Friday, February 24, 2017

Face-Lift 1342

Guess the Plot


1. It's those guys who tell you how to get where you're going, only these ones don't, so you don't and there's a lot of finger pointing and a crossroads in plaid.

2. The newly appointed Secretary of Defense reveals the president's plans to have trained alligators fight side-by-side with Navy SEAL teams.

3. Jay spends all his free time on the cliffs of Dover, watching the sailing ships. One day his unknown Portuguese uncle lets Jay join his crew and sail the seas. Also, a tavern wench.

4. Bob's father vanished at sea before he was born. His sister ran away with a sailor. His mother walked out into the ocean one day and didn't come back. Bob reflects on the role of water in his life from a Peace Corps station in the Sahara.

5. Four teenagers embark on a perilous journey to free themselves and lead others to freedom from a dystopian hellhole.

6. A pair of bank tellers are mysteriously deposited in the middle of a Peruvian rain forest with nothing more to guide them than a celestial map and a dead iPhone. Can they find their way back to L.A. before their embezzlement scheme is discovered?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ever since the death of his sister, Fifteen-year-old Jay Stevens spends all his free time high upon the cliffs of Dover, watching the sailing ships below. All he really wants is to go to the ever-moving sea, far away from the grief that ever lingers at home.

When his father introduces him to an unknown Portuguese uncle, Jay does not hesitate and becomes a sailor on Tome Vaz’s ship. 

As of then Jay roams the coasts of the known world. Whenever he returns to Lisboa, he shares his adventures with his cousin, Tristão Vaz. But even Tristão does not know what is going on in Jay’s mind. [What is going on in Jay's mind?] That he only discusses with a tavern wench who waits for him in Venice. [She waits for him? What does that mean? He's fifteen.] He does not owe her anything aside from the money he pays her and that makes it so much easier to talk to her. Soon he wonders if she is not becoming more to him than just a lady of the night. [How often is he in Venice?] But no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her and he has not forgotten how much it hurts to lose someone you love. He never wants to feel that pain again, so he keeps her at a distance and returns to the sea. [He's a member of the crew. Of course he returns to the sea. Was he considering the option of settling down in Venice?] The ocean might not hold all the answers though, and when an expedition goes wrong, he finds himself wondering if he does not need anyone after all.

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


You've convinced me you have a character, but not that you have a novel. You need to tell us something that happens. Something more specific than an expedition goes wrong.

After the death of his beloved sister, fifteen-year-old Jay Stevens joins the crew of his uncle's  ship, hoping to escape his grief. During frequent stopovers in Venice, Jay falls for a tavern wench, but keeps her at a distance, afraid of again feeling the pain of losing one he loves.

That's about all I got out of your plot summary, up until an expedition goes wrong. What exactly happens, and how does it change Jay's outlook? For instance, he almost dies, realizes life is short, and decides that the next time he's in Venice he'll marry his tavern wench and become a gondolier. Or female pirates sink the uncle's ship and take Jay prisoner as their sex slave and teach him techniques that will help him win his wench, but when they dock in Venice he discovers his wench has gone to sea searching for him. 

Gondolier is one of those occupations I never considered until right now, when I'm probably too old for it.

Usually when your father introduces you to your unknown uncle, he's your father's brother. But since they have different last names, I guess Tome Vaz is Jay's mother's brother? Not telling your child that you have a brother is okay if the guy's the black sheep of the family, but in that case I'm not sure I'd want my child going off to sea with him.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Feedback Request

Originally posted as The King And The Mount (Face-Lift 1315)

Alister didn't start his day thinking he'd leave his home forever, with only his hiking pack and a cloud of shame. He certainly didn't think he'd accidentally cause a neighbour's house to crash down Mount Era's slopes, a young girl trapped inside. He doesn't know where he's going, or when he'll stop walking—maybe when the guilt doesn't threaten to bring him to his knees. [Not sure what I expected the third sentence to say after those first two, maybe what Alister did start the day thinking, until x happened, which snowballed into these other events. I'd like him more if he were trying to save the girl than taking a hike. Maybe: 
Alister didn't start his day thinking he'd leave his home forever, with only his hiking pack and a cloud of shame. But after he'd accidentally caused a neighbour's house to crash down Mount Era's slopes, a young girl trapped inside, he figured he was about to be persona non grata in the neighborhood anyway.] 

