Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Face-Lift 1106

Guess the Plot


1. It was his song, it was his song, it was their song. And after tonight, when James and Stephan declare their love while singing "Lola", will the Cedar Rapids VFW annual fish fry ever be the same?

2. The first Lola doll to come off the assembly line isn't intended for a child. Like the first toy of every line, she's destined to be destroyed by the Breaker, a remorseless quality assurance machine. Sacrificing herself for the good of others doesn't appeal to Lola, however. She's just not ready to meet her Breaker.

3. A prudish succubus from the underworld of Lola is cast upon the overworld of Highla. Her mission is to prove her worth by saving Highlan men from sociopolitical influences that encourage sexual release by hand-to-hand combat. There are no women in Highla, by the way. But will the Highlans let her go home, after she's proved she's hot?

4. Sixteen-year-old Lola moves to Key West. She worked obsessively to finish school early. Now She’s ready for romance. But none of the cute boys will dance with her. So she dresses like a boy; now they’re all flirting like crazy. Then she meets hot hetero Billy. They go fishing, diving and wind surfing. If she resumes being a girl, she’ll lose her “friends” and Billy will think he/she’s weird. But she hates it when he dates those snowbird bimbos.

5. Lola, a champion Toy Poodle, has retired to the maternal life. When thieves break in and steal her 3 precious babies, she does what any mother would do--she enlists the help of the neighborhood animals. Between Brad the crow, Patch and Moll the cats, Joe the pitbull and Ralph the ferret, can they find her puppies before it's too late?

Original Version

“The first toy of every line is intended for disassembly,” Angelique’s one eye shifted away from Lola, staring into darkness.“The First is not just any toy. This is a brave, unique creature. A being that only exists for the sake of others. You will go willingly, your head up, embracing your fate and proud of your calling. It’s your ultimate selfless sacrifice. Prepare to meet your Breaker.”

It wasn’t named The Breaker for nothing, you know. While some might consider this quality assurance machine harmless, neutral, void of feeling, Lola, a soon-to-be-dead doll, knows that it’s out to get her. [Run, Lola, Run.] A special edition doll, created only to be taken to pieces by the Breaker, Lola is led to believe that she needs to be joyful and friendly, carefree and docile, just as her box says, all the way to her doom. [I doubt a doll would be advertised as "docile." Even if these dolls are sentient and mobile in the presence of their owners, the manufacturer wouldn't consider docility a selling point.]

But could she possibly be more than just the description on her box? Lola struggles to discover who she really is and why it is that she cannot, will not, accept her destiny.

On her mission to untangle her fate, Lola stumbles onto the wretched Broken community, possibly the family she has been longing for. The Broken accept her for who she is, and support her in facing her monsters, the dark corners of her nightmares and the possibility of losing her life (and theirs) when she finally comes eye to eye with the godless, remorseless Breaker. [Not clear how Lola's encounter with the Breaker will kill the Broken.] [Were the Broken broken by the Breaker? If so, apparently the Breaker injures you, but doesn't kill you. Yet Lola is described as soon-to-be-dead.]

Against all odds and sinister forces surrounding her, Lola finds herself thinking outside the box, [Nice.] and resolves to fight her fate and the fate of all Firsts. A fate no one has ever contested before. A fate she might not be able to avoid. [That last sentence isn't needed. Who wants to read about someone whose "fate" can't be avoided?]

LOLA is an eerie 75,000 word novel targeted at 9-12 year olds, especially the adventure seeking girls who are into more than just pink and the Biebs. Lola is a strong female protagonist, who is struggling to discover who she is, and believes there is more to her than her box implies.

I have been a journalist and an editor for 15 years and have lately started publishing stories in various horror magazines. My short story “all about Evil” [That's the title I was planning for my autobiography.] was published lately [recently] as part of the horror fiction compilation “Bonded By Blood IV”. [How come when I look up Bonded By Blood IV on Amazon, "All About Evil" isn't one of the stories?]


You don't need Angelique to set up the situation for us. That's your job. We don't even know who Angelique is.

Are there any human characters? I'm not sure a 12-year-old is gonna want to read a book in which all the characters are toys. 

If there are people, are dolls sentient/mobile in their presence? These seem like important points.

What are these "sinister forces" surrounding Lola? If you want to attract those at the upper end of your age range, you might have to focus on the evil aspects.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fake Queries 6, 7

Face Lift #1093, GTP #4

Dear Evil Editor,

Eleven year-old Tina Tottingham is on the hunt for the Jigsaw Bandit in INCOMPLETE, (30,000 words) a middle-grade mystery.

Growing up playing in her parents’ toy boutique, Tina adores helping customers find the perfect gift. So, when Mayor Rasmussen’s daughter reports the handcrafted puzzle Tina recommended is missing pieces, Tina’s more than disappointed—she’s determined to find out what went wrong. After discovering all but two puzzles in the Toy Emporium are incomplete, Tina sets the trap for her light-fingered foe. Is it Maude, the elderly lady who loves to rearrange the doll display? Or, is it Alexa—the Mayor’s daughter? The first-ever Puzzle Race will reveal the culprit.

