Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Beginning 1030


It promised to be a beautiful day on Dirtyrock Farm. The sun rose at dawn, as was its wont, and would stayed up until just before dusk. But not Billie Jane.

She awoke just before noon and in no sunny disposition. Her tongue was swollen and dry. Her breath stank and she smelled like a sweat-hog. She stumbled into the bathroom wishing to shower herself down the drain.

“Billie, how was the senior prom?” Her cheerful mom called from the kitchen below Billie's bedroom.

She turned on the shower to drown out her mother's morning joy. While disrobing, she tried to remember last night. She remembered dancing with Eddie Fitzmore, her date, and a couple of other boys. She also remembered drinking with Eddie in his dad's 150 pickup. They drank Southern Comfort mixed with Gordon's Gin and Diet Dr. Pepper--Billie thought Eddie obsessed over his weight which was insufficient to make the varsity six-man football squad.

That's it. She couldn't remember what happened next or how she got home. Billie sat on the edge of the tub and tried. Nothing came to her. Maybe someone put a date-rape drug in her drink. Did she had sex with Eddie? Or with anyone? Maybe she'd been raped. She wondered if urgent care could test for date-rape drugs.

* * *

The sun came bright through the pickup window, but somehow didn't reach Eddie Fitzmore's white knuckles gripping the wheel. Eddie just sat there, unmoving, like what he'd been for the past six hours, staring right ahead, eyes watering from the burning in his crotch. He tried not to think about the two broken bodies in the flatbed, and what had happened to them. And worse, to him.

So that's what the old woman had meant, when she looked at Billie Jane and touched his arm and hissed in his ear. It wasn't nothing to do with her cankles at all. And buying diet didn't help nothin. "Mark my words, boy, whatever you do, don't be giving Dr. Pepper to that there were-hog."


Opening: Mister Furkles.....Continuation: Anonymous


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Face-Lift 1218


Guess the Plot,

Awaken

1. A panel of octogenarians debate as to whether a famous American novelist should begin his new book with I awoke; I woke up; Awakened, I; Awake, I; Woken, I...or something else entirely! Complicating the matter: the main character is a Wiccan.

2. Audrey's fiance has been in a coma for ten months, and she's scared they'll lose the non-refundable deposit on the reception venue if he sleeps through their wedding. Just what will it take for him to . . . awaken?

3. Ogzhal is an Awakener, one of a special caste of elite warlocks whose task it is to select new corpses for life among the undead. When his wife leaves him for a vampire, he turns to formaldehyde to drown his sorrows. Can sweet ghoul Loretta help turn his life around before it's too late?

4. Seventeen-year-old Emsley finds the new kid at her school intriguing. She knows junior year can be intense, but would it be so bad to have a boyfriend? No, not when the forces of Hades have somehow gotten the idea that Emsley possesses the Key, a mysterious object that can kill a god, and they'll do whatever they have to to get it so they can destroy the Olympians and all of humanity, and the new kid just might be Emsley's--and our--only hope.

5. When the body of actor Jason Mitchell is found hanging in the restaurant of the airport Hilton at six A.M., homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, the star didn't carve that pentagram into his own back, and two, the Hilton puts out a pretty decent breakfast buffet.

6. The morning after the senior prom, Laura wakes at noon with a hangover. The police are downstairs asking about her date. They found his headless body in a drainage ditch and Laura can't remember a thing after her first sip of Southern Comfort. Because of her sword- juggling talent she's a “person of interest” and two of her swords are missing.

7. When a desperate Gervalynn drinks the elixir Wizard Raeferen said would awaken her magic, she never expected to become the essence of magic. Now, if she can’t find a way to reverse the spell, she will cease to exist at midnight when he can bind her to him forever.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Emsley didn’t plan on falling for Henry, the new guy in school. She didn’t plan on discovering that her past is intertwined with a war between Gods, and she didn’t plan on holding the key to their destruction. [So it will come as no surprise when I tell you that none of these things happened. Except the falling for Henry part, but that didn't matter because Henry was cute so Emsley didn't have a chance with him.] [My point being, there's no need for this paragraph. Nobody plans on stuff like that. It just happens.]

