Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feedback Request

Rewrite of Face-Lift 1288: The Feast of Masks

For years mercenary Tali Adilrein has been following an on-again-off-again whisper of danger that only she can hear. [I
f I've been following anything for years and still haven't caught up to it, I give up.] She can't ignore it, but she doesn't want to admit the whisper may be related to the rare type of magic she wields--dragon magic.  [I'm not sure what it means to follow a whisper. I'm less interested in knowing dragon magic is rare than in knowing what it can do. I'm not sure why someone wouldn't want to admit that a whisper may (or may not) be related to dragon magic. What kind of danger is being whispered of? I'm pretty much lost. All I know is mercenary Tali wields something called dragon magic.]

The whisper [I'm becoming annoyed with the whisper.] leads Tali to stop the kidnapping of a girl, Shimmer, who can enhance dragon magic.  Worried, Tali hires on as Shimmer's bodyguard.

Soon thereafter Tali defends Shimmer from magically guided arrows.  The next day, she kills a swarm of destructive beetles released where Shimmer is working.  Both incidents involve magic similar to Tali's own. [So releasing beetles is something Tali could do? Somehow the term "dragon magic" sounds more impressive than that.]

Though initially suspicious of Tali, a well-connected politician enlists (extorts) her aid when he investigates. [What's he investigating? The failed kidnapping? Isn't that a job for law enforcement?]  While his leads peter out and his informants turn up dead, Tali must call on her own magic and Shimmer's help in fighting off stronger, more blatant attacks. [Stronger than beetles?] 

In the end they will discover an ancient dragon is hunting Shimmer.  To protect the girl, Tali will need more than dragon magic: she herself will need to become a dragon.


Does the dragon that's hunting Shimmer want to force her to enhance its magic? If so, attacking her with arrows doesn't seem smart.

If the politician does something useful, what? If all you tell us is his leads peter out and his informants turn up dead, he's not needed in the query. 

I have to say, I think your previous version gave a better idea of the story. Also, that my version in the comments there, works better than either of your versions. Apparently you've rejected it, which is okay, but I'd at least let it guide you toward something with more clarity. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Beginning 1063

July 1908
Guerdon, Massachusetts

Kass skips home from church beside her big sister Helena, thinking about the piece she  sang with the Kinderchor, “Die güldne Sonne,” and soaking in the light of the golden sun which reaches down between the tall brick buildings all the way to where Kass is. Kass lifts her face to the sun and sings, “Ein herzerquickendes, Liebliches Licht....”

“Hush!” Helena snaps. Helena seems to think that because she is twelve and Kass is only eight she gets to tell Kass what to do all the time. “Look where you’re going!”

Kass looks back at the buckled brick sidewalk in time to avoid a clump of horse manure. “You didn’t say hush when I sang with the Kinderchor this morning,” she points out. “It can’t be bad to sing Bach, or Frau Geist wouldn’t tell us to do it.”

“In church! Not on the street!”

“Pastor Baum says we have to be the same people in church and on the street. You shouldn’t contradict Pastor Baum.”

“Do you want to be like Großmutter Kassell?” Helena snaps.

Kass shuts her mouth. Of course she doesn’t want that. That’s what she’s afraid of when she wakes from nightmares, when the shadows swell up and whisper to her.

Helena smiles triumphantly. Papa being too poor to bury their grandmother, leaving her to mummify in the attic, was the best gift a big sister could hope for.

Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1342 would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Evil Editor,

Jay Stevens leaves England as a young man. As soon as he sets foot aboard of a Portuguese ship, he is relieved. Relieved [of all his belongings, for it is a Portuguese pirate ship.] to get far away from the grief that ever lingers at home since the death of his sister.

Together with his cousin Tristão Vaz, he roams the coasts of the known world, his restless soul ever driving him towards new adventures. [That sounds more like what you'd say if he were sailing his own ship. He would have no say in where this ship goes, and probably little time for adventures.] He is afraid to stay ashore for too long. [So his restless soul drives him toward new adventures, as long he's back on board by dinnertime.] People might become close to him and he remembers all too well how much it can hurt to lose someone you love. 

Still he cannot avoid Laura. She is a simple tavern wench, but as soon as Jay sets eye on her during his first journey [voyage] to Venice, he knows it will be hard to keep his distance. 

She is the first to break through the wall around his heart, something that scares him beyond measure. After all, everyone knows that no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her. 

His cousin’s plan to go search for gold along the unknown coasts of Africa in service of Henrique the Navigator comes just in time. But then [a] storm arises and Jay’s decisions send them adrift on the ocean, with little prospect of ever finding the way back home.  Alone, lost at sea, he reconsiders his choices. [You said the storm sent them adrift. So why is Jay alone?] If he ever returns, would he dare risk to love again? [Who is adrift? Jay and Trystão, or the entire crew of Henrique's ship? I mean, if you're on a ship helmed by Henrique the Navigator, you shouldn't be that pessimistic about finding your way home.]

