Friday, March 30, 2012


Guess the Plot

On After the Sunset

1. An insider's look at the Hollywood machine and what it does to those on the periphery of the industry, as told by NF14221, a streetlight outside the Chinese Theater.

2. When Maggie Farnsdahl goes to live in a sixties style commune, she finds that Earnie Parnecker is carrying on well after sunset. Can she handle this new life of pot, acid, mushrooms and booty calls?

3. Convinced she has a great title for her masterwork, Cheryl is heartbroken to learn that a crappy Pierce Brosnan movie shares the same name. Undaunted, she tacks on a preposition. Will two simple letters spell the difference between the slushpile and stardom?

4. When Noah discovers the Fountain of Youth he wonders if it could bring back the hearing he lost, ending his career as a rock star. To find out he'll have to get past the Fountain's guardians. Unless . . . maybe they aren't on duty after sunset.

5. Gigi, a devoted soap opera fan, gets more than she bargained for when one lonely Friday night she decides to flip on her TV and see what's . . . On After the Sunset.

6. Forced into a nursing home by his greedy daughter Marcia, Emile Lord isn't about to go gently. If he has to run his financial empire by cell phone from a wheelchair, so be it, and if he has to lose everything to ensure that Marcia doesn't get a dime, so be that, too.

Original Version

Dear Malevolent Manuscript Mauler:

My name is ___________. I found your listing on the AgentQuery website. My novel, On After the Sunset, is an urban fantasy at about 115,000 words.

Rock star Noah McCabe lost his hearing, and along with it, his reason to exist. [What if Beethoven had cashed in his chips after losing his hearing? There'd have been no Die Hard, no A Clockwork Orange, and none of those movies with the Saint Bernard.] Now, the aging ex-musician holes up in his London flat, the Internet his only connection to the world. Then he [discovers newspapers and magazines and that his TV has closed captioning, and then he] finds a suicide note posted on his friend's, [friend] Lazarus Brown's, blog.

After several unanswered emails, Noah's concern turns to worry. [He was concerned, but not worried, after his friend left a suicide note?] How do you locate someone you know only over the Internet? [I'm hoping it's impossible, because there are a few guys in Nigeria trying to track me down.] What he knows about Laz is incidental: he lives in America, he became a recluse when his wife died, he collects old music. [Not bad, he's narrowed it down to six people already.]

Through EBay, Noah finds Echo Capris, an artist who sold a vinyl album to Laz. A former fan of Noah's, Echo agrees to help. The shipping address she has for Lazarus is in Kentucky.

When they arrive at the house, its decrepitation [I think you want decrepitude; decrepitation is something else.] indicates that they are too late. [Of course it's too late. The second the EBay woman came up with the address, he should have had her call the cops in Kentucky. Instead he books a flight from London? Or did he come by ocean liner?] [I'm guessing the last thing you do before committing suicide is write a suicide note. It's not like a will, where you write it in advance so you'll have it on the off chance you ever need it.] That evening's news confirms it; Laz was killed attempting to rob a bank. The obvious conclusion: suicide by cop. [That's obvious? I would have concluded that he was planning to kill himself because he was broke, and then realized that a better solution was acquiring a lot of money.]

But Noah refuses to accept this, despite the video footage. Not just despite it, but because of it. It's Laz's eyes. They're too empty: empty of thought, empty of pain, empty of volition. [Don't beat around the bush; if he's a zombie, say so.] Moreover, the bullet wounds have too little blood. [Not clear what that suggests. Was his blood drained by a vampire before he robbed the bank? Was he trying to commit suicide by slitting his wrists in the bathtub but it was taking too long so he changed plans?] Against her better judgment, Echo stays with Noah and listens to his ravings on kidnapping and brainwashing. They rewatch the robbery footage, and she finds herself falling down the rabbit hole with Noah. [How much footage do they have?]

Their investigation leads them to a green-eyed man who is murdered before they can question him. [Fortunately he died with his eyes open, which explains how it's known they were green.] A second murder takes them to Florida, and a third forces them into the Everglades to avoid the police. [A fourth has them jetting to Bermuda, and then it's off to Nigeria with the fifth murder.] [I've tied my record for most mentions of Nigeria in a query critique. The other time the book was set in Nigeria, so this is far more impressive.] There Echo falls under the thrall of a youth-obsessed harridan, [Have you been using your thesaurus?] LeGar. Tethered by his burgeoning love, [Yep, thesaurus addict.] Noah follows Echo and LeGar on their search for the Fountain of Youth. [You travel from Kentucky to the Everglades with a woman you met a few days ago, and then she and a woman you met a few minutes ago invite you to join them in searching for the Fountain of Youth . . . and you agree to go with them?]

LeGar defeats the guardians of the Fountain, and as they cower at her feet, [Wait a minute, they've found the Fountain of Youth? And it has guardians? Who are so inept they let an old lady defeat them, and then cower at her feet? Did you leave out the part where LeGar is actually Wonder Woman?] [Five and a half paragraphs of what sounds like it could be a mystery or thriller or mainstream fiction, and out of the blue LeGar the harridan is battling the guardians of the Fountain?] Noah is astonished to discover that a seemingly unharmed Lazarus Brown is their leader. [Lazarus has returned to life? Didn't see that coming.] [I'm not sure I'd want to admit that I'm the leader of a team of guardians who are cowering at the feet of an old crone.]

He has no time for wonder, however, for LeGar orders Echo to drink. [Since when does Echo take orders from LeGar?] The pain of reverse aging rips screams from her throat, and even more terrible, the Fountain is mixed with the River Lethe so that each year of recaptured youth is bought with the memories of that lost year. [That's even more terrible? Personally, I'll always take lost memories over pain that rips screams from my throat.] [Also, if I remember my mythology, the River Lethe was in Nigeria, not Florida.]

When Echo opens her eyes, she no longer remembers coming to the Everglades, no longer remembers searching for Laz, [They were searching for Laz? I thought they thought Laz was dead.] and no longer remembers Noah. [Mainly because she's now two years old.]

I have pasted the first two pages of On After the Sunset below my signature. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,


I don't care how burgeoning my love for someone I recently met is; when she seriously suggests searching for the Fountain of Youth, red flags go up.

It needs to be more clear what's going on with Laz. What is he? If he's your first supernatural element, get it into the query before we forget it's supposed to be urban fantasy (I'm not convinced it is in any case.) You might even want to mention the Fountain up front, so it doesn't come out of nowhere: When Noah McCabe flies to Kentucky to prevent a friend's suicide, he has no idea he's embarking on an adventure that will lead him to the Fountain of Youth. Yes, I said the Fountain of Youth.

It's way too long for a query letter. Limit yourself to ten sentences, unless this is a synopsis. I can't tell whether the novel ends at the Fountain, or whether most of it takes place after they find it, but focus on what's most important and cut what you can do without.

Having a main character who can't hear would seem problematic. Do all the characters write everything down to communicate with him? It's hard enough to convince someone to go look for the Fountain of Youth if he can hear; trying to convince him by playing charades is nearly impossible.

Selected Comments

writtenwyrdd said...Sorry, this sounds really weak based on your letter. I don't find an emotional reason for your protagonist to chase after Lazarus, whom it appears he barely knows; and I agree with EE about not wanting to deepen a relationship with someone who says there's a Fountain of Youth.

Perhaps look at phrasing the letter so everything is emotionally and logically connected. You drop in story facts like bombs and it is jolting, not enticing.

blogless_troll said...This sounds interesting, but there's too much lead up and not much ending. I get the idea that Noah is upset the woman he just met doesn't remember him, but I'm not sure this is believable. If he's old and deaf and miserable, why not just drink some water himself? Then he and Echo could fall in love all over again AND be young. Also got the impression that once you drink you become Lazarus' slave or something, but it wasn't clear.

I was also going to point out there are no underground springs in the Everglades, so a fountain there would have to be man made. But then I realized you didn't actually say the fountain was in the Everglades. It's good you want to protect its location, but everyone knows its in Tampa.