I’m a member of SCBWI-Tennessee and a mystery fan. INCOMPLETE would be enjoyed by children who like Nate the Great or Young Cam Jansen stories. I have included the first ten pages, as requested. Thank you for your time and consideration.

--Veronica Rundell

Face-Lift 58, GTP ??

Dear Evil Editor,

The year is 2453. Time travel for recreation has become commonplace. This season there is a craze for historical romance, and bored people take over the role of fake British Lords anywhere from 1200 to 1900, after a short effortless hypnotic course on relevant language and history.

Morin, a young lawyer, got a fortnight in Regency England as a gag gift from his staff, and uses it to get away from his humdrum life. But his conditioning was only partially successful, and he stumbles from one problem to the next, including a hopeless attraction to an unsuitable married woman, trying to change the injustice of the social system, etc. He ends up exposed as an impostor, and imprisoned, when he is finally drawn back to his own existence, after the longest two weeks of his life.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fake Query #5

Face-Lift #980, GTP #4

Dear Evil Editor,

Tom Evans wants an Oscar. His years of transforming silverscreen claptrap into blockbuster features feel empty and hollow when Roxanne leaves him for the screenwriter of last year's Best Picture.

Tom sets off for a buddy's cabin in Wyoming, certain that the quiet life is what he needs to write the next Brokeback Mountain. And sure, he gets plenty of natural exposure--from the nudist encampment that shares his river rights to the wolves that dog his every step--but few ideas. That is, until he stumbles into a militia meeting while hiking. The gun-toting freedom fighters mistake him for Dom Evans, and rejoice, certain the reclusive anarchist has responded to their repeated summons. Before he can reveal the error, Tom is inducted into the business side of militia finance--illegal booze and drug running. Realizing this experience might make for the most realistic story Tom's ever written, he dives headfirst into the intrigue. When the real Dom Evans arrives, however, Tom's charade evaporates.

Now, it's Tom versus Dom versus Nature in the ultimate showdown--who will survive: Tom, Dom or the Grizzly bear? If he lives, Tom might just have the screenplay of his dreams.

HOLLYWOOD ENDINGS is complete at 157,000 words, and a guaranteed blockbuster you'd be a fool to turn down.

--Veronica Rundell


Could have been Oscar material -- if Orson Welles were still alive to play the grizzly bear.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Fake Query #4

Face-Lift #200, GTP #1

Dear Ms. Agent,

Have you ever met one of those overachievers who's just got to be on top of every pyramid she climbs? Well, Staci Mesa, the head cheerleader at South Floridian High School, is that person. She has seen a new dance on YouTube that's quite the rage. It's called the Sosunda, and she simply must incorporate the dance's lurching and shuffling zombie-like moves into her team's routine.

Perfectionist that she is, she'll settle for nothing less than to learn the Sosunda's unique steps at the dance's point of origin, the tiny town of Port Au Feu in the Caribbean. With both her parents preoccupied with extramarital affairs, Staci has no trouble stealing her mom's credit card and slipping away to Port Au Feu during her school's mid-winter break.

She doesn't have to search long to find what she's looking for, because the Sosunda runs nonstop in the bar at the very hotel where she is staying. And there's one reveler there who is better at it than anybody else. He's got the foot-dragging and jittery clawing at the air down perfectly. He even looks the part. She can almost believe the moldering lips, the flaps of tattered skin hanging from his black-veined cheeks, and the cobweb-filled eye socket are real. Only after squeezing through the crowd and seeing him up close does she begin to suspect that ... maybe they are real! Yet more horrifying, he's stopped doing the Sosunda and wants to Tango.

Will it occur to Staci in time that the name Port Au Feu and the French recipe known as Pot Au Feu, which includes bone marrow as a main ingredient, sound remarkably similar? More importantly, will her cheerleader training allow her to tumble and cartwheel her way back to the cheer-filled world of high school and a blissfully dysfunctional family where she can go on being simply mindless instead of literally brainless? You can find out by requesting the completed manuscript of my xx,xxx word horror/adventure/love story.

As a lifelong survivor of the pre-zombie-apocalypse, I consider myself as qualified to write about it as anyone. Also, as for my previous writing credits, I have submitted several GTP's to Evil Editor's blog, some of which he actually published.

Thanks so much for your time. You can thank me later.




Zombies are hot, but if you don't write fast they may be cold by the time you get this published. Get to work.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Fake Query #3

Face-Lift 552, GTP #6

Jane Doe remembers turning the cut-glass knob of the wooden shop door. She remembers walking into the old Victorian converted to a thrift store in Spruce Hill, Colorado. Before that, there is nothing.

The ladies at Daughters of Mercy Secondhand are used to helping lost souls, and they quickly find a volunteer to drive Jane to the state mental hospital in Pueblo. There, a sharp-eyed security guard sees that the woman on Jane's driver's liscense isn't Jane. The woman, Yolanda King, only bears a resemblance to the amnesia patient. Jane feels she should have known she wasn't Yolanda, but when she looks in the mirror, she is shocked to see a total stranger.

