Saturday, July 23, 2016

Success Story

Kristi Bradley reports:

 I submitted my query for MYSTA probably five years ago or more. I'd since lost track of Evil Editor, but now that I've been accepted for publication, I looked you up again to extend my thanks. MYSTA, my paranormal romance will be released soon by Dark Oak Press. The manuscript underwent several transformations since my query critique by Evil Editor, but I'd like to thank you and your minions for your candid, yet disheartening critiques, which taught me to toughen up and try again. 


Face-lift 1019:

http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2012/04/guess-plot-mysta-1.html

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Vacation



EE will be on vacation until the 28th. I'll have time to post comments and tweet, but not to post query critiques. Presumably when I return there'll be a huge batch of queries and openings waiting for me.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Feedback Request


The author of the query most recently featured here would like your opinion of this version:


Mr. Evil Editor

Leah Chase is a single mother of an eleven year old girl and has only one close friend. [Do we need to know how many friends she has?] After working as a police detective for a year, she finds she hates her job and still hasn’t found a place in the unit. She’s assigned a low profile case: Matthew James, who had no relatives and no friends. [It's not necessary to provide each character's exact number of friends.] A man who was released on a technicality after being charged with manslaughter. [What is her assignment with regard to Matthew James? Find him? Follow him? Probably neither, as, according to the previous version, he's dead. It's more important to tell us he's been murdered than that he has no friends.]

Harry Finch’s son was killed by a drunk driver who was set free because of a minor legal error. Harry [, who has four friends,] wanted justice for his son, so the man responsible, Matthew James, had to die. In that man’s death, he finds solace, but he also finds the excitement and joy of knowing that a wrong was righted. He imagines a future where those who persecuted were punished, where victims received the justice they so desired. There were so many more innocents whose malefactor still walked free. How could Harry stop now? [I don't like "persecuted" (transgressed/killed/broke the law?) Matthew didn't persecute Harry's son. I also don't like "malefactor." (assailants?) Stay out of the thesaurus.]

Leah interviews Harry during the investigation. The following week Harry asks her to dinner. Though Harry is still technically a suspect, Leah accepts. As weeks go by, the friendship they have grows to something more.

More are killed. Leah sees a pattern forming that encompasses the recent murders as well as the case assigned to her. She believes these similarities tie all the murders together. Then the killer changes tactics. Leah’s best friend is almost killed by the murderer, barely saved by Leah. No longer is he targeting criminals, instead he's killing random people at random locations. [I'm not sure I'd call Leah's best friend a random person. Didn't he know she was Leah's friend when he attacked her? And if all his murders take place where there are no witnesses around to identify him, that isn't random either.] He’s more dangerous, more frightening, and still leaving no clues as to who he might be. [If he's targeting different people and leaving no clues, how do they know it's the same killer/] 

The stories of Leah and Harry intertwine, weaving together and apart. [Things don't weave apart, and intertwine is the same as weave together. You're wasting words. By the end of the query you've shown that their stories intertwine, so why tell us?] Leah struggles to catch a ruthless serial killer; Harry meticulously plans and executes murders. And Leah and Harry fall in love.

When one family fights back, Harry leaves evidence behind — evidence that leads Leah to Harry, the man she loves.

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration. A partial or full manuscript is available on request.

Sincerely,


Notes

You should be able to summarize your plot in ten sentences. You have about twenty-five. Perhaps the following could be used as a template for a more concise version.

Harry Finch’s son was killed by a drunk driver who was freed on a legal technicality. Harry believes in an eye for an eye, and kills the man responsible, Matthew James. Righting that one wrong proves an addictive thrill for Harry. How many more killers are walking free?

A chief suspect in the Matthew James murder, Harry is interviewed by detective Leah Chase. He manages to satisfy her that he's not the killer, and later asks her out to dinner. It's against department policy, but she accepts, and an unexpected romance takes root.

As a series of vigilante killings hits the city, Leah sees similarities between those crimes and the one she's still investigating. Apparently she's not just after the killer of Matthew James; she's after a serial killer. And then evidence turns up at the latest crime scene, evidence that seems to point at Harry Finch, the man Leah loves.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Success Story



Dawn Martinez-Byrne (AKA Khazar-Khum) reports that her story “The Legend of Pretty Bird”  is published now in the short story anthology Heart of Farkness, available at Amazon. All stories were donated, with the proceeds going to St Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Feedback Request



The author of the book most recently featured here would like your opinion of the two versions below:



Mr. Evil Editor:

Years ago Leah watched as her husband was murdered by a man who was never identified or caught.  A decade later, police detective Leah Chase still has nightmares of her husband dying in her arms, murdered by an assailant who was never identified.  She still wakes up screaming. [Don't put two spaces between sentences.] 

