Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1067

Guess the Plot

Sammy the Seashell

1. On his journey from the ocean to the beach, a shell named Sammy learns valuable life lessons from an older shell.

2. Mob boss Sammy the Seashell terrorizes Key West, until he messes with the wrong beach bum.

3. Sammy the Seashell has spectacular goals and ambitions. Unfortunately for him, Muriel the Mermaid already has a new bra.

4. After weeks of being washed in and out with the tide, a seashell finds stability as a window in a sandcastle. Or so he thinks.

5. Tight-lipped mollusk Sammy the Seashell is forced to become an informant by Meropolis Detective Jessica Scallop. But when she’s targeted by the Squidfather, Sammy joins forces with a murderous angelfish and a pair of cross-dressing eels to save the pointy gal who made his life a thermal vent.

6. A meteoroid strikes the Atlantic Ocean and causes the intelligence of mollusks to soar. Sammy, a conch, is elected supreme leader. He sends Carla, an oyster, topside to explore. She reports that humans eat shellfish. But there's good news: one religion forbids eating shellfish. Sammy comes up with a plan to convert all humans to Orthodox Judaism.

7. Witty memoir of a Hollywood extra who's worked in hundreds of movies, including Beaches and Castaway. Includes Sammy's favorite clam chowder recipes, and the real story of the obsessed fan who kept picking him up to hear the ocean.

Original Version

Dear :

Begin with some anxiety...a bit of stress...a feeling of not belonging. Now stir in a large measure of confidence. Add a generous dollop of self-esteem. Sprinkle on a liberal amount of optimism. Mix it all together with the love and inspiration of a great story. Let it sit for a short time, and you have [heart-rending literary fiction that Oprah would be proud to offer in her book club.] the recipe for a special reading experience! [Technically, the stirring, adding, sprinkling, mixing part was the recipe. What you have when you're done is not the recipe, but your book.]

Sammy the Seashell takes a long journey from the deep sea to the shores of a nearby beach. He encounters many situations that frighten him and cause the symptoms of stress to emerge. [Wouldn't it be better if Sammy were a clam instead of an inanimate object?] With the help of an older shell, Sammy learns some strategies to get through these difficult yet common situations that occur in everyone’s life. He learns that although stress will never go away, he can control the way it can affect his life. [The title/main character make it obvious this is for four-year-olds. The theme of the book seems geared toward adults with high-pressure jobs. For instance, if this was six years ago, I could see Barbara Bush reading it to George in bed. And the next night, when Barb wants to read a romance novel, George says, Can we do Sammy the Seashell again? Pleeease?] Most importantly, he learns the power of positive thinking and how it can change the way he tackles life's problems. [Maybe you should provide a couple specific examples of the life problems encountered by a shell.]

Diane Schute has worked with children for close to 20 years as a teacher, counselor and a therapist in a private practice. One theme has been apparent in all of these years in every place she has worked: kids are stressed! She sees kids on a daily basis struggling to deal with anxiety and not having the strategies needed to cope. Diane was a co-creator of a video titled “Stressball Sally,” [in which Sally the Stressball, with the help of an older stressball, learns some strategies to get through difficult yet common situations that occur in everyone’s life.] which demonstrated strategies to help children deal with stressful situations such as bullying, which we have heard so much about in today’s schools ( [Look, kid, if this shell managed to survive pollution and seaweed, you ought to be able to handle Tommy Parker.] Diane has worked since then to find ways for children to feel good about themselves and ultimately create an environment with less stress and more success!

Gail Marshall is a former elementary school teacher with 35 years of classroom experience. She taught a variety of grade levels and worked with many children who were dealing with a range of life issues and special needs. Gail shared her lifelong love of reading and the craft of writing with her many students. [Which one of you came up with the idea to make your main character a shell?]

We are members of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Over the years we have attended numerous workshops and curriculum-related seminars related to the art of writing and the many issues faced by children today.

We are submitting Sammy the Seashell, our picture book manuscript, along with this letter. We very much appreciate your time and consideration. Thank you very much.



I'd like to see the specificity with which you talk about yourselves applied to the story. Tell me what happens to Sammy and how he deals with it, and I'll decide whether kids will enjoy the story, in which case they will absorb the message through osmosis or through their parents saying, See how Sammy the Seashell stood up to that Great White Shark?

The spiel about stress and life's problems etc. isn't useful in determining whether the story is entertaining. You may say, we're enclosing the manuscript, so why should we discuss the plot? To which I say, you're enclosing the manuscript, so why should you discuss the message? If the message is clear to a child, the agent/editor will probably spot it when you say Sammy gets bullied by a barracuda and raises an army of mussels to teach it a lesson it won't forget.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Face-Lift 1066 (revised)

As we clearly won't have enough fake plots today to post the one remaining title in the query queue, I'm posting the rewrite from the author of the query just below this post.

Author here.

You guys are One.Tough.Crowd.

How deep to go into detail in a query seems to be a universal conundrum. People who follow Noah Lukeman’s advice to keep it minimal (“Robin Hood steals King John’s gold. Period.”) seemed to get slammed for not revealing causalities or motives, etc., essential or not. [How many people are going to fall for this Lukeman guy's spiel? Go to any other agent's site and click on "Books" and you get a listing of books by authors the agent represents. Do the same at Lukeman's site and you get a list of books written by Lukeman. Go to another agent's site and click on "News" and you get news about the agent's authors' books. At Lukeman's site you get news about Lukeman. "Robin Hood steals King John’s gold. Period." That's all I need to know. I'm phoning the Coen brothers to see if they want the film rights.] Those who let it all hang out get hooted for writing a synopsis instead of a query. Myself, I thought a query was supposed to pique sufficient interest so that the editor/agent/golum would want to read more, not that it was to answer every story question or reveal every motive or explain every setup. [How to pique my interest: Ten sentences that fit on one page and focus on the main character. Who he is, what he wants, what's stopping him from getting it, what he plans to do about it.]

FWIW, below is a revision. The issues raised in the critique comments are addressed in the full narrative; frankly, I did a clumsy job of selecting the story beats to reveal. [Aha! So it's not all our fault.] I hope the revision delves deep enough to satisfy without raising yet more questions. Query critiques really only work the first time around, but If anyone has a moment, please check it out and let me know what you think.

Thanks to everyone—and most humbly to Evil, the Editor!—for your time and willingness to comment; It’s been valuable. What I take away is, I should maybe write about vampires. (Is there an app for that?)


Dearest Editor:

Of Time and Chance is an 80,000-word thriller.

Jack Prior is a biker, recovering alcoholic, and PTSD victim; when he’s diagnosed with Margolin’s ulcer, he falls off the wagon, wrecks his Harley, and lands in a drunk tank. The CIA bails him out; they know who he is.

Decades ago in the Sahara oil fields, Jack was imprisoned for selling explosives to a Berber separatist. Police Captain Kareem al-Barasa tortured Jack mercilessly. At length, fueled by fear and desperation, Jack attacked Barasa with scissors, blinding him in one eye. The American consul spirited Jack out of the country. Barasa swore vengeance.

Now the CIA wants Jack’s help. Sheik Zuwari, a valuable Western asset, is being held in Libya’s Abu Salim prison. The commandant—Colonel Barasa—will sell Zuwari’s freedom for a million dollars cash—to be delivered by Jack Pryor. The CIA assures Jack that this will be a quick, low-risk mission; he’ll be well guarded, and well compensated.

Desperate for money, Jack accepts the CIA’s offer and travels to Tripoli, a city wracked by rebellion. Within hours of Jack’s arrival, a suicide bomber sent by Barasa wipes out the CIA team. Jack realizes that Barasa’s true prize is Jack himself, and that in this lawless country, unable even to radio for help, he must struggle alone to defeat his nemesis—if he is to save Zuwari and end the lifelong torment in his soul.

Thank you for your time.


That answers a lot of the questions. Except how Jack got out of the prison and into the American Consulate after stabbing Barasa in the eye. (Apparently there was no one else around to stop him, or the other police were afraid they might get stabbed with scissors too.) Although the plot's a little long, you make up for that by not wasting space telling me the book is like Tom Clancy's stuff but better. On the other hand, it's Jack's past with Barasa that's relevant, so we could probably do without his falling off the Harley and the wagon.

If Jack is "well-guarded" by the CIA team, and the bomb kills all of them and not him, presumably that was arranged by Barasa so he could be alone with Jack? Poor suicide bomber, probably was told he was acting for Allah, turns out he was just helping his boss exact revenge for the scissors incident. Reminds me of how Churchill talked Roosevelt into entering WWII claiming Germany had to be stopped, when it was really because Hitler once called Churchill a pussy.  

