Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Success Story

You may recall that the author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses (Face-Lift 1153) sought our help in creating copy to accompany an e-pub version of her previously published tale. It's now up at Amazon.com. The author writes: I finally got this up. Thanks to everybody for your work on the description and contents!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Synopsis 39

Fourteen-year-old Cordenqua becomes an orphan when he accidentally kills his father during battle. [Suddenly the one flaw in the decision to battle at night becomes clear.] Consumed with grief and guilt, he declines the sacred ceremony of manhood, earning the condemnation of the villagers.

Shamed, hated, and alone, Cordenqua runs to Eloq’s Temple, aware the God will strike with lightning any but the Called who enter. Killer of Father, traitor of faith and tribesman, he leaps through the archway.

Nothing happens.

Certain he has been Called, Cordenqua intends to tell the Elkek, the village Holy Man, of his Calling. However, as he remembers the Elkek’s insistence that only a Holy Man can be Called, he decides to keep his Calling secret. [I note that the Elkek hasn't leapt through the archway.]

Though the tribesman hate Cordenqua, the Elkek shows compassion and adopts him as his son, filling the void that his father’s death left. Cordenqua becomes bonded to a new companion and adopted brother—the Elkek’s son Rhatanqua.

Cordenqua attempts to convince Rhatanqua he is Called by leaping into the temple unharmed. While trying to stop him, Rhatanqua trips through the archway. Eloq strikes with deadly lightning, killing Cordenqua’s adopted brother.

Cordenqua drags his lifeless companion’s body back to the village—the second death he has caused. Consumed with anger, the Elkek attempt [attempts] to kill him, and Cordenqua flees the village, having lost all those he’s ever loved.

Before he leaves, Cordenqua takes the Holy Writ, the sacred text of his religion and discovers a hidden prophecy that suggests that Cordenqua will save his people by destroying their false religion. Cordenqua refuses to accept the prophecy, choosing instead to believe that his Father’s spirit flies among eagles.

After finding shelter in a cave, he discovers a glowing box (computer monitor) that spies on both his tribe and the enemy’s. Seeing the glowing box, he recalls the words of the prophecy that foretells such an encounter, yet still he rejects its validity. [It was foretold that I would encounter an impossible glowing box that spies on my tribe, and so I have, but it could have been just a lucky guess.]

Upon the mountain’s top, overlooking the land below, he sees the enemy tribe preparing to attack his village. Though they hated him, he warns the villagers. He plunges into battle, hoping for death. [If you're really hoping for death, I recommend plunging into battle without your sword and shield.] Before the fight ends, the dead bodies of his enemies litter the ground and the village welcomes him back, naming him the village hero.

He finds the warmth of acceptance addicting and rejects his destiny, ignores the prophecy, and lives among his people. However, the Elkek maintains his hatred for Cordenqua, and his hatred intensifies when Cordenqua falls in love with his niece, Ariane. After a long battle with his hormones, he rejects her, hoping his abstinence will win back the love and acceptance of the Elkek. [If you want to win a guy's love and acceptance, rejecting his beloved niece is a good start.]

Ariane marries another, and Cordenqua chooses again to live in isolation, too heartbroken to be near her. In a fit of jealousy, her husband attempts to kill her, but Cordenqua kills him instead, leaving Ariane widowed with a child. [He's in isolation, too heartbroken to be near her, but he happens to be on the scene when her husband tries to kill her?] [Also, that kid appeared awfully fast. Maybe sticking "Nine months later" in there somewhere would help.]

Having saved the life of his niece, the Elkek finally forgives Cordenqua and consents to their marriage.  [This says that the Elkek saved his niece, which isn't what you mean. (Whether it also says that the Elkek is going to marry Cordenqua depends on the times they live in.) If you want to say this in one sentence: Having saved Ariane's life, Cordenqua is forgiven by the Elkek, who even helps plan the Cordenqua/Ariane wedding.]

Cordenqua speaks to Ariane of his secret doubts and she makes connections he had missed, proving the religion is fabricated [The line "Once we convince them to worship us, they'll do any ridiculous thing we want" was the giveaway.] and the rituals of their faith serve no other purpose than to keep them in perpetual war with their enemy. [It's perpetual only if no one ever wins. Is there some reason neither side can win the war?]

His father’s death was meaningless, as were the deaths of many others. [His father's death was meaningless whether the religion is legit or not, as it was an accident.]

Enraged, he runs to the temple, intending to kill the enemy that hides within its walls, but not before the village learns of his intentions. Half the villagers, led by the Elkek, hunt him, [This Elkek flip-flops more often than a politician.] while the other half attempt to save the village hero.

Before any can stop him, he leaps through the archway. When they see he’s unharmed, some hail him as a god, while others seethe with hatred. As he prepares to enter the temple’s doors, the neighboring tribe crest a hill adorned with battle armor. [I suppose we can infer it's not the hill that's adorned with battle armor, but if the neighboring tribe, adorned with battle armor, crest a nearby hill, you'll escape the grammar nitpickers.]

He fights desperately to protect his wife and adopted child, but an enemy breaks their line of defense and stabs her [the wife or the child?] in the back. [He's fighting desperately to protect his wife and child, yet the single enemy soldier who breaks the line of defense manages to get within stabbing distance?] Dying, she commands [Implores?] Cordenqua to take care of her child. He circumvents the deadly barriers to the temple and enters, convinced that their enemy has magical powers that can heal Ariane. When he enters, he finds dozens of corpses and a message on their computer monitors—Project Eloq—Training and Selecting the Nation’s Warriors. Program Terminated. [Is this a novel or a Twilight Zone episode? The Holy Writ is . . . a cookbook!!!] 

Ariane dies, [What?! You're killing off the only likable character? This is worse than the third Hunger Games book, though I'll probably still watch the movie just because I believe Jennifer Lawrence is my destined soulmate.] leaving him alone with his adopted child.


Did the tribes have any religion before Project Eloq began? If so, is the Holy Writ the sacred text of the tribe's original religion? If so, is there also a sacred text of the false religion? If not, why have the tribe chosen to follow the new religion?

So are the corpses the people who were monitoring the project? If so, were they killed by the God? If so, why did he wait so long to kill them, allowing all these meaningless deaths?

The techno-superior race secretly monitoring a more primitive civilization is the plot of a dozen Star Treks, but the training-of-warriors aspect may add a different twist. Which nation's warriors are being trained in this project? If it's the techno-superior nation's, I don't buy that they would need great warriors from tribal villages. Unless they're selecting gladiators to fight for their entertainment? Even if that's the plan, you haven't said that the best warriors are suddenly disappearing.

Q & A

This is me wondering how to respond 
to an email.
"This is me reading a query from a complete imbecile", reads the caption under one of the pictures in Hannah Roger's Photo gallery.

Interestingly she never gave her email address!! What sort of a person, who is looking for query from writer, would do that?

In the absence of her email I am writing here because you endorse her.

The link to Ms. Rogers's website in my sidebar is not an endorsement, but merely provides me with a quick way to check out her cute hairstyle.

However, I think I can safely say that if an agent makes it impossible to contact her, perhaps she's not the agent for you.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Giovanni and the Magi

1. Time traveler Giovanni intercepts the Magi outside of Bethlehem and replaces the frankincense with sensimilla, dooming Jesus to be forever pictured as a long-haired hippie.

2. While following yonder star, the three wise men find themselves in Rome. Lost and confused, they must depend on Giovanni, the senile mapmaker, to get them back on their path to destiny.

3. A letter to God? A joke, thinks post office paper pusher Giovanni Galli. But opening the envelope plunges him into the mystery of post office box 666.

4. At Christmas, Mandi and Daniel each make great sacrifices in hopes of providing the other with happiness. Will their sacrifices tragically render their gifts useless? Or will Giovanni the Robot MAGIcally save the day with his Deus ex Machina appearance?

5. The true story of what happened that fateful night when three rich, swarthy travelers asked for directions to the stable, but could not speak Italian.

6. Italian chemist Giovanni Brutto's latest elixir transports him back to the time of the Slaughter of the Innocents. Should he save his Savior? Or will that mean the end of Christianity?

