in love with Philip. But to prove himself worthy of her he must complete an obstacle course that virtually guarantees his death and Jesus Christ, haven't we seen enough of these murder the teenager novels yet?
7. Prince--that's his given name--Phillips joins the chess club in an attempt to spend some one-on-one time with the girl he likes. They're so desperate for members that they don't care if he sometimes forgets how horsey pieces move. But then Prince's father wants him to prove it's not a sissy activity, or he'll ship Prince off to military school.

Original Version

Dear Name-Spelled-Correctly Agent,

Fifteen-year-old Prince Kyan has been preparing to become Creftenbaugh’s next king for as long as he can remember. A skilled debater with a gift for charming even the stodgiest of diplomats, he knows he can keep the kingdom peaceful and prosperous. But his quick-tempered identical twin brother, Sayled, wants the crown just as much as Kyan, and he’s been preparing just as hard. Kyan fears that if Sayled becomes king, he’ll lead the kingdom into war.

When King Rowden and his Council announce a series of five trials will determine Creftenbaugh’s next ruler, Kyan sees an opportunity to prove he deserves the crown. But there’s a twist – each prince will compete with nine criminals from the prisons, ordering them through the trials as a general would his troops. The trials will be dangerous, and as far as the King is concerned, criminals are expendable.

With Sayled trying to sabotage him at every turn, Kyan struggles to gain his prisoners’ loyalties. Sayled motivates his men with fear and violence, while Kyan offers his their freedom – and riches – if they work with him to win.

Enn, a twelve-year-old boy with sharp eyes and quick feet, plays a key role in Kyan’s first two victories. [Sayled gets nine prisoners on his team while Kyan gets nine prisoners plus a twelve-year-old kid? That's cheating, and Kyan should be disqualified.] But Kyan doesn’t know Enn is hiding two secrets – ‘he’ is really a ‘she’ named Enna, and before the third trial a notorious gambler blackmailed her with her sister’s life to ensure long-shot Sayled wins. Her ‘mistakes’ in the third and fourth trials bring Sayled even with Kyan. 

As the final trial begins with only a few survivors on each side, Kyan learns that Sayled is not his most dangerous enemy – someone on the Council wants both princes dead, and they’ve used dark magic to sabotage the trial. Unable to warn his father or stop the competition, Kyan must fight not only for the crown, but for his life.

Told in alternating points of view between Kyan and Enna, PRINCES AND PAWNS is a 70,000-word upper-middle-grade fantasy. Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is clear and well-written, but a bit long. What can we do without? For starters, you provide information that sounds like it might be important in the book, but whose importance isn't shown in the query. For instance, Kyan is a skilled debater with a gift for charming even the stodgiest of diplomats; the boy Enn is really a girl, Enna.

The two longest paragraphs introduce the characters and tell us their situation. They can be combined into one short paragraph, leaving more room for the plot: 

King Rowden has announced that a series of five trials will determine the heir to Creftenbaugh’s throne. Fifteen-year-old Prince Kyan will compete against his twin brother, the quick-tempered Sayled. Each prince will lead a team of nine criminals from the prisons, ordering them through the trials as a general would his troops.

There seem to be an unnecessarily large number of people involved in sabotaging the trials, considering that it could be decades before the winner actually becomes king. (Or is the king dying?) You've got Sayled trying to sabotage Kyan at every turn, a notorious gambler trying to rig the trials, someone on the Council wanting both princes dead, plus the gambler's pawn, Enna. It's almost as bad as the US presidential election. For the query, it's enough to tell us that someone's trying to rig the trials. Even in the book, maybe it's better for Sayled, rather than a gambler, to blackmail Enna.

A monarchy that decides the heir through trial rather than date and time of birth seems progressive, but it seems like if they're that progressive, they'd hold off on the trials till the princes were in their twenties. Again, is the king's death imminent?

Each prince has a team of adults to command in the trials. I don't see how a twelve-year-old kid ends up being the key to who wins each of the first four trials. Is Enna one of the prisoners? If not, what are the rules with regard to recruiting additional team members? If Kyan can recruit someone capable of influencing the outcome of every trial, Sayled should be allowed to recruit a brigade of mercenaries.

