Monday, September 30, 2013

Face-Lift 1157

Guess the Plot

The Eternity Wars

1. Jerry always knew marriage could be tough, but this?

2. Blah blah blah blah gods blah blah blah blah prophecy blah blah blah blah blah blah chosen one blah blah blah blah blah save the world blah blah blah blah blah too late?

3. With agnosticism on the rise, God and the Devil come up with a new scheme to win believers: The Eternity Wars, a reality TV show starring the Big Man, the Big Bad, and your immortal soul.

4. Father Time is tired of Mother Nature ignoring his husbandly needs. Feeling neglected, he files for divorce. Mother Nature's reaction? Global warming. Can these wounded souls reconcile before humanity gets fried?

5. The Nibauh Galaxy establishes intergalactic communication with three other galaxies but intergalactic transportation is impossible. Nibauhsians hate the other galaxies' environmental policies and declare war on them. Because Nibauh can’t attack them, they instead destroy the intergalactic communications systems. Now they can’t negotiate peace so the war lasts forever.

6. Thanks to The Cure To Aging™, soldiers in the Eternity Army never grow old. This would eliminate the need to recruit new soldiers, if not for the annoying fact that soldiers in other armies keep killing them.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Adriel XIV has just agreed to spend her life as a soldier in exchange for fifty years of youth and a purpose. Several hundred years ago The Cure To Aging was invented—and the world quickly destroyed itself trying to get it. [From whom? The inventor? Why wasn't it being made available? What's the point of inventing a cure for aging if you're willing to let the world be destroyed in order to keep anyone from getting it?] Now, only the Council of Thirteen possesses the cure, and the Eternity Army that they temporarily gift it to. [Terrible sentence. This makes it sound like the council possesses the Cure and the Army. I assume you mean only the Council and their army possess the Cure.] [Also, shouldn't that be the Council of XIII?] [If someone in the Council of XIII gets murdered, Does Adriel XIV become Adriel XIII? If so, does she then get access to The Cure To Aging?]

Raised in the worst slum in the remnants of America, Adriel has striven for her place in the army for years. [I see Adriel has abandoned her Roman numeral. Or was that her last name? If it's her last name, you should change it to ZIV so it doesn't get confused with the Roman numeral for 14.] Despite the brutal training techniques, she would be perfectly content in the system if it weren’t for Dailen, an attractive and mysterious fellow recruit who reveals to Adriel the Council’s role in a trauma of her past. [What trauma?] [And more importantly, why doesn't Dailen have a Roman numeral?]

Further complicating [burdening] her conscience are the dubious missions that Adriel and her fellow soldiers are sent on. [What's dubious about them?] As she battles the nation’s “Traitors” she begins to discover just how corrupt the Council’s methods have become. [For example?]

As their romance moves forward Dailen admits that he is in fact a Traitor—and a very old one at that. Dailen managed to get ahold of The Cure To Ageing [If you're going to capitalize all the words as if this is the brand name of a drug, you should spell Aging/Ageing the same way each time.] [Also, shouldn't it be The Cure For Aging? Or Of Aging? It would probably have a better name, like EverYoung or Age Away, and there'd be TV ads that say: Do you want to spend your golden years in a retirement home, surrounded by geezers and crones? No? Then try YOOTH, and never grow old. You might even outlive the Eternity Wars! Not recommended for those with terminal diseases. Consult your physician if an erection lasts more than forty years.] in the original wars several hundred years ago. He has been biding his time ever since, waiting to insert himself in the army and overthrow a repressive, dangerous government that has reigned far longer than nature intended. [The reason it's reigned far longer than nature intended is because this guy's been biding his time for several hundred years. If the government is repressive and dangerous, what's he been waiting for?]

It is nearly time to take The Cure and Adriel must decide whether she shall use it to protect the Council—or to usurp them. [If she's discovered how corrupt the Council is, why is this a difficult decision? Is there an advantage to protecting the Council?]

THE ETERNITY WARS is a young adult novel completed at 80,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration,


I don't see how taking the Cure gives her any more power to protect or usurp the Council than she already has. Does the Cure do anything besides keep you young? The Council also have the Cure, so I don't see that it gives Adriel any advantage over them.

Is Adriel XIV years old? If that's the meaning, then Dailen would probably be CCCLXXXVIII, in which case I can see why he just goes by Dailen.

Too much vagueness. The trauma and the missions and the corruption would help us understand the characters' motivation if we had any idea what they were.

