Monday, December 09, 2019

Feedback Request



The author of the book most recently featured here would like feedback on the following version of the query:


Dear Evil Editor,

I hope this message finds you well. I am writing to pitch my completed LGBT contemporary romance "The Glorious Prince".

Malek, Iraqi-American beefcake and flirtation failure extraordinaire, finds in his university gym locker yet another note from his secret admirer. This time there's a number. After watching his crush, Priscilla, make out with his best friend, Malek storms out of a party and drunk-texts the admirer to meet up.. Fred, struggling painter and smitten submissive, can barely keep himself from running [all but runs] to meet Malek, but arrives to find his fists clenched. Malek pushes Fred away—into the street and a pair of headlights.

In his hospital bed, Fred realizes his chance. Aided by some astonished lawyers, Fred forces Malek to choose between prison and a year of “reconciliation” visits. Prison would ruin his immigrant parents’ hopes in America, so guilt-ridden Malek chooses the visits. On the first visit, Malek is shocked when Fred bends spine, neck, and knees, confessing the urge to be his submissive. Fred knows that Malek will enjoy domination if given a little push, like having his shoes shined, feet massaged, or his shisha pipes prepared. To help Malek see how adored he is, Fred paints him as the epic ruler of fictional worlds, and these paintings come to life in a way his previous works never have.

Though confused and hesitant at first, Malek is flattered by the paintings and enjoys Fred’s service. As he explores his knack for domination, his confidence blossoms. But fearing stigma, Malek orders Fred to trash the paintings. Instead, Fred sells them to pay rent, still fighting with a homophobic father who says he’ll never make it in the art world. Not only do the paintings sell, there is demand for more and talks of a big gallery [showing]. While Malek must confront his new feelings toward Fred, Fred must decide between honoring the trust of his beloved prince, or the breakthrough of his career.

The novel has three POV's, has series potential, and is set in modern Washington, D.C.

I am a Lebanese gay man pursuing doctoral studies in Japan, by day. By night I dominate Japanese men. These and my fantasies about servicing straight men informed the POVs of Malek and Fred. I have been published by The Gay and Lesbian Review, Gayflashfiction.com, Every Day Fiction, haunted Waters Press (contest winner), Good Works Review, and others.

Thank you in advance for your time and kind consideration.


Notes

If you delete the red stuff you'll have a more concise and perhaps better query.

Your last comment in the previous iteration of the query seemed to say you would abandon the car/hospital/contract for my suggestion that Fred simply hire the impoverished Malek as a model. Apparently that didn't work for you?

Friday, December 06, 2019

New Beginning 1088


Okay, so I live in a very small space by Western (N. American) standards. In Asia I live in a l-a-r-g-e condo. Misnomer. It is really a one bedroom one floor one bedroom apartment. Assisted living style without the assist. About 30 sq. meters or 322 sq. feet. Here mom, dad, a kid or 3 or 4 workers live in this small space in the condo complex. Go figure.

And I am trying the Marie Kondo thing. (Condo/Kondo? Is there a connection or am I, once again, the wing nut seeing a connection where one doesn't exist?)

So I haul out all my closet contents, humped/schlumped all on the bed rather late at night. I guess I am not as efficient as the series is. The drag out pile, very heavy. I nestled in to sleep dismayed I couldn't deal with my things in half an hour per the you tube episodes.

The morning eye opening caffeine hit, a rare day off - now what? I know, I know, keep, toss, donate. Here no one wants preowned anything. All about face plus there is no where to donate. So toss is it I suppose.

I stare at my bed pile. Huge as it is I hope I can find joy in what I touch and keep those wardrobe pieces and pitch the unjoy pieces of my hoard.

I sip my cold coffee (it is too hot here in the tropics for a lukewarm morning java spike), with a touch of dismay. Cleaning out the closest means decisions and I hate making decisions. Never been good at them, decisions, and most I have made have been wrong. Great legacy for closet micro scaling down. Why did I think I could do this?

So taking a great coffee swig, which I chased with haste with an equally great hearty belt of very expensive Jack Dan's to face the bed I survey the humpy/schlumpy pile of clothes. After another swig of each I sit on the bed trying to feel/find the "joy" in each article of apparel. I feel nothing in any article of clothing no matter how often I touch trying to experience some mojo out of them.

What about this shirt, does this give me joy? It's got coffee stains. I suck at the coffee stains because caffeine. Doesn't really do it for me, I should have stuck with the cold stuff. Or the Gentleman Jack. Can't decide. Anyway not the coffee stained shirt that can go. Or not.

Pepe sidles up to me and whimpers so I pick him up and give him a hug. Not feeling it. Kondo is right and out the Condo window he goes, wrapped in a coffee stained shirt because no one needs crap like that in their lives. Man that was a good shirt though probably should have kept it. I need a hair cut I think. What to do? Short? Long? Both? Maybe both. I want to look my best when I talk to that Dotard. He called me Rocket Man again. I got to think -- does he bring me joy?



Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: ril


Friday, November 22, 2019

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1394 would like feedback on the following revision:

Dear Evil Editor,

When Saphrina Loresmeth wakes up on a morgue slab inside the cold body of her sixteen-year-old daughter, all she can think of is revenge. [It sounds like the morgue slab is inside her daughter's body, which we're smart enough to figure out isn't the case, but we don't need the morgue slab in the query. Waking in the daughter's body is enough.] Saphrina doesn’t know why she resurrected in such a strange fashion or who caused her children’s deaths. [You could just say "her daughter's death" so we don't wonder how she knows her other children are dead. Presumably they were killed before Saphrina?] Her number one suspect is her presidential candidate husband, who cheated on her, then burned her alive inside her car. [When your number one suspect burned you alive in your car, you probably don't need to concern yourself with your number two suspect.] Finding the full truth means unraveling a magical conspiracy stretching across the Infinite Isles.

She partners with Rael Choon, a slightly unhinged vengeance-seeking time-traveler much older than he looks. [We don't need to know he's older than he looks. We might want to know on whom he seeks vengeance, and why.] He’s watched her die, then turned back time to start over for a hundred loops. [Not clear what that means. He's watched her die a hundred times? Why, to find out who killed her? Shouldn't he have turned back time a few hours further, rather than just watch the part where she burns over and over?] Now his power has been used-up, making this their last shot. [At preventing her death? Her daughter's death? At killing her ex-husband?] Though Saphrina has political insider knowledge and Rael knows secrets of the future, powerful spells protect her ex-husband. [He was her husband in the previous paragraph.] The real trick is making sure he stays dead. [Apparently burning him alive won't do it.] To take him down, Saphrina might have to sacrifice the lives of innocents, her country, and even Rael. Saphrina believes she has nothing left to lose, but when her revenge endangers the last person left who she cares about, she must decide if murdering her old love is worth sacrificing her new one. [I'm not sure what sacrificing her country means, exactly, but it seems that would involve sacrificing innocents and even Rael. I'd probably leave out the country sacrifice. If she's more bothered by sacrificing Rael than her entire country, what does that say about her?]

WHO POURS OUT VENGEANCE is an 81,000 word young adult fantasy novel where the schemes of Six of Crows meet the vicious political intrigue of Best Served Cold.


Notes

Maybe you can leave out the innocents and the country, and just explain why killing her husband probably means sacrificing Rael.

It's suggested that the husband could resurrect; what about the children? Can they? If the husband killed the children in a manner that prevents their resurrections, why didn't he also kill Saphrina that way? Just asking, I'm sure there's an explanation in the book.

You've cleared up some problems, but the query should do something like this:

1. Who's the main character, and what does she want? (Saphina/revenge on her husband)

2. What's her plan to get it, and what goes wrong? (I don't know what the plan is, except that a time traveler helps, and it requires a sacrifice.)

3. What's at stake? What happens if she fails? (It sounds like she cares more about what will happen if she succeeds, namely Rael dies. I'm not sure if anything bad happens if she fails to kill her husband, except she'll be angry and depressed. Will he be elected and destroy the country?)

Monday, November 18, 2019

New Beginning 1087


So I've got this thing, I call it a mind stutter. Don't bother googling it, it isn't there.

What is a mind stutter? You repeat stuff. Over and over, like old Granny who loves to revisit her best times, several times, each time you see her. Like my mother, her daughter.

It kind of pisses me off, but I refrain from "You already told me that". I let her gas on as I enjoy a wonderful bowl of her current preserves. With home made bread, with fresh butter, spread thick.

She's grateful for my visit. Insists on giving me stuff. A lace doily, a belt of whiskey (she thinks it is medicine); being "church people" - a deaconess - she doesn't think a good shot is evil. I don't tell her I know better as I get buzzed on her booze. The taste, to die for as I suck each few ounces down.

I, of course, want two or three shots more. Imagine doing shots with your almost 100 year old grandmother. I am twelve. I giggle after a couple of belts from her stash, almost as old as Gran.. Then my mother comes in.

Man alive, in her fox wrap around collar, gloves, high heelers we called them...

"I think we have everything we need," the cop says. He clicks his pen, closes his notebook, and starts to rise from his chair.

My head is pounding. Hangover? For a moment I can't remember where I am, but then it comes back to me. "I've got this thing," I say. "I call it a mind stutter."

"Yes, you told me that," the cop says. "Six times. Also that your mom's a prostitute, and your grandmother facilitates underage drinking. You came in to report a crime, and you did, over and over again. We got it."

"My dad's a murderer," I say. "Did I tell you that?"

"Nope, that's new," the cop says. He sits down, opens his notebook, clicks his pen again. "Tell me about that."