To me, the trials themselves are the most interesting part. If we eliminate Enna from of the query entirely (which also eliminates the root of my annoying questions), making the evil councilperson and Sayled the only villains, there'd be room to tell us what a couple of the trials are like.

Is the point of making the princes twins to give them the same birthday, thus requiring a means to choose an heir? Because monarchies are prepared for such an eventuality. Or did you make them twins so that one can easily impersonate the other?

Monday, December 05, 2016

Face-Lift 1335

Guess the Plot


1. Everything is perfect in Evelyn's life except for one thing: she has no soulmate. After meeting the perfect candidate, will she sacrifice everything for a chance to catch his eye? Including her soul?

2. Verrin, the keeper of the holy goats, is horrified to find  the animals have been slaughtered by a traitor, days before the annual sacrifice for the kingdom's prosperity. And he's even more horrified when the priests decide Verrin is a close-enough substitute.

3. Ray sells his Xbox to get money to buy Ellen a Netflix subscription, only to discover that Ellen sold her Roku to get money to buy Ray Assassins Creed III. It's like that other story, but for millennials.

4. Cremona wants to become a powerful wizard, so he's looking for clues to how. Marina keeps uncovering clues, but ignores them because she has no interest in magic. If only these two lovable kooks would meet, they might live happily ever after.

Original Version

Dear Ms. XXXXXXX [x7]

I’m a friend of YYYYY [one of the agent’s clients]. She thought you might like a first read of SACRIFICE, the mdieval [medieval] fantasy novel I’ve just completed, and recommended I email you directly.

Cremona [Cremona looks too much like Cremora. It's like calling a character Coffeenate or Nudella or Coca-cota. Also, there's no such name as Cremona in any language.] thought he’d [He'd? Cremona is a girl's name.] managed to spin his straw into gold. Problem is, magic doesn’t work more than one time in two. Or maybe one in five. It can’t bail you out of every scrape you blunder into. A little overconfidence, a couple of lapses in judgment, and Cremona’s payday slips though his grasp. [What do you mean he thought he'd spun straw into gold? Can't he tell whether his straw is still straw or has changed to gold? You suggest that he failed to spin his straw into gold, but you then say magic doesn't work more than half the time, which suggests he has spun straw into gold, but doesn't succeed every time he tries. So why doesn't he just keep trying until it works? Also, when you refer to his payday I can't tell whether you mean the gold itself or the money someone paid him to spin some gold. Also, what lapses in judgment contributed to his plight?]

Cereal Reversal

Now he’s stumbling through serial reversals and disasters. Nailed into a barrel and dropped off a dock. Mugged by thugs in uniform. [AKA police.] A nasty hangover. [Somehow that hangover doesn't seem to belong. It's like saying Jesus was whipped by Roman soldiers, nailed to a cross and left to die, and had an ingrown toenail.] And it’s downhill from there. A more plausible [familiar] fate for a hedge-wizard, perhaps, but that doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Marina’s husband is a smuggler. Strictly small-time, as far as she knew, but his secrets have the Duke’s enforcers twitchy, and they try to grab her - and her kids. She sees no choice but to run. Worse, she must give up her young daughter to save her. [If a group of them try to grab one woman and a couple kids, and fail, they forfeit the right to call themselves Enforcers.]

She leaves Quirt in the hands of the monks of the Order, the only true masters of magic. Quirt will penetrate their mysteries, they promise. The girl is eager to learn, and she finds a friend or two among the monks. [What ever happened to whatshisname? Are we in the same book?]  But she’s alone, and there are hints of shadow in their power. [Penetrate their mysteries, hints of shadow: pretty vague.]

Marina bluffs her way from the smoky halls of the Order’s monastery to the sluggish backwaters of the great swamp, uncovering clues to the riddle of controlling power as she runs . [She'll be able to run faster if the Duke makes good on his campaign promise to drain the swamp.] She’s oblivious, though. Increasingly bitter over giving up her daughter, she’s got to figure out how she - and the son who remains to her - are going to survive in exile.

Someone like Cremona might fit the puzzle pieces together, if he heard her story. He’s a bit distracted just now, though. Someone’s cottoned on to his magical abilities. They want to catch him, exploit his power. [Wouldn't it be better to catch a monk, since the monks are the only true masters and Cremona is a bungler?] They’ve set some surly bastards on his trail, 

[We've cottoned on to a guy who sucks at magic. 