The big climax appears to be Adriel deciding what to do. Does she try to oust the Council? Does that go smoothly or are there major obstacles?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Face-Lift 1156

Guess the Plot


1. Captain Tisdale wishes he never took the helm on Disney's Bermuda Triangle Line. Mickey's smoking blunts while Donald's tapping Goofy. Chip and Dale have bivouacked in the galley and Pluto thinks he's a cat. Can the stalwart captain pull them from the rift before Snow White begins the striptease, or will every child aboard grow up to become a Pirate of the Caribbean?

2. After taking a wrong step during a hike in the Rocky Mountains and falling into a deep rift, Alice discovers that she’s breached a border between our world and a world of demons. Her fear of ending up like the guy from 127 Hours is now replaced by a question: “Is she stranded here or is she simply tripping from the mushrooms she found while hiking?”

3. Militant atheist and unemployed journalist Jason Simmons is lonely and desperate to meet girls, so he starts an organization: RIFT, Religion Is For Twerps. After weeks of relentless blogging, retweeting, and posting, his only followers are male. There's got to be a way of meeting girls without leaving Uncle Ralph's basement.

4. High atop one of the two cleft hills in the bushy realm of Pubus Moundus, a lonely cootie stares longingly at a girl cootie who sits atop the other hill. Dare he brave the treacherous terrain that separates the two hills, where there are said to be beguiling folded crags and a slippery cavern that is often frequented by gigantic bald-headed ogres? Will love and the biological imperative to make a whole bunch of baby cooties compel him to try and get past...the Rift?

5. When struggling author Jamie Webster moves to Wheeler’s Cove to work on his second novel, he discovers the town is a rift in time, and that he's gone into the future. Fortunately, it's only a month or two in the future and this is Wheeler's Cove, so everything is pretty much the same.

6. Paleontologist Ashley Drake is working on a site in Africa's Rift Valley, near where the famous "Lucy' was found. Jacob Hauser, class clown and brilliant grad student, finds an Australopithecine skeleton--but won't let Ashley see it until he gets a kiss. Is it worth risking her reputation for a chance with the hot, hunky Jacob?

7. Minor league shortstop Eddie Rift tells his fiancée he’s never going to make the show, so he will take the small college coaching job. Then aliens abduct him and experiment on him. At spring training, he’s stronger, faster, and has acute vision. For three years, he's a superstar: beautiful girls, celebrity friends, and scandalous parties. Suddenly, his talents vanish. Now, Rift has no fiancée, no coaching position, and no future. Also, a sardonic talking glove.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The body of a sixteen-year-old girl washes ashore in Wheeler’s Cove, a small Victorian coastal town. She’s been shot twice – once in the head, once in the stomach. The next day she turns up at the local police station, very much alive. [Twins. Clone? Wait, zombie! Final answer.]

Jamie Webster is a struggling writer who moves [moved] to Wheeler’s Cove to escape the mounting expectations of his second novel. [I would expect mounting expectations if his first novel was a bestseller. As he's a struggling writer, I'm not sure why there are any expectations.] Alice Jackson has returned to her home town to wait out her husband’s death from lung cancer. Alice and Jamie meet one night on the peninsula, where they are the first to find the murdered girl, strewn across the rocks.

But something strange is taking place in Wheeler’s Cove; the dead aren’t staying dead. Alice and Jamie figure out that the peninsula is a rift in time, a place that exists simultaneously three months apart. Jamie is from the past, Alice from the future. While Jamie sees the homicide as inspiration for his novel, Alice wants to use the link to the past to see her husband one last time. [If, in her "world," her husband is already dead, remove the word "has" from the previous paragraph.] Problem is; they’ve also got a dead body to worry about. [It seems to me that by the time they've somehow figured out that the peninsula is a rift in time, the dead body would be someone else's problem, namely Timecop's.]

Using clues both before and after the murder, they must piece together the mystery before the past catches up to the present, and the girl dies for good. [In the time it takes the past to catch up to the present, is the present standing still so that the future is now twice as far ahead of the present as it used to be? Or is the past moving faster than the present which is moving faster than the future so that they all meet up? And if the latter, after they all meet up do they maintain their speeds so that the past passes the present and they both pass the future which means the future now happens first and then the present and then the past? That reminds me of Counter-Clock World, by Philip K. Dick, in which the dead aren't staying dead, but when they come back to life they're buried six feet under and have to be dug up.] [Not that I need an explanation, but I assumed when you said Alice was from the future and Jamie from the past, that they met in the present, which means the girl is dead in the present. Now you say she hasn't died for good, so my question is, In which time period is the girl still alive? Past or future? Apparently the future, as she turns up alive at the police station. So she died in the past and she's dead in the present but alive in the future. Got it.]

