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.



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".]


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?


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.


[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.]


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.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Face-Lift 1320

Guess the Plot

The Crossing: Revision

1. The gripping, dramatic saga of a crosswalk guard, the school he works for, and the children that go there.

2. First they tried walking. Then they tried swimming. After that came a bridge. Read as Sam and his team try, and fail, to cross the river. Now if only they could figure out how a giant man-eating lizard could fit in the shallow river in the first place.

3. Both the Tyrant Ogo on the right bank and the Dictator Fisaille on the left bank are terrible rulers, so Caro ferries doomed souls (aka refugees) both ways across the Vellak river. But when the taxmen demand money, Caro foresees (aka facilitates) an invasion by downriver barbarians.

4. This humorous sequel to The Voyage: Writing will teach you how to murder your darlings, manage your expectations, and, of course, rule the world.

5. After emailing a literary agent the manuscript of his book about George Washington's crossing of the Delaware, titled The Crossing, Bob Thunderpants realizes he shouldn't have relied on Internet blogs for his information, and gets to work on . . . The Crossing: Revision

6. With her planet at war and her uncle trying to kidnap her and force her to kill her parents,  Auraya crosses the bridge that connects her planet to Earth, figuring she'll be safer here. Unfortunately, she ends up in America, where no one is safe these days

Original Version

When 18-year-old Auraya crossed the bridge to Earth, her memories were replaced by the memories of a dead girl. [I thought the one good thing about death was that I could finally forget all the horrible things I can't forget while I'm alive. You're telling me the dead have memories? That even in death I won't be able to forget when I phoned Jessica and told her I worked for U.N.C.L.E. and everyone in the school was laughing at me the next day?] Slowly, Auraya’s real identity returns to her only to reveal a bigger problem--there is a war on her home planet [In sentence 1 her memories are replaced, and in sentence 2 her memories are back. I recommend leaving her memories out of the query, as you don't reveal what effect not having them had on the story anyway.] [Also, there's a bridge to Earth? From another planet? I'm not sure we could even build a bridge to the moon. Although it would be cool if all the planets were connected by bridges so instead of a cramped capsule you could go to Saturn on a luxurious bus. The problem arises when one planet is on the opposite side of the sun from another, because then the middle of the bridge would melt and the vehicles would fall off the bridge into the sun.] because her uncle Mois wants to end her parents’ reign. Auraya, equipped with the unique ability to kill the King and Queen, [When I hear the term "unique ability" I think super power. Like Superman's heat vision or Aquaman's ability to talk to fish. Auraya's on Earth, yet she's Mois's best chance to kill the king and queen?] [Are they the king and queen of the whole planet or of one of the countries fighting in the war?] will be forced by Mois to murder them unless she can remain hidden from him on Earth. [How can he force her to murder them? Either you kill your parents or I'll . . . kill your parents.]

Auraya chooses to suffer through the uncompromising class system that plagues America to keep her parents alive until a group of insurgents--the Revisionists--begin murdering the rich. [The rich in America?] Auraya, afraid that Mois is behind the group, decides to become a Revisionist to try to unravel his plan. [The only thing we know about the Revisionists is that they kill the rich. How does joining them unravel Mois's plan? Do you mean discover or expose his plan?] [Mois's goal is to find Auraya and bring her home, right? How does sending in assassins to kill the rich help?] As the group’s leaders turn out to be enhanced humans, Auraya knows that life on Earth is no longer safe. [When was life on Earth ever safe?] [Is Auraya human?] [So her theory is that Mois, as war rages on his home planet, has sent some of his top people to Earth to kill our rich?]

The Revisionist plan a final world-wide attack to end the class system for good. [Which world are we talking about?] [How many enhanced humans are there?] But when Auraya finds out that her missing brother is alive on Earth, she has to choose between risking her life to find him in the midst of an attack, [Why can't she wait and find him after the attack?] and remaining concealed knowing that it’s the only way to protect her parents. Auraya remembers a piece of her past that she has unknowingly hidden from herself, which reveals the truth behind her real intentions and her part in helping Mois succeed. [That sentence is too vague to convey any meaning.]

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


I don't understand the plot. I don't know why the characters do what they do. How can Auraya's parents be invulnerable to all spies, armies, bombs, assassins, etc, but Auraya can kill them? Does she have to get near them to kill them? If so, why would she kill them once she's near them, and away from Mois? We need to know what's at stake and what motivates the characters. Start over.

Actually, the author has sent another query for comparison, so perhaps she did start over. Here it is:

Dear Evil Editor,

After almost dying, 18-year-old Auraya finally remembers that she's a princess from a planet named Losaria. Fourteen years ago she escaped the war on her planet, only to find out that she had to replace her memories and become human to stay concealed. Now, equipped with the unique ability to kill her immortal parents, Auraya has to remain hidden from her deranged uncle Mois, or he will force her to kill them for control of Losaria.