Great. But how do we catch him?

It's too big a job for us. Let's hire some bastards.

Good idea. But not just any bastards. Surly bastards.]

who are proving hard to shake. Along the way Cremona encounters magic of perceptive subtlety, and of lethal power. It’s more than he thought possible. So now, he’s looking for clues. [Clues to what? Is he looking for the same clues Marina uncovered in the previous paragraph? Too bad he's distracted and she's oblivious and they never meet.]

SACRIFICE is 166k words. It’s the first book of a trilogy (AN UNCERTAIN POWER), and will appeal to adult readers of fantasy. It aspires to the tone, complexity, and moral ambivalence of KJ Parker or Joe Abercrombie. There’s considerably less mayhem, though – it’s more personal and political, as in Robin Hobb’s books. [Wait, you consider less mayhem a selling point?]

I’ve attached a synopsis and initial chapters as per your firm’s guidelines. YYYYY also suggested I mention I have other books planned. I’ve outlined the rest of the trilogy, and have ideas for additional projects, both independent and set in the same world as SACRIFICE. [I hate to disagree with YYYYY, as she seems wise, but telling us this is part of a trilogy is plenty; no need to bring up other books and projects.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The query and the book would both be better at half the length.

Specific examples are preferable to general statements.

If you are going to compare your book to someone else's I recommend choosing one author rather than three.

If Marina and Cremona are co-main characters, I'd open with Marina, as the gold-spinning/barrel/thugs/hangover paragraphs don't tell us what the book is about. Once you tell us what Marina's problem is, get to the part where they meet and what they hope to accomplish together and what's stopping them.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2 for the price of 1 SALE!

Why You Don't Get Published, volumes 1 & 2.

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Guess the Title games.

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Evil Editor's Ad Campaign

These are ads I'll be placing in major periodicals in coming months, in hopes of attracting new readers to the blog.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

New Beginning 1060

July 4, 2015/Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“Please don't do it! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to!” the girl cried.

“Oh really, now?” I calmly stated.

“Yes, I am so sorry! Please don't kill me!”

I looked into the girl's eyes and saw only fear and misery. Then glanced down at the girl in disgust. Perfect. Whiny little bitch probably never imagined the day would come when she’d be on her knees, begging for her pathetic life. This girl used to hold her head up high, played guys and then threw them away like trash. She cared for absolutely no one but herself. Her whimpers meant nothing. After what she’d done, how could she expect mercy? The girl's whimpers brought me back to the present.

“I'm sorry, okay, I didn't mean to hurt him!” her tears fell onto the ground. She tried to get up but slipped again on the hard concrete.

I cocked the pistol, aiming it with perfection on the girl's face. “Get up!”

The girl got up. She shook all over. A violent tremor went through her. She glanced around at the fireworks in the distance. She yearned to scream for help. She knew what would happen if she did.

It happened anyway. "Sorry, Liz," I said as I fired.

I looked at the crumpled body of my sister. Sixteen years I'd put up with her bullying me, moving my things, teasing me and my friends. I could deal with that. But she'd busted my lego Darth Vader, and there's no coming back from that.

Opening: Chaunalea Tricia.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

New Beginning 1059

Frigid northern night winds coldly kissed the summer gardens goodbye. Inch by inch, joy by joy, they howled an eternal song, while happily and viciously introducing time. He went inside the classically columned, one story stone building, hoping to find some warmth and illumination, willing to settle for either.

He briskly walked down the dark, unpopulated, stark hallway glimpsing the doors closed to him and had no interest in them. At the end he encountered one of the oak variety stained a dark brown, with a black, rectangular sign, containing golden brass letters which said “S-U-P-R-E-SPACE-E-SPACE-C-O-U-R-T”. The tarnished “M” lay on the plushy light brown carpet, which covered a floor of indeterminate substance. The “M” was now companion to other debauched debris, rubbish, trash and junk. The inch deep undisturbed dust suggested long term abandonment. He picked up and pocketed a 1793 large cent, half buried in the grime, which displayed a woman’s head with long flowing hair on the obverse and a wreath on the reverse, thinking it appropriate. He then tried the loose knob on the door and was surprised how easily it swung open. The room was lit with buzzing overhead tubular lights. The walls, ceilings and floors were painted an irregular, but strangely equalized cream shade of white.

There were only two distractions from the two paintings hung on the wall straight ahead. One was a lavender blue marble fountain, which sprayed water two feet in the air, in which the light from the one and only small window near the ceiling gave the moisture laden bouquet a rainbow effect on occasion. The other was a stable black masonry composite bench, on which he sat and beheld the shadows of life.

His posterior pushed against the unyielding obsidian bench in accordance with all the laws of physics, as his eyes wandered curiously around the starkly barren room. They alit one more time on the small window: what little light it passed danced around a sturdy set of bars. He leaned forward for a better vantage and discerned the material of manufacture. Over-wrought iron. That explained it.

Opening: SumCan.....Continuation: Anonymous

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Face-Lift 1334

Guess the Plot

Cruel Sacrifices

1. "We all have to make sacrifices" is what Kelsie's mom told her when she drastically limited her phone time. Well, mom, say goodbye to your dragon dildo collection.

2. An imp pretends to be a genie and convinces poor 39-year-old virgin Eddie that in order to finally get laid, he first needs to perform a spell that involves sacrificing his testicles.

3. A 1980's period piece, inspired by the infamous McMartin preschool trial, featuring a bitterly divorcing couple, a desperate-to-please 4-year-old, and an eccentric, free-spirited young teacher who may or may not actually be a sadistic bride of Satan.

4. When Indigo Aimes made a deal with the devil to rule the world, he knew he would lose his wife, his children, his friends, and his soul. On the bright side, he would be immortal, eternally young, and wealthy. He didn't count on the nuclear holocaust and becoming a cockroach.

5. Jason's life is not all its cracked up to be. After a terrible accident he is left unable to eat a majority of his favorite foods. Now he must subsist on a rainbow color of supplements . . . and human flesh.

6. Dar'qhart Raevyncloake just wants to rule the world...but in this vicious satire of grimdark fantasy, he finds himself constantly having to sacrifice virgins just to prove he's Really That Evil.

7. Shannon and Andrea are the best of friends, partly because they enjoy going to parties and concerts together, but mostly because Shannon doesn't know Andrea killed Shannon's brother. Awkward. Will Andrea reveal the truth and risk sacrificing her friendship?

8. 28-year-old basement dweller Cody has finally found romance. But when his online lover, Heavenlee, insists Cody murder her abusive fundamentalist parents and all 9 of her siblings, he begins to have second thoughts. Especially when he finds out she's twelve.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Andrea is hiding a dark secret. She and her classmates played a cruel prank on a new student and he later dies [died] from it. Shannon escapes her unstable family [Wait, who's Shannon? I thought we were talking about Andrea.] and painful past by settling down in Andrea’s hometown. Shannon was that new student’s sister. [Wait, Shannon wasn't already living in Andrea's hometown, but her brother was?] [And after the students at her brother's school cause his death, Shannon decides that's the school for her?] [A high school student has an unstable family, so she moves to a new town and settles down? How is she paying her bills?] [Shannon should be introduced in a new paragraph. Her sudden appearance in paragraph 1 is jarring.] [And provide both girls' last names.]

Andrea and Shannon meet coincidentally and become close friends. They go to concerts, parties, [and] games, etc. together [ . . . until] Andrea moves on and closes that chapter on her dark past. She meets a new guy and enjoys her pleasant life [starts neglecting her friendship with Shannon]. [But] Shannon can’t move on and she constantly obsesses over her past. She rekindles the relationship with her old boyfriend and despises her new life.

[Eventually,] Shannon uncovers Andrea’s dark secret about her brother. She snaps and now she wants revenge against her best friend.

CRUEL SACRIFICES is a 51,000 word YA contemporary novel, with thriller and mystery elements. This is a standalone novel with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



It doesn't flow like a story. It reads more like an outline, a list of things that happen. Once you boil the story down to about ten sentences, it's time to connect ideas with smooth transitions.

Some specificity would help. What was the prank? How can a kid just move alone to a new town and start attending school? What is this past Shannon obsesses over? What are the cruel sacrifices?

Andrea enjoys her pleasant life? That's vague and doesn't sound like a description of high school.

