Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Beginning 866

McCord giggled from the cockpit of the "skyboat." His bony hands were a flurry of shifting levers and twisting dials. The engines groaned almost sarcastically at their pilot's pointless antics; nothing would knock this craft off its course short of divine intervention, and that was amusingly unlikely given the circumstances.

The craft shuddered as it breached the cloud ring that surrounded the Rise. McCord paused to squeal giddily at the turbulence before returning to his controls with even greater enthusiasm.

The awful silhouette of the Rise loomed through the clouds: a jagged, unmoving snake of black crystal, half a mile in diameter, erupted from the ocean’s surface and terminated in a perfect hemisphere. The image was lost on its sole observer, whose vacant expression suggested an incapacity for dread. In fairness, if McCord’s shattered mind had been whole and capable of comprehending what he saw, it probably would have shattered anyway.

“Bumpy bump bump!” said McCord.

The crystal formation now hardened into a rigid cylindrical structure aimed directly at McCord's skyboat. From an opening in the perfect hemisphere erupted a mucilaginous fluid that engulfed the craft, blinding McCord and clogging the air intake valves. The engine sputtered and died.

If McCord's shattered mind had not been mercifully incapable of appreciating that he was plummeting to his doom, it might have thought, Ah, so
that's why they call this "Poseidon's Penis."

"Bumpy bu--"

Opening: Evil Jr......Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 939

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Face-Lift 921

Guess the Plot

The After Burn

1. Jacob can make fire with rhymes. Of course, not rhyming can be difficult, so he frequently burns stuff down. Like his bedroom. Evicted by his parents, his life in ashes, Jacob tries to forge a new life on the red-hot anvil of his incendiary past.

2. Horribly scarred in a welding accident, former beauty queen Arlia Parker must choose between spending her settlement money on reconstructive plastic surgery or building a home for some pitiful orphans.

3. Firefighter Lou Chance is almost killed due to a faulty suit. Now he is angry and disfigured, his melted suit clinging to his skin, a painful reminder of the accident that ruined his life. So he becomes a serial arsonist. But is he getting revenge or just burning bridges?

4. Steve thinks he's a total stud when he scores with the hottest girl in his dorm. But a few days later it feels like there's a 400-degree jalapeno cactus in his shorts - and his girlfriend returns from study abroad next week. Can the campus clinic cure . . . the after burn?

5. Can a top-notch jet jockey eat Jack-in-the-Box at 3:00 am, without suffering acid reflux so bad it knocks him off the flight list? That’s the bet Jim “Night Train” Snakewood staked his life savings on. If he wins, he can buy his mom that cruise she’s literally dying to take. But, if he loses, his squadron commander will eat him a new one—and we ain’t talking cheeseburgers here!

6. Jack can't believe his luck: the Fairy Queen wants him to impregnate her and save the species! It's a night of bliss with an incredible queen. Only one thing--why are they building a huge bonfire with his name on it next door?

Original Version

Dear [Agent Name],

When Jacob learns to burn, fire consumes his family ties, fire sweeps the stages of all his crimes, fire eats flesh off his best friend's hand, the blaze atoning the betrayal. Fire forges a throne under the hot city lights. [If this were an actual submission to Evil Editor, fire would now be consuming the query letter.]

He reigns as smoldering king of Opi Eight, his safe place, his club-scene circus where he drowns the flames in drinks and dramas. It's all a fine time until the soured love of estranged friends and family send [sends] him to burn again. [I'm hoping that eventually we'll reach a paragraph that sounds like a reasonable way to start a business letter.]

The After Burn is told from the perspective of Jacob Ravensway, a young man able to make fire with rhymes and his mind: a talent that appears every other generation on his mother's side. As a child, Jacob's mother resorts to wild abuse and discourages his hot skills. His father is indifferent. Jacob's not sure what his sister thinks; Nina has problems of her own.

At sixteen, when he sets fire to his bedroom, Jacob is sent away from home to reside at Bristol Place, a house he inherits from his dead grandmother. [Does she die after he moves there?] [Is she his grandmother on his mother's side? Because this place won't last a day with two pyro-poets in residence.] He finds a new family in three homeless youth he befriends, and they make a home of the old, drafty place, funding their lives with petty theft, and eventually a criminal enterprise that ends in blood and bullets.

His life in ashes, Jacob begins again as the proprietor of a bar where he juggles bottles, broads, and the bomb of his incindiary [sp.] history. The faces of his criminal youth resurface, [Apparently the blood and bullets were their bullets and someone else's blood.] and in the ensuing immolation, there arises a chance for love refined in fire.

At 70,000 words, The After Burn is an urban-fantasy/suspense novel about a young man forging a new life on the red-hot anvil of his past. The book is written to appeal to young adult and adult audiences 17 and older.

A full version of the manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Very Best Regards,


You've made the book sound like literary fiction instead of urban fantasy/suspense. By which I imply not that this would be a good query if the book were literary fiction, but that a query for an urban fantasy should tell us what happens in the book. (This element may, of course, be dispensed with in literary fiction, where it's a given that nothing happens.)

Start over. Resist peppering the query with words like smoldering, ashes, anvil, bomb, forge, flames, incendiary, immolation. Summarize the plot using language you would use if a stranger in a bar asked you what your book's about. And I don't mean a stranger with cloven hooves drinking flaming absinthe shots.

First the set-up. Jacob starts fires. Always intentionally, i.e. he's in control of his power? Or accidentally when he happens to say things that rhyme? He burns his bedroom, parents throw him out.

What horrible thing happens next because he starts a fire? Who's this love interest? How does he plan to resolve his problem in order to make a life for himself? Does he become a superhero, using his power for good like The Human Torch?

This is more of an outline: Jacob lives with parents until he is sent to his grandmother's, then he hooks up with some homeless kids, then he opens a bar, then he meets his true love and lives happily ever after until the night he asks her to make him a mai tai and she bursts into flames. Focus on the main story line. Presumably this involves Jacob's redemption, which is barely mentioned in the query. We're not going to want to read about Jacob if all we know about is his arson and other crimes. Make us care about him.

Urban fantasy nowadays is all about female MC's with kick-ass attitude. You may want to call this dark fantasy.

Like the query letter, the book should be written in clear prose. If it sounds anything like the first two paragraphs of the query, you have a lot of work ahead of you.

Cartoon 938

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Face-Lift 920

Guess the Plot

Daze and Knights

1. Whoa, like, you mean other people see dragons when they eat, uh, brownies, too? Whoa. Whoa. Whoa man. Whoa. Dudes, let's write a book about that dragon, Florgbottom, and a knight and their cool adventures and see can we make some bread! Then we can buy more... uh... stuff.

2. Dr. Ebonicus Right, famed physician to King Arthur’s Court, has stumbled upon an early medical notion: Repeatedly being struck in the head by a lance can cause permanent confusion and memory loss. Can he restore the Knights of the Round Table to their former mental prowess before Jethob the dragon returns for his annual village-fry?

3. When Sir Poppinfresh, the comic relief knight at the Long Beach Renaissance Festival, is killed jousting, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the breakaway lance wasn't; and he'd better bring a turkey leg home to his wife.

4. When Jessica awakens to find herself on the wrong end of a medieval knight's sword, she thinks it's one of her daydreams. But no, she's stuck in Crazy Medieval Land, where she must try to find a way home while avoiding Lord Pervy's wandering hands.

5. Petty thief Junius Ninian falls through an accidental rift in space-time and lands in a world with knights riding armored horses and wielding laser swords. Can he handle the transition from boozing and thieving to battling dragons and saving damsels or will he simply be dazed all Knight?

6. Athletic prodigy Geoffrey is a favorite to win the jousting event. The morning of the tournament his muscles give out and his vision is blurry and spotted. Has a jealous contender poisoned him? His dreams of glory dashed, Geoffrey is torn between seeking revenge or finding greatness while trapped in a failing body.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my YA novel Daze and Knights.