Seventeen-year-old Emsley is, well, ordinary. She is expecting her junior year to be academically intense, but what she isn’t expecting [More about what Emsley isn't expecting? You'll save a lot of space if you don't preface everything that happens with the stipulation that Emsley didn't expect it to happen.] is Henry, the new, seemingly unordinary, perfect boy in her quaint, mid-west island town. [He's seemingly unordinary? "Seemingly unordinary" without the italics would suggest that he only seems unordinary, i.e. that he actually is ordinary. If that's not what you mean, and you thought italicizing "seemingly" would suggest that he doesn't seem unordinary but actually is, I don't think it's working. Why don't you just tell us what it is about him that seems unordinary?] [Also, is "unordinary" even a word?] Since losing her parents at the age of seven, Emsley had [has] kept her heart closed with the exception of [to all but] her two best friends. But the further Henry seeks her out, the further she is intrigued.  [Is "further" the best word there? I was thinking "more" would be better, but I bow to any high school English teachers in the audience.] And the closer she comes to letting him in, the closer she comes to discovering Henry’s true identity. [Is it a secret identity? Or is he simply not telling her because she'd never believe he's Robin, the boy wonder, anyway?]

When Emsley’s life is put in danger, twice, Henry is forced to confess [reveal] that not everything she learned in 9th grade Mythology was a myth. [For instance, that movie, Thor? A documentary.] ["You know those myths where Zeus comes to Earth and has sex with mortal women, Emsley? Well, I'm back."] The Underworld is waging war against the Olympians for control over the human world, and according to the three Fates, whichever side possesses the Key, a mysterious object that can weaken or even kill a God, is the side that will prevail. [That's all well and good, but you haven't explained why anyone would want control over the human world.]

After centuries of searching, Hades believes the Key to be in Emsley’s possession. [For centuries they couldn't find it, but now suddenly they have reason to believe this high school kid has it? Why? Is Emsley a newly awakened goddess?] When Emsley is attacked by a creature from the Underworld demanding that she hand it over, the secrets begin to unravel. [This is season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Especially if it turns out that Emsley is the Key.] She discovers that not only was Henry sent to protect her, but that he and his family have a secret - a secret that could destroy her relationship with Henry and force Emsley into a world with an ancient grudge and imminent battle in order to stop Hades from controlling and ultimately destroying humanity.

I am submitting for your consideration a 67,200-word YA urban fantasy. Awaken is a stand-alone novel with the potential to be the first novel in what I entitled my Spark series. It will appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instrument series and Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed.

I am a high school English teacher with a BA in English, Language and Literature and a [an] MA in Reading. [Reading? I haven't taken a Reading class since 4th grade, and now you can get a Masters in it? Do they also have Masters programs in Arithmetic and Spelling?] [Required courses for an MA in Reading: Reading 401: The Poetry of Suess; Reading 560: Deciphering Physician Penmanship; Reading 587: How to Correctly Guess What the Bottom Line of an Optician's Eye Chart Says. And of course for your Masters thesis you have to muddle your way through the Cliff Notes for Finnegans Wake.]

Thank you for taking the time to become part of my new fantasy world. [Not crazy about that line.] Upon your request, I am prepared to send the complete manuscript. I'd be honored if you would consider Awaken for representation.

Sincerely,


Notes

Is humanity better off if the Olympians have the Key? Because if I'm Emsley, I'm thinking the Olympians have a better chance of protecting it from the forces of Hades than I do. On the other hand, apparently the Olympians also want control of the human world, so I'm worried that Henry is actually Hedylogos, the Greek god of sweet talk and flattery, and he wants the Key so the Olympians can regain the power they had before humanity decided it was less work to believe in only one god.

Questions that occur to me, and that you probably answer in the book and could answer in the query if you wanted to: If Emsley has an object that can weaken or kill a god, why don't the gods just take it from her? What is the secret Henry and his family have? What happens if the Olympians win the war for control of the human world?

It's not as bad as all the blue words make it look. Just get rid of the 1st paragraph and answer a couple of the questions. Young adults who've studied mythology will probably dig it.



Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Face-Lift 1217


Guess the Plot

City of Djinn

1. Never the sharpest knife in the drawer, Harry Bumm buys a postcard while on vacation in the City of Djinn and sarcastically writes 'Wish you were here' and sends it to his ex-wife. Seconds later, she appears in his hotel room. Can he get rid of her before she fulfills her wishes to reconcile, have ten kids and move in with her witch of a mother?

2. By day Gilbert York is a prosecutor for the city of San Francisco, by night a video game creator. Pocket Djinn is Gilbert’s new monster collection game. Gilbert brings a copy to work where a freak power surge releases the djinn onto the city mainframe. Now Gilbert must use his coding skill to fight every pocket djinn and bring them home before it’s too late!

3. Everyone knows never to make a wish in the city of Djinn. No stranger to the rules, Alexander has always resisted the temptation until he sees beautiful Eleeza, and in one unguarded moment does the unthinkable.  Now a djinn holds Eleeza's future in his hands unless Alexander can perform the dangerous ritual of un-whishing.

