Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Face-Lift 1239

Guess the Plot

Far Rider

1. With war approaching, Kaelyn wants to join her aunt's elite guerrilla cavalry, but she has to learn how to fight demons first, so she sneaks into the women's unit of the military school. Can she finish her training--and win the heart of a charming pirate--in time to turn the tide in the war? Also, a senile sorcerer.

2. Robbers shooting, cops yelling, people running, nowhere to hide. Jason starts out as an adventurer on his horse named Max, but in an unexpected twist causes the zombie apocalypse.

3. Jacob's dream was to travel across America on his motorcycle, collecting souvenirs from each state. He didn't count on the souvenirs being speeding tickets and outstanding warrants. Now he's on the run from the law, and no state is a safe haven.

4. Derrel’s sighting of the rider on the far horizon caused great rejoicing in the castle, for their salvation had finally come from the neighbouring kingdom of Darkthorn. But hopes were dashed with the realization that the figure was merely one of the shambling undead, and the quest to invent corrective lenses began.

5. Every day for years, Evelyn has looked to the horizon, watching for the return of Gustavo. Every day, she sees no sign of him, and she aches. She knew Gustavo had far to ride. He had told her so. Still, she thought he'd be back by now. Especially since he had taken her younger, prettier sister along for the ride.

6. He rides. On steam-powered motorcycles, atop clockwork horses, in the luxurious coaches of the ruling elite, Calvin Hordewinder rides from one continent to another, delivering messages for a secret worldwide network of spies. Also, an assasination attempt and smuggling, but mostly -- he rides.

7. When 18 year old Shaheene learns her late father was really a Far Rider, a dragon tamer, she quits cosmetology school, takes her Dad's old Indian motorcycle, and tries to leave Nebraska forever. But Far Riders don't die; they come back as other steeds--or motorcycles. And there's a nasty-tempered silver drake near Omaha Dad wants to train.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

They say bad news rides a fast horse. Kaelyn Diarmand’s bad news came on [Secretariat.] a dead horse ridden by her equally dead uncle. [But were they going fast?]

He makes her promise not to avenge his death, but in her father's culture entire clans had been sacrificed on the altar of vengeance. Of course, the M'Eiryn are "barbarians" invited to settle here after they helped King Cauland defeat the demon armies. [You say "of course" as if it should be obvious to us that the M'Eiryn are barbarians, when in fact we've never even heard of the M'Eiryn. Who are they?] [Also, I don't care what they did for me in the past, I'm not inviting barbarians to settle in my neighborhood.] Her mother's people are "civilized" and settled, building great cities and learning centers.

Kaelyn is neither barbarian nor civilized, caught somewhere in between and belonging nowhere. [She's the Arnold Schwarzenegger of her clan.] 

She should have been a Far Rider, [Why isn't she?] a courier in her aunt's elite guerrilla cavalry, like her father. [You'd think a woman who runs an elite guerrilla cavalry would come up with a better job for her brother than courier.] With King Cauland missing and her dead uncle blamed for it, [It's always easier to blame stuff on someone who's not alive to defend himself.] a bloody civil war that will destroy the M'Eiryn looms and Far Riders are [were] never more needed. [I admit that if a bloody civil war were looming, I would be the first to enlist in an organization called Far Riders.] However, her mother concocts a wild scheme to keep Kaelyn safe that almost gets her killed and exposes her to a returned demon lord. The demon lord needs to destroy her before she discovers the truth. [What truth?] A handsome pirate plots to use her to disgrace his father and she's not at all immune to his charms. [Is that the truth the demon lord doesn't want her to discover?] [This pirate feels like he belongs in a different book.] A senile sorcerer wants to...well, who knows for sure? He's senile.

Kaelyn just wants to survive long enough to find out who killed her uncle and kidnapped the king. To ensure that, she sneaks into the fledgling, and unpopular, women's unit of the military school to learn how to fight. [Why does she have to sneak in? An unpopular unit would welcome a new volunteer.] Then, perhaps, she can become a Far Rider and help save the M'Eiryn, [Yes, I'm sure this one woman can turn the tide in the bloody civil war if she just learns to fight.] even if it means going to war against her mother's people.  [She's willing to go to war with her mother's people to save the barbarians? Who are the barbarians to her? Are they her father's people? If so, make that clear when you introduce them.]

Far Rider is an epic fantasy, complete at 145,000 words.

I was a lead writer for Speedhorse Racing Report, a weekly horse racing magazine, for twenty-three years. I'm now with Raincrow Studios, an indie game developer specializing in location based games with a strong, fantasy narrative. I also raised Quarter Horses for years and I'm from a ranching background, so the horse details are completely authentic. [Completely? Even the scene where her uncle rides in on a dead horse?]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


For some reason, even though the query mentions a pirate, demon armies, the living dead and a king, I kept thinking it was set in the old west and Kaelyn wanted to ride for the Pony Express.

With a civil war looming, I wouldn't expect a shortage of couriers to be such a prominent concern.

I think the aunt should have an elite gorilla cavalry.

This feels disorganized. I would start something like:

Kaelyn should have been a Far Rider, a courier in her aunt's elite guerrilla cavalry, but she was always too busy chronicling the battles between the barbarian M'eiryn and the demon armies of Lorka Tau.  Now, with King Cauland missing and a bloody civil war looming, Far Riders will be needed more than ever, so Kaelyn enlists in the women's unit of the military school and learns to fight.

I probably got some of the details wrong, but you get the idea. Follow that with whatever happens after she graduates.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...

I have no idea how common this particular affliction of mine is, and feel free to take it with a grain of salt, but: I had trouble reading past the apostrophe.

Apostrophes are something of a cliche in fantasy, and I always wonder what they're doing there and how they're meant to be pronounced. I think they're intended as an abreviated schwa-sound, a sort of verbal grace note, but that's not the way apostrophes are pronounced in real life.

Anyway, I found it distracting.

Anonymous said...

The possibilities that I can think of with the apostrophe:

1) M'Eiryn - the M' is an abbreviation for something (Mc or Mac would be the best assumption since they were written like that at one point)
--barring a historical (even then, reconsider), I would go with the more common Mc or Mac (or explain what's being shortened)

2) the ' is an attempt to break the word into different syllables that would be slurred together with a normal reading
--is there a standard way to do this?

3) the ' is an attempt to transliterate a letter not present in english (whistles or clicks?)
--might want to go with different punctuation to represent it

author, there's a lot of stuff here that isn't well explained and doesn't add up, which makes me wonder if the book is cool-seeming ideas haphazardly thrown together. Please give us a logical sequence of cause and effect with minimal background that sets the stage and tells us which direction the characters are headed.

Maybe something like:

The re-awakened demon lord wants to remove all threats to his coming grand ball. Unfortunately for Kaelyn, that means her when her mother sends her off to the try-outs in hopes of her snagging a prince and she ends up attracting all the princesses in the region.

Meanwhile, someone has killed the king and Kaelyn's uncle was blamed. The entire family is looking for evidence. Kaelyn sneaks into the fledgling, and unpopular, women's unit of the military school in an attempt to contribute but is distracted by a handsome pirate and a senile sorcerer. On the other hand, all those princesses joined the unit. Good thing, since the demon lord isn't far behind. And, now it's not about finding a dance partner.

(re-write with appropriate details ^^)

JRMosher said...

To me this felt like a little too much going on. The book (especially at 145K words) may have enough room for the uncle, aunt, mother, cavalry, king, demon lord, pirate, and senile sorcerer, but most of them can probably be left out of the query.

I liked the openening of the dead uncle on his dead horse, but then all you tell us is what he doesn't want her to do (avenge him.) What does he want her to do? If his arrival is going spark the story (or even just the query), what was his purpose in coming to her after his death?

It may seem interesting to tell us she is torn between her mother's civilized ways and her father's barbarian lifestyle, but then it becomes clear quickly that she's her father's daughter all the way. She wants to save the barbarians, become a warrior/courier, etc. What part of her mother's heritage is she drawn to, if any? If none then she's not really torn, so no need to mention it.

Also, I'm not sure the credentials paragraph is helping you much. There may be a lot of riding involved, but it sounds like the draw for this book is the conflict between the MC and her family, the war, and all the different people working to keep her from "the truth" (or help her find it.) In all that, seems like horses are just transportation, unless there's something you're not saying in the query, like a mind-meld or sacred bond between the riders and their mounts.

InkAndPixelClub said...

The previous query was too little information. This is too much. By the fourth paragraph, I'm too confused by the number of different factions and characters to have a good sense of what's happening. We don't need to know what three characters who are only in the query for one sentence each want. We just need what Kaelyn wants, what stands in the way of her getting it, and what will happen if she does or doesn't get it.

Dead uncle on a dead horse is an interesting visual, but it doesn't really go anywhere in the query. In the book, you likely have the time to play with the atmosphere and give the scene punch. In the query, all we need to know is that Kaelyn's uncle told her not to avenge him, and I'm not even sure if we need to know that since it's not clear if that has a lot of bearing on the story.

Keep the focus on Kaelyn and what she's up against. Cut anything that does not directly relate to what she wants and her struggle to get it.

Anonymous said...

Julie.M.Weathers said...

"Apostrophes are something of a cliche in fantasy,"

That's entirely possibly. In this case, M' in front of something refers to "of" something. So, the M'Eiryn people are "Of Eiryn."

Something I will keep in mind. Thanks for mentioning this.


Julie.M.Weathers said...


I could change it to Mac or Mc, but it isn't a historical and these aren't Irish or Scottish people.

Let me take a look at this and see how this can be rearranged. I don't think it's haphazard events, but who knows? I'll look at it closer.

Thanks for commenting.


Julie.M.Weathers said...


His arrival is the inciting incident. His murder is what lets them know they are no longer safe. The mother shifts into high gear to protect her daughter. Kaelyn realizes she has to learn to fight, etc.

"unless there's something you're not saying in the query, like a mind-meld or sacred bond between the riders and their mounts."

M'Eiryn are horse lords more or less and it's an integral part of the story, but I can leave the bio out. I had some people tell me to put it in, so there we are.

Thanks so much for reading and helping. I appreciate it.

Let me see what I can do.


Julie.M.Weathers said...


"I'm not even sure if we need to know that since it's not clear if that has a lot of bearing on the story."

Yes, he does. He's the inciting incident and appears throughout the story.

Let me see what I can do to get the focus more on Kaelyn.

Thanks so much for commenting.


Julie.M.Weathers said...


"Also, I don't care what they did for me in the past, I'm not inviting barbarians to settle in my neighborhood."

--So rude. Poor barbarians. ;)

Let me see if I can rearrange this. Thanks so much for taking the time to look at this and comment.


SB said...

The apostrophe doesn't really bother me. I'm not crazy about them in names, but they are pretty unremarkable in fantasy.

If you want to find an alternative, though, I'd say just pick any short set of letters that sounds decent. Mc and Mac certainly aren't the only name pre/suffixes that mean "son of". And there's "de" in French, which just means of. Really, you've got a lot of options.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


Thank you. I started querying after I sent this to EE and have three requests for fulls now. Well, two fulls and a revise and resend off a full. I'm hesitant to start changing names without just cause at this point. I certainly will if asked, of course.

I'll definitely keep these suggestions in mind and I appreciate the help. I'm sure there are still a lot of changes that will need to be made at some point.

I'm still looking at the suggestions for the query letter to improve it.

Many thanks.


SB said...

If enough people don't care about the apostrophe that you're getting requests, I say don't change it. Unless you decide you want to, of course.

Julie.M.Weathers said...


This is the first time the apostrophe has been mentioned. Since the story has only one apostrophized word, I don't think it will bother most people. Even so, if it becomes a problem, I certainly will change it. I just hesitate to fiddle too much while I have fulls out.

I appreciate all the help here and the time people took.