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?

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Black, Brown and Red

1. After losing her beloved poodle in a bus crash, museum curator Nancy Smith goes on vacation and discovers the artist of the century -- 14 year old hillbilly genius Buddy Boone. His parents are too poor to buy paint, so he uses materials he finds in the fields and forest.

2. In a world where mages are ranked by the color of the crystals they wear, Joran seeks revenge against a black-crystal mage for the death of his family. But first he must work his way up the ladder through red and brown, or he'll never have a chance.

3. Top-tier fashion designer Lola Heaven gets walloped by a window-washer's dropped squeegee, and now she's color-blind. Will her spring line get panned, or will black, brown, and red become the new pastels? Also, a finicky schnauzer.

4. After many misadventures on their dirt-bikes Pat and Ryan decide to start a blog to catalog their accidents and injuries. To their surprise, their site -- called Black, Brown, and Red for their wound colors -- develops a following. To impress their fans, they try bigger and bigger stunts. But to Ryan at least, Pat's latest ideas sound a bit crazy.

5. Ku Klux Klansman Willy Shea and the missus can't have kids, but there are no white babies available for adoption. Reluctantly, they start a diverse little family, which leads to heart-warming lessons in life and love.

6. Geronimo Williams suffers from synesthesia; he can literally see scents as a pattern of colors overlaid on his otherwise normal vision. He uses this talent to find missing persons. Now, he's taken his toughest case yet, to find a billionaire's rebellious daughter who smells like . . . black, brown, and red.

Original Version

Greetings Almighty Evil One,

Joran's family is murdered and the mage responsible leads an alliance of great nations in war against his homeland. [Joran is the first name of that Dutch criminal who's been in the news lately. Joran van der Sloot. Change it to Jor-el as an homage to Superman. Jor-el Mxyzptlk.]

At seventeen, Joran was happy living the simple life. Soon to be given his father's cattle farm, he longs for the day when he can call this land his own. [In other words, he longs for his father's death.] Nechalyn, a mage whose black crystal shows him to be of the highest rank, destroys this life in a single night when he leads a party of raiders who murder every villager they find. Joran escapes death by hiding in a secret hole in the basement, but finds only one other man alive: A brown ranked mage named Nectat [Sounds too much like a beverage made from nectarine juice; change it to Necktie.] who has been following the raiders. Joran's wish to avenge his parents' deaths causes him to go with Nectat to be trained in the art of magic.

They return together to the mages' city of Lhenn to find action being stalled by political deadlock. Unbeknownst to all others the head of the council, Chayton, is under the direct control of Nechalyn, who seeks to destroy Lhenn. Once Nechalyn's forces are ready, Chayton empties Lhenn of its most powerful mages under the subterfuge of mobilizing for war. He sends Joran into a trap accompanied by Nectat and his son Farafel. [Farafel sounds too much like Farfel, the puppet dog who used to advertise Nestle's Quik.


Change his name to Falafel. And change your other characters' names to Tahini, Tabouleh, and Hummus. These sound much more like people's names than the ones you've chosen.] Nectat is killed and Farafel is captured, but Joran escapes to Lhenn with the knowledge that Chayton is the betrayer. [Jor-el wants his revenge. He's a kid. He doesn't care about all this political crap, so neither do we. Focus on what he wants, how he can get it, and what's stopping him.]

He is too late. In their absence Nechalyn has razed Lhenn and killed all he could find. Enraged, Joran risks eternal undeath by destroying his body in a ritual that marks the transition of a mage to the black. [A ritual is all it takes to attain black crystalness? Don't you have to work your way through the color spectrum for years while your instructor cleans out your bank account?] He is successful, forming a new body through strength of will. With his power greatly increased, he returns to fight for Farafel's release and Nechalyn's defeat. Will his newly found abilities prove potent enough to inflict vengeance upon the aged sorcerer?

Black, Brown and Red is a 90,000 word YA Fantasy novel. It is my first novel, with my publishing history consisting of mostly non-fiction articles in IT magazines. I'd be happy to send a manuscript at your request.

