Saturday, April 29, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1350 would like feedback on this revision.

Ziva Kritikos wants to grow up. Her best friends, Sophie and Abigail already have goals in mind for their lives. Kyle, a boy hooked on messing with her is headed towards his dreams while Ziva doesn't even have any. She doesn't want to be left behind, and her library's books won't help her find a path. Desperate for a change, Ziva relies on a shooting star.

When her wish is granted however, she gets a limitless supply of information at the tip of her tongue instead. Now holding the power to devour her written words, her hunger doesn't allow them to stay on paper. In turn, no one else can see them, leaving her once perfect grades at the mercy of blank tests and notebooks.

To make matters worse, the fourteen-year-old's body now only craves words, rejecting anything else. The more ink she eats, the more she begins to doubt if she's human. However, the only thing beastly about Ziva is her appetite.

As she indulges in her greed, the girl comes to a realization―her meals are memories stolen from humanity. She becomes terrified of what her loved ones would do if they knew, so she keeps the grim truth to herself. Seeing as how the stars won't listen to her pleas, Ziva decides to starve. She can prevent herself from stealing anything else while fading away in silence.

After telling Sophie and Abigail about her powers only to recieve fear-strucken [stricken] faces in response, Ziva confides in Kyle. He learns of her 'solution', but won't let her die so easily. After seeing her pass out from anemia, he brings her to the nurse's office. There, he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing. However, he's ignorant of the consequences.

Ziva, now conscious and frustrated, has to make up for her reckless choices with one last decision: erase any trace of her existence or indulge in her greed without regrets?

A concoction of paranormal and fantasy, Words, a young adult novel is complete at 50,000 words.


While this is an improvement, it's still not clear. Lines I don't like:

a boy hooked on messing with her 

her library's books won't help her find a path (every library has books on careers. WHat more does she want?)

she gets a limitless supply of information at the tip of her tongue (that falls flat since you haven't yet mentioned that she eats words.)

holding the power to devour her written words
indulges in her greed(I would leave off the "in" if you must use this phrase, but I don't think it helps either way. And you use it twice.)

her meals are memories stolen from humanity(Meaning what? SOme of her meals were her school tests and reports. Were those humanity's memories. WHen she eats humanity's memories, does humanity lose the memories? IF she writes 2 + 2 = 4 and then eats it, do people no longer know what 2 + 2 =?)

he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing (I don't see how that's an apology.)

These phrases obviously make sense to you, but I'm not sure what they mean.

It's gonna be hard enough to get readers to buy into this eating words concept. Explaining it in vague terms won't help.

Friday, April 28, 2017

New Beginning 1064

Five years ago, the semi-automated, MoonMax class freighter Magellan2050 launched from the Space Station at Lagrange Four. MoonMax class freighter required two maintenance men for it’s fifteen year flight.

“I dreamed of the beach and sunbathing again last night,” Cordell said.

“You dream? I’m still in the thrall of learning tapes,” Nate chuckled.

“Comparative philosophies again?

“A boring professor droning on about Man and Superman, Ego and Id, Situation Ethics, rational individualism, and best of all, Existentialism… A miasma of doubt black enough that no sky leaks through. Clearly, I’m not destined to be a philosopher.”

“What diseased social planner thought a philosopher required on Centauri B?” Cordell always searched for reason. He was disappointed many times. If he had been in his human body, Nate would have shrugged but this mechanical body didn’t shrug.

“They never studied philosophy. They just think it’s needed.”

“It’s all so ghastly, a douce-bag full of god swill.” Cordell laughed, venomously. Nate didn’t want to discuss comparative dis-illusionary ontology. They wrestled a new door into place for Cargo Hold 237. The old door was damaged by a pea-sized chunk of rock. Such impacts were rare. Finished, they transferred their minds to their flesh and blood bodies and slept.

Hundreds of hollow-eyed students followed Nate, mumbling 'Jungian, Freudian, Kantian' as they raised their hungry heads to him. Patchouli, pot and port mixed together in an unholy swill. And still they chanted, desperate, seeking truth--Nate jolted awake. It was coming true, as he'd always feared: being TA to old Philosophy professor Grange had come back to haunt him.

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


P1: Comma not needed. Hyphen needed between Moonmax and class. No need to capitalize space station. Station name would probably use 4 or IV, not Four. Its, not it's. Hyphen between fifteen and year. The second sentence is referring to this specific flight, not flights in general, so should use the ship's name instead of repeating "Moonmax-class freighter." Better yet, repeat neither; say, "Aboard for the fifteen-year flight were two maintenance men.

P6: I might go with "needed" instead of "required," which sounds more like it's a regulation, in which case there'd already be a philosopher there. 

P8: Douchebag.

So is maintenance man Nate studying philosophy because he's to become the resident philosopher on Centauri B? Maybe it would be easier to train a philosopher to do maintenance than the other way around. Although they both sound more like philosophers than maintenance men.

This flight has ten years to go. Let's hope something more interesting than conversation will happen soon.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Face-Lift 1350

Guess the Plot


1. Nouns, verbs, propositions, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions--yep, they're all here.

2. Marsupial. Charm. Fallacy. Chalupa. Cleanse. Fortitude. Pulchritude. Ombudsman. Quince. Lambaste. Addendum.

3. A 2000-page book detailing the descriptions and pronunciations of all the words you may have ever known or will know. Like a dictionary, but not in alphabetical order.

4. The story of [name withheld] who, after being forced to copy out the 20 volume Oxford English Dictionary, goes on to become a serial killer with an impressive vocabulary.

5. A bunch of them. 85,304, to be exact. Strung together to make sentences. Lots of sentences. Some short, some long, some funny, others tragic. My words will make you laugh, cry and inspire your fingers to continually turn pages. May I submit the complete manuscript?

6. She's been cursed to eat her words, but Ziva doesn't mind, because the words she eats replace nutrients from food, and fill her mind with knowledge. Includes such words as "plethora," "concoction," and "chew."

7. 10-year-old witch Legretta always had a stutter, but she always made it work--until the day she has to perform a spell that's a tongue twister to boot. Will her town ever recover . . . or forever smell of feet?

Original Version

Ziva Kritikos loves to learn. So when she's cursed to eat her written words, the girl is more intrigued than terrified. With every word she eats, a plethora of knowledge enters her mind, replacing any nutrients she needed from food. [When you said she was cursed to eat her written words, I assumed you meant words she had written. But if the words she eats bring all this knowledge, it sounds like she's reading Wikipedia and Evil Editor's blog.] A limitless supply of information at the tip of her fingers [tongue]. What could be better? The problem is, only she can see her words. [You mean before she eats them? Is she writing in invisible ink? Where does she see her words? Are they written on paper? I'm trying to resist suggesting they're in alphabet soup, Alphabits cereal, or Valentine heart candy.] [Why is this "the problem"?]

With knowledge comes power, and this can't be more true for her. Every word she eats gives her everything she's ever wanted to learn and more. However, the consequences turn out to be much more than she bargains for. Grades plummeting and relationships straining, [Speaking from experience, of course friendships are lost when you you become a know-it-all. But grades? Grades should skyrocket.] Ziva finds out what it really means to bite off more than you can chew. Especially when her meals' ingredients turn out to be humanity's memories. [What does that mean?]

A concoction of paranormal and fantasy with hints of romance, Words, a young adult paranormal [novel] is complete at 50,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,


If this is a real book, it needs to be described with real information. Not all this vagueness. We want specific information about what happens in the book. ___-year-old Ziva wants all the knowledge she can fit in her brain, but when her wish is granted, specific bad things happen. She comes up with a specific plan to fix things, but something specific goes wrong. Now she has a specific decision to make. 

Start over. Tell us the story. Who cursed Ziva and why? Explain the curse in terms a child could understand. For instance, when Ziva writes words on a piece of paper, she must eat the piece of paper. How does her knowledge affect relationships? Give an example, like her BFF dumps her for always correcting her grammar. Why do her grades plummet? Because she knows more than her teachers, so she cuts classes she doesn't need? Because she's giving right answers but her text books were written in Texas?  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Face-Lift 1349

Guess the Plot

Cracked Reflections

1. A literary allegory about fractals and their impact on science and mathematics from the 1700s through the end of the twentieth century. Includes a room full of infinite clowns.

2. Taylor didn't think much of it when she broke her grandmother's mirror. At worst it was seven years bad luck. Except now it seems that a doppelganger is going around, doing terrible things in her name. Can Taylor find her other self before it's too late?

3. Amber's mirror is cracked. And in the thin hairline in the glass, she swears that she can see another eye, staring back at her...

4. Klutzy witch Missy breaks her magic mirror, releasing insane, distorted doppelgangers of herself. They band together, lock her in her swamp cave, and go about *shudder* doing good. Missy must enlist the aid of the brainless prince she turned into a frog while avoiding his romantic overtures if she's to remain the most feared witch in seven kingdoms. 

5. How can 13-year-old Kass convince her father she isn't crazy like her grandmother and her mother, when she can't even tell if the voices that only she can hear are real? And when she does crazy things like intervening in a melee between striking workers and scabs at a local mill?

6. When Queen Lillith's magic mirror shatters, she's left to reflect sorrowfully on her past actions and her many regrets. If only that huntsman had brought Snow White's REAL heart for her to devour... 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My name is Joanna Hoyt [You'll be signing the letter at the end, so unless you're so famous that your name is enough to hook the agent, this is a waste of space.] and I’m seeking literary representation for my YA historical magic realism novel CRACKED REFLECTIONS. [That was a lot of adjectives. Commas are needed with more than two. Better yet, you could say my YA magic realism novel set in 1912.] [Also, are you sure this is YA? Your main character is 13, which is a bit young for YA, and  you stated in your first comment about the opening (previous blog post) that you think this is a novel for adults. You seem conflicted about your audience.] I hoped you might consider it since your MS Wishlist includes historical fantasy and #ownvoices writings featuring disabled characters. 

Some of thirteen-year-old Kassandra Leonhart’s worries are shared by many of her neighbors, children of immigrants working in the textile mills of Guerdon, Massachusetts in 1912. Can her father avoid workplace accidents and mill lung? Can Kass persuade her new teacher that, though German, she’s not an ignorant foreigner, while also keeping up friendships with newer Russian and Italian immigrants? Can she keep up with schoolwork and also with the after-school job that helps feed her family?

Some of her worries are uniquely her own. Can she convince her father and sisters that she isn’t crazy like her grandmother and her late mother? How can she tell which of the images and voices that only she perceives are signs of insanity and which are glimpses of something real and important? [So far you've given us more questions than answers.] [Also, scanning down the page I see that this summary is too long, so I suggest we cram these two paragraphs into one sentence (Thirteen-year-old Kassandra Leonhart, a child of German immigrants living in Guerdon, Massachusetts, is worried that the images and voices only she perceives are signs of the insanity that runs in her family.) and get to what happens. 

Kass’ friends [If it pains you to add 's to a name that ends in s, don't give your characters names that end in s. If you stick with Kass, the possessive is Kass's.] and neighbors-- policemen, laborers, labor organizers, reporters from papers with radically opposing views, and all their children-- can’t agree about what’s real and important either. ["Real and important" is vague. I don't think we need that sentence.] When millworkers strike in nearby Lawrence, some see a peaceful revolution for justice, others a reign of terror brought on by foreign agitators. When another young girl is seriously injured at the mill where Kass’ father works, half the workers go on strike and try to keep the other half out and the militia are called in. Kass’ daily walks to work and school take her through the fighting that ensues.

First Kass tries to stay out of the fray. Then she intervenes in a melée to help a schoolmate turned millhand turned striker. When she recovers from her injuries she’s called on to testify about just what happened in the fight. She knows something the other witnesses don’t, thanks to her polyglot understanding and her position at a crucial moment. She understands what she saw differently from the other witnesses, partly because of her visions and voices. But if other people realize what she’s seeing and hearing they won’t trust her testimony; and she’s almost sure they should....

CRACKED REFLECTIONS, complete at 80,000 words, is a YA novel exploring the shadowlands between madness and insight, cruelty and justice, kindness and complacency, foreignness and belonging, childhood and adulthood. [Try to limit lists to three items, max. Beyond that they become boring. In this case, I think I'd just go with madness and insight.] The first chapter is pasted below.

A short story featuring Kass’ adventures, also titled Cracked Reflections, appeared in Enigmatic Mirror Press’[s] anthology Mysterion in August 2016. My short fiction has appeared in other pro publications including Crossed Genres, Daily Science Fiction, and Upper Rubber Boot Books’ anthology Broad Knowledge. I am also the author of the nonfiction book A Wary Welcome: The History of US Attitudes toward Immigration, published in April 2017. I share Kass’ struggles with anxiety, though not, alas, her flashes of clairvoyance.

Thank you for taking time to read and consider this query. I look forward to hearing from you.



Getting rid of the red should get this down to a reasonable length (some tweaking may be needed to smooth out transitions). 

Can you should find a way to work in an example or two of what Kass sees and hears, and why she's confident her visions are relevant? Does she have a track record for being right?

Possibly she knows who's guilty of something because she saw it in one of her never-wrong visions, but that won't fly in court, so she's considering lying under oath and saying she actually saw what happened? If that's what's happening, I'd spell it out so we appreciate her dilemma.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Feedback Request

Rewrite of Face-Lift 1288: The Feast of Masks

For years mercenary Tali Adilrein has been following an on-again-off-again whisper of danger that only she can hear. [I
f I've been following anything for years and still haven't caught up to it, I give up.] She can't ignore it, but she doesn't want to admit the whisper may be related to the rare type of magic she wields--dragon magic.  [I'm not sure what it means to follow a whisper. I'm less interested in knowing dragon magic is rare than in knowing what it can do. I'm not sure why someone wouldn't want to admit that a whisper may (or may not) be related to dragon magic. What kind of danger is being whispered of? I'm pretty much lost. All I know is mercenary Tali wields something called dragon magic.]

The whisper [I'm becoming annoyed with the whisper.] leads Tali to stop the kidnapping of a girl, Shimmer, who can enhance dragon magic.  Worried, Tali hires on as Shimmer's bodyguard.

Soon thereafter Tali defends Shimmer from magically guided arrows.  The next day, she kills a swarm of destructive beetles released where Shimmer is working.  Both incidents involve magic similar to Tali's own. [So releasing beetles is something Tali could do? Somehow the term "dragon magic" sounds more impressive than that.]

Though initially suspicious of Tali, a well-connected politician enlists (extorts) her aid when he investigates. [What's he investigating? The failed kidnapping? Isn't that a job for law enforcement?]  While his leads peter out and his informants turn up dead, Tali must call on her own magic and Shimmer's help in fighting off stronger, more blatant attacks. [Stronger than beetles?] 

In the end they will discover an ancient dragon is hunting Shimmer.  To protect the girl, Tali will need more than dragon magic: she herself will need to become a dragon.


Does the dragon that's hunting Shimmer want to force her to enhance its magic? If so, attacking her with arrows doesn't seem smart.

If the politician does something useful, what? If all you tell us is his leads peter out and his informants turn up dead, he's not needed in the query. 

I have to say, I think your previous version gave a better idea of the story. Also, that my version in the comments there, works better than either of your versions. Apparently you've rejected it, which is okay, but I'd at least let it guide you toward something with more clarity. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Beginning 1063

July 1908
Guerdon, Massachusetts

Kass skips home from church beside her big sister Helena, thinking about the piece she  sang with the Kinderchor, “Die güldne Sonne,” and soaking in the light of the golden sun which reaches down between the tall brick buildings all the way to where Kass is. Kass lifts her face to the sun and sings, “Ein herzerquickendes, Liebliches Licht....”

“Hush!” Helena snaps. Helena seems to think that because she is twelve and Kass is only eight she gets to tell Kass what to do all the time. “Look where you’re going!”

Kass looks back at the buckled brick sidewalk in time to avoid a clump of horse manure. “You didn’t say hush when I sang with the Kinderchor this morning,” she points out. “It can’t be bad to sing Bach, or Frau Geist wouldn’t tell us to do it.”

“In church! Not on the street!”

“Pastor Baum says we have to be the same people in church and on the street. You shouldn’t contradict Pastor Baum.”

“Do you want to be like Großmutter Kassell?” Helena snaps.

Kass shuts her mouth. Of course she doesn’t want that. That’s what she’s afraid of when she wakes from nightmares, when the shadows swell up and whisper to her.

Helena smiles triumphantly. Papa being too poor to bury their grandmother, leaving her to mummify in the attic, was the best gift a big sister could hope for.

Opening: Joanna Hoyt.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1342 would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Evil Editor,

Jay Stevens leaves England as a young man. As soon as he sets foot aboard of a Portuguese ship, he is relieved. Relieved [of all his belongings, for it is a Portuguese pirate ship.] to get far away from the grief that ever lingers at home since the death of his sister.

Together with his cousin Tristão Vaz, he roams the coasts of the known world, his restless soul ever driving him towards new adventures. [That sounds more like what you'd say if he were sailing his own ship. He would have no say in where this ship goes, and probably little time for adventures.] He is afraid to stay ashore for too long. [So his restless soul drives him toward new adventures, as long he's back on board by dinnertime.] People might become close to him and he remembers all too well how much it can hurt to lose someone you love. 

Still he cannot avoid Laura. She is a simple tavern wench, but as soon as Jay sets eye on her during his first journey [voyage] to Venice, he knows it will be hard to keep his distance. 

She is the first to break through the wall around his heart, something that scares him beyond measure. After all, everyone knows that no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her. 

His cousin’s plan to go search for gold along the unknown coasts of Africa in service of Henrique the Navigator comes just in time. But then [a] storm arises and Jay’s decisions send them adrift on the ocean, with little prospect of ever finding the way back home.  Alone, lost at sea, he reconsiders his choices. [You said the storm sent them adrift. So why is Jay alone?] If he ever returns, would he dare risk to love again? [Who is adrift? Jay and Trystão, or the entire crew of Henrique's ship? I mean, if you're on a ship helmed by Henrique the Navigator, you shouldn't be that pessimistic about finding your way home.]

NAVIGATORS, is a historical novel set in the fifteenth century. It is complete at 98,000 words and available for your review. 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I would condense this to something like:

Jay Stevens joins the crew of a Portuguese ship, hoping that by leaving England he can escape the grief he's felt since his sister's death. He tours the port cities of the 15th-century world, and during his first stopover in Venice, meets Laura, a tavern wench who steals his heart. Of course, no tavern girl truly loves the sailor that pays her, right?

Jay's thirst for adventure leads him to join his cousin on a search for gold in service of Henrique the Navigator. A storm sends them adrift off the African coast with little prospect of finding their way home. Lost at sea, delirious, Jay vows that if he ever makes it back to civilization, he'll settle down with Laura and never go to sea again. 

Okay, that's probably not what he vows, but at least I didn't drop Laura from the query. I assume she doesn't get dropped from the book. And there's room to expand this with another paragraph between or after those, in which you provide more specifics. 

