Wednesday, April 18, 2018


It's that magical time of year again, when the Fark Fiction Anthology looks for contributors. All the gory details are here: 

All proceeds go to St Jude's for Children.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1370 requests feedback on the following version of the query:

Ilana will never forgive herself for what she did to Lucrezia. Though they were raised as sisters, they share no blood or last name - one is Pond, the other Skye. What they do share is a desire for family, and that’s what Pond and Skye were - until Ilana’s Celestian tore Lucrezia’s face apart and a monster was born. [What did Ilana do to Lucrezia?] [Usually when one character tears another character's face apart, we consider the one who did the tearing a monster. Apparently Lucrezia became a monster, and not because of how her face now looks. Was Ilana's Celestian at least charged with assault?]

Ilana and Lucrezia live in a world shared by two races: Humans, and Celestians - intelligent beings whose animal-like bodies [When you say "animal-like," I'm not sure whether to picture an elephant or a mouse. Is there a specific animal they most resemble?] are made of earth, air, water, and fire.  Once they lived in harmony, [I wouldn't call it living in harmony when members of one race periodically tear apart the faces of members of the other race.] but now war is brewing, and Ilana and Lucrezia fight for opposing sides. Ilana - a fierce and loyal warrior - stands with Humans who see Celestians as equals, worthy of respect. [While Lucrezia sees Celestians as creatures who will tear your face apart on a whim.] But many live in constant fear of Celestians, and Lucrezia, forever scarred by her experience, has stoked that fear into hate. [Do you mean her own fear has grown into hatred, or that she stokes others' fear into hatred, like if she had a Fox News show where she spewed out lies about Celestians? In any case, I feel some of the credit for stoking the fear into hate lies with Ilana's Celestian.]

When Lucrezia murders [assassinates] the ruler of their world, [Why?] it’s the final straw for Ilana. [I let it go when you moved out of our house, and even when you joined the Anti-Celestian party, but I simply cannot turn a blind eye to your murdering the ruler of our world.] She sets out with her Celestian (a quick-witted gryphon) to kill her sister...but and when they come face-to-face, Pond and Skye find they cannot hate each other. [Wait, is this Celestian Ilana has with her the same one that tore Lucrezia's face apart? Because if my Celestian tore my sister's face apart, I'd have it put down and look for a more docile one.] [Also, if I'm Lucrezia and my sister approaches, accompanied by the Celestian that tore my face apart, I'm shooting first and asking questions later.] Everything Ilana values is about to be tested, for to defend Celestians is to destroy the only family she’s ever known.

Pond and Skye is a fantasy story of loyalty, family, and discrimination. [The] Hunger Games meets His Dark Materials, it is complete at 70,000 words. [You don't mention the ages of your characters, but the books you're comparing the book to feature teens and children. If your book isn't YA, maybe find an adult fantasy it's similar to. If it is YA, say so. Also, it's not necessary to make comparisons unless requested, but if you do, you don't need to choose two of the bestselling books of all time.] It features LGBTQ+ characters and a protagonist of color in a world where skin color isn’t what sparks hatred - either you’re Human, or you aren’t.


Twice you refer to "Ilana's" Celestian. As if Celestians are pets or slaves or property. What makes this gryphon Ilana's? Is Ilana also considered the gryphon's human?

Are their last names significant in some way? I think the query would be better with just their first names. The problem with that being that you've used their last names as the title. Of course the title could be Ilana and Lucrezia. Or Skyler and Lucy.

I'm not sure we need the face-tearing. It seems to lead to a lot of questions you don't answer. It does give Lucrezia a motive for hating Celestians, but I got the impression you wanted to show that Celestians were hated by some Humans unjustly because they look different. Of course someone whose had her face torn apart by a Celestian is going to be somewhat biased.

That they find they cannot hate each other isn't much of a wrap-up. Do they have a shared goal they can work together to accomplish? What do they want to do, and what's standing in their way? For instance, now that Lucrezia's killed the ruler, it seems like their shared desire for family is out of the question, as Lucy will be dead, imprisoned, or on the run, but maybe they can steal other people's identities and open a mead shop.