Friday, November 04, 2016

New Beginning 1058

In the brave, struggling world of irrational hope, Calle de la Congelacion was a refuge, a sequestered haven, a quarantined boneyard, a loved union, a hated community, an irresistible beauty, a ghastly dread, an eternal presence, a temporary thing, a home for the white robed, a home for the unapologetic sinner, a place where people stood tall, a place where people dropped to their knees, a home of understanding, and a home of confusion. It was far from unique.

Jack lived there because he could afford to.

Each house bore no resemblance to its neighbor. Each property was a thick forest. Each house stood alone. Each property displayed the uniformity of a renewing, continuous nature. Each house was poor and showed the deterioration of time. Each property was rich with a timeless patience, waiting for the predictable renovation of spring. It was far from unique.

Jack lived there because it was a good place to hide.

It was a confession booth. It was a denial of the pious. It was perverse. It was ordinary. It was isolated. It was in a crowd. It loved. It hated. It bought. It sold. It lived. It died. It was far from unique.

Jack lived there because it was near his job. 

One could easily go on and on with Calle de la Congelacion’s traits to tiresome perpetuity. However, it would merely be indicative of a total, tragic, comic and ludicrous disregard for the harsh reality now brutally manifested in the street’s world of today.

You know, like the rest of this introduction.

Opening: SumCan.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


This reminds me of A Tale of Two Cities, in that both have three Jacks. Okay, in A Tale of Two Cities it's three Jacques, but . . .

The sentences starting with Jack keep taking me out of the voice. Possibly it's the name "Jack." Go with Sebasti├ín.

Repeating the "It was far from unique" sentence annoys me. 

I would go with a condensed version, and without the contrasts/contradictions:

In the world of irrational hope, the community bordered on the east by Calle de la Congelacion was a refuge, a sequestered haven, an irresistible beauty, a home for the unapologetic sinner. It was far from unique.

Sebasti├ín lived there because he could afford it and it was close to his work. And because it was a good place to hide.

That kills a lot of your babies, but since this place is far from unique, most of what you say could be said about hundreds of places. I'm more interested in what is unique about it, as I assume that's why you're starting the book here. 

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Face-Lift 1333

Guess the Plot

Illustrated Desert Under the Elms

1. This lovely, lively book features dozens of ideas for your next quick pick-me-up with desserts under that big tree in your yard, where--wait--DESERT? Never mind.

2. Political corruption involving garbage contracts. In the suburban desert. With pictures. Think The Sopranos, but with camels.

3. Anna has always visited the elm trees at her family's farm, gazing out at the wasteland, imagining a new life. When the local Native American boy is found babbling about the "Darkness", she discovers her imagination is the only thing protecting her home.

4. In a post-apocalyptic future where random words from ancient scraps of paper are used as names, 13-year-old Illustrated Desert, on an everyday scavenging mission with her friend Mortgage Knife, stumbles upon a sealed dome containing a magical world of towering green things and unimaginable lushness.

5. A delicate yet subversive kunstlerroman featuring sensitive, alienated young landscape painter Celeste, who despises the manicured suburban greenery around her, and longs only to create scenes of parched mesas and barren dunes.

6. A scrapbook-obsessed helicopter mom maintains an extensive photojournal of her 3-year-old's stunningly precocious Lego and Polly Pocket tableaux, all crafted in their backyard sandbox.

7. A 1,000-word picture book explaining ecological devastation and the world as it will be when young readers grow up. Don't worry, there's one cuddly bunny that doesn't die.

Original Version

A noir vision of a former southwestern rural which has been turned into a suburban community. It's [Its] newer residents have effectively taken over and want the reminders of the past de-facto obliterated; but are not fully aware of that. Themes include political corruption, widespread duplicity, young love, garbage contracts, and gangsta wannabees told through the lives of eleven people who live there. It's a total of 150,000 words and a 259,000 word version also exists; the former being stripped of many digressions. it's difficult to fully describe, but if one can see the main theme of "Infinite Jest" being a symbolic apocalypse brought about by the cold; then this is one brought about by the heat. [I see the main theme of Infinite Jest as tennis, which would make your main theme . . . short-track speed skating.]