I take a deep breath and hold it for a moment. It's hard to concentrate, but I need to tell this story. Exhaling in a rush, I say, "I've got this thing, I call it a mind stutter."

The cop says, "Shit. Here we go again." I have no idea what he means.



Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: JRMosher


Thursday, November 14, 2019

New Beginning 1086


She woke up, so sorry that happened, her waking up. The disbelief, the agony. How do you continue after your beautiful daughter has passed into eternity? Waking up to face that horror every living day. How do you bear it? She didn't know. This day was not easier than the days that ran before. Excruciating. Life, bitter as green crab apples and vinegar

Wanting to go where her daughter went but unable to. Shaking a fist against her God wasn't enough.  Starting to hate Him helped for a little while. Then she started to hate Him more.

Time doesn't heal, it festers she decided.

And that is what changed her. The maleficence of life. The idiocy of it. She turned mean in so many ways and much softer in a multitude of others.  The thirty year old heart break of Tianana - whatever. The horrid Polpo  - whatever So many deaths, so needless, so - whatever. She couldn't bear thinking about her single loss because at the end of days so many had lost so many more.

So she went on to...

She made tea, so sorry that happened, her making tea. The disarray, the irony. How do you stomach this crap after so many years drinking beautiful coffee in the mornings? Starbucks out of business? Waking up to face that horror every living day. How do you bear it? She took a sip. This cup was no better than all the cups that came before. Tea, bitter as arugula and bitter melon.

Maybe it was time to switch to bourbon.


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: JRMosher

Monday, November 11, 2019

Face-Lift 1395

Guess the Plot

Houston and the Asteroid Pirates


1. Major Tom calls to ground control. The stars look very different today. Pirates among the stars and he is only in a tin can. What is he to do?

2. It's embarrassing enough that Houston is being babysat by his little brother, but then a guy dressed like a pirate attacks with a plastic cutlass. Oh, and I forgot to mention, they're on an asteroid.

3. Centuries ago the entire city of Houston was refitted as a generation starship. While refueling from an asteroid belt in the Cthulhu system, they encounter their first alien life--in the form of giant wombats with sharp teeth and piratical lawyers. 

4. In this alternate history/sci-fi novel, General Sam Houston receives unexpected aid from a passing force of renegade aliens, whose precision planetoid bombardment destroys Santa Anna's army and thus saves the Alamo. A century and a half later, President Davy Crockett IV dedicates a space center in the city named in Houston's honor, and regular history resumes.

5. Thanks to global warming, the first-ever category 7 hurricane strikes Houston, Texas, flooding the entire city. As residents wait for waters to recede, thinking things can't get any worse, suddenly the city comes under attack by looting space pirates. Some cities just can't catch a break.


6. When Houston starts a rock band, it's not the music that draws the crowds, it's the band members' costumes--only those aren't costumes. Can Houston get these aliens hooked on living the life before they succeed in turning Earth into another asteroid belt?  

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

HOUSTON AND THE ASTEROID PIRATES is an MG sci-fi adventure novel inspired by Andy Weir’s The Martian, but friendly to a younger audience. [I don't think MG readers would find The Martian unfriendly.] [Though they might be as disappointed as I was to find that the Martian is an Earthling.]

Houston lives on Ceres Research Station with his family and friends. Yep, his home is an asteroid. He’s one of only fourteen people who can say that.

Cue asteroid pirate Bonny Rogers. She didn’t set out to be a pirate, but when her pops starts wearing the costume—complete with a plastic cutlass [, eye patch, peg leg, and hook] —and ordering her around, what’s an eleven-year-old girl supposed to do? She plays along. 

Houston isn’t sure which is worse, being stranded at home with a broken leg while everyone else gets to go out and do the fun stuff, [Like trying to see who can survive the longest without air, or who can keep from floating off into space due to the minuscule gravity.] or getting babysat by his little brother and Ceres Station’s AI. But when Bonny and her pops attack, it’ll take all his creativity and determination to save his home—and keep his pirate-infatuated brother from changing sides. [In other words: Arrrrgh, Houston, we have a problem.]

Complete at 40,000 words, Houston and the Asteroid Pirates will appeal to fans of Stuart Gibb’s [Gibbs's] Space Case or Tom Angleberger’s Fuzzy.

My childhood dreams were split between becoming an astronaut or [a pirate.] an author; with this book I got to do both. I am a full-time dad, devourer of words, and avid Ultimate (Frisbee) player. I won the 2016 Baen Fantasy Adventure Award with my short story “The Lavender Paladin.” [For a second I was afraid you were gonna brag that you won the 2016 Baen Ultimate (Frisbee) Tournament.] 

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


Notes

This seems more like Home Alone in space than The Martian. But while the villains in Home Alone were incompetent, they were at least a threat. A guy in a pirate costume with a plastic cutlass and an 11-year-old kid don't sound that threatening. Maybe it would help to  know why and with what they're attacking this research station, and what will happen if they succeed, because right now it just sounds like a guy playing a game called pirates and astronauts with his daughter.