Then Lark's message arrives. [Before he leaves? I got the impression he'd already started walking.] The travelling merchant was [had been] Alister's only link to the other cities of the Union, until he didn't arrive in Alister's town [mysteriously disappeared] that autumn. Lark's message tells Alister [explains that] his disappearance was no accident. He was taken captive by Baudouin, an unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of Mount Era.  Lark discovered the king's plot to unearth [dig up?] the unstable Stone of Dominus and use its power to gain control of the entire mountain. 
[I may have mentioned this last time, but one side of one mountain isn't much of a kingdom. I guess that's why Baudouin is trying to get the other side.] The rest of the Union is oblivious to Baudouin's plans, fooled by the aid he's given them over the years. [If they need aid, and Baudouin can provide it, maybe they're better off letting him run the whole mountain. What's the downside? Having to put up with his unnerving charisma?]

Alister embarks on a journey across the Union to free Lark, so they can stop Baudouin from risking Mount Era's destruction in his lust for power. [If the mountain is destroyed, what will Baudouin have power over?] Throughout his travels, Alister makes new friends and enemies, learns more about the Union's cities than Lark ever told him, uncovers the merchant's past, and learns to face his own. Although he knows Baudouin must be stopped, Alister wrestles with how far he should go to save the Union.

In the back of his mind is a nagging question—What made Lark send to him for help? [This makes me wonder if Al suspects Lark of trying to lure him into the king's clutches. But that can't be, Alister was described in the previous version as a boy. He's nothing to the king. And Lark is a captive. They don't seem like much of a threat to the king.]

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



Does Lark's message state that he's still Baudouin's captive? Usually when you've been imprisoned because you've discovered the king's secret plans, they don't let you send messages, so Alister could easily assume Lark has escaped.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Synopsis 57

Seventeen-year-old ANDREA SMITH is smart and sophisticated. She has a wonderful and supportive family. She has a boyfriend named TONY. She hangs out with the most popular, coolest, and the wealthier crowd at Riverdale Heights High School. Some of her closest friends decide to play a prank on the school's biggest nerd CODY by getting one of the female friends to pretend to be his girlfriend. But it isn't a secret for too long because the whole school learns about it. [You never said it was a secret to begin with.] [The whole school including Cody?]

Including Cody's sister SHANNON who became a new friend of Andrea's before the prank and Shannon's boyfriend FREDDIE. [That sentence should be in the same paragraph as the previous sentence.] Cody accidentally gets into a fight with the girl after she publicly breaks up with him at a rambunctious party one night. [You said the whole school knew about the prank including Cody's sister Shannon, so I assume Shannon would tell Cody, and the lovebirds would be broken up before this party.] She pushes him and he slips on the concrete, hits his head and dies. Andrea and the others panic big time by covering up the crime and lying to the police. Then the friends decide to take an oath by burying [to bury] the truth.

Andrea feels guilty but Tony and the rest of her friends could care less unless they get caught. Andrea begins to distant [distance] herself from her friends. Tony is showing less affection toward her and this causes her to look elsewhere. At a gathering one night, Andrea meets an older college guy name LEE. She becomes drawn into this new relationship with Lee after she abruptly breaks up with Tony. Tony learns about their relationship after gossip about it spreads around school. Tony starts to taunt the two and decides he wants Andrea back no matter the cost.

Andrea decides not to get back together with Tony. She discovers Lee is a mysterious individual that [who] carries many dark secrets. Andrea and her friends began [begin] receiving threats, a dead animal corpse in a mailbox, blood in a bed, followed by a shooting that sends them over the edge. Soon, they realize that someone else must have witnessed the crime [The "crime" occurred at a rambunctious party. There are probably a dozen witnesses] and was [is] planning revenge. In the news, everybody learns of a killer roaming around.

They believe that maybe this killer is connected some kind of way after an individual claiming to be the killer taunts Andrea online. Two of her friends disappear without a trace and is [are] later found dead. Andrea and her friends soon realize that this killer is stalking [them] and later starts killing them one by one. They can't turn to the police because [they took an oath.] the police don't believe them. [Four people who were involved in Cody's death have been killed, but the police don't believe there's a connection?] So they are left to fend for themselves. Andrea finds out that instead of one killer, there are two killers.

She learns that Shannon and Freddie have teamed up to avenge Cody's death and they murder the rest of her friends. Andrea escapes and calls the cops.

[Andrea: Ten of us were present when Cody died, and so far nine of us have been murdered.

Police: Probably a coincidence, but if you get murdered too, I may rethink that.] 

Shannon and Freddie catch up to her and trapped her. Shannon tells Andrea everything that she and Freddie did. Shannon turns on Freddie and shoots him in the heart, killing him instantly. [Why?] The cops arrive and see Shannon pointing the pistol toward Andrea. They yell at her to drop the pistol, but she is oblivious to them. Not wanting to suffer a life confinement in prison or get the death penalty, Shannon turns the pistol on herself.

A month passes[period], Andrea's new boyfriend Lee drives up to her house to see her after weeks of her avoiding him. He wants Andrea to rekindle their romance they once shared. Andrea reveal[s] to him that she wants him to give her space for now because she wanted [wants] time to ponder her life and commit to celibacy. He sadly acknowledges her choice and leaves. A friend calls her cell phone[period], she turns down a request to go out and have fun. Andrea begins to daydream as she watches the clouds in the sky. [You can do without this paragraph.]


Lots of errors, mostly switching tenses.

The police and the kids all seem pretty stupid. Cody slipped on the concrete. His death was an accident. Now all these kids are covering up the "crime" of pushing Cody, which was committed by only one person, and two other kids are committing numerous premeditated murders. I'm sure someone in the book is the voice of reason at some point, preferably your main character, so make that clear in the synopsis.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1316 would like feedback on the following version:

Dear Evil Editor:

Hugh, a hungry vampire [Why call him hungry? I get hungry every day, or at least I would if I didn't snack constantly, but I don't refer to myself as a hungry human.] who can't remember much of his past, or why he buried himself in a park in Beverly Hills, is found by Oliver before losing consciousness. Oliver, also a vampire, gives Hugh a place to stay and invites him on an adventure. A bottle of sacred blood is [can be?] theirs by way of a map Oliver stole over a century ago. The blood gives machines intelligence, humans immortality, and turns vampires into gods with no need for human blood. The chance to find the bottle happens once every 150 years, when the map's ink reappears for 30 days. [If the map was available 150 years ago, and 300 years ago, and 450 . . . how does anyone know the blood wasn't already found?]

But Hugh and Oliver aren't the only ones looking for the bottle. Scientists with sleeping androids designed to replace humans, freemasons desperate for immortality, and a nasty coven of vampires have maps, too. 
[With this many maps in play, it seems like a lot of people would have made copies so they could keep looking for the bottle after the ink disappeared.]  [Nowadays that map would be all over the Internet.] 

Oliver has wanted to be a god for centuries, but Hugh does not. He cares about rescuing Leila, another vampire who helps him [ease his worried mind.] remember who he is. Just as he's getting to know her again, a more powerful vampire [This world seems to be overrun with vampires.] kidnaps her hoping she'll marry him. [No one's gonna marry a vampire who kidnaps her. He should have stalked her until he could casually run into her at the blood bank.] He will exchange her freedom for the bottle, or a fight, but Hugh knows he'll lose. [Not clear what that sentence means. He will grant her freedom in exchange for the bottle would be clear. No need for the fight.] Time is not on Hugh's side as he comes up with a risky plan to reach the bottle first, and save the woman he loves.  

SOME KIND OF ETERNAL is a 72,000-word paranormal novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I think I'd leave the blood giving machines intelligence out of the query. You can still say the scientists want the bottle to study the blood's properties instead of bringing up their androids. We're already buying into vampires, gods, and magic ink; let's not go overboard. Besides, our phones are already smarter than we are; we can do without blood that makes our blenders smarter too. I know the vampires and freemasons can just drink the blood, but what about the blender? Do you just pour in the blood and push the CRAM button?

Is the conflict between Hugh and Oliver after they find the bottle? Hugh wants to trade it for Leila and Oliver wants to use it to become a god? Does Oliver need the whole bottle or just a few drops? If it takes a whole bottle, that means only one freemason can become immortal and only one vampire can become a god and only one blender can become self-aware. If a couple drops is enough, everyone can have what they want.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

New Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1334 would like feedback on this revision:

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Andrea Smith has just witnessed a murder—and her close friends committed it. Her friends decide [decided] to play a prank on a new student at their high school. One of the popular girls in the group pretended to be his girlfriend. He finds [found] out about the prank and a struggle ensued with the girl 

Andrea tried to break up the fight but was unsuccessful. Before she had a chance to tell the truth to the police, they [her friends] beat her to it and lied instead. [Not clear why this would prevent Andrea from telling the police what happened. The police assume some people will lie and some won't.] Andrea becomes [is] devastated. It's like she is the only one that [who] has a conscience. This causes her to distance herself from them [her friends]. If that's not bad enough, they refuse to show any remorse, especially her long-term [time] boyfriend.  Later, Andrea breaks up with him and he becomes insanely jealous when she meets a new guy that [who] shows her the affection that he [her boyfriend] never gave her. [I'd reveal the boyfriend's name so you can use it when he comes up.]

As she cut [cuts] ties further with all of her friends, she [Andrea] develops a close friendship with the dead classmate’s sister. It becomes at risk when Andrea keeps her in the dark about what happened. Andrea doesn't want [, not wanting] to hurt her even more and she tries to figure out a way to tell her the truth but she can't bring herself to do it.

Now, Andrea’s been noticing that someone is stalking her every move when she starts receiving death threats. She began [begins] to wonder [and wonders] if someone is enacting [exacting] revenge against them for the murder. Is it the sister that [,who] found out some kind of way [somehow,] or someone else. [?] She becomes terrified when the stalker [someone] starts harming them [the friends] one by one. Andrea needs to get her life back on track before the sins of the past come back to haunt her. [She needs to tell the authorities what's going on. She can get her life on track later.]

CRUEL SACRIFICES is a 51,000 word YA contemporary novel, with thriller and mystery elements. This is a standalone novel with series potential. Thank you for your time and consideration.



It seems Andrea would suspect someone is out for revenge after the girls get harmed one by one, not after she, who had nothing to do with the "murder," gets death threats.

Not sure why we're referring to the "murderers." You declare that a struggle ensued with the girl, that led to his accidental death. If he confronts her and they start shoving each other and he falls down,  hitting his head on something sharp and dying, they aren't going to charge all the girls with murder. I doubt they could even get the one girl for involuntary manslaughter. 

You start with backstory, which is okay, but you switch from past to present and back. When you get to the actual story (Andrea becomes devastated....) you need to stay in present tense the rest of the way, but you again use both past and present tenses.

Too many character names can be bad, but you name no character except Andrea. The others are her friends/the group/the murderers, her long-time boyfriend, a new student/the new guy/the dead classmate, the dead classmate's sister. One or two more names of key characters wouldn't hurt.

Pronouns should be used only when it's clear which noun they're replacing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1337 would like feedback on the revision below.

Dear Evil Editor,

When Nolan of Greenbrook stumbles upon a glowing crystal from the sky, he gains magical powers but attracts unwanted attention of the worst sort from the immortal Eldest. To the Eldest, the humans he rules are no better than insects [rats?], to be killed if they annoy him or experimented on if they interest him. And Nolan's magic interests him very much. The Eldest has him captured so he can be studied, a process that always ends in an agonizing death.

As Nolan languishes in prison waiting to be taken to the Eldest, he turns to [hones] his newfound magic for help [magical skills]. What begins [began?] as nothing more than creating blue light quickly develops into the ability to move small objects with his mind. Armed with these powers Nolan picks locks, blinds guards, and leads a daring escape. Once free he takes flight along with his fellow escapees, searching for a place beyond the Eldest's reach.

The Eldest will not give Nolan up easily, and his servants pursue Nolan and his companions at every turn [relentlessly]. [As] Nolan fights off each attack, and even as he flees his magic grows stronger. He gains the ability to deflect arrows, spy on his foes from a distance, and strike them down without touching them. Yet no matter how powerful he becomes Nolan is just one man, and the Eldest's army of genetically-engineered monsters has never been defeated.

Now Nolan has no place left to hide. The Eldest is closing [closes] in on him [Nolan], and he no longer cares about taking him alive. Pursued to the very ends of the earth [and hopelessly outnumbered,] Nolan makes a startling discovery: his magic can be spread to others. If he survives long enough to train his companions, Nolan can finally stop running.

The Eldest has never been defeated... but he has never faced an army of mages. [How many mages constitute an army?]

ETHERFALL is a 122K-word fantasy that will appeal to readers of Brandon Sanderson or E. E. Knight. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I've made a few suggestions for additions/deletions. Whether you you use any or all or none, this is a big improvement.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Face-Lift 1341

Guess the Plot

The Ratline

1. An oddly dressed pop star with sinister motives starts a new dance craze in this modern retelling of The Pied Piper.

2. A cabin boy rises to the rank of captain, all over the course of a month. Includes mermaids, floating stones,  singing sails and living thunderstorms.

3. CIA operative Joe Goralski is charged with tracking down Nazis as they scatter across postwar Europe, uncovering the secret routes that funnel Nazis and their collaborators through the Vatican to safe havens around the world.

4.  Col. Bill Saperstein is charged with tracing the escape routes of dangerous Nazis into South America. Armed with the Spear of Destiny, Crown of Charlemagne and Excalibur, he fights his way across jungles while battling hostile tribes, to the Nazis' secret base in Argentina.

5. This blood red beverage comes in a charmingly-shaped, exquisitely-tinted grey glass bottle. The flavor is heady enough to remind one of the fevers of the bubonic plague. What? You didn't order Rat Wine? Then may I offer you a bottle of '98 Dom Perignon?

6. Rapunzel, exiled and alone, has finally found work on a ship. Her braids are the strongest ropes any man has ever climbed. What did she do wrong? Loving two princes felt so right. Will the captain rescue her before the seamen realize she's the only woman on the ship?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Newly-minted CIA operative Joe Goralski likes his job, and he’s good at [it], too. Tracking down Nazis as they scatter across postwar Europe, he’s continuing the good work he left unfinished during the war. Fearsome Yugoslavian resistance fighter Ava, who lost everything in the war, works alongside him to bring the most brutal masterminds of the Fascist regimes to justice. Together, they uncover the secret ratlines that funnel Nazis and their collaborators through the Vatican to safe havens around the world.

When he follows the ratlines to their source, he discovers the CIA bringing the very men he’s been hunting into the fold. As the official focus shifts from rounding up fascists to battling communists, Ava herself becomes a target. [Because she's a communist?] Goralski is torn between helping Ava seek justice against the Croatian bishop who exterminated her family, and collaborating with his new ex-Nazi associates to fight the spread of Communism in Europe. [Reversing the order of the two options would make it clear the "his" refers to Goralski (if it refers to the bishop, I would change "his" to "the bishop's").]

Goralski mistrusts his government’s agenda, Ava grows suspicious of his CIA connections, and he questions her real motives and endgame. When Ava vanishes one night in Rome, Goralski must choose whether to find her for his government, for himself, or for her own safety. [He can worry about why he found her if he finds her. Why must he choose first?] But maybe she doesn’t want to be found. [Or maybe she was killed by the Russian spy known only as "Eyebrows." Did he even consider that?]

THE RATLINE is a standalone historical thriller with series potential, complete at 95,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The original version sounds pretty good to me. 

While opening with the plot is usually preferable, in this case it might be better to open with the historical context. If the reader thinks you made up the Vatican ratline, she may decide the whole thing is preposterous. Something like:

In 1948, Nazi war criminals were still scrambling to get out of Europe, many via the so-called Vatican "ratline," which helped hundreds (thousands?) escape to South America. My novel The Ratline follows Joe Goralski, an agent of the newly formed CIA, and Yugoslavian resistance fighter Ava   ___________,  as, each with their own agenda, they work together to track down the brutal masterminds of the Fascist regime.

Then continue with each MC's motivation and the resulting conflict.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Face-Lift 1340

Guess the Plot

Red-Eyed Daniel

1. A 2.30 am flight over the Bermuda Triangle returns sans passengers and pilot. No one is sure how it landed safely. The black box recording only has noisy static, and one blip of sound that might or might not be someone screaming Red-eyed Daniel in Taiwanese.

2. Lurking above Silverwood lake is the remains of a burnt mill. In that ruin waits the ghostly fiend known as Red-Eyed Daniel. The kids from Cal State San Bernardino who party there all think it's a legend--until one night in June.

3. Everyone thought Daniel's eyes always showed up red in pictures due to the mysteries of photography. Everyone was wrong. He really is a demon, and he must corrupt three innocent souls to return to hell. The problem? Finding three innocent souls.

4. Daniel, a twenty-year-old 747 jet, longs for retirement. He wishes he could just fly short hops during the day, when his eyesight is at its best. Yet Daniel is stuck on the nightly LA-NY red-eye schedule, and he's not sure how much longer he can take it. But when he meets a shiny new Airbus determined to take over his route, Daniel vows to take up the fight... and the flight.

5. Daniel has a choice. Give the demon who kidnapped his mother what he wants, and become a demon himself, or swallow a live roach. Sure, it seems like an easy decision, but you haven't seen the size of the roach.

6. Daniel has a long trip to make at a terrible time. Can he make it through 11 hours of children crying, terrible food, and absolutely no leg room? He will, thanks to a little dimension hopping and a shadow monster from a bad inflight movie. 

7. He really shouldn't have had that last drink. Now Daniel's eyes are bloodshot, his almost-girlfriend recently confessed she now wants to go by the name of Andrew, and some mafia folk think he is someone else, and want their money back. Maybe another drink will help.

8. Freda Foxx has a problem: her eyes are red during the day as well as at night. Thus, she is an outcast among the foxes. Then she meets Daniel, a Sherwood Forest hare, with the same affliction. Together they join The Red-Eyed League, a charity adjacent to the Bank of London. The two are paid two thousand pounds per week for trivial work. One morning the charity office is left vacant and they are arrested as accessories to bank robbery. Also, Sherlock Holmes.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fifteen-year-old Daniel Venture knows two things for sure: 1. His mother is held hostage in a parallel world. 2. There's no way in hell he will do nothing about it.

When he crosses the bridge between the universes, he finds a world where demons freely roam the streets and kill people, [and] noticeboards hunt for telekinesis experts (twenty years’ experience, high salary assured), and telethoughts are used to message brief thoughts.

He discovers that only soldiers can protect citizens from demons, like the creature who kidnapped his mother. Then Daniel learns something else: If he wants to battle the kidnapper, he must join a military academy and become a demon slayer himself. [Maybe it's just laziness, but I think I'd just inform the soldiers that my mother needs rescuing, rather than spend however many months or years training in a military academy while my mother is being tortured by demons. The soldiers are probably better at rescue operations than Daniel will ever be.]

Daniel is prepared. [Daniel's training goes quickly.] Learn this world’s bizarre physics. Cram for parapsychology. Swallow a living roach to inoculate himself against demons. [If that's all it takes to inoculate yourself, seems like everyone would be inoculated.] [Everyone except me, of course, as I'll surrender my soul to the demons long before I'll swallow a live roach.] [So these people the demons roam the streets killing all refuse to swallow a roach?] But he’s not prepared to discover that his body contains an immense telekinetic energy. Asmodeus, one of the most powerful demons, wants this energy so much that he ordered to kidnap his mother [orchestrated Daniel's mother's kidnapping], knowing Daniel would follow, and fall into his trap. Now Daniel must choose: give Asmodeus the energy he wants and join him and his demons, or sacrifice himself to kill the demon. [I'd give him the energy, even knowing he'd probably kill me and my mother with it, because I'm a spiritual weakling.] 

RED-EYED DANIEL is a YA paranormal mystery, which draws on demons and other elements from the Jewish mythology. It is complete at 92,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


So Asmodeus kidnapped mom instead of Daniel because kidnapping people with lots of telekinetic energy is impossible or dangerous? And now this powerful demon on his home turf can't take Daniel's telekinetic energy, but Daniel can give it to him?

I think I'd like to know why telekinesis experts are in demand, and why Asmodeus wants Daniel's telekinetic energy. We're talking about the ability to move objects without touching them, right? It sounds more like a parlor trick than a useful weapon against humans or demons. I suppose if a demon can't personally harm a human who's swallowed a roach, being able to mentally tip over a dresser onto the human is the next best thing. 

You spend a lot of space setting up Daniel's situation with what he knows and discovers and learns. Here's the setup: Asmodeus, one of the most powerful demons, has lured 15-year-old Daniel Venture into a parallel universe by kidnapping Daniel's mother. The demon wants Daniel's powerful telekinetic energy in order to _________. To save his mother and himself, Daniel must train to become a demon slayer.

That gets Daniel into Asmodeus's world without us wondering how he happens to find a bridge between universes. And leaves plenty of room to tell us how Daniel plans to rescue his mom and what goes wrong, and what's at stake for the people of Earth if he fails.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the opening featured in New Beginning 1061 requests feedback on the following revision:

Blisters. Again.

My entire body was covered in them: pus-filled, bursting, itching boils. They could’ve attacked when I was at home, or later, during my appointment. But no. Striking when I was sitting in the dermatology clinic, waiting for the doctor, was much funnier, right?. Other patients had zits, warts, and strange-looking birthmarks, but I was different. because One moment my skin was smooth, and two minutes later – all covered in blisters. [new paragraph] I knew my condition could freak people out, so I did what I usually do when I break out in public – I ran to a place with nobody around: the clinic’s back parking lot. Adri followed.

“Wow, Daniel!” she said. “Did you come [out] here to call Mom and tell her that you’re covered in blisters? D'you want her to [again, in hopes that she'll] bake you another chocolate cake?”

“Wow, Adri! Did you figure it [that] out all by yourself?”

She scowled. “Let’s go [back] in.”

“I can’t go in. Not looking like this.”

I don’t care, ‘cuz [It's too hot out here,” she said. “] I’m burning up!”

The temperature was already in the nineties, but Adri had nothing to complain about. and My blistered body sweated [was sweating] under my long-sleeved shirt and pants [, while she was] wearing a pink mini and tank top.

"You're gonna miss your turn," [she told me.]