But old towns have old secrets. As Alice and Jamie delve further into the murder, they find that this may not be the first homicide in their quiet town. And, if they’re not careful, it may not be the last. [I find the previous paragraph a more interesting wrap-up to the plot than this one.]

Rift is a 75,000 word thriller novel where [in which] the protagonists must work together to simultaneously investigate a murder both before and after it happens.

I am an award winning and nationally televised stand-up comedian. [Are you Louis C.K.?] I have been featured on ABC Television and JJJ, RRR, and ABC radio. This is my first novel. Other novelists I enjoy reading in this genre are Peter Temple, for his realism, and Stephen King, for his higher concept thrillers.

I also have an Engineering Honours Degree, which I know has no credence [connection] with novel writing, but mentioning it makes me feel like I didn’t waste five years of my life. [Unless you've written a comedy, your comedy credits haven't much connection either.]

Thank you for your time,


Well done. I'd be intrigued enough to want to check it out. As with all time travel plots, there are inexplicable plot points, but no one will expect otherwise.

I wouldn't think there would be so many changes in this place over a three-month period that Alice and Jamie would suspect that something weird is happening. I assume they weren't in the police station when the dead girl walked in alive, but even if they were, they'd assume twin, clone or zombie long before they settled on three-month rift in time. What is it that they can explain only as a rif--. . . Unless:

Alice: Kind of warm for November, don't you think?
Jamie: Actually, I was thinking it's awfully chilly for August.
Alice: Hmm. Apparently this place is a rift in time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Face-Lift 1155

Guess the Plot

A Midsummer Night's Fling

1. Vera's young, newly single, and trying to forget her recent break-up from Cord on a Jamaican vacation. At Club Fantastique Vera has many admirers, but will she choose love, or a sure fling? And, how did Cord find her out here?

2. Torrey wants a real girlfriend, but his sights are set on Sheila--cheerleader captain who never dates a boy twice. Love struck, he ambushes Sheila in costumes so she never figures out it's him. But what happens when she falls for his gangsta rap persona? Also, angsty teen musings.

3. Nicola wins the role of Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream, only to learn that Oberon is being played by Max, who was great between the sheets during the decade she dated him, but who broke her heart more than once. Will it be true love this time around, or just a summer’s worth of mind-blowing, meaningless sex?

4. Sixty-hour a week, workaholic John Trebuchet hates his neighbors. They party all night and their dog barks all day.The ASPCA investigates when one of the dogs is found--a pile of bones and fur--two blocks away. When PETA shows up at John's door with cans of red paint John wonders if he should have waited till winter to test his catapult.

5. The senior trip is a Caribbean island and Tiffany’s determined to get some strange. She drinks too much with a cute local guy then they walk to the beach. She doesn't show for the return flight. It’s an international scandal. Major networks send film crews and a plethora of detectives descend on the little island. Can PI Zeke Miller solve the case after everybody else has failed?

6. Woody had warned Tony to stay away from the strange woman who hung around the movie set, but she was too hot to resist. Now she's pregnant and Tony thinks it's his, but was it really her he fondled behind the tree in the dark?

7. A couple of eight-year-olds build a ginormous catapult in the woods and fling their baby sister into orbit. When she returns with photos of mysterious craft orbiting the earth, the kids have to run from the men in black and their outraged parents.

Original Version

Dear Ms. Agent,

I queried you last year about another project of mine [my novel, Not Quite Good Enough]. You said at that time that you enjoyed my humor and would like to see my next book when it was finished. I am currently seeking an agent for "A Midsummer Night’s Fling," a contemporary romance complete at 100K [I knew "K" was an abbreviation for "thousand"; is it also an abbreviation for "thousand words"?] that should appeal to fans of the wry humor and playful sexiness in the works of Jennifer Crusie, Victoria Dahl, and Shannon Stacey. 

After more than a decade of dating the man, [aspiring actress] Nicola Charles knows to stay away from Max Fiesengerke. [I could have told her that the moment I saw that his name was an anagram for "making sex free."] [[I recommend changing "the man" to "him". Then I recommend that "him" and "Max Fingerling" swap places in the sentence.] He’s already broken her heart—twice!—and she’s not dumb enough to go up for [risk number] strike three. [We'll see. I predict that she is dumb enough.] After several years of setbacks as an aspiring actress, she thinks life is finally going her way when she’s cast as Titania in a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at a prestigious theater company.

Her luck has turned, but for the worse: Max is playing Oberon. The Titania part is a big break for her, but being in close contact [working] with Max every day is about as bad as being water-boarded every night for fun [torture]. Nicola doesn’t want to fall back into the quagmire of Max’s guarded heart, [Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times, TSTL.] [It seems to me that Nicola would be the one with the guarded heart, not Max.] but the chemistry between them, onstage and off, is not to be denied. Max has always been a caring and attentive lover if nothing else, so what could it hurt to use him for a good, old-fashioned summer fling? [Yeah, that'll teach him.]

Max knows he hurt Nicola. Twice. But he can’t get her out of his head. Or stop thinking about what it might be like to steam up the sheets with her again. For old time’s sake. The play throws them together again, and Max is more than happy to volunteer as Nicola’s love slave and offer her a summer’s worth of mind-blowing, meaningless sex. [Max is truly benevolent.]

But is it going to be just another midsummer night’s fling, [Another? They dated for over a decade. If their past consisted only of flings, why was Nicola heartbroken?] or have the two of them finally found what they’ve dreamed of all their lives? True Love. [You've provided no evidence that Max has dreamed of true love all his life.]

In addition to contemporary romances I plan to continue writing SF/F works, and I was recently accepted to the 2013 Viable Paradise writing workshop run by Patrick and Teresa Nielsen Hayden. Under my old pen name E.D. Walker, I had two projects end up with small ePublishers who have since closed down. I currently have one of those books, a YA fantasy novel, self-published on Amazon. I am a member of Romance Writers of America. [I don't think this credits paragraph is doing you any good. If the publishers closed down after e-publishing your novels, those are worth mentioning. I'm sure if St. Martin's closes its doors, Jennifer Crusie will continue to include her novels among her credits.]

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.



I think we need to know what Max did to break Nicola's heart. If they agreed to just have summer flings, but she eventually wanted more and he didn't, he's less of a jerk than if he left her standing at the altar a couple times. If you can't make us care about Max at all, we aren't going to want to read a book in which he and Nicola end up together. We're going to want to read the book wherein she takes her revenge.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Face-Lift 1154

Guess the Plot

Where the Lines Begin

1. They call him the man in black, but Johnny knows all he has to do is sing the blues. Now he has fame, and cash, but a vindictive cop named Sue has it in for John. After a few too many beers, Folsom prison is calling his name. All he has to do is walk the line, if only he could find...

2. Photographic guide to the world's Apple stores. Also available as an app and an Instagram gal-- just a second, I have to take this... Hello?

3. The bank. The grocery. The ladies' room. This non-fiction treatise examines the origin of queuing and how it saved Damascus in 1654.

4. A hot day, three surly kids, no beer, $100 on refreshments down the tubes, and Mark still has no idea where the line for the 'Monsters Inc' ride begins.

5. Jeremiah Owens discovers that all of the lines mankind relies on for food and transportation originate beneath the ancient city of Thule. He is convinced that if he goes there and commits suicide, he'll save the world. Whether he's right or wrong, it looks like there won't be a sequel.

6. Jenny Aberdeen wants to break out of her life as a reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer. She pitches a show to Discovery Channel about the very first lane markers in the US. If she plays her cards right, she'll get a TV gig and a book deal and someone else will pay for her 'workation'. Best seller list, here she comes!

Original Version

Dear most Evil Editor, 

The world burned, the mages died, and Jeremiah Owens survived by making a deal with Fate. He got endless chances to save the world and immortality. She got his soul.

Ever since Jeremiah Owens made that thrice-cursed deal he’s been running. Running in an endless loop in time trying to save the world. Running out of hope.

A lifetime ago, and a week from now, a necromancer absorbed [/will absorb] the ley lines mankind has come to rely on for food and transportation. With their power he will unleash a horde of the undead, and they’ll pour across the earth. 

After dying more times than [an immortal guy should have to, or than] he cares to remember, Jeremiah has discovered the ancient city of Thule holds the key to saving the world. [Keys are always in the last place you look.] [If you want to cut 20,000 words, have Jeremiah check out Thule before he tries Cimmeria and Aquilonia and Stygia.] [Does he discover Thule is the key in an ancient book, or is it basically process of elimination: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, even if it's Thule, must be the key."--Sherlock Holmes]

Jeremiah must reach Thule before the necromancer breaches the wards protecting it, and brave the horrors that were left behind when the city was abandoned. The ley lines start deep beneath the ancient city. A life freely given there will ensure the lines are protected, but the sacrifice’s soul will be destroyed. [How is this known?]

Only, his soul belongs to Fate, and no one gets out of a deal with her. She moves to collect, [Collect his soul? I thought she already got his soul. (See the last sentence of paragraph 1.)] [If she doesn't get his soul till he dies permanently, why would she give him immortality?] stripping him of the immortality he has damned himself for, and sends her soldiers to hound him on his trek to Thule. [No one gets out of a deal with Fate, but Fate can just renege on her part of the deal? In my opinion if she strips him of his immortality she doesn't get his soul. A deal's a deal.]