If there are only fourteen people who can say their home is an asteroid, I doubt the occupation "asteroid pirate" would exist. How long would the dread pirate Roberts have lasted if there'd been only one ship to plunder for booty?

Does the pirates' spaceship come complete with a plank?

Book titles should be italicized.

Wednesday, November 06, 2019

Face-Lift 1394

Guess the Plot

Who Pours Out Vengeance

1. Kill Bill, The Musical.

2. When Saphrina is reincarnated in her dead daughter's body after being burned alive, she enlists the help of a handsome time traveler and a witty shapeshifter to take revenge on her ex-husband.

3. Who sows discontent. Who harvests wrath. Who claims greed. Who shops for arguments. Who neglects their own interest. You too can raise your own Who zoo, now with a pachyderm-skin carrying case.

4. When he accidentally catches a fanfic spawned cannibal cult in the act, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: 1) he should have charged his cell phone last night, and 2) he shouldn't have skipped out on early morning jogging.

5. Randy Boilermaker is your stereotypical bartender, always ready to listen to your sob story while dispensing gallons of alcohol to drown your sorrows. But after closing time he puts on superhero tights and sets the world to rights, dispensing oceans of pain and justice on those who done you wrong.

6. After Rory MacLean's farm is wiped out in a Campbell raid he sets about igniting a war between them and the English with the help of two tons of gunpowder currently locked in a border fort, a talking raven, and a friend named McGuyver.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When presidential candidate Oren Loresmeth of the Infinite Isles throws his wife aside for a woman closer in age to his daughter, [I would say "a woman not much older than his daughter." If you mean closer in age to his daughter than to his current wife, that isn't necessarily a big difference.] his ex Saphrina only plans to take revenge in the form of a vicious divorce battle. [Is it okay to call her his ex before they're divorced?] Then someone curses her to burn alive inside her car. [How do they know the fire was caused by a curse?]

Two months later, Saphrina wakes up on a morgue slab—in the cold body of her sixteen-year-old daughter. After Saphrina’s death, her son was murdered and her daughter committed suicide. Saphrina doesn’t know why she resurrected in the wrong body [She can hardly come back in her own body if it was incinerated in a car fire.] or who caused her children’s deaths, [Her daughter's death was caused by her daughter according to the previous sentence.] but she’ll hunt them down with the fury of an avenging mother.

She allies with a handsome time-traveler [Life tip #23: When someone tells you he's a time traveler, be skeptical. He's probably just trying to get you in the sack.] [Of course, since he's handsome, maybe you're okay with that.] and a witty shapeshifter who both want revenge on the same people. [The same people as each other or the same people as Saphrina? I thought Saphrina didn't know who she wanted revenge on.] [You could name her allies. For instance, shapeshifter Odo and time traveler Marty McFly.] Her ex-husband is at the top of everyone’s shit list,

[Odo's Shit List

Saphrina's ex-husband

Gul Dukat
Quark


Marty McFly's Shit List


Saphrina's ex-husband

Biff Tannen
Ronald Reagan


Saphrina's Shit List


My ex-husband

Whoever burned my new car
My ex-husband's whore]

but he’s protected by powerful magic. [So they decide to kill Biff instead.]

Saphrina must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice to take him down: the lives of innocents, her country, or her new friends. [Sacrifice the country. Who wants to live in a country where random people would happily curse you to burn alive in your car if you accidentally cut them off in traffic.] Saphrina believes she has nothing left to lose, but when her revenge endangers the last person left who she cares about, she must decide if murdering her old love is worth sacrificing her new one. [That's two consecutive sentences that include what Saphrina "must decide."] [Also, can't her old love wake up on a morgue slab in two weeks?]

WHO POURS OUT VENGEANCE is an 82,000 word fantasy novel where the schemes of Six of Crows meet the vicious political intrigue of Best Served Cold.



Notes

Presumably, the ex-husband is responsible for the deaths of Saphrina's children, as it's hard to imagine her considering sacrificing innocents, her country and her friends just because he left her for a younger woman. But you claim she doesn't know who caused her children’s deaths.

Who is the last person left who she cares about?

Who cursed her to burn alive?

In a world where resurrection is real, what's the point of cursing people to die or murdering them or committing suicide?

The title comes from chapter 35 of The Count of Monte Cristo: "Hatred is blind, rage carries you away; and he who pours out vengeance runs the risk of tasting a bitter draught." Maybe that sentence, or the part after the semicolon should be put right before the text begins. Then change the title of the book to A Bitter Draught.

A curse, a time traveler, a shapeshifter, powerful magic, and resurrection. That's a lot for us to buy into in a nine-sentence summary of your book. As there's no time traveling or shape shifting in the query, we may not need to know Saphrina's allies have these abilities. And we don't need to know the fire was caused by someone's curse, as we don't know who or why.

Perhaps it would hold together if we focus on Saphrina's new love, and her dilemma when she discovers he'll die if she succeeds in getting her revenge.

P1: Saphrina wakes on a morgue slab, realizes she's been killed, discovers her children are dead, and sets out to hunt the villain down with the fury of an avenging mother

P2: She meets up with two men also seeking revenge on this villain (who I'm guessing is her ex). What's their plan? What goes wrong? What's plan B?

P3: What decision must she make? Apparently her choices are let the villain go free, or kill him (temporarily?) while also causing her new love's (at least temporary) death?


I'm forced to wonder how many people in this world have the ability to time travel. To shape shift. To reincarnate. To wield powerful magic. To curse others. Does everyone have at least one power? Or are the four characters in the query the only ones with powers?

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Feedback Request

The author of the query most recently featured here would like feedback on the following version, (which is only the plot summary). 

-----
Dear EE,

Mercenary Tali Adilrein foils a kidnapping, but the surviving kidnappers escape with the help of a hidden mage.  So, Tali accepts a job as bodyguard to the girl she rescued.  Her new client, Shimmer, is a "dragon treasure."  She can provide otherwise unobtainable power to those who wield dragon magic--the rare type of magic that aided the kidnappers. [So it's the mage who needs Shimmer, and he hired the kidnappers?]

Further kidnapping attempts, which Tali thwarts, worry officials.  They convince Shimmer she'll be safer at the governor's palace while they search for the kidnappers. [Shouldn't this mage be using his dragon magic to assist the kidnappers in achieving their goal? If he is, does Tali have any magical powers that help her thwart the mage?]

The enemy mage sends out independently acting flames that seek Shimmer [uses a spell to locate Shimmer].  More covert spells exert a subtle form of mind control on people likely to approach her.  [Shimmer's friends (or whoever) would be better than "people likely to approach her."] Those people's unintended machinations result in Shimmer being arrested 
 [Unintended machinations is vague. Either tell us what they do or just say she gets arrested.] [I would expect the mage's spells to result in his capturing Shimmer, not in her being arrested.] and Tali getting fired. [I'm wondering if we need the kidnappers in the query. They screw up every attempt at kidnapping Shimmer, and they don't need Shimmer anyway, as they don't have dragon magic. The mage is the villain.] [Although he doesn't seem that competent either; if the flames located Shimmer, he should just go get her instead of inducing her friends to machinate her into jail.] 

Tali is determined to protect Shimmer, job or no.  She hunts through the city for the mage [She's hunting the mage and the mage is hunting her?] until a local troublemaker warns her there's a price on her head.  [Never believe anything a local troublemaker tells you.] She needs to either leave town or, in effect, submit to arrest herself.  [In effect?] She then discovers Shimmer is missing.

-----
[That's it? You need a better wrap-up than that.]

Your 1st paragraph could be:

Mercenary Tali Adilrein accepts a job as bodyguard to a girl named Shimmer. Shimmer, a "dragon treasure," can provide otherwise unobtainable power to those who wield dragon magic, a rare type of magic that [what does dragon magic do?]

Then you introduce the mage who will do whatever it takes to capture Shimmer so she can enhance his power, allowing him to [What's his goal?]

Finally, Tali gets fired, Shimmer disappears, and Tali vows to find the mage and get Shimmer back. What's her plan? What will happen if she fails?

Monday, August 26, 2019

New Beginning 1085


Before you die you lose everything, a gold filigree earring, your favorite animal, cat or dog, your health, and if fortunate, the Gods smile down at you at the end and take your mind.

I didn’t think when we left that my Nanna knew she would die on the way. I was very young. She knew I wouldn't leave without her and so she, so willingly, came with me as I was sent out to work the fields, growing rice, endlessly and forever it seemed a year or two on. It was the beginning days of the upheaval of the Khmer Rouge when we left. I am Cambodian. My friends in the fields are gone, my Nanna. I am so alone.

Especially since I also lost my car keys and my Facebook password. 


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: Paul Penna

Thursday, August 01, 2019


                                   Happy 200th Birthday, 
Herman Melville




Sunday, July 28, 2019

New Beginning 1084



It sang with a sweet high pitch then tore into my shoulder. 

"Oh God, I'm hit!"

I fell into the pool, clutching my bleeding shoulder, then sank under. It was peaceful under the water.

My wife must have dove in after me,she pulled my head above the water, screaming "911 911! NOW!"

She dragged me to the pool edge where my half tanked neighbors reached out dragging me over the hard tile and applied pressure to the wound. 

There I lay poolside, stunned, wanting to stay conscious. I was failing. I needed to stay on this plane.

My wife screaming, "Stay with me, don't you close your eyes!" 
The paramedics arrived. Fast and efficient they determined I was in no threat of death. 

I was hearing laughter, someone offering them a drink. 

The big paramedic, the one in charge, leaned over me, slapped my face lightly and with a big grin informed me I was fine. I had been hit with a red paint ball. 

I sat up. Looked at my shoulder. Apart from a bruise I was fine. The pool party continued with great hoots, slaps on the back as I scanned the house wanting to hurt the kid inside who hit me with the red paint ball. 

He was lucky his father got to him before I did. When I heard the kid over the paddling he was getting I smiled and asked for an ice filled glass of club soda. You know, it is best served cold. That would be revenge. 


It slid down my throat with bubbly sweetness and then my chest exploded into fire.

“Oh God, it’s a heart attack!”

I fell into the pool again, clutching my aching chest, then sank under. It was still peaceful under the water.

My wife must have dove in after me, she pulled my head above the water, screaming, “Are those paramedics still here?!”

The big paramedic, the one in charge, leaned over me, slapped my face lightly and with a big grin informed me I was fine. It was indigestion.

I sat up. Opened my mouth and let loose a loud belch. Instantly I felt better.

I was hearing laughter again, but I ignored it. I was more concerned with the smoke from the barbecue grill, which wafted into my face, sending me into a coughing fit. Holy Crap! I had lung cancer!


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: JRMosher


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Face-Lift 1393


Guess the Plot

Believing in Magic

1. Soon there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Our planet has just had the warmest year ever. Countries with nuclear weaponry are increasingly run by megalomaniacs. But it's all good. Just sit back and believe in a magical fix-it that requires no effort whatsoever.

2. One man's quest for a weedless lawn. 

3. When Marcy starts seeing dragons, unicorns, and fire-breathing monsters wherever she goes, threatening her life, she decides to find the being controlling them all. Yet as she goes about her quest, she starts to doubt that what she sees is real.

4. A patrician president, wishing to appear sympathetic to minorities, appoints a black basketball star to the National Commission on Aids only to have the ballplayer openly criticize the president’s policies. Then at the height of the election cycle…Oh, wait. This is real life not a novel.

5. Alyss has the most dexterous digits of any prestidigitator in Cathayathay, and she's going to need them when she's caught between the vizier and the most important wife in the sultan's harem. Treachery, magic, politics, magic, illusion, magic, and of course a genie.

6. Seventeen-year-old Maggie just found out she's a witch, but that her powers will disappear unless she devotes herself to learning how to use them. But that might mean abandoning her family. Tough decision. Of course, as a witch, she could probably just make a new family.

7. Having been dumped by his girlfriend, ripped off by his best friend, and disowned by his parents, Philly Philmore needs something to believe in. Why not magic?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen years ago, in Door County, Wisconsin, a powerful young witch gave birth to a little girl. Three days later, the new mother mysteriously died. The girl was put up for adoption and the records were sealed.

Now it’s the summer of 2019 and the Bennett family is headed to Door County on vacation. Maggie has no idea a chance meeting with local shop owner, Carlee Corey, is about to change her life. The only detail Maggie has ever known about her birth is the peculiar request her adoptive parents agreed to: to name the little girl ‘Magic’.

She’s about to find out why.

Carlee Corey not only spells out how she and Maggie are related, but also insists they’re witches; that they come from a long line of witches. Maggie’s uncertain what to believe, but with the secrets of her true origins on display, she can’t help but be drawn in. She’s tempted by this new world, with its magic spells and ghostly messages, not to mention Keller, a handsome young charmer with secrets of his own. As summer’s end approaches, Maggie must choose: explore her newfound destiny or go back to the comfortable life she knows and loves, leaving magic behind forever. Adding to her fray [dilemma]; if she doesn’t decide soon, the powers she never knew she had will disappear before she ever learns to use them.

Torn, Maggie will attempt to combine the craft and her old life, but it won’t be without cost. When she [Maggie] returns home she’ll need to put[s] her feelings for Keller aside and attempt[s] to learn magic from a teacher who’s 300 miles away – all the while keeping her newfound talents hidden from the people who mean the most to her. As time goes on, [But] the more magic she learns, the more powerless she feels. When her powers take a dark turn, a near tragedy will teach her to believe in the path – and the people – she’s been bound to all along. [Can you be more specific about the dark turn and the near tragedy?]

BELIEVING IN MAGIC is a complete, polished YA magical realism manuscript at 75,000 words. [By the simplest definition of magical realism, this may qualify, but I think I'd just call it a fantasy.] Fans of Hoffman’s Practical Magic and the television series Charmed will enjoy this variety of witches, [Not sure what you mean by "this variety of witches." Are there lots of different witches? Because it sounded like Maggie went home to study witchcraft in solitude.] while its young cast of characters and fun, light brand of fantasy will have it appealing [appeal] to a broad range of readers. If successful, it could readily be the foundation for a series.

This is my second endeavor in novel writing, the first being a self-published YA/Women’s Lit piece titled LITTLE FISH, which serves as a platform for my work against domestic violence. I studied Professional Communication at Moraine Park Technical College and I work as a freelance / staff writer. I’ve been published in several local and regional magazines and news outlets, such as InSpire Magazine, Hoards, AgriView and Wisconsin State Farmer. I think it’s worth mentioning, with me you get a writer who not only is a passionate about her work, but also understands publishing is a business and professionalism is the cornerstone of any good business relationship. [This whole paragraph can go. Yes, even the part about being published in Wisconsin State Farmer.]

My sincerest wish in querying is to find an agent who will guide me as I work to build a writing career that’s not only successful, but enduring as well. I look forward to hearing if you feel we would be a good fit. (As a professional courtesy, I will let you know I am currently querying multiple agents / publishers.)

Thank you so much for your time and consideration

Please find the first twenty pages of my manuscript below signature, per instruction.

Regards,


Notes

This is longer than most agents want in a query. We can cut the first 3+ paragraphs down to:

During her adoptive family's summer vacation in Wisconsin, 17-year-old Maggie has a chance meeting with a shop owner who claims she and Maggie are related--and that they come from a long line of witches.

Italicize titles of books, magazines, TV series.




Saturday, April 20, 2019

Face-Lift 1392

Guess the Plot

Roadside Attractions


1. When ace detective Zack Martinez is called to investigate a body found near Interstate 10, he knows one thing: all those buzzards must be here for a reason. 

2. He was standing on the shoulder of the northbound interstate, handsome and rugged, with his thumb outstretched and a smile in his bright blue eyes. She was going the other way, white dress and red hair dancing in the wind of passing vehicles. The attraction was immediate, intense, undeniable … but could it survive crossing eight lanes of high-speed traffic? 

3. Mrs. Lovette's Roadside Attractions is the best bar and grill off highway 666, with a sympathetic bartender who tells outrageous local ghost stories. Until, that is, the health inspector arrives to find out what's in the Mystery Meat Special. Fortunately, he stops at the barbershop next door first. 

4. After Amanda's boyfriend dumps her in the middle of their romantic road trip, she has a choice to make. Go home or take advantage of all the roadside attractions, namely the bars and motels and truck stops along I-95. Time for an adventure.

5. For over 70 years people have stopped at the MacDonald family of Nevada's little roadside gift shop to eat at the 'best burger joint in the galaxy' and pay a few bucks to see the 'alien mummy'. It's great, until the day the aliens show up to claim their son's body. Will the MacDonalds cede possession of their prize attraction without a fight?

6. Julia has always walked the same roadway to school. To the side, there is always someone new selling a new thing. After she gets her allowance, a new attraction has caught her eye. Too bad she has also caught its eye. 


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Amanda’s romantic road trip becomes a celibate single’s tour after her boyfriend dumps her. She envisions miles of loneliness with only sarcasm and liquor to keep her warm. Audacious isn’t a self-descriptor, but she’s off and running. [Not sure what that sentence is saying, but it seems contradictory to the previous sentence. Is it saying she never considered herself audacious, but now she's gonna prove herself wrong? Would "adventurous" be a better word?] [Were they in her car or her boyfriend's?]

On the road, Amanda realizes the difference between lonely and alone. She squirms less while dining solo and unapologetically builds blazing campfires for one. All this independence doesn’t go unnoticed. She’s befriended by a group of men out for one last hurrah. [This sounds like the men all befriended her at once. Which may be the case, but if it's not, change "group" to "string."] [Also, I don't know that men out for a last hurrah are specifically drawn to independence in a woman. Unless "independence" means aloneness.]

Old-Amanda would’ve relinquished her singlehood with the first husky hello. ["Singlehood" meaning solitariness, rather than marital status, I assume.] But old-Amanda was stuffed in the trunk somewhere along I-95. 
[So she has the car. That she was building campfires had me wondering if she was walking and hitchhiking.] Even so, it’s hard to ignore her thumping, especially when two of the men want more than a single night. 

It’s one thing to allow them in her bed, [or her sleeping bag] but her heart, well that’s another matter.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS is women’s fiction at 87,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration,



Notes

So her boyfriend dumps her and she decides she's not gonna let that jerk ruin her road trip, and the plot is basically a string of events as she drives the Interstate, most of them involving men chasing a last hurrah? That's a typical format for a road trip novel and there's nothing wrong with it, but perhaps some specific examples of her encounters (the funniest, the worst, the most appealing...) would give us a better idea if we want to read about this trip. We want to know there's more than bars and motels. We want to know what really goes on at South of the Border.

There's some good stuff here, and I mostly nitpicked, but do throw in some sexy details and hint at the attempted murder.



Friday, April 12, 2019

Face-Lift 1391

Guess the Plot

The Murderer from Jerusalem

1. In ancient Jerusalem, there's a murderer loose in the temple. If scrub maid Arsiya can expose him, she's positive the king will make her the first Priestess of Jerusalem. 