AR said...Mh-hmm. Lots of interesting things going on here, might want to read it. I'd need a demonstration of how the things relate to one another and cohere into a story. From this vantage point they could be merely a string of unlikely events.

Sarah said...It's a good description of the plot, I think. It is long and has no focus. Or too many of them. Makes me wonder if your book jumps around plot-wise. If you can sum up the plot in one or two sentences then build around that, it should help. Your writing style sounds intriguing if this is a sample.

Anonymous said...Is it necessary to travel so much? Why must they go to Florida? Are you describing all this in the novel? I've lived in both London and Kentucky, and have vacationed in Florida... they're all (obviously) very different. I hope you've done your research, and I seriously hope you aren't using generalizations and sterotypes throughout the novel. That'll piss a lot of people off, and honestly, I am hesitant to ever read or watch anything regarding KY that wasn't written by a Kentuckian.

Seems everyone thinks only of Appalachia (that's where the crappy house is, isn't it?), and then assumes everyone is a drunk hillbilly feuding with the neighbors... grrrrrrrrr.

Anonymous said...I agree with writtenwrdd; the query is jolting. As EE suggested, mention the Fountain of Youth early on. Also, just a logic issue... you mention that Lazarus looks odd in the robbery footage; well, the footage is probably a bit unclear (as the cameras are usually stationed to look down from above, etc.) so I'm not sure his eyes or facial expression can be seen clearly, and even if it can, neither Echo or the deaf rock-star (sorry, can't recall his name) have ever even met him, right? How the hell do they know his face isn't always "blank." Some people just look that way :)

And I wouldn't travel hop so much in the query; it's confusing. I'd leave out the mention of both KY and FL, and simply say the journey takes him from London to the Fountain of Youth...

Anonymous said...I hate the title. I'm sorry, but On After the Sunset is horrible. It looks like a typo... so I'd never even pick your book up in a book store. I'd definitely suggest changing that...

MAL said...It does kind of feel like two different stories. While both are interesting, that still feels odd. And is there any reason the plot needs Kentucky? Couldn't Laz just live in FL and make things simpler?

benwah said...I agree with the general critique that the query bounces around too much. It needs direction and focus. Far too many jolting moments which has the effect of opening up lots of plot holes.

I'll address one: suicide by cop, at least when you state that it's "the obvious conclusion." (Having some experience with the phenomenon, it's not something that's just jumped to easily. Often it's a diagnosis of exclusion.) On the basis of grainy bank security camera footage Noah decides there's not enough blood coming out of the bullet holes...yet presumably the ME performed an autopsy, etc, etc. Now this is a plot point, and perhaps you've treated this in a completely appropriate way, but within the query, this raises questions that make me doubt your story.

The fountain of youth seems a little bit like a deus ex machina here since it seems to come out of nowhere and, as far as I can tell, serves to make Noah question his feelings for the woman Echo. (Please tell me this is the only name with some--ahem--resonance in a story with a hearing impaired protag.)

EE's point about having a deaf protag on a chase like this is a good one. I'd be curious to see how you play out the dialogue, the crashing through the swamps, etc. Is this a limited 3rd person? In which case you'd have to eliminate sounds. Could be interesting if well done.

As for the title: Meh. I guess you're shooting for the urban fantasy thing, but it's fairly bland. And far too close to said crappy movie.

Dave F. said...This story would work if Noah McCabe of England is searching for the Fountain of Youth or if Lazarus Brown hints to Noah that he is going to find it.

EE is correct about flying to Kentucky from England. It's a McGuffin that stretches common sense. It might work if Noah is completely obsessed with Lazarus, if this is his only reason to live, if Lazarus saved Noah in some way through their conversations on the internet. That's a very heavy Male-Male relationship (in a non-judgmental way).

There is another McGuffin that is a killer. How does Lazarus' body get to Florida? Here's a guy who robbed a bank, got killed, is very dead and then the police ship his body to the Everglades where he get reanimated by the fountain of youth. Not only that, he grows younger and forgets his scheme of dying, his internet friends and leaves his home and fortune behind?

The forgetfulness part of reverse aging argues that Lazarus doesn't know what he did in the past year or two or three.

The ideal age for youth is 21/22 or just when the human body gains adulthood. If I was reverted to that age and forgot the intervening years, I was only through three years of college and I would NOT know lots of science, not to mention the intervening experiences with friends and the wisdom that comes with age.

stick and move said...All lot of plot holes have been mentioned, and maybe they're taken care of appropriately in the book, but the big logic problem I have with this is, through Noah's detective work he tracks down a lady who helps him search for Laz and they wind up in the Everglades with another stranger, searching for the Fountain of Youth, and lo and behold, there's ol' Laz? You gotta be kidding. Coincidences happen in real life and fiction, but that's stretching it a bit, I think.

I do like the idea of a washed up rock star as a protag trying to solve a mystery. The story has some bones but the query leaves me puzzled and doubting. And the title, I'd work on that. Sorry to be so negative. I do believe you've got something to work with, and maybe the problems are just in the query. Good luck with it.

freddie said...I'm not getting the plots and how they are supposed to be connected. I assume they're supposed to be connected?

I'm curious how the writer handles a deaf character in the book. Stephen King, as most of you probably know, did a very good job with his character Nick Andros in The Stand. And that was a looong book. So a writer can pull it off if s/he treats the character with some humanity and gives the character a strong inner life. But it doesn't feel like that's the case here.

Writer, I do know something about the frustrations of losing hearing through music, having been through it myself, so if you have any questions . . . feel free to contact me on my near non-existent blog. I only lost enough to annoy the people around me, though - not all of it. So it may not be what you're looking for.

December/Stacia said...I think the idea of a Fountain of Youth and some strange cult guarding it is fascinating (though like the others I'm not sure it's really urban fantasy). Focus on that.

Face-Lift 1011

Guess the Plot


1. A detailed description, along with precise illustrations, of lovers who are bored with doing it in the other two positions.

2. Hired to impersonate a Nobel Prize laureate during public appearances, Mimi finds said laureate dead and the evidence pointing at her. She runs away to Greece with the hit man who actually did the killing. Although she doesn't know it's him.

3. Dr. Robert Norvich has created the first working time machine, a device that enters a slightly parallel dimension and exits it moments later, back in this world. When his assistants accidentally send a coffee cup back in time, it ends up knocking out John Wilkes Booth. Now our whole world is in chaos as things vanish and reappear. That's the end of that grant money.

4. A temporal rift experiment accidentally goes wrong and causes five scientists to warp out of existence. When they re-appear with politicians in tow, the Tea Party homeworld is revealed.

5. Physicist Lars Kadonneet invents equipment that allows him to traverse time and space. As Lars returns from the past, where he introduced Einstein to LSD, his machine malfunctions; it’s now 1966 and he is three inches tall and locked in a padded cell with a psychopath.

6. A time traveler materializes and informs teenager Sophie that witches' spells are backfiring ever since her grandmother died. Naturally this threatens to destroy the fabric of time, and only Sophie can prevent what may be the end of the universe.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Army brat Sophie Moore is still reeling from her family’s sudden move to Georgia, the loss of her grandmother, [There's always something you can't find after a move.] and her father’ [father's] deployment to Afghanistan. [If you're sending a soldier to Afghanistan, I see no reason his family would need to move to Georgia. Then again, I see no reason for a lot of things the military does.] [Wait, is it the country Georgia? Now that would make sense, a much shorter trip for dad to visit family.] When a strange boy appears in the woods near her house, she fears stress-induced hallucinations. Each time she sees him, the boy vanishes before she can get a straight answer about who he is and why he’s here. Is she seeing ghosts? Demons? Or is she going bonkers? [Not entirely clear whether he's vanishing as in running into the woods, or literally disappearing before her eyes.]