NAVIGATORS, is a historical novel set in the fifteenth century. It is complete at 98,000 words and available for your review. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I would condense this to something like:

Jay Stevens joins the crew of a Portuguese ship, hoping that by leaving England he can escape the grief he's felt since his sister's death. He tours the port cities of the 15th-century world, and during his first stopover in Venice, meets Laura, a tavern wench who steals his heart. Of course, no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her, right?

Jay's thirst for adventure leads him to join his cousin on a search for gold in service of Henrique the Navigator. A storm sends them adrift off the African coast with little prospect of finding their way home. Lost at sea, delirious, Jay vows that if he ever makes it back to civilization, he'll settle down with Laura and never go to sea again. 

Okay, that's probably not what he vows, but at least I didn't drop Laura from the query. I assume she doesn't get dropped from the book. And there's room to expand this with another paragraph between or after those, in which you provide more specifics. 

Some of the minor errors suggest English may not be your first language, or that you need to proofread more carefully. You may need to find someone to help you out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in the post below this one requests feedback on this revision:

Thank you for your critique and feedback. I've spent the last four hours reworking on the query. I've tried to include the missing information, removed the excess semicolons, and re written the story based on the manuscript. Your comments would be of immense value

Dear Evil Editor,

Manhattan royalty, Ian Sanders is a citizen of the world. He’s a visionary with a brilliant mind: unapologetic, ruthless, two heaps of sharpness mixed with one scoop of sugar. His testosterone-filled existence is no stranger to dazzling creatures, [When I suggested you write as if you're talking to a stranger on a bus, I should have added that the stranger is ten years old. He's rarely seen without a beautiful woman on his arm.] as long as they pack their bags and leave before breakfast is served. [If you're going to use cooking metaphors, mix sharpness with sweetness or tabasco with sugar. Although in this case I don't see where the sugar comes in. He's unapologetic, ruthless, and the women stupid enough to sleep with him don't even get breakfast. If he's done something sugar-like, what was it? To me he seems like two cups of lemon and zero scoops of sugar.] When Ian chances on a woman who threatens to reduce his intellectual abilities to alarming proportions, [Is that a good thing or a bad thing?] he’s willing to rewrite the rules, each one of them. [I'm so crazy about you, babe, I'm changing the rules: You can stay till after breakfast.]

Unlike other cooks with a rich vocabulary of swear words, or epic, post-weed tales to boast of, Ella Scott is a misfit in the culinary world. What she lacks in body ink, she makes up with an unadulterated passion for cooking. [This seems to suggest that those cooks who swear and have body ink lack her level of passion for cooking. I doubt there's any correlation.] Her sappy eyes are armed with quiet confidence, a thousand dreams, and ten thousand worries. [Most people with ten thousand worries don't have quiet confidence. Can't recall looking at someone's eyes and thinking they're sappy.]

Despite her reluctance, Ella goes from being a mere appearance to a beautiful presence in Ian’s life. But the pessimist inside Ella’s head never shuns from its daily duty of reminding her that all this will come to an end, eventually. When Ian fails to show up on the night they must board a flight to Vegas, Ella is convinced that her time is up. [Even this complete jerk would probably phone and give her some lame excuse for why he can't go. Does she phone him? Does she check to see if he's in the hospital or the morgue after being involved in a horrendous traffic accident on the way to the airport? Does she ever get an explanation?]

Three years later, when their paths collide again on a green, December evening at a Beverly Hills soiree, [I don't get "green" as an adjective describing an evening.] a lot has changed. Ella’s ditched her chef’s apron for a shimmering gown. [If you mean she's no longer a chef, what happened to her unadulterated passion for cooking? If you mean she didn't wear an apron to this party, I doubt any chef wears an apron when not working.] Ella’s tweaked her hair to a sandy blonde. [For all he knows, she's changed her hair color a dozen times in the past three years. That's not a big change.] Ella, has a ring on her finger. Can Ian Sanders forget the one person who crowds his head like the beast of insomnia? [It doesn't much matter if he can forget her if she's now married or engaged, especially since the reader has no reason to believe she would ever want anything to do with this horrible man if she were single and he were the last man on Earth. If Ella's three years away from Ian have been pure misery because she's so in love with him, you haven't done anything to convey this to us.]

At 84,000 words, Tossed, is the first, contemporary romance in a series of three. It is complete, and ready for your consideration.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Outside of the lack of semicolons, this isn't much different. You're still using flowery language you wouldn't normally use to describe a character (His testosterone-filled existence is no stranger to dazzling creatures; she crowds his head like the beast of insomnia...