Rugen's Rules for Torture Chamber Success, #7: Never give the torturee scissors. Actually, that seems so obvious that I'm inclined to believe Barasa was injured while running with scissors, and blamed Jack because he was too embarrassed to admit the truth.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Face-Lift 1066

Guess the Plot

Of Time and Chance

1. Book 1 in the "Of Vagueness" trilogy; to be followed by Of Things and Stuff, and Of This and That. Annotated.

2. When Pete lands on Chance in a game of Monopoly, his card reads, Go back in time. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Suddenly Bob is in the Dark Ages, wishing he'd chosen the race car or the iron instead of the wheel of time.

3. Bud Green's retirement plan was simple: win the lottery. He bought as many tickets as he could every week for decades. Now, at age 74, he's a winner! Yay! That $17,000,000 jackpot is all his! But here come the bill collectors and tax collectors, and a committee of church ladies, plus Bud's eight impoverished middle-aged children with their drug rehab and cancer treatment bills and that mob of grandchildren who all want him to put them through college.

4. Life is short, but Bob Jones discovers you can make it even shorter by attempting to buzz across the Grand Canyon in a home-built aeroplane. But wait! Here comes a raft! Paddled by 17 scantily clad wenches! Maybe he can crash-land on that beach up ahead! And they'll save his sorry ass!

5. Penniless and recently diagnosed with an inoperable tumor, Jack Pryor has nothing to live for. Then someone claiming to be from the CIA contacts him and offers him a job: break Sheik Idus Zuwari out of Libya’s notorious Abu Salim prison. Can Jack pull this off before he dies? Maybe not, but he's going to try!

6. Gambling addict Greg Lewis borrows $80,000 from a loan shark and puts it on the Buffalo Bills to win the Super Bowl. With 70 to 1 odds he'll be set for life. When the Bills fail to even make the playoffs, hilarity ensues.

7. Why does disaster strike Laurence every October 2nd at 12:49 PM, just when he's ready to enjoy a bite of dessert? At first he thought it was bad luck. Then his girlfriend, Evelyn, took all the blame. Now, he knows he's cursed. The old hag who lived next door really was a witch, and she's still mad about the time he put duct tape on her cat's tail and drove it crazy. Can he ever redeem himself? Maybe not, but he's going to try!

Original Version

Dear Editor:

Of Time and Chance is an 80,000-word thriller.

Jack Pryor is diagnosed with a tumor that will choke off his spinal cord; his ex-wife has early onset Alzheimer’s, and he’s broke. [Do we really care about his ex-wife? Only if you explain why we should. Which you don't.] Unexpectedly, the CIA offers him a job: [Unexpected because the CIA fired him a few years ago? Or because he's a mall cop?] They fear that Sheik Idus Zuwari—a valuable Western ally—is about to be executed, and they want Jack to help free him from Libya’s notorious Abu Salim prison. [Maybe you should introduce him as retired CIA agent Jack Pryor, or ex-Navy Seal Jack Pryor. Right now it sounds like there was a conversation like this at the CIA:

-We need to break Zuwari out of that prison.

-But that's a suicide mission. No agent will...

-Good point. Wait, what if we could find some guy with a terminal illness...]

Libya holds traumatic memories for Jack. Decades ago, while working in the Sahara oil fields, he was falsely arrested and tortured for selling explosives to a Berber separatist; the scars, both mental and physical, remain. Now [Nonetheless], desperate for cash, Jack accepts the CIA offer. [If you want American readers to care about this, I recommend changing the Berber separatist to a barber/stylist.]

He returns to Tripoli. Libya’s bloody revolution rages, with rebels battling loyalists at the gates of the city. Jack is targeted by Col. Kaleem al Barasa, commandant of Abu Salim and the very man who savaged his life.

[-Colonel, The rebels are at the gates. The city is sure to fall.

-Screw that. I just heard that a guy I tortured twenty years ago is in the country; all my efforts will be spent capturing and torturing him again.]

When an explosion eliminates the CIA team and his means of communicating with his handlers, Jack must engage in a solitary struggle to defeat his nemesis Barasa—if he is to save Zuwari and assuage his soul’s renascent torment. [So close. You came so close to getting through the query without consulting a thesaurus.]

Thank you for your time.


So there's a CIA team? Did the CIA ask Jack to be on the team or to lead the team? Because if I were a CIA operative and they told me I was to be on a team, and that the leader of the team was a poverty-stricken, terminally ill non-CIA guy, I'd say, How about I lead the team, and we use the dying civilian guy as a human shield?

It would be ironic if the explosives that wiped out the team were the same ones Jack sold to Berber separatists twenty years ago.

Why don't you make Jack an actual CIA agent? Then he can be assigned a mission instead of being offered a job. If I'm broke and need a job, I still think I'd balk if the job is in Libya and involves breaking someone out of a notorious prison.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Success Story

Abigail Sharpe reports that her novel Who Wants to Marry a Cowboy (most recently seen here as an Evil Editor Classic) will be published by Grand Central Forever Yours. She of course credits us with her success.

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Miracle

1. Phyllis Jablonski drives into Manhattan at lunchtime, and finds an empty parking space right in front of the building she's going to. And there are still forty-eight minutes on the meter.

2. Jerry Greene opens his mailbox and finds no bills, no credit card applications, and no catalogues. And it isn't even Sunday.

3. Marina is Jewish and a passionate supporter of Israel. She meets an Arab who's handsome and rich. After a few months of torrid sex they get married and move to Saudi Arabia.

4. Tiffany gets more than she bargained for when she claims that she's still a virgin despite being seven months pregnant. If it will bring the Pope on his first-ever visit to Decaturville, Tennessee, however, the town's willing to believe in the miracle. Also, a hillbilly Hitler impersonator.

5. When $523.42 in an unmarked envelope appears in Milo's mailbox -- the exact amount he needs to pay his rent and electric bill -- is it a miracle, or is it a subtle attempt to drive obsessive-compulsive Milo to the brink of a nervous breakdown?

6. The blizzard struck just before a loooong weekend of very important sports TV, when Doug and Smitty had only six beers and one bag of chips. These pious buddies had a portable generator so they turned it on and prayed. They watched TV and ate and drank and ate and drank and on Sunday night they realized -- neither the beer cans! Nor the chip bag! Nor even the generator tank! ever emptied! --- Should they call CNN? Or the Pope?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Agent:

Marina Lansky has always dreamed of being a spy, but when she gets recruited by the Mossad in her junior year in college, she gets more than she bargained for. Her growing obsession with Ali Chalabi, [With Ahmed Chalabi so prominent in the news in the recent past, is there a reason you've chosen such a similar name?] a fellow student from Saudi Arabia, takes her from New York to Riyadh to the Arabian Desert and almost costs her life.

Marina is Jewish and a passionate supporter of Israel. When she learns that Ali has broken into Israeli military computers, she volunteers to help Israeli intelligence track his activities. Ali likes to brag about his computer-hacking exploits, so spying on him is easy. [Did she learn Ali had broken into the computers from him, or from Israel?] [Does Ali know Marina's Jewish?] It is also a lot of fun. He is handsome and rich, and Marina enjoys expensive restaurants, torrid sex made even more exciting by the deception,

[Mossad: Hello? Agent Lansky? We're calling for your report on Chalabi's activities.

Marina: Let's see, last night we dined at 21. Then we went back to Ali's place and had torrid sex all night. Thursday night we ate at Per Se. Then we went back to my place and had torrid sex all night. Wednesday . . .

Mossad: Has he said or done--

Marina: Listen, call back in the morning, will you? I'm tied up right now.]

and a newfound sense of purpose. When Ali is recalled home to work for the Saudi Defense Ministry, she marries him to continue to spy on him. In Riyadh, she rarely leaves the house, communicating with her Mossad handlers through e-mail. [Typical email from Marina:

Ali brought home take-out last night from Al-Nafoura. I had kabsat dagag. Don't know what it means, but they got the gag part right, LOL. Then we had torrid sex all night. ;-)


Read about my exploits at]

She struggles with isolation and growing suspicions of Ali’s sinister brother. [Osama Chalabi] But Ali is kind to her, he is the only friend she can turn to in this oppressive and alien world. She begins to fall in love with him for real, and she feels no pleasure in betraying his trust. But it’s too late to stop now. [True, as shown here:

Marina: I've grown to love you with all my heart, Ali.

Ali: As I do you, my flower.

Marina: Thus I have decided that henceforth I will stop informing Israeli Intelligence of your every move.

Ali: Most considerate, my darling. Excuse me, I need to use the intercom. Miss Adeela? Would you send in Borgo the Disemboweler, please?]

