Thursday, May 30, 2013

Face-Lift 1131

Guess the Plot

Turning Good

1. Fenalda, apprentice of evil wizard Malvario, decides to turn good. Normally this would require Malvario to turn her into a bug, but he has developed a soft spot for her, so he lets her off the hook, hoping the League of Evil Magic never finds out he did something nice.

2. Lucifer never expected to be disappointed in his child, but it seems God just has to up the ante. If Lu doesn't act fast his hell spawn will be welcomed into Heaven for . . . Turning Good.

3. Nothing grows at Camp Yellow Pond. Not even the shadows at sunset. At least that's what everyone believes until a single sprout erupts from the putrid water. Could it be the lake is . . . Turning Good?

4. Fletcher Donahue has played a villain in 64 movies, and he's sick of it. His agent tells him no audience will ever believe he's good--he exudes evil from his raspy voice to his hawk-like eyes to his strange mannerisms. But Fletcher won't give in. He'll stop at nothing to play the hero.

5. Assassin Alison MacDuff just got engaged to the love of her life, an evangelical pastor. She's ready to reform for his sake, but now her old compatriots are threatening to tell him about her past. There's only one solution. She has to kill them all, and fast.

6. Teen rebel Dan Greely pulled one stunt too many. He's been sent to 180 Degrees Reformatory which claims to turn the worst delinquents into model citizens. Dan thought nothing could change him, but after one day of "special tutorials," he realizes he’s got to escape while he’s still in control enough to warn the world.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Malvario’s thirteen-year-old apprentice, Fenalda, decides to turn good, he’s faced with an embarrassing dilemma. As an evil wizard, he ought to destroy Fenalda or at least transform her into something nasty, but Malvario can’t bear to harm her. Instead, they agree on a ruse. She pretends to escape his clutches, and he publicly swears vengeance on her. [I'd start a new paragraph here.] If the League of Evil Magic learns that Malvario helped Fenalda change sides, they’ll have his head for consorting with good. And if Fenalda’s new mentors at the Guild of Good Magic learn she’s still in regular contact with Malvario, they’ll blacklist her for consorting with evil. She shares her secret only with her new friend Briarwood the Disenchanter, a wizard who has dedicated his life to rescuing people transformed by evil spells. He warns her to be careful—Malvario really is evil and there’s no telling what he might do. [Dump that last sentence.]

Two years later, Fenalda, now fifteen, [Got it. 13 + 2 = 15] discovers that Briarwood has a consorting secret of his own, and it just went sour. [That makes it sound like the secret is consorting with someone. "...Briarwood has been doing some consorting of his own, and it's coming back to bite him." is better, but better still is to tell us what happened. His consorting went sour is vague.] Now Tanis, a beautiful evil enchantress, is out to wreak vengeance [No, no, you wreak havoc. You take vengeance.] on him and, through some twisted reasoning, on Fenalda, too. [What's Tanis's beef?] When Malvario learns about the threat to Fenalda, he rushes to her rescue. Briarwood reluctantly agrees to accept Malvario's help in tracking Tanis. But Malvario has neglected to mention that his plan to save Fenalda involves sacrificing Briarwood as well as any of Fenalda's other Guild friends who happen to get in the way. [Furthermore, Tanis knows that Malvaria and Briarwood are tracking her, but Malvaria and Briarwood know that she knows, and she knows this. When Malvaria contracts malaria in Moldova, Fenalda cures him with a potion of fennel and tannis root, infuriating Tanis.]

Meanwhile, Fenalda joins a new study group and discovers that the Guild of Good Magic hides a secret that could shortly cause the destruction of Guild and League alike. [We don't need this. We care what happens to Fenalda, not to the Guild and the League.]

Turning Good, a YA fantasy adventure novel, is complete at 143,000 words. [It's too long. Make it two books or take a chainsaw to it.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Fenalda has a secret, Malvario has two secrets, Briarwood has a secret, and the Guild of Good Magic has a secret. Malvario and Briarwood know Fenalda's secret, Fenalda and Briarwood know Malvario's first secret, Fenalda knows Briarwood's and the Guild's secrets. I assume Tanis knows Briarwood's secret, and that's why she's out for vengeance. Only Malvario's 2nd secret, that he's planning to sacrifice Briarwood, is really a secret, and I'm betting Briarwood suspects it.

Is it really necessary to track Tanis? If she wants vengeance on Malvario and Fenaldo, she's tracking them. Wait around and she'll show up. Or is her quest for vengeance another secret?

The main plot seems to be the Tanis threat. You could remove the two sentences about the Guild and the League from paragraph 1 (I know, I suggested you make them paragraph 2, but that was before I knew Tanis even existed). That gives you plenty of room to tell us what Briarwood did to bring on the wrath of Tanis, and what the Bri/Fen/Mal team plans to do about her. Possibly it'll be easier to follow if you focus on the main plot.

That the villain is more interested in Briarwood than in your protagonist could be bothersome. Tanis's "twisted reasoning" is all that puts Fenalda in danger? Was Fen involved in any way in Briarwood's consorting? If not, how does Tanis even know Fen exists?

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Face-Lift 1130

Guess the Plot

The Medal

1. Gabriel is not looking forward to this year's Angel Olympics. Michael has won the javelin throw for the past twelve hundred years. Satan offers to replace Michael's platinum javelin with a replica, but in return he wants Gabe to sneak him back into heaven. Will Gabriel lose again, or take the deal?

2. Controversy erupts in Cold Falls when it's discovered that the winner of the annual 5k Race To The Falls is doping. So is the 2nd place winner. And the 3rd, and the 4th. Ultimately, the medal is awarded to Ambrose Bledsoe, who ambled the course with his Bichon Frise, Toodles, in six hours, 43 minutes.

3. Surfer Logan Quinn is on his last leg. Literally. A great white shark ate his other one. One day an Olympic gold medalist lets Logan try on his magical medal, and before you know it Logan regains his form as a champion surfer. Also, an inquisitive dolphin.

4. Lyn never knew his grandfather; the WWII vet died when he was still a young child. He grew up hearing stories of the old man's generally evil, nasty temper. When he finds a box containing his grandfather's war memorabilia, will he discover that Gramps was a hero--or a bastard?

5. Shani's wanted an Olympic gold medal since she was 3. Ice skating ended in hospitalization, as did gymnastics, running, three-day event, fencing, and curling. Confined to a wheelchair, can she finally medal at the Paralympics--or should she just break down and buy a replica from Home Shopping Network?

6. Ginger has trained for the Olympics since she was ten. Endless workouts, laps, lifting, spartan diet--she's done it all. But when she finally reaches the Olympics, will she be able to stay the course in the 4X400--or will that disturbingly handsome Venezuelan cyclist knock her off-stride?

Original Version

Logan Quinn is living the life he's been trained for, until the day a Great White Shark shreds his dreams by claiming half of his left leg. [He becomes obsessed with hunting down that white shark. I call the book Moby Mako.] Unable to continue his life as an elite surfer, [he becomes a world-class hopscotch athlete.] he’s lost his career, the love of his life, and the last dregs of his dignity. [No need to switch from present tense.] [Wait, the love of his life dumps him because a shark ate his leg, and he's the one with no dignity?] Working at a dead-end job at a Cash-for-Gold, Logan is on his last leg, literally and figuratively.

Little does he know that an old man who wants to sell some of his late wife’s jewelry will change his life forever. George Akina is a former Olympic gold medalist who recognizes the former surf champion and invites Logan to try on his medal, inviting him to imagine greatness. Logan does just that. When the medal disappears into Logan's chest, George tells him the same thing happened to him twenty years prior, and that the medal's magic has kept him alive and healthy for many years past his wife's death. Logan doesn't believe in magic of any kind, but he's forced to admit he's feeling optimistic for the first time in many years. [So optimistic he quits Cash-for-Gold and applies at National Pawn.]