Original Version

Dear Evil Sir,

Giovanni and The Magi is a 126,000 word manuscript about life, love, and a robot. Despite the bit about the robot, it still falls into the genre of general fiction. [On the other hand, because of the bit about the robot, it already sounds more interesting than most general fiction.]

Daniel West's life isn't perfect, but it is uncomplicated. He hates Los Angeles, and he hates the little research company he was given as a booby prize after he finally got kicked out of college for the last time. Still, life is simple, and at least LA is hundreds of miles from New York, [At least.] where his domineering father keeps an iron grip on the family business,West Corporation International. [Boring.] Business is in his blood, so Daniel settles down in LA and does the simple things he knows how to do to revitalize his little research company. He even meets a nice woman. [Yawn.]

Mandi has a few secrets, but all Daniel sees is a brilliant and beautiful woman who chose to be a partner in a home improvement business rather than hide in the ivory tower of academia. [Snore.] He thinks her obsession with robots [Robots!! Did you say robots? Suddenly I'm wide awake.] is just an adorable quirk, and that her fondness for whips and chains [Bingo! Isn't there some way to get the whips and chains up front?] is an exhilarating change of pace.

[Oh, Mandi . . .
Well you chained me and whipped me with feeling,
Till my buttocks were bleeding, oh Mandi . . . ]

She has a lot of strange friends, including the reclusive Giovanni who Daniel has never met. Daniel himself doesn't really have any friends, so he tries not to be judgmental.

Then one day Mandi witnesses a minor act of his father's brutality [Also involving whips and chains, but not handled with the same tenderness Mandi uses.] and Daniel is forced to begin dealing with what a complicated mess his life really is:

His family has a secret: Neither he nor his father has come to terms with his mother's suicide, and it seems neither can begin to find a resolution without the other. Unfortunately, both men struggle to protect their weaknesses and the fallout hurts everyone around them, especially each other. [They're 3000 miles apart.] [Daniel has no friends, so whom is the fallout hurting?] Arthur West, Daniel's father, takes drastic measures, including blackmail and kidnapping, [Who does he kidnap? Mandi? Does she get free when her laser-firing robot rescues her?] to protect Daniel from a woman he believes will leave his son with the same wounds he himself bears after his wife's suicide. [He thinks Mandi will commit suicide? Or he thinks she'll leave Daniel, and this would be just as painful as if she'd committed suicide?] [How can he have such strong opinions about Mandi when he lives in NY and she lives in CA?] Even while resisting his father's attempts to break them up, Daniel does a good job of screwing up his relationship with Mandi all on his own by sleeping with an ex-lover. [He moves to California where he has no friends, but ex-lovers he's got?] [Not so "ex," actually.] His simple life in pieces all around him, Daniel takes refuge in a bottle of codeine and a bottle of scotch and wakes up in the hospital where he is forced to realize he has to stop hiding from his own life.

As he begins to reconcile with Mandi and confront his father about the past, Daniel learns some astonishing secrets about his parents' relationship [They were Siamese twins who had a Vaudeville comedy act known as Pimp and Hooker.] and finds out that Mandi is a lot more than she appears to be, [Amazing what vertical stripes can do for your figure.] and that Giovanni is a very unique and useful kind of friend.

Reconciled, both Mandi and Daniel realize that their secrets keep them lonely, and come the Christmas season both make great sacrifices to free themselves from the past and bring happiness to each other. [Daniel sells his research company for the money to buy Mandi the part she needs to give her favorite robot human emotions, only to discover that Mandi sold her favorite robot to buy Daniel a gag plaque to hang on his office wall that reads, "Don't ask me; I only own the place."] Fortunately, Giovanni redeems their sacrifices with some literal Deus ex Machina. Daniel and his father begin the long process of coping with his mother's death, and in the end. . .well, it's complicated, but that's life.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I can be contacted via e-mail or phone [cut because the Evil Editor doesn't need to know my phone number], [Nobody needs or wants to know your phone number, except telemarketers.] and have included a SASE if you prefer to reply via post.


Revised Version

Dear Evil Sir,

Daniel West hates Los Angeles, but at least it's thousands of miles from New York, where his domineering father keeps an iron grip on the family business. When he meets Mandi, a woman with mysterious secrets, all Daniel sees is a brilliant and beautiful woman--albeit one who's obsessed with robots, who's into whips and chains, and who has a lot of very strange friends.

Neither Daniel nor his father has come to terms with Daniel's mother's suicide. Daniel's father worries that Mandi will leave his son with the same wounds he himself bears after his wife's death. He takes drastic measures to drive a wedge between Daniel and Mandi, including blackmail and kidnapping.

His simple life in pieces, Daniel takes refuge in a bottle of codeine and a bottle of scotch and wakes up in the hospital, where he decides he must stop hiding from his own life. He reconciles with Mandi; together they realize that their secrets have kept them lonely. Come the Christmas season, both make great sacrifices to finally free themselves from the past and bring happiness to each other.

Giovanni and The Magi is a 126,000 word manuscript about life, love, and a robot. Thank you for giving it your consideration. I can be contacted via e-mail, and have included a SASE if you prefer to reply via post.



It's not clear how big a role Giovanni plays in the book, but his role in the query was minimal, and I found it easier to eliminate him than to have him pop in at the end to solve a problem, when it isn't clear what the problem is to begin with. Whether you need Giovanni in the query I can't say, but if so, you haven't shown why. Presumably he's the robot? Perhaps you need to spell out why his intervention is needed at the end. It sounded like we were close to Happily Ever After without him.

Selected Comments

bonniers said...Without seeing the entire story it's hard to say, but you might want to reconsider the ending. That "Gift of the Magi" ripoff feels artificially grafted onto a rather interesting story of modern life and conflict. The story seems like it might want to end in either hard-earned satisfaction or violence and discord, but not delicate irony.

Just a thought, and possibly way off target.

Bernita said...Like Bonniers, didn't care for what looked like a Gift of the Magi rip-off.

Novelust said...You might reconsider the title. 'Life, Love, and a Robot' sounds awesome... granted, it doesn't seem quite like the book you're selling, unless Mandi turns out to be the robot - and is this set in a gritty, Bladerunner-type future? (Please?)

Catherine said...Dear Author, EE boiled your plot down into a logical sequence. Given that everyone here has a penchant for name changing, I'd like to recommend you name the book The Robot and The Magi, assuming Giovanni is the robot.

Also, this seems like more of a romance to me, and if the whips and chains are employed in a sex act this is Romantica. But what do I know.

JerseyGirl said...I liked EE's take on the query: interesting and to the point. And I agree with him that it doesn't seem as if Giovanni (whom I also took to be the robot) has much to do with the plot - although without reading the story, there's no way to know for sure.

I also agree that if Giovanni doesn't have that much to do with the plot, maybe you should rename your story. (It's tough to come up with a good one, isn't it? I know it's been for my current WIP, which I have a feeling I'll have to rename yet again. Sigh.)

Anyway, it does sound like an interesting story. Good luck with it.

Anonymous said...It sounds like an unsatisfying ending, O Henry homage or not. I suggest blowing up a helicopter.

Jean said...Thanks EE...I'll never think of "Mandi" the same...ever!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Spirits of the Unknown

1. Ludlow hears voices in the surf. Wally thinks Ludlow ate too many pufferfish, but Ludlow is pretty sure the Spirits are speaking to him. Who are they, and what do they want? If only they spoke English! It all sounds like some kind of repetitive alien hissing/roaring noise.

2. When nature enthusiast Melvin Wilcox inherits his father’s vineyard, he decides the produce will be used for a new eco-friendly wine beverage. Unfortunately the concoction has a slow-acting but devastating side effect: it wipes out the drinker’s long-term memory. Can Melvin remedy the formula before he forgets he owns a vineyard?

3. Balah is a psychic, able to peer into the world beyond the Veil. When strange, amorphous blobs called Riphons begin to call to her, she wonders: is she losing her mind, or reaching the lost souls of another world?