P.S. All the character names have been changed for posting on your blog. [What?! The minions like nothing better than telling authors what bad names they've chosen for their characters, and they were ready to tear into yours like weredingos into falafel. Plus, I spent hours thinking up better names for your characters.]


Too many names to keep track of. Sentences like "Nectat is killed and Farafel is captured, but Joran escapes to Lhenn with the knowledge that Chayton is the betrayer." don't bother you because you know who all these people are. I, on the other hand, am forced to either go back and look up who everyone is, or just toss the query into the Decomposer, which is what I call my new composting machine. And I think you know which choice I'll make. Falafel can go. Dump Chayton or just refer to him as the Council if he's that important. Necktie doesn't do much except die; you can probably work around his absence.

We don't need so much plot detail. Supermage kills Jor-el's family. He seeks revenge by training to become Superdupermage. Usually the big question is whether his new abilities will go to his head and he'll become power-hungry, rather than whether he'll get strong enough to defeat Supermage. Of course he will.

It seems to me that a mage who's attained the highest rank would have better things to do than lead a raid on a cattle farm. If you want an alliance of great nations to follow you, you need better stuff on your resume than killing a bunch of villagers. Also, I can see a green- or purple-crystal mage being unable to sense that there's a guy hiding in a hole in the basement, but a black-crystal mage? Humiliating.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...Author here. Thank for all your comments! I'll try to get rid of some of the characters in the query for my next version.
To answer a few questions you put up:
1) Yes, a ritual is all it takes to attain rank black. Once you are rank brown, that is, with sufficient power to complete the ritual. Failure results in a destroyed body from which there is no return.

2) Yes, that's exactly right. It is unlikely that an all powerful mage would miss someone hiding in a basement. That's why the main character is the only survivor. It was his latent power and wish to hide that put a field of cloaking around him. But of course, that's too much info for the query.

3) He attacks the cattle farm and surrounding villages because they are close to the council and he wants to provoke them (his plans are ready to destroy them now).

I wonder if it would be worth my time to try to address these in the query or if I should just leave them for the book?

Thanks again for all your suggestions Evil Editor.

Evil Editor said...You don't need to address point 1, though it wouldn't hurt to say Joren has had time to attain brown or has so much latent power his training has advanced quickly. Or just introduce him as someone with great latent power, and we'll guess he's able to harness magic faster than most.

You don't have to address point 2, but you also don't have to tell us he survived by hiding in the basement. If you just say the rest of his family was murdered and he wants revenge, we'll assume he was out on a date or something when the attack occurred.

As for point 3, I don't see why a mage has to go along for the ride to kill some villagers. Wouldn't he just send his marauders? Whether he goes or not, you can claim the family was killed by raiders and introduce the mage later as the head villain.

Or you can address nothing and assume, probably correctly, that no one else will be bothered by these plot points which all must have logical explanations in the book.

Whirlochre said...In spite of EE's excellent name substitutions, I stumbled on their placement in the query. It's a bombardment, and as someone who struggled with Tolkien for this very reason, I have to say, you've lost me.

I should point out that while I was struggling with Tolkien, he bit me on the ear.

Even the greats play dirty, it seems.

I'm intrigued by the title for this novel. Are these colours representative of the various factions described? Colours are mentioned in the query but I don't get the link.

My Battling Mage Sense tells me this is all about battling mages — and what could be more exciting than that?

So get to the business of the mages who are battling, and lose incidentals like the hiding in the secret hole in the basement, the cattle farm ('farm' will do), and everything that happens to Joran after he becomes enraged.

OK, so he risks "eternal undeath by destroying his body in a ritual that marks the transition of a mage to the black" — and I know YOU know what this means, but I don't.

arhooley said...FIRST OFF -- Something authors should understand is that when EE and his minions pose questions about the plot, it's not because we're intrigued; it's because we're confused. Don't answer the questions. Instead, rewrite the query so that you don't have gaping logic holes.

Onward. Back in my dark days, I worked in IT. I'm sorry to say, I've read Business Requirement Docs that were more engaging than this.

You're producing a work of art, not a report. This blow-by-blow synopsis is little more than an accounting of names and events. The transformation needed here is so basic that I can't point to one phrase or another that needs a fix, but one way you might reconceive this query is to keep in mind that you're pitching a story, not recounting it.