Leah is assigned a low profile case to find the murderer of a man with no relatives and no friends. A man who just barely escaped being convicted of manslaughter. [I find this confusing. I'm not sure whether the man who just barely escaped being convicted of manslaughter is the murderer or the man with no relatives and no friends.] [Also, how do they know this man has no friends?] [I'd go with a comma or dash instead of a period after the first sentence, so the reader doesn't get to the end of the second "sentence" and wonder where the rest of it is.]

During the investigation, Leah meets Harry Finch. He asks her to coffee, then dinner.  Still traumatized by the death of her husband, [It was ten years ago. If she's still traumatized, I question whether she should be working as a police officer.] Leah worries she’s not ready for this new relationship they begin. Though Leah’s eleven year old daughter doesn’t like Harry, Leah and Harry’s friendship begins to grow into something more. [If it begins to grow, then it's growing, so just say it grows instead of it begins to grow.] 

Leah sees similarities [to the murder she's investigating] in a second murder, and by the third, she sees a pattern.  Her superior doesn’t agree, but as the killings continue, Leah finds herself at the center of a much bigger investigation than anyone was prepared for. 

While Leah and Harry fall in love, the murderer becomes more daring, killing four in a downtown restaurant, then killing families in their own homes.  When the killer makes a mistake and two victims escape, it forces him to leave evidence behind.  Evidence that leads her [Leah] to Harry, the man she loves.

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration. A partial or full manuscript is available on request.

Sincerely,


Note:  I’ve never been happy with the previous versions that concentrated on Leah.  They came out of people telling me to concentrate on a single character.  Except that the novel is about 1/3 Leah alone, about 1/3 Harry alone, and 1/3 the two of them.  (With other subplots thrown in as well.)  So, by concentrating on Leah, I feel like I’m leaving out large parts of what (to me) makes to novel worth reading.  The following query feels much more representative of the book.


Mr. Evil Editor:

Leah [Chase] is a single mother of an eleven year old girl and a police detective who hates her job. [This makes it sound like she's the mother of an 11-year-old girl and also the mother of a police detective who hates her job.]  She’s assigned a low profile case to find the murderer of Matthew James, who had no relatives and no friends. A man who was charged with manslaughter for the death of a teenager, but released on a technicality. [Still confusing. She's assigned a low-profile case: the murder of Matthew James, who was recently released on a technicality after being charged with manslaughter.]

Harry Finch’s son was killed by a drunk driver who was set free because of a minor legal error.  Harry wanted justice for his son, so the man responsible, Matthew James, had to die.  In that man’s death, he finds solace, but he also finds the excitement and joy of knowing that wrongs are being righted, that those who persecuted [Who are those who persecuted?] were punished, and victims received the justice they so desired.  [Victims of murderers don't actually desire anything. Also, you speak of wrongs and victims as if he's killed several people. So far he's killed only Matthew James.] There were so many more victims still without justice.  How could Harry stop now?

Leah interviews Harry during the investigation. The following week Harry asks her to dinner.  Though Harry is still technically a suspect, Leah accepts.  As weeks go by, the friendship they have begins to grow[s] to something more.

The stories of Leah and Harry intertwine, weaving together and apart, the police detective and the murderer.  [We know. You don't have to say this.] Leah struggles to catch a serial killer; Harry meticulously plans and executes murders, slaughtering four at a restaurant, and forcing his way into homes and killing families. [Killing entire families gets justice for . . . people who were murdered by entire families?] And Leah and Harry fall in love.

When one family fights back, Harry leaves evidence behind — evidence that leads Leah to Harry, the man she loves.

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration. A partial or full manuscript is available on request.


Sincerely,


Notes

I prefer the first version. Others may disagree. The first one has the advantage that "evidence that leads Leah to Harry, the man she loves." is more shocking if we haven't already been told that Harry is the serial killer Leah is after (Okay,we may suspect it, but we can imagine her reaction as the evidence piles up). In the second version we know Harry's the one she's after before she does. There's no mystery.

Of course maybe I want the query to focus on Leah because I would also prefer the book to focus on Leah so that I, as a reader, gradually suspect Harry is the serial killer, as Leah does, instead of being aware of it from the beginning. Possibly that isn't the book you've written. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Feedback Request



The author of the book featured in Synopsis 50 would like feedback on the following revision.


After her mom's death, seventeen-year-old MAGGIE hopes to forge a new life with her grandma, JESSIE-BELLE, in the small, southern town of Leviathan. But not long after Maggie steps off the bus, DANNY, the son of a local preacher, tells her to go back to California before it's too late.