This story is about a usually self-assured teenage girl thrust into a new environment. Sophie is an expert at fitting in – she has always moved every year or two, [It feels like you've started the query over.] but adjusting to life in Beaumont is harder than it should be. As she struggles to cope with her father’s absence, she grows determined [she determines.] to discover how Ren, a boy her age who repeatedly materializes in the forest, comes and goes. At the same time, Ren takes an unusual interest in her family, [I was under the impression Ren was vanishing before Sophie could even talk to him. Are they having conversations and interacting?] especially Sophie’s grandmother who has recently passed away. Slowly Sophie becomes convinced that her grandmother’s childhood friend Agnes, who ran away from Beaumont when they were teens, is somehow linked to Ren. As she sorts through old letters and memories for clues, she realizes that Ren’s tattoo bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother’s treasured silver necklace.

As she delves deeper into the mystery and Ren reveals more, Sophie discovers that Ren is not a monster or the product of an over-active imagination; he is a bumbling time-traveler. The death of Sophie’s grandmother has released a precious artifact that, without a knowledgeable witch to control it, is interfering with all manner of spells in the area. With no training, Sophie is forced to seek the unlikeliest of help to master the artifact before it brings unwanted attention from some very unpleasant individuals.

I am a recovering Army brat and an unpublished author currently living outside Atlanta, Georgia. [That sentence wasn't needed.] I am seeking representation for my YA paranormal suspense novel, Sideslip, complete at 75,000 words. Partial or full manuscript is available upon request, and feedback is most appreciated.

Thank you for your time and attention,


When Sophie wonders if she's seeing ghosts or demons or going bonkers, I naturally assume the answer is No, and there will be a logical explanation for her "hallucinations." So it feels off when it turns out time travel and witches casting spells are part of the real world. It may take Sophie three fourths of the book to discover that supernatural stuff is real, but I shouldn't have to wait through three fourths of the query to discover this. It forces me to readjust my view of what kind of book it is.

The first two paragraphs are all setup. And the second paragraph repeats most of what's in the first. Combine what's important in them into one paragraph. I think we can do without the father. Something like this is plenty of setup:

Exploring the woods near her family's new home in Georgia, teenager Sophie Moore keeps seeing a boy her age materializing and vanishing. When she notices that the boy's tattoo bears a striking resemblance to her late grandmother’s treasured silver necklace, Sophie suspects that the boy is somehow linked to her grandmother.

Now you can move forward with (I'm guessing): When the boy finally sticks around long enough for Sophie to talk to him, she learns his name is Ren and he's a time traveler. Turns out the death of Sophie's grandmother has etc. etc. Try to come up with something less vague than "released an artifact," "all manner of spells," "the unlikeliest of help," "very unpleasant individuals." What exactly is happening as a result of the artifact interfering with spells? Who helps? Who are the villains and what do they want?

Do Ren and Sophie work together to prevent some disaster? Spell out what's at stake and what they plan to do about it.

Was Ren sent to the past to deal with this problem? Why would they send a bumbling teenager on such an important mission?

Film Noir Friday

Another film from back in the days when being a dick was just a way to make a living.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1010

Guess the Plot

The Hot Season

1. When a slight shift in the Earth's axis leaves the UK closer to the sun, the race is on for a new SPF formula. Can British scientist Tony Edwards save his countrymen or is this the end of paleness as we know it?

2. Every season is the hot season in Thailand. Especially when your visiting cousin is found dead and the police don't care and you get involved with a ring of human traffickers in Cambodia. Hey, every season is the hot season in Cambodia.

3. Marine Biologist Sam Whittaker has had enough of single living. He joins and flies Bruna over, but her Latin temper threatens the ice cap when she learns Antarctica is not America.

4. For Alaska native Will Parker, the worst thing about returning to Earth from the International Space Station is that it's August and he now lives in Houston, which is one step up from the Sahara Desert. So you can imagine how he feels when a booster rocket malfunctions, throwing the shuttle way off course and forcing Parker to crash-land on Mercury.

5. After growing up in Antarctica with her scientist parents, Alberta-Marie is ready for warmer weather. A move to tropical Ecuador means she will finally buy a swim suit. But in the hottest summer in 20 years surrounded by even hotter men, which heat will she succumb to first?

6. CeeBee knew the job at Disneyland was going to be tough. Screaming kids, crying parents, meltdowns, high humidity, and pure misery at the Happiest Place on Earth. She just didn't expect to find them all at the toll booth for the parking lot. Now it's August, and if she hears one more whining kid, that .38 is coming out.

Original Version

Dear ….,

I'm writing to ask if you would accept a submission for The Hot Season, a mystery novel of 83,000 words. It's the story of an American journalist in Thailand who confronts ancient superstitions and modern day crime, as she searches for the truth behind her cousin’s death.

I’m currently based in Bangkok, and before devoting myself to writing I spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. I’m also a published author in Australia. My first book, XXX (XX, 20XX), [For those who've forgotten their Roman numerals, allow me to translate: 30 (20, 2020).] is a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. It was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards.

[I Googled XXX Awards and it took me six hours to pry myself away and back to this blog. Fascinating stuff.]

In The Hot Season, Sam Beckman, [Hang on a minute, switching my mouse to my left hand as my right is inexplicably inflamed.] [Okay, ready.] a foreign correspondent for a US radio network, is visited by a teenage cousin who’s backpacking through Thailand. She’s delighted [Readers may assume "she" is the cousin, as the cousin is the most recently mentioned character.] at the chance to mend some of her frayed family ties, but within days her cousin is found dead on the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

Worried about damage to the lucrative tourism industry, Thai police write the death off as a drug overdose. [Tourism isn't aided by the knowledge that the corpses of drug ODs are occasionally found on the river bank. Unless you're trying to attract drug addict tourists, wouldn't it be better to write it off as a boating accident?] When Sam suspects foul play, she’s warned to stop meddling. But keeping quiet and playing dumb are not in her nature. [Playing dumb is generally considered a smart strategy.] She’s quickly drawn into a web of human trafficking stretching from Bangkok’s urban jungle to the killing fields of Cambodia and beyond. [The more successful human traffickers wouldn't kill one of their humans the same day they abduct her.]

Sam’s search is helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything. [Thai food will give anyone hallucinations. Travel tip: Don't order Neua Pad Prik in Phuket.]

A good dose of humor and a sassy heroine counterbalance the serious issues in The Hot Season. I hope this novel will be the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

If you would like to read more of my work or have any other questions, please email me at XXXXXXX. You can also call me in Thailand on XXXXXX [(Monday)]. [On XXXXXXX I'll be in Somalia. Then XXXXXXXXX I'm off to North Korea for a well-deserved vacation.] I look forward very much to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


This might be better described as a thriller. I usually expect a mystery to have several suspects. As the cousin didn't know anyone, Sam is basically trying to get to the bottom of what happened, not whodunnit.

The plot summary is three paragraphs. The other stuff is four paragraphs. Cut those four down to two. One way to do this is to open with:

The Hot Season is a stand-alone mystery novel of 83,000 words, and the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked, including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

Then: Sam Beckman, a foreign correspondent for a US radio network . . . Run through the plot, and finish with:

I've spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. My first book, ______________, a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein, was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards. If you would like to consider The Hot Season, please email me at XXXXXXX.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Beginning 935

John Chandler was in the stables, measuring the oats for the night. The background noise of the horses impatiently banging their hooves against the doors was a welcome distraction to the annoying buzz of the flies.

John wiped the sweat off his face with the back of his hand. Hottest May in years, and no end in sight.

“Move it, buddy.” He poked the grey stable cat to get it out of the wheelbarrow. It barely flicked its ears, too lazy to make a move in the heat. Grinning, John shoved it aside and set the oat buckets in its place.

He heard the squashing noise of wet shoes long before their occupant, his son, reached the doorway and stopped dead in his tracks.

“Hello Luke.” John sized his wet and muddy child up with a glance. “What happened to you? Been swimming in your clothes again?”