Get me behind this manure-smeared farmboy whose dreams reach no further than the fields his family has worked for generations. Make me shudder at this In Cold Blood-style massacre. Make me believe this is different from Star Wars, even though Joran Skywalker's placid world is turned up-side down by Peter Cushing, propelling him into Jedi training and then an agonizing transformation into Darth Vader.

And could you change your title, or the colors, or get it down to two colors, like The Red and the Black (but don't use that one; it's taken)? Maybe it's just me because I'm taking care of an invalid these days, but when I see "black, brown and red" I think of stool colors.

BuffySquirrel said...I don't get why any of this is happening. What's in it for the antagonists?

Anonymous said...Author again.
The title, as I put in the original e-mail but which wasn't posted in the blog, has been changed. It is nothing like the original title. This one was chosen to give more options for guess the plots than the other title would have.

I have to disagree. I've been reading these blogs for quite some time, and most of the time when EE posts a question it's something I'm also intrigued about. Ergo, the questions needed answering for people like me reading. If you don't care, that's completely fine. But some people do.

In either case, you'll note that I posted them not simply for information's sake, but to ask if I should include said info in my next version of the query. I'd have to say, that seems to be exactly what this blog is for.

Beyond that, I'm sorry you don't find my query appealing. I'll take that into consideration, along with the other opinions posted.

Evil Editor said...The title, as I put in the original e-mail but which wasn't posted in the blog, has been changed. It is nothing like the original title. This one was chosen to give more options for guess the plots than the other title would have.

To clarify, the author mentioned to me that there was a different title, but didn't tell me what it was, and it was the author's opinion that b b and r would be better for GTP, not mine. In short, I am, as always, blameless.

Author said...As Evil Editor noted, I did not give him the original title. I have done this purposefully.

However good or bad the current title may be for guess the plot, I assure you that it is better than the other title would have been. But, if you choose not to believe me, I will accept that also.

Author said...Oh, I didn't mean to ignore you BuffySquirrel. I must have missed your post.

I didn't include the antagonist's reason for making war because I thought it was obvious (I'm not trying to be obnoxious here; I speak literally to explain myself). His reason for making war is the same as almost every war in history: Power. From power over a foreign resource to power over one's own people, war has historically transferred the control of power between individuals. This is even true today, though I won't mention the obvious example as it would be bound to provoke someone.

However, if other people were also confused about why the antagonist is going to war please let me know and I'll adjust the query to include this information. Thanks for your input.

Stephen Prosapio said...Author, What I think others have tried to say is that your story well may be wonderful, but the query is not interesting in the least. This isn't an attack--when several of us are of the same opinion, you can pretty much take it to the bank that you're in need of a change.

This query doesn't engage us, and yes, it reads much like a 3rd grade book report. We don't have any attachment to your characters. They need life. They need motivation. They need desires.

Best of luck to you!

Chicory said...Anonymous, I am also confused about the reason for going to war. I know power is the obvious reason, but you mentioned several political factions, which makes me think there's something a little deeper going on here. That's a good thing. It suggests the story has some depth and complexity. Just try to let that aspect come across a little.

I notice you say your protagonist WAS a seventeen year old. Does this mean the attack and all are just back story? I assumed it was your opening scenes. I've heard queries are written in present tense, so that's an issue you may want to address.

Best of luck! I love fantasy and am always hopeful for more in my favorite genre to read. :)

Jennifer said...My first question is why the heck would you go out of your way to obfuscate the title and character names? You're just limiting the amount of feedback you can get. Also, makes you look paranoid, or at the very least, putting in things that distract from the whole point: getting to a better query.

(For example, I had a terrible time not reading the names as Falafel and Nectar, even before I read the comments from EE. That makes it hard to even critique it).

Also, once I see black crystals being the most powerful and crystal rankings, I think of Anne Bishop's Dark Jewels books. Where crystal color shows how powerful you are. And black is the toughest.

I point that out because for your query, you may want to lose the color thing altogether (it is one more thing that the reader needs to learn, anyway) or make very clear how different it is from Bishop's stories.