4. Worst wedding day ever: Meron's friends and family are all killed by raiders, she's left alone in the desert still wearing her wedding clothes, and then she gets captured by djinn, shapeshifting monsters who plan to take her to their city and have her for dinner, and I don't mean as a guest.

5. A disgruntled teenager heads to the big city, where people go to forget all their troubles, where it seems everyone is willing to fulfill his every wish. Life is fantastic, until he hits rock bottom and realizes this isn't a city of djinn... It's a city of gin.

6. Archaeologist Ahmed Rais returns to his homeland Iraq, hoping to rebuild the great museum. While cleaning some ancient silver, he is whisked away to a magic land where everything is strange and few speak his language. Just how did he end up in Dearborn, anyway?

7. When Jean Djinn comes of age, and into her powers, she thinks life can’t get any better. Pulling chairs out from under people, making the pavement over sewer lines disappear as people stroll along, materializing pies for people to walk into face first . . . Then they catch her, and send her to genie juvie to learn some respect. Now, she’s out for revenge, badda-bing-badda-boom style. And no jail in creation can hold her – especially not one located in the . . . City of Djinn.

8. Donnie dreams of becoming a star, the number one requested condiment on the planet, the name that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue. But when he can’t even cut the mustard enough to make the top ten… well, what’s a self-respecting plant like him to do? Wait… what? City of what? Ohhh, Djinn. Never mind.

9. Slave trader Hamsi is an unpopular man in an unpopular profession. Just when it seems he may have to earn a respectable living as a shoe salesman, he stumbles upon the wondrous City of Djinn. So many potential slaves, so few oil lamps to trap them in.




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I’m seeking representation for City of Djinn, a 95,000 word YA fantasy set in a desert world with elements of Persian mythology. [I'd put this at the end.]

Blighted babies should be given to the desert. To do otherwise is to invite the wrath of the gods. [Get rid of this.]

Because of Meron’s birth defect, she’s been ostracized by her tribe: blamed for every lost camel and sick child [Why haven't the tribe given her to the desert?] and betrothed to an old man who already has two wives. And he only agreed to marry her because he owes her father a favor. [When someone owes you a favor for, say, feeding his camel while he was on vacation, it's considered bad form to demand he repay you by marrying your daughter. Especially if he's already married. Twice. Is the reason he has two wives because he owed two other guys favors?]

On the night of her wedding ceremony, raiders attack, slaughtering Meron’s tribe and leaving her alone in the middle of the desert, still wearing her wedding clothes. [At least there's no one left to blame her for this.] Her survival depends on crossing a land riddled with dangers: giant crabs that suck their victims dry, and immortal beings she thought were myths. When she’s captured by djinn – shapeshifting monsters that prey on humans – Meron is given a choice: die with the other captives [Who are these other captives?] or discover who’s been enslaving the djinn and why. [How do they know the djinn are being enslaved if they don't know who's enslaving them?] If she succeeds, she and the other captives will be freed. [Or so the Djinn claim, but can you really trust shapeshifting monsters that prey on humans?] If she fails, they’ll be dinner.

As the trail leads her closer to the dark kingdom next door and the beasts that guard it, Meron learns why the djinn selected her for this task and discovers a secret that could propel her to the upper echelons of society, blighted or not. [In my experience, when you're in danger of becoming someone's dinner, you tend to put your place in the societal order on the back burner.]

This is my first novel. I hope it will appeal to fans of Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series. [I'd replace this with the first sentence, or combine them.]


Notes

I think you should tell us why Meron was selected for this task and what secret she learned that will make her the toast of the ton.

Enslaving a shapeshifter seems impossible. He can turn into a snake to slip out of his shackles. He can become a cheetah and run away, or a bird and fly away or he can turn into the Hulk and pound you into a pulp. If this world has sorcerers capable of preventing shapeshifting, then the djinn should be smart enough to figure out that it's the sorcerers who are enslaving them, instead of sending Meron to find out who's doing it.

If the birth defect is the reason Meron was chosen, start with the 3rd paragraph, but add the first two sentences of the 4th paragraph to that one. If it wasn't the reason, you can dump the entire 3rd paragraph and start with the 4th. Either tell us what's special about the birth defect, or leave it out.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Face-Lift 1216


Guess the Plot

Audrey Maeng and the Chinese New Year

1. Audrey's life changes forever when she goes on a blind date with a handsome dragon dancer. A multicultural literary fantasy novel that will make you reexamine your view of scales!

2. The latest in a series of mildly racist children's books about holidays around the world. Preceded by 'Timmy Karim and the Ramadan,' 'Kelly Shabat and the Hanukkah,' and 'Sammy McShivers and the Canada Day.'

3. Asked by the principal of her school to host the Chinese New Year Festival, Audrey Maeng wants to scream. She isn't even Chinese. So she ruins the festival by printing signs whose translations are insults and putting doom predictions in the fortune cookies. Nothing makes 3rd grade bearable like a little revenge.

4. Audrey Maeng's Tiger Mom has always made sure she was first at everything. Valedictorian, All American in Taekwondo, and now she was headed to the Olympic trials. When she suffers a meniscus tear her dreams are shattered--until Mike, her hot physical therapist, starts treating her. Should she bring Mike to Chinese New Year so he can meet her family? She doubts they will approve of her new boy toy.

5. It’s a little known fact that Breakfast at Tiffany’s almost didn’t get made. They couldn’t find a female lead. That is, until Blake Edwards went on an all-night binge at General Tso’s 24-hour Mu Goo Gai Pan Palace, and spotted a terribly thin but quite confused waitress, with a penchant for overly-long cigarette holders and cheap fireworks. Also, dumplings. Lots and lots of dumplings.

6. In a bizarre series of unlikely plot twists, a giant man-eating plant swims across the Pacific and lands in a distant country. Changing her last name to reflect her new surroundings, she emerges into society just in time for the biggest celebration on their yearly calendar. Feeeeed me, Xi Moah.

7. Audrey's 88th New Year is approaching, and as double-eight is particularly auspicious in China, she wants to make it a spectacular event. Bring on the firecrackers, lanterns, red envelopes and interminable tales about her previous New Years.

8. When gorgeous Australian ranch hand Han Audrey and fifth generation Chinese immigrant Pamela Maeng discover that their dream of running a sheep farm is threatened by mysteriously cheap Chinese wool they realize that something just isn't right: the anti-democratic Chinese totalitariat has discovered a way to squeeze two year's worth of time into a single year!

9. Twelve year old, Audrey Maeng has waited a long time, for this night, to rid herself of that gnat of a ghost. Grandma said that it came twelve years ago, during the year of the horse, and could only be cleansed under that sign. Looking at the open drawers of the dresser, with her recently folded clothing hanging out, she is more determined than ever. But Audrey will learn that some horses have a mind of their own as--do some ghosts.

10. Audrey Maeng used to love Chinese New Year. But now that she's an executive for a global corporation that does its manufacturing in China, she just sees it as an annoying week of no work getting done. Can three spirits help Audrey remember the true meaning of Chinese New Year? Also: an amnesiac parrot.

11. When Audrey Maeng's DRAGON ONE ship malfunctioned somewhere over Saturn, she knew she was in for an adventure. Now she's in some crazy city where people are chasing after her, trying to set her tails on fire. How will she get out of this with her virtue intact? Also, singing crawdads.

12. Audrey has been trapped inside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas for three weeks. Everyday is Chinese New Year. Has her aunt been practicing black magic to win at blackjack again, or is her aunt's ex-husband, the washed up "magician" back in town?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

There are three Chinese students at Calla Lily Elementary, [so it's decided that the school play will be The Mikado, a decision that sparks the 3rd Sino-Japanese War.] but Audrey Maeng isn't one of them. A Korean-American girl, Audrey is extremely frustrated that her classmates (and teachers!) can't seem to understand that Asia is made up of different countries. [Of course it is. There's China, and . . . some other Asian countries.] The last straw comes when the principal asks Audrey to be the host of the school's Chinese New Year Festival... and her costume, of all things, is a kimono. [Seems like the kimono would be more annoying if Audrey were Chinese.] [How does Audrey know the three Chinese students and several other kids haven't already declined the request to host the festival?]

As much as Audrey would like to refuse and write an angry letter to the school board, [You did say she was in elementary school, right?] she doesn't want to get in trouble for refusing. [Not clear why she'd get in trouble.] And, okay, she could use the extra credit. With the approval and assistance of Yahong Li, the [Vietnamese] student in charge of coordinating everything, Audrey plants a few small "mistakes": changed lettering on the signs, some misplaced firecrackers, ["Misplaced" means temporarily lost. Is that what you mean? Or do you mean strategically placed?] fortune cookies. Nothing too big. Just a few jokes for anyone paying attention.

But when the Festival arrives, everything falls apart in the worst way. The lettering translates to insults Audrey didn't realize beforehand. The firecrackers go off too early, and nearly burn down the stage. Even the fortune cookies are predicting doom and disaster for the people who open them. [Just to up the stakes a bit, change that last sentence to: And the explosive charges in the fortune cookies maim all the students in Mrs. Patrick's 1st grade class.] [I don't see how the doom-predicting fortunes can be an example of things falling apart; Audrey did know what the fortunes said, right?]

Audrey wanted to make a point, but she didn't mean to ruin Chinese New Year. [Actually, the three jokes you list do seem more likely to make a mess than to make a point. If her point is that not everyone who looks Asian is Chinese, the time to make it was when she was asked to be host, by telling the principal, "No thanks, but I'll be happy to host the Hangeul Proclamation Day Festival, you bigoted jerk."] Now, with the principal furious and Yahong refusing to speak to her, [She did have Yahong's approval and assistance for her jokes.] Audrey has to fix what she's done -- and fast. [None of what was done sounds fixable. The best she can do is hire a political damage-control team.]

AUDREY MAENG AND THE CHINESE NEW YEAR [FESTIVAL] is a middle grade contemporary novel complete at 50,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Audrey Maeng Ruins the Chinese New Year Festival? 
How Audrey Maeng Ruined the Chinese New Year Festival? 
I'm Not Chinese, You Idiots!?

Hard to believe Audrey didn't know what the lettering translated to. Did she just make random symbols? Seems more likely she'd decide what she wanted the signs to say and ask Yahong to translate into Chinese.

If it's a middle grade book, why set it at an elementary school? Especially as wanting to write an angry letter to the school board and pulling pranks like changing the signs and the fortunes strike me as middle or even high school. Can you include Audrey's age/grade?

Wouldn't the student "in charge of coordinating everything," and not the principal, be the person who recruits a host?

The query's okay, and the point being made is worthwhile, but what could possibly make Audrey think that when people go to this Chinese New Year Festival and see her joke signs and read their joke fortunes and hear the ill-timed firecrackers, they're gonna think, Hmm, I now realize there are many unique cultures in Asia. Does Audrey do anything that might help the uninformed to realize that?

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Face-Lift 1215


Guess the Plot

The Matter That You Read

1. One physicist's love story, told through peer-reviewed journal articles.

2. A woman in Edwardian England needs a new servant after her latest servants quit. She goes on the Internet and orders a unit that she hopes will satisfy her needs, but it has no hands, and doesn't speak. It can't even teleport, so...ah, never mind. My plot makes no more sense than the title.

3. One day, Yoda has a brain fart disguised as a cerebral aneurysm. That day, his critical job to monitor the matter/antimatter engine suffers. All gauges glowing green is optimal, but when the engine hiccups everything turns red. The Captain calls for a prognosis. "An anastrophe, it is. The matter that you read the gauge it is."

4. Reed has that rarest of all literary gifts – he can read the fate of anyone he meets in the detritus found in their pockets. The problem arises when Evil Editor, curse his wicked proofreading skills, confuses Reed’s sense of tense, and now Reed can’t tell if he’s going to read their fate, or has already read…The matter that you resd.

5. The Red Shoes, The Red Violin, The Red Badge of Courage… all classic works, involving choices resonating through the ages. The National Enquirer? The Globe or the Star, or any other of . . . the matter that you read? Yeah… Not so much…

6. Carly Porter is a proofreader for a drug company. She has to make sure all the diseases and side effects and ingredients are spelled correctly in the fine print in those ads you see in magazines. When she meets hunky Chet Baines, it's love at first sight. But will his atrocious spelling on Twitter doom their relationship?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Any human servant would choose the workhouse over Evlalia – and her most recent two just have.

She sacrificed hours informing them of every flaw. But her words were wasted on people, as usual. At least she didn't dare to make a positive start: it would clearly have gone to waste as well. [No idea what that last sentence means.]

No High person makes their own food [Actually, when I'm high, food is my top priority, although I'll admit that sometimes I can't be bothered to make food when I can just open a bag of Doritos and crush them over a carton of Cherry Garcia.] or laces their own corsets. [Never lace your own corset when you're high. You end up as tangled as an octopus caught in a fishing net. I've heard.] Evlalia needs a new servant, and a magic one will have to do. [Ah, so Evlalia is a character. When you said someone would choose the workhouse over Evlalia, I assumed Evlalia was a place. I mean, if I said to you, "Any idiot would prefer Tokyo to Thaliponia," wouldn't you think Thaliponia was a place? Wouldn't you be so certain Thaliponia was a place, that even when I used a pronoun in the next sentence you'd think I was talking about a character whose name I haven't mentioned yet, or possibly the idiot in the first sentence? Wouldn't it shock you to later find out Thaliponia is my pet iguana? Of course it would. You'd never suspect me of comparing apples to oranges in sentence 1.] [Perhaps you want something like: Yet another of Evlalia's servants has walked out on her. People are so ungrateful. She sacrificed hours informing him of his every flaw.] [Also, there's no need to specify that the servants who quit were human. We'll assume they're human unless you say otherwise, and even if we don't, we'll figure it out in the next line when you call them people.] [Even after I know Evlalia is a character, the fact that you referred to her servants as human is going to have me thinking Evlalia is a Klingon or a Romulan.]

Part metal, part human, a 'unit' is a magical servant summoned [Ordered?] from the Internet. They come with unique software: some read or run faster than a forming thought, others grow their toenails or eyelashes six times faster than normal. [When a woman purchases a unit, I suspect it's not the toenails she wants to grow really fast.]

Buying a unit so damaged it's considered unsellable? [If it was considered unsellable, whom did she buy it from?] At least he needs her too much to ever leave. And it reminds everyone that Evlalia picks the road less travelled, even if it leads over a cliff. [As I understand it, a properly utilized unit takes the passenger down the most-traveled road, across the plateau and definitely over a cliff.]

Her new unit is Tace, and he can teleport. At least he could, before his old user left him without hands and on a ventilator.  [Why would the old user or the new user want a servant without hands? Did he have robotic hands that can be replaced?] Thanks to Evlalia [Has anyone else noticed that Evlalia is what it would sound like if you said "Evil Editor" while eating a bagel?] he no longer passes out after twenty seconds, but he still waits on the roof every night for his old user to come back.

Evlalia's words stop her disappearing into just another average, replaceable person; [Strange, as you've declared that her words are wasted on people.] Tace's muteness is more voluntary than everyone thought, and his body is built around being able to disappear at will. Friendship between them was a risk neither planned to take; it just seemed to happen, like the cutting remarks Evlalia always assumed she could keep back if she tried. [I feel like I'm disappearing into a black hole. Not that I know what that would feel like.]
 
Not being able to dismiss people makes interaction complicated; as Evlalia meets other units, she's relieved to find them just as easy to offend as humans. [How many units can one woman handle?] Being installed with dictionaries and perfect memories just seems a bonus.

Kyrillos can read every blood vessel pumping in Evlalia's neck, and when his domination over his user is questioned he knows exactly which artery to pinch shut. [Who is his user? Why are we interested in him?]
 
Halimeda can read every regretted word and past mistake in Evlalia's mind, and when the motives of her sudden friendship with Tace are questioned she knows exactly what Evlalia wants left unsaid. [Suddenly we're meeting new characters, but we don't know anything they do. Why would Evlalia want to be anywhere near them?]
 
Tactful silence might save Evlalia's life, [from what?] but also makes her indistinguishable from everyone else. That less travelled road does end in a cliff – and it might be better to jump.


THE MATTER THAT YOU READ is a 130,000 word slice of life/urban fantasy novel, [The title makes no sense. What does it mean?] set in an alternate Edwardian England. [It's exactly like Edwardian England, but with androids, the Internet, software . . . Actually, wouldn't it be easier to just say it's exactly like the year 2030, except that women wear corsets?]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

130,000 words, and all you can tell us about the story is that a mean woman replaces her servants with a junky unit?

You need a story. If you have a story, you need to summarize it for us. What is Evlalia's goal? What's preventing her from achieving it? What's her plan? What are the consequences if she fails? Why should we care about her at all? How does she grow in the story? What decision does she have to make? These are the elements of her story. All you've provided is her situation. Start over.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Is this the future of EE's blog?

 

And then we came to the end!


Probably not, as the fewer queries, openings and comments that come in, the less work I have to do. But let's not overdo it.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Face-Lift 1214


Guess the Plot

Cry for Mercy

1. Mercy Martin sacrificed everything to pay her fiance Paul's way through medical school. Then he dumped her for a nursing school freshman. But don't cry for Mercy; she's bought a Glock and pretty soon Paul's the one who'll be crying for mercy.

2. After Mercy is kidnapped, raped and tortured and nine other people are murdered, she decides that the killer is the cop investigating the crimes. No one's likely to believe her so she must solve the case herself. But can she survive a rigged death match and bring in her quarry before the Afghan War veteran trying to avenge his slain grandma does?

3. It's been 10 years since Percy Jackson came on the scene. Now he's married and has two children, but he can't fight anymore. He threw his back out in that last battle. His daughter Mercy knows about his past and is ready to take on the Gods herself. But whens she picks up a bazooka and trips as she heads out the door, it's time for Percy to . . . Cry for Mercy.

4. Mercy Jones thought yesterday was bad when the bank repossessed his truck. Then his girlfriend left him after she shot his dog. Everyone thinks he's a callous, red-eyed SOB because he won't cry, so they heap crap on him. He can't cry--no lacrimal glands. So Mercy goes on a mission to find that perfect country record to play backwards. Then everything will be right in the world. Or will it?

5. No one knows how Mercy Lewis died, but some say her ghost can be seen wandering the track around the abandoned sex toy emporium after hours. When young, attractive and well-endowed ghost hunter Longley Hardcastle steps into town hoping to disprove the existence of this spook, he instead finds himself confronted by something he doesn't understand, but is irresistibly attracted to. But what happens when the best sex of your life is with someone already dead? Either way, Longley can't constrain his orgasmic cries...for Mercy!

6. Mercy was a lock to be next year's prom queen, so when her dad announces that they're moving across the country and she'll be attending a new school full of strangers, she's heartbroken. Will she spend her senior year frantically making friends in hopes of realizing her dream, or will she wallow in self-pity and blame her father for the miserable rest of her life?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for CRY FOR MERCY, a [an] 80000-word Commercial [commercial] fiction [novel] set in NYC where fifteen-year[-]old prostitute Mercy has carved out a nest [niche?] for herself and her tight-knit street family of three boys. Too bad, there is a contract on her life, and Mercy is kidnapped, raped and tortured. [Does the person doing this know there's a contract on her life? If so, why not just kill her and collect?] She manages to buy her way out of the death trap, [If you'll untie me and let me go I'll give you all my money. Just hand me my purse over there.] but her street family isn’t so fortunate. The boys are murdered one by one, and the killer is not done yet: six more people die in a seemingly senseless killing spree. [Then an elementary school is bombed and an Ebola outbreak kills millions in this upbeat romcom.] Mercy is the only one who can tie the murders together and guess the killer’s identity. [If the killer is the person who kidnapped, raped and tortured her, why is it a guess? Was he wearing a goalie mask during all this?] Unfortunately, she can’t go to [the] police, for the killer is a cop in charge of the investigation. [Also, the police prefer actual evidence to a guess.]

Mercy is not the only one with the clues to [the] killer’s identity. [You just said she was the only one, two sentences ago.] An Afghan War vet with PTSD seeks to avenge his slain grandmother. However, he’s not interested in helping Mercy to crack the nefarious plot, but uses her as a bait to get to the killer cop. Outmatched and outnumbered, Mercy either has to flee and start from scratch in a new city or defend her hard-earned place on the Streets [streets] of New York. [She's fifteen. You talk like she's spent the last decade establishing her current position.]

The killer cop is not waiting for anyone to make a move. He nurtures [Has? Holds? Harbors?] a secret worth millions, and he’s not gonna let a little ho derail his beautiful plan. In the rigged death match, Mercy will either avenge her boys or fall down the latest victim. [What a drag to buy your way out of a death trap only to land in a rigged death match.]

Thanks for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

So killing a bunch of street people and some guy's grandmother is part of the cop's beautiful plan that will bring him millions? If you want us to buy that, you'd better tell us what the cop's "secret worth millions" is.

Fifteen is kind of young to have a contract on your life. Is it the cop who wants her dead, or someone else?

Readers are more likely to root for a young prostitute who's trying to start from scratch in another field than one who's trying to avoid starting from scratch by defending her hard-earned turf.

I mean, I have as much sympathy as the next guy for someone who's been raped and tortured, has contract killers after her, had her street family murdered, and is being used as bait to lure a serial killer, but can you give me a reason to like her?

The errors may be minor, but this many in a one-page letter will suggest to the reader that the manuscript has a similar density.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Face-Lift 1213


Guess the Plot

Damnation's Blade

1. Baelzebub, Hell's metalsmith, creates a sword for Satan that can slice through any angelic beings. Yes, 'Saint' Michael, this time it's ON!

2. Kerwyn Thunderstone finds a magical ax blade and embarks upon a perilous quest to get the blade to the capital city. It's perilous because every time he touches the blade it burns his hand.

3. Polishing Satan's? butter knife collection three hours a day in a luxury suite beats working retail ten hours a day. Is Lucy on the top level of Hell, or the lowest level of Heaven? Should she risk losing her job to find out what's outside her chamber door?

4. Sixteen-year-old Jenna is sick of the abuse. Worse than that, she's sick of her father calling screaming out, "Damnation, child! What have you done now?" Well this time, she'll show him what she's gonna do. She grabs the knife off the kitchen table and marches into the living room...
 
5. Spanish swordsmith Carlos Rodriguez Martinez has had it with fat nerds demanding 'combat ready swords'. After a long night of drinking, he sets out to make the ultimate fighting weapon: a rotating, six-bladed, laser-firing chunk of steel with bombs and grenades. Suddenly Hollywood is calling, the armies of two dozen nations are at his door, and fat nerds still demand 'combat ready swords'.

6. Mentally unstable artist Marcy is excited to host her very first exhibition, a display of sharp objects with abstract nouns attached to their names: Curiosity's Knife, Brutality's Axe, Redemption's Letter Opener. But when a snarky art critic slams her work in the local paper, he'll soon come face-to-face with Marcy's favorite piece, Damnation's Blade.



Original Version

The Three Altars, Book I: Damnation's Blade, 98,719 words, adult fiction that may appeal to readers of Joe Abercrombie's The First Law Trilogy, Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicle or George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. Synopsis below as per your format. [If you put that first sentence below the synopsis, you won't have to say "synopsis below." Actually, even here you don't have to say "Synopsis below" unless you fear the agent will read your first sentence and then struggle to find your synopsis.]

After killing a small army of murderous escaped slaves outside the small town of Hammerdale, exiled faerie Kerwyn Thunderstone and gruff slave-catcher Haon Kellbrack [If your job title is slave-catcher, I'm pretty sure killing an entire army of escaped slaves is gonna look really bad on your resume.] discover a mysterious magical ax-head that burns at the touch and turns bodies of water into a deadly magical poison. [If you want us to like your main characters, you might have them help an army of slaves to escape rather than kill an army of escaped slaves. Just sayin'.] When the local priestess offers them a fortune to bring the ax to the capital city for inspection by higher authorities within her worldwide church, they assume they have it made.

However, the ax is too dangerous to take without magical preparation, and while Kerwyn and Haon are waiting, they find themselves distracted from their journey [Has their journey begun?] by the mysterious disappearance of local children. Upon solving this mystery, they also find themselves at the center of a desperate local power struggle between Rhydion Warlowe, a nobleman's son desperate to save his ailing father, and the sinister physician calling himself Father Miracle, whose methods seem at once too good and too horrific to be true. Will they be allowed to leave Hammerdale alive? [Do these "distractions" before they begin their journey constitute most of the book, or are they subplots? I was thinking the main plot would be what happens when they get the ax to the capital. In which case the disappearing kids and Father Miracle can be left out of the query.] [And I say that reluctantly, as I'm sorely tempted to suggest focusing the entire query on the sinister physician Father Miracle.] Will the ax leave in more malevolent hands? [Almost, but no.] Who is the childlike figure who follows them at every turn? [Cricket Buttonhole.] And who, in the end, will be left holding Damnation's Blade? [My money's on the beautiful country lass Glory Glittermoon. I hope she has asbestos gloves.]

Damnation's Blade is the first of a planned six book series [Now I'm worried that it takes six books to get the ax to the capital, like it took three books to get the ring to Mt. Doom. You don't want me worrying about that.] entitled "The Three Altars," a dark epic fantasy told through the eyes of the mysterious exile Kerwyn Thunderstone, the magically gifted and impetuous Viscount Rhydion Warlowe, the petulant, penniless and amoral former nobleman Victor Touinkcelot, the bitter former priestess Bara Ironthatch and the tragically naive faerie princess Sarna Mourningdell. Each of these five characters find themselves drawn into a cosmic cold war between rival Gods, and the ruthless religious leaders so devoted to those Gods' worship that they would sacrifice their own souls. Yet this religious war itself may be a distraction, as a potentially world-ending threat rises in the centuries old, impenetrable desert to the West. As these five characters confront that threat, they will also be confronted with questions on the nature of redemption, justice, divinity, and ultimately, creation itself. [No need to list characters whose role isn't important enough to warrant telling us anything they do other than confront (possibly in book 6) some vague threat.]

Sincerely,


Notes

Partial list of adjectives used in the twelve sentences of the plot summary: murderous, mysterious, magical, deadly, magical, dangerous, magical, mysterious, [Maybe you should change the title to Magical Mystery Tour.] desperate, desperate, sinister, horrific, malevolent, dark, mysterious, magically gifted, amoral, petulant, bitter, ruthless, world-ending.

Partial list of adjectives I didn't put on the first list: small, small, gruff, ailing, childlike, penniless, naive, impetuous, cosmic, centuries-old. impenetrable. The point being, cut down on adjectives. You can delete a half dozen adjective from your first plot sentence without losing anything important. Try rewriting the plot summary limiting yourself to ten adjectives. It's not that adjectives can't be useful, but it's nouns and verbs that tell the story. You don't want to give the impression that every noun in the book has an average of two adjectives attached to it. To put it another way, if a clown rides a unicycle past your window every twenty seconds, pretty soon you're gonna start ignoring the clown.

I can see how you would figure out that the ax head you found burns to the touch; less clear is why you would dip the ax head into a body of water.

You're better off declaring this book is a standalone novel with the potential to become a series than to hint that you're looking for someone to publish six books.

It's well-written, and the character names are cool, but the query needs to focus on the main plot of this book. What happens if they fail to get the ax to the capital? What happens if they succeed? Who is trying to stop them, and why?