4. When hopeless alcoholic Johnny Beam drunkenly swore to sell his soul for a whiskey, he had no idea his offer would be accepted. Now he’s doomed to a fiery – and thirsty – afterlife, unless he can win an unholy contest of the palate, by correctly identifying the . . . Spirits of the Unknown.

5. Ghosts haunt a spaceship on its way to planet Earth. This has nothing to do with the plot, but everything to do with the title. The plot is set in another solar system, where a brutal civil war has devastated a planet and everyone is a suspect.

6. Sparkle Starshine's investigation shows the house is full of haunting spirits, but spirits of what??? Tiny feet seem to run up and down the walls and in the ceiling. By night they make crunchy chewing noises, gnaw holes in the upholstery, and leave toothmarks on the furniture. Could they be the spirits of wererodents? Is it time to call upon the Ghost Cat?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Tilvanau has survived a murder plot which has claimed the lives of every member in his family. [Not quite. The plot didn't claim Tilvanau's life.] He doesn't know who to trust and grief may be clouding his judgment.

In an attempt to escape, his brother has [Apparently the plot didn't claim Tilvanau's brother's life either.] taken his family, [Didn't claim the lives of Tilvanau's nieces, nephews, or sister-in-law. We're running out of family members to assume were killed. Who, if anyone, is dead?] setting a course for earth [If we're not on Earth, I wanna know that up front. A conversation like:

"There's a murderer on the loose! We gotta get outta here!"

"But where will we go?"

"How about Earth?"

. . . is a bit jarring if you weren't aware that the speakers were on the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV.]
with the murderer hidden inside the ship. The ghosts of his family now haunt the ship [The ghosts of the brother's family? Were they ghosts when they boarded the ship or did the murderer kill them on board?] trying to disclose the killer to earthlings that don't understand their language and Tilvanau who doesn't believe in ghosts. [Are these earthlings on the ship or has the ship already reached Earth?] [Is/was Tilvanau on the ship?]

Meanwhile Tilvanau must face a brutal civil war which devastates his planet, [Where the hell is Tilvanau?! If he's still on his planet, facing a brutal civil war, how are the ghosts on the ship trying to reveal the murderer's identity to him?] and although the woman he loves can help him, she is found to have the greatest motive and opportunity. [I assumed Tilvanau's wife was among the family members who were murdered. So who's this woman he loves?] [Also, motive and opportunity to do what?]

Tilvanau finds himself fighting a war he can't seem to win. [You're talking about the brutal civil war? A guy fighting in a brutal war doesn't think thoughts like, I can't seem to win this war. He thinks thoughts like I hope I don't die today.] He must find the murderer before the murderer finds him. [The murderer was hiding on the ship that Tilvanau's brother took to Earth (see paragraph 2). So how can Tilvanau find the murderer or vice versa?] Everyone is a suspect having motive and opportunity, [Everyone? How can everyone have the opportunity to do whatever you're talking about? Everyone had a motive to kill Hitler, but the number who had the opportunity was billions smaller.] but they all fear he [Who is "they" and who is "he?"] has betrayed them by killing his own family to gain control over the planet. [How would killing his family give anyone control over a planet?]

SPIRITS OF THE UNKNOWN is a science fiction complete at 95,250 words

Thank you for your time.


Scrap the whole thing. Start by telling us who Tilvanau is. Like, is he the leader of the biggest country on the prison planet, Lycus IV? Then tell us what he wants, who's standing in his way, and what Tilvanau plans to do about it.

If you can't organize your information and express it clearly in the query, the reader will assume your book is also a mess. Let's hope it isn't.

If the spirits in the title are the ghosts of Tilvanau's or his brother's family, why are they "spirits of the unknown"? Aren't they spirits of the known?

Let's assume the motive/opportunity phrase applies to the murder of Tilvanau's family. If the woman Tilvanau loves was found (by whomever) to have the greatest motive and opportunity, why does everyone think Tilvanau did it?

Selected Comments

alaskaravenclaw said...Writer, as you've set the story up right now, it's a murder mystery, set (I think?) on a spaceship.

If that's not the plot, if something more science fiction-y is the plot (classically: How would we react to situation X, created by some scientific cause or other? How would it change us, society, or whatever?) then you need to focus your query on that.

arhooley said...When you start over, mind your grammar. "He doesn't know who to trust" should be "He doesn't know whoM to trust."

Anonymous said...Uh, I don't think so. No, it is you whom is wrong...

arhooley said...Anonymous, is it the capital M you object to? It's merely there for emphasis. Behold these constructions:

Trust her
Trust him
Trust them
Trust whom

and above all

Trust me

Evil Editor said...You left out

he trusts
she trusts
they trust
who trusts

I recommend: He trusts no one.

Chicory said...EE was right that the rumors of the family's death have been greatly exaggerated if the hero, his brother, and his brother's family all survived. Specific details would help this query a lot.

Dave F. said...Is this like "Pandorum" where nothing was real and nobody was sane but they all were food?
Or is it like "Sphere" where everything imaginable happened?
Or is it like "Solaris" filled with rhetorical and metaphysical musings broken only by boredom and George Clooney's buttocks?
Or is this "The Lathe of Heaven" where everything is George Orr's dreamstate?

There is a rich tradition of completely incomprehensible sci-fi stories set on spaceships or with powerful devices. So I'm not criticizing the plot. I'm trying to figure out which twist is involved in who is real and unreal.

BuffySquirrel said...This is like those stories I get in slush from time to time, where first you think there's one character, then you realise there's two, then suddenly there are three or more, all previously unsuspected.

Who is the protagonist, what is their goal, what's at stake, what's preventing them achieving their goal, what will be the consequences, etc.

Members of Tilvanau's family have been murdered, and he and everyone else is a suspect. Tilvanau must find the murderer before he/the woman he loves/everyone on the planet is imprisoned for it. Meanwhile, the murderer is hiding on board a spaceship carrying the surviving members of Tilvanau's family to Earth. And so on.

Phoenix said...Since most authorities agree "who" can be substituted for "whom" when used as a direct object in informal writing, the REAL question is not whether "whom" is technically correct here (it is, but who really uses that construction except uptight editors with control issues*), but whether a query letter is considered to be formal or informal.

I say it's informal. Who's with me??

Author, if, as I suspect, T is a member of the planet's ruling family, be sure to let the reader know that upfront. Otherwise, T comes across as a common foot soldier who really can't influence much of anything by himself, least of all the war.

The ghosts on the ship and that mystery seem to be more of a hook than another planet embroiled in civil war. Maybe you can focus your query on that aspect?

arhooley said...Improper grammar snags my eyeballs. I see no reason to use it when it's avoidable. I let it slide in conversation, but a writer presenting a polished letter about his or her wonderful writing should use "whom" properly.

Anonymous said...As it is we have the impression you couldn't decide whether to do a murder mystery, a techno-thriller, or a sci-fi fantasy one-man's-quest-to-save-the-world-with-a-token epic. So you wrapped them all into a single thrill packed book and this multitude of plots is now clashing like a train wreck in your query.

Marissa Doyle said...I'm with arhooley--a query letter is a business letter and not informal. The problem with using informal grammar is that the agent doesn't know if you're being informal, or don't know any better. I'd err on the side of correctness...or take EE's suggestion and bypass the issue with a different construction.

Someone whom is not normally anonymous said...
I don't know whom wrote this query, but it is the single most confusing query I've ever read.

My suggestion is to start off with "When a murderer claims the life of _____'s _______ (specific family members ie wife and kids...or parents...or whatever) aboard a starship _____ (if that's where the murders took place).....

and then rewrite from there.

Jayne said...WTF just happened? Or is happening? Or will happen? And to whom?
This may be one for the worst-dressed list.

("guessess"... no shite!?)

Faceless Minion said...As long as we're quibbling 'is a science fiction'?
It might just be me but that sounds off.

is a science fiction novel
is a science fiction story
is a work of science fiction
is science fiction

batgirl said...Like everyone else, I don't know what happens in this query. Author, want to give it another shot, with specifics?

Orlando said...Thank you everyone for your comments. I see how in my efforts to keep the query within 250 words I left out too much information.
I will send in a revision and I can't wait to see your comments. I hope "who/whom" is the only issue with grammar. I didn't see anything other suggestions on the subject of grammar and I will admit I had to take 6 books from the library to teach myself grammar again when I started editing the novel. I hope it has helped.

Either way I appreciate greatly all your inputs and will take a seriously good look at all of them.
Thank you all.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Face-Lift 1177

Guess the Plot

Eloq's Lightning

1. They say anyone who dares enter Eloq's Temple will be struck by lightning. Which explains the low turnout on the sabbath. But one grief-stricken boy decides to end his life by entering the temple, and . . . nothing happens.

2. Kelsey, third-year student at Rugglesbottom Witch School, is fed up. The other girls are snotty, the boys are jerks, and Master Snoftrun just gave her alchemy final a C. When she finds a strange wand in the library, she fools with it until she knows what it does. Fourth year is going to be much, much better.

3. Thor's dorky younger brother Eloq wishes he was as cool as the god of thunder, but all he can manage are a few sparks and a gurgle. Until he finds the incriminating shots of Zeus, that is, who grants him the power to control solar flares. Take that, Thor! But can the god of geeks outrun a gang of fried gods, furious at the blackened remains of their pantheon?

4. There is a reason not to feed beans to Eloqs after midnight. Eloqs are bald, fat, and flatulent, and cowards to boot. Blue fire spews forth from them like stink from a skunk. Only history will show how a small band of humans saved Endor with the help of "Eloq's Lightning".

5. It's 10000 BC and humanity has crawled from the primordial soup. Eloq's band of Neanderthals is doomed unless they can figure out how to stay warm in the frozen wasteland. Hey! What's that sky fire all about?

6. Stocky quarter horse Eloq's Lightning looks nothing like his race-winning parents. The hard-luck colt spends his first three years battling illness and his handlers. Now a three-year-old gelding, will he finally prove to be a real runner--or just another failure on the way to the slaughterhouse?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Fourteen-year-old Cordenqua becomes an orphan when he accidentally kills his father during battle. [Oops. Sorry, I thought you were an orc.] Consumed with grief and guilt, he declines the tribal ceremony of manhood, earning the condemnation of the villagers. [We give you the honor of going into battle against our enemy to save our village from destruction and to save us from slaughter, and all we ask in return is that you participate in a meaningless ceremony. And you decline? Never show your face here again!]

Shamed, hated, and alone, Cordenqua runs to Eloq’s Temple, aware the God will strike with lightning any who enter. Killer of Father, traitor of faith and tribesman, he leaps through the archway.

Nothing happens. [Out of curiosity, have all others who've entered been struck with lightning, or has no one else ever entered? If the latter, have they tried sending in a goat? Or sentencing a criminal to enter the temple?]

Uncertain why Eloq spared him, he searches the Holy Writ and finds a hidden prophecy buried within its text, foretelling [of] one who will save his people by overthrowing their false religion. [Is this "Holy Writ" their Bible? Because it would be odd to discover a passage, even in one of the more obscure books of the Christian Bible, declaring that Christianity is a lot of hooey.] [Possibly there was one, and back when they were deciding which books to include in the Bible they came upon it and said, "Whoa. This has gotta go. This could put us out of work and we'd have to give up our cushy digs and toil in the sludge business."]

Cordenqua is terrified of losing his own faith, but unable to suppress his curiosity. He unravels [investigates?] the [tribal] traditions and discovers that an unseen enemy with mystic powers [AKA God] created their religion to compel them to war against their neighboring tribe. Cordenqua must either fight his own people and religion and save those who hate him, [Not clear to me what "fighting his own people and religion" entails. When a hated fourteen-year-old kid declares himself the prophet destined to overthrow his haters' religion, his haters might be inclined to provide him a different destiny.] or submit to tradition while those he loves die in meaningless battles. ["Those he loves" meaning those who hate him, right?]

ELOQ’S LIGHTNING, complete at 50,000 words, is a YA novel that blends science fiction and fantasy. Set in a culture similar to tribal Native America, it incorporates a fantasy-like setting with plot twists reminiscent of The Maze Runner and I have queried you specifically because you represented this book.

Below I have included a synopsis. Thank you for your consideration.


Not bad, though one or more of the issues I've brought up may be worthy of consideration in the query.

Creating a religion that requires a tribe to war with another tribe is a good strategy if you're in a third tribe. But I don't see why you need to have mystic powers to do this. If you have mystic powers you can either convince the tribes you're a god and order them to war, or use your powers to wipe them out yourself. Creating a whole religion seems like a lot of trouble if you want people to wipe each other out rather than worship you.

You might want to make Corky older than 14. He'll be more useful in battle when he's bigger and stronger and smart enough to tell the difference between his enemy and his own father. Plus YA readers prefer to read about kids older than themselves.

Also, consider changing his name to Corky.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Night Before Christmas Quiz

There are dozens of books with The Night Before Christmas in their titles. For instance, you can fill in the blank in The _______ Night Before Christmas with any of the following words, and that's an actual book:

Nurse's, Firefighter's, Soldier's, Cat's, Dog's, Principal's, Texas...

Below I've listed 34 ways the blank could be filled in. Seventeen are actual books according to Barnes & Noble's web site. The other seventeen could exist, but as far as I know they're fakes submitted by the Evil Minions.

Drunk Driver's
ER Surgeon's
Heartbroken Hooker's
Meth head's
Naughty Nanny's
Racecar Driver's
Red Hat Society
Scratch and Sniff
Serial Killer's
Sober Socialite's
Wise Men’s

Answers below.

The fakes were submitted by Jo Antereau, Khazar-khum, Mister Furkles, and Veronica Rundell.

The actual book titles are:

Racecar Driver's
Red Hat Society
Scratch and Sniff

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Angel's Wings

1. When the California Angels baseball team unveil their new uniforms, which include actual wings, opposing managers complain that this will give them an unfair advantage. Later, when it's revealed that the Angels can't actually fly, and that the cumbersome wings give them a huge disadvantage, the objections are withdrawn.

2. Competition in Buffalo's hot wing industry is hot. Maybe too hot. That's what Angel learns when he comes into work and finds his manager head-first in the hot sauce. Angel needs to solve the crime but his chicken disguise won't keep him hidden for long.

3. If Zeke can save one more innocent person from temptation, he can fulfill his basic training as a guardian angel and earn his wings. Too bad new charge Amanda Jeffries is not making this one easy.

4. It's 1942, and Angel Rodriguez is determined to enlist in the US Air Force and become a bomber pilot. There's just one hang-up: he's only ten.

5. Archaeologist Hensley Carpenter unearths a fossilized set of wings near Bethlehem, setting off a theological battle between religious fundamentalists who say it proves angels exist and environmental fundamentalists who say it proves giant condors once inhabited the Middle East.

6. Angel-in-training Serissa uses her spare time to investigate how she died, and learns that she and her angel mentor were involved in a web of betrayal. Did the Big Kahuna know about this, or is He slipping in His old age?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Editor,

Life sucks. Death isn't much better. Fifteen year old Serissa Williams knows that first hand. [Shouldn't that have been "Life sucked."?] After dying, Serissa awakes in the afterlife and is presented with two choices: spend the rest of eternity doing nothing, [Is this choice heaven or hell?] or recieve [i before e except after c.] an Imprint and become an angel. [Do we need "receive an Imprint and"? I don't even know what it means.] She picks the wings and becomes an Angel-In-Training. [Typical schedule of Angel-in-Training:

7AM - 8AM: Grooming the wings of commissioned angels
8 AM - 10 AM: Harp lessons
10:00 - 10:15 AM: Morning break
10:15 - Noon: Glee club
Noon - 1 PM: Lunch (angel hair with diavolo sauce)
1 PM - 3 PM: Flying lessons
3 PM - 3:15 PM: Afternoon break
3:15 - 5 PM: Praising God (who tries to remain humble)
5 - 7 PM: Dinner (babyback ribs, Cherry Garcia--hey, it's heaven, after all)
7 - 8 PM: Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune
8 - 10 PM: Acting lessons for appearances in films featuring angels
10 -11 PM: Polishing commissioned Angels' halos]

Assisted by her dark and sexy mentor Kieran-- an angel with attitude-- [God appreciates attitude--but not too much attitude. You saw what happened to Satan.] she begins to learn the ropes of being an angel all the while trying to figure out how she died in the first place. Soon, the threads of memories begin to unravel and she discovers that her death and Kieran's past are deeply intertwined in a web of love, betrayal, pain and death. [If the threads of memories unravel, I wouldn't expect her to discover anything. Use "untangle" if you insist on the thread metaphor. Or just say the memories return.]

Angel's Wings is a YA Romance Fantasy novel of 50,421 words. This is my first novel and it would be a great honor to me if you would consider it for publishing. [Drop that sentence.] I recently started a blog as well which has some samples of writing already up. It's petranova.livejournal.com. [And those two.]

Thank you for your time.


Your plot, which was all one paragraph until I broke it up with my angel-in-training schedule should be broken into two paragraphs there. And you'll still have room for a third paragraph to tell us what happens after Serissa regains her memories, which I assume is the book's main plot thread.

I'm not crazy about the opening sentences. You might consider opening: Fifteen year old Serissa Williams awakes in the afterlife and is presented with two choices: spend the rest of eternity lounging around doing nothing, or become an angel.

Of course you could change "doing nothing" to something that sounds a bit less boring. If doing nothing and being an angel are the only choices, there'd be billions of angels, unless angel boot camp is a real killer. If the choice were between angel and explorer of the universe or angel and bridge player, it would be a tougher decision.

Selected Comments

Wilkins MacQueen said...If this is your first run at the query I want to commend you. You avoided a lot of snags and I liked the overview/snapshot.

Having said that, I'd love it if you engaged me more in the characters and plot. I'd like to be swept along with the mc and the dark guy. More passion in the writing, some intrigue between them.

I think if you follow EE's suggestions (ok orders) and can crank it up a notch, well who knows. A little more energy is what I'd like. More show and less tell.

Need to connect to your mc in a stronger way and need more complications with Mr. Sexy.

Anonymous said...Shouldn't that have been "Life sucked?" Why? As a general observation, albeit with observational bias, isn't present tense OK?

Evil Editor said...Present tense is standard for a query. If the narrator is speaking in general terms (saying life sucks for everyone), present is fine here. However, if she's saying that her life sucked and now she's not crazy about the afterlife either, I think past tense for her past life is less confusing. Obviously she wouldn't say My childhood sucks . . . and my adulthood sucks too.

Note that I recommended dumping the opening anyway.

Anonymous said...Life sucked. Past tense because she's dead and past tense kind of drives that home. Gives me a sense of where the mc is in time. Present tense misleads because she's dead. Her life sucked. Won't matter if the opening is changed.

Anonymous said...Disagree completely, but you're right: It doesn't matter.

BuffySquirrel said...When the anonymice start disagreeing with each other, it's enough to make you fetch the traps. Get usernames people!  More details, author. Specifically about what happens.

Chelsea P. said...I was thinking the "Life sucks" was more a general statement, not particular to Serissa:

"Everybody knows that life sucks. But for Serissa Williams, death isn't much better."

Just my take on it. I totally understand the other interpretation, though.

Evil Editor said...I don't think it's wrong to use present tense. Most of the queries on this site are written entirely in present tense. But it's also not wrong to put backstory in past tense and then pick up the plot in present.

For instance, If the plot is:

When Bill was fourteen he killed a man. Now thirty, he confesses his crime to his fiancee.

This could also be written:

When Bill is fourteen he kills a man. At the age of thirty he confesses his crime to his fiancee.

In my opinion, the latter version is fine if Bill kills the man in the prologue or the early chapters. But if the book opens when Bill is thirty, and we see the confession but not the killing, I would use the first version, putting the killing in the past tense.

In the query, there's no evidence that the book begins while Serissa is alive and that we witness her life sucking.

I could see a query opening: I died three weeks ago. This is what happened.

I couldn't see one opening: I die. Three weeks later I decide to tell what happened.

In any case, actual problems with tenses in the book are far more worrisome than whether the plot is summarized in the preferred query tense. Just ask all the agents who rejected Harry Potter because the query began in past tense.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Dear writer, this sounds like half the books in Barnes and Noble's TEEN section.

Now is that a bad thing?

For someone trying to break in, yes. Because those books are already written, and publishers have a long roster of authors who will write more of them on request. Publishers are looking for the Next Big Thing.

Here's the thing about breaking in: You don't have to be as good as what's already out there. You have to be better.

It's kind of like the Olympics.

So what makes this book different? What makes it stand out?

Anonymous said...10 -11 PM: Polishing other Angels' halos...Uh huh. That's the trouble with boarding school...

Anonymous said...Here's the thing about breaking in: You don't have to be as good as what's already out there. You have to be better.

Well, unless you're fortunate enough to be riding the coat-tails of a fad like HP or Twilight, in which case you don't even need to be as good.

Or you're good enough to sit in the middle of the mid-list and bring in a modest income from readers who just want more of the same and are none too fussy so long as the cover looks good.

vkw said...I think this is well-written but I don't think it's much of a query.
Here's the story as I read it: (I'm easily bored and tend to skim . . .so maybe I missed something).

15 year old girl becomes an angel.

She goes to school. As the song "hot for the teacher" resonates through her head, (because her angel teacher is hot), she begins to have memories. Memories of being alive and in love and in peril with hunky teacher.

So what? What happens? Is that it?

The plot is: Angel Sirrisa remembers her past life with hunky angel teacher through disjointed memories of love, lust, betrayal and eventual death. She's 15 so that makes it YA novel and she's an angel so that makes it a fantasy. Since it is a romance, we know there is a happy ending.

But we really didn't know that there wasn't going to be a happy ending, and we really didn't know anything interesting happens at all because the purpose, the conflict, the plot is not mentioned.

arhooley said...Since YA isn't my thing I can't say I'd want to read the book; but it seems to me you've done everything necessary to get a request for pages.

Botched said...Rats! I was looking forward to giant condors....

Chelsea P. said...I think you've got quite the nice set-up here. I do agree that you could add another paragraph with a hint more about what happens, but you don't need much. Also, I think you could use "YA paranormal romance."

batgirl said...What, everyone focusses their pickiness on suck vs sucked, and no one mentions that rounding up your wordcount to the nearest hundred is better than giving it exactly? The rationale is that every word processing program has a different way of measuring wordcount, and typesetters have a totally different way, so the exactness doesn't help.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Face-Lift 1176

Guess the Plot

A Crimson Stain

1. GV Black knew his world was coming to an end. The wunderkind of the dental superheroes was aging and ill. A disease was upon him and eventually it would turn him to worm food. If only he could remember the name of the cure; the unspoken, dental "F" word. If he doesn't invoke the cure he will die and his legacy shall always contain . . . A Crimson Stain.

2. Nothing hurts business at a brothel like a crimson stain on the sheets, especially when it's the result of one of the girls having her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces. Now it's up to Wayward Russell to figure out if the place is haunted, and if so, by what.

3. Vivacious duchesse Louise la Fontaine is mad for the gallant dandy Louis la Vaux. But he's the bastard son of the prince, and the King has forbidden him to marry. Can she use her wiles to convince the King to change his mind?

4. When meek housewife Holly finds a stain on the collar of her husband's dress shirt, she immediately recognizes the crimson lipstick of the bimbo next door. Drama, tears, and midlife soul-searching ensue.

5. When DJ Shazam enters his apartment he learns two things. First, he should have stayed in Aruba. Second, the body in his bathtub is going to leave...A Crimson Stain.

6. Crimson McStainian is a professional pimple-popper, leaving calling cards on the faces of bathroom mirrors. Business is booming until Acne McFacecleaner moves into town. His own self-worth threatened, Crimson must either find new meaning in life, or stain the streets with crimson from more than just bad acne.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

London, 1860. Wayward Russell has spent his entire life running from monsters. Ghosts, demons, werebeasts—he knows about all of them, the creatures hiding in the shadows and watching for their next victim. Every night he draws protective wards around his room, every day he moves on to a new place, [Every day? Moving is a pain if you do it every few years, and a guy who moves every day has long since run out of friends he can ask to help him move.] [If protective wards work, why does he have to move?] constantly looking over his shoulder to try and escape the horrors he knows are there. [If you're trying to set a scene in which monsters exist, you're overdoing it. I'm starting to think the monsters aren't there and Wayward is nuts.]

Then one night he meets Jenny, a young prostitute at Madam’s Cat knocking shop. [Is that where you take your cat to get it knocked up?] There is something haunting Madam Cat’s, and Jenny wants Wayward’s help in getting rid of it. But Wayward has made a career out of never sticking his neck out for anyone, [So why does Jenny go to him for help?] so he sends Jenny away with a bagged exorcism and instructions not to bother him again. Wayward thinks that’s the end of it—until a week later, he’s dragged into Madam Cat’s and told that Jenny’s dead, [What? Jenny was the only character I liked.] her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces. The fiery Madam Cat demands that Wayward fix the mess he’s created, and, shaken by Jenny’s violent death, Wayward reluctantly agrees. [Have you considered having Madam Cat's throat get ripped out and Jenny, who of course has a heart of gold, seeking Wayward's help?]

But his investigation reveals something far more dangerous than the simple haunting he expected. There’s something else in the brothel, something that creaks the floorboards in empty rooms and makes lamps explode, something that tears the girls’ clothes in the night and leaves bloody claw marks on the walls. [Lemme get this straight. Jenny has her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces, but it's only when Wayward hears creaking floorboards and sees torn clothing that he realizes this is far more dangerous than a simple haunting? This list is stuff I would expect if it is a simple haunting.] Something old and wild and vicious that greatly resents being interfered with. Creatures like this are exactly why Wayward never gets involved, but this time he has no choice—Madam Cat won’t let him leave until her house is safe, and she has enough thugs to make his life very unpleasant if things don’t work out to her satisfaction. And Jenny’s ghost has returned, terrorising Wayward every night and insisting he save the other girls from what killed her. [Does she tell him what that was?]

For once in his life, Wayward may end up doing the right thing, but will it cost him the very safety and anonymity he has worked so hard to protect?

A CRIMSON STAIN is historical fantasy of 60,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The protective wards and bagged exorcism hint that Wayward has useful knowledge, but you haven't convinced me he's any more qualified to handle this than the thugs are. If he hails from a family of ghostbusters you might mention that when you introduce him. Introducing him as someone who's been living in fear of monsters his whole life leaves us wondering why anyone consults him in such matters. Who is he?

The list of things that prove this isn't a simple haunting needs to be shorter and scarier.

This is mostly setup. One paragraph setting up the situation (Lily-livered Wayward Russell has been charged with investigating strange goings-on and murder in Madam Cat's brothel) would leave more space to tell us what his plan is and what goes wrong when he puts it into action.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Face-Lift 1175

Guess the Plot

Captain Henry's High-Flying Haberdashery

1. Captain Henry has horrible business sense. His first two shops closed in the red. Who knew an underwater pet store that didn't sell fish or a restaurant that served raw brains wouldn't fly? Henry borrowed money from the mafia to finance his next gig. He knows he has nailed it this time. Wing-walker's headwear today, and cement galoshes tomorrow.

2. Captain Henry is looking for an angle to make his haberdashery successful. Realizing that nomadic tribesmen don't have ready access to fine men's clothing, he rigs his shop for flight. Hey, if Mohammad won't come to the haberdashery . . .

3. When dashing Captain Henry visits the small rural hamlet, the folk are captivated by his urbane wit and charm, and tales of his wondrous Haberdashery. They don't associate him with the spate of mysterious disappearances. Like everybody else, they're just in awe of the amazingly soft leather jackets he tailors for the creme of Society.

4. Hank buys a secondhand hat store. The inventory comes from the deceased left at the county morgue. The store curses the hats--when a buyer dons a hat, the dead person’s spirit takes control of the wearer’s mind and completes the deceased’s unfinished business.

5. When orphan Divel is sold to Captain Henry for a silver coin, he expects to at last have a chance at decent clothes and a good place to live. But the flamboyant Captain isn't a tailor; he's a pimp, with the most demanding clientele in all of Outer Gabloosh. Now Divel just has to find a supply of fresh, cross-dressing gnomes. He's gonna earn those clothes.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor and co.,

Prince Leo is engaged to be married. His fiancee is Princess Isabeau, a beautiful young woman with an alarming fondness for pointy objects. Their marriage will mean peace and prosperity for their two kingdoms. There's just one problem with the arrangement: Leo doesn't love his bride-to-be. [Actually, that makes two problems, the first being the ice pick she keep under her pillow.]

Desperate, Leo flees the palace, disguises himself as a commoner, and finds work aboard Captain Henry's High-Flying Haberdashery. As part of the airborne shop's crew, Leo flies from one town to another, buying, selling, and seeing the world beyond the palace walls for the first time in his life. Along the way he befriends not only his crew mates but also the nomadic tribes of rovers who wander the kingdom. [No need to call them both "nomadic" and "rovers."] [Also, if the shop flies from town to town, when do they have time to befriend these roving tribes? In fact, has it occurred to Captain Henry that these tribes are nomadic because they're trying to escape the haberdashery that keeps landing in their midst trying to sell them fezzes? I can see landing your haberdashery near a nomadic tribe once, figuring they would find it convenient not to have to go into town to buy pants. But when they see you flying in a week later they're thinking, WTF? We bought these pants just to get rid of these assholes and they're back already? It's like this charity that was phoning me every day so I finally thought, Maybe if I give them money they'll give me some peace. So I sent them a check and they started phoning twice as often. Luckily I have caller ID. My point being, Leo doesn't have time to befriend the tribesmen unless the haberdashers drop in on them so often they develop a seething hatred of all haberdashers.]

The rovers are valuable business partners [How so?] and invaluable friends to the crew, [Wait, didn't I just quash that argument?] so when their encampments are destroyed in a series of suspicious fires, the haberdashers vow to find and stop the arsonist. [I've bought into detectives who were blind, deaf, missing limbs, paralyzed, and even Belgian. But haberdasher detectives? Come on, man!] It soon becomes clear that keeping their promise will force the haberdashers to risk their own lives- unless Leo is willing to sacrifice his new-found freedom to pull some royal strings.

Meanwhile, Leo's fiancee is hunting him, determined to marry him and gain control of his kingdom by any means necessary.

CAPTAIN HENRY'S HIGH-FLYING HABERDASHERY is a 73,000-word YA fantasy novel. [There's been no hint that this was YA. You should mention Leo's age when introducing him.] My fiction and poetry have appeared in local publications, most recently in the young adult-oriented newspaper Teen Ink.

Included in this submission are things that I would include but am not going to right now because reasons. Thank you for your time and consideration!



How old is Isabeau? Her determination to gain control of Leo's kingdom by any means necessary suggests she's older than I would expect for a key character in YA. Why is this YA? The flying shop suggests steampunk.

A series about crime-solving haberdashers would be cool. And I would expect it to be funny. And based on the title and the amount of time devoted to the haberdashery, maybe that's what we have. But based on how the query opens and closes, the Leo/Isabeau story is the main plot, and not so funny. If Leo is the main character, we need to focus on him; all he does is join the crew of a flying haberdashery. Is he active in solving the crimes or does he merely pull some royal strings, thereby allowing others to solve the crimes? Does Leo want to continue being a flying haberdasher because he has friends and freedom and is pretty good at selling pants, or is he just trying to avoid marrying Isabeau? If the latter, he's just stalling. What's his ultimate plan to accomplish his ultimate goal?

I realize the book is already written, but if it doesn't fly, consider dumping Leo and Isabeau and writing about Captain Henry's High-Flying Haberdashery and Detective Agency. They're not only great detectives, they're always dressed impeccably. You can fill lots of space describing fabrics and wardrobes the way the Nero Wolfe books talk about food and the John Rain books talk about single malt whiskies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Face-Lift 1174

Guess the Plot

The Cobweb Tree

1. No Grandma! You can't make a Christmas tree out of fake cobwebs from Halloween! But Grandma did, and strung it with lights, and Jake and Alyssa loved their grandma's cobweb tree until it started eating stuff. Now it's trying to eat them.

2. The sun shines bright
And the winds blow free
And Charlotte nests safe
In The Cobweb Tree

Then the sky turns dark
And the air sooty
Tiny Charlotte coughs
In The Cobweb Tree

Poor Charlotte takes wing
Flies to new safety
And at night she cries
For her Cobweb Tree.

3. Wanda is the coven's newest Wiccan candidate. To prove her mettle she must raise awareness and funds. She tried a bake sale and a warlock walk to no avail. The town's founding father's have taken notice and built bonfires at Wanda's newest idea. Hilarity and death ensue when Wanda starts her own "gifts to the poor" Cobweb Tree.

4. Katie is thrilled when Finn asks her out, but not so thrilled when he abandons her deep in the forest where the first person she meets tries to put her to work for his credit agency. She escapes, but can she also escape the mysterious and unmentionable . . . cobweb tree?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor (may your shark's grin never blunt)

Sixteen[-]year-old Katie Harrison has had only one thing on her mind for the past two weeks: new boy Finn O’Malley. The most exciting thing ever to happen in her chocolate-fuelled, [fueled] bookworm life, he’s mysterious as a cattall and dark and utterly gorgeous. Katie is sure he’s interested in her, and when he asks her to meet his family, it seems that all her fantasies are coming true. What she didn’t expect was for Finn to tell her that he and his family are actually sidhe—wild, magical beings from an other [another] world. [Is it really necessary to tell us she didn't expect this? No one would expect this. And if it happened, who would believe it? Reminds me of the time when Get Smart and The Man from Uncle were popular shows and I phoned one of my classmates I had a crush on and told her I was a spy and needed her help on my next mission. She not only didn't buy it and agree to help me save the world, she also gave me a wide berth for the rest of my college career.] And none of her fantasies included Finn abandoning her in the never-ending sidhe forests to save his own skin.

The sidhe otherworld is treacherous and secretive, full of unwritten rules and protocol that Katie has no idea how to handle. Just introducing herself is dangerous, as she discovers when she accidentally binds herself into the thrall of the druid Cahal. Katie can’t believe that Finn would desert her like this, [Already said; see last sentence of previous paragraph.] but [and] in the end, only blind chance saves her from a lifetime of slavery. With no sign of Finn and no food, no toilet paper or hand sanitizer, just rain and trees and creatures that howl in the night, Katie is desperate to get home. Too scared to trust anyone after Cahal, the only thing she can think to do is to try and get to the edge of the forest. So she starts walking. 

But the forest is full of dangers, and a growing number of creatures are curious about Katie’s involvement with Cahal, who, she discovers, was far more than just an ordinary druid. [Considering how little is known about the druids by us, not to mention Katie, how can she tell if a druid is ordinary or not? It's like a spaceship from another galaxy lands on Earth, and when the first being exits we immediately declare it no ordinary space alien.] Her connection with him puts her at the heart of a massive network of curses, promises, debts and secrets; and all of the people involved are now looking to Katie to write off their debts, fulfil their favours and tally up their credit. [Cahal is no ordinary druid; he manages a payday loan agency.] Katie’s never so much as killed a spider before, but in the forest, weakness is something to be exploited and ignorance is no excuse. No one believes her protests of ignorance; bluffing her way through the business transactions complicates everything; being kind only creates more problems, and things start getting bloody very quickly. With werewolves, ghosts and sidhe hunters on her trail, and the threat of dysentery, mortal injury and starvation, Katie's going to have to learn fast if she wants to live to see tomorrow, never mind get home in one piece. 

THE COBWEB TREE is a YA fantasy novel of 75,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Finn has too big a role in the query. He's here only to explain how Katie ends up in the forest. 

Bad enough that Katie Harrison's secret crush turned out to be sidhe; now he's abandoned her in the treacherous sidhe forests to save his own skin. Seeking a way out, she meets Cahal, the sidhe equivalent of VISA, who wants to enslave her as his collections officer. Katie escapes, but now everyone in the forest is after her to write off their debts, and if she can't bluff her way through a few business transactions, she may not live to see tomorrow, much less her home and family.

That's your setup, and it leaves plenty of room to tell us what happens. What's Katie's plan? What goes wrong? What's her new plan? Does she have an ally? Make sure you're telling a cohesive story, not just listing a few random things that happen. One thing leads to another. Cause and effect.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Face-Lift 1173

Guess the Plot

On the Way to Santa Fe

1. Benny's boss asks him to send a shipment of "product" to Santa Fe, NM. Unfortunately, the dyslexic Benny sends it to Santa Fe, MN. Now Benny's on the run from the feds, rival mobs, and his own crew. Will he make it to Minnesota, or will he perish...On the Way to Santa Fe?

2. Free-wheelin', beer-lovin', good-lookin' Joe Ditman makes ends meet with odd jobs in Milwaukee. When he inherits the multi-million dollar estate of his long-lost uncle, he heads south to collect. But On the Way to Santa Fe, he meets a sexy angel who changes his heart.

3. Lights in the New Mexico sky can only mean one thing... Sadly, nothing to do with hallucinogens this time. On the way to the state's capital, Cory and Rob are captured by aliens who promptly return them after appropriating all their recreational substances. But time dilation means 1969 is long gone and our boys are out of date. And worse still, their supplier is nowhere to be found.

4. When blood is found in Daniel Bristol's trailer outside Denver he becomes a suspect in the disappearance of a local girl. To stay one step ahead of the law he heads for Santa Fe, New Mexico, 400 miles away. Kind of a road trip designed to make him look guilty as hell. Also, a wily coyote.

5. A scrappy group of Dionne Warwick impersonators prepare for the biggest talent showcase of the year. Hilarity ensues when they entrust their travel arrangements to dim-witted Candida Splendida, and their simple trip becomes a wild adventure of hitching rides with drunk clowns and tap-dancing nuns.

6. Mallory's dog ran away, her fiancé left her for her younger sister, and she just lost her job. Trading her last $78 for a one way bus ticket, Mal finds the last thing she was looking for...On the Way to Santa Fe.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Two quarreling brothers, one missing girl, [one missing verb,] and a family secret that could kill all three. I believe my psychological suspense manuscript ON THE WAY TO SANTA FE (72,000 words) will interest you [Maybe, but I'm not going to Santa Fe to read it.] as it balances the fast-paced plotting of a thriller with the introspection of a literary mystery. [Is a literary mystery something like Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays? Or is it a murder mystery by someone who writes better than all those hack mystery writers who somehow keep getting published?] [I realize thrillers, mysteries, and psychological suspense will probably all be shelved in the same section, but I prefer that you name one genre (say, thriller) and then show that there's psychological suspense and a mystery in your plot description.] [Also, the fact that your title rhymes has started that San Jose song running through my head, which is not something you want to be responsible for. What's wrong with Albuquerque?]

Daniel Bristol is twenty-two, shy, and likes nothing better than sketching the mountains behind his trailer in Golden, Colorado. [That's because mountains are among the easiest things to sketch:]

He dislikes nothing more than his antagonizing brother. To say Dolan makes life difficult for Daniel is as much an understatement as saying a jackrabbit is prey to a coyote. [Calling "a jackrabbit is prey to a coyote" an understatement is an overstatement. I'd call it a fact.] [On the other hand, thinking, Evil Editor will be miffed by my use of an animal analogy to help him understand what I mean by the word 'understatement'" is an understatement.] [Also, the analogy should be roadrunner is prey to a coyote.]

When Dolan claims responsibility for the disappearance of a local girl, Daniel assumes it's another cruel prank, but changes his opinion after finding blood in the trailer and a detective at his doorstep. Daniel wants to cooperate with the police, but he can't. He knows his brother. [That statement does not clear up what you meant by he can't cooperate with the police.] The only way out [Out of what? Is Daniel a suspect? If Dolan claimed responsibility, why isn't Dolan the one being grilled?] is to stay one step ahead of the Law, unravel Dolan's motive, and find the young woman before it's too late.

Unbeknownst to him, Dolan harbors a dark secret that will drag them deep into the mountains of New Mexico. [Are they on foot? Golden is hundreds of miles from Santa Fe.] Facing the unspoken truth will require an unending reservoir of courage - something Daniel lacks. [Either it doesn't require unending courage, or Daniel doesn't lack unending courage, or someone else (someone with unending courage) should be the main character.] Failure will damn the girl's fate and leave him broken . . . wondering what happened ON THE WAY TO SANTA FE.

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to being ridiculed in public.



This becomes progressively more vague. Phrases like "harbors a dark secret," "the unspoken truth," and "damn the girl's fate" may sound good on the back cover when you're trying to entice someone to buy the book, but agents and editors aren't going to read your manuscript to find out what you're talking about. They want to know who's the main character and what's his situation. Then what's his goal and how does he plan to achieve it? Then what goes wrong, and what will happen if he can't overcome it? Be specific. Make it sound thrilling and suspenseful, but don't let on that there's anything literary about it.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

New Beginning 1020

Displayed in this prison Jeffrey calls a "proper dress", I fight a losing battle for dignity. He only trumpets our betrothal because he's convinced tolerance of a suspected exotic proves his standing. Lord Whithall revels in boasting the spoils his favor won in the East at every opportunity.

The moneylenders and I know better, but Jeffrey's grasping friends are happy to oblige his illusion. Slaves parade onto the lawn, laden with trays. The men shovel food into their sweaty faces as if it might otherwise disappear. I witnessed finer manners dining with Temüjin's hordes.

Bannantine wags a thick finger. "Better save your gold, boy-o. You're too old to play the gallant for Charles."

What of Charles? I'd ask if anyone would answer.

"More of this madness." Weakness tightens Jeffrey's voice. "Lambert will never allow his return."

Why must news travel slower than gossip?

If Charles rules, I can cast off the bonds of this farce. I won't need a ship. I'll fly to my northern lands. Until then, I can keep mum, forfeit what little fortune Jeffrey knows about, and endure.

The King will surely remember our adventures. Nine years isn't long, even for a blood-born man.

The theater lights came up in the private screening room.

"Jesus H. Chrysler, Priscilla," said Elvis. "No one's going to watch this crap, and the few who do will know it's about me and the Colonel. I don't care if you've picked an obscure moment in English history and changed everyone's names, I'm pulling the funding. I won't have the world remembering the Colonel and me as some flag waving rainbow coalition."

That evening, Elvis Presley was found dead in the toilet outside of the Jungle Room. 

Opening: Mich Fisher.....Continuation: Kregger

Monday, December 02, 2013

Face-Lift 1172

Guess the Plot

Captured by the Pirate

1. When Henri the pirate captures Kadi and puts the moves on her, she wonders if she should tell him that she's the queen of the vampires? He's pretty handsome, and something like that can be a stumbling block to a relationship.

2. Johnny Depp is on the run for a crime he didn't commit. When Hollywood hopeful, Stacy Sterling, stumbles onto his hiding place will she be . . . Captured by the Pirate?

3. Marcy jokes often, as she drinks from her rum-filled flask, that she has a little well-endowed pirate inside her. When he crawls out of her one night and whisks her away to his big ship, Marcy knows she's found her prince. Her friends will never believe her adventure!

4. Starlet Ruby McMahon is believed lost at sea, but a garbled voicemail brings her cold case to light. DJ Shazam is on the trail, if only he can get past Ruby's boytoy Ex. Also, a heroic dolphin trainer.

5. Feisty, fiery Annabelle takes over her father's merchant ship when he drinks himself to death. Using her cunning, sharp swordsmanship, and bouncing breasts, she quickly becomes the greatest pirate in the bay. When she takes a handsome young man prisoner, she must decide--feed him to her pet sharks, or see if he can survive her own 'feeding frenzy' while tied to the mast?

6. Impulsive, tempestuous Lady Ramona Bledsoe has vowed she will never give her heart to any man. Fiercely independent, with fiery-red hair and a will of iron, she bows to no one. Somehow, she's captured by a pirate and then she rips off her bodice. Erotica ensues.

7. With his magic markers, Ben draws a pirate who subsequently comes to life and takes Ben on his marvelous adventures at sea. But getting lost in a vast ocean and being forced to drink his own urine gets stale real quick for young Ben.

Original Version

Dear Deliciously Evil Editor,

Kadi, Queen of Fair vampire bloodlines, has embodied a pantheon of goddesses over her five thousand years. Though her days as the hidden world's greatest supernatural grifter have passed, she struggles to free herself from the stranglehold of the bards' myths. But, with the gathering of clans approaching, she forsakes the dream of life on her own terms until she can recover her sacred Aberdeenshire lands and defend her people from Raven lines' domination. [To someone who hasn't read your book, the following phrases are either open to multiple interpretations or make no sense at all: Queen of Fair vampire bloodlines; embodied a pantheon of goddesses; world's greatest supernatural grifter; the stranglehold of the bards' myths; Raven lines' domination. A simple opening such as After 5000 years, Kadi, a vampire queen, longs to settle down on her sacred Aberdeenshire lands. But first she must recover those lands from a flock of Ravens who've built their nests there. ...is more likely to lure us into the second paragraph.]

Then, the restoration of Charles II renders Kadi's planned marriage of convenience to a Cromwell favorite inconvenient. Moneylender Seamus MacGregor calls her betrothed's markers, so she visits Port Royal's most mysterious bachelor to renegotiate. [Not clear whether Port Royal's most mysterious bachelor is her betrothed or the person who originally negotiated her betrothal.] Instead of the rumored pirate, she finds an ancient Raven eager to win her favor. [But it's hard to even have a conversation with someone who never says anything except "Nevermore."] [Am I assumed to know what a Raven is?] Despite his unnerving collection of her past, [Knowledge of her past? Collection of mementos from her past?] including the labyrinth of her secret catastrophe at Knossos, [He has a labyrinth that used to be in Knossos?] Kadi's charmed by Seamus'[s] courtship. [Wait, Seamus the moneylender is courting her? So he's the mysterious bachelor? And her betrothed is . . . the un-mysterious bachelor?] So, when he offers her land, passage to England, and a god in her bed, she leaps at the chance for freedom. [The land and passage are just icing on the cake. The god in her bed was enough to clinch the deal.]

While Kadi revels, the real pirate [As opposed to the rumored pirate. It wasn't clear that there was a real pirate; it sounded like everyone thought someone was a pirate, but when Kadi met him he turned out to be a decent guy.] schemes. Henri Abelard, protégé of her estranged sire, suffers the labyrinth's thousand cuts to challenge her in combat. [Why?] Then, he attacks Seamus'[s] ship, taking her hostage. ["Her" meaning the ship or Kadi? What happened with the combat challenge? Did they fight? If so, where, and who won?] She resists Henri's advances, but discovers a true soul mate as he reveals his tragic past, and fights at his side against a bewitched crew. When his life is threatened, [By whom?] Kadi must decide whether to trust her heart and risk the fate of her people and eternal soul to save the man who loves the woman over the goddess. [How does saving Henri put her people at any more risk? Whaddaya mean, "loves the woman over the goddess"? Is Kadi the woman and the goddess?]

CAPTURED BY THE PIRATE is a complete 50K-word stand-alone historical paranormal romance novella and the first book of Blood Gods, a retelling of the hero's journey from a female perspective.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,


If this is a romance, and Henri is the love interest, more of the query needs to be focused on Henri. One paragraph of setup is plenty. That'll leave you more space to tell us about the Henri/Kadi relationship. I can do without Ravens and labyrinths and Oliver Cromwell.

Not clear who Kadi's people are. People living on her sacred Aberdeenshire lands? People she's turned into her vampire subjects? Both?

Actually, very little is clear. You need to treat the reader as an idiot who knows nothing about anything, not as someone who's read the book and is testing you on whether you've read it.