Jessie-Belle warns Maggie to stay away from Danny. She explains that he is the prime suspect in his father's murder and may be involved in the disappearance of several local teens. But after visiting a disturbing museum of human oddities run by ELIAS LAVENDER, Maggie decides Elias is a more likely suspect.

When school starts, Maggie gets lost during a class trip to the Great Dismal Swamp. She finds a girl impaled on the branches of a tree and shouts for help. Danny appears, seemingly from nowhere. He claims the girl is the victim of a monster that feeds on human sin. They free the girl and take her to the hospital, but she dies.

Maggie returns home to find her grandma disappearing into the swamp, trailed by Elias. Maggie follows. She loses track of Elias, but sees Jessie-Belle summon a Lovecraftian creature from Lake Drummond.

When Maggie confronts her grandma, Jessie-Belle reveals that Maggie is the monster's daughter and his intended bride. She encourages Maggie to submit to the monster, claiming he will grant them both immortality. She also admits to killing Danny's father.

Maggie goes to Danny, hoping he can help her defeat the monster. Danny explains that his family has rescued people from the monster for generations, aided by a supernatural ability to sense human sin, but it can only be killed by one of its own children.

Maggie and Danny resolve to face the beast together. They gather a variety of weapons and force Jessie-Belle to lead them to the monster. But their plan to ambush the beast is derailed when Elias arrives carrying an unconscious girl. Elias hopes to supplant Jessie-Belle as the monster's servant by offering it a worthier bride.

The monster awakens and in the ensuing chaos, Jessie-Belle kills Elias and chops off one of Danny's arms. She declares her unwavering love for the monster, but it kills her.

Forced to face the monster alone, Maggie sets the creature on fire, but is burned herself when the creature falls on her in its death throes.

Several weeks later, Maggie awakens in the hospital where she is reunited with Danny. Danny assures her the monster is dead, and the two embrace, ready to begin a new life together.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured most recently here would like your opinion of the version below.


Mr. Evil Editor:

Ten years ago Leah watched as her husband was murdered by a man who was never identified or caught. Now a detective, she still has nightmares of watching her husband murdered, of feeling him die in her arms. She still wakes up screaming. [A better opening, and a better name than Lee. You should include her last name. It leaves me wondering if she was a police officer ten years ago or if she became one because of this event. I'm not crazy about "watched as her husband was murdered" in sentence 1 being followed by "watching her husband murdered" in sentence 2. You can delete the phrase in the second sentence. Or you could try:

A decade later, police detective Leah Chase still has nightmares. Her husband dying in her arms, murdered by an assailant who was never identified. She still wakes up screaming.

One day she’s given the job of catching a killer no one thinks can be caught. [I don't buy that no one thinks he can be caught. You're basically saying the powers that be are dumping a murder case on Leah because why waste our top detectives on a criminal who can't be caught? That would not play well with the people of Columbus, and the press would savage the department. With a serial killer active, any murder case would be top priority.] [Also, "One day" is not a good start to the sentence. It's better than "Once upon a time," but I'd go with :

When Leah is assigned a high-profile murder case, she (wonders if she's in over her head/wonders if her quarry might be the man who killed her husband/sees this an a career-making opportunity/whatever).]  

During the investigation, Leah meets [interviews] Harry Finch [, whose murdered son may have been a victim of the same killer she's hunting.] He asks her to coffee, then dinner. Leah worries she’s not ready for this new relationship they begin. [Not ready because it's only been ten years since her husband died?] And Leah is surprised her young daughter doesn’t seem to like Harry. [Is this a daughter by her ten-years-dead husband? I'd give her age rather than say "young." Or leave her out of the query.] But Leah and Harry’s friendship begins to grow into something more.

The murderer continues to kill using ever more brutal methods. [The murderer Leah was assigned to capture, or the serial killer? Or are they the same person? It's not clear whether she was assigned the serial killer case or an isolated murder case. In other words, does she fall for the serial killer while hunting the serial killer or while hunting another murderer? I find it hard to believe there's a prolific serial killer at work and they gave the entire case to Leah instead of calling in the FBI and putting several of their detectives on it.] As the bodies pile up, Harry and Leah fall in love. In a final clash, Leah is forced to confront not only other forces that want her dead, [You force us to ask what other forces want her dead. Since you don't tell us, you're better off not bringing them up at all.] but Harry, the man she loves. Harry, the serial killer. [I'd rather see an ending in which Leah discovers evidence that leads her to suspect the worst about Harry and leave their "final clash" for the book.]

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration. A partial or full manuscript is available on request.

Sincerely,


Notes

It's a better query than the previous versions. Most of my comments can be dealt with without much work.