2. Someone killed Lord George, but detective Collier isn't sure whether it was the butler from Jerusalem or the gardener from Geneva. You'll never guess which one.

3. Don't believe everything you read. That story about Jesus being crucified? Hogwash. He was murdered by a fat guy from Jerusalem. This is his story.

4. Tel Aviv police detective Lev Mendelsohn has enough on his plate, what with Passover approaching, but when someone starts killing people by battering them with stones stolen from the Wailing Wall, it looks like he'll be missing the seder. Oy vey.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In ancient Jerusalem, lofty priests sitting in luxurious temples control science and magic. Being a priest in the Holy Temple is one of the most desirable jobs a man can have. Unfortunately, Arsiya is a thirteen-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a priestess. Honestly, she’s done nothing wrong. Trying to get accepted into the priesthood program with the boys in her city doesn’t count, right? Alas, the snotty priests who sentenced her think she’d do better as a scrub maid in the Holy Temple. [That was a lot of words to set up the situation. This is more concise: In ancient Jerusalem, thirteen-year-old Arsiya dreams of becoming a priestess. But the temple priests would never accept a girl into the priesthood program. They put her to work as a scrub maid in the Holy Temple.]

Yeah, right. Arsiya would rather spend her time in prison than waste her days tasting firemelons and other strange fruit as part of her work. [I don't see tasting fruit as a scrub maid's job.] But right before she tries to escape her “new home”, she overhears a conversation about magic. Now, that’s an opportunity she is not going to miss. She decides to stay, read some scrolls, and become the first priestess of Jerusalem. [A shorter version of this paragraph: No way is Arsiya going to waste her days cleaning floors and scrubbing pots. But then she overhears a conversation about magic, and decides to stick around after all. She'll secretly study some scrolls, and become the first priestess of Jerusalem.] 

Refusing to give up on her dream, Arsiya scours the temple for a scroll of secret [arcane] knowledge that will help her prove she’s as good as any other apprentice. Instead, she finds the mutilated body of a maid. Eyes pricked and flying in the air, the dead maid is definitely [has] not [been] sacrificed to the god Resheph; she has been murdered. As the bodies pile up, Arsiya’s quest of [for] secret scrolls turns into [becomes] a search for a killer. If she catches the murderer who lurks within the walls of the Holy Temple, the king will name her First Priestess of Jerusalem. If she fails, she might be the next victim.

ALADDIN meets AGATHA CHRISTIE, THE MURDERER FROM JERUSALEM is an #OwnVoice middle grade fantasy, complete at 54,000 words.

Best,


Notes

There's a lot that's unclear. What was the sentence the priests handed her? Is she in prison? If not, why does she need to escape? If so, how is she free to look for scrolls? Did the king tell her he'd make her a priestess? Whose bodies are piling up? Important people or maids? Eyes pricked and flying in the air? If you shorten what you have as suggested, you might have room to answer some of these questions.

A better title would help.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Success Story

Jenna Glass (pen name of long-time minion) reports that her feminist epic fantasy The Women's War was released today. The novel has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and is one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Feedback Request

The author of the book whose query was most recently featured here would like feedback on the following version:



Dear Evil Editor,

Eighteen-year-old Mea Gwen is a 22nd-century dynasty kid (basically, she was born into a billionaire family). She has all the tools to thrive in a power-hungry society consumed by money, booze, and virtual realities. But she couldn’t care less. She would rather join America’s first Intragalactic Pioneer Program and spend the rest of her life [in] space. 

But before she can reach the stars, Mea’s kidnapped by the Reformers, a terrorist group led by the creators of an annoyingly popular VR game. To prove that the elite aren’t untouchable, the Reformers force the richest of the rich to compete in their newest game, and the only way to survive is to win. Determined to get back home, Mea promises to do whatever it takes to reach the number one spot. 

Soon Mea discovers that the Reformers are being exploited for a larger political conspiracy, and they’re only [at?] level one toward the ultimate goal — authoritarian control of America. Level two: starting a war that would break an already divided country. Now Mea could either follow their rules to save herself, or she could risk her life trying to expose who’s really out to destroy America. 

A PAWN OF SEDITION is a 90,000-word Young Adult science fiction novel with culturally diverse characters. It will appeal to fans of Warcross by Marie Lu and The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee. 


Thank you for your consideration,

Notes

Saying they're only at level one doesn't mean much unless we know how many levels there are. More compelling would be to say they are only one level from their ultimate goal. But apparently they are more than one level away? 

So level 1 of the conspirators' plan is to convince the creators of a video game to kidnap billionaires and force them to play The Hunger Games, and level 2 is to start a new American civil war? I can sort of buy level 1 if the Reformers were already a terrorist group before the conspirators decided to exploit them, but level 2 seems like a huge escalation from level 1. Like there would have to be a few levels in between.

Of course the book may make all of this seem more believable than the query can.