 Irrelevant science: 99% of the Human body is made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. If we consider the oxygen and hydrogen water (55 -60% of the body) and the nitrogen (plus more oxygen) to be air, and the minerals to be earth, Humans are the same as Celestians, except we aren't on fire. How do they know Celestians are part fire? Is the fire visible?

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Face-Lift 1370

Guess the Plot

Pond and Skye

1. Mr. Pond and Miss Skye are typical neighbors during the week. However, every weekend they team up as a top spy team. When software known by the acronym T.E.R.R.A. threatens the world's supply of data, can this amazing duo save us all

2. In a world shared by two intelligent races, Humans and Celestians, Lucrezia Skye is set on wiping out the Celestians, while Ilana Pond wants to protect them. Not only do these young women hold the planet's future in their hands, but since they're sisters, those family dinners can get awkward.

3. Geoff Pond is involved in the archaeological dig in a medieval ruins in Scotland when his daughter Skye says her brother and Geoff's son have been in a terrible accident. Rob 'Frog' Pond, comatose, starts giving clues to priceless relics in Geoff's dreams, but is Rob leading Geoff astray?

4. Pond, a Poodle puppy, and Skye, a Siamese kitten, must join forces to find their way home after being inadvertently left at a Minnesota truck stop. Will they make it home in time for little Lindsey's birthday?

5. Pond and Skye are fated to be mortal enemies, like Romeo and Juliet if Romeo were an albino plant monster named Skye that came from the sky, and Juliet were the creature from the black lagoon, except Pond is more of a mutant triffid from a toxic dumping ground puddle. Also, a wallaby poacher. 

6. In this inspirational picture book, faeries Pond and Skye teach small children important lessons about the dangers of untied shoelaces, failing to hold the hand-rail when going up or down stairs, riding on the side of the kart in the supermarket and spiking the day care staffs’ coffee with rat poison.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Novel Title: Pond and Skye

When Ilana and Lucrezia were allowed to choose new last names, Lucrezia chose Skye - vast and powerful, like herself. “Can I be the Sea?” Ilana asked. “No,” Lucrezia explained, “you’re more of a pond.” [You said they were allowed to choose their last names, but the book's title suggests Ilana got stuck with Pond instead of Sea. Did she?]

Years later, Ilana has yet to escape her foster sister’s shadow. Pond and Skye live in a world shared by two races: Humans, and Celestians - intelligent beings whose bodies are made of earth, air, water, and fire. Fierce and loyal, Ilana fights alongside a wisecracking gryphon [Are gryphons Humans or Celestians or neither? If neither, isn't the world shared by three races?] to protect the world’s balance, while Lucrezia, vindictive and cunning, seeks to tear it apart. If Lucrezia gets her way Celestians will be wiped out, leaving the world to be ruled by Humans [and gryphons].

Ilana knows what needs to be done. [Meaning Lucrezia must be killed? I find it hard to believe all the Humans on Lucrezia's side will abandon their cause because their leader has been eliminated. More likely the rift between the sides will be widened.] The war on Celestians begins and ends with Lucrezia. But Ilana is small as a pond, and Lucrezia is the only family she’s ever known. An entire race hangs in the balance...does Ilana have what it takes to save it? [Seems highly unlikely.]

Pond and Skye is a New Adult Fantasy story of loyalty, family, and discrimination. It features LGBTQ+ characters and a protagonist of color in a world where skin color isn’t what sparks hatred - either you’re human, or you aren’t. [Is Ilana a Human?] It is complete at 70,000 words and will appeal to the same people who devoured The Hunger Games and His Dark Materials.



Why does the war on Celestians begin and end with Lucrezia? Why is either of these women so important? Do they have super powers? Is Lucrezia the queen of the world? Is the planet's population less than 50? I think you need to tell us who's in charge on this world. If it's Pond and Skye, you wouldn't think they'd need someone's permission to choose their last names. If it's someone else, why are these two the focus of the book? Who are they?