You still haven't told us much of what happens. You have a paragraph telling us what Ian is like. You have a paragraph telling us about Ella. Then your plot, which is basically:

Ian and Ella see a lot of each other until Ian misses their flight to Vegas. Three years later they meet at a party, and Ella has a ring.

You've written 84,000 words, and that's all you can tell us about what happens?

A romance needs a hero and a heroine who belong together, and who eventually find their "happily ever after." From what I can tell, your heroine has found happiness, but without your hero. Which is good, because your hero's an ass.

I'm not sure why it should matter that Ella is a misfit in the culinary world. Ian isn't the type of guy who regularly dates chefs anyway, so it's not Ella's contrast with other chefs that attracts him.

It's likely that the problems with the query exist in the book as well. A perfect query will not sell a flawed book.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Face-Lift 1348

Guess the Plot


1. When womanizer Ian falls for chef Ella, it's not her salads that he's after. So of course he's annoyed when she tosses him.

2. Larry Donnaly and his dwarf friends are in Pittsburgh for a Little People convention. When they wander into the wrong bar, it becomes a night they--and Pittsburgh--will never forget.

3. It wasn't the pirates that did Jackie in. Nor was it the kraken, mermaids, or even a shark. His crew tossed him overboard while drunk one night, leading to his demise. Now he can't rest until his takes his revenge. 

4. Zanderphan wins a dragon, which will keep the warlock Lafartus from overtaking his village. But Zanderphan tossed his only gold piece--the thing that makes this dragon appear--into a deep wishing well to impress a lady. Can Zanderphan overcome his fear of water before Lafartus gets to his village at sunrise?

5. The epic saga of salad king Giannini DiFinestra, from his humble beginnings as a Sicilian lettuce picker, to his legendary founding of the world-wide Salads-To-Go chain, to his shocking ouster as chairman by tomato baron Kurt von Faul. Includes recipes.

6. Jimmy McClane loves pretty blonde Charmelle Atkins, a champion barrel racer. But she only dates stars on the pro rodeo circuit. Jimmy's one attempt at bull riding landed him in the hospital, so he opts for the greasepaint and becomes the rodeo clown in the barrel for the bulls to toss. Will he catch Charmelle's eye at last?

7. Her company bankrupt, her husband a philandering idiot, and her bestie joining a cult, Kelly feels like she's been tossed aside by everybody who ever meant anything to her. She finds solace in the arms of the rich, sexy Ambrose. But why does he disappear for a few days around the full moon - and return with the smell of blood on his breath?

8. A serial killer is eliminating NYC’s Chinese bankers by defenestration. They hire PI Johnny Wong to protect them. He pretends he’s a flamboyant banker, and the killer tosses him from the 39th floor. But this time he picked on the guy. Johnny wears an auto-activated body-balloon under his Brooks Brothers suit and bounces. Now Johnny knows the killer's identity the killer, but he escapes to Hong Kong, a city with hundreds of skyscrapers and innumerable bankers. 

9. How was Saharan supposed to know that old lamp was magic? She was merely tossing out junk brought back by her treasure hunting packrat of a husband. Now the genie's free and an evil vizier rules the country. On the positive side, she knows where her husband is: the royal dungeon. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my contemporary romance novel, Tossed; the first in a series of three. At 84,000 words, it is complete, and ready for your consideration.

When Manhattan royalty, Ian Sanders’ seemingly perfect world collides with bright-eyed chef Ella Scott, their lives are sprinkled with dangerous liaisons, a dollop of hope, and a tragic dose of consequences that would [will] change them both, forever. [I would start the plot summary with the next paragraph, if only to get rid of the cutesy cooking terms.] 

Ian Sanders is a citizen of the world; a visionary with a brilliant mind; unapologetic, ruthless, two heaps of sharpness mixed with one scoop of sugar. [WTF? Is this going to continue throughout the query?] Ian’s testosterone-filled existence is no stranger to dazzling creatures, as long as they pack their bags and leave before breakfast is served; up until he meets the woman who adds ten, warm degrees to a frigid winter. [I think you mean she adds ten degrees to a preheated oven.] Unlike other cooks with a remarkably rich vocabulary of swear words, or epic, post-weed tales to boast of, Ella Scott is a misfit in the culinary world. Armed with a bag of nerve-inspired humor and quiet confidence, she'spainfully linear when it comes to opening her heart.

Despite her heavily armored exterior, Ella goes from being a mere appearance to a beautiful presence [From a mere garnish to a beautiful entree.] in Ian’s life; from whimsical art exhibitions and lavish penthouse gatherings, to turbulent dance clubs; [From whimsical dessert creations and lavish smorgasbords to turbulent Dutch ovens.] amidst the sea of glossy heads and faux air-kisses that flock Ian’s surroundings, the only person who has the ability to render him speechless is, her.

Three years later, when their paths collide again on a green, December evening in flamboyant Hollywood, a lot has changed. [One minute they're society's darlings, the next they haven't seen each other in three years. What happened?] Can Ian forget the one person who crowds his head like the beast of insomnia? Will he forgive the wreck of a woman who left him in shambles? [You haven't suggested that she's a wreck of a woman or that he's a shambles or that she did anything for which she owes him forgiveness.]

Tossed is my first, professional attempt at toying with words; a book that tore my life into two. One; that begins each morning in a breathtakingly beautiful city in Norway, the other; which transforms me into the Duracell rabbit, each evening, after a thick smog of silence takes over the house! 

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



There are almost as many semicolons as periods in your plot summary. Most of them can (should) be replaced by periods, commas, colons or dashes. There are way too many unnecessary commas, as well. And way too many adjectives.

A query is not the place to be "toying with words." It's a business letter. Working in a bit of your book's voice is okay, but you're trying too hard to be clever. Try telling us what happens in your book in the same language you would use if you were talking to a stranger on a bus. Except write in complete sentences and keep in mind that she will lose interest after nine sentences no matter how interesting they are. If the book is this heavy on adjectives and word-toying, you may need a good pair of kitchen shears.

We don't know anything that happens beyond some guy meets a chef and becomes infatuated. Do you have a story or just a couple characters? Is there a villain? What's preventing these characters from attaining their goals? What are they planning to do about it? Start over, and tell the story.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

New Beginning 1062

As I stand in the northern meadow, a heartbeat echoes in my ears. Beat by beat, it pounds to the wild rhythm of fear. Superior hearing is just one of my abilities, courtesy of the crystal embedded in my chest. Of all the things I can do, I listen to hearts, like this one, quite frequently. There’s nothing like the sound they make, especially one on the verge of death.

Down at my feet, the Arctic hare squirms, but it's pinned by my steel-tipped javelin, jutting out of its gut. I kneel beside it and extract the spear. Its blood, dark as oil, gushes out and stains the fresh snow. Despite the stench of blood seeping through my nostrils, I smell the scent of berries. The same ones I used to lure the rodent out in the open, right before I hurled my spear at it. Anything that comes that easily is either a trap or it's worthless, a lesson I learned in the Labyrinth.

The Artic hare tries to limp away. It can't move very far. I brush a strand of ebony hair out of my face before taking the rodent in my hands and snapping its neck. And presto! Another merit badge checked off my list.

Opening: Eric Bendas.....Continuation: jcwrites

Friday, April 07, 2017

Face-Lift 1347

Guess the Plot

Worst of Luck

1. When Kennedy starts attending a school for magic users, one of his classmates curses him to body-hop into a new person every day--a person having the . . . worst of luck. Hilarity ensues.

2. When vice agents raid FiFi LaTouche's School for Young Ladies, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: nice girls don't wear red, and he should have changed his shorts that morning.

3. Mel Richards thought he was joining a gated community with high security, wealthy neighbors, and a 9-hole golf course. It's actually a cult ... with high security, wealthy members, and an 18-hole golf course whose back nine holes are in a province of hell.

4. The pot of gold seemed free for the taking after catching a leprechaun. Yet ever since Lewis started spending it, terrible things have been happening. Now he has to get back all the gold before the world ends. On Monday.

5.  Felix loves sausage beyond all else. Hoping to bring the joy of this cuisine to a small Appalachian town, he sinks his savings into a new venture: The Wurst Restaurant. Weeks go by, but no diners. Felix  joins the Navy and ships out as cook on the USS Indianapolis in July 1945. Felix figures war can’t be as bad as his failed restaurant. 

6. Charlie's favorite days are the regular ones: wake up at sunrise, drink coffee, shower, eat a bagel, get dressed, drive to work in his taupe sedan. But today is not a regular day because the man dressed like Ronald McDonald is waiting for him at the stop sign again.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am submitting WORST OF LUCK (81,000 words), a fast-paced YA fantasy with quirky humor and touches of sarcasm, to you because [some reason I desperately hope will matter to said agent]. [I'd work this information into the paragraph after the plot summary.]

New-guy Kennedy Jacobs finds out exactly why Adina Anteloni doesn’t fit in at school when she sprouts a pair of horns and curses him at the spring dance. Adina is secretly a Zoandrian, a human-animal hybrid with a magical talent, and unfortunately for Kennedy, her talent is Curse Working. Now Kennedy is living through one terrible day after another, body-hopping from person to person [among people] who are experiencing the worst of luck, and Adina faces serious punishment if the Zoandrian Senate finds out she lost her temper … again. [Focus on one character; the punishment Adina risks is connected to Kennedy only tangentially.]

When Kennedy’s body-hopping lands him in the mind of a Zoandrian rebel, Adina isn’t able to hide her mistake any longer. The rebels suspect Kennedy knows their secrets, and the Senate is certain he knows too much about them all. [Why would body hopping into a rebel give Kennedy knowledge about all the senators?] [How do the rebels and the Senate know whose bodies Kennedy has hopped into?] The rebels want Kennedy dead while the Senate plans to strip him of his memories—even the ones he’s beginning to grudgingly cherish of Adina. It will take everything Kennedy and Adina have to remove the curse and turn their bad luck around … and maybe into something more.

WORST OF LUCK is a standalone novel with series potential that will appeal to readers who enjoy unlikely romances and stories featuring schools for magic-users. [If this is a school for magic users, you might mention that earlier. What magic abilities does Kennedy have? Why does Adina sprouting horns and putting a curse on someone show she doesn't fit in at school, if it's a school of people with magical abilities? Even if it does show this, Kennedy, being the new kid, wouldn't know it.] The humor and multiple perspective storytelling may appeal to fans of Anna Bank’s [Banks's] Syrena Legacy Series while the concept of living as a new person each day may appeal to fans of David Levithan’s Every Day.

Professionally, I am a freelance editor, the co-founder of a local critique group, and the lead author on a scientific publication about the endangered Georgetown salamander. Non-professionally, I am a crazy cat lady who loves Disney, dragons, and dessert.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Usually I expect even a paranormal YA book to focus on the relationships among the teens, and issues of a more personal nature than rebels and senators wanting to kill them or erase their memories. Stuff like drugs, bullying, sex, peer pressure. Perhaps putting more emphasis on Kennedy's romantic interest in Adina would help.

It's not clear how the Zoandrian Senate or the rebels get involved in what's happening at a school. Is there some kind of civil war going on? 

Who's running Kennedy's body while he's in someone else's body? Is it a swap?

Why does Adina curse the new-guy? Why is new-guy hyphenated?

I think we can do without the Senate in the query. Tell us who the rebels are, and what they're rebelling against. And why is Kennedy attracted to the student who cursed him? 

An example of a humorous body-hop would be better than just stating that the book has quirky humor.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Feedback Request

You’ve mentioned before you find it hard to imagine a kingdom on a mountain. I’m not sure how to explain this concisely in a query letter without just saying something blatant like “trust me, the mountain is really big”, because the circumference of the mountain is similar to the circumference of France (there’s a mountain on Mars with a similar shape and size). [Can't you just say the kingdom of _________ is situated on the side of Mt. Era, a mountain as large in circumference as France?] The setting is something unique about my book, and so I do want to mention it. [You don't need to tell us the answers to our 
questions; you need to decide whether the answers should be in the query, and if so, how to work them in.]

The reason it seems like Lark and Alister are underqualified for this mission is because when I started plotting this story, I wanted something different from ‘the Chosen One’ plots that are seen (in my opinion) way too often in fantasy. I wanted to pick characters that aren’t particularly special before the story, but that were dragged into the plot by learning too much (in Lark’s case) or being dragged into it by others (in Alister’s case) [or by being whisked to another world by a tornado (in Dorothy's case) or by coming into possession of a powerful ring (in Frodo's case)]. Then what I find the most interesting is how they can grow and become important throughout their travels, rather than being inherently important already. [
My experience with the "chosen one" fantasy plots which are (in your opinion) seen way too often in fantasy, is that they usually do involve characters that aren’t particularly special before the story.] I’m not sure how I can express this (answering the question of ‘why him?’) best in the query letter.

(The following query isn’t too different from the last submission, just with a few small changes, because the questions above address your previously mentioned issues.)

Dear EE,

Alister didn't start his day thinking he'd leave his home forever, guilt and his hiking pack weighing on his shoulders. But after he accidentally causes a neighbour's house to crash down Mount Era's slopes, a young girl trapped inside, he packs his few belongings and leaves before anyone discovers what he'd [he's] done. [If your house is so precariously balanced that a kid can accidentally send it crashing down a mountain, you hired the wrong builders.]

Then Lark's message arrives. [If the message arrives after Alister leaves, how does he get it?] The travelling merchant had been Alister's only link to the other cities of the Union, until he mysteriously disappeared that autumn. Lark's message explains that his disappearance was no accident. He sent it moments before being taken captive by Baudouin, an unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of Mount Era. Lark discovered the king's plot to dig up the unstable Stone of Dominus and use its power to gain control of the entire mountain. The rest of the Union is oblivious to Baudouin's plans, fooled by the aid he's given them over the years, and the king doesn't seem to realise or care that using the Stone's power risks Mount Era's destruction.

Alister embarks on a journey across the Union to free Lark. Throughout his travels, Alister makes new friends and enemies, learns more about the Union's cities than Lark ever told him, uncovers the merchant's past, and learns to face his own. Although he knows Baudouin must be stopped, Alister wrestles with how far he should go to save the Union.

In the back of his mind is a nagging question—What made Lark send to him for help? [Possibly answering that question will answer our question of Why Alister? Lark's about to be captured, and in his final moments of freedom he chooses to write to a kid on the other side of the mountain asking for help. Either Alister has unrevealed talents or Lark doesn't trust any of the many people who would be better equipped to help, or the message was a ploy, or...] 

The Missing Traveller is a fantasy complete at 110 300 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I can accept a mountain as large in circumference as France, but to call it a mountain it has to rise in elevation somewhat dramatically. Otherwise we'd call France a mountain. Obviously Mount Era does rise dramatically, as a house would not come crashing down its slopes if they were gently rising slopes. 

The mountain on Mars that Wikipedia shows as France-sized is 13.6 miles high. But because gravity helps keep most of the air near the surface of a planet, humans can't breathe at altitudes a mere 3 miles high. Also, it's really cold at higher altitudes. If the Martian mountain were on Earth, it would reach more than six miles into our stratosphere, whereas our Mt. Everest, which is very cold near the top, doesn't even reach to the stratosphere.

None of which matters if your characters all live within two miles of the mountain's base, or if the story is set on a planet vastly different from Earth (like where gravity and physics don't matter). Anything goes in a fantasy, as long as you can get readers to buy into it.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Feedback Request

The final iteration of the query most recently seen here.

Fred smiles in his hospital bed after being assaulted by his straight crush, because now he has Malek right where he wants him. After Fred’s lawyers convince Malek to sign a contract instead of going to jail, he must pay Fred some “reconciliatory” visits. At last, Fred can kneel to Malek as his submissive. Guilt-ridden, Malek wants to appease Fred, but dreads playing along.

Fred gradually pulls Malek closer to becoming a dominant as Malek tackles his fear of homosexual interaction. He discovers a satisfying knack for commanding Fred and finds in him a sexual release from his frustrating life. To catalyze this transition, Fred paints Malek as king of mythical realms. Malek, fearing ridicule at university and [afraid of] shaming his Iraqi immigrant family, orders Fred to trash the paintings. Instead, Fred sells them to pay rent.

Fred’s [His] abusive father always dismissed his [Fred's] dream of becoming a famous painter, [artist] insisting that Fred take over the family business. However, not only do these [Fred's] paintings sell, there is demand for more.

Now Fred’s two dreams are coming true, and it is terrifying. If Malek gets wind of his famous paintings, he will shut Fred out forever, stripping him of inspiration and the only straight crush that liked him. [So what? If the guy is straight, how long does he expect the relationship to last? The choice between the career you would love to have and a relationship with a guy who'd rather be with a woman is a no-brainer.]

Given that you are looking for LGBT Romance and/or erotica, I believe you will find THE GLORIOUS PRINCE, complete at 84,800 words, of interest. It is the first in a planned series, but can stand alone.

I have previously resided in the US capital [comma] in 2013; the setting of my story. I wrote this novel to answer the question: What are my straight crushes so damn afraid of? [Did writing this novel answer that question? If so, what was the answer? If not, I guess you failed. Either way, if anyone publishes this novel, it won't be to answer that question, so why bring it up?]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Contact info


The query is okay. The problems are:

1. The contract, which seems silly whether it's for reconciliation visits or sex. In my experience. outside of the business world, there isn't a lot of contract signing going on.

2. The idea that Fred doesn't move on and find a gay crush or another straight crush. That he can get inspiration only from the guy who assaulted him. If I, a straight guy, had a crush on a woman and she was a lesbian, and she met my initial advance by assaulting me, I wouldn't go to great lengths to be with her as much as possible. Is that a good analogy?

I also wouldn't write a novel to answer the question What is she so damn afraid of?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Face-Lift 1346

Guess the Plot

No Gods Before Us

1. WE are the best. No one is as awesome as WE. SMITE here! SMITE there! Look at OUR big hands of SMITING. 

2. The rambling essays of college students who just discovered sex and drugs.

3. Some have wings, some have fins, some have horns, some give blessings, some cause destruction. A view of the world from the perspective of a fly on the wall. Literally.

4. When a fun trip to the temples of Angor Wat turns deadly, can the Good Book Club from Brigham, Utah keep the faith?

5. Janiris is on a quest. He hates every day he spends on it, for it never ends. When he meets Malora, a witch also on an endless quest, they concoct a plan. To end their quests, they shall dispose of those who gave them the quests:  The gods.

6. When U.S. general Hunter Ellison invented the "Cloak of Invisibility," he never dreamed it would be used by NATO to nuke terrorists all over the world. Actually, he doesn't even remember inventing it because his ex-lover/psychologist cleverly wiped his memory of it, and now all the NATO generals are after Hunter, but if he can just remember how to invent a cloaking device, he can turn invisible and they'll never find him.  