The novel, of course, can speak for itself. The query however might cause the wrong sort of reaction if the reader is aware of the other books.

Hope that helps!

M. G. E. said...Damn, I was so ready to make fun of those names :P "Falafel" was hilarious!

-Let's see, it took J.K. Rowling seven books to show just the primary education of a wizard from absolute newb to magical high-school graduate newb, and he still couldn't beat the ultimate bad guy in a straight-up fight by himself! Not even close.

That's your first challenge.

The second is that him hiding and not being found is a major plot-hole. Even your explanation of it sounds ridiculous, "latent talent" is code for deus ex machina. All talent must still be harnessed via major hard work and experience.

I've always had writing talent, but I've only recently begun sharpening my skills actively. It's still gonna be years before I master writing, if I ever do.

So, providing that entire growth arc in a single book... not saying it can't be done, but it will be a shallow presentation.

--On another note, what people are saying about the name-soup is spot on. I don't think anyone could've created a more stereotypical example of it than what you've produced here. It borders on unintentionally funny.

The whole thing reads like a synopsis as well. I'm left with no desire to actually read pages by the end. Nothing enticing. Think about what emotion you want an agent left with when the read-through is done and how you can create that feeling.

---Crystals: little pet peeve of mine, but the association of crystals with magic is by now a cliche association. Like, big time.

BuffySquirrel said...Umm, no, it wasn't obvious why the antagonists were starting a war, at least not to me. Nor who is at war with whom. Nechalyn is conspiring with other great nations against his own country? or against Joran's country? Are they from the same country? This is the sort of confusion the query should avoid, not create.

Also, I can't help feeling that it's not sufficient to reduce the causes of wars to a simplistic equation then use that as your character motivation :).

writtenwyrdd said...I'm not taking care of an invalid, and I thought of stool colors when I read that title.

I have to second arhooley's observation that we don't want the questions we pose answered. They are intended to point out where you confused the bejeezus out of us.

It may feel difficult to just say part of what the plot is, but you are not writing a synopsis. You need to give the gist of only the main plot with a hint of the other conflicts that affect that main plot (if you mention them at all.)

Start with a sentence that states the main plot alone and work from there.

Anonymous said...Wow, when I read a post like writtenwyrd's after I've just explained that the title is fake, chosen just for this posting, and that just because YOU don't want answers doesn't mean that NO-ONE wants answers (talk about egotistical)... it's shocking. I have to wonder, was I perhaps not clear when I said "The title, ..., has been changed. It is nothing like the original title."

Or maybe it's just a reflection of wyrd's urge to criticize someone else for whatever he can, probably to take his mind off his own work. Hey pal, there are several things to criticize about my query that are actually justified. Stick to them and I'll listen to you. Keep repeating the same crap that's already been addressed, I'll keep lowering my opinion of you.

P.S. Squirrel: I wrote that "Joran is murdered and the mage responsible leads an alliance of great nations in warfare against his homeland." And you are honestly asking me if he was conspiring against his own countrymen? My query is certainly unclear about the motivation for war, but it is not at all unclear about the fact that the antagonist is not from the same country.

I want to thank EvilEditor again for his constructive and useful comments. Whirochre, too, gave me advice on how to fix the query. Arhooley was a tad insulting, but also managed to throw advice in there. To those who posted criticism without useful advice, thanks but if I wanted that I'd ask my family.

Evil Editor said...Writtenwyrdd is a she, not a he. And not even a meany.

Some minions ask questions because they're curious, but as your book is not available for them to read no matter what the answers, I suspect the majority are asking to point out areas that may bug the agent or editor who reads the query. An author may choose to answer those questions to satisfy the curiosity of the former.

Agents and editors aren't likely to email you with questions about your plot. Thus it's a good idea to 1. decide which legitimate questions you need to address in the query, and address them, and 2. to get rid of whatever inspired those legitimate questions you don't want to address in the query.