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Face-Lift 1369

Guess the Plot

The Art of the Steal

1. Theodore Gobblin, although blind and missing both arms, crafts exquisitely intricate installation pieces from steel. You will laugh, you will cry as you follow his remarkable journey as he overcomes adversity and... What? Steal? Never mind. 

2. When a bunch of kids break into a house during a power outage, they are delighted to find more cash and jewelry than they dreamed of. Stealing it was easy. Fencing and laundering is a little harder. So they turn to a mobster for help. Turns out it was the mobster's boss's home they broke into in the first place. Oops.

3. Art gallery manager Lucy Highgrove’s just signed a 2-year lease on a snazzy apartment when the gallery owner dies suddenly. Lucy’s sure to lose her job. Unless . . . Setting fire to the gallery means insurance might keep it open. But the night she chooses, someone more dangerous than Lucy has the same idea.

4. When one of her paintings is stolen, an art student is secretly thrilled that someone likes her work enough to steal it--until she learns the thief only wants it to cover up the masterpiece he's planning to smuggle out of the museum.

5. That total hellbitch from Johnson High, Kaycie Matterson, has written a how-to manual for taking guys away from 'undeserving' girls. Everything's just peachy until Lora Roberts decides to apply Kaycie's foolproof method against her, winning over hunky Chad Arnold in the process.

6. Mayfaire Woddy liked to consider himself a gentleman burglar, until the lithograph (Dante's Hells, 13/666) he stole turned out to be demonically possessed. Now he must find and steal the other 665 prints and the original lithographic plate used to print them or end up a red streak of ink in the picture.

7. Rody is a modern day pirate. Music, art, dance moves; they've all fallen sway to his wiles. Yet when someone plagiarizes his stolen work, he discovers that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Four years ago, free-spirited artist Emily Sanger turned her back on her family, their fortune, and their overbearing expectations in order to pursue an art degree. With only one semester to go, she becomes the victim of a robbery and a suspect in a murder investigation.

By launching an investigation to clear her name, Emily learns that what looks like a drug smuggling operation is actually an art heist. [Art students don't launch investigations. Just say "While trying to clear her name..."] [Also, once you say Emily is a suspect in a murder investigation, I expect to hear who got murdered and why the authorities suspect Emily. Not that drugs are being smuggled from somewhere to somewhere, except they're not really being smuggled, someone is cleverly hoping to avoid getting arrested for stealing art by making it look like he's merely smuggling drugs.] A disgruntled museum curator has kept a masterpiece painting hidden within the museum for decades. [Brilliantly, he's hidden it in plain sight--it's hanging on the wall.] [Has he been disgruntled for decades? Usually when you're disgruntled, you're looking for more immediate relief than you'll get from a plot that takes thirty years to unfold.] He’s used her painting to smuggle it out of the museum and finance his multi-million dollar retirement.

Emily is determined to stop him but he’s been planning this heist for years and she only has days to thwart it. When all the evidence suggests Emily is guilty, [Of murder?] friendships begin to fracture. [We've been best friends a long time, but that was when I didn't know you were a murderer.] And time is running out. A shipment of artwork is headed for Barcelona in just a few days – a legitimate shipment that includes the smuggled masterpiece.

About to be arrested for a crime [Murder?] she didn’t commit, Emily calls her aunt for help. Running home might keep her out of jail, [If they're after you for murder, running home isn't gonna keep you out of jail. It's the first place they'll look. Unless they assume that you're not stupid enough to hide out at your aunt's home, in which case it'll still be the third or fourth place they look.] but it will mean giving up everything else. In jail, at least she could paint license plates. [That sounds like a clever wrap-up, though research shows that only North Carolina's plates are made by women, and the painting is done by a machine. Plus, a "free-spirited artist" would consider license plate painting torture. That Emily turned her back on her family to pursue an art degree doesn't suggest that if she returned to them she would have to give up everything. Wouldn't she be able to paint something more creative than license plates at home? Did her family disown her for going off to college?

I am a full-time aspiring author and former sales manager. I have a B.A. in Art, which was the inspiration for this book.