Some of the minor errors suggest English may not be your first language, or that you need to proofread more carefully. You may need to find someone to help you out.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in the post below this one requests feedback on this revision:

Thank you for your critique and feedback. I've spent the last four hours reworking on the query. I've tried to include the missing information, removed the excess semicolons, and re written the story based on the manuscript. Your comments would be of immense value

Dear Evil Editor,

Manhattan royalty, Ian Sanders is a citizen of the world. He’s a visionary with a brilliant mind: unapologetic, ruthless, two heaps of sharpness mixed with one scoop of sugar. His testosterone-filled existence is no stranger to dazzling creatures, [When I suggested you write as if you're talking to a stranger on a bus, I should have added that the stranger is ten years old. He's rarely seen without a beautiful woman on his arm.] as long as they pack their bags and leave before breakfast is served. [If you're going to use cooking metaphors, mix sharpness with sweetness or tabasco with sugar. Although in this case I don't see where the sugar comes in. He's unapologetic, ruthless, and the women stupid enough to sleep with him don't even get breakfast. If he's done something sugar-like, what was it? To me he seems like two cups of lemon and zero scoops of sugar.] When Ian chances on a woman who threatens to reduce his intellectual abilities to alarming proportions, [Is that a good thing or a bad thing?] he’s willing to rewrite the rules, each one of them. [I'm so crazy about you, babe, I'm changing the rules: You can stay till after breakfast.]

Unlike other cooks with a rich vocabulary of swear words, or epic, post-weed tales to boast of, Ella Scott is a misfit in the culinary world. What she lacks in body ink, she makes up with an unadulterated passion for cooking. [This seems to suggest that those cooks who swear and have body ink lack her level of passion for cooking. I doubt there's any correlation.] Her sappy eyes are armed with quiet confidence, a thousand dreams, and ten thousand worries. [Most people with ten thousand worries don't have quiet confidence. Can't recall looking at someone's eyes and thinking they're sappy.]

Despite her reluctance, Ella goes from being a mere appearance to a beautiful presence in Ian’s life. But the pessimist inside Ella’s head never shuns from its daily duty of reminding her that all this will come to an end, eventually. When Ian fails to show up on the night they must board a flight to Vegas, Ella is convinced that her time is up. [Even this complete jerk would probably phone and give her some lame excuse for why he can't go. Does she phone him? Does she check to see if he's in the hospital or the morgue after being involved in a horrendous traffic accident on the way to the airport? Does she ever get an explanation?]

Three years later, when their paths collide again on a green, December evening at a Beverly Hills soiree, [I don't get "green" as an adjective describing an evening.] a lot has changed. Ella’s ditched her chef’s apron for a shimmering gown. [If you mean she's no longer a chef, what happened to her unadulterated passion for cooking? If you mean she didn't wear an apron to this party, I doubt any chef wears an apron when not working.] Ella’s tweaked her hair to a sandy blonde. [For all he knows, she's changed her hair color a dozen times in the past three years. That's not a big change.] Ella, has a ring on her finger. Can Ian Sanders forget the one person who crowds his head like the beast of insomnia? [It doesn't much matter if he can forget her if she's now married or engaged, especially since the reader has no reason to believe she would ever want anything to do with this horrible man if she were single and he were the last man on Earth. If Ella's three years away from Ian have been pure misery because she's so in love with him, you haven't done anything to convey this to us.]

At 84,000 words, Tossed, is the first, contemporary romance in a series of three. It is complete, and ready for your consideration.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Outside of the lack of semicolons, this isn't much different. You're still using flowery language you wouldn't normally use to describe a character (His testosterone-filled existence is no stranger to dazzling creatures; she crowds his head like the beast of insomnia...

You still haven't told us much of what happens. You have a paragraph telling us what Ian is like. You have a paragraph telling us about Ella. Then your plot, which is basically:

Ian and Ella see a lot of each other until Ian misses their flight to Vegas. Three years later they meet at a party, and Ella has a ring.

You've written 84,000 words, and that's all you can tell us about what happens?

A romance needs a hero and a heroine who belong together, and who eventually find their "happily ever after." From what I can tell, your heroine has found happiness, but without your hero. Which is good, because your hero's an ass.

I'm not sure why it should matter that Ella is a misfit in the culinary world. Ian isn't the type of guy who regularly dates chefs anyway, so it's not Ella's contrast with other chefs that attracts him.

It's likely that the problems with the query exist in the book as well. A perfect query will not sell a flawed book.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Face-Lift 1348

Guess the Plot


1. When womanizer Ian falls for chef Ella, it's not her salads that he's after. So of course he's annoyed when she tosses him.

2. Larry Donnaly and his dwarf friends are in Pittsburgh for a Little People convention. When they wander into the wrong bar, it becomes a night they--and Pittsburgh--will never forget.

3. It wasn't the pirates that did Jackie in. Nor was it the kraken, mermaids, or even a shark. His crew tossed him overboard while drunk one night, leading to his demise. Now he can't rest until his takes his revenge. 

4. Zanderphan wins a dragon, which will keep the warlock Lafartus from overtaking his village. But Zanderphan tossed his only gold piece--the thing that makes this dragon appear--into a deep wishing well to impress a lady. Can Zanderphan overcome his fear of water before Lafartus gets to his village at sunrise?

5. The epic saga of salad king Giannini DiFinestra, from his humble beginnings as a Sicilian lettuce picker, to his legendary founding of the world-wide Salads-To-Go chain, to his shocking ouster as chairman by tomato baron Kurt von Faul. Includes recipes.

6. Jimmy McClane loves pretty blonde Charmelle Atkins, a champion barrel racer. But she only dates stars on the pro rodeo circuit. Jimmy's one attempt at bull riding landed him in the hospital, so he opts for the greasepaint and becomes the rodeo clown in the barrel for the bulls to toss. Will he catch Charmelle's eye at last?

7. Her company bankrupt, her husband a philandering idiot, and her bestie joining a cult, Kelly feels like she's been tossed aside by everybody who ever meant anything to her. She finds solace in the arms of the rich, sexy Ambrose. But why does he disappear for a few days around the full moon - and return with the smell of blood on his breath?

8. A serial killer is eliminating NYC’s Chinese bankers by defenestration. They hire PI Johnny Wong to protect them. He pretends he’s a flamboyant banker, and the killer tosses him from the 39th floor. But this time he picked on the guy. Johnny wears an auto-activated body-balloon under his Brooks Brothers suit and bounces. Now Johnny knows the killer's identity the killer, but he escapes to Hong Kong, a city with hundreds of skyscrapers and innumerable bankers. 

9. How was Saharan supposed to know that old lamp was magic? She was merely tossing out junk brought back by her treasure hunting packrat of a husband. Now the genie's free and an evil vizier rules the country. On the positive side, she knows where her husband is: the royal dungeon. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my contemporary romance novel, Tossed; the first in a series of three. At 84,000 words, it is complete, and ready for your consideration.

When Manhattan royalty, Ian Sanders’ seemingly perfect world collides with bright-eyed chef Ella Scott, their lives are sprinkled with dangerous liaisons, a dollop of hope, and a tragic dose of consequences that would [will] change them both, forever. [I would start the plot summary with the next paragraph, if only to get rid of the cutesy cooking terms.] 

Ian Sanders is a citizen of the world; a visionary with a brilliant mind; unapologetic, ruthless, two heaps of sharpness mixed with one scoop of sugar. [WTF? Is this going to continue throughout the query?] Ian’s testosterone-filled existence is no stranger to dazzling creatures, as long as they pack their bags and leave before breakfast is served; up until he meets the woman who adds ten, warm degrees to a frigid winter. [I think you mean she adds ten degrees to a preheated oven.] Unlike other cooks with a remarkably rich vocabulary of swear words, or epic, post-weed tales to boast of, Ella Scott is a misfit in the culinary world. Armed with a bag of nerve-inspired humor and quiet confidence, she'spainfully linear when it comes to opening her heart.

Despite her heavily armored exterior, Ella goes from being a mere appearance to a beautiful presence [From a mere garnish to a beautiful entree.] in Ian’s life; from whimsical art exhibitions and lavish penthouse gatherings, to turbulent dance clubs; [From whimsical dessert creations and lavish smorgasbords to turbulent Dutch ovens.] amidst the sea of glossy heads and faux air-kisses that flock Ian’s surroundings, the only person who has the ability to render him speechless is, her.

Three years later, when their paths collide again on a green, December evening in flamboyant Hollywood, a lot has changed. [One minute they're society's darlings, the next they haven't seen each other in three years. What happened?] Can Ian forget the one person who crowds his head like the beast of insomnia? Will he forgive the wreck of a woman who left him in shambles? [You haven't suggested that she's a wreck of a woman or that he's a shambles or that she did anything for which she owes him forgiveness.]

Tossed is my first, professional attempt at toying with words; a book that tore my life into two. One; that begins each morning in a breathtakingly beautiful city in Norway, the other; which transforms me into the Duracell rabbit, each evening, after a thick smog of silence takes over the house! 

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



There are almost as many semicolons as periods in your plot summary. Most of them can (should) be replaced by periods, commas, colons or dashes. There are way too many unnecessary commas, as well. And way too many adjectives.

A query is not the place to be "toying with words." It's a business letter. Working in a bit of your book's voice is okay, but you're trying too hard to be clever. Try telling us what happens in your book in the same language you would use if you were talking to a stranger on a bus. Except write in complete sentences and keep in mind that she will lose interest after nine sentences no matter how interesting they are. If the book is this heavy on adjectives and word-toying, you may need a good pair of kitchen shears.

We don't know anything that happens beyond some guy meets a chef and becomes infatuated. Do you have a story or just a couple characters? Is there a villain? What's preventing these characters from attaining their goals? What are they planning to do about it? Start over, and tell the story.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

New Beginning 1062

As I stand in the northern meadow, a heartbeat echoes in my ears. Beat by beat, it pounds to the wild rhythm of fear. Superior hearing is just one of my abilities, courtesy of the crystal embedded in my chest. Of all the things I can do, I listen to hearts, like this one, quite frequently. There’s nothing like the sound they make, especially one on the verge of death.

Down at my feet, the Arctic hare squirms, but it's pinned by my steel-tipped javelin, jutting out of its gut. I kneel beside it and extract the spear. Its blood, dark as oil, gushes out and stains the fresh snow. Despite the stench of blood seeping through my nostrils, I smell the scent of berries. The same ones I used to lure the rodent out in the open, right before I hurled my spear at it. Anything that comes that easily is either a trap or it's worthless, a lesson I learned in the Labyrinth.

The Artic hare tries to limp away. It can't move very far. I brush a strand of ebony hair out of my face before taking the rodent in my hands and snapping its neck. And presto! Another merit badge checked off my list.

Opening: Eric Bendas.....Continuation: jcwrites

Friday, April 07, 2017

Face-Lift 1347

Guess the Plot

Worst of Luck

1. When Kennedy starts attending a school for magic users, one of his classmates curses him to body-hop into a new person every day--a person having the . . . worst of luck. Hilarity ensues.

2. When vice agents raid FiFi LaTouche's School for Young Ladies, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: nice girls don't wear red, and he should have changed his shorts that morning.

3. Mel Richards thought he was joining a gated community with high security, wealthy neighbors, and a 9-hole golf course. It's actually a cult ... with high security, wealthy members, and an 18-hole golf course whose back nine holes are in a province of hell.

4. The pot of gold seemed free for the taking after catching a leprechaun. Yet ever since Lewis started spending it, terrible things have been happening. Now he has to get back all the gold before the world ends. On Monday.

5.  Felix loves sausage beyond all else. Hoping to bring the joy of this cuisine to a small Appalachian town, he sinks his savings into a new venture: The Wurst Restaurant. Weeks go by, but no diners. Felix  joins the Navy and ships out as cook on the USS Indianapolis in July 1945. Felix figures war can’t be as bad as his failed restaurant. 

6. Charlie's favorite days are the regular ones: wake up at sunrise, drink coffee, shower, eat a bagel, get dressed, drive to work in his taupe sedan. But today is not a regular day because the man dressed like Ronald McDonald is waiting for him at the stop sign again.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am submitting WORST OF LUCK (81,000 words), a fast-paced YA fantasy with quirky humor and touches of sarcasm, to you because [some reason I desperately hope will matter to said agent]. [I'd work this information into the paragraph after the plot summary.]

New-guy Kennedy Jacobs finds out exactly why Adina Anteloni doesn’t fit in at school when she sprouts a pair of horns and curses him at the spring dance. Adina is secretly a Zoandrian, a human-animal hybrid with a magical talent, and unfortunately for Kennedy, her talent is Curse Working. Now Kennedy is living through one terrible day after another, body-hopping from person to person [among people] who are experiencing the worst of luck, and Adina faces serious punishment if the Zoandrian Senate finds out she lost her temper … again. [Focus on one character; the punishment Adina risks is connected to Kennedy only tangentially.]

When Kennedy’s body-hopping lands him in the mind of a Zoandrian rebel, Adina isn’t able to hide her mistake any longer. The rebels suspect Kennedy knows their secrets, and the Senate is certain he knows too much about them all. [Why would body hopping into a rebel give Kennedy knowledge about all the senators?] [How do the rebels and the Senate know whose bodies Kennedy has hopped into?] The rebels want Kennedy dead while the Senate plans to strip him of his memories—even the ones he’s beginning to grudgingly cherish of Adina. It will take everything Kennedy and Adina have to remove the curse and turn their bad luck around … and maybe into something more.

WORST OF LUCK is a standalone novel with series potential that will appeal to readers who enjoy unlikely romances and stories featuring schools for magic-users. [If this is a school for magic users, you might mention that earlier. What magic abilities does Kennedy have? Why does Adina sprouting horns and putting a curse on someone show she doesn't fit in at school, if it's a school of people with magical abilities? Even if it does show this, Kennedy, being the new kid, wouldn't know it.] The humor and multiple perspective storytelling may appeal to fans of Anna Bank’s [Banks's] Syrena Legacy Series while the concept of living as a new person each day may appeal to fans of David Levithan’s Every Day.

Professionally, I am a freelance editor, the co-founder of a local critique group, and the lead author on a scientific publication about the endangered Georgetown salamander. Non-professionally, I am a crazy cat lady who loves Disney, dragons, and dessert.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Usually I expect even a paranormal YA book to focus on the relationships among the teens, and issues of a more personal nature than rebels and senators wanting to kill them or erase their memories. Stuff like drugs, bullying, sex, peer pressure. Perhaps putting more emphasis on Kennedy's romantic interest in Adina would help.

It's not clear how the Zoandrian Senate or the rebels get involved in what's happening at a school. Is there some kind of civil war going on? 

Who's running Kennedy's body while he's in someone else's body? Is it a swap?

Why does Adina curse the new-guy? Why is new-guy hyphenated?

I think we can do without the Senate in the query. Tell us who the rebels are, and what they're rebelling against. And why is Kennedy attracted to the student who cursed him? 

An example of a humorous body-hop would be better than just stating that the book has quirky humor.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Feedback Request

You’ve mentioned before you find it hard to imagine a kingdom on a mountain. I’m not sure how to explain this concisely in a query letter without just saying something blatant like “trust me, the mountain is really big”, because the circumference of the mountain is similar to the circumference of France (there’s a mountain on Mars with a similar shape and size). [Can't you just say the kingdom of _________ is situated on the side of Mt. Era, a mountain as large in circumference as France?] The setting is something unique about my book, and so I do want to mention it. [You don't need to tell us the answers to our 
questions; you need to decide whether the answers should be in the query, and if so, how to work them in.]

The reason it seems like Lark and Alister are underqualified for this mission is because when I started plotting this story, I wanted something different from ‘the Chosen One’ plots that are seen (in my opinion) way too often in fantasy. I wanted to pick characters that aren’t particularly special before the story, but that were dragged into the plot by learning too much (in Lark’s case) or being dragged into it by others (in Alister’s case) [or by being whisked to another world by a tornado (in Dorothy's case) or by coming into possession of a powerful ring (in Frodo's case)]. Then what I find the most interesting is how they can grow and become important throughout their travels, rather than being inherently important already. [
My experience with the "chosen one" fantasy plots which are (in your opinion) seen way too often in fantasy, is that they usually do involve characters that aren’t particularly special before the story.] I’m not sure how I can express this (answering the question of ‘why him?’) best in the query letter.

(The following query isn’t too different from the last submission, just with a few small changes, because the questions above address your previously mentioned issues.)

Dear EE,

Alister didn't start his day thinking he'd leave his home forever, guilt and his hiking pack weighing on his shoulders. But after he accidentally causes a neighbour's house to crash down Mount Era's slopes, a young girl trapped inside, he packs his few belongings and leaves before anyone discovers what he'd [he's] done. [If your house is so precariously balanced that a kid can accidentally send it crashing down a mountain, you hired the wrong builders.]

Then Lark's message arrives. [If the message arrives after Alister leaves, how does he get it?] The travelling merchant had been Alister's only link to the other cities of the Union, until he mysteriously disappeared that autumn. Lark's message explains that his disappearance was no accident. He sent it moments before being taken captive by Baudouin, an unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of Mount Era. Lark discovered the king's plot to dig up the unstable Stone of Dominus and use its power to gain control of the entire mountain. The rest of the Union is oblivious to Baudouin's plans, fooled by the aid he's given them over the years, and the king doesn't seem to realise or care that using the Stone's power risks Mount Era's destruction.

Alister embarks on a journey across the Union to free Lark. Throughout his travels, Alister makes new friends and enemies, learns more about the Union's cities than Lark ever told him, uncovers the merchant's past, and learns to face his own. Although he knows Baudouin must be stopped, Alister wrestles with how far he should go to save the Union.

In the back of his mind is a nagging question—What made Lark send to him for help? [Possibly answering that question will answer our question of Why Alister? Lark's about to be captured, and in his final moments of freedom he chooses to write to a kid on the other side of the mountain asking for help. Either Alister has unrevealed talents or Lark doesn't trust any of the many people who would be better equipped to help, or the message was a ploy, or...] 

The Missing Traveller is a fantasy complete at 110 300 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I can accept a mountain as large in circumference as France, but to call it a mountain it has to rise in elevation somewhat dramatically. Otherwise we'd call France a mountain. Obviously Mount Era does rise dramatically, as a house would not come crashing down its slopes if they were gently rising slopes. 

The mountain on Mars that Wikipedia shows as France-sized is 13.6 miles high. But because gravity helps keep most of the air near the surface of a planet, humans can't breathe at altitudes a mere 3 miles high. Also, it's really cold at higher altitudes. If the Martian mountain were on Earth, it would reach more than six miles into our stratosphere, whereas our Mt. Everest, which is very cold near the top, doesn't even reach to the stratosphere.

None of which matters if your characters all live within two miles of the mountain's base, or if the story is set on a planet vastly different from Earth (like where gravity and physics don't matter). Anything goes in a fantasy, as long as you can get readers to buy into it.