George dies soon after, willing the medal to Logan [George got the medal back? Did he reach into Logan's chest like that bad guy in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or like that bad woman on Once Upon a Time, except grabbing the medal instead of Logan's heart?] with the caveat that he regain his position as one of the elite surfers in the world, [That's like me willing my estate to Evil Jr. with the caveat that he take up tennis and win Wimbledon.] a task Logan is reluctant to attempt. But, with encouragement and help from a neighbor, George's youngest son and his wife, a slew of old friends, [the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, ], an inquisitive dolphin, and even the ex-wife he still loves but lost, he decides to give it a shot.

Logan begins his climb back up the ladder to success. [Figuratively, but not literally.] He just might make it, despite his obvious handicap and opposition from some of George's offspring. [They want the medal? They don't have a leg to stand on.] That is, unless [the Association of Surfing Professionals rules that using a crutch on his surfboard gives him an unfair competitive advantage.] someone else needs the medal more than he does, especially when that person arrives in the form of George's great-granddaughter [who was forced to quit the LPGA when a wolverine ate her left arm]. [I don't think "especially when" works there. You could start a new sentence: And that person arrives...  And include why she needs the medal.

The Medal is an 80,500 word novel. [Your genre is expected; I'd call it magic realism.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


If George got the medal back and died soon after, perhaps it wasn't the medal that was keeping him alive after all.

Does Logan have an artificial leg?

You'd think if George's great-granddaughter needs the medal more than Logan does, George would have willed it to her.

If you're going to use the "last leg" line, I recommend opening the query with it: Logan Quinn is on his last leg, literally and figuratively.

The inquisitive dolphin is distracting me from the theme/conflict.

I would mention that Logan's a pro surfer before I mention that a shark claimed his leg. Also, "shark" is good enough. Otherwise readers may wonder if Logan took the time to identify the shark as it swam off with his leg. Plus, if you mention "Great White" someone may think the quality of your book is comparable to that of the movie Jaws 4: The Revenge. You definitely don't want that.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Face-Lift 1129

Guess the Plot

Morgan for the Faeries

1. He had a reputation as the cruelest of all the pirates, but when his ship veers off course and docks in Faerie, Morgan develops a soft spot for the magical immortals. But can he save them from the approaching British fleet?

2. Morgan wakes up in a crashed alien craft in the Rockies. When he reaches the outside, he faces an army of faeries and must fight to make it to a mountaintop hideaway that contains the tools he needs to save the last humans on Earth. Trust me, it makes sense in the book.

3. Bored with Faerie, a merry troupe of Fae set off to tour the U.S. in a Morgan V6 Roadster. They break down in northern Arkansas, where they join a commune and learn to bake whole-grain bread. Then someone fixes their Morgan, and they go on their merry way; first in a series.

4. Assisting the giants left him with busted bones. Championing the werewolves left him with torn flesh. This time he's won't get routed by those he supports. No, this time it's Morgan, for the Faeries.

5. Morgan is kidnapped by the Fae when her mother dies. She's almost adjusted to the new life when she gets the biggest surprise of all...Mom isn't dead; she's the Faerie Queen! Yae!

6. Morgan's lot in life is to travel from Faerie to the human world to make changes in history. When she's sent to find some missing fae future Los Angeles, she stumbles onto the U.S. president's plot for world domination. Luckily, she brought along her secret crush, the half-goat god Pan. Can they save the faeries--and the world?

Original Version

Greetings O Agent Terrificus,

I am seeking representation for "Morgan for the Faeries," my 80,000-word YA paranormal dystopian with a noirish mystery vibe.

Seventeen-year-old Morgan has been trying to prove her worth for years. Stuck in the shadow of her late mother, Morgan le Fay, and raised in Faerie by the divine Sisters Three, [Kim, Kourtney, and Khloé.] she’s spent her life slipping into the human world at different points in history, making changes at the Sisters’ request. [She's like Sam from Quantum Leap, except she works with the Kardashians instead of Al Calavicci.] So when faeries start disappearing from late twenty-first century Los Angeles, Morgan jumps at the chance to solve the mystery and finally gain the Sisters’ respect. [Not clear why she doesn't have their respect already if she's spent her life making changes at their request. If she's been screwing up all her missions, why don't they send someone else?] Along with her childhood friend Pan, Horned God of the Forest (and Morgan’s secret love interest), Morgan storms into the mortal world, determined to recover the missing faeries.

But downtown Los Angeles feels more like Arthurian Britain than the entertainment capital of the world. [That's because she stormed onto the set of A Knight's Tale IV.] The leader of the U.S. lives in a gilded palace while the masses rot on the streets. [That's the way it's been throughout actual history in every country.] This leader, known only as the Reverend, rose to power following his accurate prediction of a series of cataclysmic events [Here's where we deviate from actual history, as in most ages he would have been blamed for the cataclysmic events and burned at the stake]. — events he claimed the Book of Revelation helped him predict. Morgan’s seen guys like him before (back in her mother’s day, they were called “kings”) and she suspects his doomsday predictions mask a power-hungry desire to dominate the masses. [Probably not necessary to characterize a desire to dominate the masses as "power-hungry."] But can she uncover his plans without sacrificing the safety of the missing faeries? [You've made no connection between him and the missing faeries. Is he holding them prisoner?] [Why does Morgan believe the leader of the United States is behind kidnapping the faeries? If a bunch of people went missing in Washington D.C., no one (except Fox News) would blame Obama.]

In the end, a sacrifice will be made, whether Morgan chooses it or not. The Reverend’s gearing up for a final power play, one that involves worldwide domination, a public massacre of all the creatures he believes to be demons, and Pan: the boy [goatboy] with cloven feet and horns who’s known Morgan’s value all along.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Allow me to confirm that the final plot sentence means what it says, namely that the Reverend's final power play involves three things: worldwide domination, a public massacre, and Pan. Or is it possible what you meant to say is: The Reverend’s gearing up for a final power play, one that involves worldwide domination and a public massacre of all the creatures he believes to be demons, including Pan... I ask because it's hard to believe Pan is a crucial part of the Reverend's plan, because Pan just got there. Also because Pan is the god of fields, groves and theatrical criticism. Also because he's a pipe-playing goatboy.

"Goatboy." Say it five times fast.

So is the Reverend's plan to massacre the Faeries and claim they were demons, in hopes that this will lead to world domination? If he just wanted to dominate South America that might work, but people in Australia and Canada will never buy into it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Face-Lift 1128

Guess the Plot

Whatever He Can

1. Miyamoto is a ronin who has never lost a battle, and roams the countryside seeking a challenge. He meets his match when a veiled ronin beats him in a duel. Miyamoto's new friend is a woman, and he'll do whatever he can to keep her satisfied.

2. Holly thought the gangly red colt had promise. Trainer Dave saw nothing but a glue factory reject. But when the colt starts tearing up the Idaho quarter horse racing circuit, Holly dreams of the All American Futurity and its multimillion dollar purse. Will Dave join her dream while her colt gives--Whatever He Can?

3. Chapstick. Cotton balls, Nail polish remover. Air freshener. It's the end of the world and DJ Shazam came late to the Safeway looting. Now he's hoarding ...Whatever he can.

4. Gordon Gecko insists everyone call him "Sheena" after that last stroke. His grandson, Steve, steps in to salvage whatever he can of Gecko's crumbling fortunes. Spoiler, Gecko screws Steve out of his inheritance.

5. Jaime Casey is caught between a wizard and a demon who both want the drug stash he doesn't have, and his only allies are a comic book nerd and a woman who can't get over her crush on President McKinley's assassin. He's not sure how he's gonna get out of this, but he'll do . . . whatever he can.

6. Odin, ruler of Asgard, must always speak sooth. Now, he has Alzheimer’s and occasionally flubs it. Thor must make everything Odin says into truth. But Thor won an all-expense-paid two-millennium cruise through the Andromeda Galaxy. Thor will do … Whatever He Can … to go on the cruise. Hilarity ensues.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

People call Jaime Casey the Boogieman; [Isn't that spelled "boogeyman"? I guess if it's your world you can spell it however you like, like fairy/faerie.] he's a loan shark, a Liar, and in big trouble.

When one of the Boogieman's clients is murdered Jaime is caught between two ruthless people [Wait, Jaime is the Boogieman; you're making it sound like they're two different people.] demanding a stash of drugs he doesn't have. On one side is a demon-blooded femme fatale with a taste for other people's pain and on the other is a drug-dealing wizard who's backed by the Boogieman's traitorous centuries old mentor. Add in a scumbag who keeps attacking his downstairs neighbor [His own neighbor or the Boogieman's neighbor?] and the Boogieman couldn't imagine himself in a worse situation. [I don't see that adding in the scumbag makes Jaime's situation so much worse that it's worth mentioning in the query. It's like:

Spock: "Captain, the Romulans are attacking us from the left with photon torpedoes--

Kirk: I suggest--

Spock: . . . and the Klingons are attacking us from the right with phasers--

Kirk: Have you raised the--

Spock: . . . and Bones and Scotty are arguing about scotch versus bourbon again.

Kirk: Christ, could things get any worse?]

What does Jaime have? The magical ability to make people live their worse [worst] fear, a boss who's still nursing her crush on President McKinley's assassin, [Leon Frank Czolgosz, Polish pronunciation: ˈt͡ʂɔwɡɔʂ ] a little sister with dangerously bizarre luck, and an overweight comic book nerd. To get out of this mess the Boogieman will do whatever he can. [This is just a list of characters. Are they Jaime's allies in an epic battle against the wizard and demon woman? I don't see what they bring to the table.]

Whatever He Can is an adult urban fantasy of 87,000 words. In this novel, Liars are a variety of magical beings who are born on Earth but are twisted by the magic [of? in? emanating from?] a dimension called Otherside. Not only are most humans incapable of perceiving a Liar's true form [semicolon? comma but?] each [human? Liar?] also possesses distinct magical abilities and weaknesses. Jaime Casey can inspire terror, but wearing a gold ring would rot his finger to the bone. [Gold : Boogieman :: Kryptonite : Superman.] [Do the Boogieman's clients pay off their debts with Krugerrands to annoy him?]

A synopsis and complete manuscript are available upon request.

Thank you for your consideration.


How come we all remember who shot Lincoln and Kennedy, but not who shot Garfield and McKinley? Though I'm not sure Garfield should be included, as his doctors had more to do with his death than his assassin did:
Leading doctors of the age flocked to Washington to aid in Garfield's recovery, sixteen in all. Most probed the wound with their fingers or dirty instruments.  
The doctors [later--he lingered 80 days] reopened the wound and enlarged it hoping to find the bullet. They were unsuccessful. By the time Garfield died on September 19, his doctors had turned a three-inch-deep, harmless wound into a twenty-inch-long contaminated gash stretching from his ribs to his groin.

There's nothing about the plot. We get a bit about Jaime's situation: powerful beings want his drug stash, though he's a loan shark, not a drug dealer. And we get a bit about the world: there's magic and an alternate dimension. But what happens? What does Jaime want? What's stopping him from getting it? What will happen if he fails? What's his plan? Tell us the story.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Face-Lift 1127

Guess the Plot

A Serpent in the Garden

1. The Dikdas, lilliputian folk who inhabit vegetable gardens, must fight for their survival after an article in Organic Gardening suggests gardeners get rid of slugs by attracting toads. Toads, of course, attract predatory snakes. Snakes prefer toads, but Dikdas will do.

2. Aphids on the roses, snails on the geraniums, frogs on the grass? Learn how to handle all these common garden pests and more the natural way with House and Yard's newest self-help book!

3. Matt, a born-again Mormon, has a tattoo that frames his manhood as a serpent in a garden. Tanya accepts his proposal, but he knows she won't accept his body art. Will he become a stripper to earn fast money to remove it, or leave the lights off on their wedding night?

4. Jill hates snakes and loves gardening. One morning while trimming the rose bush, she sees a king snake. It’s after its breakfast. While Jill is bashing the king snake with a shovel, its meal, a Mojave Green rattlesnake, nails her good. She spends five weeks in the hospital and when she gets out, she still hates snakes.

5. When a woman is murdered in an abbey, the suspects include (spoiler alert) the devout monks who live and worship there and a German guy named von Starkebrücken. Can Eva solve her first case and embark on a successful mystery series? Also, venom and a guy whose name is an anagram of gardener.

6. It's Judgment Day and Eve attempts to rectify 10,000 years of bad press, confessing to God that she lied--Adam plucked the fruit. It's eternal damnation for one of them, but can Eve condemn the man from whose rib she sprang?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Eva von Hirschburg is the orphaned child of a secret marriage. Raised by the uncle who disowned her mother, she longs to find someone who can see her instead of the shadows cast by her parent's sins. [That's parents' if you mean both parents. If you mean one parent, say father's or mother's.] [What are her parents' sins? Getting married secretly and dying?]

She may have found him in Brother Conrad, a young monk she helps escape her family castle, [You toss that out with no explanation, as if it's perfectly normal for monks to be imprisoned in the family castle.] but their growing friendship is threatened when a woman is murdered at Conrad's abbey, leaving behind a newborn son.

Moved by the resemblance between the victim and her mother, Eva vows to find the killer, [In fact, she will hunt down the killer of anyone who resembles any of her relatives.] but can she count on Conrad to help her when his fellow monk may face the gallows? [No. The code of conduct monks were expected to abide by in medieval times involved chastity, poverty and obedience, but nothing about ratting out fellow monks who've murdered women.]

Then Mallory von Starkebrücken arrives at the castle. Eva cannot deny her attraction to the passionate young lord, [Mallory's a guy?] but fears he is only looking for an indiscretion. [only seeking temporary storage for his lance.] [Actually, that works better if he's a knight than a lord. Make him a knight.] Worse still, he wants her to give up what he believes is a dangerous obsession with the murdered woman.

Is Mallory trying to protect Eva, or is he trying to protect his knight, Ragenard, who torments the serving girls and was visiting the abbey when the woman was attacked? [The code of chivalry knights were expected to abide by in medieval times didn't leave much wiggle room when it came to treatment of the fair sex. In fact, two of the 17 requirements of knighthood were:
  • When a guest in someone else's castle, refrain from tormenting the staff.
  • Comport yourself at all times in a manner such that, if a woman is murdered in an abbey, you don't leap to your lord's mind as the chief suspect.]  
["Tormenting the staff" sounds like another way of saying "flogging the dolphin" or "polishing the bayonet." This is my chance to get into the Urban Dictionary, unless someone else already came up with it.]

Eva cannot capture the killer alone, but whom she chooses to trust [trusting the wrong person] could have fatal consequences.

A SERPENT IN THE GARDEN (70,739 words) is a historical mystery for young adults set in medieval Germany. It will appeal to fans of “Venom” by Fiona Paul and “The Falconer's Knot” by Mary Hoffman.

I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and the North Carolina Writers' Network. As a developmental psychologist, I have published numerous academic articles. I am also coauthor of an adult nonfiction book published by the MIT Press (under my maiden name - Knickmeyer).

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I wasn't thinking YA until you called it YA. If you mention Eva's age when you introduce her it'll help.

If the mystery is whodunnit, you might mention some people who had a motive.

I don't see how Eva can do much of anything. Does she interview suspects? Does she have permission from the monks to hang out in the abbey looking for evidence? Aren't there any adults with the authority to investigate the murder?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

New Beginning 1005

The lights are dim on the bridge, its inhabitants lounging in their chairs, most of them comfortable and relaxed as they go about their routine. To one side, the youngest member of the crew scans through comms channels, listening to silence.

“Nothing. Every day, absolutely nothing.” He runs his hands through his hair in frustration.

From the engineer’s chair, the short blond woman opens her eyes long enough to give him a glare. “Some would say that’s a good thing, patrol where nothing happens. You’d probably say that too, if you’d lived through one that was exciting.” She raises her left arm slightly then returns it to her lap, her point made.

Ensign Crenshaw blushes a little at the admonition. He doesn’t know where or when she lost her real arm, and is so used to seeing the prosthetic he plain forgot about it.

He is about to apologize when he is struck from behind by Captain Kinkaide's titanium foot.

"Back to work, you shiftless whelp," Kinkaide harrumphs. "And be grateful I didn't break it off in your ass."

Yes, serving on the USS Prosthetica is a trial indeed, Crenshaw thinks, to himself this time.

Opening: Darci Smith.....Continuation: Veronica Rundell

Monday, May 20, 2013

Face-Lift 1126

Guess the Plot

Seers and Sparkplugs

1. All of her life, Kelly's had a gift--the ability to magically repair cars. When an old Firebird she resurrected starts destroying the competition on the local stock car circuit, NASCAR comes calling. But if she signs with a team, they might learn her secret. Should she go to Daytona--or stay in Middleton?

2. Jason Ahummina works for Seers, Robot and Company, in the sparkplug department. Business is booming -- all the Babbage calculating machines are switching from steam power to internal combustion. When Princess Animmuha arrives on a PR outing with her reluctant 'bot chaperone, will sparks fly?

3. Mechanic Rachel Chase has always been able to foresee people's deaths. When she has a vision of her mother being murdered, she must figure out how the skills she acquired working at Jiffy Lube can bring down a psycho killer. Also, a family of warlocks.

4. Carlos Spargo, aka "Sparkplug", is happy in suburbia. He discovers he's a direct descendant of a wicked necromancer when his grandma dies and leaves him a book of spells. Will he become the coolest dad ever, or leave his family to find wealth and fame?

5. No NASCAR crew is complete without its oracles. But when, in the midst of a pit stop, Tiny Dawson's pit-seer tells him that she sees fire and explosions on the next three laps, Tiny tells her that's what racing's all about.

6. Crosby thought life sucked eggs until he met Stilz, a nashini who knows how to build a better mousetrap. Which is great, because mice are taking over Youngstown. Also, a plague.

7. Madame Terlotte knows how to rebuild the human species now that GMO food has rendered 93% of the population sterile: gasoline powered marital aids. Happy endings ensue.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

Rachel Chase’s mother is going to die. [Drop this; unless it's specifically stated, I never assume a character is immortal.]

After a lifetime of watching folks bite it in her visions, Rachel’s seen fate win, over and over. ["After a lifetime" could suggest her life is over. "In a lifetime" is better, though you could subtly convey your character's approximate age by saying "In thirty years of . . . "] [Authors often tell me to bite it; I had no idea they were telling me to die.] Drowning in a glass of whisky usually takes the edge off her guilt, but this time, Jameson doesn’t cut it. Not when her mother’s going to be sacrificed by some psycho. ["Sacrificed" as in a ceremony? Or just murdered?]

However, her zipcode hopping mom is harder to track than a sidhe who owes a favor. [My research into the favor-repaying practices of the Sidhe reveals that:

Some versions of Irish mythology have the Daoine Sidhe eventually divide into two groups: the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court.

The Seelie were bound by their code of honor to repay any debt owed as soon as was possible. This included both favors and insults.

The Unseelie placed no stock in the ideals of honor. Instead, they pursued their own self-interests vigorously.

Thus your analogy is a clear insult to all members of the Seelie Court--an insult they may be counted on to repay in short order.] [A better analogy would be "harder to track than a literary agent who told you to look her up at a writers conference."] Since Rachel avoided the supernatural community all these years and her mechanic job never led to many connections, her allies amount to nada. Until a warlock family rolls into town looking for a seer. They need her help to unseal their power [When you want your power unsealed, you don't go to a seer; you go to an Unseelie.] and Rachel needs assistance tracking down and protecting her mother. A trade seems only fair.

Yet, the warlocks aren’t playing straight with her. The elemental traps protecting the seals are deadly and they’re keeping secrets, like the untimely fate of the last sucker who worked for them. [This makes it sound like it's the traps keeping secrets and for whom the last sucker worked.] If Rachel doesn’t find a way out of this supernatural nightmare soon, forget thwarting fate, she’ll be joining her mother in an early grave.

"Seers and Sparkplugs" is a 96,000 word urban fantasy.



Not clear to me why warlocks think a person who has visions of people dying is the ideal person to unseal their power.

Does Rachel have control over her visions? Can she look at a guy and foresee his death? Was she thinking about her mother when she foresaw her death? Or is it all random? I take it she was unable to identify the psycho she saw in her vision or the place she saw the psycho killing her mother? Getting to the place where her mother's going to be killed could be as useful as finding her mother.

Her mechanic job doesn't seem worth mentioning in the current context. If you need to track someone down fast, you can hire a detective. You're unlikely to find useful "connections" no matter what your job is. On the other hand, there must be some reason you've made Rachel a mechanic; if her skills as a mechanic come into play, maybe you can work in how, so the title makes sense.

Have Rachel's visions all come to pass up till now? Does she have reason to believe fate can be thwarted? Has she ever tried to thwart fate? Have you ever tried to say "thwart fate" three times fast?

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Face-Lift 1125

Guess the Plot

A Royal Pain

1. For years, the palace staff has tolerated Queen Zenilda III's so-called practical jokes. But when her banana peel prank puts Lady Mitochondria in intensive care, the rest of the ladies-in-waiting stage a palace coup.

2. The King has gout, the Queen has headaches. Physicians have been useless so far. When a gentleman shows up peddling a "cure all" he's invited in. Is he a harmless quack, or something more sinister?

3. Her face graces the covers of most magazines and her dress sense is widely copied. But even those who wholeheartedly despise the "future queen" are surprised when she reveals herself to be an alien with plans to imprison and torture humankind.

4. The king's heir Alexan is betrothed to Jayna, but they just met and they can't stand each other. Add to that the fact that Jayna must constantly roam the land or she'll simply die, while Al prefers to sit around the palace, and you've got yourself . . . A Royal Pain.

5. When the Hungarian ambassador is found shot at the La Brea Tar Pits with the royal jewels stuffed in his rectum, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, Zoltan Vargas didn't fall on those diamonds while taking a shower, and two, Zoltan is a kickass name.

6. Mad King George lays another "magic egg" in a mystery location. The Groom of the Stool is the only one excited. There seems to be no way to potty train King George. But just when the royal staff is about to give up, a time machine lands in the garden and Mary Poppins steps out.

7. Unwed Princess Lorena will go homicidal on the next sadist to sneak a pea under her mattress. Then she meets King Frenik who's just as sensitive as she. Unfortunately his kingdom is in revolt and Lorena has one day to save him from the guillotine. Starving peasants. Ill-equipped knights. Scheming vassals. Surely kings don't need to put up with all these plebeian affairs.

Original Version

Dear Editor of Supreme Evilness,

I saw (somewhere) that you are interested in young adult manuscripts. [You misread it. I'm interested in young adult mannequins. I'm doing my own interior decorating this time.] I think you may enjoy my young adult fantasy novel, A Royal Pain, complete at 55,000 words. I would like to invite you to review the manuscript and consider it for representation. [More concise would be: I am seeking representation for A Royal Pain, a YA fantasy complete at 55,000 words.] [Even more concise: I have A Royal Pain, and I heard you have Ibuprofen.]

Getting betrothed to a princess he’s never even met is the last thing seventeen year old Prince Alexan of Vakela wants to do. [Just because someone doesn't want to do something doesn't make it the last thing he wants to do. I could name a thousand things that would make an arranged marriage seem like a cheese danish from Andre's Hungarian.] His intended, Princess Jayna of Pardin, isn’t exactly thrilled about the arrangement either, and when they meet to exchange vows neither one of them is surprised to discover they can’t stand each other. But the ceremony is put on hold when Gustus, Jayna’s tutor, is kidnapped and the betrothal contracts he carried stolen; contracts that would also confirm Alexan as heir to the throne of Vakela. [Lemme get this straight. Alexan is the prince and heir to the throne, but if some tutor from another kingdom loses some contract, someone else becomes heir to the throne?] Faced with such a crisis Jayna does the only sensible thing, taking matters into her own hands and riding to Gustus’s rescue with Prince Alexan along as her unlikely accomplice. ["Accomplice" suggests a crime. Perhaps "comrade in arms"?] [If they can't stand each other, and the betrothal contracts have been lost, they should be celebrating.]

Disguised as poor farmer’s sons they track Gustus’s kidnappers to a far off city and a dangerous criminal underworld apparently run ["Apparently run" meaning "not run."] by none other than Alexan’s disinherited older brother, Davin. [If you just say "by Alexan’s disinherited older brother," we'll infer that it's none other than hm.] But things are not what they seem and soon Jayna and Alexan discover that Davin is nothing more than the pawn of a ruthless crime lord. Voris has addicted Davin to a potent drug and plans to have Alexan killed before his claim to the throne can be confirmed, then set Davin up as a puppet king for him to rule through. [Of course he can't rule through Davin until the current king is also dead. I mean, if you killed Prince Charles's older brother in 1955 so that you could rule through Prince Charles when Queen Elizabeth II died, you've been waiting 58 years. You're probably dead.] With Jayna’s surprising street smarts, and the help of a band of young thieves, Jayna and Alexan manage to free both Gustus and Davin and return to Vakelon [Vakelon? I thought it was Vakela. Of course places do change their names from time to time. For instance, Persia to Iran, Siam to Thailand, Ceylon to Sri Lanka and Chad to Ochocinco.] with no one any the wiser. [Not even Voris? Surely he eventually notices his meal ticket is missing.]

After the betrothal ceremony [There's a betrothal ceremony before the wedding? So when the were meeting to exchange vows two paragraphs ago, those weren't the wedding vows? Those were the vows to take the vows?] Jayna returns home, now close friends with both Davin and Alexan, but just as opposed to the marriage as ever. For she and the brothers now share a secret that will forever keep them apart even as it binds them closer: Jayna is part Ghaltani, one of the mystical, nomadic people of the high mountains for whom it is fatal not to roam the land. [This is a secret? Has she been roaming the land all her life up to now? Has anyone said to her, "Hey Jayna, how come you're constantly roaming the land like a Ghaltani?" Was the secret known to her mother? Why would they arrange a marriage between a Ghaltani and a couch potato?] And if Jayna should marry Alexan, and be tied to the palace, it will mean nothing less than her certain death. [If you just say it will mean "her certain death," we will infer that it isn't something less than that.] Now it’s up to Alexan to find a way to save the strange princess to whom he’s betrothed…and who has become the best friend he’s ever had.

A Royal Pain is a stand-alone novel with series potential. I have included (whatever your website said you wanted.) My previous writing experience includes locally published short stories, poetry, and brochures. When I’m not writing I am either riding a horse, showing a horse, or teaching my students how not to fall off a horse. [Did you consider making all the characters in your book horses? It would be like Watership Down, but with horses instead of rabbits. I see Alexan in the movie being played by Mr. Ed.] Please feel free to contact me at any time to request a partial or full manuscript. Thank you very much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.



This "roam the land or die" rule seems rather arbitrary. Can you roam any land? What are the early symptoms of not roaming the land? When you go to the doctor because you're feeling lousy, is her first question always When did you last roam the land? Can you roam back and forth between two camps, or do you have to keep roaming to new lands?

Why would Voris want to create the appearance that Davin is running the criminal underworld? If I were Voris I would keep Davin locked up until I was ready to make my move.

Rescuing Davin and Gustus feels like the big climax. If it isn't, I expect Voris to come after the heroes. Instead the big climax seems to be Alexan must decide whether he'd rather be king or roam the land with Jayna, but since the current king may rule another forty years, it's not that big an issue.

Even after you cut the first paragraph down to one sentence and get rid of your credits and horse obsession, it's still a little long. We can do without a lot of the detail and vague phrases, like Disguised as poor farmer’s sons, After the betrothal ceremony Jayna returns home, things are not what they seem, does the only sensible thing . . .

Perhaps we can dump the Ghaltani paragraph entirely and pretend that the big finish is With the help of a band of young thieves, Jayna and Alexan must rescue Davin and Gustus and get home before whatever.

The title suggests this might be more comedic than it apparently is.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Face-Lift 1124

Guess the Plot

What Future Lies

1. The dog ate my homework. It's not you, it's me. Check's in the mail. I'm on the pill. No, really, you can trust me. Oh God...yes, yes, yes! Aunt Amity's forthcoming Book of Lies will be a must-have baby shower gift.

2. Professor Cuyper invents time travel, invests heavily in biotechnology, then sets off for a promising future. He arrives in a world of terrifying mutations his money helped create. Too bad he forgot to invent reverse time travel.

3. Elspeth Kasandra has made a fortune as a fake fortune teller. But now all her made-up predictions are mysteriously coming true. Now it's up to Elspeth to stop California from tumbling into the sea.

4. Brenda thinks men won't date her because she's fat, so she uses an old picture on a dating site. Soon a handsome man messages her. But at the date, she discovers he's really a frumpy shoe store manager. Can they find love, or will their lives be--future lies?

5. Physicist Joseph Seldon knows time travel is impossible, since the past and future are constructs of our minds and only the present exists. Then a future version of himself shows up, needing his help.

6. Nerdy Zara has found her niche by reading tarot during lunch break. A few accurate predictions and she's now in demand by the cool girls. Her revenge for past humiliations is to predict horrible futures for them, and watch self-fulfilling prophecies come true.

7. Paul and his girlfriend Emma are accepted into separate Ivy League universities, Paul promises to visit her every weekend. She doesn't trust him. Paul doesn't care, because he just wants to party, and lie about it.

8. Christopher Smith gets kidnapped by a time traveling warrior and taken to a high-tech medieval time when knights ride hover bikes and energy domes protect cities. He thinks it's pretty cool, but the coolest part is when it's revealed that Chris is actually an android!

9. Herman thought he had life figured out. Job, wife, family, right? Then, he entered Madame Allred's carny tent. Now his only hope for a perfect future is to survive a trip to the past to save his fiancée's mother from a tragic mistake.

10. Thyme learns that her father wasn't the man who raised her. In fact, he wasn't even human. On the run from the Intrastellar Justice Agency, Thyme searches for her biological father who she hopes can save her. Also, shape-shifting squid people.

11. A disillusioned Wall Street trader who lost it all in the mortgage crisis comes to Jesus after his failed suicide attempt. (I think. It's kinda murky and grandiose.)

Original Version

Dear EE,

When 17-year-old Christopher Smith gets kidnapped by a beautiful time-traveller with rainbow-colored eyes, he thinks that's as crazy as it gets. Not even close.

His kidnapper, a warrior named Isabeau de Chic, brings Christopher to a future he never imagined: a time when high technology meets history in medieval-inspired city-states, where towering walls are protected by impermeable energy barriers and knights ride AI-enhanced hover bikes.

And then Christopher meets the king, Alexander, who looks just like him.

King Alexander claims their similarity is mere coincidence and that he only brought Christopher to the future to be his occasional stand-in. Christopher thinks he's lying. Christopher's right. [Obviously he's right. When you have time travel, you don't need a stand-in. If you get assassinated, your trusted minions time travel back to right before the assassination and prevent it. If the queen catches you in bed with your mistress, you go back in time and give the queen a thousand dollars to go shoe shopping. Instead of using a stand-in to avoid attending some endless official ceremony like the city-state's 100th anniversary or meeting the Rollerball champions, you just time travel to the day after the ceremony.] [Plus, in the future if you need an occasional stand-in, you use one of your clones.]

Christopher's pretty sure Isabeau knows the truth, but, even though she's warming up to him, she's not telling. She's not telling him about the rebels either, with their wild stories of a world outside the energy dome. [The people think there's nothing outside their dome?] She's not telling him the rumors that those same rebels would love to replace King Alexander with someone new – perhaps someone that conveniently looks like him.

And she's certainly not telling him that he's an android. [I assume you mean Christopher, and not King Alexander. Although it seems weird for an android, upon being kidnapped by a time traveler, to think, That's as crazy as it gets.] [Then again, maybe if you translated those noises r2-d2 made it would turn out it was saying, "WTF? Could things get any more wacko? Holy shit! A wookie!"]

Surrounded by deception and intrigue, Christopher must discover the truths of this world for himself if he's going to decide whose side to take - a decision where he could lose his life... or gain his humanity. [a decision that could cost him his life... or gain him his humanity.]

Complete at 73000 words, WHAT FUTURE LIES is a YA Sci-Fi re-imagining of The Man in the Iron Mask. [In other words, the king has Chris thrown into prison, where he dies after 34 years and everyone wonders who he was.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Assuming an android is a robot that looks human, did they really have to time travel to get Christopher? It's not like he would have died of old age. Maybe he's still around. Even if he was destroyed, can't they just make a new android that looks like the king instead of going back in time? To people with hover bikes and force fields and time travel, making an android from scratch is like people of today making a fork.

It starts off okay, but instead of spending an entire paragraph telling us what Isabeau isn't telling Chris, maybe you should tell us what she is telling him. If Christopher doesn't know something, maybe we don't need to know it.

Does Chris ever find out he's an android? Does he want humanity? Does he want to get back to his own time? Are wants and desires totally foreign to him? You've set up his situation: he's been kidnapped and taken to the future. Now we want to know what happens.

After Chris decides whether to take the side of the king or the rebels, what is he supposed to do? Apparently take the king's place, as that's what both sides claim they want him for. But what's at stake? What will happen if the rebels win, and what will happen if they lose?

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Beginning 1004

Sylvie flit her fingertips through the candle’s flame, wondering how many saints and prophets would have been sent to asylums in the modern age. When the power had just gone out, it was a game of boredom. Now, her eyes locked on the glow. Her newest canvas perched wet and disheveled on its easel. The white rabbit notecard sat open on the coffee table. The thunder cracked, a signal from the ancients or perhaps simply a superb sound off of static electricity. Her hand, preparing itself for a slower passing, cast a shadow like a quivering spider across the words on the page.

“Off with your head.”

When another burst of lightening lit the room, Sylvie closed her eyes, allowing her fingertips to meander through the heat of the flame. Her purple fingernails looked black in the dim light. The thunder boomed again, and someone banged on the door. Her hand flinched. She didn’t move to answer it.

“Wasn’t sure if you had any candles.” Miguel walked in the unlocked door like he had just seen her yesterday. Stumpy pillars filled his hands, and a flashlight poked out of his sweatshirt pocket. He dripped after his two block dash. “Guess I was wrong,” he added, seeing the flame across the room quaking from the breeze he let in. “Do you have a towel?”

Sylvie hid her raw fingertips and limped to the hall closet.

“Always saving the damsel in distress…” The words tasted old in her mouth, worn-out, nostalgic as his morning breath and the dagger she’d put in his back.

The phone rang, screaming like a hungry animal and making Sylvie jump. She'd forgotten, in these days of digital dependence, that her old analog set still worked through a power cut. She grabbed the receiver, drawing it toward her like it was buoyant driftwood on an ocean of bleakness. "Hello?" She cast into the static sea.

"It's the power company," the distant, disembodied voice, unsettling in its normalcy informed her. "We've checked out the problem. We'll have your lights back on shortly; seems your overcharged imagery tripped a breaker at the substation."

Opening: Kris Spisak.....Continuation: Anon.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sorry Captcha Haters

Saturday and Sunday alone I received 43 comments that turned out to be someone telling me what a great blog I have and providing a link to their blog. Such as:

My brother suggеѕteԁ I might lіke this ωeb
site. He wаѕ totally right. This pоst
truly made my dаy. You cann't imagine simply how much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

my blog post Same Day Payday Loans

I can't see enduring 43 minor annoyances in two days just to save the few people who make actual comments from two or three minor annoyances every two days. Of course I could stop moderating comments, in which case I assume all these spam comments will appear among the real ones, but then someone will probably click on one of the links and instead of being someone's website it'll let a virus into their computer and who will they blame? Evil Editor.

To ease the pain, anytime you get a captcha you can't decipher, take a screen shot. Then, if your guess fails, email me the screen shot and I'll compile them in a blog post and we can all share each other's misery. (Obviously if you get it right, it wasn't as difficult as you thought it was.)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Synopsis 37

Dear Evil Editor,

Here is my synopsis for the novel, I first did a chapter by chapter synopsis then this synopsis here it is.

"got another one tonight baby." He said softly.
"That makes three, listen! Do you hear the sirens?"
"Do you hear the screaming?" 
Her smile seemed to grow again and he imagined that her tinted lips,
Impulsively he bent  his head to kiss her lips.
From A Kiss before Strangling

The novel " A Kiss before Strangling" was written to add to the crime fiction book list; it is set in the fictional City and County of 1952 Tillman, Illinois; the point of view is told from the killer and Sgt. Younger. We introduce Sgt. Peter Younger and his girlfriend Sally Painter who was murdered. Sgt. Younger gets involved in the investigation to catch the killer. The two suspects are Tommy Davis who is the local theatre director who sleeps with Judy Walker, who is in the play while he has the hots for Sally Painter who is also in the play; the second suspect is Bob Green, a local newspaperman. The police Chief Jim Carter is summoned by the Mayor David Berk to talk about the Walker murder which he is catching hell about and to put pressure on the chief to solve the crime. It is revealed that Sally Painter had her lipstick smeared and later on it is tied to other murders. The killer does not rape or rob his victims. The date of the 25th of each month is the date the killer kills.

The newspaperman Bob Green is introduced as is the police identification officer at the Painter crime scene, it is later revealed that Green or Davis removed and switched the original prints from the Miller case because it had his name in them. The rift between the county sheriff and Chief Carter is revealed because the Sheriff is a political hack and the Chief has experience; the sheriff starts his investigation as all homicides are handled by the county sheriff, but the chief does not intend to share the case. Lieutenant Samuels and Jim Carter believe that the Helen Walker and Sally Painter murders are related. Sgt. Younger starts to go through the death records for the past six years to find related deaths. Sgt. Younger pulls in Joseph Zellinger an important man in the county cause his daughters death is suspicious, he throws Sgt. Younger out and the Chief issues an arrest warrant. It it revealed that the death which was the first actual murder of the killer was covered up by Inspector Allen Liebermann who was married and having an affair with Zellinger's daughter without Mr. Zellinger knowing, The Lieutenant, Chief and Sgt, younger now have three related murders. Zellinger threatens them with expulsion from the county if they say a thing.

It is learned that the first three victims all dated police officers and Lt. Samuels compiles a list of cops who have women. Officer Ben Saunders who is going out with Shirley Petrizza are being tailed by the killer who has chosen his next victim, Saunders was crossed off the list because he lied about having a women. The sheriff tried to frame an innocent man but is later foiled by the Chief. The Mayor, Chief, Lt. Samuels hash it out till the mayor reluctantly agrees with them on the methods of the killer. It is learned that the killer had a girl named Jenny Miller that lived in Tillman and died there six years ago; when her boyfriend gets released from prison he sees the crime scene prints and sees her in bra and panties laid out on the floor with what looks like bruises on her throat and he learns that a cop was there. He believes she was strangled and he wants the cops to suffer as he does; but the bruises are revealed to be grease that was on the hands of the cop who attempted CPR, (the killer does not know this) she committed suicide.

The sheriff in order to steal the glory from the Chief declares that March 25th a declaration of a state of emergency which is the next time the killer kills, since he will be top cop he gets the credit behind the chiefs back. Sgt. Younger finds the miller crime scene prints missing and that they were replaced. The police reveal what is being done to solve the murders. On Sunday March 23rd Lt. Samuels gives all the women dating cops special lipstick that will stain the lips of the killer. On the day of the murder police are assigned to all the women except Shirley. Sgt. Younger learns that Officer Ben Saunders has a women and yells at him while she is picked up by the killer who she knows because he eats at the soda shop she works at. The killer is revealed and as he flees the police he confesses to his last victim he is killed during the car chase and dies and the women lives.

This is the synopsis and the form I got out of a writers magazine I hope this does a better job that the query.



Sorry, but it's tough love time, my friend. This isn't cutting it. Your writing ability hasn't reached the point at which you should be working on a query letter or a synopsis. You need to be working on what a sentence is. You need to learn the basic conventions of writing, This synopsis is filled with run-on sentences, comma splices, poor punctuation, grammatical errors, misspelled words...

Even when you master the fundamentals you'll be one of thousands of aspiring authors who've also mastered them, so the odds are against you if your goal is to make a living writing books. If your goal is simply to hold a copy of your book in your hand, it's not that expensive these days to have a few copies printed (by a book printer, not a publisher). You don't even need a query or synopsis if you self-publish.

Either way, you need to focus on shaping up your writing skills and then shaping up your book. After that you can worry about a query and a synopsis. Good luck.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

New Beginning 1003

The day my mother sat us down and told us Dad had gone to live with a new family, I thought it was one of those things adults say when they don't want to deal with the truth. Not 'Your dad's dead' but 'Your dad's gone to live in the country where he can have lots of room to run about.'

It was exactly like that when Sam died.

For days, we'd sit on the stairs after school, me and my little brother, him snuggled up to me with his thumb in his mouth, and one dog above us and one below, and Mum'd answer the door and tell everyone and anyone that she couldn't deal with the paper bill or a letter that needed to be signed for or a complaint about where the car was parked, because her husband had left her.

Funny how angry I'd get. Hadn't he left us, too? Me and my brother and even the dogs.

But whatever way you looked at it, Dad was gone, gone beyond recall, and whether you had a funeral or waved at aeroplanes flying overhead in case they were going to Australia, where there was lots of room to run about, didn't matter. Didn't matter because it didn't change anything.

* * *

Derek emerged naked from the tepee and ruffled Sam's neck before they launched off across the meadow to chase butterflies and roll in the grass. This was freedom like he'd never known: no bills, no letters to sign for, no worries about where to park the car. He wished he'd made this move years ago. Only one thing worried him, niggling at the back of his mind: What on Earth would Brenda have told the kids?

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: anon.


Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Face-Lift 1123

Guess the Plot

Better Lives

1. ...through SCIENCE! At least, that's what Toby Canola always believed. Then he took a job at UltraTech. Now he's packed up the SUV, stuffed the wife and kids in with the dog, and is heading out to live off the land in Wyoming...while there's still time.

2. Sam and Jenna it all until Sam's family curse came true and he barely survived his transition. Now she weeps all day and he kills at night. A werewolf in the family does NOT mean . . . better lives.

3. Marc wakes up in a mental institution and is told he killed his date Bethany by driving drunk. Suddenly life sucks. But the whole story's a sham! Marc's actually been kidnapped by aliens who replaced him with a doppelganger to prevent him from becoming the next Hitler, but then Marc discovers the aliens want planet Earth for themselves and it's up to him and Bethany to save us all.

4. Jai searches for a unicorn to harness it's power and save his sister. Shilli scours the forest for a human male to discover if the legends of their prowess is greatly exaggerated. They meet and lead . . . better lives.

5. An ad in Demonology Magazine is headlined "Better Lives." Just make a wish, provide some personal ID info, and sign on the dotted line. But you might want to read the fine print about what happens after death.

6. Everyone at Fenton High School thinks their life sucks, resulting in bad poetry and hormonal angst. Also, awkward teen sex scenes.

7. When a farmboy discovers he's got nine lives, he decides to spend them taking down the evil Empire of Kwhat, thereby impressing his girlfriend. When it turns out he was already on number nine, however, it falls to the girl to fix things up.

8. Ophiophobic Creek Flagstaff and insectophobic Trisha Winslow are doppers who long for more freedom to pursue their lifestyle. They hear Singapore is a laissez faire capitalist dream. So they fly there to open The Bong Shop and discover illegal drug trafficking is a capital offense. They flee into the Malay jungle. Will they find better lives with the snakes and insects?

9. Grandpa Curtis left the planet Saturday, and his old TV is getting incinerated Tuesday. Gloria and Bob are still stuck in the TV in a sitcom from the 60's. Can they escape and find their way into a new flat screen before Tuesday?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Thanks so much for this opportunity for evil feedback on BETTER LIVES, my 94,000 word YA science fiction novel, inspired by Dickens's A Christmas Carol. [Trivia note: My research reveals that every TV sitcom and every cartoon series ever produced that didn't get canceled before Christmas has done an episode inspired by A Christmas Carol. Let me put it in terms you'll understand. If you watched nothing but Christmas Carol adaptations 24 hours a day, to see all of them would take you from now until Christmas. Of the year 2378. And that doesn't include the thousands sure to be produced between now and 2378.]

Seventeen year-old prep school student Marc Andrews knows he’s a bad person, despite his nerdy roommate Tim’s best efforts to reform him. [I'd go with "is" rather than "knows he's."] Marc steals a test, blackmails a teacher, and takes advantage of yet another girl.  [Actually, this isn't grabbing me. Maybe it's the wishy-washy term "bad person." How about something like:

Marc Andrews attends an exclusive prep school, but he should be in reform school. He's stolen tests, blackmailed a teacher, taken advantage of more girls than he can remember . . . and that's just this semester.]

Then he meets Bethany. Not only hot, she calls him on his usual shit. He respects that. And he’s shocked to realize he genuinely likes her. But after their first date, Marc wakes up in a mental institution. He’s told he killed Bethany after passing out while driving drunk. Marc imagines life can’t get any more messed up…until [the ghost of Jacob Marley appears in his room.] [This is science fiction? It sounds like depressing litfic. When does the science fiction come in?] he discovers the loony bin’s a fake and he’s been kidnapped by aliens. [Ah.]

The aliens can see the future where Marc’s the President who starts World War III. After [Because] he proved himself unable to become a better person, they [they've] replaced him to prevent Earth’s destruction. Being an accidental murderer is [was] bad enough, but Marc’s shocked that he attains a Hitler-Stalin level of evil. [Or: Finding out he'd killed Bethany was bad enough; finding out he's destined to be the next Hitler is even worse!] And with the aliens’ empathy machine, he’s forced to experience his victims’ suffering from the averted future.

Marc’s initially grateful to his captors for preventing him from becoming a monster. That is, until he learns an alien faction, that includes the doppelgänger who replaced him, want Earth for themselves. And they’re conspiring to kick off Armageddon as previously scheduled. Marc can’t let the horrors he’s experienced happen for real. It’s up to him, with help from Bethany and Tim, to escape, save the planet, and maybe even become a decent human being in the process[.] [Then he wakes up, realizes the alien part was all a dream, and buys Bethany's grieving family a Christmas goose.]

I’m a member of the Northern Ohio SCBWI chapter and one of its critique groups. I’ve included (whatever writing sample and/or synopsis the agent wants). I’d be happy to provide the rest of the manuscript.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards,


Turned out we didn't need Tim in the query, as he did nothing except fail to reform Marc.

Despite the advance warning that it's science fiction, the appearance of the aliens is jarring. If you dump inspired by A Christmas Carol and open: I am seeking representation for BETTER LIVES, a 94,000 word YA science fiction novel in which aliens replace a teenager destined to become a 21st-century Hitler with an exact double, we might not be thinking, WTF? when the aliens appear.

Apparently the Armageddon the aliens are planning to kick off won't damage the planet they want as much as WWIII?

Seems like once they've replaced Marc, the aliens would kill him rather than keep him in a fake mental institution that he might escape from. Do they need him for something? 

Is the doppelganger supposed to become president and then help the bad guys kick off Armageddon? If so, why don't they just replace the current president instead of replacing Marc and waiting 20 years for fake Marc to become president?

If the faction that wants Earth for themselves is gonna wait 20+ years to make their move, maybe they should be replacing whoever's gonna be China's leader in 20+ years.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

New Beginning 1002

Tasting the acid burning my throat, I question the logic of honoring Uncle Sal’s bet. One pill would erase the pain of my knotted stomach, and the bottle’s just sitting in my purse.

Still, fifty bucks is pricey for one valium.

Grandpa’s gold cross digs into my palm. I open my fist and set it on the podium, then take a sip of water and swallow back what breakfast I didn’t lose down the girls’ room toilet last period. I glance at the crowd. Those kids who aren’t gaping open-mouthed aren’t bothering to pay attention at all. God, just, help me finish this. Please.

Mr. Garcia, my computer watchdog, scratches the jagged Iraq memento on his arm and nods as if granting me permission to continue. My sister Meghan smiles wide and warm, her blue eyes shining in the auditorium’s harsh light. Her eager thumbs-up encourages me.

I clear my throat. “Tallying the price of freedom takes a pretty complicated equation. First, add the number of flag-draped caskets returning from the frontline to the number of tears cried by children who have a shiny medal instead of a parent. Then, multiply that by the number of disabled vets and multiply again by those suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. Because the true price of freedom is counted in damaged lives, not dollars spent. See, without that ultimate price no freedom is bought, no peace is established.”

I end with a hoarse, “Thank you,” and take my seat beside Kyle Connors.

Kyle leans too close. “Why’d you even bother, Loony? I got this.”

I want to punch him (and collect off Aunt Madge), but I left my fist on the podium.

Kyle steps confidently to the podium. With one swift motion he pulls a pistol from his jacket and fires six shots into the ceiling. "America!" he yells. "Fuck YEAH!"

He brings the house down. When the applause lets up (and the last bit of ceiling finishes raining down), Mr. Garcia steps to the front and hands Kyle the debate tournament trophy. 

Opening: Veronica Rundell
Continuation: Khazar-khum/anon.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Okay, okay, send your openings.

It's clear that if we limit this blog to query critiques, there'll be nothing here most of the time, so we're now taking openings again. There may still be nothing, but there'll be twice as much nothing.

At the moment there's one title in the Query Queue waiting for fake plots, and one opening awaiting a continuation (link in sidebar).

Friday, May 03, 2013

New Beginning 1001

Despite my longing for a goddess the hunt was my favorite part of the game. I had enjoyed plenty of evenings as the hunter but now preferred women come to me. They would tap me on the shoulder or pinch my ass and steal me to a reserved corner. My skills with women were sharp, they competed shamelessly for my attention.

The most populated orgy of the year did not begin until the third night of the summer solstice party. My guests arrived masked for the reputations of politicians and aristocrats had to be guarded. At sundown house servants lined candles in glass domes along the carriage drive. Hundreds of Thomas Chippendale canopy beds surrounded by lanterns framed my estate. Many stood at windows and marveled at the panorama when they arrived.

We lived for those nights, and during the revel of seventeen sixty-two I was rendered immortal.

The opening ceremony began the way it had for centuries. All we knew was that it was a tradition to establish order to lustful chaos. The thirteen goddesses waited for us, and I anticipated their presence with yearning.

But some ninny got the purchase order wrong and thirteen carloads of clowns arrived in our eagerly lustful presence. It was a culture clash of ass pinching and tweeting horns, of fake red noses and engorged red prongs, of balloon animals fashioned from condoms and seltzer bottles that sprayed lavender lubricant. 

By morning, each of the thirteen goddess had a pair of newly deflowered followers, I had my immortality prize for creating the best debauch in the eighteenth century, and the resulting offspring were knee high to a prat and just as sassy. 

Opening: Elizabeth Tudor.....Continuation: Dave

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Stick it to a Billionaire!

I just Googled editing services and found that proof- reading alone is available for 2.4 cents per word. 5 cents a word seems to be a good price for proofreading and editing plus comments. For a 70,000-word book, that works out to $3500. And if you want to deduct all of that as a business expense, your writing has to bring in at least $3500. And for all you know, your book is being edited by some guy in India who's telling people in Wyoming how to get their cable TV working while he's editing your book.

Contrast that with bidding on Evil Editor to fully edit your book in the next few weeks. For starters, you can deduct EE as a charitable contribution rather than a business expense, so you don't have to have any writing income. And you get edited by the world's most famous editor, not some ETL heroin addict. And best of all, with this particular 1-day auction ending today, there's no way it's gonna get anywhere near $3500. It hasn't even reached a tenth of that as I type this.

Even if you don't have a completed book, you should be bidding on this just to keep some billionaire for whom $3500 is pocket change from getting a bargain. You know that no matter how high you go he'll outbid you, but for one brief moment you'll be a thorn in his side. It's human nature not to want billionaires to get great deals. This is your chance to stick it to one.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Auction Underway

The Brenda Novak Auction is underway. In fact it's been underway for hours and a few editors currently have bigger bids placed on them than Evil Editor. Remarkable when you consider that other editors offer a mere evaluation of your work while EE actually edits it line by line, and that most editors evaluate 30 to 50 pages, while EE edits your whole book.

Your job is simple. Go there, register, use the search feature to find Evil Editor, and bid on EE's editing items, forcing the people who actually want EE to bid higher.

 What we (we're in this together) want is something like the following:

Editing Job on 1st 10,000 Words of a Novel by EVIL EDITOR
Item: 2922850

Eval of Partial--1 WEEK TURNAROUND-- by Sr. Editor Kathleen Scheibling of Harlequin American Romance
Item: 2889772

Evaluation of a Proposal--1 MONTH TURNAROUND--by Michele Bidelspach at Grand Central Publishing
Item: 2921988

Evaluation of a Partial--2 MONTH TURNAROUND--by Kate Studer of Harlequin
Item: 2881857
Your Book (up to 100,000 words) Edited by EVIL EDITOR
Item: 2922897

Evaluation of a Proposal (and Follow-Up Drinks at RWA) with Samhain Editor Lindsey Faber
Item: 2923897