The question is, can he kill himself before Fate, or Thule does it for him? [So the readers are supposed to root for the main character to kill himself?] [Wouldn't it be easier to kill the necromancer than to fight (and dig) his way deep beneath Thule to kill himself?]

Where the Lines Begin is a complete 100,000-word fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



If Fate were the one who was threatening to unleash zombies, or if the necromancer were the one who granted Jerry immortality, we could focus on one villain. Are Fate and the necromancer in cahoots? Normally I would expect Fate to have a broader agenda than a necromancer, yet here the necromancer wants to pour zombies across the earth, while Fate wants to hang onto one soul. Fate is above this fray. She should cause the necromancer to get run over by a bus. Didn't she get enough souls when the world burned?

Is Jeremiah a mage or just some guy?

When the world burned/will burn, did/will everyone except Jeremiah die? Or did/will just the mages die? What's the difference between a necromancer and a mage?

According to Wikipedia, the term "ley lines" was coined in 1921. Is the term used in the book? When is the book set? Ley lines don't strike me as things that can be absorbed. Is it their mystical energy the necromancer absorbs?

I think if you could get this sentence: A lifetime ago, and a week from now, a necromancer absorbed the ley lines mankind has come to rely on for food and transportation. out of the query you'd be better off. Maybe in the query you can refer to some kind of power source rather than the beginning point of the ley lines, especially as you describe the lines' food and transportation aspect rather than their supposed mystical qualities.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Face-Lift 1153

Guess the Plot

The Lair of the Twelve Princesses

1. I know it's blindingly obvious that the title's a reference to a calendar, but Prince Ydloown doesn't know that, so let's see how far along I can string him, OK?

2. The Vatican has rejected Jack's petition to join the priesthood. The Pope cites Jack's proclivity to do any Royal within arms reach as the reason. Now a King wants Jack's head and eleven others want him dead. The beanstalk is starting to look more tasty everyday.

3. Sean thought the book's title was interesting enough, and after he opened it twelve lovely ladies were at his service. Every night after midnight they pulled him in, but they forgot to tell him about their jealous master with red eyes.

4. King Croody has discovered a new and entertaining means of selecting his successor. His twelve daughters enter the lair... And only one will emerge.

5. Bay will be executed if she can't solve the mystery of how many princesses can dance on the head of a pin (twelve). Should she use one of the three wishes she's been granted by her imp in a bottle to get her out of this? Or should she save the wishes for a real emergency?

6. Each hour, from noon to eleven PM, a different princess emerges from the lair of the twelve princesses, and says nothing. After which Prince Rupert has until midnight to choose his bride, the future queen. It's kinda like The Bachelor, but he doesn't have to talk to them.

Original Version

[Author's note: This isn't a query, but jacket copy for a short story I'm re-releasing soon. Similar idea, so I thought the minions might have some solid advice. (And if the queue's empty, it's better than nothing.)]

Recently discharged from the losing side of a war that claimed her homeland, [When I think of the losing side in a war, I think of a country rather than an army, so "discharged from" doesn't sound right.] Bay has nothing to show for her service but the clothes on her back, a bad leg, and a sardonic imp in a bottle who's more harm than help. When she comes across an open call for investigators into a royal mystery, she thinks its rewards might be enough to reverse her fortunes. But everyone involved in this strange curse seems determined that the secret stays hidden--including its "victims". [You speak of "this strange curse" as if we know all about it. You haven't mentioned a curse. Is the strange curse the same as the royal mystery? Same with "the secret." What secret?]

Luckily, Bay has a trick up her sleeve. Her imp owes her three wishes, and is desperate to grant them. She's been hoarding his magic for an emergency, [She was just on the losing side in a war that claimed her homeland, but that wasn't enough of an emergency to warrant using even one of her three wishes?] but it might be time to cash in: if she cannot solve the mystery of the dancing princesses in three nights, she'll be executed the following dawn. [When they put out this open call for investigators, was the execution clause buried in the fine print, or is that a new development?]

This 9000-word novelette first appeared in InterGalactic Medicine Show in January 2012. This ebook edition includes two bonus stories [Set in the same world?] and an essay. [An essay? I was on the fence, but now I must have this.]


You could open: With nothing to show for her three years of military service but  the clothes on her back, a bad leg, and a sardonic imp in a bottle who owes her three wishes, Bay is seeking a way to reverse her fortunes.

That increases the space with which you can tell us about the mystery/curse/secret. You don't have to give everything away, but just tossing out the words mystery, curse and secret isn't intriguing enough.

Of course this also puts into the first paragraph the problem that was previously in the second, namely, there's no explanation of why Bay doesn't reverse her fortunes through imaginative use of her three wishes rather than by trying to solve the mystery of the dancing princesses, with death as the price of failure. Presumably there are major limitations on her wishes?

Monday, September 09, 2013

Face-Lift 1152

Guess the Plot

A Cuckoo by the Window

1. General Mills waits, staring outside. His country's at war, his soldiers are starving and millions of hermetically packaged MREs that don't get soggy in milk and contain a full day's nutrition, remain uneaten. A mascot is needed, but whom? The clock strikes midnight.

2. The parrot in Martha's favorite shoe store shouts profanities when she shops there, so one night she breaks in, kills it, and replaces it with a more polite bird. Parrots and cuckoos sound the same anyway.

3. Oh, how positively inviting she looked--that bikini-clad cuckoo that statuesquely stood by the window on W. E. Coyote's porch. All that gave the ploy away was the return address on the discarded packaging that read "Acme Adult Novelties."

4. When Charles Radcliffe finds his wife and her lover in a motel room bathtub and kills them, he realizes he's at the top of the list of murder suspects. Can he convince the jury it was an accident? Or will the cuckoo who witnessed the whole thing rat him out?

5. Compared to tattoos and genital piercing, straitjackets don't hurt. Staring through the one-way window waiting for her mom to claim her from the psych ward, Yalta laments her life. Being thirteen shouldn't suck this bad.

6. How much is that Cuckoo by the Window
The one with pretty red eyes?
How much is that Cuckoo by the window
With the pinecones, chalet, and Swiss guy?

I must have that Cuckoo by the Window
I'll wind it all up every day
I'll buy that Cuckoo by the Window
I must hear what he has to say

I bought the Cuckoo by the Window
At home it gave me a fright
For out of that Cuckoo came a Swiss toe
And then came the rest of the guy

I keep my Cuckoo from the window
The one with the secret inside
My Cuckoo will never leave my home now
It keeps my Swiss lover inside.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

Two lovers lie upon one another, [A neat trick if you can pull it off. Usually if one is upon, the other is beneath.] the cold embrace of death making their tangled bodies white as they floated [We've switched from present tense to past already?] in the cooling waters of a bathtub, while a husband stumbles [Back to present, and still in sentence 1.] out of a dark motel room, his mind reeling with past guilt. [If, as I suspect, the husband has just killed his spouse and his spouse's lover as they were enjoying a hot bath, I doubt their bodies have already become noticeably whiter or that the water has become noticeably cooler. And the husband's mind would probably be reeling more with current guilt than past guilt.] [Actually, the thoughts with which my mind would be reeling are That'll show her. She never let me in the same room when she was taking a bath, but this asshole's in the tub with her? Hmm, I'm sure to be suspect number one, but no jury would convict me under these circumstances. Or would they? If it's a jury of my peers, they'll all be assholes. I better head for the airport and catch a flight to Addis Ababa before the maids find the bodies in the morning. But first I better cancel the TV Guide subscription.] [Note that not only was my mind not reeling with past guilt, (This never would have happened if I'd remembered to put the toilet seat down more often.), but it wasn't even reeling with present guilt. Step 1: Get away. Step 2: Pretend to feel guilty.] A Cuckoo by the Window, a dark literary drama of 35,186 words, [That's awfully short. 35,000 words will fill 140 pages, which will require 70 sheets of paper. If you pile 70 sheets of paper on top of each other, they'll reach all the way to the top of your mouse pad. In the bookstore your book will get lost between the surrounding books:

Fortunately, most books aren't bought in bookstores, and Amazon doesn't include spine width among a book's stats, but unfortunately, agents haven't caught on to this yet, and they will spot that "35,000" even if you bury it at the bottom of the page.] is a story where a life time [lifetime] of secrets are uttered to an almost-stranger, [I would never tell all my secrets to a stranger, but an almost-stranger is a different story.] lies are uncovered to the ones they hurt most, old and new betrayals are laid bare and a happy life is bought by an unacknowledged good deed. [That's all vague. We want specific information.]

When Charles Radcliffe, the richest man in Silver River, falls for his suspicions and tries to find out why his soon-to-be ex-wife was lying to him, [About what?] a series of inexplicable events lead to his killing both her and her lover by accident, and with almost no one to witness the deed. [Almost no one? How many witnesses do they need? Was the witness the almost-stranger? Or was the witness a cuckoo by the window?] [Actually, if he killed them in a motel room bathtub, it's hard to believe there was even one witness. Was there a fourth person in the bathroom, sitting on the john? Also hard to believe it was an accident. You walk into a motel bathroom, discover your wife in the tub with another guy, and you accidentally kill them both? Sure, I believe it was an accident, but I'm not on the jury.] Why did a wife who had long been separated from her husband feel the need to hide her lover from him? [If they're long-separated and soon-to-be ex, why would she feel the need to tell him about her lover? Unless it's to flaunt him in her husband's face.] And are the accidents that kept [keep] happening in the small, sleepy town truly what they seem? Or is there some shadow in the darkness pulling all the strings that lead to death? In this book, you will find the answers to these and more questions, [Will I find the answers to my questions? And will I like the answers?] [In any case, learning the answers to questions you ask about your plot is not an incentive to request your manuscript. So you may as well answer them in the query.] when secrets begin to uncover, spilling lives in their wake.

My name is Osman Walela, and I currently live in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

In closing, I want to thank you for your time and consideration. I chose to send you my query because you represent/represented Kaui Hart Hemmings who made me want to write this book in the first place and whom I like to think has influenced my work. And, at last, I want to remind you that the full manuscript of my book is available upon request.


Your grasp of the language is admirable if this is not your native language, but the subtleties of English can take an almost-lifetime to master, and you aren't there yet. I can tell this from the use of such phrases as "falls for his suspicions," "secrets begin to uncover," and "spilling lives." It's perfectly clear what you mean by these phrases, but they're slightly off. Thanks to Google and Google+ I was able to look at the opening paragraphs, which suffer from the same problem. If you were getting on in years I would recommend a reliable editor, but as you are still young, I recommend (assuming English is the language you wish to write in) reading as much as you can and perhaps taking some advanced classes and finding an online critique group.

As for the query, it needs to tell us the story, not just intrigue us with a few elements of the story. Possibly this means telling us how Radcliffe killed his wife and her lover, and what he and the authorities are doing as a result. Is he on the run? In jail? What are these accidents? Who bought a happy life, and with what good deed? If these are key plot points, tell us about them. If they aren't, don't mention them.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Face-Lift 1151

Guess the Plot

Tears of the Phoenix

1. A Phoenix's tears supposedly halt imminent death, and even restore life to the recently dead. That's all well and good, but what Gabrie'Elle really wants to know is: How can she make the bloody bird cry?

2. There are a million stories in the city. But when it's August in southern Arizona, the only one editor Claire Crissly cares about is the one delaying the air conditioner guy.

3. When Asuran's best friend is killed, he must enter The Ruins to solve the crime. But no human can survive in the stagnant magic of The Ruins, especially a blind one. Unless....With the Tears of the Phoenix, Asuran might just pull it off!

4. Jorian's baby sister suffers a mortal wound. While everyone sits around praying, Jorian leaves to climb Mt. Streppe to harness the healing power of a phoenix's tears. He meets many magical creatures on his journey.

5. Televangelist Jimmy Phoenix crashes and burns while leaving the beer store. Affording plastic surgery isn't a problem, considering the donations from the Faithful he's been raking in. Forgiveness could be. He can only pray that a tearful televised repentance will put him in the telecongregation's good graces yet again.

6. The last phoenix's rise from the ashes was prevented due to excessive lacrimal exudate. The resultant imbalance in magical power set a comet on a collision course with Earth. Good thing DJ Shazam packs a hair dryer.

Original Version

I am seeking representation for [a] completed, 117,000 word, fantasy/scifi novel. The Dark Masters: the Tears of the Phoenix is the first book series where humans are no longer the dominant species. [I assume you mean the first book in a series where... You can't possibly believe humans are the dominant species in every book series ever written.] [Besides which, your statement implies that humans are the dominant species when in fact it's the Borg.]

Asuran Stein [Anagram: Satan's Risen!] and Felicia-Maria are Lancers of the Elite, the military might of the world and the sword of the Matriarch. [WHA--? Okay, what you're saying is that these two characters are Lancers of the Elite, whatever that means, and the Lancers of the Elite are the sword of the Matriarch, whatever that means. Got it.] Or, they will be. [WHA--? Okay, what you're now saying is that these two characters are not Lancers of the Elite, whatever that means. Should I trust you that the Lancers of the Elite are still the sword of the Matriarch, whatever that means?] Right now, they're just first year cadets at the Weapons Sorcery Combat Academy. [If you call it the Weapons Hocus-pocus Academy its acronym will be WHA--?] There are only two rules: stay out of the ruins and stay alive. In that order. [I find it inconceivable that something called the Weapons Sorcery Combat Academy would have only those two rules. There have to be rules against using weapons or sorcery to kill your fellow students. And against cheating on your necromancy test. And let's not forget the first rule of the Weapons Sorcery Combat Academy: You do not talk about the Weapons Sorcery Combat Academy.]

When his best friend shows up dead, [I'd go with "turns up dead" or "shows up undead." "Shows up dead" sounds like he's arriving somewhere. Wait, is that what they mean by the phrase "Dead On Arrival"?] Stein must battle his festering sorrow to uncover the killer. [You're saying that at the Weapons Sorcery Combat Academy, when someone is murdered it's up to a first-year cadet to solve the crime?] His biggest problems? He's human, [Not clear why that's a problem.] he's blind, [Crystal clear why that's a problem.] and the Sovereign don't believe in murder. [The Sovereign? Who are the Sovereign? And whaddaya mean they don't believe in murder? They don't believe it happens? Or they don't accept it as a means of solving all one's problems the way humans do?] [If this book doesn't go anywhere, I recommend starting a mystery series about a blind detective. He's worthless in the field, but his "Watson" brings him evidence with which he solves crimes thanks to his heightened other senses. For instance, "Watson" brings him a sea shell and he feels it and smells it and tastes it and puts it up to his ear to hear the ocean and then announces that the murderer is Spongebob Squarepants.] [Hold everything. Just to make sure someone else hadn't already come up with this idea, I Googled "blind detective" and it turns out there's a Japanese movie by that title soon to be released. Here's the trailer.] [Okay, but I have another idea. This one's for a board game. It's Clue, but in the ocean. The six suspects are Spongebob, Captain Nemo, Prince Namor, Aquaman, Ariel, and Jacques Cousteau. The weapons are spear gun, trident, fishing pole, torpedo, oil spill and trained shark. And the rooms are famous ships that sank. I accuse Aquaman in the Titanic with the spear gun.] [If there can be an Alaska Iditerod version of Monopoly, why not an underwater Clue?]

Meanwhile, Felicia-Maria struggles to understand why they chose her, a maid-of-all-work. [WHA--? Who chose her? The Sovereign? The Academy? The sword of the Matriarch? The Lancers?] When a seemingly innocuous list of medical supplies that could resurrect the illegal science of genetic engineering crosses her desk, she must overcome her desire to wash pots and scrub floors [I think I've solved the mystery of why they chose her. They needed someone to wash pots and scrub floors.] [Although it seems to me a first-year cadet at WHA would have more important duties.] [Even for a maid-of-all-work, I wouldn't think the desire to wash pots and scrub floors would be so strong that overcoming it would be a struggle.] and delve deeper into the murky world of brokering information and secrets. [If a maid can look at this list of medical supplies and determine that it could resurrect the illegal science of genetic engineering, I don't see how the list can be described as "seemingly innocuous." Unless... Is there a post-it note on the front of the document that says: "Bob--here's that list of stuff we need to start our cloning operation."?]

When their searches point them towards the ruins and one another, they must question if the answers they seek are really worth the consequences. Can a human survive in the world of the Sovereign [Is the ruins the world of the Sovereign?] and what place does a maid really have among the Elite? [Maids have always had a place among the elite. As their maids.]


Note: Since the Query doesn't give it away, the Dark Masters are the only legendary Elite who survived the ruins, while the Tears of the Phoenix are [is] a magic spell that can dispel the stagnant magic of the ruins. [That clears it up. Except for the part about what are the ruins?]


I'm in favor of hiring those with disabilities, and I realize that Daredevil gets by quite well without being able to see, but would an organization that bills itself as the military might of the world" recruit a blind guy?

Even if a pot-washing floor-scrubbing maid-of-all-work realized the significance of an innocuous list of medical supplies, wouldn't she bring it to the attention of someone higher up the chain of command rather than delving into the murky world of brokering information and secrets?

We don't need to introduce four different (or not different) organizations in the query. One is plenty.

Nearly every sentence in the query inspires questions that aren't answered. Start over. Your setup seems to be this: First-year cadet Asuran Stein must enter the Ruins to solve the murder of his best friend. And fellow cadet Felicia-Maria must enter the Ruins to prevent the resurrection of an illegal genetic engineering program. There's just one problem: The first rule of the Academy is Stay out of the Ruins.

That leaves plenty of room to tell us what happens when they team up and enter the Ruins, who tries to stop them, how they plan to get around this, what will happen if they fail.

Note that I capitalized "Ruins." I don't know exactly what they are, but they sound like they've earned a capital "R."