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Face-Lift 1339

Guess the Plot

Alexander and Rosalind

1. Freezing, starving, blinded by snow, two tiny kittens struggle to survive on the streets of Milwaukee.

2. Two kids, three homicides, one very sharp knife. It's The Bad Seed, squared. Also, a gerbil.

3. Director, writer, and producer Declan Leibowicz believes that his tender romance Alexander and Rosalind, set during the Holocaust, will be the culmination of his career and he'll be showered with awards. When the critics shower him with something other than acclaim, however, he decides to get his revenge, one critic at a time.

4. They're fourteen, they're twins, and they're vampires. There's a sage in Canterbury who could make them human again, so they trick an Arabian pirate into taking them there. Finally, a Canterbury Tale written in modern English.

5. Alexander, a goldfish, largely ignored by the humans and often left unfed, wonders what he has to live for. Until the arrival of Rosalind, a tabby kitten entranced by the shiny fish that moves around the bowl in an unpredictable manner. Alexander loves the attention she gives him. Even more, those thighs would have good eating on them. If he can only tempt her into leaping into the tank...

6. A girl named Alexander, raised as a boy to be heir to her kingdom, is engaged to a (male) princess named Rosalind, second child of the neighboring kingdom. Comedy ensues as the duo attempt to keep their genders secret from each other, and their kingdoms from going to war.

7. She was named for a previous child lost. He chose the name he uses now. Follow this tale of two people with unexpected names as they go through life. Plus three dogs, a lightning struck tree, and a whole lot of cats.

8. Alexander slays zombies for a living. Rosalind kills hunters for the dead. Can this hunter and necromancer find a commonality when the world ends up in danger from a third force?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

One night in medieval England, the smell of blood draws fourteen-year-old vampires Alex and his twin sister to a dead body in the woods. While Alex is trying to stop his blood-starved sister from biting the body, a local trapper spots them, and they panic and flee.

Alex faints at the sight of blood and dreams of becoming a bard, and Rosa loves animals and is fiercely protective of her brother. They don’t hunt to satiate their thirst—their human mother cuts her hand, and their father, a physician, brings blood home from the hospital. [So why was Rosa blood-starved?] None of the villagers knows their secret, and the family strives to keep it that way.

But when the trapper tells the village priest what he saw, [Father, you'll never believe who I saw trying to drink the blood of a corpse yesterday.] Father Carroll becomes immediately suspicious. He starts spying on them, and when he uncovers the truth, Alex and Rosa must flee to survive.

Soon they encounter an Arabian pirate, whom they trick into escorting them to Canterbury, where they believe a sage can make them human again. But the priest is tracking them, and they’re running low on blood. [Hmmm. Maybe they can kill two birds with one stone.] And to be restored, they’ll have to risk not only their souls, but breaking the bond that’s defined them all their lives.

ALEXANDER AND ROSALIND, a 62,000-word YA horror novel, is available upon request. This is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration,


A well-written query. Many agents declare that they don't handle poetry, screenplays, and especially anything involving vampires, so your prospects may be limited.

Here are a few items more plot-related than query-related that may or may not bother readers; you might consider addressing one or two of them in the query:

It seems the trapper and the priest are both more concerned with the actions of a couple kids who stumbled upon a dead body in the woods than with the fact that there is a dead body in the woods. I could see them suspecting the kids committed a murder before suspecting that they're vampires. Unless Rosa's mouth was on the body's throat. Does the trapper report the body to the sheriff? 

If the kids are getting their blood from their parents, presumably at home, it would be difficult for Father Carroll to uncover the truth. He can't spy on them 24/7, and he doesn't have binoculars or surveillance equipment.

If you need an escort to Canterbury, it seems there are better choices than an Arabian pirate.  Most people you encounter would know the way, and some of them probably go there regularly so you wouldn't have to trick them.

My limited research into medieval hospitals suggests that they were more likely to employ barbers than physicians, as medical hospitals came into existence after the French Revolution. On the other hand, some hospitals did house lepers or the insane or the incurable poor, so if dad did have a job in one, there was probably no shortage of corpses from which to drain some blood.

How far from Canterbury is the village? There's a limit to how far a priest can travel in pursuit of vampires without neglecting his congregation. In medieval times, thirty miles was a long way.

