Saturday, January 15, 2022

Face-Lift 1421

Guess the Plot

The Township

1. When Earth's atmosphere becomes toxic, only one settlement remains: the Township. Can the last humans work together to avoid extinction, or will they split into warring factions leading to civil war? They're humans, so that question was rhetorical.

2. When a Venus-sized ice meteor combines with global warming to raise the sea levels higher than they've ever been in history, Mac "Noah" Knicker and his neighbors decide to build a boat under their entire town. It's home flipping at it's finest ... and worst.

3Susan has been living on the Sweet Delilah all her life. The township was sailing the seas even before her grandmother was born. But now there is a new smell in the air, mixed in with the sea salt breeze: Blood.

4. When the good folks of Midsomeplace Kansas sail free into the climate changed canals of New USA, nothing can prepare them for redneck cries of WHERE'S MY FRICKIN' PANTS? and THIS THURSDAY YET? resounding from the underhollow of their discomfort. This too-close-to-the-knuckle apocalyptic abomination of a book may slay every family pet you hold dear. EVEN BEFORE THEY READ IT!

5. How three women living in a township outside Johannesburg sparked a movement to end apartheid. And how two decades later their dreams were finally realized . . . with all the credit going to men. 

6. On its surface, Barton Township is Small Town, America. Mayberry, incarnate. Until you look under the covers, behind closed doors at the seedy underbelly of this seemingly idyllic community. This book blows the lid off the shrouded secret lives of the sleazy residents of one squalid township.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The Township is the last surviving human settlement, and it is falling to pieces. The airtight structures are crumbling, the machinery used for repairs is wearing out, and the economy is dependent on technology that it cannot reproduce. [Barcode scanners. I don't see how this place even has an economy if the barcode scanners aren't working.] Worst of all, the population is divided into two radicalized factions [The faction that still has working barcode scanners, and the faction that doesn't.] on the brink of civil war. [Civil war? Everyone still alive lives in this one township, and because there's no other settlement to go to war with, they're going to war with each other? Why am I surprised? They're humans.]

As a young engineering technician, Jacob Watz volunteers to work outside in an inhospitably hot atmosphere filled with toxic hydrogen sulfide. [Doing what? I hope this isn't your main character, because he's kind of a moron.] After a run of terrible luck, he [I'm not sure I'd blame his heat stroke and chemical pneumonia on bad luck.] is blamed for a welding accident and forced to choose between a decade of forced labor or join[ing] a nearly suicidal expedition into the surrounding ruins to scavenge fabrication equipment. [That's a pretty stiff punishment for a welding accident. What did he accidentally weld?] The expedition is undermanned and under-resourced, but Jacob becomes [is] determined to return alive with enough equipment to give the engineers a fighting chance to save the decaying Township. [Basically, he's hoping to find one of those 3D printers which they can use to make a barcode scanner.]

Sandra Evans, Chair of the Council and the highest-ranking authority in the Township, tries desperately to keep the peace. She conceives of the expedition as a way to unite the population behind their shared cause of survival, but the project sparks the very civil war that she had been trying to avoid. [Obviously the first faction to find a 3D printer used it to fabricate assault rifles instead of barcode scanners. Humans are so predictable.] With the violence spiraling out of control, she attempts to assert what authority she has left to prevent the final extinction of humanity. [Do both factions consider her an authority figure?]

The Township is my 105,000 word climate fiction novel. [Is climate fiction a genre now? "Dystopian" might be a better descriptor.] The setting is based on the Permian Extinction, which was the largest of Earth’s 5 mass extinctions and is believed to be the result of rapid global warming. [
The Permian global warming, I believe, was caused by volcanoes. Yours, I assume, was caused by humans, who, typically, are now blaming it on the climate, hence "climate fiction."]  My readers have compared it to [Fans of] Wool by Hugh Howey and Colony Mars by Gerald Kilby [will enjoy this book].

Thank you for [taking] the time to consider my novel. The first X pages are below. I hope you enjoy them.