I write in many fictional genres ranging from literary to a crappy short dalliance with bizarro; and have about thirty titles completed. So, if you have a heightened interest in one area please specify. [Alternate history haiku. With ducks.] Also, be aware that at age 67 I am not open to touring or book signings. [67 is the new 43. Get off your ass and promote.] My only interest is your indicated seven-figure-deal- negotiating skills. [I knew it. You're like Citizen Kane if he was a character in Plutarch's Lives (volume 2).]

Synopsis 56

 In 1995 Waxahachie, Texas, PAULA HARRIS, her husband TRAVIS, and their children--MELINDA, ANTONIO, and TASHA move into an allegedly haunted house. They are informed by the realtor and neighbors that a family named the Watsons were brutally murdered in 1970 in the house.

A couple of months later, the family finds the Watsons’ evil spirits are trying to force them out of their home. The spirits still think the house belongs to them and they want to retake ownership of the house. The deceased wife/matriarch of the Watsons [Watson?] family murdered her entire family and committed suicide after she discovered her husband, the love of her life, had an ongoing affair with their children’s nanny. 

Paula and her family learn that [all] the previous owners either fled, disappeared or were murdered. The deceased wife possesses Paula’s older daughter, Melinda. Paula gradually notices that [her eldest daughter] Melinda is acting very unusual. She finds out that [Turns out] the deceased wife is controlling [has possessed] Melinda. For a while, they [the Harrisses (or is it Harrises?] ponder whether to stay or leave the house. They decide to stay and get rid of the spirits. 

At first, Paula and her family think they defeated the spirits after they [arranges to] have the house blessed by a priest. [and]  All of the paranormal activity stops. The house is peaceful for a while[--] until the spirits come back with a vengeance and try to kill them all. Later, the deceased wife possesses Paula and forces her to attack her family. After getting [she gets] into a fight with Travis, he acts as if he is going [feigns trying] to kill Paula which in turn scares the deceased wife and she leaves Paula’s body. 

Everything in the house begins to move as if an earthquake hits it. When the Harris family sees that the evil spirits have come back and grown stronger and that there is no way to get rid of them, they decide to leave their dream home permanently. Weeks later, they buy a new house in the same neighborhood. [Good idea. Let's live down the street from the spirits who want us dead.] Instead of destroying the [haunted] house, the realtor sells the house [it] and the new owners turn the house [it] into a museum. [Presumably a museum that isn't open at night.] [On second thought, nighttime is the only time anyone would want to go.] [So that's it? After resolving to fight for what's theirs, they give up and leave? It seems like the ghosts are the main characters, and they learn to be careful what they wish for, as they were better off with the Harris family than with all these tourists visiting every night and demanding a horror show.]

Finally, the story flashes to the present and at this time, Paula, Travis, and their now grown children dine at their favorite restaurant and reminisce about everything that happened to them over the years. They talk about all of the latest events in their lives before they leave separately for a planned get-together. [This isn't needed in the query. It probably isn't needed in the book unless something startling happens at the dinner, like the waitperson turns out to be Mrs. Watson.


On the TV show Supernatural, now in its twelfth season, when a house is haunted, it's almost always haunted by ghosts of people who were murdered there. Which I mention only because this book is called The Supernatural. (See previous post.)

I've suggested some lines I think you can do without; whether you want to replace them with other lines may depend on how long a synopsis you need.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Face-Lift 1332

Guess the Plot

The Supernatural

1. Yet another house in which people were murdered. Yet another family willing to move in because the price is right and ghosts aren't real. Why should this one turn out any different?

2. Since people believe ghosts aren't real, it's incredibly easy for John and Shirley--who are ghosts--to go about their daily lives. Until those meddling kids show up.

3. Between the panhandlers, the drug dealers, and the wanted criminals, there's no room for ghosts or poltergeists in the subways of New York, and it's about time they did something about the situation. Also, a plague of rats.

4. Organic superheroes Kale Man and Flax Woman range freely until GMOnster teams with Gluten Beast in a diabolical scheme to sabotage free trade agreements throughout the world. The ensuing battle will determine whether Earth is transformed into a syndrome-free paradise or is plunged into a black hole under the weight of 16 billion obese people.

5. Haunted houses and ghosts aren't real, Martin reminds himself again while watching the half-transparent woman in the blue dress drink tea in the old family room. And he's not seeing her male companion, their maid, or their black Poodle either.