Thursday, July 07, 2016

Synopsis 50


Guess the Plot

At the Edge of Dark Water

1. Tommy always looked into the dark water of the pool at the edge of his family's farm. He tested it before and was curious why such a shallow pool was so dark. One midsummer's day, he stared into the dark abyss, until it started staring back.

2. Inadvertently cursed by a girl with a crush on school's top swimmer, Jimmy learns only a kiss will return him to human. Unfortunately, he doesn't know whose kiss and each turns him into a different creature: penguin, seagull, walrus....

3. Dark Water is one of those boring little towns where nothing ever happens, until of course it does and everybody gets upset, leaving a plucky teenage girl and a detective to sort things out. Also, zombies.

4. When her mother dies, Maggie moves in with her grandmother, who lives on the edge of a swamp. As the new kid in town, Maggie gets harassed and bullied. She's unhappy, and it seems the only boy who can ever reach her, is the son of a preacher man. Also, a disturbing freak show.

5. On the cusp of earning his parent’s love through heroism, Maxwell realizes he is afraid of the dark, and sharks. He helplessly watches from the dock as his parent’s sink with their trawler into the bottomless sea. If only he had run away to the big city like his sister.

6. Vivienne lives in a houseboat at the edge of the continental shelf. After her boyfriend dumps her, her dog dies of cancer, and she loses her job, she thinks about ending it all. Then, she hears sirens of the Oedipus kind.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I humbly beseech you to critique the synopsis for my YA novel, AT THE EDGE OF DARK WATER, in which a grieving teen girl and the tormented son of a street preacher take on a monster that feeds on human sin. The creature lives in the Great Dismal Swamp (specifically in the depths of Lake Drummond) - hence the title. BTW 400 words is brutal!



After her mom's death, seventeen-year-old MAGGIE hopes to forge a new life with her grandma, JESSIE-BELLE, in the small, southern town of Leviathan, but things go wrong the minute she steps off the bus. Classmates vandalize her new car, [The minute she steps off the bus? If she has a new car, why didn't she drive it to Leviathan?] swamp water turns to blood when she touches it, and DANNY, the tormented son of a street preacher, tells her to go back to California before it's too late. [Apparently you thought Evil Editor would just gloss over the swamp water turning to blood if you hid it in the middle of the list. Let's see if that works on you: I was having one of those days. First there was no milk for my cereal in the morning, then a Klingon warbird blew up my town, and finally a guy in a clown suit made fun of my socks.]    

Things seem to be looking up when local hottie MITCH invites Maggie to the Peanut Festival. [Only an invitation to the junior prom or the swamp buggy races is more coveted than one to the peanut festival.] But during the date, Maggie is harassed by ELIAS, manager of a disturbing freak show and museum of oddities. [Why? Does he even know who she is?] And when Mitch takes Maggie into the swamp, he is attacked by a shadowy entity. Panicked, Maggie leaps into Mitch's SUV and drives away. [Shouldn't he have taken her into the swamp in an airboat instead of his car? I take it he left the keys to his SUV in the vehicle?]

When school starts, Mitch's ex-girlfriend, ROSALIE, bullies Maggie. [Was she his ex-girlfriend or his girlfriend when he was taking Maggie into the swamp?] [If school hadn't started yet, I'm not sure the people who vandalized Maggie's new car could be called her classmates.] On a class trip, Maggie runs away and gets lost in the swamp. [They should have used the buddy system. What was she running away from?] She finds a girl impaled on the branches of a bizarre tree. [What's bizarre about it, besides the fact that there's a girl impaled on its branches?] She shouts for help and Danny appears. They free the girl and take her to the hospital, but she dies and Danny is arrested for her murder. [Why?]

Maggie returns home to find her grandma disappearing into the swamp. Maggie follows and sees Jessie-Belle conversing with the monster. Maggie learns the monster is her father. She also learns its cells are in her body and if she doesn't become its servant, she will suffer the same excruciating death as her mom. [We're starting to ratchet up the wacko factor here.]

Maggie races to the jail, hoping Danny can help her defeat the monster. She convinces the deputy in charge to release him, [Whoa. Who's this deputy, Barney Fife? He releases a murder suspect because the seventeen-year-old new kid in town says to?] and the two resolve to face the beast together. They force Jessie-Belle to lead them to the monster, but their plan to ambush the beast is derailed when Elias arrives with a kidnapped Rosalie. He intends to offer her to the monster in exchange for immortality. [What makes him think Maggie's monster/father can grant immortality in exchange for human sacrifices? Has anyone else been granted immortality?] 

The monster awakens. Elias is killed, [By the monster?] Rosalie escapes, Danny loses an arm, and Jessie-Belle is knocked unconscious. Maggie drags Danny and Jessie-Belle into Danny's pick-up truck, but Jessie-Belle regains consciousness and crashes the vehicle. Jessie-Belle runs to the monster declaring her love, but it kills her.