Luke’s head came up at that, his mouth twisted into an ugly scowl. Blood dripped from his nose and there was an angry scratch on his cheek.

“Great.” John dropped the measuring cup into the oats chest and took a closer look at his son’s face. “That hurt?” he asked, while gently pressing down on the bridge of Luke’s nose.

Luke twisted in his grip, trying to get away. “I’m fine.”

The boy wriggled out of his father's grasp. "I was doing my chores," he said, "when the cat came flying out of the barn, mad as hell, and darn near took my face off."

John concentrated his gaze on the oats. "That so," he replied. "Well, set yourself down there while I finish this, then we'll go get you cleaned up."

Luke crouched down against a barn support, while his father grabbed the barrow.

Two full buckets toppled over, rolled along the sloped barrow rim and launched themselves into Luke's face.

"Ow! Jesus, Pa!"

"Sorry 'bout that, son. Still, I told you working the stable'd make a man of you. First a face full of pussy, and now you got your wild oats."

Opening: Anon......Continuation: anon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


The two millionth visitor to the Evil Editor blog arrived at approximately 2:40 PM eastern time today. That makes the winner of the Predict When Evil Editor's Two Millionth Visitor Will Arrive Contest PLaF, who predicted 1:11 AM, missing by more than 13.5 hours, but coming closer than anyone else. PLaF receives all six Evil Editor books, as well as the cartoon DVD and coffee mug. Other prize winners:

......Entrant.......Prediction.......Off by about
2. AM Lyvers..........3/26, 6:45 PM.........20 hours
3. Maureen.............3/26, 3 PM...............24 hours
4. 150..................... 3/26, 9:50 AM.........29 hours
5. Mister Furkles....3/25, 7:39 PM..........43 hours

Winners: contact me to discuss your prize and to provide a mailing address.

Face-Lift 1009

Guess the Plot


1. When police sgt. Jim Mallory's therapist suggests he try BDSM to work on his trust issues, he agrees. Now there's a dead man in a gimp suit, another tied up with six bullets in him, and the Master is nowhere to be found. Looks like Jim is gonna need that therapist some more.

2. 1864. Frederick Douglas, President of the Grand Alliance of the Negro States of America, has ordered the enslavement of all white people. Terrified, people begin the long, dangerous journey to Canada. Can Louisa and her brothers make it to safety?

3. Wanda Wallaby dreams of competing in the Marsupial Olympics. Standing in her way is champion hurdler Kate Kangaroo. With help from her zany friends Eric Emu and Nelly Numbat, Wanda proves it ‘aint size that matters, it’s how far you can . . . Bound.

4. Bound together by chains, high school students Emma and Daniel are hurled back to a time without modern conveniences and can return only if they save a young woman from being murdered by her fiance.

5. Librarian Priscilla Lezer loves books too much. Her only family: biographies; her only dates: romances. When the county cuts spending, she’s laid off. Going home she buys a book: Demon’s Wish. She opens it and a demon grants her one wish. She wishes to return to the library. Priscilla awakens as a leather-bound book in the stacks.

6. As Josh Booth camps in the north woods, vampires capture him, binding him to a tree. He escapes and warns authorities but Detective Abby Lincoln says he’s crazy. When bodies--drained of blood--are found bound to other trees in the woods, Lincoln thinks Booth is the serial killer.

Original Version

Dear EvilEditor:

High school senior, Emma Harris, [Get rid of those commas.] is going crazy—at least, that’s what she thinks. Seeing a ghost that looks like a long-lost twin isn’t in her definition of “normal”. [Not clear whether she actually has a long-lost twin. If not, don't say "twin," just say she looks like Emma; if so, say "her" long-lost twin.] Already dealing with her stalker specter, Emma has to cope with the unwelcome (and dangerously welcome) [That's not working.] attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt. She knows she should stay away like a good girlfriend, [Girlfriend of whom?] but is it really her fault when they keep bumping into each other? It has to be fate, right? [It feels like you've dropped the ghost thread in favor of the Daniel thread.]

Emma is about to learn that she and Daniel are bound together by chains much stronger—and harder to break— then [than] fate’s.

On the night of a high school dance, the ghost appears to Emma again. [On the one hand, you report in paragraph 1 that Emma sees a ghost, and now you report that she sees the ghost again. That makes me think she's seen the ghost twice. On the other hand, you call the ghost her stalker. How often is she seeing the ghost?] But, this time, [Get rid of those commas.] everything is different. Blood stains her dress like spilled ink, and she is scared. Very, very scared. [Wasted sentence.] Overcome with a compulsion so great, [No comma.] she has to fight for breath; [Change semicolon to comma.] Emma chases the bleeding ghost to the local cemetery. The very place where she first saw the specter. [The ghost and the specter are the same, right?]

There, she runs into Daniel, visiting his parents’ grave. [Both parents are in one grave?] The compulsion hits Emma again, just as the ghost appears. Desperate to be free of the compulsion, Emma reaches out and takes the ghost’s proffered hand. The last thing she hears is Daniel’s cry and his arms wrapping around her waist. Then, [No comma.] everything goes white.

Emma wakes up in an entirely different time and in an entirely different body. The ghost who had been stalking her is no longer a spirit, but a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton. [Not clear if you mean Emma is in Lucinda's body or some other girl's body.] [If it is Lucinda's body, I wouldn't call it an "entirely" different body; you did say they looked like twins.]

But Emma wasn’t the only one hurled back in time, Daniel was too. [Is he in a different body too? Wait, are they both in Lucinda's body?] They both realize that the only hope they have of getting home is bringing Lucinda and her forbidden lover together. [Not clear how they realize this, or how they know anything about Lucinda.] But Lucinda is already engaged. Engaged to the very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, [If everyone else in this time is surviving without TV remote controls, I don't see why we should sympathize with Emma on that count.] and a forbidden romance of her own...she may be stuck in the past forever. [Not clear how the inability to overcome a lack of conveniences and her own forbidden lover will affect whether she's stuck in the past forever.]

Complete at 69,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


I find it odd that Daniel would be in a cemetery at night.

This was too long and disorganized. This version has more clarity:

Dear Evil Editor:

High school senior Emma Harris has somehow attracted the attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt. She knows she should stay away, but is it her fault they keep bumping into each other? It has to be fate, right? Emma is about to learn that she and Daniel are bound together by chains much stronger than fate’s.

On the night of a high school dance, a ghost appears to Emma, blood staining her dress like spilled ink. Emma follows the ghost to the local cemetery where she runs into Daniel, visiting his parents’ graves. When Emma takes the ghost’s proffered hand, Daniel tries to pull her away. And everything goes white.

Emma and Daniel find themselves in a different time and place. The ghost is no longer a spirit, but a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton. Emma and Daniel realize that their only hope of getting home is bringing Lucinda and her forbidden lover together. But Lucinda is already engaged--to the very man who may have been her killer.

Complete at 69,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.

You might want to go further, and combine the first two paragraphs of my version into>

On the night of the senior prom, a ghost appears to Emma Harris, blood staining her dress like spilled ink. Emma follows the ghost to the local cemetery where her crush, Daniel Wyatt, just happens to be visiting his parents’ graves. When Emma takes the ghost’s proffered hand, Daniel tries to pull her away. And everything goes white.

That shortens the setup to one paragraph, allowing more room to tell us what happens in Lucinda's time. Do Emma and Daniel speak to Lucinda? If Emma is in Lucinda, does Lucinda have any consciousness? Do they know how to get home once they've united Lucinda and her true love? Is someone trying to prevent them from getting home?

What are Emma and Daniel supposed to do? Two people no one's ever seen before show up in town and no one's gonna object when they start butting into other people's business?

The title is too generic.

The story of the ghost of a murdered person who wants closure is pretty common. I think it happens once or twice a year on Supernatural. Usually the person was murdered recently and just wants the killer punished. If Emma and Daniel go back in time and prevent the murder, won't that alter history? Lucinda could hook up with her true love and they have a child who turns out to be a serial killer who murders Emma's great great great great grandparents.