As the smell of blood drew the kids to the body, I'm wondering why Alex didn't faint. I guess the blood wasn't visible? When you say "Alex faints at the sight of blood," a reader could assume you mean he faints when he sees blood on the dead body. To get around this, maybe it would be better if the first two paragraphs were organized something like:

Fourteen-year-old Alexander faints at the sight of blood and dreams of becoming a bard. His twin sister Rosalind loves animals and is fiercely protective of her brother. In other words, they aren't your typical vampires.  They don’t hunt to satiate their thirst—their human mother cuts her hand, and their father, a physician, brings blood home from the hospital. None of the villagers suspects their secret, and the family strive to keep it that way.

One night, the smell of blood draws Alex and Rosa to a dead body in the woods. While Alex is trying to pull his sister off the body, a local trapper spots them, and they panic and flee.

When the trapper tells . . . 

It wasn't convenient to mention medieval England in this version, but Alex wanting to be a bard is suggestive, and at the end you can say ALEXANDER AND ROSALIND, a 62,000-word YA horror novel set in medieval England, is available upon request.

Apparently the word "vampire" first appeared in the eighteenth century. Do your characters use the word? Eastern European folklore had other terms for similar "creatures."

Monday, December 26, 2016

New Beginning 1061

Come on, not blisters again.

My entire body was covered in them: pus-filled, bursting, itching boils. They could’ve attacked when I was at home, or later, during my appointment. But no. The Blister Chief Commander probably thought, Daniel hasn’t shown up for gym class since the beginning of the school year, so why don’t we strike when he’s right in the middle of the clinic, and watch him gallop outside as fast as he can?

And that’s exactly what I did; I ran to a place with nobody around: the clinic’s back parking lot. Adri followed.

“I know what you’re doing,” she said. “You wanna call Mom and tell her that you’re covered in blisters. ‘Cuz you want her to bake you a chocolate cake.”

“Wow, Adri! Did you figure it out all by yourself?”

She pulled a face. “Let’s go in.”

“I can’t go in. Not looking like this.”

“I don’t care, ‘cuz I’m burning up!”

The temperature hit ninety-three degrees, and my blistered face sweated under my knit cap. I stared at her through the eye holes I'd cut and retorted, “You’re burning up?”

She took her cell phone out of a small fuchsia clutch and began fanning herself. In her mini and tank top, I had no idea what she was complaining about. She didn’t have a wool cap covering her head. I went to peel the cap off when a car drove into the parking lot.

“You’re gonna miss – “

“No, I’m not. We’ll be exactly on time,” I glanced at my watch.

That's when I noticed the saliva-dripping growth on my wrist, the size and shape of my tongue. Apparently the Lipoma Rear Admiral figured, Daniel hasn't gone swimming in months, so why don't we strike while he's standing in a parking lot and see if he jumps in front of that car?

And that’s exactly what I did.

Opening: Ela Mishne.....Continuation: Evil Editor


P1: I'd go with just: Blisters. Again.

P2: Is it a doctor appointment? Psychiatric appointment? Job interview? Be specific.

Not clear what gym class has to do with anything. If he were currently in gym class, I could see the Commander wanting to strike now because he might not be back for months.

If he's in the clinic because of his condition, why would he run outside? It's not unusual for lots of people in a medical clinic to have symptoms. Is this a dermatology clinic? If so, say so, be specific.

In P1 he wishes the blisters appeared during his appointment. If his appointment is in the clinic, and he's already in the clinic, it seems like the blisters did wait until his appointment.

P4: I'd go with "bake you a chocolate cake again" or Bake you another chocolate cake," suggesting that he got a cake last time he had blisters. Otherwise there isn't a connection between cake and blisters.

P6: Is "pulled a face" a common expression? I'm familiar with "made a face." More specific would be rolled her eyes or scowled or frowned...

P7: He has a wool cap over his face. And he has to go in sooner or later, and the place is probably air conditioned and I assume if he's carrying a wool cap when it's 93 degrees, he's also wearing a long-sleeve shirt and pants, so he shouldn't be this reluctant to sit in a waiting room with other people who have warts and acne and skin cancer and rashes.

P9: That's a pretty specific temperature for him to know. More likely he'd say "The temperature was already in the nineties." If he does know the exact temperature, I'd use "was" instead of "hit," as "hit" suggests that it just happened as he was standing there.

P10: I doubt this kid would look at the clutch and describe it as fuchsia. I'm not even sure he'd come up with the word "clutch."

It sounds like she's fanning herself with her phone. Seems like her hand would be just as effective. In which case we don't need the cell phone sentence. And you already told us he's sweating under his wool cap, so we don't need that again. If you put Adri's clothing at the end of the previous paragraph you won't  need this paragraph at all. Unless that car pulling in is important to the plot, in which case you can give it its own paragraph.

P11: Let her finish the sentence.