How does the last settlement on the planet have an economy dependent on technology? I'd expect the economy to consist of people trading the zucchini they grew for repairs to their thatched roofs. Do they have an electrical grid, delivery trucks, cell phones, remote controls for their televisions?

Is the main plot of this book the mission to find 3D printers, or the civil war involving the last of humanity? If it's the latter, I'd drop the paragraph about Jacob. His mission seems like small potatoes in the big picture. If the book is mostly about this one mission, I'd rather hear about the plan, the obstacles, what goes wrong, and what's at stake than about Sandra. In other words, I would focus the query on one main character, even if the book has two.


Monday, January 10, 2022

Face-Lift 1420


Guess the Plot

The Lesser Evil

1. Harvey Weinstein or Ghislaine Maxwell?

2. Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell?

3. The demon who's offering you eternal life in hell, or the priest who made your childhood a hell on Earth?

4. The judge who refused to grant you a restraining order against your abusive husband, or your abusive husband who would've ignored the order anyway?

5. The unshaven guy who just broke in the door, or the clean shaven, guy who kidnapped you and is holding you captive?

6. The serial killer who has you duct taped to an operating table in his dungeon, or the guy who gave you a date rape drug and then sold you to the serial killer?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Hazel thought she was street smart. This illusion came crashing down with a billy club to the back of her head. 

Her captor thinks no one can find them in the wilds of the Virginia mountains, least of all by someone that isn’t looking for either of them. Turns out they are both idiots today [he's wrong too].

Trapped in a cabin with the unexpected, they have the same goal - - escape.

The unexpected looks like Hazel’s usual clientele - -  tattooed, unshaven, slightly greasy unkept [unkempt] hair, wild eyes, [orange jumpsuit with "Department of Corrections"] printed on the back, and the scent of angry hopelessness. Maybe that’s cheap whiskey, but the two are easily confused. [I wouldn't say the scent of angry hopelessness is easily confused with the scent of cheap whiskey. I might say they go hand in hand.] Her captor seems to be the polar opposite; clean shaven, not a hair out of place and new clothes that release a pleasant scent as he moved [moves]. [I gotta get some of those clothes. Does J.C. Penney carry them?] One thing these two have in common, they’re equally dangerous. At least the unexpected wore clothes that branded him as dangerous, [Could you be more specific? Any of these?]

unlike her captor who’s a wolf in sleek clothing. 

[If Hazel thinks a guy who looks like her usual clientele is as dangerous as a guy who knocked her unconscious and transported her to a secluded cabin, she needs to start serving a classier clientele. Maybe instead of focusing on the unexpected's looks, tell us what makes him as big a threat as her captor. Does he have a weapon? Has he said anything threatening? I think if someone knocked me out and I woke up in a cabin in the wilds of the mountains, I'd welcome the intervention of a third party, even one with tattoos and greasy hair.]                   

Hazel’s sure neither has the intention of letting the other leave the cabin alive [Why not? Neither one of them is gonna go to the police] and her odds for survival, which weren’t good to start with, are getting lower by the minute. What was supposed to be a light dusting of snow is turning into a full on blizzard and none of them are [no one is] leaving anytime soon. [How does she know what the weather report called for in the mountains?]

She has to pick a side in order to survive. If it weren’t for the splitting headache, she could almost mistake her captor’s protective stance as chivalry. [If she has to pick a side, choosing the one who's almost chivalric is not the best criteria. I recommend going with the guy who's most likely to win a fight to the death between the two of them. When the fight is over, and one guy has emerged victorious, you don't want to be the person who was cheering on the other guy. Does she place her trust with her captor or take a chance on the convict with blood on his sleeve? [Wait, the convict? So he's wearing one of those striped prison uniforms or an orange jumpsuit? If you told us that up front you could have referred to him as the convict instead of the unexpected. Plus, prison garb is far more suggestive of danger than greasy hair and tattoos.]

THE LESSER EVIL is a suspense novel. [Include the word count so agents can reject your book for being too short or too long. If you don't include the word count, they'll assume it's too short or too long and reject it.]

Thank you,


Does the convict have a gun? If so, choose him over the guy with the billy club. 

The convict could be a wrongly convicted good guy who got framed. The other guy clubbed you over the head and had no possible reason for bringing you to this cabin other than to torture you before he kills you. Choose the convict.

The blizzard seems irrelevant. If neither guy is gonna let the other leave alive, it doesn't matter if it's snowing . . . Unless the snow is gonna trap them there long enough that they run out of food and have to resort to cannibalism, in which case they'd be better off not killing each other now, because they'll want the meat to be fresh.

Telling yourself: If it weren’t for the splitting headache, I could almost mistake my captor’s protective stance as chivalry, is like thinking, If it weren't for the dagger he just thrust into my gut, I might be sizing this guy up as possible husband material.

A few minor errors in a one-page query could convince the reader that there'll be a few on every page of your manuscript.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Feedback Request

 The author of the query featured just below this posting would like feedback on the following version:

Dear Agent,

Twelve-year-old Declan isn’t expecting any thrills on this field trip. A national forest with lots of boring moose hardly screams “awesome.” His dreary day gets a jolt when he glimpses a monstrous figure stalking through the wilderness. Seven-feet-tall and falcon-headed, the creature slips away before anybody else spots it. [I need to clean my glasses, I first thought that said "monstrous figure skater."] [Now that I think about it, would you consider changing your book so it is a monstrous figure skater? It's sure to be better than a seven-foot-tall guy with a  bird head.] 

Declan: Look, at 7-foot-tall monster with a falcon head!!!!

Teachers & the other 25 kids on the field trip with him: Where? Where?

Declan: Too late, it slipped away. But I saw it, I tell you.

Teachers: You know the rule, Dec. If you bring LSD, bring enough to share.]

With his two best friends, Declan follows the clues [feathers, talon prints, and massive bird droppings.] and finds the ruins of a long-dead civilization beneath the forest. They learn this advanced race once created human-animal hybrids. Led by the falcon-headed Ra, the rebellious hybrids seized control of ancient Egypt, claiming to be gods. After their creators banished them to the distant forest, the hybrids faced imprisonment in cold storage. Finally freed by a malfunction, Ra intends to salvage the technology and produce countless hybrid warriors, enough to enslave humanity. [I know you say "countless," but realistically, how many human-animal hybrids do they think it will take to enslave humanity? Humans with falcon heads aren't that scary. Falcons with human heads, on the other hand, can at least fly, so they might be able to enslave a few easily impressed humans. I'm not even sure human/lion hybrids or human/bear hybrids could enslave us all. Your best bet is to leave out the human part, and go with cheetah/shark hybrids.]

Stranded, Declan and his friends dodge swarms of mythical Egyptian beasts, from a rampaging Sphinx to the jackal-like Anubis. When his friends fall into Ra’s clutches, Declan embarks on a daring gambit. To rescue them and stop Ra’s murderous crusade, he must reach a failsafe device that can destroy the hybrids in one fell swoop. But first, he’ll need to brave explosive geysers, dizzying mountain heights, and crossbow-armed monsters. All of a sudden, those boring moose don’t sound half-bad. [Also all of a sudden, Declan realizes he can always find new friends.]

MONSTER GODS is a middle grade adventure, complete at 49,000 words. It blends the mythological focus of the Rick Riordan Presents series with the action of Laura Martin’s Edge of Extinction. I have my Honors degree in English Language and Literature. [Unfortunately, that will not influence the reader of your query any more than it will influence anyone you contact in your future job search.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is an improvement. Most of my comments focus on whether the reader will buy into the plot.

Wouldn't it have been easier for the hybrids' creators to use the failsafe device to destroy the hybrids in one fell swoop, than to banish them to a place no one knew existed?

Adding the friends helps, but only until they get captured and Declan now has to save them along with stopping Ra’s murderous crusade. Maybe leave out their capture and tell us how they aid the mission.

Apparently Ra is unaware of how much the population and weaponry have advanced while he was in cold storage. Otherwise he'd probably shoot a bit lower than enslavement of humanity. Like, enslavement of Delaware.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Face-Lift 1419

Guess the Plot

Monster Gods

1. Declan Vokes must endure explosive geysers, frenzied rapids, dizzying heights, and crossbow-armed beasts to save modern-day humanity from being enslaved by ancient Egyptian gods. Preferably before his 13th birthday.

2. When a warp in the fabric of time sends Conover Lutz back to ancient Greece, he discovers that not only were the Greek gods real, but they were narcissistic, sadistic monsters. And they don't appreciate the new guy's 21st-century wardrobe.

3. Meli is scheduled to be sacrificed to the monstrous gods her people worship, so she appeals to a higher authority--the gods of the gods, so to speak. Unfortunately, those gods are also of a monstrous sort. The gods of those gods, on the other hand, might be ok, or maybe their gods.....

4. A brief look at the myths and legends surrounding the more unusual deities humanity has worshiped. Includes maps, ancient art, the most up-to-date archeological findings, and a brochure for exploratory expeditions in some very unusual destinations . . . including hell.

5. We tend to think of "gods" as benevolent caretakers of humanity, but if you've ever read mythology or the Old Testament, you know that Zeus, Allah, God, Odin, etc, were pretty much all bastards. This book blows the lid off the whole worshiping scam.

6. Just as humans have worshiped gods through the centuries, so do werewolves, vampires, Krakens, Godzilla, and other monsters have their own deity. They call him Jymm, and trust me, you don't mess around with Jymm.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

When his class visits a national forest, twelve-year-old Declan Vokes expects to see a bunch of dumb, boring moose. But this forest has a secret link to ancient Egypt -- a link that puts Declan in the path of mythology’s most sinister monsters. Forget the yawns. Cue the screams.

An attack launched by Ra, the falcon-headed god, sends Declan escaping into the wilderness. [How does he know it's Ra? It could be Horus, who is also an Egyptian falcon-headed god. As I understand it, the only difference between them is that the  "eye of Ra" is his right eye, while the "eye of Horus" is his left eye. But I doubt Declan would have known this.] [BTW, at times the two deities were merged as Ra-Horakhty. Just as the Romans combined Horus and Uranus into Horse's- Anus.] Stranded, he finds himself dodging swarms of mythical Egyptian beasts, from a deadly Sphinx to the jackal-like Anubis. [A list made from the members of "swarms" should have more than two items. I recommend adding Heset, the goddess depicted as a cow with a tray of food on her horns, and Sepa, who appeared as a centipede with the head of a donkey.] While struggling to survive, Declan uncovers the truth behind the myths. These so-called “gods” are actually freaks of nature. They’ve spent the passing centuries hidden beneath the forest, suspended in hibernation. [A 12-year old kid, while dodging swarms of mythical beasts in a forest, finds time to uncover all this information that no one else has ever been able to uncover? Did he go through a time portal to the Great Library of Alexandria?] But the time to reclaim the world has come. With Ra leading them, the monster-gods set out to reach the largest mountain in the forest, a mountain that houses ancient technology. There, they’ll have the means to enslave humanity once again. [When I think of ancient technology, I think of the compass, the magnifying glass, the catapult, the crossbow. If these monster gods plan to enslave us with those, I'm shaking in my boots.] 

Declan must reach the mountain before the creatures. Only then can he use that same technology to destroy them. [Wait, it's up to Declan to save us all? This technology isn't just sitting there on the mountain, it must be inside an impenetrable fortress invisible to humans. Declan has no chance of finding it. He needs to use his cell phone to contact his mom and tell her he's lost and to send the US military to rescue him.] But first, he’ll need to brave explosive geysers, frenzied rapids, dizzying heights, and crossbow-armed beasts. All of a sudden, those dumb, boring moose don’t sound half-bad. [Obviously this kid's never heard of Bullwinkle if he thinks moose are boring.]

MONSTER-GODS is a Middle Grade adventure, complete at 50,000 words. It blends the mythological focus of the Rick Riordan Presents series with the action of Laura Martin’s Edge of Extinction. I have my Honors Degree in English Language and Literature. Thank you for your time and consideration.


There's a reason Frodo recruited Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf for his quest. He was a Hobbit. Pretty much worthless in a fight. The leader on Mission Impossible would choose a team of people, each with their own skill. Even Dorothy had an armored man and a lion backing her up. If Declan has skills we don't know about, tell us. If he has a crew of experts following his lead, say so. So we'll think he has at least a one in a million chance of succeeding.

Did it ever occur to these freaks of nature that enslaving a world of seven billion people who have bombs and aircraft would be more difficult than enslaving a few thousand people who are still fighting with sticks and stones? 

Also, why did these Egyptians do their hibernating in North America? Mount Kilimanjaro would've made more sense. And why didn't they hibernate in the same place where they stored their ancient technology, so they'd have it when they woke up, and wouldn't have to race some sixth-grade kid to get to it?

I'm sure my comments are addressed in the book, but try to at least convince us in the query that one child with ancient technology can defeat monster gods capable of enslaving the planet. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Friday, July 30, 2021

New Beginning 1097

It was pizza day and there was an uproar in the Cafeteria because the only topping available was pineapple and anchovy. The trainees declared it a tragedy––pizza was the only thing they had to look forward to––while the more experienced caseworkers picked flecks of fish and soggy fruit off their slices and silently cursed the kitchen staff. Amelia Morgenthal alone was unmoved; she’d never really understood the appeal of pizza. 

She sped past the Cafeteria and through the halls, hiding her face in a file. She didn’t think she could bear one more unnecessary question or inane comment, yet she’d have to, since she still had eight more practice sessions to lead today and in decades of doing this job she knew that trainees were never prepared for their first assignment. 

Amelia darted into the relative safely to her cubicle. High-stepping over boxes, she angled herself around the desk, knocking a few loose files onto the floor. She bent to retrieve them and something caught her eye. 

There was a present on the seat of her armchair, wrapped with smudged printer paper and tied with an incongruous purple ribbon. It was obviously from Tad. Amelia rolled her eyes. When will he learn that this crap doesn’t work on me? 

She wanted to toss it straight into the wastebasket, but Tad was her boss and Amelia knew he’d come fishing for a thank you later. The package was heavier than expected. She tugged the ribbon and the paper fell away, revealing a snowglobe. Iridescent flakes settled around a grey plastic mountain; at its peak was a little man, raising his arms in victory. Painted along the bottom in a bright yellow script were the words, ‘You can do it!’ 

Amelia frowned. Why had Tad given her this thing?

She decided she'd just have to go ask him.

Taking the quick route through the cafeteria, Amelia picked up a couple of slices of pizza. A thank you gift in return couldn't hurt, and Tad never turned down a slice, though maybe it wouldn't hurt him to miss a meal...

Tad's office was clean and tidy. No books or boxes on the floor, no papers strewn around. Just today's newspaper in the center of the desk. As she surveyed the privileges of being in charge, a noise in the doorway caused her to turn around.

"Oh," Amelia said. It was Tad's secretary. "I was looking for..."

"Sorry," the woman replied. "You just missed him. He's out until next Thursday."

As the secretary bustled away, Amelia took another look around and shrugged. Oh, well -- a gift is a gift. She wrapped the pizza slices in a sheet from the newspaper and left in on his chair.

Opening: Rachel D'Erminio.....Continuation: ril

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Face-Lift 1418

Guess the Plot


1. When adventurer Amelia dies near the summit of Mount Everest, she finds herself in her own personal hell: holding down a tedious office job on the production staff of the afterlife's most popular reality show, Romance Live Stream.

2. After foxy Wendy Fitz says she'll never date Bill "One-Up" Stetson, he tells her she'll never forget him. The fates conspire against them both with experimental magic, mad science, and multiverse time travel to prove them wrong. And right.

3. The latest rumor in Hell is that whoever climbs the highest mountain, Neverest, can escape to purgatory and finally find some rest. Is it true or simply the latest diabolical torture? Mountain climber Sid Shanks is about to find out.

4. Asked by his teacher for an example of an adjective along with its comparative and superlative forms, Joey replies, "never, neverer, neverest. She compliments his answer profusely, rather than risk he'll murder her after class. Just another day in the Newark school system.

5. It had always been Marion's dream to scale Everest, but when she gets halfway up  and sees the mess of garbage and frozen corpses cluttering the once-pristine mountain, she turns back and starts a Go-Fund-Me project to raise money for trash bags, body bags, and a community cleanup project.

6. In a parallel universe, climbing Neverest is the goal of the most daring mountaineers, not because of its height so much as because it's crawling with abominable snowmen who will stop at nothing to protect their home from interloping humans.

Original Version

NEVEREST is a gender bent reimagining of Dante’s Purgatorio, complete at 100,000 words. Like Olympus, Texas it is inspired by literature and weaves together a narrative through the eyes of multiple characters; like The Good Place, it explores a dysfunctional afterlife and uses satire to question the status quo. [Or, to put it more succinctly, Neverest is a combination of an 800-year old poem no one has read, a novel(la) no one's had time to read because it just came out in May, and a TV sitcom.] 

Amelia Morgenthal had a distinguished life: daughter of a billionaire, an adventurer and mountaineer [Wait, she had three parents?]––until she died near the summit of Mount Everest. [I don't see "distinguished" as descriptive of  the life of a mountaineer, adventurer, or billionaire's daughter. If we just go with adventurer and mountaineer, you could call her life rip-roaring or electrifying or stimulating. Having peeked ahead, and seen that her parents and her finances are never mentioned again, I think we can leave out the billionaire's daughter line. Which leaves us with: Adventurer and mountaineer Amelia Morgenthal led an electrifying life––until she died near the summit of Mount Everest.] In the afterlife, she’s a failure, stuck for decades as a caseworker in the Life Imbalance Modification and Betterment Office. [I deleted the failure part because I suspect she did a good job as a caseworker, despite finding the work tedious. ] [It might be better to say she's stuck for decades in LIMBO--the Life Imbalance etc....]  Just when she thought nothing could get worse, a routine New Soul Intake goes awry. Rosealie Durante arrives screaming, and in a fit of frustration, Amelia erases the young woman’s memories of her last day, hoping to shut her up. [If you want us to sympathize with Amelia, "hoping to ease her transition (or her mind) would be better than hoping to shut her up.] The shortcut is a mistake; Amelia has unwittingly interfered with The Colloquium’s favorite cosmic reality show––Romance Live Stream #1.  [It sounds like Rosealie is in the fit of frustration until I examine the punctuation carefully. To keep it clear, you could try: Rosealie Durante arrives screaming in terror (or anger or whatever). In a fit of frustration, Amelia erases the young woman’s memories of her last day, hoping to shut her up, but unwittingly interfering with The Colloquium’s favorite cosmic reality show––Romance Live Stream #1.] [Also, the TV show needs a catchier title. Love Eternal or Match Made in Heaven or Paradise by the Deathbed Light.]    

The Colloquium, a mysterious collection of souls who influence life on Earth, demands that Amelia tend to Rosealie while waiting for the other half of her fated bond, Max Lieberman. There’s just one small problem: Amelia erased a long-awaited reconciliation between the two. So when Max arrives ready to resume his relationship with Rosealie, he is promptly rejected, and Amelia must get the two wayward lovers back together.  [You know, if you spell her name Rosalie, Blogger's spell check won't keep underlining it in red.]

The more Amelia discovers about the couple and their past lives, the more she is convinced that they deserve to be free from The Colloquium’s voyeuristic gaze and each other. Rosealie becomes the one person who makes Amelia feel seen, and Amelia decides she cannot betray her new friend, [It would be a betrayal to get her back together with the man she just chose to get back together with? So the colloquium was behind their reconciliation?] even if it means giving up on freedom. [Not sure what that means. Is Amelia a prisoner? Or does she get to do things on the weekend and holidays, like watch Romance Live Stream #1 and go to harp concerts?] She confesses everything to Rosealie and the women form a plan to escape, [From where to where? Wait, do they climb through the seven levels of Colloquia?] but The Colloquium has a secret weapon––Max––and they are willing to do anything to keep their beloved show running. [The show got along fine before Rosealie died, why won't it get along without her now?] [Is Max a secret weapon because he's working with the Colloquium? Or are they just threatening him if Rosealie doesn't take him back?]


Despite all the blue words, it's not bad, in that it's organized and has some specificity. But it inspires a lot of questions about the plot, which should be avoided unless you want to answer them in the query.

Is it really a reality show if the Colloquium can demand that the plot progress exactly as they want it to? The Bachelor season doesn't end immediately if the bachelor doesn't give a rose to the woman the producers wanted him to end up with.

If you die, and find yourself in a job as a caseworker who investigates the past lives of new arrivals in the afterlife, and you believe nothing could get worse, I have no sympathy for you. That job sounds fascinating. I can think of lots of worse stuff, much of it described in detail in Dante's Purgatorio

Speaking of which, I don't think calling your novel a reimagining of Dante’s Purgatorio in your first sentence is going to entice a lot of people to venture into your second sentence. If your book is light, like The Good Place, You don't want to compare it to something really heavy. And I'd put the first paragraph at the end of the plot summary. 

Popular works (among hundreds) that mix afterlife with reality: Good Omens, American Gods, Heaven Can Wait, half the seasons of Supernatural. Your book may have a similar tone to one of these.

Because most of the plot takes place after the Everest tragedy, and in another world, the title comes across as an attempt to be clever or cute or funny. Doesn't work for me.

Friday, April 30, 2021

New Beginning 1096

Alexis guided the cursor over her favorite words. After ten hours in her cubicle, the phrase “Sign Out” was better than any other two words in the English language including “free shipping” and “new episodes”. It was even better than her favorite three word phrase: “number two combo”. 

She clicked the button. Instead of turning grey, it remained green. Alarmed, Alexis clicked the mouse again and again. No please God not now, not this! 

Too late. Cheerful music blared in her ears. Alexis knew it would be an insult to war veterans and trauma survivors everywhere to suggest that the upbeat tone ‘triggered’ her, but the anxiety that overcame her was real. That zippy ditty meant that someone, somewhere, was angry and about to take it out on her. She would have to absorb that anger, make it a part of her, reshape it, paste a smile on it, and hand it back. 

“Thank you for contacting Smiletronics,” she answered. “My name’s Alexis, could I get your name please?” 

“June 24th, 2011,” the woman on the phone began.

"A date that will live in infamy?" Alexis guessed.

"The day a SWAT team broke down my front door, killed my four children and my husband, and then realized it was the house across the street they were supposed to be raiding. I happened to be at the grocery store."

"On the bright side," Alexis said, "I assume you only had to attend one funeral for all five victims. I hate going to funerals, don't you? So depressing. I remember when my great grandmother died, she was 98 and bedridden, and I had to go out and buy a black dress, which is not my best color, and which I've never worn again because on the way home from the funeral I stopped at Wendy's for the number two combo and spilled grease on the front. My best color is turquoise, which goes well with my light brown hair. Although I could have colored my hair to match the black dress, but then I'd have had to buy new shoes. Any--"


Opening: Amanda Barrett.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Face-Lift 1417

Guess the Plot

Monsters Like Us

1. That's right, they really do. We sell out every show and have wild parties afterwards that leave them in a drunken stupor, the perfect condition to be snatched up and sold. And if their friends and relatives don't like it, well, they should have paid us what we agreed on. 

2. Crying babies with leaky diapers. Screaming toddlers who bite. Surly teenagers. The stuff of nightmares that we, as parents, have created in our own image. What the hell have we done, and more importantly, can we ever be stopped? 

3. Police. Republicans. Old white men. The Swiss. Mimes. Editors. They may look like us, but they're evil. And they're coming for us.

4. The year is 3011 and the metropolis infrastructure is crumbling. The old sewers can't keep up with the explosive waste. A sub-race of humans, disfigured and discolored, adapted long ago to high levels of pollution. Will they agree to clean the pipes of their oppressors? Or will they unionize first?

5. A behind-the-scenes history of Japan's Toho Studios, with special emphasis on the violent jealousies that arose between the little men in the rubber suits that threatened to tear the company asunder as thoroughly as Godzilla and Ghidorah devastated Tokyo. 

6. When Matt hides the crate of experimental opiates he found, he doesn't expect to become the target of the CIA, a major drug cartel, and foreign agents. Lucky for him he knows Taekwondo.

7. In a secret underground lab, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman perform terrifying experiments on potatoes, glue, eggs, and other common household items in this science book for kids. Includes a fun pronunciation guide by the evil Doctor Dihydrogen Monoxide.

8. No one knows where they came from. They started cutting down trees, polluting our rivers, and destroying the land. These humans.

9. Calista Kalspar's life is turned upside down when she learns she is a half breed of the race of the mucus-oozing creatures her parents have devoted their lives to hunting. Hunting to prove the existence of, that is.

Original Version

Dear highly personalized agent 

Matt grew up tough in his opioid ravaged Appalachian town. When his high school sweetheart dies of a fentanyl-laced overdose, he kills the dealers involved. Feeling guilty for taking the law into his own hands [(and worried that it might be illegal to murder a bunch of guys)], he vanishes to a quiet life in Los Angeles where he teaches kids at the local Taekwondo school. [When people in LA want a quiet life, they move to West Virginia. West Virginians move to North Dakota.] 

That’s until [Then] a crate parachutes onto the path of his mountain bike ride. Matt swore he wouldn’t get involved again but no ordinary drug shipment comes with serial numbers and expiration dates. [Actually, that's how ordinary drug shipments do come. It's the parachuting part that makes this shipment suspicious.] With his past, he doesn’t dare involve the police, so he hides the drugs on the mountain while taking [and takes] a bag to get tested. If they’re standard street fare, he’ll anonymously notify law enforcement and return to his law-abiding, if boring, life. [But if they're the really good stuff, well, let's just say he'll have a lifetime supply.]

Only the CIA, who developed the drug at a secret facility in South America, is sending in a team after the test results activate a government tripwire. The cartel who stole it is close behind. [After the test results activate a government tripwire, the CIA, who developed the drug at a secret facility in South America, sends in a team. The cartel who stole the crate is close behind.] And the foreign agency manipulating everyone is planning to discredit the CIA by using their own drug to fuel a new wave of addicts. [Manipulating the CIA I can buy, but just trying to manipulate a drug cartel is asking for trouble.] 

If Matt was a cautious man, he’d run as fast as he can. But a cautious man wouldn’t have killed those dealers ten long years ago, and there’s no way he’ll let more kids die. [Also, once a vigilante, always a vigilante.] 

 Monsters Like Us is a 115,000 word suspense novel.


Not clear why Matt has to determine whether the drugs are standard street fare before he anonymously alerts the police. And if he does need the test results first, it would be hard to stay anonymous while taking a bag of drugs to some laboratory, requesting it be tested, and 
asking to be notified when the testing is complete.

Matt's goal is to prevent more kids from dying. Presumably that means from getting their hands on these drugs, and not that Matt wants to take down the cartel and the CIA. Obviously he doesn't want the drugs going to the cartel or the foreign agency. Probably not the CIA either, as their use of a secret lab in South America suggests they're up to no good, as usual. The police aren't much more trustworthy, but since Matt was planning to notify them anyway, if the drugs were street fare, he could just FedEx them the crate. Or he could just destroy the drugs himself after Googling "How to destroy drugs safely."

You'd think the cartel would've had people waiting and watching for the parachute. Guys with binoculars and machine guns.

If you can answer or prevent some of the questions I've brought up, it will help.