Being Losarian on Earth [You might work in that she's gone to Earth in the previous paragraph.]
means drinking the blood from humans to survive, [How did she discover this?]
but Auraya is not the one killing them; they're killing themselves. America’s unfair class laws cause a group of insurgents, the Revisionist, to begin murdering the rich in protest. Afraid that Mois may be behind the group, Auraya decides to become a Revisionist to get answers.

Auraya learns there will be world-wide attack to end the class system for good. But, when she finds out that her missing brother is alive on Earth, [Is he human, or is he drinking human blood?] she has to choose between risking her life to find him in the midst of an attack, and remaining concealed knowing that it’s the only way to protect the lives of her parents. When it's too late, she realizes that Mois’ plan goes beyond killing her parents, and she remembers a final piece of her past that reveals her part in aiding his cause.

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.

I would say this is better. It's clearer, anyway. It includes some information the other lacked (her parents are immortal, her memories were intentionally erased, the name of her planet, the blood drinking...). "To get answers" is better than "to unravel his plan." On the other hand, there's no explanation for how anyone can travel between planets. And I still don't see how Mois can force her to kill her parents, whether they're immortal or not. Why doesn't she use her "ability" to kill Mois?

I still don't know why Mois would care about the class system on Earth. Maybe he doesn't, in which case I don't see why Auraya would suspect he's behind the world-wide attack. 

The blood drinking isn't a good thing to mention in the query, as it sounds silly. I'm not sure why it's in the book either. How many Losarians are on Earth drinking human blood? Haven't we noticed?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Face-Lift 1319

Guess the Plot

She'll Breathe Again

1. Little Katrina Halley wants the stuffed froggie so bad, she'll hold her breath till she gets it. But it turns out that holding one's breath with cheeks puffed out gets old pretty fast, so . . . she'll breathe again.

2. When Nicole's boyfriend takes her to a romantic Italian restaurant for dinner, she doesn't expect that he's sold her to a human trafficking ring, and that she may have breathed her last whiff of freedom. At least he waits till after dessert.

3. In this timely polemic about the evils of pollution, Reader Child seeks Mother Nature to cure her sick dog. On the way, she meets friendly animals who all die horrifically. She eventually meets an ancient tree who tells her Mother Nature is a lie. Also, trash disguised as food.

4. Twelve years ago, grieving Tony Marston had his cancer-stricken wife Angela cryogenically frozen. There's now a cure for her type of cancer, so they plan to revive her. But what, exactly, will come out of that tube?

5. She was the love of his life, but now she is dead. However, this young doctor has found notes from his ancestor detailing ways of bringing life from death. It may take a bit of grave robbing and waiting for a lightning storm, but . . . she'll breathe again.

6. The Sheila XVIII is a symbiotic re-breather unit that unfortunately resembles the face-hugger from Alien, stomach splitting spawn included. But, it's the only way to survive the clouds of sentient fungus spores that have taken over the world. Can Phil find a way to save humanity before he dies by giving birth?

Original Version

Dear ________

When 16-year-old Nicole is sold into the [a] human trafficking ring by her first love, she is forced to face not only heart break, [heartbreak] but the fight for [of] her life. [If you've spent enough time with someone to consider him your first love, and he sells you to a human trafficking ring, a broken heart is the least of your concerns.]   

Nicole is completely caught off guard when a romantic date with her boyfriend Jonathan turns into a worst nightmare come to life. After Jonathan leaves her stranded at a random Italian restaurant, Nicole encounters a strange man [If he's just a stranger, call him that; if there's something strange about him, tell us what.] who tells her that he is Jonathan’s “surprise gift.” [It's probably not necessary to tell us Nicole was caught off guard. Getting sold into slavery by your boyfriend during a romantic date is high on the list of things no one ever expects.] 

Suddenly, Nicole is kidnapped and drugged only to wake up in a room full of girls and a persistently annoying flickering lightbulb. [Bad enough I've been sold to human traffickers, but now I have to put up with this friggin' light bulb?!] Nicole is the last to know that her body has been sold [The last what to know?] once the leader of the ring, Don, sheds light on her situation. Now she is forced to fight for her life with a shattered heart and a cynical attitude. [More effective would be a sword and a shield.] [I would expect her to feel anger, fear, betrayal. Heartbreak and cynicism can be saved for after her ordeal ends.]

Right when Nicole is ready to lose all hope, she finds her inner strength in the most unexpected place; a young girl named Jessica who was sold into the trafficking ring by her father. [Her own father? That's horrible. Wait, how much did he get for her?] Each day that passes the chance of survival seems to be getting more and more slim. They are continuously faced with the men who sealed their fate ultimately unraveling secrets that were better left unknown. [Those three sentences could be put in any order. The sentences in a paragraph need to be connected and progress logically. For instance by telling us how Jessica gives Nicole inner strength.] [Also, that last sentence is so vague I have no idea what you're talking about.]

With a turn of events, a police raid sets them free. Nicole and Jessica get separated in all of the chaos. Jessica is taken in by Child Services while Nicole just keeps running until she [is] found by an old lady with a similar pain. [I feel your pain, Nicole, for I, too, once went on a date that was a disaster.] Jonathan and the men who did this to them are sentenced to life in jail, but it is not exactly a happy ending just yet.

Nicole has another battle to fight once she discovers she has HIV and Jessica must now face an unwanted pregnancy by a man who will forever haunt her dreams, the same man who is responsible for Nicole’s kidnapping. [Is it a happy ending now?] 

Jenna is a student at Temple University pursuing a career in publicity for a publishing house. [Get rid of this. I was about to complain that her her name's Jessica, not Jenna. Turns out Jenna's you. Your bio, if you include one, should be in first person, and if it includes nothing relevant, like you wrote a bestseller or were once abducted by human traffickers, you don't need one.] 

SHE’LL BREATHE AGAIN is a complete, 50,000 word young adult thriller. I would best describe [it] as “Crank” meets “Purge.” [I don't think it's a good idea to compare your book to these books, at least not without saying what's similar about them. A book of poetry about Estonia could be described as Crank meets Purge.] [Also, the reader may not be familiar with those books, while having seen the movies Crank and The Purge, which would not be good.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


It's too long, but fortunately you can dump paragraphs 1, 4 and 7. Unfortunately, what's left is a story about a girl whose misery is ended not by her actions, but by a police raid, and who has more misery to look forward to. People prefer to read about characters who take control and do stuff, not ones to whom stuff is done, and who do nothing to help themselves. 

In my opinion, it would be highly inefficient for a human trafficking ring to acquire their victims by dating them long enough to become their boyfriends and then sending in Borgo the Disemboweler as a "surprise gift." A blind date or a first date with someone encountered on the Internet would be more reasonable, though I suspect most victims are just grabbed off the street.

An occasional missing word, misused word, vague sentence, disorganized paragraph, etc. is no big deal, but they add up, and finding so many in a query letter may lead the reader to believe the book needs a lot of work.

We like specifics, but no need to be too specific in the query about things that are unimportant. That the restaurant is Italian, the leader's name is Don (it probably isn't) . . .  Three words describing the light bulb is a bit much.   

Jessica is important in the query only as she's involved with Nicole, who is your focus. We don't care what Jessica does after the two are separated. We might care what Jessica does to help Nicole (or vice versa) while they're in captivity.

Try putting your summary into three paragraphs. 
P1: Nicole's situation. (She's been kidnapped by human traffickers. What's happening to her? Three sentences.)
P2: What's her goal and her plan to achieve it? (Escape? Survival? How does Jessica give her the hope she needs to survive/not give up. Four sentences max.) 
P3: The wrap-up, wherein she decides to lead her fellow captives in revolt or plots revenge on her so-called boyfriend. So that readers find some tiny bit of pleasure in reading her story. Three sentences.)

Monday, June 13, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1318 would like your opinion of the following revised version.

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Smart-aleck seventh-grader Zach Beacon has been sent to the principal's office so often, he's on a first-name basis with the secretary. [That's not a bad line, though I don't buy that the principal would be okay with his secretary being on a first-name basis with a seventh grader. Plus, it almost sounds like the kid is being rewarded for being sent to the office so much. I would say he's been sent to the office so often he's worn a groove in the hallway. (A groove the other students refer to as Zach's tracks.)] But he's the star shortstop of the baseball team, and trophy-obsessed Principal “Robot” McMott expects them to win the Mississippi private school championship. So Zach's big mouth hasn't landed him in big trouble—yet.

Things change when Zach crash-lands—literally—in the yard of August Clement, the school's elderly groundskeeper. [Not clear what you mean by that. I would think a literal crash landing would involve an aircraft, but in any case, we don't need to know how they meet. One of them befriends the other.] [Also, when you say "Things change when..." I assume you mean Zach's big mouth finally does land him in trouble. It's more his desire for justice for his friend that leads to trouble, not his big mouth.] Turns out, August was a major leaguer back in the fifties—[What?! Why isn't he coaching the baseball team? It's so much better for the story. Easier to get the whole team on board for the strike. More likely that a school could do without one baseball coach than its groundskeeper.] he even has a tip or two about hitting those nasty curveballs—but now he struggles to pay his wife's cancer treatment bills. Zach's friendship with August leads to some tough choices when Zach learns that McMott is planning to lay off the groundskeeper. McMott claims he's saving money for a new trophy case, [Are there other groundskeepers at this school? You can't replace your only groundskeeper with a trophy case or the grass will get so tall baseballs will get lost in the infield.] but Zach suspects that something worse may be at the root of McMott's decision. [Does he have a more specific suspicion? If so, I'm sorry to report that you have to tell us what it is.]

To save August's job, Zach fast-talks the baseball team into going on strike, using the best leverage they have—the team won't win till McMott gives in. But as the losses mount, McMott's threats escalate, [What are his threats?] and his team threatens mutiny, [Change "his" to "the" so readers don't think you mean McMott's team. Better yet, get rid of "McMott's threats escalate."]  Zach must decide whether seeking justice for his friend is worth risking the championship—and his reputation.

ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT is a 33,000-word middle grade novel that will appeal to fans of Andrew Clements and Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series.

I am an associate member of SCBWI and a member of the Mississippi Writers Guild. My experiences as a living wage activist at Vanderbilt University influenced ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT, my debut novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Is this set in modern times? Because if August was a major leaguer in the 1950s, he must be close to 80 years old today. Is he really making more money as a groundkeeper than he would from social security and the public employee pension fund? He should want to be at home caring for his wife, not toiling in the Mississippi sun.

What grades attend this middle school? If it's 7th and 8th, I think Zach should be in 8th grade, as the 8th-graders are unlikely to follow a 7th grader. Whether it's high school and college freshmen or Major League rookies, the new arrivals have to pay their dues, earn their stripes. Only then can they hope to talk the entire team into intentionally losing their games.

You imply that Zach's big mouth eventually gets him into trouble, but I don't see that he ever receives any punishment for anything. Does he?

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1315 has submitted the following revision, and would like your input.

I am seeking representation for my fantasy/adventure novel, The Missing Traveller, aimed at high school readers. 

Ages have passed since a flood turned the world into a waste [Is the world covered with water? Or has the water subsided, leaving a wasteland?] and drove survivors up the immense Mount Era, and cities of the Union federation are perched across the cliffs. [That would be better as two sentences, with "are perched" changed to "have grown up (or "have formed").] [It sounds like Mount Era is the only place in the world where people live. Are there other mountains harboring survivors?] The Stone of Dominus, responsible for the flood and destruction, [One could get the impression the Stone of Dominus is so huge that when it rolled into the ocean it caused the whole planet to flood. If it's a normal-sized stone with magical powers maybe it should be a crystal or jewel.] [Also, if you change Dominus to Dominos, as my auto-correct keeps doing, you can make it a pizza stone.] was buried in the centre of the mountain to prevent such a cataclysm from occurring again. [They somehow know that the Stone is harmless if it's inside a mountain?] [Does the Stone have to be in the possession of a human to cause a cataclysm? If so, they should sail to the other side of the planet and toss it under the ocean instead of burying in the one place on the planet where humans live.] 

For all the years Lark, the travelling merchant, told the sixteen-year-old Alister about the cities of the Union, he never imagined he'd be one of the few to leave home and explore them. [I feel certain he at least imagined it. Maybe he never believed it.] ["For all the years" bothers me. Maybe "Despite all the times"? But after his rash actions lead to a young girl's death, Alister sees no choice but to run away.

His guilt might have overwhelmed him if not for a message from Lark, who recently went missing. The message leads Alister to discover [reveals] that Lark's disappearance was no accident. Baudouin, the unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of the mountain, took Lark captive after the merchant learned of his plans to regain his "rightful" rule over the mountain, using the Stone of Dominus. [The Stone was buried to prevent this. If it's still accessible, my earlier warning that they should find a better hiding place is proven prophetic.] 

With the rest of the Union oblivious to Baudouin's plans and fooled by the aid he's given them over the years, Alister needs to decide who to trust to free Lark, so the two of them can determine a way to stop Baudouin from destroying the Mount. [If the Mount is destroyed, what's left? I thought Baudouin wanted to regain his "rightful" rule over the mountain, not destroy it.] [Also, a guy who's capable of destroying the one place where people live captures the guy who knows about his nefarious plan, and doesn't kill him? What's he keeping Lark alive for?] Along the way to Deemstun, Alister uncovers the mysteries of Lark's past, earns his funds from an illegal glider race, and finds himself wondering how far he should go to stop the ambitious king.

Thanks for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is complete at 108 000 words and is available upon request. As per your submission guidelines, attached are the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


I think we should begin with Alister killing the girl and running away. Opening with a description of the world is okay if it's crucial to what you're about to tell us, but the plot points you include could take place anywhere. 

I see you've changed Hawk to Lark, but do we really need him in the query? All he does is disappear. He seems to be important to Alister, but not so much to us. It's still not clear how a merchant can be useful, and while Alister somehow seems better equipped now that he's not known exclusively as a whittler, he still doesn't have super powers If he beats Baudouin to the Stone of Dominus, can he use it to defeat him?.

Here's the story as far as I can tell: Alister accidentally kills a young girl and chooses to run away. While on the run he learns of a plot by Baudouin to either destroy the only habitable place in the world or to become the ruler of all he surveys, which, in either case, is Mt. Era. Despite having no useful skills and no allies, Alister sets out to stop Baudouin. Turn each of those sentences into a three-sentence paragraph. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Face-Lift 1318

Guess the Plot

Zach Beacon Strikes Out

1. Zach Beacon has swung at his last pitch. The major league slugger was found lying face down at home plate in the fifth inning, clubbed to death by a baseball bat. It's up to detective Nick Barnes to solve the case, but none of the 40,000 fans in attendance saw what happened. 

2. Led by shortstop Zach Beacon, a baseball team goes on strike, purposely losing their games to protest the firing of a groundskeeper. It's so cute when little kids fight for a cause.

3. Zach Beacon is a swell feller. His grandpa even said so. So why is he always last? Time is running out before Zach must settle into a long, grinding career at the back of the bus, so he strikes out to find a better spot on the universal roster.

4. Fifteen is tough. It's even tougher when you have bad skin, wear thick glasses, can't dance, and are a colossal nerd. But that won't stop Zach Beacon from asking the baseball coach to let him play something other than bench.

5.  Zach wants to be the next world famous pickup artist, but how can he master the art of bedding women if he keeps getting rejected? Desperate, he rubs the green lamp he found in an antique shop. Out pops a genie hungry for a human soul, and maybe some cornbread.

6. Minor league catcher Zach Beacon joins the workforce after a bad knee injury. But bad pay and worse working conditions send all his co-workers out on strike on Zach's first day. Now Zach must decide which is worse: to strike for higher pay before working a minute, or to be labeled a scab by the complete strangers he'll eventually work with if the strike succeeds. 

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Seventh-grader Zach Beacon's biggest nemesis is a nasty curveball—until Principal “Robot” McMott [Is that the name he goes by? If it's just what the kids call him, I'd put his first name in front of "Robot." If he's an actual robot, my interest just went up a thousand percent.] fires August, the team's beloved groundskeeper. To save August's job, Zach puts the baseball championship and his bad-boy reputation on the line in ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT, a 34,000-word middle grade novel that will appeal to fans of Andrew Clements and Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series.

The star shortstop of Mayfield Prep's baseball team, Zach Beacon has been sent to the principal's office so often, he's on a first-name basis with the secretary. [If he's on a first-name basis with the secretary, it's not because he gets sent to the office a lot; it's because they're having sex, presumably after school hours.] His team is good this year—really good—and Principal “Robot” McMott [No need for quotation marks around "Robot" every time he's mentioned. No need to include both his first and last names together more than once in the query.] expects them to win the Mississippi private school championship. But when August is fired, Zach leads the team on a strike—the team won't win till McMott gives in. [Are they forfeiting or losing on purpose? If you hope to one day get an athletic scholarship, it's not a good idea to demonstrate a willingness to throw games.] Zach promises his team they can lose three games and still make the play-offs, [That's relevant if they have only three games left. If they have more than three games left, and they lose the next three, there's no guarantee they won't lose another. The better team doesn't always win.] but as the losses mount [How many losses constitute "mounting"? The dictionary doesn't come out and say that mounting means piling up as high as a mountain, but I think it's implied.] and McMott doesn't budge, [Since a robot principal would be programmed not to give in to student demands, I'm going to assume McMott is a robot, and offer you a six-figure advance.] Zach learns it's hard to keep a team together when the goal isn't a championship, but justice. [You haven't shown that the firing was unjust. If the groundskeeper sexually abused one of the players, I'm not with Zach. I'll back the principal on principle. Were the players given an explanation of the firing? Does August's right to privacy supersede the players' "right" to an explanation? If the explanation is in the book, I see no reason it shouldn't be in the query.]

In this humorous and fast-paced book, [If you get to the end of the summary and have to tell us the book is humorous and fast-paced, you haven't done your job.] [If the book is fast-paced, at least it's got that over baseball.] Zach juggles race relations, anxious teammates, and new friendships—and he does it in a wise-cracking style all his own.

I am an associate member of SCBWI and a member of the Mississippi Writers Guild. My experiences as a living wage activist at Vanderbilt University influenced ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT, my debut novel.



I suspect most groundskeeping work gets done while the players are in classes. I assume there's a good reason you didn't make the fired person a baseball coach, who is way more likely to be beloved by the team than a groundkeeper. 

To convince us Zach has a "wise-cracking style all his own," you might want to crack wise a bit in the query. 

If the players are purposely losing, and have told McMott so, I would expect him to bar them from being on school teams. If they're just not showing up for the games, they'd surely be dismissed from the team. If they're purposely losing and haven't told McMott, he may think they're just slumping, and not connect the losses with the firing, which doesn't help August. In other words, even if McMott isn't a stubborn jerk, I don't see this strike getting the desired result.

It would be cool if the principal dismissed all the players from the team and replaced them with robots. I recommend this even if McMott isn't a robot. Although it would drive home your point about race relations more effectively if he is a robot and replaces the players with his kind.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Synopsis 50

Sixteen year old PRINCESS PEGI is a misfit who prefers books to fashions and saves animals instead of hunting them. Her parents plan to marry her off to a suitable prince. Pegi wants to experience life outside the palace walls. On the day of the wedding she escapes into the woods, drawn to the cottage of evil fairy INGENIOSA.

As a baby Pegi had been cursed by Ingeniosa. [Why?] Pegi is to run away on her sixteenth birthday and spend the rest of her life searching for herself. Ingeniosa offers to remove the curse but Pegi sees it as a chance to break free of the yoke that is her royal destiny and chart her own path in life.  [Didn't she just break free from that yoke in the previous paragraph?]

As Pegi begins her quest, Ingeniosa offers her two gifts. The first is a companion – KUMO the were-dog, a mutt who can turn into a wolf at need. The second is a magical cookie which embodies the curse; if Pegi consumes it, the curse will end and she and Kumo will be back in their normal habitats. [You put a curse on someone, wait sixteen years for the curse to take effect, and immediately hand your victim the antidote?] [What is Kumo's normal habitat?]

Pegi’s new life is strange, confusing and full of misadventures. Kumo dismisses her as a silly royal; his superior attitude maddens her. But their relationship evolves as Pegi subsumes her vanity and learns from her mistakes. Mistrust and contempt change into mutual respect and affection, and they become true companions. [This was advertised as a YA book, but the magic cookie and the fact that Pegi grows close to her dog rather than a boy make it seem like a book for a younger crowd.]

When Pegi thwarts a witch hunt, she hears about the TRUTHERS.  [Not clear what that means. Were witches literally hunting, or was someone hunting witches or is this the more common figurative meaning of a witch hunt? I'm not sure we need to know what Pegi was doing when she heard about the Truthers anyway.] There are many groups of Truthers and each group believes it possesses the Sole Truth. [Do all groups of TRUTHERS refer to other groups of truthers as the LIARS?] All of them want to outlaw magic, hunt magical creatures and ban ideas they disagree with. Pegi is appalled by what she hears, but the world seems big enough and the danger remote. She realizes her mistake when she and Kumo try to help a besieged bookseller and witness the Truthists burning books and artifacts considered unacceptable. 

Forced to flee for their lives, they end up in the middle of a desert [It would have to be a pretty small desert to be chased all the way to the middle of it on foot without being overtaken. I was joking in the query when I said she needed a werecamel, but since the dog's ability to become a wolf doesn't seem to be paying off . . . ] [Or the dog could have the ability to change into any animal.] and Kumo begins to ail with a mysterious malady. The cookie is Pegi’s last hope. Eating it will return her to the gilded cage of royal life, but she will make any sacrifice to save her beloved were-dog. [The cookie sends Kumo back to his normal habitat, but I'm not sure why that would cure his mysterious malady.] When the cookie doesn’t work, Pegi is forced to make do without others’ magic. She manages to escape the desert and save Kumo by enlisting the help of a dying dragon, a pair of hungry vultures and a medicine man. [You can hardly claim the cookie is her last hope when a seemingly endless supply of potential allies happen to be in the middle of the desert.] [A living dragon would be more helpful in getting out of a desert than a dying dragon.]

The near loss of Kumo helps Pegi understand who she is and what she must do with the rest of her life. Her precious freedom is useless in a world where books are burnt and thinking is unfree. [It seems to me it's the realization that her freedom is useless that shows her what to do with her life, not the near-loss of Cujo.] She must either accept a yoke worse than her royal destiny or resist in her own way. Kumo says they can still walk away but Pegi knows that soon enough they will run out of places to run away to. Pegi and Kumo head towards a city controlled by the Truthers determined to do what they can, even if it’s just protecting one book, freeing one mind and saving one life at a time


There are so many people who don't request synopses, it hardly seems worth the trouble to write one.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Face-Lift 1317

Guess the Plot

After the Last Dawn

1. Dawn Dimarconi hates her name. really hates it. And she's going to kill every other Dawn on the planet to prove it.

2. When Jo-Jo finds an ancient book with expositions of black sky spattered with shiny dots, he quests for an answer to the still ball of fire overhead. With a photo of a pink horizon he begins a quest to set the world spinning again.

3. After the last dawn, the demons will be provoked.
After the last noon, the dragons awaken.
After the last dusk, the dead begin to rise.
Now if only Sue can figure out how to put them back to bed.

4. Eerie Filmore always seems to fall in love with girls named Dawn. After his fifth heartbreaking break-up, he decides to become a Tibetan Monk.... Just in time for the End of Days.

5. After he journeys to the end of the world where he finds giant crabs and little else, H.G. Wells's nameless time traveler returns to England, and discovers that Weena is alive, but wounded, somewhere in the future wasteland. Now he must search for her . . . beyond the last dawn.

6. On a cold foggy dawn, Gustav Bouilliard wakes up to newspaper headlines, "The End is Nigh!" When night falls, the Earth stands still. One cannot say whether robots were involved.

7. 2012: Martin has bet all his money on the Mayan Prophecy. The odds against the world ending are 1000:2. But being a pessimist, he’s sure he'll win. When an asteroid as big as Europe hits the world and doomsday arrives, Martin is thrilled. Problem is: where is he supposed to collect his bet … After The Last Dawn ?

8. To avoid her royal destiny (marriage at sixteen), Princess Pegi leaves the palace and travels the world with her were-mutt. Which goes well until they encounter the Truthists, who claim to have the Sole Truth, but that's a lie. If she can't escape these idiots, she's seen her last dawn.

9. Dawn McBally is terrified - a serial killer in her small town has been targeting only women named Dawn. A quick head count reveals she is the last one. Her dilemma: leave town or legally change her name.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

Once upon a time, a princess escaped a fairytale marriage and roamed as free as a bird - until she encountered a world where minds are caged. [Dump this. It says nothing that isn't said again later, it's in past tense while the rest of the query is in present, and the fairytale opening gives the impression your book is for young children.]

Pegi prefers books to jewels, saves animals instead of hunting or eating them and dreams of experiencing life outside the palace walls. [How many animals need saving inside the palace walls?] She doesn’t want to marry at sixteen, become a crowned-head and spend her time entertaining other crowned-heads. To escape her royal destiny, she does a deal with an evil fairy.

That entails embracing a puzzling curse [Is embracing a curse the same as being cursed?]– she must roam the world looking for herself and she cannot find herself without losing herself. [She was born at the wrong time. In the 60's people willingly roamed the world trying to find themselves. Without even being cursed.] [A deal usually involves both parties getting something. I don't see what the evil fairy gets from this deal.] 

Life on the road is not quite the adventurous romp of Pegi’s imaginings, what with her tendency to tumble into messes and scrapes; and the infuriating company of Kumo the were-dog, a mutt who can turn into a wolf at need. [I don't think were-dog is the right term. It would have to have "wolf" as part of its name to distinguish it from dogs that can turn into bears or lions. And it needs "dog" as part of its name to distinguish it from humans who turn into wolves. And it needs "were" to distinguish it from anything that doesn't turn into anything. By anagramming were-dog-wolf, I've come up with the perfect term: gwelderwoof.] Still Pegi revels in her newfound-freedom [Hyphen not needed.]  – until she witnesses the Truthists in action. Truthists believe they possess the Sole Truth. [So, her wanderings have either taken her to the Middle East or the Republican convention.] [How long did it take the Truthists to come up with their name?] They want to outlaw magic and hunt magical creatures. [Including gwelderwoofs?] [Or should that be Gwelderwooves?  Hoof becomes hooves, but roof becomes roofs, so it's not cut and dried. This shows how important it is when making up words to settle early on how you'll handle the plural form.] In lands under their control, ‘unacceptable’ books are burnt and ‘incorrect’ ideas are criminalized. [This sounds like Fahrenheit 451, which, coincidentally, happens to be the optimal temperature for roasting gwelderwoof.] 

A failed attempt to save a bookseller turns Pegi and Kumo into fugitives. [In this world it's against the law to fail to save a bookseller.] [Weren't they already fugitives? From the royal court or whatever?] They get stranded in a desert and Kumo begins to succumb to a mysterious illness. Pegi needs to save her beloved were-dog, escape the desert [If only she had a were-camel.]  and fathom how to remain free in a world where thinking is unfree. [Can the Truthists tell what people are thinking?] Unraveling the curse might help, but time is scarcer than water and vultures are hovering in expectation of a rare feast. [To a vulture, fresh gwelderwoof is a delicacy.]

After the Last Dawn is a 96,000 words fantasy novel for young adults.


So the lesson Pegi learns is Be careful what you wish for? Staying home, marrying at sixteen, becoming a crowned-head and spending her time entertaining other crowned-heads would have been better than being stranded in a desert, though I doubt that's your point. Does she do anything to change the world she's found outside the palace? Simply fathoming how to remain free in this world isn't the most impressive of goals. What does she want after she gets out of the desert?

As Pegi was reveling in her freedom until she encountered the Truthists, maybe she should limit her roaming to places where the Truthists aren't. Is Truthism a worldwide religion or a local cult?

What are the terms of the curse? First she must lose herself, and then she must find herself, but what happens if she figures out what that means and succeeds? The curse is ended? It's not clear what ending the curse means, since she was basically cursed to do what she wanted to do.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Face-Lift 1316

Guess the Plot

Some Kind of Eternal

1. Mira is an immortal. She will live forever, as long as she doesn't get killed, contract an illness, or grow old. She travels to the Eternal City in order to escape an age-old curse; otherwise she will die. 

2. A 450-year-old vampire longs to leave Earth and become a god, but to do so he needs a bottle of special blood that is also being sought by Freemasons, Russian billionaires, and a Mayan king's ghost, at least one of whom wants the blood . . . to destroy humanity!

3. When Ninet promised Ramses her eternal love, she didn't mean being mummified alive after he died of the plague. He, unfortunately, did. Now she must escape across the eternally shifting sands with a camel and a cute waterboy (girl). Also, scarabs.

4. New nurse Javad Shah can't understand why Mr. "Bats" Linstall and Mr. "Superman" Chen are tampering with each other's wheelchair brakes and tossing nutrisweet packs at breakfast. As Javad talks to the other residents, he uncovers an old baseball feud that has the entire town in its grip.

5. It's a story as old as the hills, but instead of summarizing the plot I'm just gonna list the characters and their occupations. If you want to know what happens, let me know.

6. Lost in the Okefenokee Swamp, Trent stumbles upon the legendary Fountain of Youth. Now that he has an eternity to do so, he's sure to find his way back to civilization eventually. But can he do so before the alligators get him?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Oliver, a 450-year-old vampire, longs to leave Earth and become a god with no need for human blood, while Hugh wishes he could remember his hedonistic past. [You toss out the name Hugh as if we already know who he is. You need to add "Oliver's fellow vampire" or "Oliver's immortal servant," or "really old amnesiac."] Who was the beautiful woman who gave him his ruby necklace over two centuries ago? [If only I could remember who she was so I could finally send her a thank-you card.] [Usually when there are two main characters who are allies, they're working toward the same goal. Becoming a god and remembering who gave him his necklace aren't of the same order of magnitude. It would be like Superman and Batman teaming up because one of them wants to save humanity and the other wants to find his missing sock.]

Together Oliver and Hugh journey deep underground to fight the ghost of a Mayan king, Russian billionaires, ancient vampires, and 33rd degree Freemasons looking for the same bottle of powerful blood. [Putting all that together in a list makes it feel like the book is a comedy. I'd drop the ghost, even if the ghost is the one who wants to destroy humanity. And we don't need to know the freemasons' degree.] [I suspect Oliver and Hugh didn't go underground to fight all these people, as you claim, but because the bottle of blood is there. If so, you can say "racing against" instead of "to fight."]  Each wants the blood for a unique and evil purpose, the worst being the destruction of humanity. [You're only calling that the worst because you're a human.]

Oliver and Hugh vow to find the blood to spare humanity, and transform into gods, [So, Hugh wants to be a god too. Perhaps that should be mentioned earlier instead of telling us he wants to know where he got his necklace.] but saving the lives of the women they love could get in the way. [Who are the women they love? Are they human? If Hugh's necklace woman was  human, it's too late to send her that thank-you card. Why are the women's lives in danger? Are the guys planning to take the women with them when they leave Earth?]

SOME KIND OF ETERNAL is a 73,000-word paranormal novel. The glamorous life of a real German prince I knew a few years ago, [As opposed to a fictional German prince you knew.] Oliver von Anhalt, inspired this book. [Was he a vampire?] The poetry of Lord Byron, Edgar Allan Poe, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as works of gothic literature from Ann Radcliffe to Elizabeth Kostova have greatly influenced me.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

--The title was inspired by a Sisters of Mercy song, Some Kind of Stranger, which makes me imagine a lonely vampire trying to make friends. I am not that attached to the title and don't mind changing it if asked to do so by a future editor (hopefully).-- [Ninety-nine percent of those told your title was inspired by a song will assume the song is "Some Kind of Wonderful," by Grand Funk Railroad.]


We can do without the necklace, as it's importance to Hugh isn't made clear. 

There's space enough in a query to provide more than five sentences of plot. And if you're low on space, feel free to cut the list of your favorite poets. 

Vampires Oliver and Hugh long to leave Earth and transform into gods; to do so they must drink the blood of Lilith, hidden deep underground centuries ago. But they aren't the only ones after the legendary phial of blood. Other vampires, Freemasons and Russian billionaires are racing to find the powerful elixir, all for their own evil purposes.

That's your setup, and leaves plenty of room to tell us what the plan is, what goes wrong, what will happen if the guys fail, how their girlfriends figure in...