Maggie must face the monster alone. [With Elias and Jessie-Belle dead, why can't the police be brought in?] She sets herself and the creature on fire. [Better would have been setting just the creature on fire. Hindsight is 20/20.] 

Several weeks later, Maggie awakens in the hospital where she is reunited with Danny. Danny reassures her the monster is dead. The two embrace, exhilarated to begin a new life together.


Notes

The last four paragraphs are mostly a list of things that happen. Which you blame on me for limiting synopses to 400 words. But the key, when given a word limit, is not to squeeze all the information into half as many words, but to get rid of the less important information. For instance, I've reduced it to well under 300 words by getting rid of the vandalism and Elias and Rosalie and most of what made me ask questions:

After her mom's death, seventeen-year-old MAGGIE hopes to forge a new life with her grandma, JESSIE-BELLE, in the small, southern town of Leviathan. But not long after Maggie steps off the bus, DANNY, the tormented son of a street preacher, tells her to go back to California before it's too late.

When school starts, Maggie gets lost during a class trip to the Great Dismal Swamp. She finds a girl impaled on the branches of a tree and shouts for help. Danny appears, seemingly from nowhere. They free the girl and take her to the hospital, but she dies.

Maggie returns home to find her grandma disappearing into the swamp. Maggie follows and sees Jessie-Belle conversing with a shadowy monster. Maggie learns the monster is her father, and is responsible for the death of one of her classmates. It feeds on human sin.

Maggie and Danny resolve to face the beast together. They force Jessie-Belle to lead them to the monster, but their plan to ambush the beast is derailed when they realize they forgot to bring any weapons. The monster awakens and pulls off one of Danny's arms. Jessie-Belle tries to calm the monster, but it kills her.

Forced to face the monster alone, Maggie sets the creature on fire with a Molotov cocktail she finds in a bush, but is burned herself when the creature falls on her in its death throes.

Several weeks later, Maggie awakens in the hospital where she is reunited with Danny. Danny assures her the monster is dead, and cannot return to life unless this book sells big and the publisher demands a sequel. The two embrace, ready to begin a new life together.


Now if you need a 400-word synopsis, you can add 100+ words to this version. If you need 800 words, you can add 500. What you add should elaborate on this with specific details, not just list more things that happen. Tell a story. 


Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Face-Lift 1322


Guess the Plot 

XO XO

1. A self-help manual for those who aren't getting enough hugs or kisses.

2. Her classmates always called Makayla stupid and ugly. Then she landed a modeling career as the face of XO XO jewelry. Now her classmates are jealous. But they still call her stupid and ugly.

3. When LT receives a love letter, he is paralyzed with apprehension. What does “You’re next. XO XO” mean? Who has eyes on him? His commanding officer with one hug and kiss? Two kisses and hugs from that sergeant? Should he put it under his pillow or put Intelligence on it?

4. When the body of Univision's beloved kid show host Ana "XoXo" Gonzales is found in with the tigers at the LA Zoo, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, none of the tigers can fire a handgun, and two, this will probably end up as a plot on one of his abuelita's beloved telenovelas.

5. Little XO XO O'Malley has captured the king of the leprechauns. But instead of a pot of gold, she wants the rainbow. The king manages to talk her down to seven color-themed wishes, which of course infringes on the genies' turf. Also, enforced tea parties.

6. After listening to John Mayer's song "XO," and Beyonce's cover of the same song, Justine still can't figure out why the title isn't "Love Me Lights Out." So she starts a Change.org online petition to change the title. Hilarity ensues.


 
Original Version

XO XO Is a middle grade novelette completed at 14,453. [I'm assuming that's your word count, but we normally round the word count off, so perhaps 14,453 is the altitude (in feet) you were flying at when you completed the book.] [If you do round it off I suggest rounding it to 45,000.] 

Every day at school, Makayla Massi is faced with her cruel classmates, Madison and Mya they call her ugly and stupid. [It's a bad sign when your first sentence isn't a sentence. Either make it two sentences or change "they" to ", who."] Even though they are always dressed in designer clothes and seem to have it all, for some reason they aren't happy. Things are so bad that if Makayla could make herself invisible she would. [Start a new paragraph here.] After a surprise trip, Makayla's dream of being a model finally comes true.  [It wouldn't take many words to explain how this trip is a surprise.] She couldn't be happier as the new face of Gems XO XO jewelry store. Makayla can't wait for the fashion show where she'll be able to walk the runway for the first time ever. [New paragraph.] As she walks the runway on her way to success she realizes that living her dream comes with a lot of jealously. She never imagined there wasn't a pretty side to modeling. [That suggests that there isn't a pretty side. I think you mean She never imagined there was an ugly side...] Her usually [usual] daily school dilemma [I would call it her torment or anguish.] only gets worse after the fashion show, [Continuing to torment the girl you were calling ugly, after she becomes a successful model, is like if the kids who used to mock LeBron James's basketball skills are still mocking him today. At some point you move on to an easier target, or you look like an idiot.] so Makayla handles matters with kindness by helping Madison and Mia, but things don't go as planned. Now, she's faced with an even bigger challenge and little by little Madison and Mya try to take away what little self- esteem Makayla does have until she discovers it's her self- esteem and no one gets to decide her self-worth, but her. [This last "paragraph" is vague. How does her dilemma get worse? Are her classmates doing worse things than calling her names? What does Makayla do to help Madison and May? What goes wrong when she helps them? What is her bigger challenge?]


Notes

 If Makayla has to go on a trip to land her modeling career, it seems odd that she's still in school in her hometown. Wouldn't she have to stay where the work is?

There doesn't seem to be any hugging and kissing, so apparently the title comes from part of the jewelry store's name?

While "novelette" describes a work of a certain length, it's not a length that anyone's likely to publish in book form. Maybe as part of a collection of your stories, but before it gets published anywhere you need to tell us what makes this story stand out.

The dream of being a model comes true with pretty much no explanation. 

XOXO is a brand name of watches and jewelry. Possibly they don't have their own stores. Whether they would be thrilled or annoyed to find their products in your story I don't know, but if they don't like it you can always argue that XO XO is completely different from XOXO. 

My research shows that XOXO means hugs and kisses. Does XO XO mean hug and kiss  hug and kiss?

The four proper names in the query are Mikayla, Massi, Madison, and Mya. This will annoy readers who have enough trouble keeping track of who's who when the names don't all start with the same letter.. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1321 (See previous post) would like feedback on the following revision:


Mr. Evil Editor:

When Lee Chase goes alone to interview the owner of an auto shop, she ends up almost getting killed by a gang member. She may have found where the gang stores the cars they’ve stolen, but by going alone she’s made one too many mistakes. [At this point I'm wondering if Lee is a reporter or possibly a customer who wants to compare prices on body work. Introduce her as a homicide detective, if that's what she is. Although a homicide detective would be investigating a murder, not stolen cars.] Now, close to being demoted, she’s given the unenviable job of solving a murder that has no obvious motive.

The murdered man was charged with manslaughter of a teenager, but freed on a technicality. Two years later, on the anniversary of the date he walked free, he was killed. With no obvious suspects, Lee interviews Harry Finch, the father of the slain teenager. Still angry about his son’s death, but without even a parking ticket on his record, Lee doesn’t believe he’s the murderer. [Okay, let's discuss "dangling modifiers." In the previous version, you used the sentence: A pleasant and polite man with no record, she can't believe he would commit murder. AlaskaRavenclaw asked if you knew what was wrong with the sentence. What was wrong is that when you open a sentence with a modifying clause, we expect that it modifies the subject of the main clause (which is Lee). Instead it describes Harry. You can argue that "he" can't describe Lee, as Lee is a female, but we don't want grammar rules to change depending on whether the detective is male or female and whether it's Harry the father or Harriet the mother who is the serial killer. That would be chaos at worst, and annoying to readers at best. So you might have tried: A pleasant and polite man with no record, he (or Harry) seems an unlikely murder suspect. 

Moving on to the current version: Still angry about his son’s death, but without even a parking ticket on his record, Lee . . .  Again, you've described Harry, but made Lee the subject. There are numerous ways to fix this, including: Though he's still angry about his son's death, Harry doesn't strike Lee as the murdering type. He's pleasant and polite and he's never even had a parking ticket.]

She's wrong.

Harry is a merciless killer hunting for justice. Justice for his son, justice for anyone who has been betrayed. [Was his son betrayed?] But Harry's version of justice is quickly making him the most prolific serial killer Columbus has ever seen.

Hoping she might give him important information about the case, [Which case? His own or his son's?] Harry asks Lee to coffee, [This time you have the right subject, but it's still confusing because we have two pronouns in the modifying clause. You can make it easier on us by saying Hoping Lee might give him important information about the case, Harry asks her to coffee . . .] Eventually, [Meaning by dessert or after they've been dating a few weeks?] he finds himself liking her, even seeing that he could love her, and Lee begins to love him back. [There surely are rules against dating a person of interest in the case you're working, especially if he's the only suspect you have.] 

As the bodies pile up, as a gang member takes potshots at Lee, Harry and Lee fall in love. [You just said they're falling in love in the previous sentence. Move on.] It all comes together in a final clash that forces Lee to confront not only the gang that wants her dead, but Harry, the man she loves.

