Thursday, May 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1259


Guess the Plot

A Fearful Brew

1. Was it a heart attack that killed that dinner party guest? Or was it poison in his soup? Inspector Snow is on the case, but can his scientific investigation reveal the truth before the society ladies' gossip destroys lives? Also, women's suffrage.

2. When amateur microbrewer Joe Bona creates what may well be the best beer in the world he's ecstatic - until he realizes that his creation is sentient . . . and it's got stage fright.

3. John Longstein has had a good run as a serial killer. Now it's time to toss back a few brewskies. Just one last step. His last victim-to-be watches him prepare a batch of home-made brew with those "special" ingredients still to come.

4. Celebrity, actress, chef, writer, model and lifestyle guru Gwen Patronal has a new beverage for the health-happy Hamptons set: a gluten-free, GMO-free, sodium-free, cruelty-free, fat-free, calorie-free, cholestoral-free, free range, organic, vegan beer she calls "Good". Will she clean up at the Sag Harbor Brew Fest, or will she fall to a *gasp* traditional ale? Also, hipsters.

5. High school student Taylor inherits her late grandmother's recipe collection and it includes a recipe for witch's brew. Is this the secret to getting that new boy Josh to finally notice her? Or will the concoction kill everyone who drinks it? Only one way to find out.


Original Version

A Fearful Brew

Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack. ["Hasty" because Atwood was a young man, and an athlete, and his head is missing.] [Assuming Atwood isn't the guy's first name, that should be Sir John or Sir John Atwood, but not Sir Atwood. I know this because on golf telecasts they always refer to Nick Faldo as Sir Nick.] ["Heart attack" sounds more like a diagnosis than a verdict. Has there been an inquest or was Atwood merely examined at the scene by a doctor?]

The hostess of the fatal dinner party fears the gossip will damage her social position. [Already there are whisperings that Sir Atwood's heart attack was caused by the Clams Casino.] Her guests, obligate [obligated] to attend, find their secrets at risk. 

[Guests: He had a heart attack. What do you want from us?

Inspector Snow: I want to know all of your secrets.]

Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, [Observes what?] with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm. [Is Charlotte Magnolia the hostess? A randomly chosen guest? I was convinced we were in London; now I'm thinking Mississippi.]

Jane Bradford, [no comma needed there.] fights her fear. She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, [What is this "fear" Jane is fighting? I can't think of any fears that can be overcome by starting a suffrage group.] despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage. [Wait, are we in the same book?]

With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise. [The surprise isn't that the cook didn't want in; it's that the butler did.] 

When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop . The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, [Who is Maisy?] and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness. 


Notes

What does Sir Atwood's death have to do with the servants in Jane Bradford's home?

Characters named in query: Inspector Snow, Sir Atwood, Charlotte Magnolia, Jane Bradford, Lady Harrington, Aunt Edith, Maisy. Add to that the hostess, the guests, Charlotte's husband, the cook, Jane's other household servants, and the society ladies, and we have a cast bigger than Downton Abbey. Which is okay for a novel, but way too many for a query letter.

Stating the title at the top isn't enough. We want a couple sentences in which you give the title, genre, word count, and anything else that might convince the reader to request your manuscript.

The first name mentioned is Inspector Snow, but he's never mentioned again. If Jane's cook solves the murder, we don't need the inspector in the query. 

You need to decide whether the main plot is Inspector Snow's murder investigation or Jane Bradford's quest for suffrage. The latter seems to get more attention, but as the suffrage group comprises only Jane and her sister (maybe) and her household staff, maybe the suffrage group is a subplot.

If the investigation is the main plot, tell us why Snow thinks there's more to Atwood's death than a heart attack, and name some suspects and their possible motives.

If women's suffrage is the main plot, open the query with Jane, tell us about her struggles to interest others in the cause, and mention Atwood's death only if you can explain how it's connected to the cause.

Don't name characters without also telling us who they are.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Face-Lift 1258


Guess the Plot

The Witch of Albright

1. Zinia lives near a haunted forest where Locals buy her herbal cures and psychic services. When the king is poisoned, the bishop declares it a work of witchcraft and many old ladies are prosecuted as witches. But she knows they aren't guilty because she's the kingdom's only witch. Now Zinia cannot hide but must use her powers to capture the assassin and free the innocents. 


