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? 

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured most recently here requests feedback on the following version of the query.

Dear EE,

Tali Adilrein accepts a bodyguard job expecting to defend [defending] her client, Shimmer, from kidnappers.  Within hours, she protects her from a magic-spawned swarm of hundreds of potentially lethal arrows.  After an attack by a third group [group of what?] severely injures bystanders, officials [Officials of what? The police? Local government?] place Shimmer in protective custody.  They tell Tali she's no longer needed. [Are they the ones who hired her? If Shimmer hired Tali, Shimmer should decide if Tali is needed.]
However, they didn't notice the same rare dragon magic--only wielded by people from Tali's homeland--assisting [enhancing] the common magics in each attack.  Tali's not about to leave her client a sitting target under the officials' dubious protection.  While fighting the bureaucracy to keep her job, she helps them investigate the scores of her fellow countrymen in town for a festival.  She also prepares spells to defend Shimmer during [the next attack] and follow the dragon magic in the next attack back to its source.

Unknown to any of them, their enemy is biding her time until she becomes powerful enough to destroy those who imprisoned her millennia ago, and their numerous descendants, associates, and anyone who gets in her way.  She's not particular.  If she obtains [captures] Shimmer and her ability to enhance magic, it will all happen that much sooner. 


If there are scores of Tali's countrymen in town, and Tali's countrymen have the power to enhance common magic, why don't the kidnappers or the mysterious enemy take one of those people instead of going after the one who's protected by a powerful bodyguard? Is there something special about Shimmer? 

If someone wants to use Shimmer's magic, they probably wouldn't risk killing her by sending hundreds of lethal arrows her way.

The first paragraph is confusing. I'm not sure who these groups are. I guess the first group is kidnappers, the second is arrows (which may or may not have been fired by the kidnappers), and the third group is "another group." Maybe it's better to keep it simple:

As bodyguard Tali Adilrein is protecting her client Shimmer from magic attacks, several bystanders are severely injured. Law enforcement authorities put Shimmer in protective custody for her own (and everyone else's) safety, not realizing that rare dragon magic--wielded only by people from Tali's homeland--enhanced the magic attacks.

I assume this enemy who was imprisoned millennia ago didn't hire the kidnappers and wasn't responsible for the arrows, as that wouldn't exactly be "biding her time." On the other hand, if she had nothing to do with any of that, and she's the main villain in the book, she might need a bigger role in the query than the groups Tali easily thwarts.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Feedback Request

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

Dear Evil Editor,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you in advance for your time and kind consideration.


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

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

Friday, December 06, 2019

New Beginning 1088

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 22, 2019

Feedback Request

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

Dear Evil Editor,

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

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

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


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.


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

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.


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

Who is the last person left who she cares about?

Who cursed her to burn alive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Feedback Request

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

Dear EE,

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

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

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

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

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

Your 1st paragraph could be:

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

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

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

Monday, August 26, 2019

New Beginning 1085

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

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

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

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