Sorry, but with regard to whose homeland the mage is attacking, there's nothing unusual about a power-hungry character recruiting other nations to assist him in taking power in his own nation. It's even happened in actual history. Add to that the technical fact that a pronoun usually refers back to the most recently used noun or pronoun of the same gender, which in this case is "mage", and it's not clear that "his" refers to Joran. In fact, it's not clear that Joran and the mage don't have the same homeland. The sentence has two independent clauses which can be boiled down to: 1.Family is murdered
2. Mage leads alliance against his homeland.

I think most readers will assume you mean Joran's homeland, but as Joran isn't even the subject of the first clause you can make it perfectly clear: Joran's family is murdered, and his homeland is brought under siege by an alliance of nations led by the mage Nechalyn.

A thousand people visit this blog each day, and a mere ten or twenty take the time to comment, so use the comments that make sense to you and ignore the others without getting mad at people.

arhooley said...I had that very problem with the pronoun. Couldn't tell who "his" referred to.

vkw said...It's a curious fact that most paranoid people are narcisstic. Why? because you have to believe you are important enough for anyone to want to hurt or have something that someone else may want.

It's also a curious fact taht most narcisstic individuals don't have anything anyone would want or are important to harm.

It is not a curious fact that most narcistic individuals can not take constructive criticism or advice.

It is not a curious fact why I didn't comment on this query.

M. G. E. said...I just want to say that someone so thin skinned is going to have a tougher time making it to professional author and getting a book published.

Being hard to work with, being unable to handle criticism without taking it personally, and devaluing the opinions of others, is nearly as bad as being a bad writer.

You need to be both a good writer -and- a professional when dealing with those whom you need to work with to get a book out (as in agent, editor, etc.).

It raises the bar for you. If you're hard to work with personally you'd better be damn sure you're also a phenomenal writer to make up for it :P

AA said...Things I'm confused about:

The local general (Black Mage) would not be out joyriding with these raiding parties if a war was imminent. He wouldn't have the time. He'd be planning, strategizing, and conferring with whatever constitutes his war council. Unless someone else makes all the plans and he only does the magic, but in that case I don't see how he can "lead" a war.

Also, the head of the council sent all of the best, highest ranking officers OUT of the capital city on the eve of a war? It would be immediately obvious to everyone involved that he has malicious intent. This ploy wouldn't fool the janitor.

Capital cities are not left poorly defended right before the war. If anything, the defense is built up much more strongly. This would be way more than suspicious.

Nothing here explains why Nectat was following the raiders. Seems pretty dumb to shadow a Black mage when you're only a Brown.

Also, a whole alliance of great nations are needed to war against this apparently rural, pastoral homeland? It doesn't seem like a war would be necessary. A simple occupation would suffice. Who are you fighting, cows? Maybe the fact that the homeland has industry, cities, a military, emerald mines, whatever, should be in there somewhere. Otherwise, the vast expenditure of materials and manpower needed to conduct a war would not be justified.

A war is the most expensive, exhausting, and complicated venture that exists. The logistics are mind-boggling, and the leaders must take EVERYTHING into account: supply lines, production of weapons, communication in the field, adequate and equally distributed provisions, fresh water, even the appropriate clothing for the season. The war I'm seeing in this query, however, seems to be conducted more like a snowball fight.

I'm sure this isn't true in the book, but this is what I'm getting from this query.

Hope this helps. Good luck.

Bibi said...I haven't seen any meanness here. Ever. I see people with great talent, insight and experience trying to help other people. People like you and me who are not exceptional at writing and querying. A 15 year old girl got comments on her query (which is why she sent it here) and she took them like a pro. No one knew she was 15 until she wrote in to thank the folks who commented. She's a brilliant girl with professionalism who gets the process.

If comments get under your skin you have the choice not to hang yourself on the bulls eye.
This is the best education a writer can ever get in the shortest time possible by pros. For free. I was grateful for the sensitivity I was treated with on my first query which was a synopsis and not a good one.
Good luck on your query. I look forward to the revision.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Sugar Bowl

1. White granules and shards of porcelain on the kitchen floor. An innocent-looking cream pitcher standing on the table. It was shaping up as Detective Coffee's toughest case.

2. When Gnflzot, the commander-in-chief of the army ants, learns from his scouts that an immense sugar bowl is going to materialize at the turn of the new year, in a far-off land called New Orleans, he springs into action.