It appears the following revised version was sent before (but received after) I posted the critique. Presumably it's the version the author would like feedback on.

Dear Evil Editor:

If you'd be so wonderful as to accept this edited query of mine, it'd be fantastic. Here it is:

Emma Harris knows ghosts don’t exist, but that doesn’t explain why she’s seeing one. One that looks like she could be Emma’s twin. To complicate matters, Emma has to cope with the equally undesirable attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt.

On the night of the school dance, the ghost hurls Emma and Daniel back in time to 19th Century America, where the spirit is a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton.

After catching Lucinda kissing the stable hand, Emma and Daniel realize the ghost took them back in time for one reason: to help Lucinda and her lover get married. But there’s a catch. Lucinda is engaged to another man. The very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, and a forbidden romance of her own... She may be stuck in the past forever.

Complete at 6
9,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.

This clears up many of my questions, and reads more clearly. Possibly some of my original comments will still apply.--EE

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Face-Lift 1008

Guess the Plot

The Final Clue

1. At last it is revealed: Colonel Mustard did it on the billiard table with Miss Scarlett.

2. First it was just Mr. Boddy. But now Mrs. White's disappeared, Professor Plum's got a nasty lump on his head, and Mrs. Peacock's been reduced to a quivering lump of terror. This is no game.

3. Nancy Drew has solved over 5,000 cases in her life. At age 79 she’s been retired for a decade, but when she receives a mysterious letter she’s on the case again. If the letter is real she may finally one-up her nemeses’, the Hardy Boys.

4. In the final showdown, it's Bugs Meany vs. Encyclopedia Brown, and this time Sally isn't there to save the random-fact-spouter's bacon.

5. Someone is leaving death-threat poems on Gina's front door. Is it the serial killer known as . . . "The Rhymester"? Maybe, but Gina hasn't rejected the possibility she has a secret admirer.

6. What really happened to Bob's pet chicken? Well, the bloody hatchet in the dishwasher is the first thing that got Bob to thinking. But the discovery of his wife's shopping list, which included eleven herbs and spices, is what gave him . . . the final clue.

7. Jeremy and Rachel are this close to winning the house of their dreams from magazine "Cedar Rapids Today". They've solved all the puzzles, met all the requirements, and jumped through all the hoops. Now all they need is . . . The Final Clue.

8. Jim is convinced he's cracked a code hidden in the Old Testament for centuries, namely that the saga of Abraham isn't really about him, but is instead the story of Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh who tried to install monotheism. Now Mossad, al Qaeda and the Vatican are after him.

9. Detective Clavoue knows cases remain unsolved until the final clue is found. So he ignores all the early clues in a desperate search for the final one. Will the "Clavoue Method" revolutionize criminology?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

FBI agent Gina Russo: A tenacious investigator, but a woman so scorned, she swore off men.

A career criminal presumed dead, devastated over his brother’s life incarceration: Ignites revenge.

[An aspiring author: submits query letters that don't have actual sentences/ Overconfident; invites rejection.]

An egotistical agent assigned to assist Gina, wonders what the hell he ever did that karma would bite him in the ass: Frustrated; dealing with her is more than he ever signed on for.

[An editor so evil he'd rather watch TV than read oddly punctuated fragments and run-ons: New shredder needs breaking in; works fine, just in time for Mad Men.]

She’s fueled like never before when she’s challenged to solve clues [Technically, you solve puzzles, mysteries, crimes; clues are what you gather in order to do the solving.] in the bizarre poems arriving at her front door. It’s imperative that she learns the man’s identity [What man? The career criminal? The poet? Are the poems signed? If not, how does she know it's a man?] to bring his ass down [When I write poetry to a woman, I'm generally hoping for a different reaction out of her than trying to bring my ass down.] for not only threatening her life, but also for causing Joey Zicara, the agent assigned as her partner, to enter and disrupt her comfort zone. [There are plenty of women who wouldn't mind Joey Zicara entering their . . . comfort zone.]

Gina and Joey scramble to unravel the mystery of the rhymester’s twisted vendetta against her, before time runs out. [Are you calling him a rhymester instead of a poet because you think his poems have no literary value? If so, do you feel they have no literary value because they rhyme? Because they include death threats? What makes you an authority on poetry? Here's a little test. One of the following death threat poems has the potential to become a literary classic. Which one?

Death. It cometh to us all,
Bringing grief and sorrow.
And yours will surely cast a pall,
For it's happening tomorrow.

I've got some bad news to impart,
So you'd better sit down, Gina.
I'm planning to rip out your heart,
And feed it to my hyena.

Not as easy as you thought, is it? Show us one of his works so we can judge for ourselves.]
[Also, if you're gonna call him a rhymester, call him The Rhymester. All killers with gimmicks have cool names. Think The Joker, The Riddler, Polka Dot Man. Frankly, I think "The Poet" sounds more villainous than "The Rhymester."]

THE FINAL CLUE is a 100,000-word, character-driven suspense novel set in New York City.

I was born and raised in New Jersey then relocated to South Florida where I’ve been working in law enforcement for 23 years to present time.


I find it interesting that the query mentions both Joey Zicara's ass and the villain's ass. You might want to work in Gina's ass too, by changing "before time runs out" to "before Gina's ass is grass." In fact, you could even say: I was born and raised in New Jersey then moved my ass to South Florida.

If this is romantic suspense, in which Gina and Joey fall in love in the end, say so.

Does anyone get killed? Is the main plot thread two FBI agents race to determine who's writing poems to one of them? I think there should be a stronger hint that lives are on the line. As it stands, the poems could be a practical joke from a fourteen-year-old.

Those first three paragraphs must go. Maybe you could open with one of the poems if they're short. Then you say: So reads the poem FBI agent Gina Russo finds nailed to her front door. She's about to write it off as a prank when she sees that it's signed by the serial killer known as . . . The Rhymester.

Now that you've set up the situation, show us that The Rhymester means business, and what Gina plans to do about it.


Guess the Plot


1. John and Barbara Fisher are roused from deep sleep by an unearthly howl emanating from the next room. A strange being has invaded their house, and they're about to find out it's looking for food. And--can it be? Does it need a diaper change AGAIN?

2. During the long flight to Demeter 5, astronaut Dave Gavin becomes a born-again Christian. Can he preach the Gospels to the inhabitants of Demeter 5, or will they kill him--just as they did Jesus?

3. 4000 years after God turns him into the world's first vampire, an archangel gets bonked on the head and suffers amnesia. A thousand years later, he comes to, and encounters . . . Vlad, his old rival from the vampire wars. Talk about rude reawakenings.

4. When lawyer Gustav Klimptikov opens the will of an elderly, wealthy client, he uncovers a web of mayhem and murder that will shake the very pillars of the highest levels of government. Armed with a two thousand-year-old drop of blood, he joins forces with a gorgeous geneticist, risking everything to resurrect the one woman who can save the world . . . Mary Magdalene.

5. In the deep silence of space the passengers aboard the colony starship "Vegan" awake from their cryogenic sleep. "It's only 23,000,000 light years, for Chrissakes! Go back to sleep!" "Where's the bathroom?" "Are we there yet?" "I want a drink of water!" HAL knew they were going to reassign him after that Discovery incident. But this?

6. It's bad enough to awaken the dead, but Dr. Frankenstein just couldn't leave bad enough alone, and reawakened his monster. But this time, he knows, will be different. No way will the Windmill Preservation League allow a mob with torches to destroy the monster again.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Editor:

For a human, ancient times are a buried puzzle. For an ancient vampire, those times have faded into history like their youth. For me, they are a recent memory. I am Vincent, a former archangel, and I watched as the heavens and the earth formed. When man ate of the tree of knowledge, God appointed me the Angel of Death. [May I send you my 300,000-word manuscript, If I Did It?]

