Thursday, February 28, 2013

Openings Needed

I've decided to end the New Beginning feature, because no one is submitting openings anyway. However, it would be nice to finish up the feature with a nice round 1000, which would require 11 more. We managed 1000 cartoons; now if 11 of you so-called writers will submit the opening 150 - 200 words of your latest novel or short story we can do the same with New Beginnings.

Also, if this appeal gets any results, we'll need amusing continuations for the 11 openings, so click the Openings link in the sidebar in the next few days.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Face-Lift 1106

Guess the Plot


1. It was his song, it was his song, it was their song. And after tonight, when James and Stephan declare their love while singing "Lola", will the Cedar Rapids VFW annual fish fry ever be the same?

2. The first Lola doll to come off the assembly line isn't intended for a child. Like the first toy of every line, she's destined to be destroyed by the Breaker, a remorseless quality assurance machine. Sacrificing herself for the good of others doesn't appeal to Lola, however. She's just not ready to meet her Breaker.

3. A prudish succubus from the underworld of Lola is cast upon the overworld of Highla. Her mission is to prove her worth by saving Highlan men from sociopolitical influences that encourage sexual release by hand-to-hand combat. There are no women in Highla, by the way. But will the Highlans let her go home, after she's proved she's hot?

4. Sixteen-year-old Lola moves to Key West. She worked obsessively to finish school early. Now She’s ready for romance. But none of the cute boys will dance with her. So she dresses like a boy; now they’re all flirting like crazy. Then she meets hot hetero Billy. They go fishing, diving and wind surfing. If she resumes being a girl, she’ll lose her “friends” and Billy will think he/she’s weird. But she hates it when he dates those snowbird bimbos.

5. Lola, a champion Toy Poodle, has retired to the maternal life. When thieves break in and steal her 3 precious babies, she does what any mother would do--she enlists the help of the neighborhood animals. Between Brad the crow, Patch and Moll the cats, Joe the pitbull and Ralph the ferret, can they find her puppies before it's too late?

Original Version

“The first toy of every line is intended for disassembly,” Angelique’s one eye shifted away from Lola, staring into darkness.“The First is not just any toy. This is a brave, unique creature. A being that only exists for the sake of others. You will go willingly, your head up, embracing your fate and proud of your calling. It’s your ultimate selfless sacrifice. Prepare to meet your Breaker.”

It wasn’t named The Breaker for nothing, you know. While some might consider this quality assurance machine harmless, neutral, void of feeling, Lola, a soon-to-be-dead doll, knows that it’s out to get her. [Run, Lola, Run.] A special edition doll, created only to be taken to pieces by the Breaker, Lola is led to believe that she needs to be joyful and friendly, carefree and docile, just as her box says, all the way to her doom. [I doubt a doll would be advertised as "docile." Even if these dolls are sentient and mobile in the presence of their owners, the manufacturer wouldn't consider docility a selling point.]

But could she possibly be more than just the description on her box? Lola struggles to discover who she really is and why it is that she cannot, will not, accept her destiny.

On her mission to untangle her fate, Lola stumbles onto the wretched Broken community, possibly the family she has been longing for. The Broken accept her for who she is, and support her in facing her monsters, the dark corners of her nightmares and the possibility of losing her life (and theirs) when she finally comes eye to eye with the godless, remorseless Breaker. [Not clear how Lola's encounter with the Breaker will kill the Broken.] [Were the Broken broken by the Breaker? If so, apparently the Breaker injures you, but doesn't kill you. Yet Lola is described as soon-to-be-dead.]

Against all odds and sinister forces surrounding her, Lola finds herself thinking outside the box, [Nice.] and resolves to fight her fate and the fate of all Firsts. A fate no one has ever contested before. A fate she might not be able to avoid. [That last sentence isn't needed. Who wants to read about someone whose "fate" can't be avoided?]

LOLA is an eerie 75,000 word novel targeted at 9-12 year olds, especially the adventure seeking girls who are into more than just pink and the Biebs. Lola is a strong female protagonist, who is struggling to discover who she is, and believes there is more to her than her box implies.

I have been a journalist and an editor for 15 years and have lately started publishing stories in various horror magazines. My short story “all about Evil” [That's the title I was planning for my autobiography.] was published lately [recently] as part of the horror fiction compilation “Bonded By Blood IV”. [How come when I look up Bonded By Blood IV on Amazon, "All About Evil" isn't one of the stories?]


You don't need Angelique to set up the situation for us. That's your job. We don't even know who Angelique is.

Are there any human characters? I'm not sure a 12-year-old is gonna want to read a book in which all the characters are toys. 

If there are people, are dolls sentient/mobile in their presence? These seem like important points.

What are these "sinister forces" surrounding Lola? If you want to attract those at the upper end of your age range, you might have to focus on the evil aspects.  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Nature of Santa Cruz

1. Well, it's near the beach and there's nice sidewalks, but there are a lot of college kids and it sort of rains a lot.

2. Trees and stones take human form to wage a secret war in Santa Cruz. 15-year-old Cassie has the ability to bridge the gap between man and nature, tipping the balance of power. But will her mom let her go into the woods by herself?

3. Like mother, like daughter, knows Professor Irons. It's no surprise when young Jade flees the mundanity of Peoria for the glamour of the West Coast. But when she falls into the company of communal hydroponic farmers, it's up to the Professor to rescue her, before she succumbs to . . . The Nature of Santa Cruz.

4. When “undocumented worker” Carlos Cruz shows up at the day labor pool on Christmas Eve, the only guy offering work is a pequeno duende with bells on his shoes. Driving the sleigh is no problem, but will Christmas be ruined when Carlos has to take a leak at 30,000 feet? The kid who asked for the jar of marbles will probably think so.

5. Sasha, a young ecologist, fights to protect the endangered wildlife refuge near her Santa Cruz home. Things heat up, however, when she meets Don, a hunky land developer who claims to have a heart for the environment. Will Sasha have to choose between her newfound love and . . . The Nature of Santa Cruz?

6. Hot tubs, hot bikinis, and hot days on the boardwalk don't convince Marvin he's seen the real Santa Cruz. Join Marvin for a walk amid the downtrodden--migrant workers, homeless runaways, and Internet porn slaves--and learn that even these forgotten souls can cry, laugh, and love.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am looking for representation for my young adult fantasy novel, The Nature of Santa Cruz (100,000 words).

Don't talk to strangers. Stay with the group. Listen to your mother. Fifteen-year-old Cassie Ravenssen knows all the rules. In the next three months she'll break every one of them. [She'll even run with scissors.] The Nature of Santa Cruz is the story of a girl growing up, a mother facing her past, and a world about to slip into war.

Cassie hates living on the run. The frequent moves, the fake names, and the non-stop lies leave her aching for a normal existence. [You might want to mention why she's living on the run.] Her mother's over-the-top restrictions make it impossible for her to have any fun, so when a letter arrives and they head for the west coast, Cassie hopes things are finally going to change. [What's in the letter? What makes her think things might change?]

But Santa Cruz hides mysteries Cassie can't leave alone, and her search for explanations takes her way out of bounds. Who is setting fires around town? Why are there soldiers in the woods? And since when are Australians the enemy? [Since they started training kangaroos as suicide bombers.] Her new friends Stan and Hawk hold the answers. When they introduce her to their charismatic leader, Jay, Cassie knows she wants to join the shadowy Western Forest Authority on its environmental mission. [What's their mission?]

Stan, Hawk, and Jay don't just defend the natural world, however; they are part of it – Arborei and Stannen – trees and stones turned human to wage a secret war. It is no accident Cassie has come to Santa Cruz. Someone wants her there and someone else wants her dead, for Cassie is a hybrid who can bridge the gap between man and nature, a weapon that can tip the balance of power forever. [Does she know she's a weapon? Is she always on the run because she's a hybrid? Was the letter that brought her to Santa Cruz written by a human or a tree?]

If only she'd listened to her mother. Once her cover is blown and Jay knows who she is, Cassie's thrilled to be accepted into the Arborei. But the Stannen have her mom, Jay has a plan for Cassie, and she'll soon learn no one's on her side. [She can't even go to the cops:

Cassie: My mother's been kidnaped.
Officer: By whom?
Cassie: The stones.
Officer: The stones? You mean the Rolling Stones?
Cassie: No, age-old rock-people who never die.
Officer: That's what I said. The Rolling Stones.]

The Nature of Santa Cruz is the first in the Tipping Point series; one of four novels that follow Cassie as nature goes to war. Uniquely placed between man and the environment, ["Uniquely," meaning she's the only hybrid?] she'll raise her own army, fight her own battles, and forge a brand new path to peace.


Mentioning that Cassie's a hybrid and that her friends used to be rocks and trees might be done earlier. Perhaps in an introductory paragraph. As it is, it's kind of a "Whoa!" moment. If I'm reading about a world in which rocks and trees turn into teenagers, I want to know it up front. Imagine you're reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and halfway through the book King Kong shows up. Sure, the book suddenly got interesting, but if you didn't know it was coming, you might have stopped reading in chapter 3 and picked up Anne of Green Gables.

The current introductory paragraph can be dumped. Her mother's rules aren't that intriguing, and certainly aren't what you call "over-the-top restrictions."

Are the bad guys the soldiers or the stones and trees?

I'm more interested in the answers to some of my questions than in the questions about fires and Australians.

The book is the story of a girl growing up, a mother facing her past, and a world about to slip into war. It might be better if the query focused on one of these. We know nothing of the mother's past, little about the trials of Cassie's growing up, and the war seems more local than world-encompassing. Focus on the aspect most likely to appeal to the target audience. Is it mainly a story about trying to fit in in a new town and school when there's lots of weird stuff going on? Or is it mainly about The Chosen One trying to defeat the forces of evil who are out to destroy goodness and light?

Selected Comments

Blogger blogless_troll said...Actually, I think the mother's past is pretty clear. In her younger days she was one of those extremists who chain themselves to trees for days on end. One time she probably brought some rum to keep her warm at night, spilled a little on the roots, one thing led to another...she's already tree hugging anyway. Nine months later hybrid kid is born. Somebody got pictures, posted 'em all over the Internet, now every time she starts a new receptionist job someone walks in and says, "Hey, aren't you that tree fu--" And BOOM, she's out the door, dragging tree girl to another town.

I agree we do need to know what's in the letter. And also how her new friends react to things like toilet paper and granite countertops. I suspect junk mail would really piss them off. It's such a waste.

This sounds like it could be fun as long as it doesn't get too messagey.

sylvia said...I could live with her discovering she's a hybrid at the end of the synopsis, but I felt pretty uncomfortable with five new names brought up at once (Stan, Hawk, Jay, Arborei, Stannen). Then, it wasn't clear to me that those were tribe/being names until I saw that Stannen had her mom -- at which point I was confused again because I thought they were the good guys.

Anonymous said...The query shows good writing ability, but it's more jacket copy than query letter. EE again makes the point that a query's purpose is to provide information and be fascinating. Jacket copy's purpose is to raise questions so people will buy the book to see what it's about.

Jennifer said...I know, I know - I keep writing book jackets! (and this story lends itself so well to parody - believe me, I've come up with most of the jokes already) Here are a couple of paragraphs I banged out to try to be more direct. Whattya think?
Fifteen-year-old Cassie Ravenssen wants to join the Western Forest Authority. She’s new here to Santa Cruz, California, and she doesn’t know much about the mysterious environmental group, but she’d like to spend more time among the enormous coastal redwoods, especially with her friends Stan and Hawk.

Then Cassie discovers the boys are soldiers and the WFA is a military organization, not a club. But how can an entire army hide in the forest and why are the Australians the enemy? It’s all about the nature of Santa Cruz. Hawk is Arborei, a tree that can become human, and the WFA is one outpost in an empire of trees. Stan, a Stannen, is the embodiment of a rock, living among the Arborei as a token of good faith. As climate change threatens the balance between species, conflict between natives and colonizing eucalyptus trees is heating up.

Cassie is the prize they all want to control. She is a hybrid, the first of her kind, a cross between human and tree that can change the balance of power. Cassie must separate desire from purpose, friend from enemy, before she can decide for herself which side she is on, and when Stan betrays her to help his own people, Cassie realizes that her true nature aligns her with the trees.

I know I'm not supposed to hint in any way that this is a series, but for God's sake, this is a YA fantasy novel - is anyone actually fooled by that? What do you do in this situation?

And by the way, there's no message, except that if we don't get those vicious blood-sucking trees they're going to wipe us all out the first chance they get.

Bernita said...While the stone and tree people sound fascinating, the title is dull.

Evil Editor said...The new version gives a much better picture of what we're dealing with. I imagine some will find the idea of a human/tree hybrid silly, but you can point to the ents in LOTR. And the talking apple trees in TWOO.

Xenith said...Revised version sounds much more interesting. Mother's rules and being on the run aren't particularly attention getting.

Anonymous said...If this is YA, I wouldn't mention the mother confronting her past. Teens and preteens don't really care what their parents think. It's "me me me!" all the way.

Jennifer said...

Is Outpost Santa Cruz a better title?

Or Girls Gone Wild? Oh wait, that one's taken.

Nature's Army? Secret of Santa Cruz?

foggidawn said...Your rewrite of the query is much more attention-grabbing.

I wouldn't worry overmuch about the title. The Nature of Santa Cruz makes a passable working title. From what I hear, when you get a publisher, your editor is likely to suggest changes, anyway.

pacatrue said...It's not clear why Santa Cruz in particular is so important that it needs to be in the title. It seems like this could take place anywhere there's rocks and trees.

I vote for "Attack Trees of Death."

BuffySquirrel said...It seems a bit of a given that "her true nature aligns her with the trees". After all, she's half-tree. Maybe a less predictable solution to her problem would be more engaging. Nobody wants to spend their time waiting for the protagonist to notice the bleeding obvious.

Bernita said...The "working title/publisher will change it anyway" is a dangerous excuse. Your title is your first hook. It's a knotty problem.

Robin S. said...Your revised version reads really well. Best of luck.

blogless_troll said...I really like the rewrite. And as long as we're throwing out titles, how about My Dysfunctional Family Tree, or The Arboreal Guerrilla War.

GutterBall said...As for castaway titles, how about Sticks and Stones? Death to Rocks? Trees Are People, Too?

Oh, oh! My Dad, the Tree! Someone might mistake it for literary fiction and put it on Oprah's Book Club! Woot!

Jennifer GWOTW said...

Here's what I'm not getting across so far:

These are not talking trees. These are trees that can spit out a human being. Once it's out, it's just like us.

Cassie isn't out to save the world. She just wants a date with Hawk. Who happens to be a tree.

At the beginning of the novel, only one person knows she's a hybrid and it ain't Cassie or her mother. By the end of the novel they've all figured it out and all the different sides want to control her - not because she has superpowers, but because of what her offspring could mean for the trees. (Making them equal to humans)

Aside from the current battle between the native SC trees and the interloping eucalyptus ones, there is a much longer running tree/stone conflict which is why Stan is trying so darn hard to get Cassie to join up with him.

And then there's Fisher - a stone who's joined the tree side. (Think Vanilla Ice - really wants to be black - never will be; same thing going on here.)He's been after Cassie and her mom all this time. He wants Cassie dead and his own shot at making hybrids, if you know what I mean. He blows Stan's plans and now Cassie thinks all the stones are evil.

About half the characters in the book find out what Cassie is in the last scene, during which Stan makes his move, Fisher makes his and the trees arrive to "save the day". Of course within 2 pages in the second book we realize what a huge mistake Cassie's made.

So - how to get all that into one snappy sentence, eh?

Jennifer GWOTW said...Oh - and why I'd put Santa Cruz in the title?

The story is very place based. Not only do all the scenes take place at actual locations around town, there are actual trees from around town in the book.

I can picture the tourist brochure now.

pacatrue said...Actual trees around town. I think that's very very cool.

Crystal Charee said...The title is actually pretty good once you know what it means. EE's "guess the plot" for your story was the one I wanted to read. I say crib from EE and add some detail.

Choose one hero, one villain, and one conflict. Leave the rest for the agent to discover as they read your pages.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Martin Mason and the Man in the Crystal Prison

1. Not at all based on Harry Potter. Not in the slightest. Honest.

2. J.K. Rowling's lovechild by Evil Editor pens a scathing tell-all in the tradition of Mommy Dearest.

3. In the prison is the iron-fisted tyrant Samuel Wade, who just happens to be Martin Mason's father. Martin has the ability to turn invisible, but should he use this power to break his father out, or should he hang out in the women's locker room at the local gym? Or should he just stare at a blank wall?

4. Martin Mason, middle aged Irishman, tumbles into a rabbit hole on his way home from a pub in Limerick and discovers he's actually a wizard with a very important mission in life: guard the wee evil elf in the crystal prison on Fiona's key ring and don't let him out until the ransom has been negotiated with Glimmerella. But Martin accidentally lets the elf go. Hilarity ensues.

5. Martin Mason, teen-aged musical prodigy, learns that his music teacher/mentor has been unjustly incarcerated in the Crystal Prison and sets out to free him by smuggling in a high-F# tuning fork with which to shatter the walls.

6. Mild-mannered accounting clerk Martin Mason is troubled by a recurring dream of a man confined in a prison with crystal windows and bars. He takes an hallucinogenic herb to deepen his dream state, and finds himself in a crystal prison where he dreams of a mild-mannered accounting clerk.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Thirteen-year-old Martin Mason spends his evenings staring at a blank wall in his school’s basement. [A fascinating character about whom I would like to read an entire novel.

Chapter 12

Man, I still can't get enough of staring at this blank wall. It's like a giant canvas for my imagination. Hey, I never noticed this, but the wall isn't quite white. More of an off-white. Egg shell, maybe.

I wonder if they'd mind if I brought in a poster to hang on the wall. Just to break up the monotony. Nothing gaudy, of course, maybe a photograph of Tolkien or a still life of a fruit bowl with no apples, just Kiwi fruit and limes and prunes. Not that the wall is that monotonous. It is slightly brighter in the middle and darker in the corners. Though that could be a trick of the lighting.

Someone should paint a mural on this wall. A mural of characters from Dr. Suess and Looney Toons. I wonder if the Cat in the Hat would have as much trouble catching the Roadrunner as Wile E. Coyote does. The Cat's pretty smart, and the Roadrunner isn't necessarily smart, he just survives because the coyote keeps buying his contraptions from Acme, which makes crap. How does that place stay in business?

Whoa, what's that spot? Was that little spot there yesterday? I couldn't have missed that, could I? It looks like someone came in and drew a little dot with a Sharpie. Someone . . . lefthanded. Who walks with a limp. But why? Wait . . . IT'S MOVING!!! What the-- Oh. It's a spider. Shit, I'm losing it. Hey, I never thought about it, but I wonder . . . what's behind this wall?]

Behind this wall lies a device designed to free tyrant Samuel Wade from an impenetrable prison. [Whattaya mean, "tyrant"? Are we talking Stalin or the Vice Principal?] [Is this supposedly impenetrable prison the crystal prison of the title? Gimme a sledge hammer and stand back. I'll show you impenetrable.] Though Martin doesn’t know about this device, he does know three teachers who used to work behind that wall have mysteriously disappeared. Well, that, and he’s the prime suspect. [Why?]

To solve these disappearances and clear his name, Martin must first master his mind’s rare ability to manipulate its surroundings. Turning invisible was great for playing pranks at his old school back home. But sneaking around unseen at night tends to arouse suspicion at a school where Martin’s talent isn’t so unique. [If he's unseen, and others have the same ability, why is he the one they suspect?]

Martin must then decide who deserves his trust in this secret, seemingly idyllic world of self-driving cars and death-defying medical technology. His best bet is the teacher who supposedly saved him from life as some government lab rat by dragging him to this school in the first place. But Martin suspects him in the disappearances. [If Martin suspects him, then why is he the best bet?] There’s also the school Director. But he suspects Martin. [Why?] As for the police, they weren’t much help during Samuel Wade’s iron-fisted rule five years ago. [Rule of the school? Usually impenetrable prisons are reserved for the worst criminals. What did Wade do?]

What’s really getting to Martin, though, is the discovery that Wade is his biological father. [Aha! It's Star Wars. Martin is Luke, Wade is Vader, and the blank wall is the Force.] Despite Martin’s affection for the adoptive parents who raised him, he feels drawn to his own flesh and blood. If Martin is to stop Wade’s return, [If he doesn't know about the device designed to free Wade, and Wade is in an impenetrable prison, why does he think he needs to stop Wade's return?] solving the mystery of the blank wall won’t be enough; he must also resist his father’s temptations. [Wouldn't it be more accurate to refer to the mystery of the missing teachers than the mystery of the blank wall?]

grade fantasy, complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Martin is trying to stop Wade's return? Meaning if the device is used to free Wade, he will regain his power?

What is Martin trying to do, mentally create a door in the wall? There must be some way into that room besides manipulating matter.

Once you get to Martin must master his mind's ability etc. you lose the main plot thread. Dump the pranks and self-driving cars and focus on what Martin plans to do once he masters his ability. Instead of listing those who don't deserve his trust, tell us whom he does trust to help him, assuming there is someone. What, specifically, is the danger, and what can Martin do about it?

Anonymous said...I'm confused. What is this query is authorial info and what does Martin himself know? Here's what I'm getting out of it:

* Martin. He's 13 and telekinetic. He was adopted. He would like to connect with his biological dad, who he may or may not know is this society's ex-tyrant, and may or may not want to free from prison if he did know. He feels a little alone-against-the-world.

* The world: Technology is advanced. Life seems idyllic. But the police are corrupt. There used to be a tyrant, who is now in prison. A plot to free said tyrant is taking place at Martin's school. Martin may or may not know this.

* The school: All the kids have weird powers. Three teachers have disappeared. The other teachers suspect Martin of vanishing their colleagues. He didn't. One teacher scouted Martin for the school. A plot to free the tyrant is taking place. Martin may or may not know this.

That's a lot of info for a query. Are you in the stage where you are trying to answer everyone's questions? Don't worry. If you can focus on the important stakes and hook the reader, it'll be okay to have a detail or two dangling.

You might also want to look at the tone. The title is jokey, and Martin is 13 and plays pranks with his cool powers. But staring at a wall is boring and disappearing people and a menacing tyrant are pretty dark, massive stakes.

vkw said...I've see this query in a couple forms now and each time I keep asking myself - why does the author like this sentence:

"Thirteen-year-old Martin Mason spends his evenings staring at a blank wall in his school’s basement."

It's not that interesting and doesn't tell us a thing about the story.

If you insist on using it tell us why he is doing it.

"Martin spends his evenings staring at a blank wall which he believes hides the mystery of an imprisoned man or where he thinks his father is being held in a crystal prison or hides the whereabouts of three missing teachers."

My suggestion is to dump it completely.

The query is scattered. It's like a shotgun blast at a target. You've hit the target with a lot of pellets but it's missing connections.

It's like its been over-written or lost in the telling.

Then this happened, and this and did I mention the talking horse and flying cars?

The Spicy Cupcake said...Wait, what's with the wall? Was something walled up? Or is there another room on the otherside of the wall? When I read that teachers dissapeared from the other side of the wall, etc, I'm wondering why they were inside a wall.

arhooley said...Wow, I have no sense of how this story reads. All I see Martin doing is staring at a blank wall and sneaking around at night -- although he's suspected of making no less than three teachers disappear. (Why isn't he locked up himself?) (Why would he sneak around at night if he can make himself invisible?) It seems as if the plot consists of Martin trying to make a decision and solve a mystery by just thinking about it.

Also: Martin must first master his mind’s rare ability to manipulate its surroundings. You can take Martin's mind out of this sentence. "Martin must master his rare ability to manipulate his surroundings." Presumably, he and his mind stick together. And as usual, if he can manipulate his surroundings, why doesn't he melt the blank wall?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Though Martin doesn’t know about this device, he does know three teachers who used to work behind that wall have mysteriously disappeared.

See, if three teachers have disappeared, that's interesting. It's a problem, an issue, a challenge if you will. How will your protag rise to meet this challenge?

He'll... stare at the wall said teachers used to work behind?


Would Martin's godfather, Harry Potter, stare at the wall? Hell no. He'd tear it down with his fingernails if he had to. He'd get Hermione to read every book in the library about that wall. He'd spy on everyone and his mother. He'd figure out how the teachers got behind the wall... maybe that door over there in the corner?

He'd kick that wall's ass.

Your character needs gumption.

Ryan Mueller said...Thank you for the comments everybody. They've been really helpful.

@Evil Editor

Chapter 12 was hilarious. I'll have to make sure to replace the beginning of my chapter 12 with that.


We're talking a whole lot closer to Stalin than the Vice Principal. Hundreds of thousands of people "disappeared" during Wade's rule. He also intended to take over the entire world (not just the little place where people with these special abilities have isolated themselves) and rule it by force with his powers.

Why is Martin suspected?

He has had the misfortune of being in the wrong place at the wrong time whenever one of the disappearances has occurred.

Most of the questions you raised I've managed to work into my newest version of the query letter. I took out nearly all the extraneous stuff about the world.

Can we submit a revised query in the comments now? I know we couldn't when Phoenix was still doing query critiques.


Thank you for your comments about there being too much information. I actually had a version of the query I liked before, but people kept telling me to put more into it. In doing that, I think I ended up losing the plot amidst all the irrelevant details.

As for the tone, I would say the actual story is more mysterious than dark. However, it is intended for a relatively young audience, so I do include comedic bits. Personally, I like the title, which is strange because I always hate my titles.


Rejoice! I have now taken the blank wall references out of the query. I had thought it would be strange enough to grab people's attention. Apparently, it was just annoying.

Thanks for the shotgun blast analogy. I've tried to cut down on the stuff not essential to the plot.

@Spicy Cupcake

The wall is gone now. Well, it's still there in the story, but in the story, I have more words to make it make sense.

@Alaska Ravenclaw

Your post made me laugh. Now, I'm imagining Martin kicking the wall's ass.

Thanks for letting me know that my character was coming across as pathetic and wimpy in the query. I've now added to my new query the actions he takes to solve the mystery (which aren't just staring at a wall).

For everyone confused about the wall, I'll try to explain it without giving away too many of the plot details.

At one point, Martin notices a teacher go through the wall by muttering a password. He finds this suspicious, so he starts watching the wall while invisible. He wants to know what's going on behind that wall. He is suspected when teacher's disappear because of the fact that he was unaccounted for at the time of each disappearance.

Since the wall was so difficult to fit concisely into a query letter, I realized I could still get the plot across without it. Thanks everyone for helping me realize that.

Ryan Mueller said...Here's a new version of the query. Does this work better? Is it less confusing? I tried to simplify everything chronologically.

Dear Agent,

At thirteen-year-old Martin Mason’s new school, life isn’t exactly going as planned. Three teachers have mysteriously vanished, and Martin’s knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time has made him the prime suspect.

To solve these disappearances and clear his name, Martin must master the rare abilities that landed him a spot at this school in the first place. Invisibility to watch the entrance to the secret lab where those teachers used to work. Night vision to spot the culprit as he attempts to kidnap a fourth victim. Mind defense to lie when the school Director interrogates him about his suspicious behavior.

When Martin’s most likely ally in his investigation turns out to be the kidnapper, he looks to the only people he can really count on: his new thirteen-year-old friends. Together, they soon discover there’s more to this mystery than meets the eye. Those teachers who disappeared were working on a device to free brutal tyrant Samuel Wade from a seemingly impenetrable crystal prison. And the plot’s mastermind is the school Director himself.

Most horrifying, though, is the discovery that Wade is Martin’s biological father. Intrigued as he is by his own flesh and blood, Martin knows his true parents are the loving people who raised him. When he finally meets Wade, however, Martin’s loyalties waver under the influence of his father’s formidable mind control. Preventing Samuel Wade from renewing his reign of terror will require every bit of mind defense Martin possesses, and then some.

MARTIN MASON AND THE MAN IN THE CRYSTAL PRISON is an upper middle grade fantasy, complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Evil Editor said...Much better. It seems a bit long; you might be able to eliminate a few lines by cutting the following:

P1: life isn’t exactly going as planned.

P2: about his suspicious behavior

P3: thirteen-year-old




Intrigued as he is by his own flesh and blood,

, and then some

first Anon from above said...Awesome revision Ryan! Far clearer and I really like that it's all about Martin. He's coming across as likeable now where he was a bit poor me before.

Jo-Ann said...Hi author. The revised version flows much better, particularly with all references to staring at the wall deleted.

It's probably just me, but the name is close enough to Marilyn Manson to give me an image of what this kid might look like - and I'm guessing your protag doesn't wear heavy make up (at least not in public!).

Also a crystal prison doesn't give the image of an impenetrable fortress. If you're trying to attract an audience that includes boys, my sense is that the word "crystal" in the title would be about as attractive to them as the words "ponies" or "mermaids".

As for the query - I like it! Succinct and clear, and I'd read it (or buy for my offspring).

I'd only pause to ask why Martin is a suspect rather than a key witness to the disappearances (is there any other evidence that incriminates him? I mean, he'd have to be quite a powerful sorcerer to overpower adults), and whether Martin knew his ally is the actual kidnapper (if not, the shift in POV in the query is uncomfortable).

Otherwise, good job!

Tamara said...I like your revised query. The one tiny thing that nettled me was paragraph 3: "his new thirteen-year-old friends." EE listed it as a potential space-saver, but I don't like it because I'm cantankerous. Surely they weren't all born at the same day (unless they came from the same batch of tubes in 'the lab'), and the story takes place over a reasonably substantial time span, so they wouldn't all be thirteen at the same time. And isn't it obvious that Martin's new friends would generally be the same age? Though it would be slightly more interesting if they weren't. You know, a genius 10-year-old there, a hot "older woman" from the eighth grade mind-readers there....

Beth said...The revision is a great improvement. It has a nice, logical flow, which the previous version lacked. But it's too long and I really think you should zap the part about Wade being his father, which tips the query over the edge into almost-farce. As a twist, it may work out well in the book, but in the query it's one plot development too many. It screams cliche and melodrama. You have plenty of plot and conflict there without it.

One final note: The name Samuel Wade just does not sound like a dictator's name. Not that dictators are born with specially pre-prepared names and certainly you don't want to go over the top with something obvious evil...but the name does need to have a little bite to it, I think. More hard consonants maybe?

Ryan Mueller said...Thanks for the additional comments everyone. I'm glad to see my query's moving in the right direction.

@Evil Editor On the length, I wonder if it looks longer in the comments than it really is. It's actually slightly shorter than the original query. Is the 250 words for the entire query letter (including title and word count) or just for the plot paragraphs? As it is now, my plot paragraphs go 249 words. @Jo-Ann I'll see if I can think of something to use instead of the word crystal. I won't worry about it too much, though, since titles often get changed during the publishing process. I didn't even think about the similarity to the name Marilyn Manson. If he looked like that, it would certainly put a different spin on the book. As to why Martin is considered a suspect and not a witness, he is actually considered both. The query presents a very much simplified version of events. Part of the reason he's suspected, though, is that the Director thinks Martin might be getting a little too close to his plot to free Wade. I'll change the sentence about the kidnapper to: "When Martin discovers his most likely ally is actually the kidnapper..." That way, I should be able to eliminate the POV shift. @Tamara Yeah, I think I'll change that. I was questioning it when I wrote the query. One of his friends does turn fourteen during the course of the book, so you're right. @Beth I'll have to think about whether I should keep the part about Wade being his father in there or not. Thanks for pointing that out. As for the name, I could try to think of something else. Part of me reason for choosing it was the idea of giving a tyrant a perfectly normal name. I was hoping it would actually break from cliche there. I'd also like to hear others' thoughts on what Beth brought up. Should I eliminate the part about Wade being Martin's father from the query? Again, thank you for your comments everyone. They've been very helpful.

Evil Editor said...It's not so much the word count as whether it'll fit on one page in the form of a business letter, which would include contact info, date, etc.

I suppose now that agents are happy with emailed queries, this is less of a concern unless it's obvious that it wouldn't fit on a page. I'm not gonna print off your query to see if it fits. And at least you aren't wasting space with credits. I'm used to the plot consisting of three paragraphs of about ten sentences, often in three paragraphs. As yours has four paragraphs and fourteen sentences, I expect it would be a tight fit. Thus (to answer your other question), I think you might lop off the final plot paragraph about the father. It would feel about right in length, and that info isn't needed. It wouldn't hurt to also lop off those bits I suggested earlier, as they aren't doing much for you.

Ryan Mueller said...I've taken everybody's advice on tightening this up just a little bit. I cut out the bits about Wade being Martin's father. Here is the new version of the query letter.

Dear Agent, At thirteen-year-old Martin Mason’s new school, three teachers have mysteriously vanished, and Martin’s knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time has made him the prime suspect. To solve these disappearances and clear his name, Martin must master the rare abilities that landed him a spot at this school in the first place. Invisibility to watch the entrance to the secret lab where those teachers used to work. Night vision to spot the culprit as he attempts to kidnap a fourth victim. Mind defense to lie when the school Director interrogates him. When Martin discovers his most likely ally in the investigation is actually the kidnapper, he turns to the only people he can count on: his new friends. Together, they realize there’s more to this mystery than meets the eye. Those teachers who disappeared were working on a device to free brutal tyrant Samuel Wade from a seemingly impenetrable crystal prison. And the plot’s mastermind is the school Director himself. In light of this startling revelation, Martin and his friends are the only chance of preventing Wade from renewing his reign of terror. But they’ll be taking on a task far beyond the abilities they’ve learned in school. A task that will require every bit of resourcefulness they possess. MARTIN MASON AND THE MAN IN THE CRYSTAL PRISON is an upper middle grade fantasy, complete at 73,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Beth said...Ryan,

Part of me reason for choosing it was the idea of giving a tyrant a perfectly normal name. I was hoping it would actually break from cliche there. He can have a normal name. But maybe it should be a less soft-sounding normal name. Samuel Wade sounds beta to me. Find an alpha name. [g] Third version is good. Made me want to read it and I'm not your target audience. :) Third version is good.

Ryan Mueller said...@Arhooley

I think my new versions of the query actually answered the questions you asked, so I guess that's good. @Beth I don't know if you're still reading this. But what about the name Marcus Wade? I know it shares the same three letter's as Martin's name, but when I refer to Wade in the book, I use only his last name. If I use the first name, I include the last name with it. I also like it because it is apparently derived from Mars, the Roman god of war, which makes it an appropriate name for a tyrant. Interestingly enough, the name Martin is also apparently derived from Mars.

Jo-Ann said...I think that half the fun of the fantasy genre is the evil sounding names of the bad guys. Think of the nasty giants in The BFG (Bone Crusher, et al); White Witch and King Miraz in the Narnia series; the loathsome Darth Vader; the irredeemably evil Lord Voldemort and so on.

The creators left no doubt that these people will use their formidable powers to crush those who stand in their way. But maybe such names have become cliche and it's time for the John Smiths of the fantasy worlds to rise up and claim their rightful place in the pantheon of evil dictators and dark lords. My thoughts are that Marcus (or Xavier) Wade could possibly be a bad guy. But he sounds more at home perhaps in a thriller - he could be the corrupt police commisioner behind the hits of investigators too close to his tail, or the nuclear power plant exec who realises there's good money to be made in handing over plutonium to shady terrorist groups. And so on. But I dont really see Marcus or Xavier as being either alpha or beta names.

Evil Editor said...You are welcome to use either of the names that have recurred on this blog throughout the ages, as long as Evil Editor is acknowledged, those names being Korlach, Lord of the Dark Realm, and Borgo the Disemboweler.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fake Queries 6, 7

Face Lift #1093, GTP #4

Dear Evil Editor,

Eleven year-old Tina Tottingham is on the hunt for the Jigsaw Bandit in INCOMPLETE, (30,000 words) a middle-grade mystery.

Growing up playing in her parents’ toy boutique, Tina adores helping customers find the perfect gift. So, when Mayor Rasmussen’s daughter reports the handcrafted puzzle Tina recommended is missing pieces, Tina’s more than disappointed—she’s determined to find out what went wrong. After discovering all but two puzzles in the Toy Emporium are incomplete, Tina sets the trap for her light-fingered foe. Is it Maude, the elderly lady who loves to rearrange the doll display? Or, is it Alexa—the Mayor’s daughter? The first-ever Puzzle Race will reveal the culprit.

I’m a member of SCBWI-Tennessee and a mystery fan. INCOMPLETE would be enjoyed by children who like Nate the Great or Young Cam Jansen stories. I have included the first ten pages, as requested. Thank you for your time and consideration.

--Veronica Rundell

Face-Lift 58, GTP ??

Dear Evil Editor,

The year is 2453. Time travel for recreation has become commonplace. This season there is a craze for historical romance, and bored people take over the role of fake British Lords anywhere from 1200 to 1900, after a short effortless hypnotic course on relevant language and history.

Morin, a young lawyer, got a fortnight in Regency England as a gag gift from his staff, and uses it to get away from his humdrum life. But his conditioning was only partially successful, and he stumbles from one problem to the next, including a hopeless attraction to an unsuitable married woman, trying to change the injustice of the social system, etc. He ends up exposed as an impostor, and imprisoned, when he is finally drawn back to his own existence, after the longest two weeks of his life.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fake Query #5

Face-Lift #980, GTP #4

Dear Evil Editor,

Tom Evans wants an Oscar. His years of transforming silverscreen claptrap into blockbuster features feel empty and hollow when Roxanne leaves him for the screenwriter of last year's Best Picture.

Tom sets off for a buddy's cabin in Wyoming, certain that the quiet life is what he needs to write the next Brokeback Mountain. And sure, he gets plenty of natural exposure--from the nudist encampment that shares his river rights to the wolves that dog his every step--but few ideas. That is, until he stumbles into a militia meeting while hiking. The gun-toting freedom fighters mistake him for Dom Evans, and rejoice, certain the reclusive anarchist has responded to their repeated summons. Before he can reveal the error, Tom is inducted into the business side of militia finance--illegal booze and drug running. Realizing this experience might make for the most realistic story Tom's ever written, he dives headfirst into the intrigue. When the real Dom Evans arrives, however, Tom's charade evaporates.

Now, it's Tom versus Dom versus Nature in the ultimate showdown--who will survive: Tom, Dom or the Grizzly bear? If he lives, Tom might just have the screenplay of his dreams.

HOLLYWOOD ENDINGS is complete at 157,000 words, and a guaranteed blockbuster you'd be a fool to turn down.

--Veronica Rundell


Could have been Oscar material -- if Orson Welles were still alive to play the grizzly bear.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fake Query #4

Face-Lift #200, GTP #1

Dear Ms. Agent,

Have you ever met one of those overachievers who's just got to be on top of every pyramid she climbs? Well, Staci Mesa, the head cheerleader at South Floridian High School, is that person. She has seen a new dance on YouTube that's quite the rage. It's called the Sosunda, and she simply must incorporate the dance's lurching and shuffling zombie-like moves into her team's routine.

Perfectionist that she is, she'll settle for nothing less than to learn the Sosunda's unique steps at the dance's point of origin, the tiny town of Port Au Feu in the Caribbean. With both her parents preoccupied with extramarital affairs, Staci has no trouble stealing her mom's credit card and slipping away to Port Au Feu during her school's mid-winter break.

She doesn't have to search long to find what she's looking for, because the Sosunda runs nonstop in the bar at the very hotel where she is staying. And there's one reveler there who is better at it than anybody else. He's got the foot-dragging and jittery clawing at the air down perfectly. He even looks the part. She can almost believe the moldering lips, the flaps of tattered skin hanging from his black-veined cheeks, and the cobweb-filled eye socket are real. Only after squeezing through the crowd and seeing him up close does she begin to suspect that ... maybe they are real! Yet more horrifying, he's stopped doing the Sosunda and wants to Tango.

Will it occur to Staci in time that the name Port Au Feu and the French recipe known as Pot Au Feu, which includes bone marrow as a main ingredient, sound remarkably similar? More importantly, will her cheerleader training allow her to tumble and cartwheel her way back to the cheer-filled world of high school and a blissfully dysfunctional family where she can go on being simply mindless instead of literally brainless? You can find out by requesting the completed manuscript of my xx,xxx word horror/adventure/love story.

As a lifelong survivor of the pre-zombie-apocalypse, I consider myself as qualified to write about it as anyone. Also, as for my previous writing credits, I have submitted several GTP's to Evil Editor's blog, some of which he actually published.

Thanks so much for your time. You can thank me later.




Zombies are hot, but if you don't write fast they may be cold by the time you get this published. Get to work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fake Query #3

Face-Lift 552, GTP #6

Jane Doe remembers turning the cut-glass knob of the wooden shop door. She remembers walking into the old Victorian converted to a thrift store in Spruce Hill, Colorado. Before that, there is nothing.

The ladies at Daughters of Mercy Secondhand are used to helping lost souls, and they quickly find a volunteer to drive Jane to the state mental hospital in Pueblo. There, a sharp-eyed security guard sees that the woman on Jane's driver's liscense isn't Jane. The woman, Yolanda King, only bears a resemblance to the amnesia patient. Jane feels she should have known she wasn't Yolanda, but when she looks in the mirror, she is shocked to see a total stranger.

Doctor Ben Shelby takes on jane as a client, pro bono. The doctor doubts this is a genuine case of retrograde amnesia and suspects that Jane has stolen Yolanda's identity and is faking the illness to avoid prosecution for some crime. A preliminary police investigation seems to confirm this- the real Yolanda King was found dead under suspicious circumstances. When Jane tells the police she doesn't remember meeting Yolanda, Shelby decides to get to the bottom of this certain murder.

Then a strange anomaly on Jane's MRI scan prompts the doctor to look a little closer. What he first takes to be a double image turns out to be more than a simple medical man like Shelby ever bargained for.

It will take all the doctor's skill to pry open the door Jane envisions in her mind. It will take all her determination to hold it shut. She doesn't know what will happen when it opens, but she senses it- and she's terrified.

The Amnesia Door is a 100,000 word psychological thriller about a woman who loses her mind and finds someone else's. Thanks for your consideration.



These queries for nonexistent books seem better than the ones we get for actual books. I'm thinking everyone should do this exercise and then write the book in their query.

S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep is a psychological thriller involving amnesia, and well worth your time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fake Query #2

Facelift 778, GTP 6.

Dear Call Yourself Evil,

Cifer's toilet is blocked, his tap drips and his landlord won't answer the phone. He's gone down in the world all right - all the way from Heaven to Toledo. And he can bet the landlord will get responsive as soon as that hastily-materialized first-and-last deposit returns to its constituent elements.

Shit, Cifer's mad as hell and hellbent for revenge. When the landlord shows up, Cifer stuffs her into the blocked toilet and takes over the building himself. As the fallen angel signs up new tenants, to his surprise one of the first applicants is a badly disguised Archangel. Is Gabe here to spy, or is he a malcontent ripe for the picking?

When Cifer hands out leases to a tone-deaf beginning violinist, an editor with an unbroken rejection record and a zombie nun, Gabe brings home a partying steel drum band and turns his bathroom (it was the one with the blocked toilet) into a lava lake. Seeing his opportunity, Cifer goads his rival into an an ever-increasing spiral of evil, hoping to look the golden boy to God by comparison.

By the time Gabe has founded a factory that makes elliptical billiard balls and replaced the contents of all the world's novels with mystical German sermons, Cifer is gleefully planning his repentant, prodigal return to Heaven. After all, he's even resisted shoving Sister Maria Hubert into the lava (she keeps using it to bake brain cookies). Father will take him back. Won't He?

BOUND AND FALLEN is an urban paranormal about revenge, family, and the founding of Hell. It's currently incomplete, at the gleam in my twisted eye stage. Thanks for reading to the end.



What are you waiting for? It's sure to be better than whatever you're actually working on. Although you might want to flush the toilet part.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Last Ride

1. An aging cowboy on his last cattle drive, from Texas to Ogallala, Nebraska, plans to stampede the herd and throw himself under it--until he falls for a saloon owner during a rest stop outside Oklahoma City. Is it ever too late for romance?

2. Abandoned at age eight on a carnival ride, Sandra Fforde now studies mechanics by day and destroys carnival rides by night, both with unmitigated success. How? She made a deal with Satan. The complication? Jordan Wong, and the tunnel of love.

3. When Toni and Maurice tell conman Vinni Finch they're taking him for a ride, he offers to drive. Three state lines later he's convinced them to be his partners. But their current mark has an ace in the hole: Boss Martini wants his best muscle men back.

4. Jeff is supposed to get the kids once a month, but Julie wouldn't let him have them the last three months. Now he's taken them to Disneyland, the fireworks have finished, the kids are surly and the lines are long. And when the boat stalls on "It's a Small World," Jeff finally snaps.

5. When the angel Gabriel's wife dies, he decides it's time to start the apocalypse. But the four horsemen have settled down with good jobs and lives, and they don't want a depressed angel screwing it all up. So they saddle up and prepare for what may be . . . The Last Ride.

6. Charon has taken multitudes on their last ride. And he's sick of it. He announces that anyone who needs to cross the Styx after Thursday had better bring along a canoe. When Hades gets word of what's going on, the storm clouds start brewing.

Original Version

Dear Agent Acrimonious:

I'm writing to you because I've enjoyed [some recently published books] by [authors you represent], and believe you may be interested in The Last Ride, my 90K work [Apparently K has become an abbreviation for thousand-word.] of humorous fantasy. [You should probably put the part where you claim you loved the books you never read by the authors you never heard of more toward the end of the query.]

When Gabriel Seraph's wife dies, he gives up on life. All life. Because Gabriel is THAT Gabriel, messenger of God and the angel sent to earth sixty years ago to bring about the apocalypse. Now that he's got nothing to live for, he's going to finish the job. [You'd have to be a pretty benevolent boss to put up with an employee who takes sixty years to start a project you assigned him. That or the angels have one powerful union.]

But he's not the only one with a say in the matter. The four horsemen are also on earth. Death owns a funeral parlor, Famine runs a food bank, Pestilence works at the Center for Disease Control and War is a peace activist.

[Famine: I've prevented thousands from starving.
Pestilence: I've cured cancer.
War: I'm working for peace on Earth.
Death: Man, you guys are killing my profit margin.]

They're quite happy with the lives they've built for themselves, and they're not about to let a disillusioned angel wreck it all.
While Gabriel sets out to recover the seven vials of God's wrath, the four horsemen saddle up for the bumpiest ride of their existence.

The manuscript is complete and available on request. My short stories have appeared in [print]. Should you require more information about me, I maintain a blog at [hollywood & vine] and my web page is [sorely in need of an update]. [More information about you isn't required at this time.]

Thanks for your time.


This sounds good. Funny and clever idea. Of course the plot summary is all set-up, so you might want to throw in some details, like where the vials are, how the horsemen plan to stop Gabriel, etc. Especially if it's amusing, something like:

As Gabriel sets out to recover the seven vials of God's wrath, guarded for centuries by the senile cyclops of Sargasso, little does he suspect that the horsemen have recruited Aquaman to assist them and will soon set out on the bumpiest ride....

Selected Comments

Eric P. said...The query itself looks pretty good. Angels being married is probably inaccurate, biblically speaking (Mark 12:25 if you like), but presumably in a story that features the Spirit of War as a peace activist, you needn't concern yourself too much with such niceties.

A few more plot details would be welcome; "the bumpiest ride" on its own leaves a bit to be desired.

Apocalyptic humor is a very clever idea, and the concept looks like it should be fun here. May we hope for some playful digs at Left Behind and similar biblical potboilers?

Dominique said...It sounds like an interesting read.

I do have one question. Who is Gabriel's wife? If she's mortal, that implies that she's human. Last time the sons of God (angels) went unto (took for their wives) the daughters of man (human women) they fell from grace with God. So, how does that all work, exactly? You don't really need to explain that for the query to function, but it did create a 'say, what?' moment for me.

Steve Wright said...So far, it looks like a comedy version of The Prophecy - which is not necessarily a bad thing, if you can pull it off. But it would probably help to have more information about the plot, as well as the set-up. It's not very long right now; there's probably room to fit in a short paragraph about the storyline.

wendy said...This is a compelling story. Setting it within a biblical context instantly increases the level of tension. There may be some kick back, though, from those who are not amused with a parody of the end of the world.

I'm not an agent or an editor so take my next statement with a grain of salt. The overall tone of your query seems flippant and that makes me doubt your skills. Actually, it makes me doubt that you're done with the story too. I don't know why that is, sorry.

EE made a very valuable observation in pointing out that your query lacks detail. I think it lacks important details regarding character motivations. To me it looks like you've got one "almost character" in Gabriel and three more cardboard cut outs. We need more (but not more words). Some of the "how" would be nice too.

Good luck on your story. This is a book I might pick up. I'd probably even buy it if it looked like it was fully realized.

Dave F. said...Your query should start where your current query ends. Try starting out with something like "The road to the Apocalypse is filled with peril. Not so much for the mortals waiting to be judged but the four horsemen have been dogging it and boy, are their asses dragging."
What makes their journey so memorable and how does it prevent the apocalypse? This sounds like a light and fluffy satirical romp. It needs a light and fluffy query. You started out in the right direction, keep going.

Anonymous said...What they said. I agree that this set-up has amusing qualities but the query somehow gives me doubt about whether the narrative plays out in a way that fully realizes the potential. I think consistent tone and subtle irony would be best.

I've written at least 1200 GTPs, many of which also had amusing qualities, so I'm a lot less impressed with clever plots than I used to be, and a lot more impressed with good execution.

Adam Heine said...I like the introduction of Gabriel, but I wonder why he is only doing the apocalypse now. What stopped him before?

I got distracted with the personifications of the Four Horsemen because I was thinking of where I'd seen that before, particularly in humorous fantasy.

The bottom line is now I want to know what makes this different from Gaiman and Pratchett's Good Omens. One strong way to start is by giving me a character I care about. Right now the query makes me laugh, but not necessarily care.

Kings Falcon said...I was so hoping it was this GTP because I REALLY like GOOD OMENS. And that's what you sound a lot like, which could be good. But it also makes me wonder how you are different since your horsemen take the flip side of Terry Pratchett's and Neil Gaimon's by denying the role they are suppose to play.

I also agree with Dave that the Query needs to start where yours currently ends.

Who is your MC? Gabriel or the Horsemen?

If it's Gabriel, then you could stay something like -

The road to the apocalypse is filled with peril. Love made Archangel Gabriel stay his hand. But now grieving the loss of his wife, he finally understands pain and wants it to end - for him and all of humanity. He marshalls the horsemen only to find that they prefer thier "human" existance.

Make sure the tone of the query matches the tone of the book. I want to see your sense of humor and get a sense of what the book's will be like.

Good luck with this one.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. The cello is said to be the instru- ment closest to the human voice. But Zoe didn't expect hers to start humming on its own. Nor did she expect the notes to sound increasingly like human words, impassioned and pleading words. Now if she can just keep her music teacher from finding out...

2. Claire lost her six-year-old heart to Bobby's recorder solo in their first grade Christmas Pageant. Twenty years later she buys the night club where Bobby plays the sax from the Russian Mafia. They seek resonance amid syndicated crime, wannabe musicians, and alley cats.

3. RrreeEEeessssoonNNnaaaannncCCccee.

4. Jordan Seymore's braces broadcast amusingly evil subliminal messages. Now, dad carries a doll, sis meows, and the school cafeteria has served “chili” 27 days running. Can Jordan convince autoshop student Sally French to help reharmonize his mouth?

5. No one understands. Beautiful voices are Fiona's life. Looks, brains and money are unimportant. Now 32 years old, with Mom breathing down her neck and old friends having babies left and right, Fiona listens in vain for Mr. Right. Until one day she hears “Stick 'em up, lady!” Could this be the one?

6. Emma Drishumn has just learned that she has a super power: the ability to stop time by shopping for shoes. Now if she can just figure out how to use this power to defeat the soul-sucking demons that are chasing her . . .

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my young adult, fantasy debut novel RESONANCE completed in 116,000 words.

Ace school exams, always be nice to customers and come home early, are things that Emma Drishumn understands, except the concept of her dead father that she strongly believes to be alive and soul-sucking shadow demons chasing after her. [A horrible start to your plot description. If you change "except" to "unlike" it begins to mean what you want it to mean, but it's still awkward, and I wouldn't call her dead father a concept, and mainly, you're comparing apples to oranges . . . and plums. Comparing the "rules to live by" that she understands with those she doesn't understand would make sense, but you're comparing them with the concept of death and with shadow demons. It's like saying, Although Emma understood why her mom wanted her to do the dishes, she had little grasp of philosophical hermeneutics and zombie cows.]

Curiously observing the demons' feasting ways, she is cornered and almost eaten by them if it had not been for a dashing young king and a condescending shadow stalker, introducing themselves as Bringers of Salvation and Death. [This isn't a sentence. You could change "she is cornered and almost eaten" to "she would have been cornered and eaten." It'll make sense, but you ought to make this two sentences. One gets the impression you were told to summarize your plot in three sentences and are cramming your eight sentences into three by removing some periods.] The two surmise that she is a Bringer as well, since she can nonchalantly walk through the Cloak: a phenomenon that hides human awareness from the demons; but as she discovers the power to stop time while shopping for shoes, the Bringers rethink their conclusion since no Bringer has ever had that ability. [I surrender.] [I gotta say, the power to stop time while shopping for shoes is possibly the least useful superhero power ever.] [Unless . . . okay, if she sees a crime going down and runs into the nearest shoe store to buy some pumps, thus stopping time, does time start up again when she leaves the shoe store, or does she have a lag period while she breaks in her new shoes during which she can run to the crime scene and handcuff the criminal? That would make it somewhat useful, but as there may be few shoe stores in areas that have heavy crime, she might want to have a shoe salesman accompany her everywhere she goes so she can shop for shoes at a moment's notice. They'd be a crime-fighting duo, like Batman and Robin. Call her sidekick Zappo.

When Emma sees a crime being committed, Zappo immediately starts trying to sell her some shoes. Whether you want to call them Emma Drishumn and Zappo, or give Emma a cooler name, like Stopwatch, is up to you.]

As the boys offer protection, her world darkens as she is forced to help them save human souls but is unable to do so for her own best friend. [Who are the boys? The king and the shadow stalker? Is a shadow stalker a boy who stalks shadow demons?] After recovering from shock, she finds that she alone believes in her best friend’s existence. [Finally a nice simple clear sentence. Although there's been nothing about her best friend up to now, and we don't know what shocked her . . . unless . . . Did she get zapped . . . by ZAPPO!?] In an unavoidable confrontation with a greater demon, the situation turns from a simple demon-slaying-day into a dire fight for her life as she uncovers the true reason for the demons’ pursuit and her confabulated memories regarding her best friend and her father. [The memories may be confabulated, but the query is discombobulated.]

Thank you for your time.

[P.S. I got the resonance title from when a Bringer realizes his true power its called resonance.]


What does "a phenomenon that hides human awareness from the demons" mean? I'm guessing it's a phenomenon that prevents demons' awareness of humans?

Scrap the whole thing. Start over and force yourself to abandon complex sentences. Simple and clear is what you should be striving for. Get rid of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Focus on Emma. Who she is, that demons are chasing her, that she has escaped them so far through her ability to stop time, but she has a plan to defeat them for good, if only . . . .

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...What EE said. Sounds like some interesting plot elements but the text isn't working. Figure out how to get your word processor's grammar checker going and learn to get it to help you clarify what's going wrong. Yeah, the idiot software is often wrong, too. But learning to determine when it is and when it isn't, will help you.

Steve Wright said...Yes, I have to agree. You may have an interesting story here, but it's not coming across in a query which, I'm afraid, reads as if it's been ineptly translated from the original Serbo-Croat.

Use simple declarative sentences to tell us who the main character is, who the antagonist is, what's at stake, and what the main character does to resolve the situation. (Yes, I know, easier said than done. But if you do it, I think you'll have a better query.)

Eric P. said...Metaphysically, this query proves the existence of Soul Sucking Demons. The tell-tale signs of their activity are all over the prose. They've already sucked the sentences down to about a quarter of the number you should have. They've sucked the meaning out of simple words like "except," "concept," "if it had not been." Once they're done with your grammar, they're going to start on your plot, and then on your characters, and then....

Yeah, you should probably be worried right about now.

Like vampires, everything they touch also begins to suck, which explains a lot about the sentence structure....

Cheap shots aside, take the time right now to devote several weeks to mastering the skill of writing clear, concise sentences that your reader can understand and easily follow the first time through. (Some books or classes may help.) You won't regret it. That, or call in a reputable firm of exorcists, exterminators, or Bringers. (My wife sometimes brings cookies; does that count?)

Note: Don't depend on your word processor's grammar checker, as the Soul Sucking Demons have been devouring it too.

Xiexie said...Simply. Rewrite.

sylvia said...Oh EE, I think I love you.

Aimee States said...You lost me at "debut", and a YA that's 116,000 words probably won't fly for a first timer. But I could be wrong.

dave conifer said...The query letter needs work but I swear I'd read this. Are you sure "fantasy" is the right category? I don't know, it sounds like just a regular story. The bit about the shoes made me think it's satirical, even.

Polish up that query will ya?

Anonymous said...Whenever my wife buys a new pair of shoes, time stops.

Sarah Allen said...A query like that makes me nervous to read the actual manuscript. A great reminder to be straight-forward and simple in query letters, because trying to sound smart usually just backfires.

Portuguese cunt said...The first sentence was terrible, and it went downhill from there. Evil Editor, where have you been all my life?

frap said...Hey guys, thanks for the comments. When I read this, I was really laughing hard. And I took it all in and rewrote the freaking query. So here it is. Do what you must.

Emma Drishumn is a demon magnet. When the sky darkens and the sun turns black, demons attack her: in the school graveyard visiting a professor, in the mall shopping for shoes, in the airport after landing in Spain for vacation, and in a party where she almost gets her first kiss.

Almost in the clutches of demons, she is saved by a king and the angel of death and tells her she's more than an attraction for destruction, after she discovers the power to stop time—and consequently, her allure grows to gravitate even nephilims, necromancers and more eccentric creatures. Now, she fears there's more to this than plain hormones.

RESONANCE is a fantasy novel completed in 116,00 words. Thank you very much.

Evil Editor said...The first paragraph is okay, though I'm not sure why a school would have its own graveyard.
The second is the same old problem. The first sentence isn't a sentence, could be interpreted in more than one way, makes little sense, and has misused words (I'm guessing "grows to gravitate" is supposed to mean "attracts"). You can't consider this a simple sentence.

I'm surprised to find she ever thought being attacked by demons was a matter of hormones. That wouldn't occur to most people.

Sarah Laurenson said...The first paragraph is okay. Second paragraph is totally confusing. I can't even parse some of the sentences.

Took another look and it's really just the one, very long, confusing sentence.

ann foxlee said...Again, what EE said.

The first paragraph was oodles better-- so much better that I almost wondered how it happened.

Then the second paragraph came along, and it was back to the original voice: confusing and grammatically creative.

If you can simplify the second paragraph the way you did the first, it could work, although I'm left wondering about the writing style in the novel if this was how you chose to write the query...

 _*Rachel*_ said...The first paragraph made sense and was even humorous. The second was unintelligible. Rewrite it, and include a bit more plot.

Again, if you're having problems like this in your novel, get help before querying.

Portuguese cunt said...Better!

But I feel like there's some weirdness with the first graf- the first sentence is passive, then the second sentence has a million commas in it. I'm a comma whore, myself, but you know, for a good query, you need to cut those babies down (see! I can't help myself).

Mother (Re)produces. said...Nevermind that the school has a grave yard, what do we think about a professor who arranges for her to visit him/her there? My problem with this version, is it still doesn't tell us what she, the protagonist, does in the story... it's just a list of random manifestations with no causality.

Steve Wright said...Yes - you need to keep that sentence-simplifying momentum going into paragraph two.

It wouldn't hurt, either, to give us some idea of what happens in the story - this still seems to be all setup (MC attracts demons, MC has time-stopping powers - yes, but what happens?)

Eric P. said...Glad you're a good sport.
On the new query, ditto the above comments. The first paragraph proves you can do it; now do it to the second paragraph too. And then tell us the plot.

Keep it simple, simple, simple: Character is an A. Character wants B because C. D stands in her way. To overcome it, she must do E and F, or else G will happen. With the help of a motley band of dwarves and ninjas.... oh, wrong plot.

frap said...Hey thanks guys. Thank you for pointing that out. I kinda figured it would be the same reaction again. But really thanks. I've rewritten the thing and got this one instead:

Emma Drishumn is a demon magnet. After she incidentally sees a man disappear and the sky turn blood red, demons chase her everywhere for unknown reasons: in the school graveyard visiting a professor, in Spain for vacation, and in a party where she almost gets her first kiss.

When a demon suddenly gets too close, she freezes time. Startled by this discovery, she runs in panic only to be sought out by a king and the angel of death. The two offer her protection and guidance. Reluctantly, she accepts their proposal only to be immersed in a war between demons against the saviors of mankind. Now, she is faced with a decision of whether or not she continues to be the prey or choose to be the hunter.

sylvia said...The whole thing looks much better but:
Now, she is faced with a decision of whether or not she continues to be the prey or choose to be the hunter.

What's to decide?

Maybe separate the decision from the effect?

"Now, she is faced with a decision which will determine whether she continues to be the prey or becomes the hunter."

Or somehow make it clear why she would chose to be prey.

Kings Falcon said...It's getting there. The first line is pretty great, but the list at the end of the paragraph could go.

My thoughts -

Emma Drishumn is a demon magnet. - Great line -

After she incidentally (delete the adverb) sees a man disappear and the sky turn blood red, demons chase (plague, hunt - use a stronger verb to convey what the rest of the sentence tries to get across) her

(IMHO the rest of the sentence can go) everywhere for unknown reasons: in the school graveyard visiting a professor, in Spain for vacation, and in a party where she almost gets her first kiss.

When a demon suddenly (lose the adverb) gets too close, she (Emma) (accidentally) freezes time. Startled by this discovery (you don't need to tell me it suprised her if you tell me what she does as a result. Trust me, I'll get it), she runs in panic ("in panic" isn't necessary for the same reason) only to be sought out by a king and the angel of death (Names would go a long way here. Is it one or two people? And King of what?). The two (two people then) offer her protection and guidance (In return for what?). Reluctantly (Adverb alert), she accepts their proposal only to be immersed in a war between demons (and) the saviors of mankind (who are these now?). Now, she is faced with a decision of whether or not she continues to be the prey or choose to be the hunter (And this is a choice? Hum. let me think about that. You'd be better off - IMHO to tell me what she does and how she can help with this war).

Good luck.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fake Query #1

#587 Fake Plot:#3

Dear EE:

Musical enrichment is vital to the development of children's cognitive abilities. Therefore, I want to have you look at my idea for a combination of songbook/storybook/picturebook for toddlers: At Play on the Isle of Song.

Here, white Unicorns frolic with purple ponies [with only the occasional stab wound] on the Isle of Song, where all the flowers are happy all the time, and all the faeries are flower princesses. And there's a mean old dragon to boot!

The Flower Fairy, Daisy, is the Rose Princess. She has her own special song about sharing, 'Sharing Makes Me Happy', which encourages little ones to share.

The Purple Ponies have their own special song, too, 'Purple Drank is for Skanks', which aims to discourage drug abuse. [I assume there's an accompanying CD. If you've signed Prince to perform "Purple Drank," say so. It's a selling point.]

The Unicorns have their own special song, too, called "Stay a Virgin" [sung by Madonna on the CD,] which is meant to encourage little children [unikernals] to honor their bodies and not do sexual things until they are at least 12.

Finally, there's an evil dragon who wants to end all music and happiness in the land. His special song, 'Hooray for the RIAA", encourages children to express themselves freely.

I have a PhD from the University of Phoenix in Accounts Management and have won many awards from the Quincy Mass library writer contest.

Thank you for your time.



Better than a CD would be a link to music files the toddlers can steal.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

Stuff from Previous Valentine's Days



She lifted the chilled glass to her lips, the candlelight dancing along the etched design, her tongue aching for the taste. Her lips parted as her vision finally focused on the table next to her. Instead of tasting the drink, she stifled a gasp.

Rob unfolded his napkin, shook it out and looked at her. “Something wrong?”

“Everything’s perfect,” she lied. “We, um, we need to talk about The List.”

That had Rob's attention. His eyes danced with amusement. “The List.” He laughed. “Perfect Valentine’s Day conversation, babe.” He reached across the table and took her hand. “I hate to break it to you tonight, but Angelina wants me. She dumped Brad last week. I know. I read about it on Perez Hilton, so it must be true.”

She shifted in her chair, not quite sure how to tell him that one of the top five on her list now sat just a few feet from her. And the arrangement, even made in jest, was forgiveness for any and all disgustingly delicious things one could do with List People should the opportunity arise, which neither believed would ever happen. Until tonight.

Rob stood and circled around her, resting his hands on her shoulders. “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart,” he whispered. “Enjoy your gift.”

Before she could breathe, the man at the next table stood, turned and walked to her table. She saw his face for the first time. “Oh God . . . ”

He sat across from her and smiled. “Not quite, but almost.”

--Brenda Bradshaw




I sat down at the table, confused. The restaurant lighting was dim and romantic; a single candle burned, surrounded by roses. Across from me was a mutton-chopped man. He sighed, giving me a weary look.

"So, how’s this one going to go?" he asked.

I glanced around nervously. "I'm afraid I'm a little confused. What are we doing?"

He adjusted his pince-nez, shaking his head. "Valentine's Day? The prompt is a date. You should be setting up the scene for something romantic or funny. I'd say dirty, but we know you don't have it in you."

I blushed. "Umm, wow, this is embarrassing. I think I'm in the wrong writing exercise. I mean, not that you aren’t perfectly, uh, dateable and whatnot, but I feel kind of uncomfortable with this. I’m married, and even if I weren’t, I’m the same age as Evil Junior.”

Evil Editor nodded thoughtfully. “True. It would be a little creepy.”

“Whirl does creepy much better than I do. Wouldn’t you rather be on a writing prompt date with him?”

“No doubt it would be funnier,” Evil said, glaring.

“Alrighty, I’ll just get him in here. See you at next week’s exercise?”

“If you even bother to show up. Honestly, kids these days…” I stood up, letting him mutter as I crossed to the door.

“Thank goodness I got out of that one,” I whispered, relieved as I watched a man dressed in drag materialize into my chair, signaling the start of another person’s story. Waving wildly as Evil looked on in horror, the transvestite started into some delightfully incomprehensible story about aliens and tentacles.

At least I’m pretty sure he said tentacles. Like I said, not my type of prompt…

--Kiersten White


Caption: anon.

Caption: Whirlochre


Mrs. V: Hi EE. Sorry, no hello kiss, because I know you asked me out only because none of your writers and none of the Hooters waitresses will have anything to do with you.

EE: And I know you agreed to this date only because no one will go out with you ever since Mr. V. died three years ago under highly suspicious circumstances.

Mrs. V: You might at least have picked me up in a limo. Who'd you buy this thing from, Al Capone?

EE: The classics never go out of style.

Mrs. V: Where are you taking me?

EE: I had reservations at le porc énorme, but at the last minute I canceled. I was hit by a wave of nostalgia.

Mrs. V: Uh oh. Here it comes.

EE: Hear me out. Imagine we're twelve years old. We both have a crush on each other, but neither of us has ever said so. I finally work up the nerve to ask you out for Valentine's Day.

Mrs. V: Sounds like a sappy McDonald's advertise-- You better not be taking me to McDonald's!

EE: Don't be ridiculous . . . Burger King.

--Evil Editor