3. Corporate CEO Vanda Harjoni from the nation of Jepalasia arrives in New York and hosts an open house at his office. When FBI Agent Harold Newson wanders by, he mistakes the sugar bowl contents for cocaine and arrests Vanda, who must find his way through the twisted maze of American justice.

4. With the Sugar Bowl, Savannah’s only bowling alley brothel, threatened with foreclosure, the girls take matters into their own hands and raise the money – the hard way.

5. After winning their 10th straight national title, the Texas Longhorns could be at the end of their dynasty. But, the world will never find out if Max Ridgecliff can’t save Nokia from bankruptcy in time to sign the endorsement check.

6. With the season winding down, and a Sugar Bowl bid on the line, star quarterback Jake Zarephath is accused of rape. If it was lacrosse, the season would be canceled. But this is big-time football.

Original Version

Dear Evil,

When walk-on tailback Jake Zarephath helps the West Virginia Mountaineers upset seventh-ranked Pitt in October, he thinks life couldn't get any better. The euphoria doesn't last, however, and Jake's fall from grace stems from an incident that occurs that very night. A week later the local police visit Jake to question him about a rape accusation made by an acquaintance, Robin Dunellen. Unable to remember what happened and unsure what to do anyway, Jake initially leaves his case in the hands of the football program without asking any questions. [He gets accused of a felony, and tells the football coach to handle it?]

Unfortunately for Robin, the team is weeks away from an invitation to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl game. In Autumn nothing is more important to the university and the city of Morgantown than Mountaineer football, and this is shaping up to be the season that is talked about for years to come. Trying to avoid the loss of a key player, [He's a walk-on tailback; how "key" can he be?] assistant athletic director Phil Berg slams Robin using the resources of a well-funded athletic department.

In her first year away from her small hometown Robin becomes the target of an orchestrated campaign of public humiliation and character assassination. Life is difficult for her until Jake begins to have qualms about hiding behind his corrupt protectors as Robin is bullied. Finally, when the bludgeoning continues after the Sugar Bowl bid is in hand, Jake has had enough. [Stop attacking this sweet girl who's accusing me of a rape I didn't commit. I'm sure there's a logical explanation.] He and a local sportswriter, Ham Newton, learn that Robin's friend and self-appointed guardian, Michelle Brigantine, was herself the victim of a violent rape at another university. It doesn't take much for Newton, Jake and even Robin herself to realize that Michelle goaded Robin into making the accusation as a way to retaliate for the crime that was committed against her. [Maybe you should call her Michelle Destroyer instead of Michelle Brigantine.] [In fact, it would be cool to give all your characters ship names: Ham Sub, Robin Dinghy, Jake Junk, and Phil Frigate.]

Jake's anger at this revelation is tempered by the heartbreaking story Michelle finally tells about how she was drugged and assaulted by perpetrators who were never punished. [Let's make sure I've got this straight. Michelle, on a weekend trip to Villanova, gets brutally assaulted. Rather than tell the authorities, she goes to her friend Robin:

Michelle: I was raped while I was in Philadelphia.
Robin: Oh my God! Are you okay? Did they catch who did it?
Michelle: No. I didn't tell anyone.
Robin: You have to go to the police!
Michelle: I know. But now that I'm back here at WVU, I think it would be more convenient to accuse someone here. Saves me the trouble of traveling back and forth to Philadelphia all the time.
Robin: You're going to accuse someone who didn't do it?
Michelle: No, you are. I've been through enough.
Robin: Well . . . okay. Who should I accuse?
Michelle: The quarterback of the football team.
Robin: But what about our Sugar Bowl bid?
Michelle: Oh yeah. Okay, make it the walk-on tailback. We have to teach someone a lesson.