2. Gwendolyn is tired of cleaning up after her and her sister's messy love spells . . . and their broken hearts. A mysterious love curse has troubled them for years. Maybe the solitary witch who only practices black magic will help them, but at what price? Who cares? Gwen is desperate!

3. One witch, one college, 2.5K students all wanting a little (non-literal) magic in their lives. When interacting spells open a portal for the elder gods, a love/party potion witch will need to crack open books that have been collecting dust for decades. Also, tunnels. 

4. All the kids at Madeleine Albright Elementary School know that there's something off about Principal Smith. One, she has a bunch of cats that hang around her office. Two, she has a skull on her desk. And three, no kid sent to see her ever returns. It's up to Rosa Garcia and the kids from the Drama Club to find out what's really going on.

5. Emily is studying to be a witch at  Albright Magic Academy. But she's a total klutz and they're so afraid she'll kill herself they won't let her do anything even mildly dangerous. So she sneaks away and enrolls at a rival school where she becomes a force to be reckoned with. But will she return to Albright now? And if so will it be for love or revenge?

6. When Mertil O Halloran's online Christmas illumination bazaar is faced with liquidation, the dogged entrepreneur enlists the aid of sorcery. It's broomsticks and 28W 2D GR10Q 4 pin Energy Saving Light Bulbs all the way in this Harry Potter meets Sage Accounts For Dummies rollercoaster ride of thrills.



Original Version

Dear [Agent]

I am seeking representation for THE WITCH OF ALBRIGHT, a completed 79,000 word YA fantasy novel with series potential. In a statement in [venue], you said that [personalized details], and so I believe you may be interested in this work. [In other words, either request my novel or admit that everything you say in [venues] is bullshit.] 

Emily Holland is a witch studying at Albright Magic Academy whose greatest desire is to fight monsters and evil mages alongside her friends. [Once I finish the sentence I know that "whose" goes with Emily rather than the Academy, but I can create a sentence in which it goes with the Academy: Emily Holland is a witch studying at Albright Magic Academy, whose claim to fame is being ten stories tall. We expect "whose" to go with the closest noun. Try two sentences: Emily Holland is a witch studying at Albright Magic Academy. Her greatest desire is to fight monsters and evil mages alongside her friends.] However, as the weakest person on her team, she finds herself relegated to unimportant positions in the field while her teammates shoulder all the danger. After a catastrophic failure of hers [Why not tell us specifically what she does wrong?] allows witches from the evil Shadow Institute to steal many powerful magic charms and artifacts, [I don't see how her duties can be described as unimportant if failing at them can also be described as catastrophic. In fact, protecting those charms and artifacts from the Shadow Institute may well be the single most important task of any Albright student.] she is removed from field missions entirely and is even forbidden [banned] from combat training out of concern that she will injure herself. Her goal of becoming strong enough to rejoin her teammates and battle evil seems forever out of reach. [No need to state the obvious.]

But rather than give up, a desperate Emily sneaks away from Albright and infiltrates the Shadow Institute by enrolling as a student. [That was easy. Wonder why no one else ever tried it.] Her goals are twofold: to recover the stolen equipment, and to take advantage of Shadow’s intense training to become capable of holding her own in a fight. She initially struggles just to survive her new lessons, [What exactly is she learning that's so hard to survive? Is she training in magic or as a ninja?] but as the months go by [She sneaks away for months? Has Albright reported to her family or the police that she's missing?] and her abilities improve, she starts to question whether she should really leave a school which is enabling her to grow far stronger than would otherwise be possible. Ultimately, she must decided whether she now supports Shadow… or whether she is, at heart, a witch of Albright. [I don't think Albright wants her back. Have they gone looking for her?]

I have sold short stories to [regional genre magazine] and [upcoming anthology]. Additionally, I have published several technical articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, including [IEEE journal] and [international conference]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

I assumed the Shadow Institute were the bad guys. If it's just another school, if staying at Shadow is like changing high schools, she should stay at Shadow. If you want us to see her choice as a dilemma, you have to show some advantages of returning to Albright. Like Albright trains good witches and Shadow trains evil witches. 

There has to be more at stake than whether she's an Albright girl at heart. What terrible thing will happen if she makes the wrong decision?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Auction Winners

Among the auction winners are AA and RH, but I have no contact information for you. If you'll email me at evledtr@gmail.com, we'll arrange your donation and get you your winnings.

What happens when you accidentally shut your dog in the pantry and leave the house for a few hours.


Friday, May 08, 2015

Face-Lift 1257


Guess the Plot

The Burnt State

1. It's Mother's Day, and yet another ham-fisted attempt at romcom behavior sends Christine over the edge.

2. Billy was careless when trying to fry a few ants with a magnifying glass, and now California is going up in flames. Will Billy's father, a firefighter, save LA? And should he?

3. The nuclear holocaust hit Florida particularly hard. What used to be 'sunshine' is now 'gamma rays,' and Trevor Connors doesn't like it one bit. Join him as he battles radioactive alligators, glowing armadillos, and irate senior citizens for control of the state senate.

4. Oswald Pettigrew couldn't look away from his friggin toaster oven for two seconds without whatever he was trying to toast reaching . . . The Burnt State. Now he's fighting mad, and someone at Wal-Mart's gonna pay.

5. A centuries-in-the-making plot to incinerate an area the size of Texas is about to be put into action. Preventing it would be a challenge even for Indiana Jones, but it isn't Indy Jones who's been recruited to save everyone. It's Indy Ramsay's useless grandfather, Eldritch. We're all gonna burn.

6. A malfunction in the Hubble telescope turns it 180 degrees as it's hovering over Hawaii at noon. The magnified rays of the sun leave behind nothing but ash in what scientists dub "The Mother of All Luaus."



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Indy Ramsay has studied and trained and striven her entire life. Because she is a patriot.

All she has ever wanted is to serve her Empire. [How old is she?]

All she has ever wanted is for the Brothers to show up on her doorstep and induct her into the elite corps of the Empire-the Reverend Council. [I'd start the query with this paragraph. The rest was vague.] [Also, the elite corps of the Empire needs a more awesome name than the Reverend Council. The elite corps would be like the Marines or at least SEAL team 6. The Reverend Council is a bunch of old guys who sit around acting like they know it all.] [Maybe the Brothers need a cooler name, too.]

They do, show up, that is, and promptly whisk away her grandfather-Eldritch Ramsay, [I'd change the commas around "show up, that is" to parentheses. Better yet, change to: They do show up, but it's not Indy they want, it's her grandfather Eldritch...] a man of bemused amiability and little else-on a mission of the tightest, whitest importance, ["Tightest, whitest" sounds more like a description of underwear than an adjective that describes "importance."] leaving behind a shattered and rejected Indy. [There has to be a good reason they've rejected the highly qualified Indy and chosen the totally unqualified Eldritch Ramsay for this mission. They didn't get to be the elite corps by being idiots. Also, if the mission is so damn important, why aren't they recruiting Gordon Ramsay? 

Drawn into the upper echelons of the Reverend Council that runs the Aet-El Empire, a world Eldritch can scarcely imagine and barely understands comes into being in front of his eyes. [It just materializes out of nowhere?] Encounters with bibliothecal deities and soul-vampires notwithstanding, [Not sure what that means.] he realizes he is embroiled in events far beyond his ken. [This is all vague or unclear. And as it doesn't involve Indy anyway, we don't need it.]

As events of the malevolent kind begin to transpire, [Such as?] Indy, too, is determined to have her say in history. She will fight, and prove herself worthy of the Council and the Empire. [Whom will she fight?]

Her hero-worship of the embattled Brothers [In what way are they embattled?] leads her down a dangerous path, where she finds that morals and idealism are not the steel of which empires are forged. [She could have learned that by reading any history book. Or watching Game of Thrones.] 

And as a centuries-in-the-making plan to incinerate the Empire is revealed, [Who has been planning to incinerate the Empire for centuries, and why is it taking them so long to get around to it? For instance, is this a planet where it's always raining, so they've been waiting centuries for a dry spell?] Eldritch and Indy find themselves asking whether they are willing to sacrifice all, including their family, including each other, to ensure the Empire's survival.

THE BURNT STATE is a work of speculative fiction, complete at 112,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

You need to tell us the story. With specific information. The setup: Indy has long wanted to be inducted into the Reverend Council that runs the Aet-El Empire, but when the Brothers come calling, they reject Indy and recruit her incompetent grandfather. The plot: Tell us what she does to prove herself worthy. Does she fight soul vampires? Join the army and fight in a war? Who is trying to stop her? What goes wrong with her plan? The wrap-up: What big decision must she make? What will happen if she fails to get it right?