6. Blair purchases a book on how to summon the dead online so she can berate her girlfriend for dying so young. After seeing the thousand-page length, she decides to use the CliffsNotes version. Things go very wrong, and that's only in the first twenty pages.

Original Version


Twenty-five years ago, a woman brutally murdered her cheating husband, his mistress, and her two kids, before killing herself in her home. Flash forward to the 1990s, [No need to flash forward; twenty-five years ago was the 1990s.] Waxahachie, Texas, a new family has moved in.  [That sentence is two sentences with a comma between them. Also, when you say "Flash forward to the 1990s, Waxahachie, Texas," a reader could get the impression we weren't in Waxahachie to begin with. How about: Waxahachie, Texas, 1970: a woman brutally murders her cheating husband, his mistress, and her two kids, before killing herself. Flash forward to the 1990s. A new family moves into the murder house.]

Paula Harris is determined to start a new life with her family in the town [Waxahachie], after fleeing her cruel mother before the poisonous relationship harms her husband and children. The realtor and neighbors warn Paula and her husband of the tragedy and rumored hauntings, but the couple pegs [write off? discount?] the stories as small-town gossip and moves in anyway. [Deciding whether to treat "the couple" as singular or plural can depend on the context or even the country you're in. I usually decide based on what pronoun I would use to replace the noun. Since I would use "they" rather than "it" for couple in this sentence, I would use "discount" and "move" rather than "discounts" and "moves." Does that make me British?] 

Weeks later, evil spirits torment them. It starts with voices, footsteps, shadows, and the actual apparitions themselves [progresses to apparitions of the murder victims]. The family is [are] horrified when the evil spirits try to kill them in their home. The matriarch of the spirit family transports Paula to 1970 to witness the long-ago murders. Paula is appalled and determines to exorcise the evil spirits. [Are there five evil spirits? Or do only those who were evil in life become evil spirits in death?] 

Through painstaking research, Paula learns that every family who has ever lived in the home has either fled in terror or mysteriously disappeared [Or were killed by Mom.] During the day, the home sits quiet and peaceful, but at night the evil spirits possess one of their kids [Paula's children]. Unable to leave because the evil spirits attached themselves to her family, Paula desperately tries to destroy them because if she doesn't find a way to do so, [If she fails,] her family will die. [Is the possessed child still possessed in the daytime? If not, why don't they run for it?]

Complete at 70,000 words THE SUPERNATURAL is a Paranormal/Thriller Adult novel.


While it's good that you have a strong female lead taking charge of the situation, it's hard to believe Dad is sitting idly by. Is he arguing that there's no such thing as ghosts? Or is this a team effort?

Do they try leaving the house in hopes that the spirits just want them gone, and the ones that possessed a child will stay behind with the other spirits when Paula's family leave? Worth a try. Staying in a house where evil spirits try to kill you at night seems kind of stupid. In fact, after a visit to Waxahachie's Facebook page, I've decided that I'd be scrambling to get out even if my house weren't haunted.

This is mostly setting up the situation. I would replace the last sentence of paragraph 3 with the line about one of the spirits possessing one of the children. Then dump the rest of paragraph 4 and use it to tell us what Paula plans to do to destroy the spirits, what goes wrong, what decision she must make (abandon her possessed child to save the rest of the family?)

Transporting Paula to 1970 to witness the murders seems like something the spirit would do to make a point or to show Paula how to free the spirits from their earthly prison. Here it sounds like it's just to torment Paula. Is it supposed to accomplish something?

I don't know about books, but this plot's been done dozens of times on screen, so if there's something that sets this apart from all the others, emphasize it in the query.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Face-Lift 1331

Guess the Plot

Worlds Collide

1. Tiffani is a ballet dancer; Brandon is a stevedore. She loves arts and crafts pottery. He loves NFL football. They meet by happenstance and discover a mutual passion: both are serial killers.

2. Anna finds a mysterious cave that pulls her into a world inhabited by strange creatures who think her appearance represents the beginning of an invasion. Which is pretty much how Anna felt when the Roman Empire first invaded her country.

3. Something is headed straight toward Earth, with the resulting crash enough to wipe out all of humanity. However, unlike an asteroid, this is another planet with life of its own. Hey, if we all gotta die, we might as well take someone with us.