No mortal should have been capable of seeing me unless I chose it, but Anastasia did. [I never did find out where she got the X-Ray Specs.] Intrigued, I visited her frequently and we eventually become [became] lovers. The deeper I fell for her, the harder it became to leave and I began ignoring my duty. When God [, outraged that I wasn't killing enough people,] ordered my return, I refused. Infuriated, God punished me for choosing a woman above Him.

[God: You dare choose a woman over Me?

Vincent: Not just any woman. Anastasia. Have you seen her?

God: I'll take a look, but . . . Holy Maloly! Are those real?]

Since I wanted to stay, stay I would – cursed as the original vampire.

Four millennia later, I found one vampire killed by another. My search for answers led to a war against others of my kind and reunited me with the reincarnation of my beloved Anastasia. [We're this far in, and I still can't tell whether you're writing to me or to your psychiatrist.] Just as the war should have ended with my army the victor, I suffered a near fatal blow. When I awoke one thousand years later, I had no memory of my past. [And yet I've somehow just managed to tell you all about it.] Vladimir, the leader of the opposing faction in the vampire wars, discovered me alive. Revenge foremost in mind, he fostered Anastasia’s reincarnation [What does that mean? How long had she been dead?] and plotted to use her against me. He believed my love for Anastasia bound my soul to this world and her hate for me in this reincarnation could surely break that bond, sending me to hell and out of his way. [If he wanted you out of his way, why didn't he immediately put a stake through your heart when he first discovered you alive? Hasn't he ever seen a vampire movie?] He assumed incorrectly. Her love for me only tied her to this world. Still, his theory held merit. With Anastasia unable to return, [from where?] I would curse God and accept my place among the fallen angels – right after sending Vladimir to meet my old friend Lucifer. [You lost me. Actually, you lost me a ways back, but I believed it would all come together if I hung in there. Like Vlad, I assumed incorrectly.] I, however, plan to win and to do so ancient battles must be refought [, starting with the Battle of Megara in the Peloponnesian War.] and ancient passions reawakened. [I feel like you're trying to explain a bunch of complicated stuff when you should just be telling us what happens.]

My dark fantasy novel, Reawakening, is complete at approximately 92,000 words and ready for your review. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your consideration.



The two set-up paragraphs are clear enough, but the long paragraph is confusing. If the majority of the book is set after Vince awakens, I'd concentrate on that and reduce the set-up. Though it's the clearest part, I'm not sure we need the set-up at all. If you start it something like:

For a human, ancient times are a buried puzzle. For me, those times have faded into history. I am Vincent, cursed by God as the original vampire.

. . . omitting the Angel of Death, and forbidden fruit stuff, there'll be more room to provide a clear picture of the Vincent/Anastasia/Vladimir story, which I assume is your main plot thread.

Selected Comments

blogless_troll said...Always suspected God was a boob man.

pacatrue said...I almost did the chili spew on that line from EE as well, Blogless. Author, I too got lost almost completely in the long paragraph. The only thing really concrete I took away was that Vincent and ummm the other vampire are going to go at it. And Anastasia is around somehow and important.

Dave said...How does the Angel of Death get knocked out for 4000 years and people still continue to die?

phoenix said...Clearly, everything can't be explained in a query, but there are a couple of questions that it may do well to address:

As the original vampire, does he sire the race of vampires? Or does God create more vampires from disobedient angels and they sire other vampires and that's why war breaks out?

What keeps him from transforming Anastasia into a vampire to share eternity with him? Doesn't she love him enough to want to be turned? There certainly must be something else special about her if she can see him when she shouldn't.

How does a search for answers lead to war? A search for weapons of mass destruction, yes. But answers to a vampire murder? I'd be surprised it took so long for a murder to happen.

I don't understand the Anastasia theory thing at all. Sorry. Is Annie reincarnated twice? The first time after the war breaks out and the second time after Vince wakes up 1000 years later? Or just once, and Vlad, thinking Vince might wake up again, turns Annie's first reincarnation and makes her a vampire -- is that what you mean by "foster?"

And your last sentence - I'm absolutely clueless what that means.

Five millenia pass during the course of the story. It may help to mention when and where Vince meets Annie. Crete or Syria or Egypt around 3000 BC?

I've heard over and over from agents and editors in their blogs and other advice sites to not write queries or synopses from a character's POV. The general consensus seems to be that it's gimmicky and frowned upon and the sure sign of a novice who hasn't done enough industry research. If there's a secret handshake that sets you apart as an amateur, this is it. While it seems novel to you because you hardly ever see it attempted, there's a reason it's hardly ever attempted - and it isn't pretty.

150 said...I've said it before, but I could live a happy life if I never saw another vampire named Vincent. Or Vladimir, for that matter, but he's practically Canon. Otherwise, this sounded pretentious and intentionally obtuse, which is the opposite of what you want. You're erring on the side of motivations, when you might do better with events.

writtenwyrdd said...This premise reminded me somewhat of Storm Constantine's Grigori series, in feel if not in details. I actually think this could make a workable vampire paranormal romance series, but the query letter doesn't give the details of the book's plot.

The issue of the vampire war-- why it started, etc.-- would probably be best left out of the query. The background info isn't bad to have in this case, IMO, but there is way too much of it. Perhaps just tell us the vampire war is on and that Anastasia is his reincarnated lover and how she fits in. to me, the implication is that this is going to be a paranormal romance because it sounds like the many of them I've read in recent years. So that leads me to expect to hear what Anastasia and Vlad are going to be doing, and also to hear something about Anastasia's pov as well.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Guess the Plot

Gasparilla's Gold

1. At least, that's what ad exec Morton Flume's Clio-winning commercial says. But Gasparilla, the hip new soft drink, really does contain gold, and for silver-throated soprano Bubbles Silverman that spells trouble.

2. Nosy spinster detective Amelia Pettipants, on a cooking vacation in Spain, discovers it isn't all flamenco and flan. Rummaging through the pantry looking for boullion de pollo, she finds a Basque separatist's cache of bullion instead. And tomorrow they are making iced bombe!

3. After his fiancée dies, tee shirt salesman Jack Darby decides to simplify his life. And what better way than to go off in search of the pirate treasure known as . . . Gasparilla's Gold.

4. One Sunday morning, Bert Dweeble looks out his window. What he sees is a hairy man, chain smoking Marlboros. Now Bert feels compelled to learn the strange story of the man they call Gasparilla.

5. Gaston Gasparilla masquerades as a high-priced rent boy in the evenings, but few know of his real daytime identity, Herbert Gold, securities exchange trader. Few, that is, until the blackmail note arrives.

6. A new strain of apple takes the market by storm. Nutritionists hail the fruit that people can't get enough of--until it's discovered that Gasparilla's Gold is more addictive than heroin.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil,

Gasparilla’s Gold is a mystery written for an adult audience, and is complete with a word count of 105,000.

Small-time entrepreneur Jack Darby is trying to let go of his past and rebuild his life, keeping the complications to a minimum. The death of his fiancé [Presumably you mean "fiancée," though I'd better not rush to judgment.] and his resulting battle with alcohol have left him with a desire for simplicity, and for now he is content to operate his tee shirt business and enjoy the slow lane in Neptune Beach, Florida. [His best-selling shirt: My fiancée died and all she left me was this lousy T-shirt.] Life gets tricky when he encounters Lou De Silva, a mysterious drifter on a quest for ancient pirate treasure buried near the coast of northeast Florida. After saving Lou from a deadly assault [What deadly assault?] Jack is drawn to his adventure, [Drawn to his pirate treasure adventure? I don't think so. A more likely scenario:

Lou: My God, those guys were trying to kill me! If you hadn't come along, pulled me out of the line of fire, shot out their tires and driven me to safety, I'd be dead meat.

Jack: Glad I could help.

Lou: Hey, I know what we can do! You wanna go search for pirate treasure?

Jack (slowly backing away): I . . . think I'll pass. But good luck.]

and they set out with only a family myth, a peculiar painting, [The Last Supper, by Da Vinci. If you look closely at the painting, you'll see the tablecloth is shaped like Florida, the item toward which Jesus is gesturing is where Amelia Island would be, and the apostle to Jesus's left is actually the Dread Pirate Roberts.] and a cryptic poem

[An old pirate named Gasparilla,
Stole some gold from a bank in Manila.
He buried it in Florida
Near the I-95 corridor,
In the crypt of a wench named Priscilla.]

to serve as clues in their pursuit of the gold. [Wait a minute, they have a myth, a Limerick, and The Last Supper, and they have to search northern Florida? I can't find my remote control, even when I haven't moved from the couch since the last time I used it. They have no chance.]

Lou De Silva isn’t the only interesting development in Jack’s life. Samantha Dubois [won a wet T-shirt contest wearing one of Jack's shirts and thus] has captured his attention, but even as his interest [(along with other parts of him)] is growing, a part of him still clings to the remnants of his tragedy. He knows he must allow his past to fall away and permit his heart to heal, and he struggles to move forward. [He knows he must allow his heart to heal. is plenty to get the point across.]

Graham Kilpatrick – a ruthless drug dealer who attempts to eliminate Lou for being a witness to murder – learns of their hunt for the hoary plunder [So Gasparilla buried his treasure, and to ensure he could find it again, composed a cryptic poem? And centuries later, after a hundred hurricanes and the paving over of the entire state of Florida, these two guys think they can pinpoint the treasure's location?] and plans a heist that will provide him with the means for an early retirement, and leave Jack and Lou in a watery grave. When he abducts Samantha to use as leverage, Jack must find the treasure [if] they are to have any hope of survival. [Assault, murder, drugs, kidnapping, etc. Out of curiosity, what was Jack's life like before he decided to keep the complications to a minimum?] As Jack unlocks the riddles and follows the clues to the gold, he discovers that he and Lou share a destiny wove [woven] together by tragic threads from the past that bind them to their demons here and now. [Technically, the threads are the destiny, woven together by a tragic loom from the past.] Intrigue, deception, and revenge interlace as the [loom of death goes on a killing spree and the] search for the treasure becomes a quest for redemption and closure. [How is this plot any different from Sleepless in Seattle?]

I’ll be pleased to send a partial or the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your consideration.



So the mystery is . . . where's the pirate treasure? Is there a murder with a bunch of suspects? If not, you might describe it as a thriller rather than a mystery. There's mystery in most fiction, but to appeal to mystery fans, you usually need a character who solves a murder case.

Rarely does anyone drop everything to search for pirate treasure just because some stranger suggests it. What makes Jack think this is a good decision?

Selected Comments

braun said...EE, you seem uncomfortably familiar with our local Northeast Florida geography. More so than the querier, at any rate, I can't imagine a less likely place to find buried pirate treasure than Neptune Beach. It is a great place to sell t-shirts and smoke pot, though.

kis said...We have a new nominee for unconventional murder weapon of the week: the common, household loom. Melonballer, your reign of terror is at an end!

kiss-me-at-the-gate said...learns of their hunt for the hoary plunder and plans a heist that will provide him with the means for an early retirement, and leave Jack and Lou in a watery grave. Author, that sentence made me giggle, and I don't think that is what you were going for. It was just a little over the top.

Anonymous said...The last time I saw the phrase "hoary plunder" was in a gay porn novel and it referred to the hero getting the love interest's {shhhh} private parts...

Anonymous said...I think I rode this ride at Disneyland! Author, I'm having a difficult time discerning how this is different than any other treasure hunt-type story. Also, the phrases, "hoary plunder" and "watery grave" have to go.

December Quinn said...Agreed with kiss-me-at-the-gate on that "hoary plunder" sentence. Too wordy, doesn't say enough. But, while I think the query overall needs tightening, I love the idea of a book about a guy looking for pirate treasure. You had me at "pirate treasure".

writtenwyrdd said...Author, the basic idea is workable, but the letter makes me feel like this book isn't written yet. WHY would the tee shirt salesman and the treasure hunter continue their relationship and band together? Is it because by saving the treasure hunter he is now considered to have some vital info that the killers want? That would work. But whatever the reason, please give the logical reasons upon which the plot elements hang. We need to know the reasons for the events, at least enough so you seem like you know what you are doing with the book.

Also, and this is just an observation of a total layman who watches National Geographic and Discovery channels too much: Treasure hunting is NOT easy, cheap, or quick. Clues involve such things as endless hours of exploration and research like first finding then reading nearly illegible manifests and ledgers.

I mention this because your letter presents the plot as too simplistic for my taste. You describe a sort of Treasure Island "found a map, have a clue, let's find treasure" simplicity of plot that I don't think will work for a 105K mystery for adults. (Unless the treasure hunter has already found something, or has inherited the clue of someone who has already died but has found the treasure. That would work.)

Zombie Deathfish said...Pirate treasure, or indeed pirate anything, gets my vote every time, but elements of the plot seemed far-fetched. Like, why would you trust the pirate-treasure-rantings of a mysterious drifter to begin with?

Anonymous said...I'm the author. I guess it's my luck to be the first query that EE critiques after his vacation and the minions are chomping at the bit. I don't mind the fun at my expense, I don't take myself so seriously that I can't laugh at me. I appreciate EE's comments, particularly about presenting it as a thriller rather than a mystery. This gave me problems because this is my first manuscript and I wrote the story as it came to me, rather than writing it to fit a particular genre description. I've learned a great deal in the last couple of years about writing, querying, and getting published, and I understand that if one wishes to have a novel published, the publisher needs to be able to fit the story it into a slot. I'm keeping that in mind as I plot my new WIP. I appreciate the comments on my query letter, some of you have been encouraging and I'm grateful for the constructive comments.

braun, as far as your comments, I didn't state in the query that the treasure was located in Neptune Beach - not that it couldn't be - only that the MC resides there. If you're from this area, you must know that pirates populated this coast from St. Augustine up to Charleston for decades in the 1700's; the premise of the story is based on factual research. As far as smoking weed in Neptune Beach, sounds like you're speaking from experience ;-)

braun said...Author: I'm not the one selling t-shirts in Neptune Beach. I'm just saying that if you did, you'd probably light up from time-to-time.

Anyways, while I'm sure there were pirates AND gold up and down the coast back in the day, at this point I'm betting it's all been either dug up by beach bums or paved over for high-rise condos.

I've lived within twenty minutes of the "First Coast" most of my life. I guess maybe it's just not mysterious enough for me to imagine it being loaded with hidden treasure. Mind you, the mysterious drifter, that I buy.

Anonymous said...braun, I hear what you're saying. The treasure in the book is actually up on Amelia Island in the swamp area, but the protag is based in Neptune Beach. And being from the area, I can see how it may not be that mysterious to you, but it is tropical and scenic with a lot of history, and makes a pretty good setting for a mysterious thriller (I guess that's what I've written). Thanks for the comments. Peace.

Daisy said...Gasparilla? Seriously? Isn't one of the primary benefits of being a pirate captain that you get to pick yourself a cool/intimidating name? (See: Dread Pirate Roberts) I can't see any self-respecting pirate wanting to be one of "Gasparilla's men".

The guy who thought Gasparilla was a cool name said...Ah, so Daisy, you are not up on your pirate lore. Jose Gaspar was his name, and the Spanish meaning of "Gasparilla" is "Gaspar, the outlaw". He was, and still is, a rather well known pirate, best known in the Tampa area and the southwest coast of Florida, where he was most famous for his mariniacal activities. (I think I just made up the word "mariniacal": translation - crazy bastard in a boat.) Some research indicates that prior to having his headquarters down by the keys, he had a large Federation operating off the coast of northeast Florida, near Fernandina. He left the area because it became a little too busy with other pirates, like Blackbeard and some others with cool names ;-) The premise of the treasure is that he left a cache behind near Fernandina, a rainy day stash (not that kind, Braun) he could come back to if things didn't work out down south.

acd said...Just because I'm nitpicky like that: Gasparilla doesn't mean "Gaspar the outlaw", it's just a name that he picked. Given that -illo can be a diminuitive suffix in Spanish, and the ending -a is feminine, it probably translates to "Gaspar the little girl."