Doctor Ben Shelby takes on jane as a client, pro bono. The doctor doubts this is a genuine case of retrograde amnesia and suspects that Jane has stolen Yolanda's identity and is faking the illness to avoid prosecution for some crime. A preliminary police investigation seems to confirm this- the real Yolanda King was found dead under suspicious circumstances. When Jane tells the police she doesn't remember meeting Yolanda, Shelby decides to get to the bottom of this certain murder.

Then a strange anomaly on Jane's MRI scan prompts the doctor to look a little closer. What he first takes to be a double image turns out to be more than a simple medical man like Shelby ever bargained for.

It will take all the doctor's skill to pry open the door Jane envisions in her mind. It will take all her determination to hold it shut. She doesn't know what will happen when it opens, but she senses it- and she's terrified.

The Amnesia Door is a 100,000 word psychological thriller about a woman who loses her mind and finds someone else's. Thanks for your consideration.



These queries for nonexistent books seem better than the ones we get for actual books. I'm thinking everyone should do this exercise and then write the book in their query.

S.J. Watson's Before I Go to Sleep is a psychological thriller involving amnesia, and well worth your time.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Fake Query #2

Facelift 778, GTP 6.

Dear Call Yourself Evil,

Cifer's toilet is blocked, his tap drips and his landlord won't answer the phone. He's gone down in the world all right - all the way from Heaven to Toledo. And he can bet the landlord will get responsive as soon as that hastily-materialized first-and-last deposit returns to its constituent elements.

Shit, Cifer's mad as hell and hellbent for revenge. When the landlord shows up, Cifer stuffs her into the blocked toilet and takes over the building himself. As the fallen angel signs up new tenants, to his surprise one of the first applicants is a badly disguised Archangel. Is Gabe here to spy, or is he a malcontent ripe for the picking?

When Cifer hands out leases to a tone-deaf beginning violinist, an editor with an unbroken rejection record and a zombie nun, Gabe brings home a partying steel drum band and turns his bathroom (it was the one with the blocked toilet) into a lava lake. Seeing his opportunity, Cifer goads his rival into an an ever-increasing spiral of evil, hoping to look the golden boy to God by comparison.

By the time Gabe has founded a factory that makes elliptical billiard balls and replaced the contents of all the world's novels with mystical German sermons, Cifer is gleefully planning his repentant, prodigal return to Heaven. After all, he's even resisted shoving Sister Maria Hubert into the lava (she keeps using it to bake brain cookies). Father will take him back. Won't He?

BOUND AND FALLEN is an urban paranormal about revenge, family, and the founding of Hell. It's currently incomplete, at the gleam in my twisted eye stage. Thanks for reading to the end.



What are you waiting for? It's sure to be better than whatever you're actually working on. Although you might want to flush the toilet part.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fake Query #1

#587 Fake Plot:#3

Dear EE:

Musical enrichment is vital to the development of children's cognitive abilities. Therefore, I want to have you look at my idea for a combination of songbook/storybook/picturebook for toddlers: At Play on the Isle of Song.

Here, white Unicorns frolic with purple ponies [with only the occasional stab wound] on the Isle of Song, where all the flowers are happy all the time, and all the faeries are flower princesses. And there's a mean old dragon to boot!

The Flower Fairy, Daisy, is the Rose Princess. She has her own special song about sharing, 'Sharing Makes Me Happy', which encourages little ones to share.

The Purple Ponies have their own special song, too, 'Purple Drank is for Skanks', which aims to discourage drug abuse. [I assume there's an accompanying CD. If you've signed Prince to perform "Purple Drank," say so. It's a selling point.]

The Unicorns have their own special song, too, called "Stay a Virgin" [sung by Madonna on the CD,] which is meant to encourage little children [unikernals] to honor their bodies and not do sexual things until they are at least 12.

Finally, there's an evil dragon who wants to end all music and happiness in the land. His special song, 'Hooray for the RIAA", encourages children to express themselves freely.

I have a PhD from the University of Phoenix in Accounts Management and have won many awards from the Quincy Mass library writer contest.

Thank you for your time.



Better than a CD would be a link to music files the toddlers can steal.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Face-Lift 1105

Guess the Plot

The Accursed

1. Gabriel, Prince of Vampires, must find a young bride to bear his heir or his line will die, so he chooses 16-year-old Amy and Jesus H Christ I already hate this book.

2. Fury must survive the citadel's eight floors of torment in order to die. If she doesn't survive them, she lives. It's a bit paradoxical, but trust me, it all makes sense in the book.

3. Finally. The REAL story of Hudson's disastrous voyage to discover the Northern Passage. As described in the newly-discovered diaries of Juet, Hudson, mauled by a werecaribou while on a water-gathering expedition, fled the Discovery to protect the crew from his ravenous appetite for timber. Told in verse.

4. "Dearly Beloved..." Pastor Anton always says at the beginning of his Sunday sermons. But he knows that fully one tenth of his flock are The Accursed, beings in human skin who walk the earth "converting" mortals. How is the pastor so adept at recognizing these lost souls? He's one of them.

5. Frederick loses jobs. A bankrupt restaurant, laid off from a delivery service, and fired for cursing a customer. One night on his way home from the pub, he meets Leo de Leeuw, a lion. Leo promises him great wealth if he helps other lions escape from the zoo. He gives up drink and works obsessively for weeks. Finally, he frees the lions. But he doesn't get paid. The lion was lyin’.

6. Bayleigh's school is a nexus--all kinds of magic and bizarre creatures roam its hallowed halls. All, except for her. Because in this place of magic, undeath and love, she's . . . the accursed.

Original Version

Dear Most Evil Editor,

The Accursed is a dark fantasy about a woman who can’t remember her real name and doesn’t know why she’s unable to die. Since you [represented, made your preferences plain, et al] I thought you might be interested in this book.

Fury is a matchless fighter haunted by a past she can’t remember. [If she can't remember her past, how does she know it's her past that's haunting her? Maybe it's the ghost of Christmas future.] Though her every wound heals in moments, pain is her constant companion. With a single touch, Fury can heal others by taking their injuries as her own. ["The Empath." Star Trek, episode #67.] Death refuses to allow Fury beyond its gates, [She's already beyond them. She wants to get inside them.] and, searching for a means to die, Fury enters Nekatix, the infamous city without laws. [Well, there's one law: you must return your DVD or they won't send you another one.] There, she meets Vorlinax, [Sounds like an antacid.] a ruthless Guildlord fascinated with her capacity for survival. In return for becoming his bodyguard, Vorlinax agrees to find her entrance into the next world. ["If you be my bodyguard, I can be your ticket to hell."--Paul Simon.]  [What makes her think he can find her a way to die?]

She serves Vorlinax alongside Nevrik, [Amazing how three such different words can sound like the same word. I recommend changing them to Netflix, Vortex and Newman.] a pervasively cheerful swordsman with silver pupils eerily similar to Fury’s own. When the nameless ‘High Ones’ take Fury prisoner for breaking the city’s only law [I told you there was a law.] and touching a Monument, more than infatuation urges Nevrik to find and set her free. Someone wants them to delve into the deepest secrets of Nekatix and destroy the city at its core. Enduring fire, steel, lightning, and countless other torments, Fury faces death when she no longer wants to meet it. From the buried memories of her mother’s brutal murder to the origins of her immortality, Fury will leave no secret untouched or foe intact to punish those responsible for her pain.

If Fury falls to madness or despair before reaching the heights of Nekatix’s Unwrought Citadel, she will spend eternity in ceaseless anguish. [She's immortal and in pain. She's already spending eternity in ceaseless anguish.] Only if she overcomes eight floors of torture, illusion, and memory [Are the torments actually countless, as previously stated, or are there eight of them?] will Fury find the escape for which she longs. [Which is what? Is she back to wanting death? Is overcoming all eight floors the way to destroy the city from its core? What happened to Vortex?]

Thank you for your time and consideration. The Accursed is 100,000 words.


It's not clear enough what's going on. Did the nameless High Ones put her in the Unwrought Citadel? Or did she go there willingly after Newman rescued her from them?

Is anyone fighting with her in the citadel?

If surviving the eighth floor destroys the city, and I'm the High Ones, I'm snatching her out of the citadel as soon as she reaches the seventh floor, locking her in a safe, and throwing it in the ocean. I'm not gonna assume she'll never get past Borgo the Disemboweler on floor 8.

Focus more on story. Tell us what happens, chronologically.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Face-Lift 1104

Guess the Plot

So Long, Humanity

1. After a decade of undergrad work, including beer pong, spring break, and musical girls, our hero accidentally graduates and lands an editorial position at a publisher. Now he's out for revenge.

2. What will it take to get ditzy girls to understand that not all high schools are filled with angst-ridden vampires, werewolves, faeries and elves?

3. Oontsa has had it with humanity's pollution, pillage and devastation of the oceans. Her solution: destroy their food chain. She and her fellow dolphins will devour the Atlantic menhaden population. Ah, a plan as delicious as it is effective. So long, Humanity!

4. Time traveler Mark Humanity uses the same MO every time: show up in some year, take what he wants, and leave behind death and despair. But when Humanity shows up in 2016, he's in for a rude surprise: George Washington has transported to the 21st century. Who better to take on tyranny?

5. The dolphins are back! The aliens that rescued them from Earth have retrofitted them for survival on land. Should they attempt to reason with the inhabitants of Earth Mark 2, or just wipe out humankind?

6. Rodger runs a nonprofit shelter for the homeless. He cleans them up, gets them medical care, and sees to their every need. Then one day he discovers a criminal underground that buys body parts for transplants. And the money is really good.

7. Genius, social outcast, and champion ballroom dancer Percy Pithecus finally has had enough when the Dunkin' Donuts counter girl disses his attempts at romance. Percy builds a neutron bomb in his greenhouse, then must decide between exterminating the human race--and himself--or continuing his lonely existence. With a surprise ending!

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Americans have a pretty clear picture of George Washington in their heads – crossing the Delaware River with his chest jutting and that funny hat sitting on his head. [Actually, most Americans' picture of George Washington is his face on the one dollar bill with that expression that says, "How come that ass Franklin gets the 100 and I get the frigging 1?] However, my young adult sci-fi novel, titled So Long, Humanity, creates a more contemporary image of Washington’s heroism; one with jet packs, time travel, and a villain even more devious than the British Empire.

Fortunately, Mister Washington will have the support of our protagonist. Malcolm Tennant is a ward of the state of New York, a relationship neither he nor the truant officers of New York City welcome. Frustrated with his lot in life, Malcolm says to heck with laws. That’s why he’s running through the streets of the Big Apple with two cops in pursuit. [Can you be more specific? I'm sure the cops don't chase you just for saying To heck with laws.] Luckily, a girl named Prata yanks him to safety at just the right moment. Unluckily, she is an apparent nutcase who says that it’s up to Malcolm to save the world.

Prata warns Malcolm about the coming of Mark Humanity. She says that Mark is the ultimate manipulator, taking what he needs and then skipping through time to the next era of saps. [I liked the title a lot more before I knew it was grounded in a character named Mark Humanity. Now it sounds like a gimmick.] And now he’s arrived in the year 2016 to begin his newest quest for global domination. Desperate for a revolutionary idea, Malcolm and Prata transport George Washington to today. Who better to inspire Americans to battle tyranny? But, due to Prata’s inexperience, the George Washington they wind up with is 17-years-old, plucked from a farm, and not at all ready to lead a revolution. [WTP? No pause to explain how they manage this? Can anyone pluck anyone from any time?]

Meanwhile, Humanity becomes an international celebrity by using his advanced technology to cure disease and improve everyday life. [This is the guy they want to get rid of?] Prata's seen it before; Humanity arrives, wins over the people, takes what he wants, [If he can cure our diseases, I'm guessing we'd happily give him what he wants.] [By the way, what does he want?] and then rips reality apart in order to bound through time to the next target. [Was 18th-century reality ripped apart when George transported to 2016?] With Humanity garnering favor and resources, it’s up to the three time-displaced teens [Three? Malcolm isn't time-displaced, is he?] to save the world from its supposed savior. [To save the world they must keep Humanity from leaving 2016?]

So Long, Humanity is a 55,000 word Young Adult sci-fi novel. It is written with chapters alternating between the past, present, and future. Fans of Orson Scott Card’s Pastwatch should enjoy the time travel story elements as well as the twisting plot. Fans of the television series Doctor Who should enjoy the clever characters and staggered [staggering?] revelations.

I graduated from the United States Military Academy with a degree in Arts, Philosophy, and Literature in 2007. [Did that come in handy in Afghanistan?] I publish a writer's blog atwww.tjmurray-author.blogspot.com with a weekly schedule including Sample Sundays (when I post a short story), Movie Review Mondays, and Conspiracy Theory Wednesdays. [A peek at your blog shows a total of 30 posts since 2010. Not a place you want to send the reader of your query if you want her to think you're a prolific writer.] [You don't need a bio paragraph.]

Feel free to contact me if you would like any further information. Thank you for your consideration.

Very Respectfully,

As for the title, it stems from the antagonist's name and mannerisms. "So Long, Humanity," is what Mark Humanity mutters whenever he travels through time and leaves the world to crumble under his deceptions. It's kind of like, "See you, suckers!" followed by worldwide death and despair. 


The plot doesn't strike me as YA. I'm thinking middle grade, toward the younger end.

Too much time spent setting it up. Some guy is using time travel to benefit himself, and we are going to pay the price if he can't be . . . killed? What are George and Malcolm and Prata planning to do? What does Humanity want? Does he have to get it in New York? What if he shows up in Australia?

You can't just gloss over bringing GW to 2016. I assume Prata is from the future and has access to time travel tech, so say so. On the other hand, I would think she could come up with a better idea than getting Washington, who'll be too busy marveling at airplanes and cars and television and microwave popcorn to do anything useful. A guy with a machine gun might be a better choice.

Your opening paragraph focuses on George Washington, but he never does anything in the query. I would dump that paragraph and focus on Malcolm from the start. If George is instrumental in saving the world, you can still fill us in on how he contributes.

Does the story address the fact that the destruction Humanity leaves behind would negatively affect conditions at any future target that's later in the time line?

I don't see any need for the character to be named Humanity. Wouldn't he say So long, 2016, instead of So long and his name? It's we who should be saying So long Humanity, and thanks for nothing (except curing disease).

Evil Editor Solves the Papal Job Vacancy

Click strip to enlarge

Monday, February 11, 2013

Face-Lift 1103

Guess the Plot

Under a Fading Moon

1. A talking cat offers Shadasa the ability to become a panther at will, but she won't get this power until the moon goes dark--if she lives that long, which is unlikely since an evil alchemist has summoned powerful spirits to hunt her down so he can sacrifice her to the Dark Realms.

2. It's the year 3021. The wealthy have relocated to an artificial environment on the moon, and now call Earth "The Moon." By the time planetwide natural disasters destroy the surface of Earth, the colony is just barely self-sufficient. Can the colonists learn to survive in a society where money has no meaning?

3. Molly the mole is anxious. There’s been a dearth worms lately. Robins have taken over topside because cats are kept indoors due to Valley Fever. She calls Acme Exterminators to spray mold poison but they misunderstand and spray mole poison. The other moles banish her to the light where she can only hunt under a fading moon. Also, a rockin’ robin.

4. In the land of Lunaria, the werewolves are getting worried. The moon, the source of their power, is starting to fade. If Lyca Greeneyes and her inner wolf don't find the answer before the next blood-moon, all the werewolves will lose their powers and those blasted sparkly vampires will take over.

5. 30 years ago, Brenda Nadsly was a headliner at gentlemen's clubs. But that was four divorces, one daughter, and three grandsons ago. Can she take the stage at the Angel's Club and show them that she still has what it takes, even though she's over fifty?

6. Life on Eldora is in turmoil as its constant illumination by full moon is waning. Crops across the planet languish bringing widespread famine to the population. Can chief agropologist, Shia LaGrume, perfect his incandescent device, or will all Eldoran's perish...Under a Fading Moon?

Original Version

Dear Most Exalted Evil Editor, [Or Agent of My Choice]

A cat named NightShade gave Shadasa the second form of a panther. [Not one of my favorite opening sentences.] NightShade isn’t an ordinary cat -- she’s a NightPanther, a powerful, intelligent shifter. Once Shadasa and NightShade pass their first Dark-Moon together, both can become full-sized panthers at will. [So the second form of a panther, which NightShade gave to Shadasa, currently lets her shift into a less-than-full-size panther? Is that why you specify full-sized panther instead of just saying panther? Are you saying NightShade can't currently shift into a panther, that she too must wait for the Dark-Moon?] Her former Alchemist master chose Shadasa as the blood sacrifice that will give him control over the most powerful spirit in the Dark Realms. [Not clear how that relates to the rest of the paragraph. Nor in what way she was sacrificed.] Virtually helpless without the power to shift, Shadasa and NightShade travel with Velpheron, a kindly and capable nobleman. [Where are they traveling to?] [Also, Shadasa has never had the power to shift, so why is she suddenly helpless?]

Staying with Velpheron until the proper moon-phase seems prudent, especially after he saves Shadasa from a slavehunter. As she begins to long for darkness and blood becomes her ambrosia, [Whose blood?] she increasingly fears his rejection. She nearly abandons him the night he takes an arrow to the shoulder -- one meant for her. Though she manages to save Velpheron without revealing her secret, Shadasa further entangles herself by using her Imbued blood as a medicine to save his life. [Why is "Imbued" capitalized? Why was "Alchemist" capitalized? What about "NightPanther"? You didn't capitalize "cat" even though NightShade isn't an ordinary cat. We don't spell it "WereWolf."]

Velpheron’s delirium reveals his royal lineage. Having her blood inside him gives Shadasa access to the Prince’s [Velpheron is the Prince? Of what?] thoughts and passions, [Seems like it would be he who has access to her thoughts, but whatever.] making her feel unbelievably close to him while haunting her with guilt. Struggling to understand her relationship with Velpheron, who still thinks she’s only a slave, [I was thinking she was more a student or apprentice of her Alchemist master, not his slave. Guess I should have taken "slavehunter" literally, instead of thinking it was someone trying to capture her to make her a slave.] [Did she escape from her master? Hard to believe your Alchemist master would choose you for his blood sacrifice and then be careless enough to let you escape before he establishes control over the most powerful spirit in the Dark Realms. ] Shadasa knows he must soon discover what she is. She convinces herself he won’t be angry -- until he tells her of the NightPanther assassins who tried to kill his father, and how, in hatred, he killed one of them himself.

Resisting her feline urges as well as NightShade’s cynical advice seems impossible. [What is she advising?] The summoned spirits of her power-hungry master and the Prince’s own enemies converge on them, forcing Shadasa to make an agonizing choice. If she maintains her hopeless devotion to Velpheron, she must withstand his anger and loathing when he learns the truth -- but if she leaves the man she has come to love, she will despise herself for the rest of her life. [I can see her fearing she'll be lonely or regretting it, but despise herself?] [Also, before worrying about the consequences of her choice, she might want to consider how to deal with the summoned spirits of her power-hungry master and the Prince’s own enemies, who are converging on them. The choice can come after they survive. Which they won't unless the moon goes dark real fast and she can pantherize everyone.]

Under A Fading Moon is a 100K-word fantasy, first in a projected trilogy. Thank you for your time and consideration.

[Note to EE: I submitted once before, with the same general story, under the title DarkMoon. [See Face-Lift 1057--EE.] I've since done a LOT of revising, changed the focus of the story, invented a different title, and, as per your suggestion, changed the names of both main characters.]


If he can tell her he's a nobleman when he's actually the Prince, he can hardly complain that she didn't reveal she will soon be able to morph into a deadly creature capable of ripping out his throat as payback for the NightPanther he murdered. After all, he was already the Prince, while she won't be a NightPanther until the moon does its thing. She's probably not even certain she will be a NightPanther. If someone told me that I would have the ability to turn into a panther after the next Dark-Moon, I think I'd be skeptical. Admittedly less skeptical if it were a talking cat telling me, but still...

I assume the Alchemist still needs Sha-na-na, as he'd have better things to do than hunt her down if he already controlled the Dark Realms.

Does she meet the cat after getting away from the Alchemist? I think this would be more clear if you told it chronologically. Possibly it goes:

Subaru, an alchemist's slave, escapes before he can make her his blood sacrifice.

She meets a magical cat who gives her panther power (but it won't take effect till the next moonless night) and a nobleman who offers to accompany her as she flees the alchemist.

Needing Shakira back in order to become emperor of the Dark Realms, the alchemist summons powerful spirits to hunt her down. Meanwhile, the nobleman, who is actually the prince, is being hunted by enemies of his own.

To fight off their attackers, S will have to shift into panther mode. But if she does, the prince, with whom she has fallen in love and who hates people who can shift into panther mode, may be lost to her forever.

Note that I told the story without the arrow and the blood and ambrosia and NightPanther assassins. Needless clutter. Just focus on Shadow: who is she, what's her situation, what does she want, who doesn't want her to get it, what does she plan to do about it, what happens if she fails.

Why does S have to convince herself the prince won't be angry, when she has access to his thoughts and passions? She can just say, "NightPanthers," and read whether he's thinking, I won't stop till they're all dead, or Like with humans, a few bad apples can spoil the bunch, but I'm sure there are lovable ones.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Query Writing Exercise

The queries aren't exactly rolling in, so it's time for some queries for books that don't exist.

1. Go to this site and generate one number from 1 to 1102.

2. Search this blog for the Face-Lift with that number.

3. Choose one of the fake plots. Don't use the real plot, but do use the real title.

4. Pretend you wrote that book, and write a query letter that's sure to entice an agent.

5. Send it as a comment to this post.

6. Notice how much easier it is to write a query for a fake book.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Face-Lift 1102

Guess the Plot

Lady Champion

1. In the true spirit of "It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog," pure-bred Chihuahua Lady overcomes three bungling dognappers, two maltese rivals and one frighteningly bad hair day to win Best in Show at Westminster.

2. In the highly competitive world of cross-dressing pageantry, the crown for the Lady Champion event is the most sought-after of all. Will joyous tears of victory finally streak the cheeks of drag-queen Red Blushing at the crowning ceremony? All that stands in his way is his 5 o'clock shadow, and the fact that competition doesn't even begin until 4:30.

3. 12-year-old Saylor is determined to prove that her puggle Lady is every bit as good as those snooty purebreds. At the dog show she learns that hard work and determination are worthless when all you have is a mutt. Now Saylor's out for revenge.

4. Khameleon loses every writing contest she enters. So she decides to ruin the publishing industry. She hacks into computers throughout publishing. She replaces sentence termination with commas, comma splicing her way to chaos. She’s the Comma Comma Khameleon and her sentences must be terminated at all cost. Also a talking thesaurus.

5. A librarian is dragged two miles beneath the Earth's surface, where she is expected to battle a champion twice her size. At stake: whether humans with no magical powers should be slaves of the gods. Also, a Voltaire-tutored Fari idealist.

Original Version

Whether fighting opponents or shelving books, librarian Luke Liddell loves fairytales and hates not knowing the story. So it’s irritating when her plans get changed [What's irritating is when he turns into a she.] without notice: From teaching martial arts at a Nashville community center to staring down a leather-pants-clad king two miles beneath Britain. [I don't see enough connection between loving fairy tales and being irritated by a change in plans. In fact, I would expect someone who loves fairy tales to be thrilled at the opportunity to fight a leather-clad king instead of teaching a class.] The good news? Her parents were wrong; Luke wasn’t crazy for saying she had a fairy prince for a friend till age 12. The bad news? She’s been brought to the Under to fight as King Ethain’s Champion. [I'd like more connection between these two events if you're using the good news/bad news line. Is it the fairy prince who's brought her to the Under? Consider: The good news: I won a car. The bad news: It's a 1971 Ford Pinto. Versus: The good news: I won a car. The bad news: They were out of cheese danish at the bakery. Show how the bad news event is related to the good news event. Or just provide the info without the good/bad.]

For a world-class martial artist who trained Marines but couldn’t trust the military enough to enlist, swearing as anybody’s Champion is a problem…until she realizes why Ethain’s heirdom to the High Throne is at stake: He doesn’t believe humans should be slaves. And in much of the Under—where Olympian gods are Fari (humans keep getting that wrong), [Possibly because they have no idea what it means.] human geniuses visit after faking their own deaths, [Huh?] and every fairytale has a hidden angle—a lack of kharis magic condemns you to slavery. [Those with kharis magic are considered charismatic.] [Should I know what kharis magic is?]

Luke’s passionate about justice and equality; fealty to the Voltaire-tutored Fari idealist who dragged her here could be just the chance she’s waited for—to fight for someone she trusts to do the right thing. After all, if you can’t trust a monarch trying to turn his kingdom into a democracy, who can you trust? [A United States Marine. Semper fi.] Not to mention that Ethain’s beauty nearly sends her blind when he smiles, or that she’s had dreams about him since her first night here. [How long has she been here?]

But becoming his Champion will bring its own problems: Figuring out how to defeat an undefeated Champion twice Luke’s size and 30 times her age—and then figuring out how to survive the price of victory. [Anyone over the age of 3 should be able to defeat someone 30 times her age. Just kick over his walker.]

LADY CHAMPION is a 110,000-word fantasy-romance, first in the 3-book KING’S CHAMPION series (330,000 words). [That's a lot of words. ] I’m a medicine/law (MD-JD) student two years from graduation, with a degree in English. [Shouldn't someone in med and/or law school be too busy to write 330,000 words?] I’ve won awards for both poetry and prose in SCOPE, and written fiction and essays while devouring mythology, classics, fantasy, and martial arts for three decades.

I would be happy to send you the complete manuscript. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Can you be more specific about how she got to the Under than she was dragged there?

Between the time she was 12 and the time she became a librarian, has she seen her fairy prince friend?

I want more of the story. Here's the setup: A librarian is dragged to the Under where she must defeat Borgo the Disemboweler in hand to hand combat in order to keep Ethain on the throne. Otherwise humans will be enslaved. Now, what happens? There's gotta be more than that in 110,000 words.

Get rid of Luke's parents and kharis and Voltaire and just tell the story.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Face-Lift 1101

Guess the Plot

Cave of Secrets

1. 49-year-old virgin and spelunker Bernard Longhard finally gets a date. Wow, has he ever been caving in the wrong places!

2. A trio of wiccans--Larry Lotter, Donald Deasley and Permione Wranger--discover the Cave of Secrets on the outskirts of Bogsmeade whilst hunting the nefarious You-Knew-Whom. Unfortunately, Catman got there first. Will there be room for brooms once the Catmobile gets parked? Also, unicorns, werewolves and giants unite against the humans.

3. Exploring a cave, aspiring marine biologist Paige Watson discovers a makeshift submarine. Is it a forgotten remnant from some war? Or could it be the secret weapon of supervillain Turtleman?

4. It's a cave, and it has secrets, and that's all I'm gonna tell you in my query, but all is revealed in the book. Presumably.

5. Goblins, orcs, and dwarves all know
Where the naughty children go
The ones who won't go right to bed
Or hit their sisters in the head
The ones who never eat their greens
And will not keep their bedroom clean.

They'll come at night, they'll come by day
To take the horrid ones away
Off to the secret cave they go
Where there are children you may know
Ellen, David, Mary Jean
Jayden, Robert, LaTyrene.

All were naughty,all were bad
They drove their folks and teachers mad
But now they toil, far away
And never get a chance to play
Or dance beneath the happy sun
Jumping up and down for fun.

So listen children, don't be bad
Or make your Mom and Daddy mad
Always be good and nice and kind
Else one day you just might find
Goblins have come to get you, so
Off to their secret cave you go.

Original Version

Evil Editor,

If it really is a submarine, they’ve found more than just adventure. [We don't need this sentence. Save it till we know what "it" is and who "they" are.]

Paige Watson – a cross between Nancy Drew and a young Stephanie Plum – is thirteen when her dad lands a summer fellowship in the Caribbean. Other girls might balk at leaving home for that long. That’s another thing she can’t stand about them. [Another thing? What was the first thing?] [Also, I don't recall Stephanie Plum ever leaving Trenton, New Jersey.] Marine biology ranks way over friends. Cruz Rivera lives on the island of Culebra, and snorkels all summer. [I would start a new paragraph with Cruz. Or move him to sentence 2 in this paragraph.] When they meet on the reef, he knows they’ll hit it off. He’s wrong. Even adrift in the Atlantic, clinging to the same boogie board, she’s the queen of awkward silences and he’s an idiot. ["Idiot" isn't the best word. We want a semi-endearing word for the "hero," like flake, screwball, misfit, kook . . .]

Between the perils of Puerto Rico’s coast and a makeshift submarine deep in a cave, whatever they have – and it’s not friendship – actually clicks. [You just said he was wrong to believe they would hit it off. Now you say they click.] Why would anyone need a secret sub? The only path from the cave leads to a Fish and Wildlife guy, who’s definitely not interested in the turtles he pretends. [He pretends turtles? How about: not as interested in turtles as he pretends.] [Also, if you can't convince a thirteen-year-old you're interested in turtles, you're not trying hard enough.] When the tide changes, gun barrels are flashing and the undertow’s far worse than they expected. [Whoa, I missed it. When did Blue Lagoon turn into Thunderball?]

CAVE OF SECRETS is a story about trusting once again, [That Fish and Wildlife guy wasn't really interested in turtles. I just know it. I'll never trust another human being.] [Unless he proves me wrong by showing me he actually is interested in turtles.] a middle grade adventure at 22,000 words. I’m a member of the SCBWI and several critique groups. I've published a few medical papers in the past, but now write middle grade adventure and fantasy.

I do appreciate your time,


Not clear how this is about trusting again. If you just tell the story, including the part where she loses trust, we'll get it.

Each sentence should follow logically from the previous one. Too many of these don't, especially in the "Between the perils" paragraph.

Just tell us what happens. While spending summer on the Caribbean island Culebra, 13-year-old Paige Watson meets Cruz Rivera while snorkeling. Together they stumble on a makeshift submarine in a cave. And?

The Nancy Drew/Stephanie Plum reference made me think comedic mystery. This sounds more like thriller. Admittedly the line between mystery and thriller may blur a bit in the middle grade set. Are the kids trying to solve a crime or save the world? Is Turtleman a common criminal? An evil overlord? An eccentric inventor? Less setup/more plot.

GTP #5: Khazar-khum.