Sixteen-year-old Jessica Jacobs is a super spy, a famous actress, and a princess.

Okay, not really, but she likes to daydream she’s all of those things and more. So when she wakes up with a medieval knight pointing his sword at her throat, Jessica thinks it’s just another daydream. Until she realizes that, 1- dude is actually causing her neck to bleed, 2- her dress is so hideous she never would have daydreamed herself into it, and 3- Zac Efron is nowhere in sight. [If you're gonna number items on a list, it looks better to
1. Put the numbers on the left side.
2. Follow the numbers with periods rather than hyphens.

However, in this case, I don't think you need the list format:
Until she realizes that the dude is causing her neck to bleed, and that she never would have daydreamed herself into such a hideous dress. I left Zac Efron off the list because she's 16 and he's almost 24 and by the time this gets published she'll still be 16 but he'll be 26. Eww. Go with Justin Bieber if you must have a third item, though I think it's better without.]

After pondering her sanity at length (while being hauled into a town called Hampshire), Jessica is left with only one option: ride out her time in crazy medieval land until she can figure out a way home. Unfortunately, riding it out means working for the Count’s slutty daughter and doing her best to avoid Lord Pervy’s wandering hands. It sucks being the peon instead of the princess.

Enter Lord Alric, AKA: knight-in-freaking-hot-armor. [Another lord? Why isn't he Sir Alric?] It would be easy to let him protect her, but Jessica refuses to be a damsel-in-distress. She convinces him to teach her to swordfight, and amidst her inner pleas for him to take his shirt off, she falls for his selflessness and playful smile. Could time have brought them together? And if so, why are there so many things conspiring to keep them apart? Like Lord Alric’s parents who betroth him to another. Or Lord Pervy who decides that if he can’t have Jessica, then no one will. [I prefer Why are so many people conspiring...]

Then Jessica uncovers a plot to take over Hampshire and kill Lord Alric in the process. Saving the day is so much easier in her daydreams. Is Jessica willing to risk her life to protect her new home and the man she loves before her time runs out? [When does her time run out? When Pervy kills her? When she is thrust back into her own world?] [I don't think you need this paragraph. It ups the stakes, but I was happier when the stakes were getting home/true love.] [If you drop this paragraph, you could tack "Happily ever after was so much easier in her daydreams." onto the previous paragraph if you want to end the plot summary on a lighter note.] [Also, if you drop this paragraph, you can drop "(while being hauled into a town called Hampshire)."]

Daze and Knights is an 87,000-word YA novel about an average girl finding the courage to face the kind of adventures she always imagined. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Excellent tone/voice. Sounds like a winner.

I personally would go with "an average girl facing the kind of adventure she always imagined." I tend to think of "finding the courage" as a selling point for YA when we're talking about, say, fighting peer pressure. When applied to medieval adventure, it seems a bit heavy.

You might consider capitalizing Crazy Medieval Land. I realize there's no such place in the book, but it's a little funnier that way in the query.

Cartoon 937

Caption: anon.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

New Beginning 865

By the time I pulled into the farmyard, it was getting on toward ten in the morning so I expected to see people hustling around.

They weren’t.

To my right, the farmhouse creaked quietly in the heat. Across from the house, the dusty orange grove squatted, mute, whitewashed trunks resting in shade cast by thick branches.

In front of me, the barn doors stood wide open. The arc light desert sun behind the barn cast the interior in deep, black shadow—a shadow that spread sharp-edged across the gravel dooryard out front. That old mottled-green International Harvester pickup sat off to one side, split windshield and the last remaining strips of radiator chrome baking in the summer heat.

I didn’t like that. The boy had parked it in the barn when I’d been out the day before. He’d put it away carefully, like hanging up an expensive tool after use.

A cold reality clutched at the pit of my stomach as I looked around. There was no livestock; the crops were withered and brown; the tractor was old and rusted; and the boy, the only other soul I had met here, was gone. I had nothing. My investment was worthless.

I cursed myself. I never should have signed up for the
Myspace version of Farmville.

Opening: Dixon Hill.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 936

Caption: Mother (Re)produces

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

Success Story

Dave Fragments reports:

"What started out as TANG STORY #3 at became the story "THE TOADS CROAKED AT MIDNIGHT" on THE WIFILES -- I never let anything go to waste on my hard drive."


The book featured in the query below (from 2006) was published last year by Champagne Books, a Canadian publisher. Its inspired setting has been referenced several times in other query Face-Lifts. The author dedicated the book to his wife rather than to us.

Guess the Plot

Friends in Deed

1. In order to inherit the deed to his Grandmother's mansion, Dave must keep at least 10 of her 35 cats alive for twelve months after her death - otherwise the entire fortune goes to his cousin, a gold medal sharpshooter.

2. Tilpin Alexander deeds his 600-acre island getaway to his friends in a last-ditch effort to divest himself of assets before his avaricious wife, Nancy, divorces him and takes everything.

3. Aston's old friends Lars and Elijah blackmail him into joining their organized crime family. Then they give him his first job: breaking one of their own out of the prison planet Lycus IV.

4. Long-time friends Bill, Ralph and Ted pool their money and buy a house together. But it isn't long before their cozy bungalow begins to tear their friendship apart.

5. Meter man Harry Burkhart doesn't know what the fellow in 15B is up to, but he knows that he needs 500,000 watts of power to do it.

6. Where do souls go when they aren't good enough for heaven, nor bad enough for hell? Deed, Montana. Trevor Montgomery just woke up in Deed, and he is about to begin the adventure of his after-life.

Original Version

Have you ever had friends who weren’t really as close as you once believed? Have your so-called friends asked you to do things you wouldn’t normally do? [What is this, an infomercial?]Have they ever forced your hand and given you no way out? [Then you need Popeil's new Cloak of Invisibility.]

Space scavenger Aston West goes through this very situation in my young adult science fiction tale, Friends in Deed. Long ago, he and twin brothers Lars and Elijah Cassus were exiled to the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV. [Is it ever cost-effective to transport prisoners to another planet?] The trio made a daring escape, a task that had never been done before and has never been repeated. [Of course not. Escaping from the prison is easy enough; there are no guards. The hard part is getting off of the planet.] [To understand what's involved, imagine Earth is a prison planet. You're imprisoned in Alcatraz, and you pull off a daring escape. You're feeling great, until you realize that technically, you're still in prison, and to get out you have to make your way to Cape Canaveral and hijack a space shuttle.]

Aston again crosses paths with the twins in what seems a strange coincidence. Everything goes well as they catch up on old times, until they blackmail him into joining the organized crime family they operate. His first mission? Returning to Lycus IV to rescue one of their own, Dinah Minx.

The nature of the organization becomes clear soon after starting the mission, when innocent victims are massacred in cold blood. After the successful rescue, however, he and Dinah fall for each other. Torn between his blossoming love for her and his hatred for the organization, [Love for her, hatred for them . . . love for her, hatred for them . . . And he's "torn?"] he convinces Dinah to attempt escape from the twins. [I'm not sure it's an escape if they aren't captives.] Success means a life together on the run. Failure means certain death. Will the two lovers succeed?

Aston West is an atypical protagonist [Atypical in that most heroes haven't done something so horrific they've been sentenced to a Gohr prison planet.] and embodies “everyman.” He prefers to stay in his comfort zone, though he’s never quite able to do so. [Anyone would have trouble settling into his comfort zone on a Gohr prison planet.] When push comes to shove, Aston does what he thinks is right [Even it it means spending the rest of his life on Lycus IV. Not Lycus I, where they put the murderer-torturer-rapists. Not Lycus II, where they put the deranged cannibalistic serial killers. Not Lycus III, where they put the mass murderers of millions. Lycus IV! Where they put the worst of the worst.] [And this guy's the hero?] and reacts to situations the same as your best friend would, a quality sure to endear him to his fans. [He has fans already? This is his first book.] In addition, the universe I’ve created is ready-made for other media outlets. [For instance, I've already written a country music song called "I escaped from the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV, but I'm going back for Dinah." And I've developed a reality program where a bunch of idiots are stranded on the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV, and the last one alive wins a million dollars. Not to mention the Aston West action figure.]

The manuscript comes in at just over 55,000 words and I would be happy to send you a synopsis or the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to read this, and I look forward to hearing from you.


It occurs to me that referring to the "Gohr" prison planet, Lycus IV implies that there are other prison planets that aren't Gohr. Possibly there's an entire solar system of prison planets, Lycus IV being one of them, and each of them affiliated with a different civilization. And if there's still an empty planet in this solar system that Earth can use as a prison planet, I think we should grab it.

I'd dump most of this. Some of the plot description can stay, but basically all we have that needs to be in the query is this:

Aston West is forced by mobsters to rescue Dinah Minx from the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV. After he gets her out, they fall in love. But can they walk away from the mob and live to tell about it?

Throw in some additional plot points, but nothing about media outlets, fans, when push comes to shove, Everyman, or those questions at the beginning.

[Note: Based on the Amazon description, the character Dinah Minx is Leah Jordan in the published version. And Aston was condemned to life in the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV for spitting in someone's face.]

Selected Comments
Luna said...And for the love of everything, change the female lead's name from 'Dinah Minx' to something that doesn't sound like "Dianetics" when you say it fast.

xiqay said...Yay! I chose the correct plot from among the fakes. EE, loved your humor--"Not Lycus I...Not Lycus II..." Amusing. Although you insist that these comments are added only for humor and that we minions should not look for meaning in them, I think they're helpful, too. Author, the plot doesn't strike me as YA. As I understand it (and EE or others, please correct this if wrong),a YA novel is by definition a "coming-of-age" story. This seems more of a space-gangster combo (like Star Wars is a space-western). And with adult characters, it definitely fails one of the main YA tests. The only thing that looks like YA is the word count. How does it measure up on the sci-fi genre scale? (Is there any reason it's set in the future? Or could it be anywhere? anytime? Just wondering.)
pacatrue said...There absolutely must be, must be I tell you, a scene where there's someone in the kitchen with Dinah. Someone in the kitchen I know-oh-oh. Preferably that someone or Dinah will be strumming on the old banjo, though that is not required.

magz said...Oh I'd LOVE to write the book described in plot one! As usual, a great job on the Face-Lift EE. I'd read this, tho I agree it doesn't sound particularly YA.

BuffySquirrel said...Erm, no, I don't think all YA novels have to be coming-of age, nor are all coming-of-age novels YA. My understanding however is that the protagonist in YA should not be more than about two years older than the age group at which the book is targeted, and in any case not older than 21. Further, the book should be written contemperaneously, not as an older person looking back on their youth--as many c-of-a books are. I think there are more aspects that typify YA, but I no longer have access to the board where I used to read about this stuff.

Anonymous said...xiqay--YA does not (and should not) always equal coming-of-age story. You are right about the age of the characters. How old is the MC?

Anonymous said...I had the inclination to change the name from Dinah Minx to Dinah Mite.


Spooks said...Dinah Minx? I too started thinking of Dinah Mite, or Dinah-Mix (sounds like a fertilizer)ausys...please change the name, please...

mark said...The problem I have with the name Dinah Minx is, in a SF novel, I have trouble not imagining her wearing a bra with a laser gun at the tip of each cup. (And yes, this is a problem, unless we are in Satire Land.) As for YA, it's fine for that audience, especially since SF is its own world. YA SF need not even feature teenage protagonists. The only necessary differences between it and regular SF are the shorter format and simpler vocabulary. (Think "geeky thirteen-year-old boys," and you see that the target audience does NOT usually want coming-of-age stories.)


Anonymous said...For young adult, you do not need a simpler vocabulary. These are kids who are reading Shakespeare in school, for crying out loud. And the one guaranteed kiss-of-death for YA is writing down to the audience.

AnonymousAnonymous said...I liked the cat story ;)
AstonWest said...I enjoyed #1 too...Lots of good info/advice in the Face Lift...

Saturday, June 25, 2011


The query below was one of the better ones to appear on this blog in 2006, and I'm happy to learn that it was published in 2009, under the title Paths of Exile. As you'll see, the author was ready to give up on writing and leap off of the Tower Bridge until we minions convinced her that her book would one day see print. No doubt she mentions this in her acknowledgements.

Guess the Plot

Wanderer's Road

1. Along a lonely stretch of Maine highway, the dead wander in search of Stephen King.

2. When his homeland is invaded and his brother killed, Penda hits the road, chased by Cearl, who has sworn an oath to the gods to kill him. Penda's only hope lies in his knowledge that people are always swearing oaths to the gods, but they usually don't mean it.

3. Millard travels miles down a forgotten country road, only to reach a dead end. Fear grips his heart as he realizes it was a one-way street, and he can never go back.

4. Mario and his brother Luigi take the road trip of a lifetime and learn a little something about the world along the way. Will Mario find true love at the end of the road? Or is the object of his desire actually in another castle?

5. They say no one who goes up Wanderer's Road ever returns. But Charlotte's dog, Tango, went up it, and Charlotte's determined to go after him--if her brother Jimmy will go too.

6. After their mother's death, Kera Lydon gleefully evicts her agoraphobic sister from the only safe place she has ever known.

Dear Evil Editor,

I'd be grateful if you could say whether this subject matter is a complete non-starter. [Uh oh, what is it? Bestiality? Necrophilia? If it's a book of cartoons about Islam, forget it.] Few people are going to have heard of anything or anyone in seventh-century England, [Are you joking? Here, off the top of my head, are a few things I happen to know about 7th-century England:

In 615 A.D. the Bernician fortress capital of Din Guyardi was renamed Bebbanburgh after Queen Bebba, the new wife of Athelfrith.

In 616 A.D. Athelfrith was killed in battle against Raedwald of East Anglia at Bawtry on the River Idle. Oswald, Athelfrith’s son, fled Northumbria and took refuge in the Scottish island monastery of Iona. (Evil Editor knows this because he took a cruise that stopped at Iona, and he visited the monastery. He also saw many Highland cows while on Iona--or as they're pronounced there, Heeland Cooze. I was going to put up a photo I took of the abbey, but my scanner sucks, so here's a better picture. And here's a shot of Heeland Cooze.

673 A.D. – King Ecgfrith divorced his virgin queen, Ethelreda of Ely, to marry his new love Ermenburga. (Evil Editor remembers this because he finds the name "Ermenburga" quite amusing. Also because he remembers thinking that if he were the king and his queen insisted on being a virgin, he'd be looking for a new love too. Also, Ecgfrith is widely known as the only king in history whose name contains the consecutive letters "cgfr.")]

so I think it likely that the decision is an automatic NO at the second sentence (i.e. as soon as it's evident that it isn't a historical about Anne Boleyn, King Arthur, Mary Magdelene or anyone else the editor has ever heard of). [No one ever heard of anyone in 14th-century England either, but Connie Willis's Doomsday Book did nicely, as did Braveheart.] [Yes, yes, you've all heard of William Wallace . . . now.] I would greatly value your opinion on this, as I'm aware that all agents and all editors are awash with unwanted submissions and I would rather not waste their time with something that will be ruled out on the premise. [Evil Editor appreciates your quest to help agents and editors spend as little time as possible doing what they get paid to do, but in fact, reading your query letter would take less than a minute, so try to get past the guilt.] [As for whether the setting of your book is a non-starter, are you familiar with Peter Tremayne's mysteries, starring Sister Fidelma and her "Watson," Brother Eadulf? They take place in the 7th century in Britain, and there are at least 15 of them. Here's a website. And check here for a list of science fiction/fantasy books set in that time period, some of which take place in England. No doubt there are non-F/SF books with the same setting.] Thank you in advance for your time.

Original/Revised Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

Please find enclosed for your consideration the first two chapters and a synopsis of my historical novel WANDERER’S ROAD. The book is set in the early English (‘Anglo-Saxon’) kingdom of Mercia in 615 AD. Mercia, one of the greatest of the early English kingdoms, was formed in a dramatic period of dynastic marriage, warfare, blood-feud and revenge in the first half of the seventh century. WANDERER’S ROAD tells part of that story. The book should appeal to people who enjoy the novels of Bernard Cornwell and Colleen McCullough.

The central character is Penda of Mercia, a real historical figure who became the most powerful warrior-king of his day, but who spent his early adult life as a fugitive on the run from a dynastic rival.

When Mercia is invaded and his beloved eldest brother mysteriously murdered, Penda must flee for his life, leaving his betrothed behind in danger. His enemy Cearl has sworn an oath to the gods to kill him. Penda must evade this relentless pursuit, identify and take vengeance on his brother’s murderer, and rescue his betrothed. Along the way, he loses his heart to another woman and discovers a shattering secret that forces him to re-examine all the ideals he holds dear.

I am currently a senior staff writer on an evidence-based medicine journal. I am a member of the Historical Novel Society and am part of the review team for short fiction published in the Society’s magazine Solander.

WANDERER’S ROAD is complete at 125,000 words, if you would like to see the full manuscript. I enclose a stamped addressed envelope for your reply. Thank you in advance for your time.

Yours sincerely


A good story is a good story, whether it takes place in the wild west or on a spaceship, or in the most boring period in the history of history--which this is not, or you wouldn't have described it above as a "dramatic period of dynastic marriage, warfare, blood-feud and revenge." Your job is to make it sound as interesting as it was.

Selected Comments

whitemouse said...Why the self-doubt? It sounds like a great story, and you wrote a very good query letter also.

McKoala said...Braveheart was so historically wrong it wasn't funny. Didn't stop people going to see it, although it outraged a few Scots.

Alianore said...This sounds like a wonderful novel. I'd love to read it!

AstonWest said...Everyone loves a good self-deprecator.

Jenna Black said...I think your query was great. If I were an editor, even an evil one, I'd request it in a heartbeat.

Aarin said...This is as flowery of a critique as EE could possibly write. I say good luck, you're sure to get noticed.

Poohba said...One of the best things about reading historicals is LEARNING about times and people you've never heard of before. It's always such a relief to get away from the Tudors and the Regency and into a fresh setting. Please don't sell your work short in the opening lines of your query letter! Many a historical novelist has introduced me to some forgotten little corner of history in their book. The best ones make me want to go and find out "the true story" as soon as turn the last page.

Carla said...Dear Evil Editor, thank you for your time. I'm mightily impressed by your erudition. Most people I've asked have responded with a blank look, a shrug, or occasionally, "Oh, is he the guy who burnt the cakes?" The question was prompted in part by this article by US literary agent Irene Goodman, published in the Historical Novel Society magazine and derived from a presentation she gave at the society's US conference. In it she argues that the subject of saleable historical fiction has to be high concept, which she defines as "instantly recognizable and appealing", such as Anne Boleyn and the Eyam plague. This also chimes with the recent experience of CW Gortner, who found that his novel on Queen Juana of Castile "made the rounds in NY to the almost universal rejection of, "She's too unknown a character, too difficult to market." I interpreted this as indicating that a 'high concept'instantly recognisable subject would be necessary to convince an editor to invest time in reading a manuscript to find out whether or not it was a good story. If you have time or inclination, I'd love to hear your views.

Whitemouse, Alianore, Jenna Black, Virginia - thank you for your kind words. Would you mind telling me what aspects of the query appealed to you, please? I'd like to know what made you want to read and what was offputting or irrelevant to you. If you don't want to clutter up Evil Editor's blog, please click over to mine and leave a comment (it doesn't matter if it's off topic), or email me.

Evil Editor said...I don't think the Irene Goodman article is entirely discouraging. And regarding those parts that are, keep in mind that Ms. Goodman needs to represent books that will sell big, so that her agency's cut is substantial enough to pay the bills. If your goal is merely to get your book published, there are plenty of publishers that Ms. Goodman doesn't keep up with, as they don't produce big sales. No harm in going for the big sales first of course, but . . .

You can also cut back your paragraph about Mercia and add info about the real Penda, declare him the greatest king in a six-century period, list his accomplishments. Editors won't want to admit they never heard of him, and will have no choice but to read your book.

Carla said...Dear Evil Editor, many thanks for your reply.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Beginning 864

“Councilor, you seem to be arguing that this man's appeal can be dispensed with because failure to do so will slow down the courts. Let me make my position on this perfectly clear: I don't give a shit. That's right, I said shit and I'm the judge, so you'd better fucking listen.

“If the courts have to be unfair in order to operate, it is better they stop. There are thousands of decisions the courts could make to speed up processes. Instead they let themselves get bogged down with procedure and detail and then ignore it all because it makes it too hard to kill someone.

“Councilor Burgess, if you want to argue that this man should be executed, fine. But don't try that argument. Now, I'm going to use another one of those procedural delays which are so abused, and order a recess for two days. Come up with a new argument in the mean time.”

Victor Burgess put his notes into his briefcase, looking like all he either wished he had more than four months experience under his belt or he wanted to go back and help his father run the pet shop.

Burgess watched the defendant being taken back to prison. Two days. How the hell was he going to be ready on time? A whole new argument. Maybe the words the judge used would give him a clue, except shit and fucking, of course. Burgess approached the court stenographer.

“Hey, Charlie, can you email the court transcripts ...”

“Already did, Victor. It should already be in your folder.” Charlie looked up. “I sent you a copy, too, Ben.”

“Thanks Charlie,” said Ben Reeves. Then, to Burgess, “Shit of a day at work, eh?”

"I'll say. I was a lot happier floating around in Grisham's head than I am on this page."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 935

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Face-Lift 919

Guess the Plot


1. A secret weapon is being prepared in the of Kitchens of Hades, a cross between ammunition and remoulade. Is it Judgment Day for crab cakes in Paris or will haute cuisine survive the ass salt of the demons?

2. Remution. Sangroil. Phletilortic. Call the NEA; we have a mutiny on our hands. Sick of useless, test-oriented schooling, 42 million students crash offices and businesses all over the US with one objective: find an adult--any adult--that actually uses these crap SAT words.

3. They chopped up the world's sheep and assembled the remains into a golem the size of Africa. Now mankind's scientists send their brainchild into battle against the Grafto-Pig from WTF-979.

4. Vee is tired of her loved ones disappearing because of other people's time traveling "remutions." Enter the Liar, a messenger from the future who wants to eliminate time travel. Can Vee trust the Liar? And more importantly, will readers get pissed when everything that happens in the book gets remuted?

5. Snatched out of the 18th century and plopped down into the body of a modern-day high school English teacher, eminent author and biographer Samuel Johnson has only one hope of escaping a nightmarish existence of e-mails, LOLs, and school district/teacher union battles: becoming the superhero known as Man-Of-Letters!

6. The Old West is brand new to Stieg Johannson. When he winds up on a cattle ranch in Texas, he can’t even get a decent mount; the other ranch hands easily catch the best horses during the morning "remution"—leaving the dregs for Steig. Will he find his way to cowboy freedom and guitar solos, or will he bite the dust when Big Ben Parker gets annoyed by the funny way he speaks?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Enclosed please find the query letter for my novel. Some particular problems with it that I'd love advice on (though I imagine the things you spot that I don't know about will be even more useful) are;

1) The query is too long, but I don't know how to shorten it without it becoming incoherent.
2) At 135,000 words, the book shares this problem. I've cut it a lot, but I feel like cutting it any more will remove crucial plot points. Is it total doom to send out a query letter with a word-count this high?
2) The title. (Which, by the way, is the word for "sending your mind back in time to a previous point in your life to change your past (and so your present)." Verb: to remute; adjective: remuted; noun: remution.)

Many thanks for your help!

Dear Agent Name,

In a world where traveling through time is as easy as thought, Vee Colk is one of the few who can’t. As a vigiler—a leader who receives complicated messages from the future, whether technological advances or advice about her people’s love lives—[Those two items don't sound like they belong on the same list.] she’s responsible for keeping track of the many shifting realities created by people’s constant revisions (“remutions”) of the past. [That seems impossible. For instance, if she records that Bob just went into the past to kill Hitler's mother, and Bob succeeds, then there is no Hitler, and thus Bob can't go into the past to kill Hitler's mother, so this record of what Bob did would vanish or have no meaning.] Her life is a chaos of events, places, and loved ones being abruptly wiped out of existence, and she’s barely holding on to sanity. When she learns that a future invention will soon make her family’s work (and so her family) obsolete, she faces the choice between dutifully destroying her home, or… well, she’s not sure what the other option is, but she can’t believe there isn’t one.

Remution, a completed, 135,000 word science-fiction novel, follows Vee as she struggles to find some way to survive with both her family and her self-respect intact. Unfortunately, living in a world where all mistakes can be corrected and most decisions are made by one’s future self means that Vee doesn’t have much skill at independent planning. On impulse, she leaves home to follow Saed, a traveling entertainer who uses his nanotechnological shape-shifting abilities to put on performances for families about themselves. [For my next impression, I'd like to do Dad watching television.] Vee learns that hers isn’t the only family with problems when she meets the Liar, a messenger from the future who seems to be trying to stop the forward progress of technologies. [Is that how the Liar introduces herself? Hi, I'm the Liar? Because I would immediately suspect that wasn't her name.] [You need another character called the Truthteller. Then you can have a scene like that puzzle where you're locked in a room with the Liar and the Truthteller, and you get to ask one question, and you need to figure out which person is the Liar from the answer or you die. When you look up the solution in the back of the book, the question always turns out to be something like If I were to ask the other person whether he's the Liar and he were to say No, would he be telling the truth? I always take their word that it works, because I have better things to do than test it out.] Investigating the Liar leads Vee to Laisa, a mysterious woman who asks such bizarre questions as “are you okay?” and “can I help?”—both nonsensical ideas for people who can simply undo everything that’s gone wrong in their lives, [Everything? You mean if I went back in time to the day Vicky Johnson turned me down when I asked her to go to bed with me, she would say Yes?] but strangely welcome to Vee.

Despite Saed’s ironic detachment, Laisa’s uncertainty and sorrow, and Vee’s jumpiness, snappishness, and constant drinking—not to mention the fact that Vee’s family annoyed at her desertion, repeatedly remutes everything that’s happened in the book so far-- [If I get to chapter 14 and suddenly all the characters have vanished and I'm now reading a romance novel set during the Crimean War, I'm going to be annoyed.] she, Laisa, and Saed fall in love, and slowly begin to help each other deal with their past losses. Laisa’s losses pose particular problems, as Vee discovers that both Laisa and the Liar come from a very different reality [Did she learn this from Laisa or from the Liar?] —one in which no-one can time-travel at all—and that the Liar’s goal is to return the universe to that state. [Or so she claims.] [Is it sexist that I find it hard to think of a character called the Liar as a she?] [If the Liar prefers to live where time travel doesn't exist, why did she leave her own reality, where . . . time travel doesn't exist?] [If everything that's happened in the book so far has been remuted, how is it that the Liar and Laisa are still around?] It will unmake everyone living now, but it will protect those who remain from the constant risk of being casually erased. [If it unmakes everyone, no one remains.] More importantly to the Liar, it will force people to live with their mistakes and so learn the compassion and wisdom she sees as sorely lacking from Vee’s world. [I get the impression everyone believes everything the Liar says. Don't they even suspect she might be lying?] With help from Laisa and Saed, Vee comes up with a plan which will restore all the people who have been erased, [They must go back in time and kill the grandparents of everyone who ever remuted.] and persuades the Liar’s most important ally—her sentient translation AI—to switch sides and to help them put it into practice. Though this will change many things—and won’t stop Vee’s family from being made obsolete—she realizes that with the strength she has gained from her journey, she just might be able to face whatever changes come. [Unless she would have died in a plane crash six years ago if not for some random remution.]

I can be reached either with the enclosed SASE, at, or at ____________. Thank you very much for your consideration of my work, and I look forward to hearing from you.



1. The query is too long. The good news is, I think by shortening it it'll become less incoherent.

2. The book is pretty long, although you can get away with more length when a book isn't set on Earth because you need time to describe your world. Your book has about 550 pages. If you cut 20 words from each page, you're down 11,000 without cutting any of your scenes. And admit it, you don't really need Chapter 7.

3. A Stitch in Time. Time Will Tell. The Time Travelers' Strife. Actually, it's not the title that bothers me, it's the name Vee Colk.

There are too many characters in the query. You need Vee and you need someone who helps her accomplish her goal. I vote for the Liar, because she has the same goal, and seems to have some idea how to go about it. Also, she has the coolest name. Although, if I were named the Liar, and I moved into a new reality where no one knew me, I might consider changing my name to Frank Virtue.

Here's your setup:

In a world where time travel is as easy as thought, all mistakes can be corrected and most decisions are made by one’s future self. But is this progress? Vee Colk wants to live where people learn from their mistakes and so gain the compassion and wisdom sorely lacking from her world.

Enter the Liar, a messenger from the future who wants to stop the forward progress of technologies.

At this point you can tell us what the Liar knows. Presumably she has seen the inevitable result of constant remutions (dwindling population, all students getting 100% on all tests, etc.), and knows what's at stake. What's their plan? Must they deal with remution addicts trying to stop them by going back in time and killing their ancestors?

I find I'm more interested in the horrifying ramifications of time travel than I am in whether Vee's job becomes obsolete or she falls in love with Laisa and Saed. Can this one woman save us from ourselves? I'd focus on that, especially as you're trying to sell to a science fiction publisher.

If loved ones are constantly disappearing because of time travel, I find it hard to believe there aren't at least as many people trying to ban it as there are doing it.

Cartoon 934

Caption: Whirlochre

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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

New Beginning 863

Quinton breathed a sigh of relief as the door closed, cutting off the shrieking and giggling of his nieces. He loved visiting his sister and her family, and did so whenever his trading ventures gave him opportunity, but the noise! The tension in his shoulders unwound as he headed to the kitchen to wash the dishes. He’d promised to straighten up the house and, after that, he needed to finish preparing for his trip tomorrow.

As he set the last mug on the sideboard to drain, knocking interrupted the pleasant stillness. The two men on the stoop were the last thing he expected to see.

“May we come in?”

“Ah. Certainly. The sitting room is through the door on the left,” he stepped aside, gesturing. After they passed, he shut the door and stood a moment, staring unseeing at the grain of the wood. Had they come for him? Impossible.

He followed them into the sitting room, where his youngest niece stood, still laughing and shrieking. The two men began to fit a white jacket around her writhing form, started fastening the straps.

Thank God, breathed Quinton. It was not I for whom they came.

His sister roared into the room then. “No! No, not her. She’s acting that way because she’s six. He’s the one!” Quinton tensed when he saw her finger point at him. “He’s the nut with OCD. He’s washed the dishes four times since dinner. And I swear to God! If he straightens up the house one more time—I’ll kill him!”

Quinton didn’t care for the men’s approach, though he did appreciate the pleasant silence of their steps on the soft carpet.

Opening: Ryoryo.....Continuation: Dixon

Cartoon 933

Caption: Redstar

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Face-Lift 918

Guess the Plot


1. Suppose you've hit puberty and your body has developed the ability to switch genders. You can't control it; it happens whenever you see somebody hot. Now suppose 'Bouncing' Debbie Hawkins and Joe 'The Horse' Smyth are both in your gym class...

2. Twins Anna and Tina like to switch places to liven things up. Partners are off limits, of course, or so Anna thinks, until Tina decides she'd rather have Anna's life . . . and her husband. So Tina imprisons Anna. Fooling Anna's hubby is no problem, but can Tina also fool Anna's secret lover?

3. Master Dick Dangerfield is the king of the New York S&M scene, but he’s feeling a dull been-there, done-her ennui, and wondering whether maybe he’d have more fun on the other side of the whip. Is inexperienced (but scrappy!) new sub Justine the right person to show him the ropes?

4. London, 1665 and Fellscratch is undisputed king of the Harrow rats. Fellscratch longs for a quieter, less violent life, however, and when he meets Longwhisker, a somewhat dim rat that could be his double, he decides to switch lives. Also a plague.

5. It's that little white thing on the wall in twelve year-old Stevie's bedroom. Yesterday it opened a passage to the water world and pirates, lots of them. Can Stevie discover the Island of Lost Boys or is he doomed to sail the seas of the Pirate Planet for the rest of his life?

6. Beneath the frozen lands of Siberia lies a secret bunker, its location known only to ex-Soviet scientist Yuri Kosovich. Now retired, his life is simple, until he’s kidnapped by terrorists seeking the bunker’s stash of nuclear weapons. Yuri risks everything by leading them astray, for he knows the destruction that could be unleashed by a single flip of the . . . Switch.

Original Version

Twins Anna and Tina sometimes play their childhood game of swapping identities, just to see how many people they could [can] fool. Boring meetings, too-long parties – switching livened things up. There was just one condition: each other’s partners were off limits. Or so Anna thought. But she occasionally awakened with a massive headache, never realising that Tina put her nursing skills to use and sedated her to seduce her husband. [There's no reason this paragraph should switch from present tense to past tense. Unless . . . is that why it's called Switch?] [You don't need nursing skills to sedate someone. Unless she's sedating her with a hypodermic needle, which would be difficult to pull off in secret.]

The years go on, and Tina’s [Tina] becomes obsessed with her own infertility, and her resentment at Anna’s three beautiful children grows daily. So she switches with Anna – for good. She imprisons Anna in a semi-drugged state and lives Anna’s life instead. For a while she has fun playing the role of perfect wife and Mom, but her bullying style of discipline starts to take its toll on the family.

The twins’ mother Maria is desperate with worry for missing “Tina”, and is shocked when “Anna’s” tears for her twin start to sound hollow. [I've never known tears to make any kind of sound. Unless they're falling into a bucket of water, in which case they would sound like a leaky faucet. Sort of a "ploop." Or if it's an empty metal bucket, it would sound like "plaink."] Only Anna’s lover, Marcus, whom she had kept secret from Tina, guesses the truth [when "Anna" suddenly can't remember his name].

Marcus and Maria need to put their mutual loathing aside [Anna told her mother about Marcus, but not her sister?] [Why does Marcus loathe Maria? I'm surprised he's even met her.] and team-up to trap Tina to rescue Anna, before time runs out. [When does time run out?]

SWITCH is a 90,000-word thriller, with an adult twist on “Parent Trap”. [I wonder if it's better to declare your book is an adult twist on a movie or an adult twist on the book the movie was based on.] [Actually, as the twins in The Parent Trap conspired together, I don't see how this bears any relation except that there are twins. Of the hundreds of movies involving twins, this plot seems to most resemble a 1993 A&E movie called Thicker than Water, and two Bette Davis films called A Stolen Life and Dead Ringers. Switch doesn't sound any more like The Parent Trap than Twins, starring Danny DeVito and Arnold Schwarzenegger.] I am an unpublished writer, and very happy to send a partial or a full. Thanks for your consideration.


If I've taken over my twin's life, I'm gonna keep him more than semi-drugged. I'm keeping him mega-drugged. In fact, I'm killing him, because otherwise he'll kill me once this charade is over.

It sounds like the only likable character spends most of the book chained to a bed in a drug-induced stupor.

It's not easy looking exactly like your twin after having three children. You have to admire how Anna's kept her figure.

I suspect Anna's husband noticed that Tina had switched with Anna. But Tina put out more often, so he saw no reason to complain.

Once Maria believes that Anna is actually Tina, why doesn't she tell Anna's husband, instead of letting Tina continue the deception? Seems like Anna's husband would make a better ally than Marcus.

Cartoon 932

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Cartoon 931

Caption: anon.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011


The author of the book queried below (in 2006) published (with a co-author, in 2010) a book titled Performance Fuel Injection Systems HP1557: How to Design, Build, Modify, and Tune EFI and ECU Systems. No idea how much of the original book became the published book. The published book received five stars from Grassroots Motorsports magazine. No Guess the Plot, as the book is nonfiction. Perhaps this will inspire other nonfiction authors to send us their queries. By my count we've had 15 nonfiction books and over 900 fiction.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

We learn from our mistakes. [Not Evil Editor, who, for thirty years has continued to purchase shirts that fit fine in the store, but become comically small after one washing.] When it comes to trying to make cars go faster, I have made such mistakes as buying a car that caught on fire two days after purchasing it, [The mistake wasn't buying the car; the mistake was parking it on-street in Baghdad.] spending hundreds of dollars on inappropriate parts, [You're complaining about spending hundreds? Evil Editor spends thousands on car repairs. Half the mileage on my odometer comes while being towed to automotive repair shops. I once took my car in for its annual inspection, and told them to fix anything that didn't pass. I come back six hours later, and there's a bill for $47,000. True story.] and many other costly mistakes. [While it's admirable that you've learned from your mistakes, I'm not sure it's a great idea to broadcast your proclivity for making them, when presenting yourself as an authority.] Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to when I was in high school and give myself a book of what I have learned to spare myself common beginner mistakes. [I think you're on to something here. Instead of this book, you write a time travel novel. When the younger you is about to blow $200 on a needless part, the older you shows up in a time machine and sets him straight. To appeal to science fiction fans,Old You can accidentally spray battery acid on Young You's face, and Old You's face suddenly becomes horribly disfigured, leaving Old You to wonder whether it was really worth going back in time to save Young You 200 bucks.] [Then Old You decides to go back in time to just before the battery acid mishap, to prevent it, but when the other two Yous see him, with his horribly disfigured face, they think he's a zombie and beat him to death with tire irons.] While that is not possible, [Maybe not, but which book would you rather read?] perhaps such a book could save other budding hot rodders from needless pain and expenses.

The book I have written, tentatively titled Mods 101: A Beginner's Guide to Selecting Automotive Performance Parts, provides valuable information about what performance parts do, how to find the best parts for your car, and basic automotive workshop techniques. [Evil Editor doesn't know what "Mods" means; he thus wonders whether your target audience of beginners know.] This book covers engine modifications, suspension tuning, exterior customization, and more. The book is not model specific and applies to a wide variety of cars, from the '57 Chevy to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. [If everybody looking for parts for a '57 Chevy buys your book, you'll be rich, rich, rich!]

I am a member of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Sports Car Club of America. I currently am working on a fuel injected, turbocharged 1966 Dodge Dart. I also competed in the Grassroots Motorsports $2004 Challenge, a contest to buy, repair, and race a car on a shoestring budget. Please let me know if you are interested in seeing more information about this book. I have enclosed a SASE for your response.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Not since the days of American Graffiti has hot rodding been so popular. But beginning car enthusiasts can easily fall into the trap of buying unnecessary and inappropriate parts in an attempt to make their cars go faster and faster. My book, Soup up Your Junk Heap Without Getting the Shaft, provides valuable information about what performance parts do, how to find the best parts for your car, and basic automotive workshop techniques such as engine modification, suspension tuning, and exterior customization. The book is not model specific and applies to a wide variety of cars, from the '57 Chevy to the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

I am a member of both the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Sports Car Club of America. I also competed in the Grassroots Motorsports $2004 Challenge, a contest to buy, repair, and race a car on a shoestring budget.

We all make mistakes, but when it comes to high-performance auto parts, those mistakes can be expensive. This book could pay for itself many times over. Please let me know if you are interested in seeing the manuscript. I have enclosed a SASE for your response.



Evil Editor has no idea whether this type of book would sell better in bookstores, parts stores, or at hot rod conventions. There's surely a limited number of potential publishers, and a limited number of editors qualified to judge whether you know what you're talking about, but you could start with those companies that publish similarly themed books.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


This book is self-published and available from Amazon or At Lulu, you can read the first 111 pages. No need to gamble on quality when they provide that much of the book to help you make a buying decision. As the book was published two months after the query appeared, we can assume the author didn't even bother sending out a query utilizing our suggestions.

Guess the Plot

Fractured Veil

1. We all plant walls around ourselves. These walls slowly unravel and lives are smashed to shreds when Sally suddenly finds that she can't stop mixing her metaphors.

2. When a runaway tractor-trailer plows into a wedding party, killing the bride, bridesmaid Julie finally has a chance at the groom, Peter, whom she's secretly been lusting after since high school.

3. Hidden for years behind her concrete veil, Aisha’s world is rocked when she slips and falls – and Abdulrahman is there to pick up the pieces.

4. A longtime nun begins to question her life's choices when she falls in love with a man on a visit to Rome, a man who proves to be the Pope in street clothes.

5. Dave is revolutionizing his family's business: the manufacture of religious garments. Hip Mormons loved his spandex temple garments, and his edible yarmulkes are selling like hotcakes. But things go horribly wrong when he attempts to make a ceramic burqa.

6. A disaster survivor relives cloudy memories, only to realize they aren't his memories, but those of a woman so obsessed with architecture she's fallen in love with her house.

Original Version

Mr. Evil Editor [or insert whomever],

May I submit the following manuscript with the intention of publication?

FRACTURED VEIL is a novel of speculative fiction in which the identity of a brain damaged narrator is explored through fragments of memory, possibly not his own. Told in a floating first person narrative, the memories are of four separate people, constantly replaying and overriding his consciousness. The struggle has greater implications as, after awakening at the site of an apparent disaster, the narrator finds himself the only survivor.

Please see for sample chapters: ______________
or the E-book: _______________ [In other words, if you want to see if my book is something you want to publish, buy a copy and read it.]
(editors are credited back obviously) [Huh?]

More traditionally, the 169k word (courier meth.) [Yes, but how many words is it in Times New Roman?] manuscript is available for your consideration, in digital or print form.

It can easily fall into the literary or speculative fiction realm. You may just find it works on several levels: spiritual, psychological, symbolic, literal, mythic, surreal or even perhaps strongly science fictional. [Wouldn't it use less space if you just listed the levels on which it doesn't work?]


More Detailed Information Below [Just in case you haven't already decided to make an offer.]

The four identities each unfold through their own story lines within the novel, though they are experienced or interpreted through the narrator.

These main currents of the novel follow:

Jon Chivy Coyote, a disgraced former detective, teacher, and pseudo-celebrity of native/aboriginal descent, enlisted to use his tracking skills to find a bizarre serial killer hunting in a metropolitan park. [When you get enlisted to track down a bizarre serial killer, it's a good idea to take along backup.] The killer may be, in some way, the herald to the impending disaster.

Naiya McCloud, a gold-digging female scientist obsessed with architecture to such a degree she is gradually falling in love with her house. [Whatever else anyone says about this query, they have to admit that that is brilliant.] Her hypersensitivity and sexual episodes are indicative of the change in reality which is gradually taking hold.

Aurora Vitellius, one of three identical triplets born of royal ancestry, whom after the death of their parents, become the controlling force behind one of the biggest fortunes. Though still practically prepubescent, these legally emancipated girl-prodigies can now apply their sinister intentions without limit.

Guy Connel, a perpetually unlucky construction worker who survives a seeming industrial accident to a wholly new, bizarre, and transcendent life.

[These characters are hilarious. I say drop the brain-damaged guy, drop the plot (whatever it is) and build a comedy around these characters.] [I'll get you started. The sinister triplets hire the aboriginal pseudo-celebrity detective to investigate whether their uncle is trying to squeeze them out of the fortune. Meanwhile, the woman in love with her house finds that her lover has termites. She has the place treated, then hires the unlucky construction worker to replace damaged wood. The cops come to arrest the construction worker, thinking he's the serial killer, but before they get to him, he gets eaten by the coyote. And that's just the prologue.] [Take it and go with it. I guarantee it's a better book than this memory thing.] [If you don't get anywhere with this book, can I have your characters?]

Common themes throughout the novel are:

· The fluidity of perception, memory, self, and reality.
· Consciousness, physics, extinction, selection, and survival as forces both beyond, and sometimes within, human control.
· The main archetypes present in human nature, as expressed by the central characters, which are colored in mythic, spiritual, surreal, and often symbolic terms. [This is the same list of words you used to describe the levels the book works on. Except you forgot psychological and literal.] [You've taken three bullets to say as little as Evil Editor does below, with only one bullet:

The theme of the novel is:

· The fluidity of the main archetypes present in human nature (consciousness, perception, physics, extinction, selection, and survival), expressed in mythic, spiritual, surreal, and often symbolic terms by the central characters, and colored in memory, self, and reality: forces both beyond, and sometimes within, human control.]


As often seems to happen when an author forgets to include anything about the plot, Evil Editor finds himself at a loss to provide a revised version.

Friday, June 17, 2011


I include this among the classics because it gets brought up frequently, mainly for the comments. Wonder how the author's doing.

Fugue State

1. When the tiny nation of Balmagowry develops weapons of mass destruction, its despotic leader embarks on a worldwide campaign to forcibly replace hiphop with Baroque contrapuntal music.

2. Bob doesn't understand why he's so down...until he discovers the soul-sucking parasite attached to his head. This will ruin Bob's sex life--unless he can find the parasite a new victim!

3. After waking from a coma with amnesia, a scientist has visions of a beautiful woman. Are his visions a result of cranial damage? Images from his past? Or are they, as he suspects, a message from a celestial existence?

4. When the entire population of Montana suffer an abrupt change of identity, can Lieutenant Governor Grace Hackel save nine hundred thousand people who suddenly believe they're all opera singers? Or will she abandon them to pursue her own dream of performing at the Met?

5. Friedrich's wife ran off with a violinist--in Friedrich's car. After cleaning out Friedrich's bank accounts. His daughter ran off with a drummer, and took Friedrich's dog. Friedrich is pretty much fugued.

6. Maureen is distressed. Carter, the hunky composer she's been dating, disappeared for three days, and now he claims he can't remember anything about his past. Is he telling the truth, or is this a lame ploy to get Maureen to dump him?

Original Version

Dear EE

I have an 112,000 word work of literary fiction that I feel your expertise may be able to help traverse the road to publication.

“Fugue State” is the story of Sinjun Tate, a young, brilliant, behavioral science professor at Colorado University who awakens from a coma suffering what only seems to be amnesia. Motivated by a Dissociative Fugue, a condition that forces the victim of traumatic and repressed events to flee the environment around him, Sinjun wanders the streets of Denver, alone and destitute with faded hopes of piecing together the fragmented memories of his past.

Falling prey to violent, unconscious seizures that have scavenged his mind his awakening, he repeatedly sees the strange, lucid visions of a beautiful woman in a utopian land and of a little girl in a train station, both of who’s obscure advice is delicately woven into the answers he so desires. [Well, it didn't take long for this to go from, Hey, this might be interesting, to Next query.] Can he unravel the mystery of their vague existence? Are these visions simply the result of cranial damage done by the unknown cause of his coma? [If he knows he was in a coma, I assume he woke up in a hospital. If you wake up from a coma, and the cause of the coma is unknown, and you have amnesia, are they likely to release you?] Or are these idyllic dreamscapes something more? Perhaps a subconscious attempt to free his own tortured soul from an unbearable past? Or could they be a message from a more…celestial existence? [I keep seeing visions of a little girl in a train station. No doubt someone on a planet orbiting Rigel Kentaurus is trying to send me a message.] [Oh, right, I was supposed to pick up my daughter at the station . . . How long was I in the coma?]

As he begins to unearth all the cosmic possibilities of his minds illustrations, he encounters a society of malevolent drifters who live beneath the social lining of Denver’s lower downtown district. [It's a winter coat metaphor. The lower downtown district is a coat, Coors Field is the lining, and the drifters live in the catacombs beneath the stadium.] Fueled by carnal instincts, the clan of mysterious vagabonds deviously coerce him through a labyrinth of conflict, threatening to derail him from his desperate search. [I hate it when a writer first discovers the thesaurus.]

When a chance reunion with an attractive former student occurs, he realizes, despite his deteriorating psyche, that he must keep her existence in focus as she may be the only one who can help him escape the wrath of destitution and uncover the cause of his mind’s affliction. This however, will prove to be the worst scenario of all as Sinjun’s once ambiguous reveries eventually suggest a truth more horrible than his own potential end. [I'm sure you know what you're trying to say, but you're trying to say it too impressively, and it's falling flat.]

“Fugue State” is a multidimensional literary journey through similar themes of “What Dreams May Come” with the maddening psychological uncertainty of “Memento”. [Good movie. Though the idea of showing scenes in reverse order was done two years earlier in Seinfeld's wedding in India episode. No doubt they stole it from someone else.] [Describing your book by referencing a movie is unlikely to help.] Various chapter flashbacks chronologically carry the reader through Sinjun’s life to the ultimate point of conflict just as Sinjun arrives there himself.

My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible. This is my first complete manuscript and I declare that so far, I am simply a lifetime writer of hobby. I do hope that my talents will present a respectable resume in place of a portfolio.

I am confident that this work will strike an interest you. If so, I look forward to further correspondence. However, I am extremely appreciative of the time you’ve taken in reading this regardless, and wish you continued success in all your evil endeavors.


Revised Version

Dear EE

Fugue State is the story of Sinjun Tate, a young, brilliant behavioral science professor at Colorado University who awakens from a coma suffering what seems to be amnesia. Driven by a Dissociative Fugue, a condition that forces the victim of traumatic and repressed events to flee the environment around him, Sinjun wanders the streets of Denver, alone and destitute.

With fading hopes of piecing together his fragmented memories, Sinjun repeatedly sees lucid visions of a little girl in a train station and of a beautiful woman. Are these visions simply lingering effects of his coma? Or are they perhaps a subconscious attempt to free his tortured soul from an unbearable past?

A chance encounter with a former student gives Sinjun an opportunity to find the source of his mind’s affliction--if he can pull himself together. But even as he learns more about his past--and his visions--he realizes that discovering the truth may him lead down the most horrifying path of all.

Fugue State is a 112,000-word work of literary fiction. May I submit the manuscript for your consideration? I am extremely appreciative of the time you’ve taken in reading this.



The revised version is nothing to write home about, but all you've provided is a character wandering around in a fugue state and a few details that may not even be important.

I believe you'd be far better off discussing your book in language you normally use in conversation. Editors are more interested in your ability to organize and convey information than in your vocabulary. If the book sounds like the letter, you need to go through it again and take out all the big words. They aren't helping your cause in the letter or the book. Sorry.

Selected Comments

Blogger December Quinn said...

"My wife and I moved to Colorado from our Connecticut home in September of 2005, in an attempt to bring as much truth to the setting as possible."

Must be nice. I would have been forced to just set the book in Connecticut, as I cannot afford to move whenever I'm writing a book that may not sell.

Your wife is a real keeper, man. Go buy her some flowers.


Blogger Chris said...

Chris says to that:
Trust me its certainly not like that. We left a 78,000 income for a 32,000 income here so that I could write this book. We've defaulted on all our loans and my car has been reposessed. We've eaten pasta for 4 days straight. So no. It's not "nice" but damn it, the book will be published.

And I appreciate all the comments, good and bad. But for crying out loud, most of you want specifice details and then you want me to waste valuable time explaining how he got out of the hospital. Let's be reasonable.

Blogger Malia said...

Chris -- living your dream is all well and good, but don't ruin your life over it. Go back to CT or get a better job. It's a long road to publishing and when you sign that golden contract, it's even a longer road before you realize any financial stability. Oh yeah, and if you can't take the heat -- don't step into the frying pan.

Blogger Catja (green_knight) said...

get a grip, get a job, and stop becoming a martyr for your art. It's not very becoming.

How long have you got before your money, your determination, or your wife runs out? Two years? (a recently mentioned average for 'beginning to write seriously' until first success sets in - which might well be 'interesting an agent'.

And then you sell, and get a $7500 advance. (That's already slightly above the average for a first time author, at least in the fields I'm familiar with). 1/3 on signing, 1/3 on acceptance, 1/3 on publication.

Are you planning to live off that?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Chris,

Your post here is a zillion times more readable than your query. Please listen to EE's point about "discussing your book in language you normally use in conversation."

Anonymous Nut said...

Chris: Take December Quinn's advise about those flowers. Especially after what you just said, about the reduced income and... oh, horror! Pasta diet!

Word of advice: my grandmother makes home made pasta. It's easy, just mix some flour and water, make the dough, cut it with a knife, in tiny strips... Just in case, you decide to move again, and this time have even less money.

Finally: try not to lighten up.

PS: I nominate Chris' wife for sainthood.

Okay, end of episode.

Blogger Chris said...

If I needed advice on a personal level I would write Dr. Phil. All I wanted was to get some critique on the query -which I did, some - and for that I thank you. No martyr here. Just keeping the blogospheres personal assumptions in line.

I should have my own blog up and running tonight. I have decided, in my apparent non-wisdom of the subject to chronical each and every step of the road to publication. A writer takes his blogopanions on a journey through the wicked and wonderous paths to publication. I'm sure all or most of you have or are currently traveling the same path but I think it will be fun for everyone to follow day by day, the eventual success or eventual failure of one of their own. I invite you all to join me for whatever pleasure you see fit. I will leave detailed updates, from agent comments to my own thought process with the writing. I will periodically submit excerpts, pages and maybe even chapters, thus throwing myself to you, the proverbial wolves. Maybe all I need is a stronger query letter. Maybe I need to burn the entire manuscript. Either way, let's find out what happens together. There is no underlying motive here. I'm going through with it as I've planned all along. I just thought this might be fun...Go ahead, hammer away...


Blogger Chris said...

The Blog is at ""


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy doesn't get it. It wasn't just using long words that didn't work. It was spelling them wrong and using them incorrectly that didn't work.

You can't fake a world-class vocabulary. Even a high school kid will see right through you. The good news is that you don't need a world-class vocabulary.

I still think the story Chris wrote is good. It probably needs to be revised the same way his letter did though. But the combination of his arrogance about his own work and his ignorance of how long it can take even to get his attention -- it's going to be fatal.

Anonymous Dr Nut said...

I dunno... Maybe Dr Phil is a good idea, Chris, to work off some of that anger. Oh, well, good luck anyway. Hope you can manage to cool down, long enough to REVISE. Its not the end of the world... Wait a minute, it is, cause you just addressed THE ULTIMATE EVIL(editor). Bahahaha!!!
End of pity.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just out of interest, was it his idea or his wife's to move house and swap the big fat paycheck for a pasta-based diet?


This query was posted in July of 2006. Two months later, this case of a man who went missing in September of 2006 and ended up in Denver, in a fugue state, was publicized. Coincidence?