Also, I believe that the anonymous that said this should start signing on as "mariniacal", because that's a cool word.

Dave said...Hey author, don't be discouraged, Pirates and Pirate treasure is in. It's hot. So are treasure hunts. Fix up the query and send it out! What ya going to lose? 39 cents?

pacatrue said...I do think I once had a girlfriend who regularly drank strawberry gasparillas when we went out. It sort of went like this:

Paca: "So then I wrote back to the agent, 'you wouldn't know good clean writing if a mack truck full of writing were to hit you somewhere in the vicinity of the mandibular area...."

Girlfriend: "Bartender, two more strawberry gasparillas please."

I don't see her much now. The agent or my girlfriend.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Beginning 934

To be touched by God's grace, and yet live on, is a precious agony.

Since I was in France anyway, I finally made time to visit the Devere's. The taxi dropped me off at a yellow-painted house with a stone arch around its door. I walked through the neat garden and rang the bell.

No answer for a while, but then a man in shirt-sleeves and half a jacket answered, and smiled at me, and spoke rapidly in French.

The poor bastard looked like me.

"Sorry," I said, "can you...?"

"You're English?" He shrugged fully into his jacket. "How far apart are the contractions?"

"No, it's not a baby."

His face fell. "It's very early if it's not a baby, Monsieur."

I glanced up at a sky grey with the promise of dawn. Perhaps it was. "I'm sorry, I didn't think about the time. I can come back later."

"Nonsense, I wouldn't hear of it." He stepped back into his house, and held the door open for me. "You don't mind if I ask who you are? You're familiar, but we've never met before." Perhaps he saw my ring when I offered my hand to shake, for he added, "Ohhhhh, c'est comme ça? Germain told us he'd spoken to you about our poor René. But I was expecting someone--"

"Human? You, of all people, should know we do not make a habit of openly identifying ourselves."

He pulled back, jacket unzipped. "What is this?" he demanded.

"Der Furher is in need of blood. And he insists on your presence." It pleased me to know Hitler had trusted me, of all the Vampirkorps, to carry out his mission.

He nodded. "One moment," he said. "How can I tell you are . . . secure?"

I smiled, letting him catch a glimpse of my vampirzahn. I understood his caution. With all the neoNazis, outcast teenagers, and Twilight fanatics wandering about, a vampir can't be too careful.

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Film Noir Friday

Yet another feature from the Evil Editor film vault.


Win Stuff!

I was planning to award a prize to the two millionth visitor to this blog, but then I realized that the two millionth visitor could be a spambot, and in any case I have no way of determining who the two millionth visitor is. So . . .

There are 5 prizes pictured on this page. The person who comes closest to guessing the exact date and time when the counter will hit 2,000,000 gets all 5 prizes. Those whose guess is 2nd closest through 5th closest may choose any one of the prizes. Guesses must be in eastern US time zone.

In order to know when the two millionth visitor visits, I need to be monitoring the counter, and if the two millionth visitor happens along at 4 AM eastern, I'm gonna be annoyed, but you'll still get your prize. One guess per person.

The counter is at the bottom of the blog. Your guess must be in before that count reaches 1,998,000. Oops! Deadline has passed. Good luck if you're in.

I'm not going to post your guess comments until after the deadline, in order to prevent "Price is Right" strategy of guessing one minute above or below someone else to improve your chances.

Under normal circumstances (based on the past week's visits) your best guess would be Monday or Tuesday of next week. However, I'll be mentioning this on Twitter and if someone with a thousand followers retweets my tweet to someone with a million followers, who also retweets it, we could zip along more quickly. We would if I were giving away a car.

Attempting to make the counter zoom won't work, as the counter doesn't count you if it counted you in the past 12 hours.

The prizes:

1. Evil Editor Teaches School. Very rare. Only 50 copies printed, and most of those sold.

2. The Novel Deviations Trilogy.

The best of New Beginnings on the Evil Editor blog.

3. Why You Don't Get Published, vols. 1 & 2

The only writing books you'll ever need, and the only ones you could stand to read.

4. The Evil Editor Cartoon DVD. The best cartoons and ads, set to music, viewable full-screen on your TV or computer.

5. The Evil Editor mug.

For your favorite spewables.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Face-Lift 1007

Guess the Plot


1. A wafer of unleavened bread drifts in interstellar space, while the long-dead astronauts who would have eaten it moulder in their own soluble fats.

2. A parrot and a police inspector form an unlikely pair as they hunt the man who killed the bird’s owner and cracked his safe. But the killer has other plans for the feathered witness.

3. Xavier thought he was finished with crime. But when the local loan shark comes after his kid brother, Xavier will have to put his gifted fingers to work one last time. But can even he crack the TL30X6 Elite?

4. The search for a cracker that doesn't contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, or even "evaporated cane juice" takes Freida Freelander to the wilds of Inner Mongolia, where she finds love with a yak herder. But still no safe crackers.

5. Zach's regular job is cracking convenience store safes. But now Harry, his partner in crime, wants to move up to high-end targets like jewelry stores. Zach would rather quit his job and become a famous artist. But is it really any easier to make a living in the high-end art world?

6. With all the unavoidable hazardous chemicals and genetically mutated garbage they put in snacks these days, Stan hopes to make a killing by marketing his gentle variety of wholly harmless crisp salty thin biscuits. He plans to decorate the box with inoffensive jokes, and enclose in each package an innocuous pyrotechnic device.

Original Version

Zach Dixon would like to quit his regular job. Cracking safes is beginning to get a little old. [All jobs get a little old when you do them forty hours a week. I would expect a safecracker to have a shorter work week, however.] But his partner and self-titled manager Harry [Nice arrangement. Zach gets the money out of the safes and Harry manages things.] has other ideas: he’s working on getting himself and Zach into Mitch Danaher’s gang. Going from convenience stores to high-end mansions and jewelry stores would be quite a lucrative accomplishment, and Harry is sure they can do it. [I don't see why they need to be in Mitch's gang to rob mansions. One or two guys can claim to be checking the gas main or the cable. It looks more suspicious if a whole gang shows up at a mansion.]

Zach isn’t sure that he wants to do it. His hobby is painting, and he recently met an art dealer who loves his work and might be able to make him famous. Besides, Danaher’s boys play much rougher than pacifist Zach likes. He starts looking for a way out. [The trouble with being a pacifist convenience store robber is that often the people who work in convenience stores aren't pacifists.]

He’s heard the only way out of the Big Leagues is through the morgue. Dying is really low on his agenda right now. But so is betraying Harry, and it’s starting to look as if the only way to quit is to betray Harry and as many of the gang as possible. [He's not betraying the gang if he hasn't joined it. Has he?]

P.S. I beg, I plead, I implore you (or anyone!) for a decent title!


The whole thing is just setting up the situation. If you condense the setup to:

Zach Dixon and his partner Harry make their living robbing convenience store safes. But now Harry wants to graduate to high-end targets like jewelry stores and mansions, while Zach wants to quit the business and become an artist. He's even found an art dealer who loves his work.

. . . there'll be plenty of room to tell us what actually happens in the book. Do they join the gang? Participate in a big heist? What goes wrong? Does the gang target the art dealer's mansion? Give us some of the plot, preferably something that makes this different from all the movies in which the guy who wants to go straight gets stuck working one last heist.

Whether you like your title or not, I assume you know it should be included in the query, along with the word count. "Safecracker" is a word, even if Blogger doesn't think so, so you don't need the hyphen or a space. I don't hate it as a title if Zach is cracking safes throughout the book. If he's a safecracker for three chapters and spends the rest of the book making his way as an artist, however... Hey, has anyone else used The Artist as a title?