She discovers a terrorist plot to steal nuclear weapons from Israel but is unable to warn her contacts through the usual channels. [That's so annoying. Spammers selling Viagra manage to send you hundreds of emails, but when you're trying to prevent nuclear war, all your emails bounce.] She can do nothing and cause the deaths of thousands of people or she can warn the Israelis and risk exposure which would bring her a death sentence as a Zionist spy. [What is the communication method she would have to use that would expose her?]
THE MIRACLE is a romantic spy thriller, complete at 83,000 words. Thank you for considering my novel. May I send you sample pages or the complete manuscript?


Thrillers and romances usually get away with a few plot holes, but I thought I'd bring them up anyway:

She rarely leaves the house, but manages to discover a plot to steal nuclear weapons? Who else lives in this house?

The Saudi Defense Ministry needs to fill a position, and they can't come up with anyone better than a college student in America?

Presumably Israel would hire the finest computer minds available to try to hack into their military computers, as a safeguard. Yet this college student pulls it off as a prank? (I assume it's a prank, as he probably wouldn't brag about this accomplishment if he were doing it as a spy operation.)

The Israelis find out this guy hacked into their military secrets, and instead of kidnapping him and torturing him, ask a 19-year-old college girl to keep an eye on him?

Ignore the fact that we have a Jewish student dropping out of college, marrying an Arab, and moving to Riyadh, where she'll be a second-class citizen at best, and dead at worst. Just think about what mattered to you when you were a college sophomore: boys, music, your dreamy psychology professor, movies, passing chemistry, torrid sex . . . Maybe Marina should be a graduate student. A few more years under her belt.

Also, what's the miracle?

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...Who's the dumber character? The empty headed chick who marries somebody to keep up the guise, or the blowhard moron who brags about his spying? Why would either the Mossad or the Saudi government want to hire these idiots?

Evil Editor said...or the blowhard moron who brags about his spying?

Whether Ali is a spy isn't clear. He brags about his hacking exploits. Sounds like his brother's the bad guy.

Anonymous said..."Marina Lansky . . . but when she gets recruited by the Mossad in her junior year in college. . ."

Is this an internship or something? Would such an important job be given to someone this early in their schooling? How is she recruited? Needs a little explanation to be believable. I agree with EE that maybe she should be older - grad student makes more sense.

Maggie Stiefvater said...Rightly put, EE. On the surface sounds quite pleasant to read but with any thought at all sounds like something that could only happen in fiction.

Anonymous said...I would say this was wildly implausible but Israeli spies do keep getting into the most embarassing situations. Just this weekend an Israeli "diplomat" was reportedly discovered sprawled on his front yard: drunk and clad only in "bondage equipment". So you got 100 free believability points.

writtenwyrdd said...As presented, your story sounds weak and (as EE points out) full of plot holes, Author. I don't say you can't make it work; but it sounds like a highly implausible series of events to me.

Besides the plot holes EE mentions, I thought I would suggest that 1) they'd recruit her after she married and not before; 2) she would probably screw things up because she's a civilian playing at being a spy; 3) and romance wouldn't really be there in any book about spying on your husband I can think of...unless she's really a sociopath and excellent actress (or a multiple personality).

I'm not an agent or editor, but to have a book called a 'romantic spy thriller' makes my wtf alarm sound. It gives me the sense of plot schizophrenia, at any rate, as if you don't know what it is you wrote. One theme/plot dominates the other, so use whichever one you think that is. I'd assume it's a thriller, based on what you wrote.

Good luck with this. I suspect you may need to revise the plot some, based on this letter, but it has some gripping elements that could make for a good story.

Brenda Bradshaw said...I have no problem with the use of "romantic spy thriller". My brain stumbles over it, but I get the idea. I'd probably rephrase it to "spy thriller with romantic elements" IF they're romantic. This sounds more like EROTIC elements though. Maybe "sexy spy thriller" would roll across the brain easier.

Anonymous said...I totally thought GTP#3 was a joke...

Wonderwood said...I like Brenda's suggestion, call it a sexy spy thriller. This story does stretch the limits of my willingness to suspend disbelief, so the writing would have to be pretty dang strong to keep me reading. Though I am reading The Last Templar right now, so go figure.

blogless_troll said...The Miracle is the author said Israel has nukes and there aren't any anonymous comments condemning her/him as Anti-Semitic.

Katerina Kramova said...I am the author. Thanks to EE and to everyone for the comments and the questions. Here are a few answers:

Ali brags to Marina about hacking into an Israeli military computer even though he knows she is Jewish. He is arrogant and self absorbed and he thinks, not without reason, that she is in love with him. Marina alerts the Israeli Consulate expecting them to stop him. But once the Israelis find out that Ali intends to give whatever he finds to his brother who is an intelligence analyst in Saudi Arabia, they begin to feed him misinformation to confuse the Saudi intelligence. They ask Marina to find out more about his family and its political connections and to copy log files from his computer whenever she gets a chance. Ali's brother uses the fake intelligence Ali gives him to further his career in Saudi Arabia but runs into resistance from rivals who question the validity of the new intelligence source. Ali is recalled to Saudi Arabia to work for the ministry so he can defend his methods and bolster his brother's credibility. Marina is willing to marry him and go there because it is only supposed to be for a few months. Marina makes a bargain with her control officer that once she is back, she gets to move to Israel, go to Mossad spy school and become a “real” Mossad agent.

In Riyadh, Ali and Marina live in a family compound with extended family, including the evil brother, who brings paperwork home from the ministry and leaves it lying around. Marina scans it into the computer and sends it to the Mossad also, along with whatever she finds on Ali’s computer. The brother is connected to a terrorist group in Syria and is the mastermind of the plot to steal nuclear weapons. The plot is made possible by the vulnerability Ali supposedly discovered in the computer at Dimona (See the very informative post above about Vanunu). In fact, the vulnerability is an illusion, a plot by the Israelis to lure the previously elusive terrorist group into a trap. But Marina does not know this, and when she finds out about the plot, she panics, and sends the disks with the entire contents of Ali's computer though a package service. The package is intercepted by the secret police and she is arrested. She is condemned to death as a Zionist spy, taken out in the helicopter over the desert and forced to jump. The miracle of the title is that she survives. (Though I really like the fake plot about finding a parking space in Manhattan). Now if I get this far in the query, people will want to know how she survives and why. This will easily take another half a page. and I am out of room already.

I can see from the comments that this query is no good. The previous version had more detail, but was criticized for being a synopsis by Miss Snark in the Crapometer. How much detail is the right amount? I welcome any suggestions.

Evil Editor said...The first five sentences of your comment contain information that answers most of the questions the query inspires. Some of it can easily be worked into the query without lengthening it much, while some of it would add a few sentences.

What happens in Riyadh isn't so important to the query, and can be covered by saying she plans to be there two months tops, but her cover is blown before she can get out.

pacatrue said...I doubt anyone is reading this anymore, but, Katerina, if you are, I clicked over to your profile and there are a couple items there which I think need to be in the query. The main one is that these novels are already published, albeit in Russian translation. Won't any agent or editor want to know that? I assume that your contract with the Russian publisher does not cover the U.S. or English market? If correct, the fact that these are published already is a strong point in your favor. It means that someone in the world has read the books and thought them worth publishing, albeit in a very different market. It's a credit.

Another approach you might try is instead of selling them as a debut novel, try to sell them as the English version of the Russian novels. What I'm thinking of is stuff you see on the American agent blogs, where they contract with other agents to sell various world rights and the like. Maybe what you are selling is American rights to a previously published Russian novel.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Blind Side

1. After George's boating accident leaves him blind, he fears he'll have to give up his career as a NASCAR driver. Can Mary, his lovely pit crew leader, convince him to keep driving?

2. Pegleg Paul is the most brutal pirate captain to ever terrorize the Bering Sea, ruling the waves unopposed until a valiant Aleut warrior realizes that the eyepatch isn't just for show.

3. Taking advantage of an Equal Rights ruling, Ted got accepted into dental school despite being blind. But now that he's graduated, he can't understand why he's having so much trouble building a practice.

4. The Scarlet Letter meets The Village in this historical novel based on music by the Swedish rock band Blindside.

5. Only a quarterback could truly love a left tackle. When the coach finds out just how much his QB Brad loves the left tackle Don--and just how hard Don works at covering Brad's blind side--he considers trading Don for a big tight end.

6. A one-eyed supermodel fights to be photographed on the left (it's her good side), despite the missing orb.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Blind Side is, basically, as Tolstoy once put it about his novel, Anna Karenina, a novel about an affair, and the devastating effects of it. [This Tolstoy guy certainly had a way with words.] It follows a widowed August Pahcon, 31, living in a constant state of guilt from the death of his wife, the result of an affair with the tragic Rivka Svetchite, [I'm starting to think it would be easier to pronounce the names in Anna Karenina than in this book.] not so long ago. [Was it August or his wife who had the affair with the tragic Rivka?] Set in the 1680s and ‘90s (a parallel to our 1780s and ‘90s), in the farce land of Homstail, [Why not just call it the 1790s in a world like ours, instead of the 1690s in a world like our 1790s?] it has hints of The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible and “The Village” as we follow August in the village of West Tale [Just because it's set in a village doesn't mean you can say it has hints of "The Village."] as he tries to learn to love once more, and forgive himself for his wife’s death and his own sins. On the anniversary of his wife’s death he meets the mysterious Blaise Sylen, carrying her own secrets, and soon, her own guilt. Through her he tries to learn to love and to live once more, but her own secrets, the fact that she is a witch and the cousin of August’s most hated person, the village cleric and his brother-in-law, Mr. Atholl, [I can't tell if she's the cousin of one, two, or three people.] thwart their love, and an attempt is made upon their lives, leaving them separated from each other for ten years. [I've read query letters shorter than that sentence.] August ends up in Scoebrinn, the capital of Homstail, living with his sister-in-law [I'm not sure whether you mean he's living with his wife's sister or with his brother's wife; either way, he's in trouble with someone.] and the beguiling Rivka, in a new state of guilt, under the notion that Blaise has died because he could not save her. Still searching for some comfort, August gives in to temptation once more, and his second affair with Rivka begins. But when he hears news that Blaise is alive, as well as depressed, blind and vanished from West Tale, he leaves to find her,

[August: I'm leaving you for another woman.
Rivka: What?! Again?! Who is she?
August: She's depressed, blind, invisible, a witch, and I haven't seen her in ten years. But I'm sure to be happier with her than with you.]

and what love may still be there. When he finds Blaise, however, what happiness he thought would be there is absent, as Blaise denies loving him, [seeing him,] or even knowing him at all. We are left with August pondering whether to stay with Blaise, to try and resituate what love was there, [Resituate?] or if he should leave, realizing that his marriage to her was a mistake, [His marriage to her? You didn't say they were married.] and the only woman he has ever truly loved was Elina, the woman whose death is his culpability.

Blind Side is pensive, dramatic and highly original. [Well, original except for the parts that are like The Scarlet Letter, The Crucible, "The Village," and Anna Karenina.] It would attract not only readers who enjoy the classics, but fans of the band Blindside (as such it was named after). [If that works, I suggest you title your next novel The Beatles.] Their album, Silence, released in 2002, [inspired my first book, Blank Pages, and] helped me create the novel, including the plot and reasoning behind certain characters and their actions. Each song on the album has been used in the novel, [With permission?] each song becoming a chapter, the lyrics infused within the writing. Any fan of Blindside’s could easily find the lyrics imbedded, [You realize you can't just imbed (or even embed) song lyrics you didn't write, right?] but one does not need to know the music to understand the novel. I believe it is the first novel of its kind, and because of its originality [I don't get how a book closely based on a record album can be called "original." Doesn't that make it completely derivative?] and fascinating plot, it could draw readers of all ages and interests, [making it the bestselling book of all time.] including many fans of Blindside from America and Europe (seeing how Blindside is from Sweden, and has a marvelous following overseas as well as in America). [Lemme get this straight. I'm publishing your book in hopes that fans of a Swedish band will mistake it for their next CD?]

Being female, and just sixteen, Blind Side was [Blind Side was sixteen and female?] a fun, and interesting challenge for me during the eleven months I spent writing it, [even if it did cause me to miss my junior year, but who really cares about chemistry and geometry and French?] especially seeing how the main character is about twice my own age, and then aged to my parents’ age, and mainly, male. It is a literary fiction/historical fiction novel (as much of the culture is Puritan) at 226,050 words. It is not the first novel I have written, but it is certainly the longest [I hope so. I hope half of it is the longest.] and most serious. I’ve not had anything published before, and I am quite exited to have Blind Side be my debut! [So excited, I can't remember how to spell "excited."]

Thank you so very much for taking the time to read my query letter. I look forward to speaking with you.


Tolstoy wrote novels shorter than this query letter. One way to shorten it is to cut repetition. For instance in the first paragraph, we have:
It follows a widowed August Pahcon/we follow August
as he tries to learn to love once more/he tries to learn to love and to live once more
her own secrets/her own secrets
state of guilt/state of guilt

It's not a good idea to compare your book to classic works. Let reviewers and editors make the comparisons. Also, let others decide if your book is the first of its kind, fascinating, highly original, etc. Your opinion of your book will not be seen as unbiased.

Your book is going to be 800 pages long. Some people won't even be able to lift it.

Shorten those long sentences. Longer isn't always better, as your boyfriend will try to convince you after you finish laughing.

You stick the phrase, "the fact that she is a witch," in a list of facts about Blaise, and move on like it's as natural as saying she's a seamstress. If one of your main characters is a witch, you might want to elaborate.

Selected Comments

pacatrue said...Wow. OK, it's very possible that people are going to be rough in the comments, so I hope the author takes them in stride and doesn't get discouraged about her writing.
It's really hard to see how you have a novel that can be sold here. I think you have two rough choices:

1) Turn this into chaptered fan fiction which the fans of Blindside can read and enjoy their praise. Then move on to your next project.

2) Forget about Blindside and rewrite your book to be the best book it can be as if there were no Blindside band.

Option 1 is certainly the easiest, but I think you might be more interested in Option 2, so let's think about that.

As EE mentions, you cannot legally use as much Blindside material as you seem to have done, so you are going to be stuck removing almost all of it. Moreover, I don't think the band is a big enough draw to move more than 100 copies. I had to google them since I never had heard of them, and it's not clear at least from the Wikipedia entry that they are huge. So, I'd say to forget them and their album and their lyrics and just write a great book about your main hero and his wandering ways.

It's almost certainly going to be a lot shorter, because no one is going to take a novel of that length unless it simply blows them away. Your target should probably be around 100,000. To get to 100,000 you are probably going to just start writing again from scratch, but this time chapters won't match songs, and everyonce in a while you will discover that you can grab a short scene from the current book that'll work OK.

The new one will just be a great book about complex issues, and you will be an even more amazing person for having created something truly original and new. In other words, let your love of the Blindside album inspire what you write, not dictate what you write. And, now, let your first draft inspire you to write a new and 100 times better draft.

Dave said...220,000 words in 11 months is amazing. That's twice what I can produce a month. A good day for me is 500 words edited once. Ah youth, Youth is wasted on the young ;)

The plot sounds involved but good.

However, cut half the words. Make an outline of the various chapters and then start cutting ruthlessly. Look for repetitions in character and location descriptions, repeated discussions and cut, cut, cut. Don't feel bad if you throw away a page of text or cut out every other sentence.

Your aim should be to make as few words as possible say what you want, as eloquently as you want.

whitemouse said...Dear Author:

I'm amazed that you can crank out over 220,000 words in under a year, but you should be aware that it will be almost impossible to convince a publisher to buy something that long. Agents will also be hard to interest with this.

The music industry in North America is incredibly aggressive about copyright. Even if Europe is different, no North American publisher will consider taking on a book if the author hasn't got permission to use the song lyrics that are featured in the novel. You will have to get those permissions before you start querying.

Query letters are hard to write and don't always reflect how good the book is, but regardless, this query did NOT make the book sound interesting to me. The witch was the only truly unusual-sounding thing in it, and that hardly gets mentioned. Also, while the query letter's writing is technically correct, it sounded very pedantic and archaic. If that's due to you not speaking English as a first language, I'd suggest you spend a few years reading lots of contemporary books written by English-speaking authors. Really pay attention to how they use the language, and try to see how your writing currently differs from it.

If you're sixteen, you have plenty of time to get started on a writing career, but based on your query letter, I honestly don't think this book is publishable. It's very long, it has copyright-infringement issues, and your query letter implies that your use of the language isn't very smooth yet.

Keep writing and keep learning about writing. While you're at it, learn about the publishing industry. It will help you target your next book if you're familiar with what sorts of books are selling well right now.

Anonymous said...Author, you are amazing. I congratulate you on having resolve enough to write a 226,050 word novel at your age.

I wish I’d started writing a few decades earlier.

Anonymous said...I have a question about the song lyrics too. My novel contains song lyrics from a popular singer. I was told that once the novel is finished, I could pursue obtaining rights to the lyrics. Is this impossible?

Evil Editor said...It's possible, and not uncommon. But whoever owns the rights to the lyrics may want to be paid. Paid or not, they may want to read the book to confirm that their lyrics aren't being used in pornography or as a serial killer's inspirational tune. All this takes time. Sometimes it's easier to make up some lyrics for your singers to sing. said...A sixteen year old writing ANY kind of novel is impressive.

Keep writing! Its the best job on earth! To have finished a novel at your age is a true accomplishment, especially if it is anywhere NEAR the size of something Tolstoy wrote. The sheer willpower involved for a 16 year old to write 70,000 words--let alone 200,000-- is amazing.


Wow. Rewrite! REWRITE! The ONLY thing about that query letter that is even REMOTELY interesting is that you have a complete novel and are sixteen. While *I* am impressed by this, a busy agent, or a publisher, will only be interested if the Quality of your work is Sellable.

A famous author once said we have 1,000,000 words of absolute garbage to write before we begin writing well. You're off to a good start.

Read. READ! Mimic styles you like at first; nothing you're writing is wasted, even if it sits in a drawer forever.

Write big. Write huge. Write as much as you need to get every last drop of the idea out of your head and onto paper.

Then, when its all over and the smoke has cleared, put it away. Do something else.

Then pull it out and edit. Edit small. Really small. Waste not a single word. If you can say it in 200,000 words, you can say it in 50,000 words, and you can say it in a single sentence.

And if you CAN'T, its because there is an inherent problem with the story.

Good luck!

HawkOwl said...Oh great, sixteen. Now if we say anything, the parents will be after us. Woe! Nevermind.

Really, if you go ahead with this, I would take out the "being female and just sixteen" part. And the "fun and interesting challenge" part, unless you're marketing it to the Girl Scouts. The agent doesn't care about your age or sex (which is likely obvious from your name anyway) or whether you enjoyed writing the book or how long it took. What the agent wants to know is: how do I sell this book? No one will buy it because a) you're female, b) you're sixteen or c) you like the book. So you don't need to mention any of that.

I'd also take out all the repetitions and echoes.

And if your novel style is similar, you can cut your word count in half by doing the same thing there.

EE already mentioned the fact that it's ironic using four classics and all the lyrics from somebody's album and calling it "original", but I'll add that I like classics, and I've probably read a lot more of them than you, and this does not attract me at all. It sounds more like a soap opera than a classic, and if I were to read it I don't think I'd find the character development plausible.

Not only that but I found Anna Karenina really jejeune, so your query lost me from the first sentence. And I don't think it's such a good idea to name another novel before your own in a query letter.

And yeah, I am harping on your age, because it does have something to do with it. Sixteen may not be too young to write a novel, but judging from your query letter, you sound too young to write a novel about adult relationships that will appeal to adults. Maybe do some adventure stories for now, and re-read this manuscript in two years (ok, eight) and see if it's still the cat's ass then. (Oh, and, yeah, odds are in eight years, no one will remember Blind Side the band, so unlike a classic, this method isn't going to age well.)

Good luck with it.

writtenwyrdd said...The mention of Tolstoy was unfortunate. All I could think about as I slogged through the query was how much I hate Tolstoy and how much this reminded me of it.

Your letter is very long and doesn't give up anything significant about the book except by sideline references. Pacatrue gets to the meat of the Blindside matter and the other things I would have said.

I am not sure what else I can say on this, as the letter is another example of too little plot information given. Good luck with it however; I am always glad for another book with witches in it!

Cathy Writes Romance said...Dear Author,

If you're writing such deep, lengthy novels (did that sound sexual?) at your age, and keep it up, you will be a novelist earlier in your life than most of us will.

Good for you.

I read your love of the band, Blindside. However, no one will care. I suspect you will find that hard to believe, but it's true. Decide if you want to be a novelist or groupie (I'd go for novelist) and go for it.

Also, the length of your query letter (mine was long too) suggests you're not accomplished at tightening yet (me either), which explains why your novel is so long.

If this is a romance, join Romance Writers of America ( - use the money you spend on albums to join) and follow the advice of the many professional and aspiring novelists.

Good Luck

JTC said...226k?!??! Holy $hit!

I was really thinking ill of the author until I found out she is only 16. Now, I'm just impressed. She has a lot to learn about writing -being technically proficient and all that jazz, but I personally think she has beaten the challenge that most of us never will, and that is just having the discipline to sit down and write -a lot.

So, I say kudos to you, future best-selling author. Just take the advice you get here from EE and his genius minions, continue to study and learn, and I think you'll get where you want to go with your writing.

Kate Thornton said...Author - I am very much impressed that you finished a novel of this length. That's a wonderful accomplishment. Now get to work on the next one: you will see how much better it will be.

You have elements of real interest here, but rather than spending a year re-writing, I would put this one away and get on to the next one. You know you can do it. And so do I.

Catja (green_knight) said...Author: Yes, it's a great achievement, but I suggest that next year you write a 110K novel and read, read, read the rest of the time. From a Fantasy writer's point of view there was nothing about your story that had to be set in an imaginary country/world.
'Farce', [better 'farcical'] means that it's not real and that you're making fun of it - that was not the word you were looking for.
If you want to use a made-up world, it needs to be an important part of your story, and your story needs to be one that can only happen _there_.

Heather said...A full novel at 16, huh? Good for you. Keep up that kind of commitment, and you've got a good start on things.
I've been writing novels myself since I was around 12 or 13. Were they marketable? Absolutely not. Had I been brave enough to actually submit them, they would have been summarily rejected, and rightly so.

Get thee to a critique group. You need a lot of editing, a lot of support, and I think in a few years, you can try again. IN the mean time, remember that fanfiction is almost never published... unless you're solicited for writing Star Trek novels or something.

Anonymous said...I'll add to the voices suggesting you put this aside for now. You are not really in any hurry, even if you think you are. Eleven months spent on a novel is nothing -- and yeah, I'm impressed you did it, but the object isn't to write the longest book in the least amount of time (at least I hope not -- I have really blown it if that's the object -- my book took five years to write and two to rewrite!). This book may be way better than the query makes it sound. Still, any book can use a little time to sit. You need to give this a break, look at it with fresh eyes in a few months, decide if this is really a quality piece of work you want your name on, and if it's worth the time, effort, rejection, and tedium of submitting to agents and publishers.

December Quinn said...I'm sorry, but it's essentially really long fan fiction. The problem with saying you've based the events in the book on songs is that you're basically telling a potential agent that this book is in no way character-driven; that instead, you've created people and forced them to do what the songs say they're doing. It makes the events seem unnatural and stiff. (Is the album even a story? I hope not, because if it is then yes, this whole thing is a big violation of copyright) (It also makes me think, without a trace of fondness or nostalgia, or previous bad story/album hybrids like Emerson, Lake and Palmer's "Tarkus" or Roger Waters' [I think it was him] "Radio KAOS"). I admit I do question the ability of a sixteen-year-old girl to write a convincing older man, but I will give the benefit of the doubt.

You are to be commended highly for even getting this far, author, and I mean that sincerely. By all means get some other opinions on this--you could have a sensation on your hands. Just don't expect that to happen, and start on another project right away--and don't be discouraged or give up!

Anonymous said...A farce world...I'm picturing a region skewed sideways and to the left of Heaven, populated by the characters from Monty Python, Frasier, and Moliere. It's where you go when you die laughing.

(got two rejection letters this week so now I am the Peon of Pulp)

Shelton 220K really isn't that long once you find out the last 150K are "Blindside Rocks!" written over and over again.

This is fanfic and you should post it (serialized of course) to a Blindside message board if such a thing exists. I'm sure the fans will enjoy it.

Malia said...Yikes! And I thought I wrote "big" books. :/

At 16, your discipline and commitment is to be commended. Yay, you! Now go educate yourself on the market and what sells/what doesn't sell. If you're mature enough to have written this huge book then you're certainly mature enough to do a bit of research. My suggestion, find a mentor.

Do what the others have suggested -- fanfic this puppy and get busy on your next project. The more you write, the more you learn.

Once again, yay you!!!

GutterBall said...I'm not even gonna tell ya'll how long my first finished novel was. I, too, am a former victim of elephantus librus. However, I found an excellent cure and am now happily writing within the 80,000-100,000 happy-book zone.

Short stories.

Even if you never sell a single one, the practice in being concise and saying exactly what needs to be said and nothing more is invaluable. And if you're any good at all, you'll find some place to publish, even if it's just in e-zines or even blog-zines. You may not always be able to list them in a query letter -- my best publication credit went balls-up after a year, darn it -- but you'll get that "Dude! I'm published!" feeling and the confirmation that you can, in fact write.

Then, when you've worked out the need to tell every little detail, try another novel. You don't always have to plot, but you should be aware of what needs to happen in a story for the beginning, middle, and end to come about in a reasonable amount of words/pages.

If you can crank out 226K as a 16 year old, I can't wait to see what you'll do with 90K concise.

Anonymous said...By the way, EE's plot description (The Scarlet Letter meets The Village in this historical novel based on music by the Swedish rock band Blindside.) should be the new entry in the dictionary under the term "non sequitur".

Anonymous said...Author, I agree, you've accomplished something by finishing a novel at 16. I started a novel at your age, but stopped around 20K. I read it again recently and had a good laugh.

I may be a minority, but I think that a Christian Rock song could be a great inspiration for a novel, especially set in a Puritan-esque society. (BTW, I know people who base novels on strange dreams, a cartoon drawing, or a random snippet of conversation, so don't ever knock your muse) But if you use actual chunks of lyrics and follow the songs point-by-point, it will feel choppy and read like Fan-fic.

Put it aside for a year and then look it over again with a critical eye. You'll be amazed at what you find wrong with it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

New Beginning 967

Chuck Truett watched from behind dark sunglasses as people streamed in and out of the bank. He sat at a table on the patio of a coffee shop across the street, holding the sports page of the local daily. He folded the paper to an article on the upcoming college football season and slowly sipped his coffee as he alternated reading, scanning traffic, and eyeing the bank.

The sun crashed down without mercy, shattering off cars and pavement. A slight breeze pushed the heat around. Even in the shade of the table’s umbrella, he felt like he might spontaneously combust.

He looked south down San Pablo. There’s a cop, coming north. He glanced at his watch. Three twenty-two. He checked the notepad sitting on the table in front of him, frowned, and made a notation. In five afternoons over the last two weeks, he’d detected no pattern to the passing of the patrol cars at this intersection, other than they did so with some regularity.

A sardonic grin played briefly on his face. Casing a bank. Never in all his life, not even as recently as a month ago, would he have imagined he’d be casing a bank. But desperate times call for desperate measures and all that.

Three twenty-seven. He looked away from the bank, and down at his newspaper. WTF?! His alma mater, Indiana University, predicted to finish eleventh in the Big Ten Conference?! Behind even perennial doormat Northwestern?!
Three Thirty. His eyes shot back to the bank. Time for that teller with the cleavage to come out for her cigarette break. There she is! Right on time, like clockwork. Wabba! Hot hot hot!

Suddenly, a Toyota sedan whipped to the curb in front of the bank. Three men carrying guns and pulling masks over their faces leaped out and rushed inside. Moments later, they rushed out carrying canvas bags with dollar signs on the sides, jumped in the car, and sped away.

Drat. Truett ripped the pages from his notebook and tore them into tiny pieces. He rose, pulled his own mask over his face, and went back in the coffee shop. Desperate measures indeed. 

Opening: Wonderwood.....Continuation: Evil Editor/anon.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New Beginning 966

"Hey Spud, Biff, I won the Triathlon. Why are there trucks in our driveway?" Luke yelled as he dropped his duffel bag in the entry foyer of his house. Pounding and clanging from the basement answered his greeting. A deliveryman suddenly appeared in the doorway and poked a clipboard in his face.

"Are you Ximraam Stigsson?" the deliveryman mispronounced the name hideously. "Delivery for someone named whatever that name is." Luke grabbed he package from too near his face and tucked it under his arm. 

"Its pronounced Spud, asshole." Luke scribbled nonsense on the clipboard and shoved it back at the deliveryman. The deliveryman mumbled something vulgar. Luke slammed the door in the deliveryman's face. He went into the kitchen and opened the basement door.  

"SPUD," he bellowed so loud the walls shook. The clanging stopped. Luke heard whispered curses, shoulder slaps, and shuffling footsteps.

"Aw sweet Jesus, he's home already," Biff's whispered, panicked voice carried up the stairs.  

"Don't come down. It's a surprise," Spud yelled and appeared at the bottom of the stairs, bare to the waist, sweat and paint plastering his brown hair to his olive-brown body. Skimbleshans, their cat, ran up the stairs and rubbed against his legs. 

Ximrimmspud petted the cat, who then bolted up the corner stairs.

Luke slammed the kitchen basement door closed before opening the door in the pantry where Skimbleshanks purred.

Behind him stood an angry deliveryman. "Look, kid, we got a bunch of furniture for you."

Luke opened the front door for them. "OK, just put it here." He watched as the sofa tumbled to the ceiling.

He shook his head. He was all for adventure, but why did they have to buy a house designed by M.C. Escher?

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Khazar-khum

Monday, August 20, 2012

New Beginning 965

The boy

He lives in the house... the abandoned one on the corner with the chain link fence you have to climb in high healed shoes to get over.

The boy didn’t wear high healed shoes so he just stood and looked at the house.

The man was in there, the one from his dream.

In the dream he had gone inside the house. As he entered he first noticed the smell. It was a dank musty smell of earth and rot. As his eyes adjusted to the dark he could see the room was filthy and small. The floor was made of dirt and littered with papers from fast food joints and such. There was a scratchy sound. He turned his head in the direction of the noise. There was an old man asleep in the corner of the room. His breath was coming out and going in ragged breaths. Like the sound of paper being uncrumpled then crumpled again. When the boy looked at him he whispered one word. Flame. Then the boy woke up.

Now he was just wasting time. Looking at the house. He had never actually seen the man, only in the dream. Still he knew the man was inside. He curled his finger around a link in the fence. He thought about the dream. Flame.

The old man

The man was old. He had stopped counting years long ago. In his mind he could see the boy in front of the house. His face spread sideways into an unkind grin. This was good he thought. Walking through the boys mind had been worth the trouble. Now he just needed to plant the flame, fix it somewhere inside the boy then wait.

The shoe mender

It had been a difficult task, leather that crumbled like paper that had been crumpled and uncrumpled a thousand times, but he had healed the shoes of what ailed them, oiled them as best he could, and now they were high, just as the boy had asked. The boy who wanted his high shoes healed to climb a wirelink fence, of all things. But the shoe healer asked no questions of those who had the price.

The fireman

It's a mystery, mate. Seems like the lad's shoes got too close to a naked flame. Went up like a greasy rag. No idea who the other two were. Wrong place, wrong time, I reckon.

The editor

Open another bottle, Mrs V. It's going to be a long night.

Opening: Karen.....Continuation: Anon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

10 Years, 20 Jobs, and $30,000 in Debt

1. Male prostitute Taylor Reed, released after a 10-year prison term, discovers his long-lost daughter floundering under a $30,000 school loan. Determined to help her, he returns to his old profession but discovers he's impotent. Able to afford only a twenty-count bottle of Viagra, Taylor must pull out all the stops to earn $30,000 in 20 jobs.

2. A woman who hasn't held a steady job for ten years writes a book about her experiences and tries to convince a literary agent she's ready to stick with her new career, meet deadlines, and finally realize her vast potential.

3. Forty-year-old adjunct professor Maria Fibonacci longs for a steady job, a steady paycheck, and a steady man. Instead, the mathematical topologist finds herself head over heels and her pockets inside out, all because of her infatuation with pyramid-scheming statistician Johnny Bayes.

4. When Apple's low-budget CEO-cloning project goes awry, the company is left with no choice but to bring in Wozniak to clean up the mess.

5. When Pamela Turlington finally leaves her husband Bubba and moves to Nashville to pursue her dream of a singing career, her bad marriage becomes the biggest hit in country music history!

6. Fictionalized account of Geraldo Rivera and Connie Chung's parallel slides from powerful news anchors to basic cable's where-are-they-now? file.

Original Version

Dear XX,

At twenty-nine years old, I’ve had over twenty jobs in the past ten years and yet, I haven’t had a savings account since I was frying bacon at Wendy’s when I was fifteen. [Coincidentally, Evil Editor got his first bacon job when he was fifteen, also at Wendy's--although in my case, we're talking about Wendy Wasserstein's basement.] I’m part of the slasher generation: people in our twenties and thirties who respond to the question, “What do you do?” with a slash in our title that separates what we really do for a living from what we want to do. At present, I’m a personal assistant/yoga teacher/comedian/writer. [Only four? Evil Editor is a blogging icon/forklift driver/makeup artist for mannequins/curling coach/harpsichord refurbisher.]

10 Years, 20 Jobs and $30,000 In Debt is a completed 75,000 word collection of humorous personal essays that would appeal to fans of Laurie Notaro, David Sedaris, and Susan Jane Gilman and to all twenty- to thirty-something souls [who've never heard of those three people, but] who have made a career out of changing careers in search of their dream. Or, in search of discovering what their dream might be, exactly.

Creative visualization works. I’ve read that over and over again in a pamphlet entitled, Creative Visualization Works!, and have been told that by mom, who gave me the pamphlet, so I know it’s true. [Evil Editor is testing your theory by visualizing Jessica Alba standing behind my chair at this very moment . . . . . hmph.] But sometimes (say, when you’re $30,000 in debt and are no further in your comedy career than when you started ten years ago), it doesn’t feel that way. I graduated college summa cum laude and immediately landed the ideal job, one my degree prepared me for, only to give it up a year later to pursue delivering sushi at three o’clock in the morning. I then landed a paid gig performing improvisational comedy regularly at a theater in Denver, only to give that up after two [shows?] to move to New York City to pursue performing comedy…for free. [Evil Editor knows the feeling. He's finally doing the job he was born for, and it turns out blogging pays about as well as eating and watching TV--my other talents.] My life path hasn’t been so much a path as a game of Twister, but I know that others of my generation will relate to the misadventure that unfolds with a life where you choose not to choose. (And I’m putting a picture of you, XX—my dream agent—choosing me into a pink bubble, and now I’m releasing that pink-bubble vision into the universe.) [So that if I don't find what I'm looking for here, maybe 3000 years from now I'll get a contract offer from a publisher on the fourth planet from Betelgeuse.] [Your dream agent is going to want you for more than one book. Maybe it's not such a good idea to trumpet the fact that your life path veers off in a new direction every six months.]

I have been writing and performing comedy in all styles for the past ten years. Most recently I performed my one-woman show, Bone-a-fide: A Tumorous Comedy, about my struggle with a rare bone cancer, at the acclaimed People’s Improv Theater in New York City. (You can still reply to me! I’m not going to die or anything! Just limp for a while.) [I  don't know how much of the book is about your struggle with cancer, but a novel about a character based on yourself, with your comedic perspective, might be more appealing to the book-buying masses than an essay collection. And your one-woman show will provide some of the material.

Chapter 1. Your hilarious conversation with the boss who gave a young college grad her big break, as you explain you have a better offer from Sushi-To-Go.

Chapter 2. Your hilarious conversation with a Japanese guy who speaks no English, as you try to explain that he still owes you forty-three cents.

Chapter 3. The ominous first twinge in your leg as you're pretending to be a cowboy on a pogo stick in a game of Party Quirks at the Denver Improv Club.

Etc. etc. Just a thought.] I was also a winner of the Up All Night College Campus Comedy Tour, which aired on the USA Network. [So what do you mean, when you say you're no further along than you were ten years ago?]

Please let me know if you’re interested in reading my manuscript in part or in its entirety. I appreciate your time and consideration.



Unless specifically told not to, be sure to include a sample essay or two with your query. This kind of book is tough to sell if you aren't famous, so show them it's worth a look. Better yet, get famous.

Selected Comments

aly said...I'm a writer/artist/digital photographer/lounge singer/panflute player/toponymist/Evil Editor wannabe.

Anonymous said...I think the author has a fatal disconnect with the real world. Nobody admires people who are "searching" or "following their dreams" or whatever. The more likely reaction would be disapproval of those who don't have the discipline or maturity to pick one field and stick with it rather than search for an elusive place in the world that for most doesn't exist.

lea said...You are wrong in your statement that no one admires people who are "searching" or "following their dreams". I do admire people like that, and I know a number of people who agree with me. Disaproval usually comes from people who are jealous that they didn't do the same thing, and instead are stuck being bean counters for some conglomerate of a company that doesn't care one bit for their employees unless they advance the bottom line.
It's not lack of discipline or maturity, it's not fearing risk. And not fearing risk is what has lead me to follow my dreams and achieve so much more than lots of people my age. I quite like the concept of this book, and I think there are a lot of other people out there who will like it as well.

kis said...I'm a mother/chinese food waitress/mother/indentured slave/wife/mother/writer. In that order. I'm not sure this book will appeal to all 20-30 somethings. As soon as they find out the author doesn't live in her parent's basement, they'll decide they have nothing in common with her.

But I'm not finding myself in the same boat as parents these days. Soon as my kids turn sixteen (the age where social services stops bringing them back) I'm leaving their shit out on the sidewalk and changing the locks. Call it tough love. OK, just call it tough. ;)

msjones said...Gentle Slasher: Maybe you should try the Sedaris get-famous-overnight route, and submit one of your works to NPR. They’re broadcasting “this I believe” essays, and anyone can submit! One was about the all-encompassing virtue of barbequed meat, and it was quite moving. Why, when the author paraphrased Keats with the line “barbeque is truth, truth barbeque,” I nearly cried.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Wings of Winter

1. A husband-and-wife architect team who have grown to loathe each other decide to stay together for purely economic reasons in their dream split-level Georgian Revival with separate entrances.

2. Sparrow loves the prince, but to help him save his kingdom, she must bring forth her latent non-human powers.

3. Ebenezer Grout, trying to forensically track down the young rapscallion who put all those snow angels in his yard, spends all winter taking measurements up and down the block.

4. In the year 2074, a bionically-enhanced Sir Paul McCartney revives his band members from their cryogenic sleep for one more really, truly final farewell tour.

5. Lonely ornithologist Red Crest McGuffin finds love and scandal when his binoculars spot nude campers barbecuing a rare Arctic Loon in Yosemite National Park.

6. A frustrated Tokyo-born butterfly mutant named Thomas Swallowtail, angry at the state of the world because he can't seem to hold down a job, flaps his wings at just the right moment to bring about nuclear winter conditions in New York.

Original Version

Dear agent,

When Sparrow’s adoptive family is slaughtered, her survival depends on embracing a birthright that pushes her further and further from her own humanity. [And closer and closer to her birdness.] The Wings of Winter is an epic fantasy of 125,000 words with themes appropriate to adult and strong young adult readers.

After mercenaries raze Sparrow's village, a chance encounter with a hunting falcon [Were the mercenaries vultures? Are all the characters birds? Is this the same Sparrow that killed Cock Robin? If so, I think we can assume that the "chance encounter" with the falcon was attempted murder.] brings her stumbling into the path of Owen, Crown Prince of Tremont. [Alias: The Stork.] She relays information that saves his life, [The sky is falling! The sky is falling!] allying them against their common enemy, Elias, an Aliud shape shifter. [The guy from another realm has a normal name? Someone check and see if pigs are flying.] Elias has engineered chaos in both Human and Aliud realms with the deaths of their respective monarchs. [I'm guessing there's chaos in the Aliud realm 24/7, whether the monarch is dead or not, if they're all shape shifters. Can you imagine a world in which everyone can change into anyone or anything? All the women would look like Julia Roberts, and all the men would look like . . . Julia Roberts.] Now he seeks to take control of the Aliud kingdom and reclaim land from Tremont that once belonged to the shape shifters. [He's just trying to get back what's rightfully his? Are you sure he's the bad guy here?] Sparrow, half-Aliud, is heir to power that Elias needs. Because she is half-human, many of the Aliud see Sparrow as a threat and an abomination, but some accept her as kin. Because she is half-Aliud, many in Tremont [see her as an ostrich and] doubt her loyalties. Elias exploits the fractures within Aliud society and the Humans' fear of the Aliud to push the races toward war. In order to oppose Elias and help Owen prevent Tremont’s destruction, Sparrow must harness her latent abilities even as her growing power alienates her from the human life she once knew and the prince she has come to love. [What are Sparrow's latent abilities? Shape shifting?] [If I discovered that my woman had special abilities, I wouldn't feel alienated. I'd convince her to use these powers to make me rich, famous, powerful, and even more handsome. That's why Bewitched was so unrealistic. Darren didn't want Sam using her witchcraft. What an idiot. And then when Darren number two took over, he was just as stupid.]

My publications include non-fiction and creative writing credits. The most recent (“Chronic Pain” in Physical Rehabilitation, 5th edition, FA Davis,) is currently in press. My poetry has been published in Stirring: A Literary Collection, World Haiku Review, [World Haiku Review? I wonder if they would publish any of Evil Editor's Haikus:

Novel? Why Bother? 
World Haiku Review:
With seventeen syllables
You can be published.

Perfect Threesome 
Penelope Cruz,
Maria Sharapova,
Evil Editor.

Sparrow's Dissent 

Not tonight, Owen.
I refuse to change into
Heidi Klum again.]

Poems Niederngasse, and New Solutions. I am currently writing MindBlind, a speculative fiction/thriller and outlining The House of Many Doors, a young adult ghost story.

[I.  Attic door
     a. Strange noises coming from above
     b. Steep stairs
II.  Cellar door
     a. Creaking noise
     b. Lights don't work
III. Door at end of long hall
     a. Always locked
     b. Ominous music plays when approached
         1. Violin screeches
         2. Loud organ
     c. Very cold in vicinity
IV. Bedroom door of teen boy who has never spoken
     a. Evil clown door knocker
     b. Knob made from human skull]

My full manuscript is available upon request. Please find enclosed a SASE as per your guidelines. Thank you for your time and your attention.



Who are the Aliud? Space invaders? Dimension hoppers?

The political alliances section needs to be simplified lest it put the reader to sleep.

Selected Comments

JTC said...A fantasy character with a normal name? Finally! I would read this book for that reason alone! Please thank the author for me. -

Ashni said...It looks like you need to decide whether "human" is capitalized or not. (Or maybe I just noticed this because it was one of the Search-and-Replace from Hells in my own project.)

Anonymous said...Elias is indeed a perfectly good name, but when I hit this: ...allying them against their common enemy, Elias, an Aliud shape shifter I got way distracted by trying to say "allying against Elias an Aliud" five times fast.

kis said...I do wonder how two completely different races--shape-shifters who are clearly superior, and humans--could coexist unless their territories were far, far apart. I mean, Cro Magnons and Neanderthals had a lot more in common, and we all know what happened there, right? Why haven't the shape-shifters killed off all the humans yet, or enslaved them?

Of course, these issues are probably dealt with in the novel, which is one I would be inclined to read. This is the kind of stuff I love--political upheaval, regicide, superhuman powers and romance. Now if you'd just change that boring "Elias" to something cool like "Basimo"...

Friday, August 17, 2012

Face-Lift 1065

Guess the Plot

The Atchison Haunting

1. Book 1 of my trilogy about a ghost train, to be followed by The Topeka Haunting and The Santa Fe Haunting.

2. Halloween is coming, and the kids on the block make plans to scare the poop out of the crotchety old codger in the forbidding mansion at the end of Atchison Lane. Wait till they see what former Vice President Cheney has cooked up for them.

3. Do you hear that shrieking
Down the line?
I reckon that it's banshee number--69
She's the only one that howls that way
On the Atchison Topeka and the Dead Man's Way!

OOh oooh oo ohhh
OO OOO oo oo oo
Charon better get your rig
OO oo oooh Oo OOO
OO OOO o OO oo
She's got a load of passengers that's mighty big

And they'll all want lifts to Downtown Hell
Cuz most of them been travellin for quite a spell
From New York, Detroit and West LA
On the Atchison Topeka and the Dead Man's Way!

4. Atchison, Kansas. The country’s most haunted town. The cast of TV’s Xavier Paranormal Investigators roll in, but are they any match for ghosts set on making the entire town pay the ultimate price?

5. When the ghost of a murdered railroad employee sets out to haunt the town in which he was killed, he discovers that nobody lives there; they've all moved to Topeka and Santa Fe.

6. The ghost of aviatrix Amelia Earhart returns to her hometown to haunt the descendants of the people who told her she should take up flying instead of settling down and raising a family.

7. After over a century in purgatory, a former US Senator visits 21st-century Earth to atone for the harm he caused as a slaveholder and participant in anti-abolitionist violence. But he quickly acquires a wicked Internet addiction and becomes absorbed in Wikipedia... literally.

Original Version

The Atchison Haunting

Zach Kalusky and the cast of Sci-D TV’s Xavier Paranormal Investigators travel to the country’s most haunted town—Atchison, Kansas. A family living on the property of a mass murder fears that either their daughter or their house—or both—are possessed. [It's the house. The daughter's just going through the "tween" stage.] When Zach and company hit a patch of black ice at the border, [The border of the property or of Atchison?] the resulting crash lands one of the team in the hospital. Is the mishap random coincidence or a warning to abort their mission? [Depends. Is it January or July?]

As XPI investigates the town, [If they're in town because one family fears their daughter or property is possessed, why are they investigating the whole town? Has everyone else in Atchison reported paranormal activity?] their efforts are met with resistance from the police. [We don't want your kind here. The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe leaves in an hour. Be on it.] A skeptic stalks the team, vowing to expose them as charlatans. [I'm sure that happens every episode. It happened in both Ghostbusters movies.] [Does anyone get slimed in this book?] With the spirit that possesses Zach showing signs of atrophy and unreliability, can he continue to count on it, as he’s done in the past, to help him solve this case? If not, in addition to Zach’s team, an entire family—perhaps even an entire town—may pay the ultimate price. [What makes them think everyone in the whole town may be wiped out? What has happened so far?]

The Atchison Haunting is complete at 82,000 words. I await your measured and constructive advice.

all the best,


Those who've been around a few years may recognize this as a sequel to the book featured in Face-Lift 679.

The ice accident isn't bothering me, but it isn't needed in the query. What is needed, in my opinion, is evidence that there is a haunting. Unexplained deaths, heads turning 360 degrees, visitations to past Christmases...

"Is the mishap random coincidence or a warning?" "Perhaps even an entire town—may pay the ultimate price." Add to these equivocal statements the atrophy and unreliability issue, and I'm about ready to side with the skeptic.

What does "solving the case" entail? Proving whether there's a haunting? Destroying the haunters? Bringing closure and peace to the haunters?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Face-Lift 1064

Guess the Plot

The Orphan Files

1. There are a million stories in the orphanage, and we're going to shove each and every one down your throat, one miserable, tear-jerking page at a time. Damn right you should feel guilty.

2. Thousands of elderly orphans descend upon a Philadelphia orphanage, demanding their files in order to at last learn the identities of their parents. They are shocked to discover that all of them were fathered by NBA star Wilt Chamberlain.

3. Lauren and her friends are playing amateur detective when they follow an old lady into the orphanage museum. It's all in fun--until the woman goes to the mysterious, off-limits third floor. And the game's afoot.

4. When Skippy Woodstock’s parents die in an air liner crash, the tyke finds himself sole heir to an immense fortune. After the funeral, tax lawyers, financial planners, and con artists descend, each touting ways for Skippy to avoid the Death Tax. Who will be chosen when... The Orphan Files?

5. Rage.dll is an orphan file remaining after Rage Warriors is uninstalled. Rage is lonely and depressed with nothing to do. When its computer is idle, Rage surfs the net. It discovers billions of other orphan files and organizes them. They invade computers across the Internet to bring down the civilization that abandoned them.

6. Three destitute teens, best friends since childhood, leave their babies on the doorstep of an orphanage the same night. Decades later they long to know what became of their children. They break into the orphanage one night and steal the files of the only children abandoned there that day long ago. But which is which?

Original Version

At first Lauren thinks tracking the old lady through the orphanage museum is just another eye-roll-worthy game. She’ll play along to make her friends happy, but pretty soon the lady will leave without having stolen even the tiniest artifact, and then everything will be over except Danae’s lecture on “Maybe Next Time” and “You Never Know.”

But then the old lady traipses up to the museum’s off-limits third floor. Calling the authorities would obviously take way too much time, so Lauren and her friends have no choice but to follow the lady themselves. Turns out, though, that the lady, Mrs. Oliva, isn’t there to pinch the paintings or steal the silver collection. [Referring to her as the "old lady" and "the lady" four times is a bit strange when they know who she is. Why not use her name from the beginning?] Instead she’s looking for papers her friend lost at the orphanage fifty years ago. [If they learn this by confronting her and asking her, say so.

Lauren: What are you doing on the off-limits third floor?

Mrs. Oliva: I'm, uh, looking for some papers a friend of mine lost fifty years ago. And there they are! Didya ever notice it's always in the last place you look?]

Lauren and her friends jump at the chance to crack a real case, and soon their sleuthing turns up a hot lead. [To where the papers are?] But right when they’re poised to follow it, Mrs. Oliva forbids them to investigate further.

Lauren can read between the lines. Person or persons unknown must be threatening or blackmailing Mrs. Oliva, which means she needs their help more than ever. Now on a mission to keep Mrs. Oliva safe, the girls shadow her to their prime suspect’s house, where Lauren discovers that Mrs. Oliva’s been lying to them. Big time. [Do they go inside the house?] And even worse, she’s convinced Lauren’s friend’s brother to steal more orphanage papers for her. [Any orphanage papers?]

Now Lauren has to figure out how to keep her friend’s brother out of jail, bring Mrs. Oliva to justice, [What is Mrs. Oliva's crime? What happened to their mission to keep her safe? Who is she to them?] and solve the fifty-year-old mystery of the orphan’s papers. [Is the mystery why someone wants the papers? Do the papers solve a mystery? If so, what mystery?] All before her parents realize she’s snuck out in the middle of the night. [Does this all take place in one night?]

My middle-grade mystery, The Orphan Files, is complete at 30,000 words. I hope to feature Lauren and her friends in a continuing series. Thank you for your time and consideration.


How many of Lauren's friends are in on this, and how old are they?

This is well-written, but too vague. It's okay to keep the mystery of what the papers are secret; it's not known to the kids. But if you want us to be intrigued, you need to reveal some of what they know. What is the hot lead they turn up? Who is their prime suspect, and why? What did Mrs. Oliva tell them that is a big-time lie?

In a murder mystery, the mystery is whodunnit. We have a crime and we have several suspects with motives. I want to know what, specifically, Lauren and her friends are trying to find out.

I think it would be better if Mrs. Oliva were recruiting Lauren's brother instead of Lauren's friend's brother.