The Art of the Steal is a not-quite-cozy mystery complete at 90,000 words and will appeal to readers of K.J. Larson’s “Pants on Fire Detective Agency” novels. [If you must compare your book to someone else's, it would be a good idea to spell the author's last name correctly.] May I send you the finished manuscript? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,


You've got a mystery in which there's been a murder. You need to tell us who got murdered and name a couple other people who had a motive to commit the murder. Whether a disgruntled museum curator gets away with smuggling a painting to Barcelona seems secondary when your main character is a murder suspect. If, in the book, the art theft has precedence over the murder "subplot" that's most likely a problem. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

New Beginning 1077

As an art student and painter, I’ve seen my fair share of bodies. Quick sketches of the human form are a basic step in developing the artistic skills of drawing, painting, and sculpting. However, no amount of figure studies prepared me for the sight of the lifeless body that lay next to me.

The dead man lay on his back, one arm stretched towards me along the grass. His hand lay open as if he meant to grasp my wrist, his forefinger curled in an abandoned attempt to touch me.

My gazed traveled over the white cuff of his shirt and beyond until I found his shoulder and, above it, his face. One sightless eye stared back at me. The other half of his face was smashed and bloodied. A cracked, wooden frame covered in blood lay between us.

I turned my head and heaved.

“Miss? Miss? Can you hear me?” A man’s voice asked.

The touch of a warm hand on my shoulder nearly brought me out of my skin. Another man, this one alive and wearing dark clothing, knelt beside me. I looked up into a pair of honey-gold eyes set amid beautiful caramel skin. He had short hair, close-cropped, military style. And shoulders that made me drool just a little.

“Who? You?” I dredged the words up from the thick gray matter that served as my brain.

“I’m Mr. Hottie,” he replied, or something similar.

The name fit. I was swept away to an island. With a white beach. Water clear as glass. And a warm Latino lover holding me in his arms, setting my heart aflutter.

“Can you tell me your name? Do you know where you are?” he asked.

“Emily,” I said and closed my eyes for a kiss.

No kiss. Instead, he said, "Emily, let me remind you where you are. This is the Pontypridd College of fine Arts -- the best art school in this town. All Professor Randall said to you was, 'You need to work on your brushstrokes and your use of color is a little pedestrian.' Oh, and you're going to have to pay for that frame."

Opening: Pam LaFollette.....Continuation: ril

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1360 would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Twenty-eight-year-old Verity Hearst fears she'll never meet a man who will accept her dark secret. But solitude isn't so bad, not with a loaded sniper rifle and a warm cup of tea to keep her company. She has killed over forty criminals as one of the world's elite assassins, a reputation she has proudly earned alone.

Verity's manager is her only link to the mysterious company she works for. When he tells her she'll have a partner on her next assignment, taking out three men at the head of a billion-dollar human and drug trafficking operation, a partner sounds like a good idea. Until she meets his ego.

Verity's partner Cy thinks he's the world's greatest assassin. He's the expert on everything, including how to pour a cup of tea properly. He criticizes her every move, and has no faith in her instincts. When they are sent to a booby-trapped island in the Bahamas to kill the mastermind of the operation, Cy insists on doing things his way. But Verity knows his escape plan will get them killed. If she can't convince him her way off the island is better, they'll both end up in early graves.

KILLER IN HEELS is a 70,000-word suspense novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


This works for me, though I have a few suggestions you can take or leave.

The fact that Verity needs a partner seems less important if they're taking out the three men one at a time. So you could remove "three men at" from the second paragraph. The other two men aren't important in the query unless they're also on the island. Once you've done that, you can change "the mastermind of the operation" in the 3rd paragraph to "their target."

You could combine the first two sentences of paragraph 3 into something like:
Verity's partner Cy thinks he's the world's top expert on everything from rifle scopes to panda dung tea.

Putting the focus on their escape suggests they've done everything Cy's way and successfully killed their target. It might be more effective to suggest that doing things Cy's way keeps almost getting them killed, to the extent that surviving Cy's recklessness is the hardest part of the mission for Verity.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1360 would like feedback on the following revision:

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Twenty-eight-year-old Verity Hearst fears she'll never meet a man who will accept her dark secret. But solitude isn't so bad, not with a loaded Springfield 1911-A1 pistol and a warm cup of tea to keep her company. She has killed over eighty criminals as one of the world's elite assassins, [Is a pistol the best weapon for a assassin? In some cases, maybe, but usually you'd want something long-range like a sniper rifle, or quiet, like a garrote so you don't get caught.] a reputation she has proudly earned alone. Her only problem is the innocent witness she killed and buried after her last assignment. [If her last assignment was completed, why would she be killing anyone? Was it an accident? Did the witness see her kill a criminal?] She isn't sure what her employer will do to her if they find out.

Verity's manager is her only link to the mysterious company she works for. When he tells her she'll have a partner on the highest paid assignment of her life, she wonders if her employer is doubting her ability to kill unnoticed. Taking out three men at the head of a billion-dollar human and drug trafficking operation doesn't seem that difficult, [Actually, it does. Those sound like guys who would be surrounded by bodyguards wearing bulletproof vests and armed with better weapons than 1911-A1 pistols.] until she meets her new partner's ego.

Verity's partner Cy thinks he's the world's greatest assassin. He's the expert on everything, including how to pour a cup of tea properly. Verity has zero interest in him romantically, but he doesn't believe it. He scrutinizes [criticizes?] her every move, and has no faith in her ability to annihilate their targets. Verity knows she'll lose her job if she lets Cy do all the killing. And both their lives are on the line if they can't find a way to kill their targets together. Firing an assassin from what she does best means she'll end up in an early grave. [That sentence isn't clear. You could replace the last two sentences with: And assassins don't get fired; they get sent to an early grave.] [Although it seems if you're an assassin working to kill bad guys, your employer would be a good guy, and wouldn't eliminate you like they would if you worked for the mob and could blow the whistle on them.]

KILLER IN HEELS is a 70,000-word suspense novel.


This is pretty much all setup. We know Verity and Cy are assassins assigned to kill three people, but we don't know anything that happens. What's their plan? What goes wrong? What situation forces them to work together whether they like it or not? If you eliminate the two sentences about Verity's only problem, which don't seem necessary (and lead to questions you don't have room to answer), and the last three sentences of paragraph 3, you'll have room to provide some details about the story.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book most recently featured here would like feedback on this new version of the query.

Dear E. Editor,

Muriel Snick started working in the palace kitchens when she was five years old. Now that she's sixteen, she could almost run them herself. There isn't a job Snick hasn't performed, from rotating spits to decorating cakes, and she's dreamed of running her own kitchen for years.

Snick ran [runs] away during the palace riots. It was one thing to stick around when King Richard died, but with [now] someone [is] murdering [Richard's] children—legitimate, illegitimate, and [including] any palace staff young enough to be [his offspring.] illegitimate—the countryside is much safer. She'll [Muriel hopes to find work as a cook and establish herself somewhere new, where no one will know she's the family disgrace [her true identity].

A commoner group called the Truth Seekers is willing to take a chance on her. With all the remaining royalty declaring war on each other, the Seekers are doing work royalty's supposed to, like organizing flood relief and investigating missing nobility. They've also established ties with a neighboring country, who's going [willing] to take in a group of refugees. They need another good cook to go [travel] with the group. If Snick gets some experience cooking in the field, managing limited resources and contrary workers, she could be that cook. [You said the Seekers were willing to take a chance on her. I assumed that meant they were hiring her as a cook. But now it sounds like she doesn't have the job yet. I suggest changing the first two sentences of this paragraph to: With all the remaining royalty declaring war on each other, a commoner group called the Truth Seekers are doing work royalty's supposed to, like organizing flood relief and investigating missing nobility. Then change the last sentence to It's the perfect opportunity for Muriel.]

There are a few problems with this plan. She [Muriel] was never a servant. Muriel Snick isn't her real name. If anyone finds out who she is, well, not even the Seekers could keep someone from killing her [protect her]. And worst of all: she doesn't want to leave. [Can't she leave and come back after the refugees get where they're going?]

Truth Seekers is a YA fantasy, complete at 90,000 words. The somewhat unreliable narrator never acknowledges her real name. While this book stands alone, it is the proposed first in a trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



I like the focus on Muriel the cook rather than Muriel the princess.

Once we know her name's Muriel Snick, I think you should call her Muriel rather than Snick.

I still don't see why the reader of this query needs to know Muriel never acknowledges her real name.

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Beginning 1076

I was binge watching season three of Fargo when I got the call from my burner phone that hadn't rang in eight months. I kept it behind a skull bookend inside a mahogany bookcase built into my apartment wall. If I pushed the bookcase, I would enter a secret passage that led down to a gothic nightclub, or so I imagined.

I rolled off my sofa and slid across my shiny marble floor to the bookcase. I'd practiced my Risky Business slide for this day too many times. And I just so happened to be wearing an oversized pink oxford shirt with a pair of white cashmere socks.

"At your service," I said into the flip phone, my heart pounding.

"Verity," said the man on the other end. It was my manager Enoch. I pictured what his disguise might be today. A bartender in Paris with a handlebar moustache, a bearded fishmonger in Seattle, and a homeless man chasing birds around a fountain in Rome were new impersonations he'd told me about the last time we spoke. I was never sure if these were for his amusement or business-related.

"Okay. I don't know who might be watching you. Your target is the IN-And-Out on Third."

This is it. I'm going to prove myself worthy.

"Get a Double-Double, inside and out. Got your wig? Hat? Camera? Thermometer? Cash?"

"Oh boy do I!"

"Good. Get there by 12:45. Millions of consumers are counting on you."

I dashed to my car, where I kept my kit. I was no longer Verity Spivak, IT drone. No more. Now I was Verity Spivak, Super Secret Shopper!

Opening: Elizabeth Tudor.....Continuation: Khazar-khum


P1: "rung," not "rang." 

P2: If I rolled off my sofa I'd end up lying on the floor, not the optimum position from which to go into a Risky Business slide. I would leap off my sofa. But that's me. "Too many times" suggests that something goes wrong. As in: I ate too many cookies, so I puked on my sofa. I'd change "too many" to "a hundred" or "a thousand."

P4: Not clear why Enoch would be in disguise to make a phone call. Then again, it's not clear that any of this is actually happening. That "or so I imagined" at the end of paragraph 1 could mean that the narrator is just lying on the sofa imagining everything. If that's not the case, and there is a skull bookend hiding a phone that rings with Enoch on the other end, I'd get rid of the "or so I imagined," as it leaves me wondering whether to trust anything Verity (if that's even her/his real name) says. 

In the unlikely case that this is all Walter Mitty-type imagination, with the narrator pretending to be an assassin or a spy when she's actually a receptionist, you still should get rid of "or so I imagined," as you want her to be so engrossed in her fantasy that she doesn't let on that she knows it's a fantasy. But you also don't want to carry this far enough to get the reader engrossed in the spy story that doesn't exist. Tricky. If it's all a fantasy, maybe  start in the real world and open chapter 2 with the fantasy.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1367 would like feedback on the following version:

Dear Mr. E. Editor,

The gods have always chosen Rilia's next ruler from among the last ruler's children. When King Richard the Sensible died, they tried to choose Princess Five, who was soon crushed under a falling balcony. Then Princess Two drowned. Prince Four choked. And some fatherless youth got trampled by a horse. [If this youth was being considered as the next ruler, King Richard the Sensible was his father, according to the first sentence. How can he be fatherless?]

'Muriel Snick' doesn't know i fit's [if it's] a full-or half-sibling killing for the throne. [How do they know these deaths weren't accidents?] Running seems smarter than going on the murder [victim] list. As the family disgrace, she's never been happy as nobility, [Royalty?] and jumps on the chance [decides] to reinvent herself as a commoner. In the lower classes, her skills as a cook will give her a life, a chance, and happiness she could never get at home... but if she doesn't get out of the country, Snick could still become the next murdered queen-to-be.

A commoner group calling themselves the Truth Seekers may have the answer. Their goals are to take care of the country until someone takes the throne, and find and protect missing nobility--including Snick, if anyone recognizes her. But they've also kept one of the borders open, and are going to send a few hundred scared Rilians to a neighboring country to work in exchange for assistance. They need one more skilled cook, a leader who can work even with bad ingredients and little help. [Preferably a Chopped champion.] If Snick can stay unrecognized, she has a chance to prove she's that cook.

But thrlee [three] things happen while Snick cooks for everyone from farmers to flood victims: she makes friends who don't care about her station. She sees the problems that royalty's long ignored. And she realizes someone could, should, change things. But if she stays, sooner or later, she'll end up dead.

TRUTH SEEKERS is a YA Fantasy, complete at 90,000 words. The somewhat unreliable narrator never acknowledges her real name. [Is it Princess 6?] While this book stands alone, it is the proposed first in a trilogy.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The first two paragraphs are an improvement. The third bothers me. Why do royalty or nobility need to be found and protected by a group of commoners? They should have people whose jobs it is to protect them. Armies or bodyguards. Also, if protecting the royals is their goal, they suck at it. The top royals are being murdered right and left. 

What are these hundreds of Rilian farmers and flood victims being sent to a neighboring country afraid of? 

Why does Snick have to stay unrecognized if she's with a group whose goal is to protect royalty? She's royalty. Can't she just say, I'm Princess 6; can I act as your cook under an assumed name because someone wants to kill me?

This stuff about the border crossing and cooking with bad ingredients isn't needed. Just tell us Muriel signs on as a cook with a group of patriotic commoners, and then go to the three things that happen that convince her she can do more good as queen. What's being done to expose the murderer?

Not sure what the point of never acknowledging her name is, but it's not worth mentioning in the query. Do Princess 5 and Princess 2 and Prince 4 have names?

Surely you have spell-check? Turn it on.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Face-Lift 1368

Guess the Plot


1. Wear a wig and make-up to practice. Streak around the quad. Have a fling with Coach. Bring us the mascot's head . . . wait, WHAT?

2. Step out of your coffin and wash your hands in a skull full of blood. Lick clean the hairy toes of your master. Join your brethren in a circle around the fires of hell. Take the branding iron like a man. 

3. Defeat incense-spawned snakes. Escape shadow wolves. Survive animated scorpion tattoos. And never tell your mother about any of this.

4. Miraculous plagues. Prima-donna storms. Wriggling cafeteria food. Aernst Zinjess, 2nd son of a wealthy family, wasn't expecting any of this when he was sent to become a priest in the church of Notali. Nor did he expect to be rooming with the god Notali, who's trying to infiltrate the church that kicked him out 500 years ago. 

5. Sylvester Manchusen thought he was just jumping through the hoops to get into a popular frat house with hot chicks and a wall-sized tv showing 24/7 sports. Three succubi, a portal to hell, and an international man-hunt later, he finally thinks to ask which sports and what was meant by "hot." 

6. Jason always wanted to be 'one of the guys'. So why is he the only one whose initiation requires him to be tied up in the woods, naked? 

7. Philip just won a scholarship to study medieval history at an exclusive private school. However, just when he sees his future becoming bright, he gets the papers in the mail. First, he must pass a series of deadly tests involving medieval torture devices, including the Judas cradle, the brazen bull, and the pear of anguish.

  Original Version

Dear Evil Editor Supreme:

It's a race against time after twelve-year-old Adam Newman writes in an ancient journal and opens a realm where he must journey for twelve keys that unlock the portals leading to the mountains that possess the ordering force his world needs to exist. [Too much verbiage. Also, too much nouniage. Reminds me of the childhood rhyme: 
This is the man all tattered and torn
That kissed the maiden all forlorn
That milked the cow with the crumpled horn
That tossed the dog that worried the cat
That killed the rat that ate the malt
That lay in the house that Jack built.] His first task, however, is to collect three keys in forty days to initiate him for the journey. If he fails, the ancient book will permanently lock, effectively sealing the fate of the world—a daunting quest for a boy not quite thirteen, especially [We already know his age.] considering the journey take[s] place only when Adam sleeps.  [It seems to me that the whole point of the three-key task is to determine whether the person who opened the realm is up to performing the twelve-key task. If he fails, someone else tries the three-key task, and this continues until someone succeeds, demonstrating that he's got the right stuff. Otherwise some complete moron might write in the ancient journal and open the realm and attempt the three-key task, and doom us all. So the three-key task qualifies you, rather than initiates you. Or, if Adam is the only one who can save us, the three-key task trains him for the twelve-key task. A practice run, so to speak. Even if he fails at the three-key task, he can use the lessons learned in failure to succeed at the twelve-key task. Dooming us all without even giving Adam or someone else a shot at completing the twelve-key task would be totally unfair.] [Also, is Adam's goal merely to find the keys and unlock the portals that lead to the mountains, or must he also go into these mountains and perform some additional task to save the world? Kind of like when Dorothy goes through hell and finally makes it all the way to Oz and the Wizard says, "I'll grant your wishes . . . if you bring me the witch's broomstick. Which she does. Then:
Dorothy: We brought you the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. We melted her. So we'd like you to keep your promises, if you please, sir.
Wizard: Not so fast, NOT SO FAST! I'll have to give the matter a little thought. Go away and come back tomorrow.]
Writing bedtime entries, Adam searches for keys in Nubeer, Zenbulu, and Joseph’s Plateau where he’s pitted against colorful, incense-spawned snakes; shadow-wolves that solidify into gnarling, [Gnarling? Definition?] lupine creatures; [Shadows that solidify into wolves.] and an inked adversary whose scorpion tattoos animate to do their host’s bidding. [According to that sentence, Adam does all this while writing bedtime entries. Earlier you said he did everything while sleeping.] Adam's daytime routine is less noteworthy. He lives with his single-parent mother (who’s dealing with her own issues) and resides in a neighborhood that’s devoid of kids his age. His only friend is the elderly Mr. King who, living next door, is his nighttime guardian and the journal’s previous owner. 
When Mr. King falls gravely ill, Adam’s world is turned upside-down. His mother strands him at camp without his approval and without the journal. [Does he need the journal now that he's opened the realm? Does he have to write in the journal every night before going to sleep? Does what he writes determine/affect what happens in this other realm?] Suddenly, the obstacles outside of the journal are as insurmountable as the ones in the ancient book's realm. [For instance, he has to paddle a canoe across the lake and back, and he's worthless in the tug of war contest.] If Adam can overcome the challenges, however, he may not only complete the Initiation and buy more time for his world, he may gain new friends and a new perspective on his less-than-ideal life. Even so, nothing can guarantee a fairytale—happily ever after—ending when a story’s more than mere fantasy. Compelled to reconsider everything that he has experienced, Adam (and his reader) must ultimately choose whether or not to believe in the ancient book’s journey.
At 76,000 words, KINGDOM OF THE KEYS: THE INITIATION is an upper middle grade adventure where contemporary fiction meets fantasy in a realm of familiar-looking strangers. While the story’s conclusion allows the book to stand alone, it is the first in a proposed trilogy (with the manuscript for the second book in revision).  

Thank you for your time and consideration.


If we knew from the beginning that the title of the series is The Kingdom of the Keys, we might be less bothered by a plot that requires finding three keys in order to win the opportunity to go after another twelve keys. That's a lot of keys.  

I'm not crazy about the use of the word "journey" in either of these cases:

he must journey for twelve keys (search for, hunt for, locate)

to believe in the ancient book’s journey (quest? Is it the journey he must choose whether to believe in or the existence of this other realm?)

Maybe the query should start something like:

Adam Newman lives with his mother in a neighborhood devoid of other kids his age. His life is pretty boring, until the day his next-door neighbor, the elderly Mr. King, gives him an ancient journal. Turns out the adventures Adam writes about in the journal become reality while he's sleeping . . . with Adam as the main character.

Which would be cool, except in Adam's latest story he must locate twelve hidden keys -- or the world will cease to exist. A daunting responsibility for a twelve-year-old.

Then mention a couple of the obstacles Adam must overcome in his waking and sleeping worlds, and how he plans to save us all.