4. When a portal opens between earth and fantasy land, it's not young teens who move through, it's the whole planet. To set things right, Grandma McCurdy must face increased gravity, tidal anomalies, climate change, invasive species, etc. Oh, and cataclysmic magic. 

5. When opposing candidates for the office of mayor meet at the Worlds Collide bar, sparks fly, leading to a whole nother level of heat in their respective campaigns.

6. When a world of (really hot) vampires, werewolves and mummies collides with a world of discontented (and also really hot) high school students, the results are predictable yet strangely compelling.

7. The studios want something "new, but familiar," so Harvey writes a dystopian version of the 1950s classic When Worlds Collide that sees scientists murdered by mobs of zombies, a rocket crashing into the sun, and another ship piloted by Jennifer Lawrence and Lady Gaga making it to safety. Sure, Harvey gets a contract, but will he get a date with Jennifer?

8. The land of rainbows and sunshine collides with the world of zombies and darkness when a mishap with a happy-smile potion goes terribly wrong. Can Sparkles and Kazoo find a cure before their home is irrevocably changed forever?

9. Minky Flint wants to marry a hard working farm boy instead of the foppish prat her parents engaged her to before she was born. Fortunately, she has a fairy godmother. Unfortunately, the godmother agrees with her parents! What's a girl gotta do to get the right fairy tale ending?

Original Version

Worlds Collide is the first book in a Mid-Grade fantasy series complete at 35K words set in the time period of [during]
the Roman occupation of the Britons. [My sources (Wikipedia) tell me the occupied area is known as the Britains or Roman Britain. The Britons are the people. Also, you might manage to say the book is 35K words, rather than the series is 35K words, and that the series is set during the occupation, rather than the words are set then. It'll be easier if you use two sentences to convey the information.] 

Anna starts her life as a happy child with loving parents. She and her family live in a small village that goes unnoticed by both the Romans and the Saxons who are fighting with each other for control of the land. Anna's happiness is cut short by the death of her father and shortly after that, the death of her mother. [when her parents die and she must move in] She lives for several years with her drunken uncleuntil the day fate crosses her path.

[Years later,] Anna finds [stumbles upon] a mysterious cave that pulls her into a new world inhabited by strange creatures, who are just as surprised to see her as she is to see them. [It would be nice to know whether Anna is ten or thirteen or sixteen.]

There is a priestess among the people of this new world who is able to help[s] Anna to understand them and them her. [Are the "people" of this world the same beings you described as "strange creatures"? If so, calling them people may give the wrong impression. If not, then I don't see the arrival of one girl causing as much distress as it does in the next paragraph.] 

They are the people of Suan and many of them are very disturbed by her presence. Anna is unable to [claims she can't] explain how she came to be there but many of the Suan believe she is lying. Some believe that she [her arrival] could be the beginning of [portend] an invasion from her world.

Anna is brought before King Maaz of the Suan’s [Suans] and after she tells her story, the king decides that she is telling the truth and is no threat to his people.

With all societies in this world or another, things aren’t always as they seem. Saban, one of the kings [king's] closest generals had [, has] been working for a long time to steal the loyalty of the kings [king's] rangers, and seize power for himself,[.]  [He] sees Anna as a tool he can use to further his ambitions.

With the help of the kings [king's] treacherous oldest son[,]  the general is able to overthrow[s] King Maaz and have [has] him arrested.

 Anna finds herself a fugitive on the run with a small group of Suan’s [Suans] who are loyal to King Maaz. They desperately need help but don’t know who they can trust, so they attempt something that may cause two worlds to collide in war. ["Attempt something" is too vague. What's their plan? This is more important information than anything about Anna's parents and her drunken uncle and the priestess.]


Sentences that logically belong together should be in the same paragraph. Using a lot of one-sentence paragraphs gives the impression you're listing ideas without connecting them. Your plot summary could easily be organized into three paragraphs. 

As the Roman occupation lasted about 370 years, telling us the story is set in that time period is like telling us a story is set in the time between the pilgrims reaching Plymouth Rock and the debut of The Simpsons on Fox. We have a right to know whether this is set at the time Hadrian's Wall was being built or closer to when the self-proclaimed emperor Carausius was assassinated by his treasurer.