Original Version

I am currently seeking representation for my 89,900-word adult mystery thriller entitled "No Gods Before Us[period]"

Hunter Ellison is a retiring U.S.[ ]General [general]. On the last day on the job, he receives evidence from an old Cold War adversary codenamed Darkstorm that a group of NATO generals is planning a coup. Their goal is to replace civilian governments and use Nuclear [nuclear] weapons to eliminate terrorism. 

[General 1: There are terrorists in this London neighborhood. 

General 2: One nuclear bomb should take care of the problem.

General 1: Agreed.]

From this information, he finds that American Defense [defense] contractors are in on the scheme and have developed an invisibility cloak for the operation. But when he reviews the source material, he discovers its inventor was him! He has no recollection of this and does not know why! [If someone told me I'd invented an invisibility cloak that would somehow make it easier to nuke terrorists, and I had no memory of this, I would assume that they were lying, not that it was a mystery I had to investigate.] His investigation is detected by the conspirators and they try to kill him but he gets away. Meanwhile, a former lover by the name of Rallah Fralish[comma] a Jewish Officer [officer] and Psychologist[comma] [psychologist] intervenes to help. [To help him get away?] [I'm assuming that the former lover, the officer and the psychologist are all Rallah Fralish. If they're two or three people, we need to make that clear.] But secretly she too is in on the plan and so is he! [He, meaning Hunter Ellison? You might want to mention his name more than once in the query.] She has cleverly manipulated him by exacerbating an emotional trauma he experienced by witnessing a murder. One so heinous and personal it caused him hysterical amnesia. 
[She cleverly manipulated him into inventing an invisibility cloak? Or into forgetting that he invented it? If the former, that's ridiculous. If the latter, what's the point? They're willing to nuke the world's terrorists, but not to kill this guy after he's no longer useful to them?] In essence, he has two personalities. He was never supposed to remember who he once was and has to be eliminated. [Why doesn't she intervene to eliminate him instead of to help?] Now fleeing for his life[comma] he is on a journey of self-discovery as he fights with his inner demons to save the world from destruction. [Not the best way to end it. If he has a plan to save the world, give us a hint what he thinks he can do. Like, if he remembers how to invent an invisibility cloak, he could make another one and try to murder all the NATO generals.]


Are his inner demons trying to convince him not to save the world from destruction? 

If I were a retired U.S general who wanted to go on a journey of self-discovery, I would put it off until I'd finished fleeing for my life. But that's me.

Is there anyone in this book who isn't (and never has been) in on the plan to nuke terrorists?

I don't see how this cloak of invisibility is that big a deal. Is it like the Romulan cloaking device, which makes a spaceship invisible, and would allow a plane carrying nuclear bombs to sneak up on terrorists? Or is it like in The Invisible Man, allowing one guy with a nuclear bomb to walk unseen into a terrorist enclave? I think instead of a cloaking device, Hunter should invent a transporter beam. Then he could transport nuclear bombs into terrorist lairs without getting near them.

What Jewish person would give their kid a name that contains the word Allah?

Once you have a clear summary of your story, break it up into paragraphs. Three would be a good number.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Feedback Request

Dear EE,

Here you are, with my thanks. One quick question, though: Should I mention that the book is in 3 voices (Fred's, Malek's, and the narrator's)? [The number of voices is of little interest. If you mean the number of points of view, most books that aren't exclusively in 1st person have more than one POV, so it's not worth mentioning.]

Click here for most recent version.

Fred smiles in his hospital bed after being assaulted by his straight crush, because now he has Malek right where he wants him. Manipulative and obsessed, Fred knows that Malek has the potential to be the dominant of his wildest dreams. Already godly with his muscular physique and basso voice, he just needs a little direction in how to direct Fred. After Fred’s lawyers coerce Malek into signing a contract instead of going to jail, Malek has to meet with Fred twice a month for some “possibly sexual” favors.

Malek is heavy with guilt after drunkenly assaulting Fred, but he is also dreading meeting with him. What if Fred makes him like, kiss and stuff? Foreseeing this apprehension, Fred shows Malek the perks of having a “slave”, like massaging his feet and maintaining his shisha pipe. [The way it's worded, it could be the master massaging the slave's feet. And having one's shisha pipe maintained is unlikely to sway a straight guy's opinion of this arrangement.] A painter, he also draws Malek in scenes of dominion and power. The paintings are different from anything he’s done before, and they could free him from his tedious PhD program and abusive father.

For Malek the choice is play along, or go to jail. Disgusted at first, Malek realizes that there’s no way he’s letting a fag keep him on edge, and he should try enjoying Fred’s servitude. He finds he has a knack for domination and things become more sexual with Fred. But if anyone discovers their arrangement, it would shame Malek’s Iraqi immigrant family, and embarrass him among the frat-boys. Thus he makes Fred promise to keep the paintings a secret. Fred breaks this promise when he sells them to pay rent. [I'd be more worried about the foot massages and sexual aspects becoming public than the paintings.]

However, not only do the paintings sell, there is lucrative demand [It's the selling that's lucrative, not the demand.] for more. Well, anything is justified if it leads to pampering Malek, of course. [Selling more paintings seems unlikely to lead to more Malek pampering, since Malek didn't want any of them sold.]

But then an art enthusiast offers Fred the gallery exhibit of his career. If Fred accepts, it would shatter Malek’s trust and thus his livelihood. [Whose livelihood? They're both college students, right?] If he declines, he would keep his Prince, but remain poor, unknown, and at his father’s mercy. [Can't he just paint portraits that feature someone other than Malek? Is the buyer asking him to keep churning out paintings of the same person?]

Given that you are looking for LGBT Romance and/or erotica, I believe you will find THE GLORIOUS PRINCE, complete at just under 85,000 words, of interest. It is the first in a planned series, but can stand alone.

I have previously resided in the US capital in 2013; the setting of my story. I wrote this novel to answer the question: What are my straight crushes so damn afraid of? [If this novel answers that question, I guess the answer is that your straight crushes are afraid you'll break your promises to keep whatever secrets they want you to keep. And since Fred does break his promise, I guess their fear is well-founded. In any case, the reason you wrote the novel can be revealed to your agent after she sells your book; no reason it should be in the query.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Feedback Request

Dear Evil Editor,

Here’s another stab at a query for IN THE SHADOW OF LIES (Most recently seen here). This one is written from the perspective of another character in the story, and presents a more straightforward story. Perhaps this approach can reduce some of the questions that have been raised by you and others.

Ren, 19, has only one wish: to see his best friend again. Marla was captured on a mission a year ago and imprisoned in a lab. Ren doesn’t care what experiments have been performed on her.  He just wants to rescue her. 

Ren brings Marla home to Somret, [Whoa, we seem to have skipped over the part where he actually rescues her.] hidden city and sanctuary against a power-hungry government. She stands accused of murdering her teammate, betraying Somret, and being brainwashed by the government. [It sounds like she's accused of being brainwashed, which she wouldn't have had any control over.] As Marla searches for the details of her capture in order to clear her name, Ren’s guilt is a tightening noose around his neck.

For he knows the truth: there never was a mission.

[It still feels like you're taking four paragraphs just to explain Marla's situation, which is: 

Rescued after a year in captivity, Marla returns to her home city, Somret, only to be accused of murder and treason. She'd like to clear her name, but she has no memory of her captivity or of the mission she was sent on, and with good reason: there was no mission.] 

A year ago, Marla was found to have the power to peer into minds. The Council of Somret locked her in a mind prison to harness her powers and hone her into a weapon. After a spy sold information to the government, she was snatched and hidden in a lab until retrieved on the Council’s orders. [rescued by her best friend, Ren.] [Not clear what this spy and information has to do with it, so let's simplify things by not bringing it up.] 

Ren doesn’t give a damn about the Council’s agenda. He doesn’t care [that] one of the accusations leveled at Marla is true. [The rest of this paragraph should tell us what Ren does care about.] But telling Marla the truth won’t help her. However dark and twisted Somret’s tunnels are, outside the city, both he and Marla are fugitives. [She's a fugitive inside the city, isn't she?]

A dying girl bears a dire message to Somret, [Vague. What's the message?] and Ren realizes he must decide where his loyalties lie. Marla’s powers could save an ambassador’s life and end a war, at the price of her freedom. Is saving everyone in Somret worth withholding the truth and ruining Marla’s trust in him? [Is that a serious question?]

IN THE SHADOW OF LIES is YA science fiction, complete at 117,000 words. Told in multiple POVs, it is mainly set on Ilah, a world of metal forests and lightning-fueled cities. It will appeal to fans of Rick Yancey’s THE 5TH WAVE and Victoria Aveyard’s RED QUEEN.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Warmest regards,


I prefer Marla as the focus of the query. Which, if you work with my opening paragraph, won't require much of a change except in the last plot paragraph, which is currently focused on Ren. Just make Marla the one who must decide where loyalties lie.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Publication Opportunity

Khazar-khum reports:

Last year,'s writers' group created an anthology to be sold for charity. It went so well that we're doing it again this year. Those who purchased it read some terrific stories.

We're open for submissions, which may interest minions.

Submissions must be in the Fantasy, Horror, Humor, Mystery or SciFi genres. Poetry in any of these genres is also acceptable. Entries must be no longer than 10,000 words. If it's a WIP or part of a longer work, please indicate this; last year some interesting things were passed up because we didn't know they were the first chapter of a WIP.

If you'd like to submit, go here: