Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat

Campfire I

The Costume Shop

Campfire II

The Mysterious Shop


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Face-Lift 1082

Guess the Plot

The Wanderer and the Wyvern

1. Phoebus the vampire would have an easier time wiping out his former clan if he had an ally who was a wivern. Unfortunately, he turned the only wivern in town into a human. And then fell in love with him. Maybe they should just move to Manitoba together and get married.

2. He wanders the villages of East Umbria, riding upon his shoulder the last living wyvern in the Northern Realm. Those who would blaspheme the Lord of West Onyx tremble before his approach, many fleeing to the Southern Reaches, or maybe Palm Beach, depending on the season.

3. After twenty years of marriage to a nagging, passive-aggressive woman, Vern hits the road searching for happiness. Yet he cannot escape. A tiny black bird with his wife's voice and overdone make-up haunts his nights, endlessly asking: "why, Vern?"

4. Kakafonius is an itinerant bard. Dulce is a mauve and green were-wyvern, who can transform at will. Together they deliver tales of love, ambition, glory and deception as they ride united across the Kingdom.

5. Jack Schultz sets out to hitchhike across the United States. The first ride he gets is from a wyvern. As the two fly over the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the southwestern deserts, they debate serious philosophical questions.

6. Dr Marian Jacobs has finally found her Holy Grail: a pristine copy of the 13th C romance, "The Wanderer and the Wyvern". Unfortunately her long-term department rival, Dr Jason Reynolds, has also spotted the manuscript. Should she seduce him--or shoot him? Also, tenure.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Phoebus and Abatis are not your typical heroes. They're the ones you would usually find terrorizing villagers or taking over the world. [But with kindness.]

Phoebus has managed to capture Abatis, the legendary dragon. He hopes the creature will aid him in his conquest against [Conquest of or battle against.] his former clan, the Demon Whisperers; a formidable group of vampires that make pacts with the demons of Hell in exchange for dark powers of their own. [Do they whisper when making these pacts with demons? I ask because I've never thought of demons as the type who like it nice and quiet.] [Also, I'd go with a comma or a dash or a colon rather than a semicolon.] Though, instead of just asking for his help, Phoebus has turned the dragon human. [Big mistake. A dragon's power rating is much higher than a human's when it comes to fighting vampires.]

Having to deal with this resentful and foul-mouthed servant, Phoebus tries his best to keep things as professional as he can with a whip in his hand. This becomes difficult when his own demon, the flamboyant Gwynfor, continually insists on interfering and making things more intimate. [Things? What things? Is it Phoebus and his servant or Phoebus and his demon who are intimate?] There isn't much the vampire can do against the demon, lest he wishes for [without effecting/inviting] his own death. Or worse. So he goes along with it, and eventually the two [Which two?] begin to form a much closer bond. A bond Gwynfor intends to take full advantage of.

Just as things [There's that word again.] between Phoebus and Abatis have become nice and comfortable, Gwynfor comes to the vampire with the news that his new lover will be his downfall. That his goal to destroy his former clan has been greatly compromised by their relationship. [When a demon comes to you with "news," is it a good idea to base important decisions on that news? Is it a good idea to even believe him?]

Now the proud Phoebus must make a choice. Either one that will keep him from his victory over the Demon Whisperers. Or one that could not only endanger his own life, but the life of Abatis as well. [Apparently you're saying the choice to stick with Abatis means the clan win. From which I infer that dumping Abatis means the clan loses (though I'm not sure how that can be known; if Phoebus ends his relationship with Abatis, does he fight the clan alone or does Abatis fight with him?). You're also saying dumping Abatis endangers Phoebus and Abatis. From which I infer that not dumping Abatis keeps them safe. But if dumping Abatis means fighting the clan in an epic battle, I don't see how they can be assumed safe. Nor is it clear what endangers them if they stay together and move to Manitoba.

It sounds like P and A are pretty much through whether the Whisperers are defeated or not. So the obvious choice is to defeat them. Maybe. I need a chart to make this clear.

Stick with Abatis..............Dump Abatis
     Clan wins ..................  Clan loses?
  A and P safe?............A and P endangered.
That didn't help. The sentence (not three sentences) should be: Now the proud Phoebus must make a choice: victory over the Demon Whisperers, or his friendship/bond/fling/romance with Abatis. At least that's a choice. Is it the choice in the book?]

THE WANDERER AND THE WYVERN (137,111 words) is a co-authored erotic fantasy, where the point of view switches between both Phoebus and Abatis. [No need for the word "both," as it's implied by the word "between."] [And it's unlikely the reader will care whose POV the story is told from, anyway.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


((P.S. I know the word count is HUGE. I am working on that. A lot. There's still a good amount to do editing-wise to my MS, but I figured I'd start on the query to help keep me motivated.))


In my opinion you must tell us why Phoebus is out to destroy his former clan. What does he gain from victory that might make it worth giving up Abatis?

How can one normal vampire defeat a whole clan of vampires who've acquired new dark powers? If only his one ally were still a dragon instead of a puny human.

Is Phoebus the wanderer? I would assume he hangs out where his clan is, plotting their demise. Where does he wander to?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1081

Guess the Plot

Soul Birds

1. Dulled by midlife failures, Homer and Bernice Byrd change their name and become a singing duo. They achieve unexpected fame and fortune, but in the end realize that they were happier when they were nobodies.

2. Each of us is accompanied, from birth to death, by a soul bird that sits on our shoulder, makes sarcastic cracks about us to all the other soul birds, and occasionally takes a crap on our Sunday best. That's about it, really.

3. Often seen as a bad racist joke, the crows from Dumbo have decided to make a comeback, and this time they're out for revenge. Known as the dreaded Soul Birds, this band of buddies will live up to their name as a murder of crows to regain their honor.

4. Okay, they aren't really birds, they're more like butterflies. People use them to send prayers to the gods. It's a pretty cool idea, but lately the system isn't working like it's supposed to, so as usual it's up to one unqualified female to step in and prevent an apocalyptic war.

5. When the dismembered body of former Laker Jeremiah Smitts is discovered in the speakers of his jazz club Soul Birds, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, cutting up a body that big had to leave a mess somewhere, and two, he'd better wear his Dwight Howard jersey if he wants them to beat the Trailblazers tomorrow night.

6. When people die, their souls enter the bodies of birds, where they can soar to the heavens. Except for people who've been bad; their souls enter flightless birds, like ostriches and penguins. That's the belief system that has evolved on Earth by the twenty-fourth century. The plot is basically the war between flightless birds and the humans who want to eradicate them.

Original Version

Dear EE,

When Adwen attempts to permeate the home of a waiting girl she is forced away and lands on the sidewalk, momentarily powerless. [For starters, it's not clear whether "she" is Adwen or the waiting girl. By which I mean it's clear you mean Adwen, but "she" should refer to the most recently mentioned female singular entity.] [Also, "waiting girl"? Is that a waitress? Or a lady-in-waiting? Or just a girl who's waiting for something? If the latter, is she waiting for Adwen? If not, what is she waiting for, and if that's irrelevant, why call her a waiting girl?]

Adwen is the Corpreal of physical love and fertility. [The what? I, like Google, assume you misspelled "corporeal." If you made up the word, I recommend not using it in the query. Even if it's inaccurate, use "embodiment" or "goddess" or capitalize a known word like Minister, Custodian, Big Enchilada.] It is her duty to enter the rooms and fantasies of Thea's youth to awaken their sexual desires. [Ah, to have lived in a land where, as a teenage boy, I could look forward to the night Adwen permeated my house and awakened my sexual desires. One question: is she more like Betty or Veronica?] The God of All Things made it so when first man looked at first woman with lust in his eyes and first woman responded with a blush and a smile [and a can of mace].

Confused and scared she rushes to the home of her keeper, Brula, a woman whose magical knowledge is centuries old. [Her keeper? Wait, is this place a zoo?]

Brula discovered a force that can compete with the God of All Things and someone is selling it to the humans. Brula thinks this new power is coming from The Fringe and Adwen should investigate. [Since when do Corpreals investigate anything? That's like if a powerful force were disrupting life as we know it on Earth, and we assigned the investigation to Kim Kardashian. Why doesn't the God of All Things send in a diplomat or a SEAL team or just make The Fringe evaporate?

The Fringe is a desolate place, devoid of magic. [Think Manitoba.] The people live there to escape the rule of the God of All Things and they don't welcome intruders, especially divine ones. Adwen's magic won't work and she won't be able to protect herself from their wrath. [So she has magical powers besides that of awakening sexual desires in youth?]
If Adwen chooses to go, she will be stripped of her powers but if she chooses not to, a war between humans and gods could erupt. [Are you declaring that if she chooses to go, the war won't erupt? Why is war any less likely to erupt if a powerless, unwelcome Corpreal enters The Fringe?] The God of All Things won't turn a blind eye to other forms of magic for long. 

SOUL BIRDS is 80,000 words and is my first novel to see more then just the hard drive on my old laptop. [This one has seen the hard drive on my new laptop.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


[Note from author to EE: The title comes from butterfly like creatures the gods and goddesses of Thea use to send messages to one another. When they land on someone the person is filled with a vision of the messenger. The soul birds are also used by humans to send prayers to the gods.]


Is this Fringe the same place as on the TV show, The Fringe?

Why would anyone suspect that the power great enough to compete with the God of All Things is coming from Manitoba?

What is Thea? A planet? Heaven? A place on Earth? These humans buying the powerful force: are they from Earth?

You spend so much time explaining what stuff like Corpreals and The Fringe are, there's not enough room to tell the story.

Your setup seems to be: When humans acquire power that can compete with the God of All Things, war seems inevitable. It's up to Adwen, the goddess of fertility, to find out how the humans are getting their power, and to prevent the war. But to do so, she'll have to enter the bleakest place on the planet, Manitoba, where no fertility goddess has ever been welcome.  That leaves plenty of room to tell us what she discovers in Manitoba and what she plans to do about it, and who wants to stop her.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Face-Lift 1080

Guess the Plot

High Noons

1. When Curly the Cross-eyed Cowboy gets called out for a gunfight in the middle of the day, he wonders if it might not be the last high noons he'll ever see.

2. Vampires decide they'll never be treated with respect on Earth, and head for the stars in a space ark. Unfortunately, when they finally find a habitable planet, it has four suns, and nighttime lasts about twenty minutes a year.

3. A gunslinger pulls his trigger at high noon and is sucked through a time vortex into the past. Shooting at a dinosaur the next noon sends him into the far future. Will he ever get back home? Does he even want to, knowing he may not have survived the duel?

4. The Noons lived at the end of the cul-de-sac. Some people said they were crazy - others claimed they were just inbred hicks. But Megan knew the truth. After all, she'd been delivering their weekly package of medical grade marijuana for years, which had just been declared illegal under L.A. law. Now people would find out what the Noons were really like.

5. High Noons-- Memoir of a schoolyard drug pusher who was also a ninth grade algebra teacher.

6. Dosequis-24 is a circumbinary planet--one that revolves around two stars. The discovery of priceless elements attracts competing mining companies, and brings greed and corruption to the provincial government. When a new Overseer of Mines with a mysterious past jets into town, it's a showdown between good and evil -- at High Noons.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When the world political stage gets too hot for the undead, they commission a space ark and head out of the solar system to find a new home to rule. Who needs cryostasis to travel between the stars when you have immortality? Who needs genetic diversity if all your human servants are mostly food? But the course of true power never did run smooth--the real rhetorical question is: How well can vampires fare on a world with four suns?

A subtle melange reminiscent of Meyer's Twilight, Buchheim's Das Boot, and Colbert's I Am America (And so Can You!), none of which the author has read, High Noons is sure to annoy fans of all types and ages. But at least it will appeal to an audience niche of space-faring vampires. Maybe. If the plot didn't annoy them too. And it would appeal to vampires' stocks of home-grown "sheeple" for sure, but I don't think they can still read, so maybe they don't count either. C'est la morte....

The entire very rough 50,000 word first draft will be complete by Dec 1st. Although I've got my synopsis online so that any rogue literary agents and acquisition editors out there scouring the NaNoWriMo site for the next New York Times best seller can grab this gem of a book, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to grab it first! Otherwise you'll just have to wait for the bidding war after I've made a gazillion off of the self-published eBook sales.

In all humility,

Soon-to-be-rich-and-famous Author


Obviously someone answered the call to think about their NaNoWriMo project in advance so that the Evil Minions could steer them in the right direction.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Face-Lift 1079

Guess the Plot

The Kings of Aelfren

1. The queens of Nerflea have an unusual hobby - luring their lovers into the secret room behind the mirror and biting off the heads of the men who would dare to woo them. But when those men behind the mirror grow new heads and begin to form an alliance, the queens are in for the fight of their lives. Also, a didactic alligator.

2. Forget primogeniture, the tradition in Aelfren is for omnigeniture, in which all the king's sons become kings themselves. Within ten generations, there are more kings than peasants in Aelfren, and with a far greater sense of entitlement. Let the regicide games begin!

3. A sweeping family saga. Over the course of 300 years, from the days of the Puritans to the Watergate scandal, the King family of Aelfren, New Hampshire, occasionally thinks of doing something or going somewhere but invariably changes its mind.

4. Mitch and Lee were finally going head to head in the match of the century. Althea was the hostess with the mostest, and she made flags with each of the competitors' crests. She loved them both, but she couldn't let them know that fact. With the fate of modern knighthood in her fragile hands, would she finally find her knight in shining armor, or would they both turn out to be university prats?

5. Accused of killing the king of Aelfren, Dunstan of Abrotanum is on the run. Will the new king of Aelfren hunt him down before Dunstan can clear his name and regain his own throne and find out who framed him and take his revenge and save his childhood sweetheart?

6. Okay, it's complicated. Aelfren has two kings, one of whom occupies the throne when Aelfren is at war, and one who occupies the throne when it isn't. The system has worked for centuries, but King Chelron is beginning to suspect that King Lesther is prolonging the war in order to keep the throne. Does a peacetime king have the guts to start a civil war with a warrior king?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Dunstan of Abrotanum used to be a prince. Now he is a fugitive, accused of murdering good King Balther of Aelfren. Dunstan is innocent, but his only proof is that someone tried to murder him as well – [If only he had an alibi, like he was in bed with a princess the night of the murder.] and since he fled to escape his assassin, even Dunstan must admit he looks guilty.

In a war-torn empire of quarreling city-states where the three remaining kings play against each other at every turn, Dunstan must find out who is friend and foe – for someone he once trusted is trying to kill him. Is it his fellow prince and childhood friend who seeks more power of his own? [No. It's never the first person on the list of suspects.] Is it his old mentor who struggles to keep the realm together after Balther’s death? [That guy wouldn't hurt a fly.] Is it the cunning princess he accidentally slept with the night of the murder? [Accidentally?

Princess: Was it good for you?

Dunstan: Was what good for-- WTF?!]

Surprisingly, the only person he knows didn’t try to kill him is the one who has every right to want him dead: his traveling companion Kevoca, a warrior maiden whose people have been butchered for centuries by the warriors and kings of Aelfren and who vows to protect him after Dunstan saves her life. [This makes it sound like Dunstan's people have been the butchers, but Dunstan is Abrotanumian and the butchers are Aelfrenians. I know this from the first paragraph, which states that Dunstan of Abrotanum is accused of murdering Balther of Aelfren.]

[Kevoca: I know your people have been butchering my people for centuries, but if you let me be your traveling companion, I'll protect you.

Dunstan: Okay.]

With Kevoca by his side to keep his noble head on his shoulders, Dunstan has three goals. First, clear his name and regain his rightful throne. Second, save Orora, his childhood sweetheart, the daughter of King Balther. [From what?]  Third, find out who framed him and take his revenge – even if it means killing a few kings along the way. [That was five goals. Six if I include killing a few kings.]

THE KINGS OF AELFREN is fantasy, aimed at the crossover between YA and adult. It is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


Is Aelfren the name of the empire, and the three kings are kings of countries within the empire? Or does the "Kings" in the title refer to past and present kings of one country within the empire?

What's this about Dunstan regaining his rightful throne? What throne is rightfully his? Abrotanum's? Does Abrotanum have a king?

Is any story set in a fictional place considered a fantasy these days? I think of a fantasy as featuring something fantastical: wizards/sorcerers/magic or dragons/monsters or vampires/gods/weredingoes. Does this book have a supernatural aspect?

Is Dunstan aware that Kevoca is the only woman he can be happy with, or does he think Orora is his true love? Orora's the one who tried to kill him. She was hiding in his closet, planning to surprise him the night he "accidentally" slept with the cunning princess.

Evil Editor's rule for those who insist on making lists: no more than one list per query, no more than three items on the list. You can condense the Goals paragraph down to: With Kevoca by his side to keep his noble head on his shoulders, Dunstan vows to clear his name and regain his rightful throne – even if it means killing a few kings along the way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New Beginning 975

“I should let you starve.”

Old Tom grinned at me from his pallet on the floor. “The Guild wouldn’t much approve of that. You’re still my apprentice.” He raised the bandaged stump of his right leg and pushed himself to a sitting position. A sheen of sweat covered his face and torso.

“And if you die while I’m out foraging?” I asked.

“Then you won’t have to starve me. And don’t be an ass. I’m trapped in the city now, but I’m a Master Forager. I can survive for weeks with just water, even in this miserable place.”

I doubted he’d survive another month, with or without water. Tom had melanoma. The forager’s curse. The result of a lifetime spent outside Atlanta’s walls, away from the shade of buildings and towering solar panels. Black growths mottled his chest and arms.

“I saved the best for last,” he said, holding out a small wooden box bound with rawhide. “It’s for the Marsh Clan. Worth at least thirty pounds of salt meat.” The box rattled like pebbles in a dried gourd.

“When you return, we’ll talk more,” Tom said.

“So you haven’t told me everything.”

“So sue me.”

Once outside the door, I opened the box.

It was filled with acorns, just like I'd expected. Just like those black growths on Tom's chest were probably ticks and leeches, not melanoma. I was used to, and tired of, the exaggerations of my elders.

I got it. They had to feel important. There wasn't enough to feel important about these days. But come on. "Master Forager"? Capitalized? Christ.

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Lisa Hurley

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Evil Editor's New Project

During this alarmingly lengthy lull in query and opening submissions, I put my free time into creating new Evil Editor Comic Strips. I then went to a photobook-creating site and had them print a 100-page collection that includes about 160 comic strips. Basically, because I wanted it. Over the years I've bought collections of The Far Side, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Bloom County, The Fusco Brothers and many more. Now I have added the Evil Editor book of comic strips, to my collection of collections.

I asked myself if I should be the only person in the world who owns this book. It is, after all, funnier than 99% of the comic strips that appear in newspapers these days, and why shouldn't every comic strip fan have a chance to get it? Sure, I could post the strips on the blog every day, but they come out small, and while clicking on them supposedly enlarges them, that wasn't working for everyone. The book is 9.5 by 8 inches, so the strips are nice and big, allowing readers to appreciate the artistic talents of whoever invented the various paint programs I use.

Because the book is printed on thick photo paper, and in full color throughout, it is expensive, by which I mean not cheap. Like about $35 and I'm guessing about $5 to mail it. That's more than most of my minions will spend on anything other than their Starbucks addictions and the new keyboards they buy to replace the ones they claim to spew their Starbucks addictions onto on a weekly basis.

I can lower the price by buying in volume, but if I order 100 copies and five people buy it, I have 95 books to store. So now I'm considering a Kickstarter project. This is a way an artistic endeavor can get funding from people who are fans of what the "artist" does. I post a description of the project, some sample strips, a list of rewards comic strip fans can get at various levels of backing, and a financial goal. If enough people back the project to meet the goal, I can order the books in volume. If the goal is not met, the backers don't pay anything. If the goal is exceeded, some of the extra money would be used to print extra copies, as the book itself would be one of the main rewards, but it could also be used to make the book a hardback without having to raise the price.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Success Story

Amara Royce reports:
I haven't been an active Evil Minion for a while now.  Back then, I used a different name than I'm using now. (I'm quite proud to say I was even included in a couple of your Evil Editor books.)
While I didn't submit my newest work to your blog for vivisection, I've learned a great deal from you over the years that's shaped my writing significantly.  I recently obtained representation by Jessica Alvarez of BookEnds, LLC, and a two-book ebook deal with eKensington (Kensington Publishing's digital-first imprint) for two Victorian historical romances set in and around the Great Exhibition of 1851. What I've learned from you and the minions about writing queries, about starting your story in the right spot, about making every word matter--all of that has helped get me to where I am now.
So thank you very much! I hope you are doing well, and I hope the Evil Editor blog continues to flourish.

And we hope that you'll send us the openings of your ebooks as soon as they're written.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Look to the Stars

As we have no openings or queries awaiting critique, and as this is Fall Astronomy Week, here are a few excerpts from past posts that feature everyone's favorite planet.

I've never thought of planets as having highly guarded secrets, though admittedly, our scientists are always trying to figure out what causes the strange noises coming from Uranus.

The other sky and earth gods have paired up, fallen in love and started raising their new families. But Gaia just can't seem to get into Uranus.

I recommend setting your book not on Centauria, but on Uranus. Not only does it allow you and your characters to make numerous Uranus jokes, but if the editor says that your book stinks, you can say, Of course it stinks, idiot. It's on Uranus.

Samantha becomes famous overnight as news of her arrival spreads like wildfire. See, here's an opportunity already if the book is set on Uranus. You can say wildfires are particularly treacherous on Uranus because of frequent methane gas explosions.

Wait, residents of Uranus are called Uranusians? I think they should be called Roids.

By the way, it's impossible to find any species in the galaxy willing to explore Uranus.

I wonder if comedians in the 23rd century will be doing jokes about space liners. For instance: Flying on the Nebula Dream isn't bad, except for having to spend a six-hour layover on Uranus.

If your name is Sobek and you want to hide your identity, you can come up with a better name than Bek. That's like Thor changing his name to Hor or Uranus changing his name to Anus.

Rapist: Where the hell are we?

Drug dealer: I don't know, but it smells bad, and there are strange noises emanating from that canyon.

Murderer: Isn't it obvious? We've somehow been transported to Uranus.

Belcher's name brought forth a chuckle no matter how often he was introduced, like a joke about Uranus.

Earth. It was the laughingstock of the solar system . . . until scientists discovered revolting noises coming from Uranus.

Of course no one expected it. That's like opening, Chicago plumber Joe "Ball-cock" Jacobi never expected anyone from Illinois to discover a huge fissure in the surface of Uranus.

Not clear what the crisis is that Ruth provokes, nor why the family is in danger. What is clear is that they'd be better off on Uranus. (Hey, you didn't think we were going to get through this whole query without a Uranus crack, did you?)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Face-Lift 1078

Guess the Plot

Door Number 4

1. Carol was the consummate professional. When Monty announced the door number, she was ready with limber arms and a winning smile - until the day he called for Door Number Four. She didn't want to get near Door Number Four. She could hear whispered voices behind the painted cardboard, and she once imagined she heard the word "kill" as she passed by late one night. And didn't that woman in the Peter Pan costume bear a striking resemblance to Monty's ex-wife?

2. Is lore a bore, perhaps a chore? Does it make you snore? Not anymore! This book will soar! For fun galore, open Door Number Four! A whore, a roar, some gore on a distant shore, and more in store!

3. The US government has found a way to power the nation's electrical grid on people's fear. The plan is to torture millions of people and use their resultant fear to run air conditioners and toasters. Only 16-year-old Dot Parker can stop them, but if she does, will her curling iron still work?

4. Janet works for an old law firm. Each night the three partners' offices are open for cleaning but the fourth door on mahogany row is always locked. One night she returns for something forgotten. The cleaning crew has left and the fourth door is open. Suddenly, a man in a cape steps out, grabs her, and sinks his teeth into her neck. No doubt Janet's last living thought was So they really are bloodsuckers.

5. When TV game show host Louden Wallett is found murdered behind Door Number Four, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Somebody didn’t like their deal, and the show’s glamorous model won’t give him the time of day.

6. Gary wants more than anything to attend his daughter's upcoming wedding. Unfortunately, he's dead. But when he's picked to debut on Hell's newest game show, he's given a chance to win a trip back to Earth. If he loses, however, he'll land in Beelzebub's bedroom.

Original Version

Sixteen-year-old Dot Parker has forty-eight hours before the government kills her dad. [Everyone has 48 hours before the government kills Dot's dad. What would be interesting would be to know what Dot plans to do with her 48 hours. For instance, Dot has 48 hours to stop the government from killing her dad. Or Dot has 48 hours till she inherits her dad's munitions factory.]

Her father invented the cube, an electrical system that harvests energy from emotions. Thanks to Dot’s dad, for the last ten years the country has been powered by love. [You stole that idea from Huey Lewis. 

The power of love 
is a curious thing
Make a vacuum suck, 

and alarm clock ring

Or Celine Dion.

We're heading for something
Somewhere I've never been
We're making a daiquiri, and I'm ready to blend
With the power of love ]

But the system is failing, and now the government wants to switch to a more efficient and controllable emotion: fear. A shift that can only be activated with a password.

And the password only exists in Dot’s head.
[It's dparker96.]

Alone, broke, and on the run from the same agents who took her dad, Dot has two days to scramble from her home in Alabama to the government facility in California. [If she's on the run, what was she doing at her home in Alabama? That's the first place the agents would have looked for her.] [Does she have credit cards? A car? I don't think she's gonna make it.] The string of numbers in her brain is the only thing keeping her dad alive, and she has no intention of turning it over. [It's 0112358.] Not until she sees her dad in one piece. And definitely not until she learns how to destroy the cube system. [Wait, the password is 0112358 cubed.]

Because Dot has been behind Door Number Four. [No need for the word "Because."] She’s experienced how the government plans to illicit [elicit] fear, and she has the torture scars to prove it. [This idea of running the electrical system by eliciting fear sounds illicit.] Her dad knows the system, Dot knows the password, and only together can they stop the switch—and the torment of millions of innocent people. [Has anyone suggested running the electrical system on lust? It wouldn't be hard to find millions of volunteers to watch porn eight hours a day.] [If the government kills Dot's dad in 48 hours, doesn't that eliminate any chance of getting what they want from him?] [Torturing millions of people would require a lot more torture chambers than just the one behind door number 4.] [Telling a teenager to memorize a string of numbers that will be known to no one else is a recipe for disaster. Especially a teenage girl, as girls aren't that good at math.] [Ba dum ching!] If the agents catch her first, though, Dot’s going back behind Door Number Four, and this time there will be no escape. [Did they let her escape last time? If not, how can they be sure she won't escape this time? They haven't exactly shown that they know what they're doing.]

[Dad: Remember ten years ago when you were 6 and I invented the cube and I gave you that long string of numbers to memorize in case the day ever came when we needed to prevent the torture of millions?

Dot: No.]

DOOR NUMBER FOUR is a 60,000 word YA Speculative Thriller.


It's hard to imagine Americans putting up with torturing millions of people just so our appliances will work. Unless . . . are we just going to torture prisoners, homeless guys and Europeans?

Presumably nuclear and coal and petroleum and wind and solar power aren't cutting it for various reasons. But I still think we'd go with anger or sorrow or hatred or lust before we'd go with the one that requires torturing millions of people. We're not North Korea. Maybe you should set it in North Korea.

It's a fairly original idea, compared with the many ideas that have been done to death in YA, but maybe you should leave the parts that are hard to swallow out of the query, secure in the knowledge they are totally believable in the book.

Friday, October 12, 2012

New Beginning 974

The world didn't end on Mayan year zero but it tried real hard. The Yellowstone, Long Valley, and Valles calderas in the northern hemisphere, Lake Toba in Sumatra, Taupo in New Zealand, and Aira in Japan blew and activated the Pacific Rim volcanoes. Ashy ejecta blotted out the sun.

We called it the Dark Time and I was ten. Mom and Pop didn't survive the Resource War and plagues that followed. I stayed alive by being a privateer and bushwacker for decades. Recently, I've been guardian of surviving youths. My caves hold a dozen young men. We grow mushrooms, vegetables, berries, and raise rabbits, goats, and sheep.

I walked into the waterfall where we bathed and came behind Angel Wings, my youngest charge who we thought was eighteen years old. The wings tattooed on his back hid the scars and permanent welts. Tonight, they moved up and down with his efforts. These boys need relief and privacy. I didn't breathe as his body stiffened for a silent finish. I tried to back away.

"Please don't. I want to talk about the time before? Will we ever have towns, suburbs, wives, and children?" Angel asked, tears in his eyes.

Maybe not, but we sure still have burgers."

Angel and I turned to see who'd spoken: a squat guy on a unicycle. Slung round his neck was a portable mini-barbecue, the sizzle of its burgers complementing the volcanic boom like a suffocating snake buried under a dump truck.

"Fifty cents for regular, a dollar fifty for jumbo, mustard and ketchup fifteen cents a squirt."

"Sure beats eating sheep," said Angel. "And the fractal patterns swirling in that cooking oil are easier on the eye than any ejecta. Or any ejacula, for that matter."

"One problem," I said. "Since the Resource War, we've had no resources. Like coins."

"I'll take your pants," said the squat guy. "It's a fair exchange in a nightmare world where the only relief from contemplating a fractured and dystopian future comes from raising rabbits in caves with young men."

Angel slipped off his moose hide chaps. "I'm in."

"Me too." I unhitched my customised brassiere thong. "Do we get napkins with these? I'm a messy eater."

The squat guy flipped a burger with his foot long tongue which up till now we had mistaken for a lurid cravatte. "Napkins — why, yeah. And a toy. You want Disney, Britney Spears or a bizarre alien dildo?"

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Whirlochre

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Face-Lift 1077

Guess the Plot

Genesis List

1. A spaceship heads for the stars, carrying a cargo of humans to start a colony on a distant planet. Also, more scientific errors than the minions can be expected to stomach.

2. When Andrea got her first DJ job, she figured it was a chance to play all her favorite Genesis songs to a captive audience. But just when she thought it was going all right, she finds out she's wrong when she thought she was right.

3. After 16-year-old Rosina Casperelli finishes off a kingdom of super-powered beings and battles an ancient evil bent on enslaving her, she'll still have to deal with the most terrifying knowledge of all: her name is on the mysterious . . . Genesis List!

4. When the bodies of four women turn up in different parts of the city, homicide detective Zack Martinez puts it down to football violence. But when a fifth girl is found missing a piece of her scalp, it brings back memories of a chilling serial killer from the beginning of his career. He knows two things: If this is the Genesis killer, then they sent the wrong man to San Quentin; and the Genesis Killer knows where he used to live.

5. Archaeologists discover an ancient parchment, mysteriously untouched by the ravages of time, and race to decipher the mysterious writing. Will the National Science Foundation withdraw their funding when the parchment is declared to be God's to-do list, dropped by the careless deity during the first days of creation?

6. Being on the Genesis List means that Riatta will among the chosen few to survive the apocalypse. But when she discovers that all the females on the list will be imprisoned in "birth chambers" and will bear quintuplets every 10 months for as long as they remain fertile, she leads the other teens in rebellion.

Original Version

Dear EE,

Sixteen-year-old genius Rosina Casperelli has a soft-spot for strays. When she finds a glowing young amnesiac in the alley behind St. Catherine's, she quickly learns that she can't keep him safe from a secret kingdom of super-powered beings called HighBorn by hiding him in her closet. [If the HighBorn couldn't even find him in the alley behind St. Catherine's, I wouldn't worry that they'll find him in her closet.] [Also, if he has amnesia, who told Rosina the HighBorn are looking for him?] [Who is Rosina? A high school student? A superhero? Does she have any chance against a kingdom of super-powered beings?]

Pursued by the terrifying Night Huntsmen, it’s angst and adventure as Zina and her growing circle of friends seek safety on a legendary island and discover that they’re more than just names on the mysterious Genesis List. But are they ready to fight an ancient evil bent on enslaving them all? [Are we still in the same book? Is Zina Rosie's nickname? Are the Night Huntsmen HighBorn? Are the HighBorn the ancient evil bent on enslaving Rosina and her friends? Why does an ancient evil want to enslave Rosina and her friends? Where and what is the Genesis List? What's mysterious about it? What are Rosie and her friends beside just names on the Genesis List? How do they go about finding a legendary island? Once they're safe on the legendary island, how do they go about fighting the ancient evil? Is it just going to walk into their trap, or do they have to leave the island and go looking for it? What happened to the glowing amnesiac?]

Genesis List is a young adult super-heroic fantasy adventure, complete at 95,000 words.

Thank you for your time!


First of all, change the title to The Genesis List.

There's no transition from paragraph 1 to paragraph 2. What does the amnesiac in the alley have to do with the Huntsmen and the ancient evil and the Genesis List?

You're supposed to provide a summary of your story. The second paragraph sounds more like an advertisement.

Start over. Give us a 3-sentence paragraph telling us who Rosina is and what she wants and what book-worthy situation she's gotten herself into.

Then I want a paragraph telling us what she needs to do and what's keeping her from succeeding.

Wrap it up with a paragraph telling us what will happen if she fails and how she plans to overcome her seemingly insurmountable odds.

Be specific. Unless it's really lame, you definitely want to include what the Genesis List is.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Face-Lift 1076

Guess the Plot

Rise of the Fall

1. The fall of America from its position of greatness to second-rate nationhood, as seen through the eyes of those responsible, the CEOs of Goldman Sachs and Lehman Brothers.
2. Casey is supposed to start classes at NYU in the fall, but suicide bombers start targeting New York City. So Casey moves to her beloved grandfather's farm in Wisconsin, but then World War III breaks out. And then her grandfather succumbs to a bioterrorist attack. Casey can't wait for the rise of the winter.

3. Every year, the mighty oak Shlorepterson wages a battle against the changing seasons, fighting valiantly to protect his home and the lives of the other trees. Will this be the year he finally wins?

4. All across the valley, leaves are changing color, air-conditioning bills are dropping to reasonable levels, and people are starting to dress in layers. It just won't do. Can Old Man Summer stop this horrifying trend before pumpkins go on sale at the old general store?

5. Rainfall has increased every month in Morgantown, until the only home that hasn't been destroyed by flooding is Jedidiah Crowley's mansion, at the top of the hill. Crowley has refused to take in any of his now-homeless neighbors. Maybe he'll get his come-uppance if sharks move onto his property.

6. Fall has always been the least respected of the seasons. Known mostly for raking leaves, lame costume parties, and eating dry turkey with relatives you hate. But all that changes when fall agrees to a merger with summer, and its beach vacations. Now Sumfall is the longest and best season of all!

Original Version

Dear Agent,
Seventeen-year-old Casey Willow is an overachieving ex-gymnast [If she's already an ex-gymnast, she sounds more like an underachiever. Or did she retire after winning Olympic gold?] who wants nothing more than to graduate high school and escape to NYU. But life never got that memo. Because suicide bombers have infiltrated America and Manhattan is their prime target. To make matters worse, Casey’s best friend, Michael Shepherd, leaves school to enlist in the navy but not before he professes his everlasting love for her.

But only fools fall in love. And Casey’s no fool. [I'd dump those two sentences. I don't see what they add to the query.]

A brush with death and a happenstance hero, none other than Andrew Tate (the richest, most obnoxious boy in Casey’s senior class), propels Casey on an obstacle course that leads straight to the man responsible for the terrorist attacks. [Is it Donald Trump? Because I doubt anyone will believe that.] To survive, Casey must do the unthinkable─trust Andrew. Casey must be out of her mind to agree to flee New York with him. Even crazier, she convinces her workaholic mother to allow Casey and her genius little sister, Gina, to leave the city with Andrew and her two best girlfriends. [You keep using terms like "unthinkable," "out of her mind," and "crazy" to describe things that don't seem all that unthinkable or crazy. Perhaps you should just tell us what happens and let us judge for ourselves if it's crazy.] They head to the happiest place on earth as far as Casey’s concerned─her grandparents’ farm in Shirebrook, Wisconsin.

Casey soon discovers that leaving the city is not enough to keep her troubles at bay. She can’t shake her growing attraction to Andrew. America enters into World War III [Does World War III really belong on a list of troubles a high school kid can't keep at bay?] [Also, usually there's more of a buildup toward entering a World War. This feels like Casey moves to Wisconsin and thinks, Okay, I'll be safe and happy here, not a worry in the-- WTF?! World War III?!!!] and an economic tailspin that trickles all the way down to Shirebrook. And just when Casey thinks life can’t possibly get any worse, Grandpa Cliff─her favorite person in the world─succumbs to a bioterrorist attack.

Casey must find the faith and courage to save him. [It's too late to save him, he already succumbed. Or is that "succame"?] But can she do that without losing her heart to Andrew in the process? [If you're going to ask that question, you need to make clear the connection between finding the faith and courage to save Gramps and losing her heart to Andrew.] [Also, how is faith/courage useful in saving someone who's been exposed to a deadly virus?]

RISE OF THE FALL is a contemporary YA novel with series potential, complete at 89,000 words. While this is one of my first submissions, I do want to let you know I plan on submitting to other agents in the coming weeks. [I've found that threatening agents rarely has a positive effect. Unless your goal is to get your rejection slip at warp speed.] Thank you for your consideration.



A new title is in order.

If Andrew is the romantic interest, Michael doesn't need to be in the query.

You might want to mention in the opening paragraph that the world is on the verge of WWIII.

Is Casey living in New York City while in high school? I can see parents wanting to get their kids out of the city if they're in harm's way, but telling us she wants to go to NYU doesn't mean she lives in Manhattan. She could live in Montana.

I'm not sure meeting the man behind the bombings needs to be here. The bombs are motive enough for fleeing the city.

If the main plot is what happens after they get to Wisconsin, you could condense all of this setup to:

With the US about to enter WWIII and suicide bombers bringing chaos to Manhattan, Casey Willow leaves high school and moves, with her sister and three of her friends, from NYC to her grandparents' farm in Wisconsin.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Face-Lift 1075

Guess the Plot

The Loving Man’s Home

1. Photographer Mackenzie McWallis gained unprecedented access to the home of Evil Editor and compiled this coffee table book of full-color photographs. Includes vivid macro close-ups of the most interesting stains.

2. The bank has just informed Ernie Wilson, Cookietree's most famous ladies man, he's about to lose his bachelor pad. That home equity loan he took out to pay for a lifetime supply of Viagra was probably a mistake. Could this be the end of . . . The Loving Man's Home?

3. Marie's grandmother, with whom she lives, doesn't like the fact that Marie spends her weekends in the home of an accused pedophile. But hey, sometimes children have to learn the hard way.

4. A patriarch's guide to taking over the headship of your family. Includes instructions for getting your wife to obey, homeschooling, filling your quiver, and how to talk to those pesky folks from Child Protective Services.

5. The first how-to guide for househusbands doesn't really contain any new information, but it's written in a very manly style, with lots of football references.

6. Henry's psychologist has diagnosed him with objectum sexuality. Henry thinks the man is blowing things way out of proportion. His house isn't an object, and Henry can feel that it loves him back. And a magnificent Victorian two-level? Who wouldn't love that?

Original Version

“The Loving Man’s Home”

Marie Miller is simply your typical young girl of the 1970s, an avid basketball player who is just looking for a new, fresh start with her mother and grandparents after her father’s death. After moving from West Chester, Pennsylvania to Phoenixville, Pennsylvania soon after the funeral, she finds life even more distressing than it must be for girls her age. [What is her age?] She has a boyfriend who she’d known for quite some time through participating in the Chester County Science Team, and she has befriended the man from up the street, Mr. Morgan Lieberman. An accused pedophile and obviously hostile elderly man, Marie finds grace and peace through befriending the wealthy retired doctor, with whom she finds it best at her duty to help this crippled old gentlemen in his household chores during her weekends. [There's so much wrong with that sentence I don't know where to begin. But why begin at all when it's quickly becoming clear that I'll be advising you to start the whole query over from scratch?] She knows her friends find it a little wacky and her grandmother stubbornly believes that all of the pedophile rumors are true, but she still makes it a requirement for herself to help this poor old man, that she somehow feels sorry for in her heart.

But what Marie doesn’t know is the history of Morgan Lieberman—the tragedy in his life from thirty years before that kept him isolated from the world and expunged his faith in God. Marie doesn’t know of the conversations between him and his wife that go on in his house when he is alone there at night—with a wife who is long gone, who killed herself with five sharp stabs to the waist of her body in May of 1949 [You gotta admire the persistence of anyone who's been stabbed four times and still manages to go for a fifth.] due to her depression over the fact that she could not bear her husband a child. Marie doesn’t know any of this—
[Yes, you've said that already.] and while her mother and grandparents do, [How can her mother and grandparents know about conversations that go on in his house when he is alone there?] she is untold and begins having dreams. Dreams of a young handsome man living up the street from her who is married to a lovely young woman, and then the woman turns to blood before Marie’s dreaming eyes. Marie finds herself being lured into Mr. Lieberman’s backyard and she hears pounds from below the ground—she believes she hears voices calling her from beneath the frigid surface of the ground in his backyard—human voices, human fists pounding for help. [Are we still in the dream?] She is confused, and while she becomes more craven and hesitant towards taking any steps towards the house at all over time, she finds herself putting the pieces together about what is exactly going on in the Lieberman household—and on the property itself. When her friends start disappearing, she seems to be lured to Morgan Lieberman’s house right away—she knows he wasn’t guilty of anything anyone in the neighborhood accused him of being guilty of—but she knows the man is murdering her friends [She knows the guy is murdering her friends, so she goes over there right away? For what? To tell him he has to stop or she'll rat him out to the cops?] —it’s only been children that have been disappearing, anyways. Does Marie know that this man is actually guilty [You just said she knows he is murdering her friends.] and has killed multiple numbers of teenagers, or is there something strange going on behind the scenes…something…out of “love”?


This reads like a really wordy voice-over for a horror movie trailer. It's not a query letter, as it doesn't include the genre or word count. It's too long to be the plot summary in a query letter. A synopsis would take us through the story, while this basically sets up Marie's situation. Whatever it is, it won't convince the reader that she should request the book.

If the guy isn't a pedophile but is being unjustly treated like a pariah, he probably deserves our sympathy, but no way is Marie going to be allowed to go in his house unsupervised just because she doesn't think he's a danger.

Apparently Lieberman isn't a pedophile or murderer. He's just locking all the neighborhood children in the dungeon beneath his property. What a relief.

The first thing to do is work on your writing skills, as I can tell from your word choice and repetition and awkward sentences that your book isn't ready for publication. Then you need to write a query letter, of which there are more than a thousand samples on this blog. The query should include Marie's situation, but in just two or three sentences. Something like:

After moving to Phoenixville with her mother and grandparents, 14-year-old Marie Miller befriends Morgan Lieberman, an elderly neighbor who's rumored to be a pedophile. Marie is sure Lieberman is innocent, and spends weekends helping him with his chores--until she discovers the old man has been murdering her friends and locking neighborhood children in his underground torture chamber.

Now you have plenty of room to tell us what Marie plans to do about the situation, and what goes wrong with her plan and what will happen if she can't fix things. 

All without filling up more than one page.

I recommend not mentioning that Marie's mother and grandparents know she's spending her free time in Lieberman's house.

Also, don't include the dreams. Focus on Marie's situation and what she does.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Face-Lift 1074 (and post # 6000)

Guess the Plot

The Apocalypse Arcade

1. After a catastrophe, Rick Henderson, his son Jimmy, and their faithful Pit Bull Bosco load their supplies into a shopping basket and set off in search of a new Walmart.

2. When Jez decides to put his last quarter in the dusty looking game in the corner, little does he realize that not only is it his last quarter, it's everyone's last quarter...

3. Robbie and his friends find a cool new gaming arcade at the mall. It's called The Apocalypse and the games are totally awesome – the kids get to be bombers, arsonists and murderers. But when the events in the games start happening all over town, can Robbie and his big sister Raven figure out how to stop it?

4. Elvis Zimmerman is skipping school, hanging out at the mall, bored but hey, it beats being in school. He drops a few quarters into the new game machine and finds himself faced with a choice between "Natural Disasters", "Meteor Impact", "Zombie Plague" and "Global Thermonuclear War." He picks choice 3 and pushes the 'Start' button. Outside in the Food Court, the screaming starts.

5. As an alien race is making good on its threat to destroy humanity, the run-down video arcade on Main Street unexpectedly reopens. Coincidence? Halley Maxwell doesn't know, but she must find out before the aliens take over Earth and she has to go live on the moon.

6. When Jenna discovers that everyone on Earth is a character in a video game called Sim-Planet, being played by a teenaged entity light years away, she tries to warn us that we must keep doing interesting stuff or the entity will grow bored and shut us down. But most of us decide to drop everything and just worship the entity.

7. Trevor doesn't know what he'll do all day in an arcade that's so old it only has pinball machines. The graphics are wild, though, especially on the game called "The Four Horsemen," so he tries it. In retrospect, "The Whore of Babylon" might have been a better choice.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

It’s the end of the world as we know it – but seventeen-year-old Halley Maxwell feels anything but fine. An alien species is making good on its decades-old threat to destroy humanity, and what’s worse, the apocalypse is scheduled to happen on Halley’s eighteenth birthday. [It's comforting to know that when aliens come to destroy humanity, they'll be benevolent enough to provide us with a schedule of events.] All Halley wants is to graduate high school, move away from her middle-of-nowhere town, and begin her real life alongside Ham, her best friend, roommate, and partner-in-cynicism. Unfortunately, the aliens failed to take Halley’s plans into account when they formulated their own itinerary for annihilating the human race. [I think the opening works better if you start with sentence 3.]

Then ["Then" isn't a good word to use unless you've told us something that just happened. So far you've just provided the situation.] Halley meets Andrew Stanton, a sixty-something British scientist, who’s more accomplished at punning and inventing crazy stories than even Halley herself. Halley can’t figure out why Andrew is wasting his time in August, Texas… until he offers her a slot among twenty thousand other people selected to colonize the moon and escape the apocalypse. Why is Andrew giving Halley this opportunity, when so many other people deserve it more? Why is everyone, from Halley’s estranged father to the ditziest girl in the history of high school, trying to stop her from going? And what’s the significance of the sudden reopening of the run-down video arcade on Main Street? [Lists of questions quickly become boring. Drop the first question.] Halley must answer these questions before the shuttle leaves for the moon or the aliens take over Earth, whichever comes first. [Not clear why she must answer these questions. Or why, if she needs the answers, she doesn't just ask Andrew and her father and the ditzy girl and the arcade manager.]

THE APOCALYPSE ARCADE is a 96,000-word YA alternate history novel. It is set in a near future Space Age that branched off from our reality in 1986, when the Challenger mission, instead of ending in disaster, made contact with an alien species.

[Astronauts: What the!? Uh, greetings. Welcome to our solar system.

Aliens: Thanks. We're here to destroy humanity. But we're not barbarians; we'll give you a couple decades to get your affairs in order.]

This manuscript functions as a stand-alone novel but is planned as the first book of a trilogy. I look forward to hearing from you.



I'm intrigued by the fact that the reopening of the video arcade is significant.

Getting twenty thousand people off of Earth is going to require a lot of lift-offs. For them and the food and water etc. they'll need on the moon. How much time do they have? Also, are they aware that when you're on the moon you can't breathe?

If the goal of the aliens is to destroy humanity, and they've made it to Earth, are we really safe on the moon?

Is there a reason the Challenger crew makes first contact, as opposed to the crew of a space mission in 2025?

You can do without "alongside Ham, her best friend, roommate, and partner-in-cynicism." Ham isn't mentioned in the plot (Is Ham among the everyone trying to stop Hallie from going to the moon?), and the phrase just makes me wonder why a high school student has a roommate and whether Ham is a male or female.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Face-Lift 1073

Guess the Plot

School of Secrets

1. At a new private high school, the art teacher lectures about counterfeiting and the science teacher lectures about blowing up bank vaults. 13-year-old CJ and his classmate Ian discover that their new school is actually an educational experiment to identify and train future government agents. And suddenly school doesn't suck.

2. The curriculum? Unknown. The teachers? Masked and hooded. Yet somehow Dwayne's parents think it's the perfect boarding school for their son. Dwayne disagrees...until he finds that he's being trained to be a ninja/spy at the . . .  School of Secrets.

3. 1664. It's been nearly two years since Moliere's subversive "School for Wives" premiered. Alain Montremart longs for that kind of Royal patronage. What better way to get Royal attention than to write a play about King Louis XIV's gay brother, and then threaten to produce it if the money isn't forthcoming?

4. In Jack's new school, teachers take attendance and just watch the students. Other students whisper but won't talk to Jack. He takes a test and gets a zero. The teacher won't tell him the answers or explain the questions. So Jack blows up the school.

5. Belinda Little, Seattle nature photographer, becomes alarmed as she witnesses strange mass gatherings of animals -- troops of apes in the treetops, pounces of prowling cats, murders of crows in downtown parks. While scuba diving in Puget Sound she discovers a shiver of sharks guarding an underwater laboratory, and swims straight into a deadly . . . School of Secrets.

6. 17-year-old Natanyu is one of the 100 chosen scholars who must memorize the list of thousands upon thousands of Secrets of Suppuppa. Most of the Secrets are just silly gossip about people long dead. But there's one secret in the list that somebody will kill to preserve. And the fate of the Kingdom of Suppuppa could hang in the balance.

7. Ever had that dream where you find yourself in class and everything seems normal until you realize you're totally naked? Charlie has no idea what his teacher's name is or even what subject he's supposed to be learning. Not only does he not have the answers to the pop quiz, he doesn't even know what the questions are. And nobody will tell him a goddamned thing.

8. Mr. Seng, the principal, is a Cambodian war criminal. Ms. Frost, the guidance counselor, was a hooker/drug kingpin for 32 years. The kids know all this, of course, and don't care. But is there a plot afoot to rig the election for homecoming queen?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nerdy thirteen-year-old CJ will do anything to get out of PE – including taking the entrance exam for the Holmes Academy, a new private high school opening in his area. Smart as he is, CJ is surprised to be offered a full scholarship to the elite school, where he won’t be the only brainiac in his class. The first day CJ is shocked to discover that the only kid he knows at Holmes is Ian Childers, a class trouble-maker that CJ avoids at all costs. But only weeks after the Holmes Academy opens, Secret Service agents with ear pieces and black suits start hanging around and a student disappears.  [Delete the word "But"; it suggests that this sentence is somehow related to the previous one. Then start a new paragraph with "Only."] Why do only CJ and Ian seem to notice? [You don't need that sentence. It suggests that everyone except them is in on it.] Putting aside their differences to investigate, they combine Ian’s computer skills with CJ’s determination to find the truth. When CJ learns that Ian hacked his way into the school by altering the entrance exam results, their new trust is threatened. Then, a sudden glimpse into Ian’s life convinces CJ that breaking the rules to get a spot at Holmes was justified, just this once. [This is a subplot we can do without in the query.]

Together CJ and Ian investigate their classmate’s disappearance [Yes, that was stated in the previous paragraph.] and accidentally uncover two secrets. First, their missing classmate has joined the Witness Protection Program, and her new identity is about to be sold to the criminals who want her dead. [If they are purposefully investigating their classmate's disappearance, I don't see how you can call uncovering this secret accidental. It's like saying I was trying to bake a chocolate cake and I accidentally ended up with . . . a chocolate cake. Uncovering information is the whole point of investigating.] [Also, don't they wait until after the witness testifies against the criminals to give her a new identity and send her to Arkansas?] Second, there is a secret about the Academy that no student is supposed to learn – that it’s actually an educational experiment to identify and train future government agents. No wonder the art teacher is so interested in counterfeiting and the science teacher can lecture for hours about blowing up bank vaults! [It sounds more like an educational experiment to train future criminals.] But just as the truth about the missing student starts spilling out, Ian’s older brother accidentally triggers a fight with a dangerous drug dealer. Now CJ and Ian must avoid the drug dealer while hacking into the FBI server to find their missing classmate’s new Witness Protection Program identity and warn her. Risking their own lives, [Spoiler alert.] the boys save their classmate and Ian’s brother, all while protecting the secret of the Holmes Academy.

I am seeking representation for School of Secrets, a novel for middle graders. Complete at 40,000 words, the story explores unlikely friendships as two boys break free from their past reputations.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


I'd focus on the missing classmate and leave Ian's brother and the drug dealer out of the query.

When you discover that someone has been placed in witness protection, is it a good idea to keep digging for more information?

The identity and location of the classmate is supposedly not easy to learn. Yet one of the few people trusted with the information is selling it? And the evidence that he/she is selling it is sitting somewhere for CJ to discover it? Are they selling it on Craigslist?

Should we assume the girl's entire family is in witness protection? Surely they wouldn't ship one thirteen-year-old girl off to Idaho to make a new life for herself.

It's too long, but once we get rid of the subplots it should be about right.

Did you consider a main plot in which the students discover they're being trained for a specific mission? Possibly a mission in which they're being used for nefarious purposes and they turn the tables on their teachers/trainers? Or a plot in which a student goes missing after the students have been through a lot of training, and they use their skills for the rescue? It seems a 13-year-old with no training would be in over his head.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

New Beginning 973

Norma shuffled down the steps onto the tarmac, throat twitching at the plane fumes. Heat waves shimmered ahead, and the iridescent blue sky dwarfed everything on the flat landscape.
She unbuttoned her jacket and fished for her sunglasses. A pair of girls pushed past her, a rucksack bumping her elbow. Her sunglasses cluttered to the ground, but they continued in their stride without a backwards glance. Surely they hadn’t boarded the plane on that freezing morning wearing those shorts and sandals? No, they were probably organized enough to have changed on board.
Brian's gaze followed their tanned legs. Norma slid her sunglasses on, and frowned. It was probably not their foresight he was admiring.
"Pull your tongue back in, dearest, people might trip," she sneered.
Brian ignored her.
Norma mopped her forehead and marched towards the terminal. Overdressed, overweight and already over this damn trip. 

"Are these your bags, ma'am?"

Norma turned to the attendant who had spoken, in the process catching her foot on the edge of Brian's wayward tongue and nearly falling face-first.

"For God's sake, Brian, I said pull it back in!"


The attendant finished counting and held out a hand. "Twenty-four bags at fifty dollars each comes to twelve hundred dollars, ma'am."

"I paid the bag fee when we checked in in Chicago!"

"Sorry, ma'am, that was the transport fee; this is the reacquisition fee."

Fuming, Norma pulled out her checkbook, knowing she didn't have enough in her account to cover this. Overpacked, overdrawn, and already over any attraction she used to feel for Brian and his absurdly long tongue.

Opening: anon......Continuation: JRMosher