And after the athletic department throws all their resources into destroying Robin's character, she continues to stand by her story?]
Even after Robin recants her accusation and the charges are dropped, Jake vows not to play in the Sugar Bowl so long as Berg remains in the employ of the athletic department. [A "key" player threatens not to play in the big game? Who's gonna buy that?] A nasty struggle in the press and in the back rooms of Mountaineer Field. After the university president fires Berg just before Christmas Jake is free to return to his team. Surprisingly the unbeaten Mountaineers find that a national championship is within their reach on New Years Day, [West Virginia? Playing for the national championship? That's the most unbelievable part of all.] [Also, the national championship is decided after New Year's day, in the BCS National Championship game.] and Jake will be there with no strings attached. My novel, "Sugar Bowl", consists of approximately 100,000 words. Besides some realistic football action, the very real issue of sexual assault in the world of college athletics is touched upon. The subject matter is somewhat timely, given the recent debate in the news about alleged sexual assault by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. [Though by the time the book comes out, that will be ancient history.] Please let me know if you're interested in taking a look at the manuscript.


Revised Version

Dear Evil,

With seven scholarship tailbacks out with season-ending injuries, walk-on Jake Zarephath finds himself a starter for the West Virginia Mountaineers. Life couldn't get any better--until an acquaintance, Robin Dunellen, accuses him of rape. Unfortunately for Robin, the team is in the running for an invitation to play in the prestigious Sugar Bowl game, and she becomes the target of an orchestrated campaign of public humiliation and character assassination, led by assistant athletic director Phil Berg, who will do anything to avoid the loss of a key player.

Eventually Robin admits she wasn't raped, but was goaded into making the accusation. The athletic department doesn't let up on her, and when the bludgeoning continues even after the Sugar Bowl bid is in hand, Jake has had enough. He vows not to play in the Sugar Bowl so long as Berg remains in the employ of the athletic department. A nasty struggle in the press and in the back rooms of Mountaineer Field result in the university president firing Berg just before Christmas. Jake is free to return to his team, and the unbeaten Mountaineers find that a national championship is within their reach.

My 100,000-word novel Sugar Bowl features realistic football action while calling attention to the issue of sexual assault in the world of college athletics. Please let me know if you're interested in taking a look at the manuscript.



Why Jake is sympathetic to Robin, when she falsely accused him, isn't clear enough. And Robin's motivation is not explained to my satisfaction.

If you think West Virginia U. came down hard on Robin, wait till you see what they do to you, if you publish a book that makes them look like jerks.

Selected Comments

michaelgav said...I'm not sure how to say this.

False accusations of rape being used to ratchet up the tension in a novel that culminates in the Big Game..? You may want to rethink this one.

Rape is kind of a sensitive issue to be used as a plot device in a football story. Matt Christopher used to write sports books for boys and girls in which the main character had a personal issue that was dogging him (or sometimes her), but things somehow worked out in time for the Big Game. These issues usually involved braces, or a stuttering problem. Not rape.

If the rape charges (and Michelle's actual assault) are more than just plot devices, perhaps the novel should build toward the resolution of those charges, not the Mountaineer's shot at the title.

There's a difference between political correctness (of which I've never been accused) and the inability to empathize with the victims of a monstrous crime. I don't see Michelle's actions as remotely believable given what she's been through. (I don't see Robin or Jake behaving believably here either, but that's a story issue, which is not what I'm talking about.)

I think this has the potential to grossly offend about 85 percent of the people who might read your query.

Maybe this should be a book about rape, or about being falsely accused of rape, set in the world of college football.

But a football novel with a little rape thrown in, well, I think that's a serious non-starter.

garden minion said...This query probably just needs a little more clarity (both of the characters' motivations and the real climax of the book).

A Reader said...The title, "Sugar Bowl", is, to put it bluntly, kind of sick when you consider that the story is about a rape. (Yeah, I get the football reference.)

It implies, at least to me, that there was something pleasurable about it, since "sugar" is usually what you call a lover.

msjones said...FIS. (Frowning In Silence, the opposite of LOL, what one experiences after reading E2's masterly commentary.)

I'm with Michaelgav on this one. The willing suspension of disbelief ain't happening for me.

It would be more credible if Robin was also too plastered to remember what happened, and was persuaded to bring rape accusations by her mother Michelle, who experienced a horrible assault back in the days when women were generally disbelieved about such stuff.

As it is, both women are monsters of passive-agression, manipulative and unsympathetic, and Jake is comically saintly in not just forgiving but fighting for someone who's trying to do him out of his chance at football glory.

(Of course, this is coming from someone who's going to be circulating petitions at Burning Man to get the name changed to Burning Person, so I may not be a representative Gentle Minion.)

Alternative scenario: Robin is in the grip of Mafiosi who have bets on the game outcome - they've kidnapped her little dog and are threatening to cut off his tail unless she does their bidding.

foxtbmex said...Ham Newton = The worst cookie ever.

Anonymous said...From the query, I didn't think this sounded like a misuse of a rape plot...sounded at the end like the author was trying to bring sexual assualt to light as an issue of possible concern in college athletics (or in general).
Also - the two girls ganging up to accuse someone of rape?? Why not? Has anyone else seen the movie Wild Things? One girl was not actually assaulted but went in with the other girl to help get him convicted. It had some more twists to it, but that was a big part of the plot.

Not sure from this query why they picked this football player to gang up on rather than the guy who ACTUALLY assaulted Michelle...

Luna said...Plus, the "psycho woman getting revenge for rape/abuse/men in general" has been done to death and always struck me as creepily sexist (towards the women.) Turn it more in a thriller-ish direction and I might read it, but as it is I would be icked.

JTC said..."realistic football action . . ." This has been tried to death and has NEVER been accomplished. If you've ever played football, you know it simply cannot be done. However, most people have never played football so some may buy it.

To me, it sounds as if the author knows nothing about football -expecially college football and the way the national championship works (as EE pointed out). When you write, write what you know or get to know what you write through extensive research.

As far as the "main" plot goes, there are way too many holes. If you are going to write about rape and rape accusations you are going to have to write a very tight story. Just my humble opinion.

born_liar said...Here's one way this could be believable:
- Robin WAS raped, at a party, by someone other than Jake. But she was very drunk or drugged and the events are a little hazy. Jake is the only one at the party whose name she remembers.
- Michelle, still seething over her own rapist's getting away with it, pushes Robin into accusing Jake even though Robin's not sure he was involved.
- Jake sympathizes with Robin because she was in fact raped, maybe even in the next room, and he didn't do anything about it.

Urnamma said...Jake: My life is ruined. I can never play the game I love again, I am in danger of being expelled, etc... But, I feel SOOOOO bad for you.
Why has poor jake been accused in the first place, and what kind of cold bitch is robin to do so, if the -actual- rape took place in a different area of the country, and the victim was another person? Even if he felt bad for michelle, why would jake not be angrier than a bag of pissed off cobras at robin?

Anonymous said...Thanks everybody. It hurts when it's your turn but I appreciate all the thoughtful tips from EE and the Minions...

Friday, September 27, 2013

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.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Strip 2.11

Click strip to enlarge.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Demon Horn

1. Klaxons. Trumpets. Air horns. All are ear-splittingly loud. But as Lois McGillicuddy is about to discover, nothing can compare to the abject horror of a possessed vuvuzela.

2. Hearing glorious tales of the potency of human horn, but not wishing to resort to cannibalism, adult film star Dick Swingin challenges the evil creatures of hell itself in his quest for the ultimate aphrodisiac.

3. The demon horn casts its red light across the land until it falls upon a poor tavern waiter named Aden. Suddenly Aden challenges a squire to a sword fight, except Aden's "sword" is a broom. Little does anyone suspect that the outcome of this fight will decide the fate of nations.

4. When Julio's mother makes him join middle school band, he thinks all he has to fear is social humiliation. But then he picks out his instrument at that weird pawn shop. Now he plays like an angel, but the rest of the brass section are disappearing one by one.

5. Ada Parker’s newest sax student is hot. Literally. He leaves scorch marks on the couch, wisps of smoke wherever he walks, and his horn always glows when he plays. Though he pays her only what she charges her other students, she can’t help but get the feeling he wants more from her than great sax.

6. Dison Alu, the leader of the World Heritage Foundation anti-poaching task force in Kenya, faces his toughest task yet when one of the protected rhinos begins killing every local it sees, and they in turn decide to kill every rhino they can find.

Original version

Dear Evil Editor,

It is a time of war and prophecy. The demon horn casts its red light over the land. But none of that matters to the tavern boy Aden. