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?