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration. A partial or full manuscript is available on request.

Sincerely,


Notes

Another example of possibly confusing pronouns: The murdered man was charged with manslaughter of a teenager, but freed on a technicality. Two years later, on the anniversary of the date he walked free, he was killed. As both a man and a teenager are killed in the first sentence I have to figure out which one you're talking about when you say "he" was killed in the second sentence.

It might be a good idea to go through your manuscript looking for dangling modifiers and unclear pronoun antecedents. 

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Face-Lift 1321


Guess the Plot

Justice Betrayed

1. Detective Tom Griffin has spent the last decade of his life bringing down the local crime family, sacrificing everything important in his life along the way. But due to one clerical error, all his work has gone to waste. Now it's up to Tom to see that justice gets dealt.

2. Justice discovers that her jockey is on the take. How can one horse keep her scheming rider from throwing the biggest race of the century? Especially when her beloved owner counts on her winnings to pay for his dying daughter's cancer treatments?

3. Justice Everly is a hypocritical, two-timing swindler. But he never thought his dog, Rascal, would lead the F.B.I. to him. He's serving five life sentences when he hears Rascal is about to be put down. Can he spin-doctor saving the mutt into a way to get himself released?

4. Eleven-year-old Davy Justice is promised the wide receiver spot on the football team. It means the world to him because Susie, the hottest girl in Henry Clay Middle School, loves football above all else. But Coach Baluster gives his spot to Kevin while Davy sits on the bench. When Kevin takes Susie to the school dance, Davy quits football for baseball. Twenty-five years later and sixty million richer from his major league baseball career, Davy still wonders what might have been with Susie.

5. Harry Finch takes it upon himself to get justice for anyone who's been betrayed, mainly by murdering the betrayers. Unfortunately, there've been so many betrayals of one kind or another lately, Harry's become a prolific serial killer. Complicating matters, Harry and the detective hunting him fall in love.

6. Defense attorney Ken Childress has proof, before the case even goes to trial, that his client, actress Gloria Barnes, couldn't possibly have murdered her agent. But Gloria, who needs the publicity of a murder trial to revive her sagging career, demands that Childress conceal the evidence of her innocence and confesses to the crime.



Original Version

Mr. Evil Editor:

JUSTICE BETRAYED tells the story of Lee Chase, a homicide detective, and Harry Finch, the man she falls in love with. Unfortunately, the brutal truth is that Harry is the serial killer she's hunting.

After one too many mistakes and close to being demoted, Lee Chase is given the unenviable job of solving a murder that has no [obvious] motive and no clues. She interviews an unlikely suspect, Harry Finch. [If there's no motive and no clues, everyone's an unlikely suspect.] 

Captain: Detective Chase, I realize no one has a motive in this case, and there's no blood, fingerprints, footprints, hair, fibers, weapon or any other clue pointing to any specific person, but do you have any suspects?

Chase: If, by "suspects," you mean people who were in Columbus at the time of the murder, yes, I have about 800,000. I'll start checking their alibis in the morning.]

A pleasant and polite man with no record, she can't believe he would commit murder. [Anyone who reads books or watches movies would immediately suspect a guy who's pleasant and polite of being a serial killer, yet this homicide detective has no clue? No wonder they're demoting her.] [Also, if there is no motive and there are no clues, I suspect they would start by interviewing people who do have criminal records, and have used the same MO as this killer. What did Harry do to become a suspect?

She's wrong. [You've already told us he's the killer she's hunting, so why waste two lines on two words that tell us again?] [Probably it's the first paragraph you should eliminate rather than this one, as it says nothing that isn't said again in the rest of the query.]

Harry is a killer hunting for justice. Justice for his son, [What happened to his son? Did he get killed? Fired? Fail to get the lead in the high school play? Have his lunch money stolen by another 2nd grader?] justice for anyone who has been betrayed. But Harry's version of justice is quickly making him the most prolific serial killer Columbus has ever seen.

A street gang wants Lee dead. [If I'm running a street gang, the last thing I want is this mistake-prone woman being replaced on the force by a detective who may actually know what she's doing. In fact, I'm helping Lee capture Harry just so they'll keep her in homicide instead of demoting her to traffic control.] The bodies pile up. And Harry and Lee fall in love. It all comes together in a final clash that forces Lee to confront not only the gang that wants her dead, but Harry. Not the Harry she loves, but Harry, the murderer. [Books in which the detective confronts Harry the murderer are a dime a dozen. I wanna read the book in which she confronts the Harry she loves:

Lee: I love you, Harry, I really do, but we need to talk.

Harry: I knew this was coming. All my wives eventually want to have "the talk." I'm not communicative enough? Away from home too many nights? Not making enough money?

Lee: None of that. I just need you to either start doing your own laundry or stop coming home with your clothes drenched in blood.]

JUSTICE BETRAYED is complete at 81,000 words.

A partial or full manuscript is available on request.

Thank you for your consideration.


[Note from author: Harry, the killer, believes that he is killing for justice -- not just that the deaths are justified, but that they provide justice for someone. For example, he kills a man whom he believes harms his own wife. At the end of the book Harry finally realizes that what he has done is not justice, that he has betrayed the things he held dear. Thus the title "Justice Betrayed".]



Notes

All Lee does in the query is interview Harry, fall in love with Harry, and confront Harry. That's pretty general. Harry is involved in all those scenes, but he also has a son who was unjustly wronged, kills a lot of bad people (and possibly some not-so-bad people) and comes to a character-building realization. I'm way more interested in Harry than Lee. Based on what I know, I'd focus on Harry. Start with paragraph 4, working in specific details about what happened to Harry's son and another example of someone he avenges. Then you can bring in Lee when she interviews him and they fall in love.

If the book demands that you focus on Lee, she needs to do more in the query. She's been assigned to a murder case and her quarry turns out to be Columbus's most prolific serial killer. What's her plan? Does she have a partner or is she handling this alone? When and why does she start to suspect her lover of being the murderer she's after?

If Lee's first interview with Harry convinces her he's possibly the murderer, I don't see how she'd become romantically involved with him. And if her interview convinces her he's not a murderer, I don't see how she'd have any more contact with him. Did one of them ask the other out on a date during the interview? Something like:

Lee: I'm so sorry I suspected you of being a killer. Can I make it up to you by cooking you dinner?

Or:

Harry: Now that I've convinced you I haven't murdered 47 people, do you enjoy long walks in the woods?


Monday, June 27, 2016

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1320 (see previous post) would like feedback on this revision:


Dear Evil Editor,

After fourteen years, 18-year-old Auraya finally remembers that she's a princess from a planet named Losaria. She escaped the war on her planet by crossing through a dangerous wormhole to Earth, only to find out that she had to replace her memories to stay concealed. [It sounds like she made the crossing and found out she had to lose her memories when she was four years old. Who's making "her" decisions? What memories does a four-year-old have that are so critical?] Now, with the knowledge that the immortal monarchy can only be killed by their offspring, Auraya has to remain hidden from her deranged uncle Mois who, with his own power, will force her to kill them to become Losaria's new king. [Has she regained only the memories she had when she left her planet at age 4, or has someone filled her in on what's been going on for the last fourteen years on Losaria?] [How does she know Mois's plans?]

Earth is plagued by overpopulation and scarce resources while the United States uses an immoral class system as a form of regulation. [Regulation of what?] Mois goes missing from Losaria making Auraya believe that he is on Earth with plans to dominate it as well. [How does she know he's gone missing?] When a group of human insurgents--the Revisionists--begin to murder the rich in protest of the system, she thinks that Mois may use their cause to further his own agenda.

Auraya joins the Revisionists to get answers, [Joining the group she thinks Mois is using to further his agenda doesn't seem too bright if she's trying to stay concealed from Mois, especially now that she has her memories back.] and learns that they're planning a nation-wide attack against the U.S. government. But, when she finds out that her missing brother is barely alive on Earth, she has to choose between risking her life to find him, and remaining concealed knowing that it’s the only way to protect her parents’ lives. Auraya realizes Mois’ actual plan to get Earth isn't what she expected, and a final memory returns revealing that she may have once helped his cause. [Back when she was four?] 

THE CROSSING: REVISION is a young adult speculative fiction novel complete with 82,000 words. It is standalone novel with the potential to be built into a trilogy.

Sincerely,


[Oh and about the genre. The Earth side of the story is pretty science fiction based, but the Losarian side is more fantasy. I thought that saying speculative encompassed as story with both elements. Though, I guess even the fantasyish stuff from Losaria all has a scientificy explanation---I just used two made up words in one sentence...fantastic. Maybe I will just call it science fiction.]


Notes

This is a major improvement.

Is The Crossing: Revision the title of this book, or is part of that the title you will give the trilogy if you end up writing two more books? It's not a good title for a standalone novel.

How long does it take to get from Losaria to Earth? I know a wormhole is a short cut, but if it's a natural-occurring phenomenon, odds are its terminals aren't right on both planets. If it does terminate on Earth, have Earthlings passed through it to Losaria?

You don't tell the ending, which is good, but there's no need to conceal from us Mois's real plan or Auraya's final memory in an attempt to entice us to request the manuscript.