Saturday, March 28, 2020

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1396 would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Evil Editor,

For millennia, magic has been the exclusive domain of a select group of men; stolen from witches, crafted into books, catalogued in a vast and ancient library, for these men alone to wield. To wrest control of the Library for himself, one desperate man will do anything, even give magic to a woman. [This is clearer than the previous opening, and seems to say the opposite of what I thought was the history of the world. I'm not sure "desperate" is the right word. If he wants control of the Library for himself, I'd call him "rapacious" or "power-hungry." Or is he desperate because he needs complete control of the Library to save his family from some villain?] [It might help to name this desperate man so you don't have to refer to him as "this man" in the next paragraph.] [As we don't know why giving magic to a woman is a bad thing, maybe the third sentence could be: Now one of those men, Lazarus McTavish, wants to seize control of the Library for himself. (If Lazarus isn't "one of those men," describe who he is)] 
Alexandrea Hawthorne doesn’t know she’s that woman. [Obviously if you change the last sentence of P1, You must change "that woman" to another description (for instance "the only person who can stop Lazarus."] A curse leaves [spell cast by her father has left] her unable to see, hear, or know magic. A recurring nightmare is her only warning of the incredible danger coming, as this man [Lazarus] expects [needs? demands?] her participation as his willing pawn. Removing the curse [Breaking the spell] is the first trial she must endure. Once she discovers the truth, Alexandrea will question everything she believes. Did her father steal magic for her to overthrow the establishment or benefit it? ["The truth," and "everything she believes," are vague.] Once she realizes magic is real, Alexandrea must decide: did her father steal magic to benefit the establishment . . . or to overthrow it?]
Success and failure threaten Alexandrea equally. Failure means the loss of magic for all women for all time. [Failure to benefit the establishment or to overthrow it?] Should she succeed, she will finally learn if the plan all along was merely for her to steal magic from one group of men to give the power to another. [If she doesn't know whether she's supposed to benefit or overthrow the establishment, how will she know if she succeeded or failed to do what she was destined to do? Say she guesses that she's supposed to overthrow the establishment. She could succeed only to find out she was supposed to benefit the establishment. And vice versa. She needs to know what her goal is before she takes action or we won't know whether to root for her to succeed. Will the world be a better place if women have magic? If so, tell us. And show her.] To negotiate the maze of dangers, Alexandrea must trust even those who seek to do her harm. 
THE BOOKS OF ALEXANDREA, 125,000-word adult urban fantasy, unfolds in a contemporary world where few believe in magic. Even women who call themselves witches doubt its existence. My book contains women of diverse backgrounds and orientations.
In 2019, I published A GOAT AND TEN COINS OF SILVER in World of Myth Magazine and GOODNIGHT in Exposition Review’s February Flash-405 Contest (republished in 2020).

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Face-Lift 1396

Guess the Plot

The Books of Alexandrea

1. Every library has its books. But in this library the books want to escape and they'll do it any way they can--even if they have to burn the place to the ground.

2. The women need access to the spellbooks in the Library in order to do magic, but the men won't let the women into the Library's magic section. Only one girl, Alexandrea, can bring magic back to womankind, but what's in it for her? She's doing fine without magic. 

3. A used book store is the cover for a ring of scammers selling knock-off jewelry they hide in hollowed-out books. When a book-loving girl scout comes calling, can they buy her off with cookie purchases, or will they face life under a new boss ten times as diabolical as themselves?

4. Alexandrea discovers she's the latest incarnation of the protective spirit of the Library of Alexandria, doomed to mortality for failing in her duties, forced to write out all of her lost books, no matter that the originals were complete rubbish. In other words, she's like every other author seeking help from Evil Editor.

5. Andrea has many books. One keeps track of what she owes the butcher, another how much she's into the baker. But the book that troubles Andrea most is the one she keeps on the candlestick maker, a lustful, humorless man with waxy fingers. Will she never learn that the piper must be paid?... oh wait, that's a different book altogether.

6. Alexandrea has the ability to enter books and live in their worlds. Unfortunately, when she brings a second book into a horror novel as an escape route, she scrambles the space-time literary continuum. Now she's trapped within a million books, her only hope of return the diary in which her bratty sister imagines killing her.

7. Alexandrea really got into those mindful coloring books. She amassed a huge tower of 'em, cheap, since they fell out of vogue a few years ago. And now spends all day with her pretties. But now... one book is really upset with the color scheme she chose for it. Upset enough for its characters to step out of its leaves and enter her dreams...and change more than just her colors...

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

A vast and ancient Library hides all magic. Once belonging to women, magic now resides in countless books, coveted by the men controlling the Library. [Claiming the men control the library, when they can't get the magic they covet from the library books, is like me claiming I control the Ben and Jerry's store when the kid behind the counter refuses to sell me a pint of Cherry Garcia.] Outside the Library, almost no one believes magic exists.

Alexandrea Hawthorne knows her Aunt Heather runs a monthly Book Club. When Alexandrea tells her aunt about her recurring nightmare, “Come to Book Club” isn’t the response she expects. [Perhaps you should tell us about her recurring nightmare.] Heather can’t explain she’s been waiting all Alexandrea’s life for this moment: to remove the curse that makes her unable to see, hear, or know magic. [Why can't she explain it? If my aunt is gonna suddenly start uttering incantations over me, either she explains why in advance, or I'm out of there.] 

The curse means Alexandrea doesn’t know Heather’s Book Club is a witch’s coven. [This curse sounds more like a spell.] [You don't need a curse to prevent someone from knowing your book club is a coven. You just need to not tell anyone.] [Shouldn't that be witches coven? Or witches' coven?] She doesn’t know they’ll use the same two-hundred-year-old spellbook her own father used to place her under this curse. She is unaware what harm this may cause her, or how to survive it. [I'm not sticking around for a process that I might not survive, not when I was getting along just fine under the curse. But that's me.] She is aided by the Book club, a group of women from diverse backgrounds and orientations.  [The sentences in this paragraph aren't connected well enough.] [Also, you capitalized "Book" but not "club." I'm not sure why we need to capitalize either, with the possible exception of in "Heather's Book Club" if that's the actual name of the club. As for "Library," I'll give you that one, assuming the place is just known as the Library.]

Success and failure threaten Alexandrea equally. Alexandrea is faced with an impossible choice. Failure means the loss of magic for all women for all time. Should she succeed, two men wait to extract her magic to make their own book. Until Alexandrea can understand magic, she must trust even those who seek to do her harm. [Usually characters must trust no one or trust but verify. Alex must trust everyone? What will happen if she doesn't trust those who seek to do her harm?] 

THE BOOKS OF ALEXANDREA, 125,000 words, unfolds in a contemporary world where magic has been hidden in books for so long few still believe in it. Even women who call themselves witches doubt magic’s existence. The truth is not always what they believe, and that pits friends against friends and pairs enemies as they fight to return magic to womankind. [When did womankind lose magic? When Alex was cursed? When men got control of the Library? Gradually over millennia?] Similar to JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, where magicians don't believe in magic until they see it for themselves or THE HUNGER GAMES where adversaries aren’t always the most dangerous people.

In 2019, I published A GOAT AND TEN COINS OF SILVER in World of Myth Magazine and GOODNIGHT in Exposition Review’s February Flash-405 Contest (republished in 2020). I also write genre movie reviews at the Tribeca Film Festival for SciFi4Me. In real life, I work in marketing and write a seasonal blog featuring the food and wine industries of Long Island’s North Fork. [These credits aren't needed.] 

Thank you for your time and consideration,

PS: The Books of Alexandrea is a play on the Library of Alexandria. Here, the books are the aforementioned spellbooks....


It's not clear to me what Alex's choice is. Does Heather give Alex the option of having the curse removed, and tell her the pros and cons? 

The curse shielded Alex from knowledge of magic, but apparently Heather knows about magic. Is it illegal for women to enter the Library and access books in which magic resides?

As I understand it, the curse affected only Alex, and the reason womankind no longer has magic is not because of the curse, but because they've been kept from it by men so long that they've forgotten it exists. But how does removing the curse from one woman/girl, thus giving her knowledge of magic, change anything? Men will still keep women out of the Library.

We need to know what's at stake. Among those who know of magic, women want magic, but don't want men to get it. Men want magic, but don't want women to regain it. I don't know if the world is better off with one or the other or neither or both having magic. What's the worst possible scenario, and what is the main character (whether it's Alex or Heather) doing to prevent it?

Give us ten sentences that answer these questions: Who's the main character and what does she want? What's her plan to get it? What obstacles stand in her way? What will happen if she fails to overcome these obstacles?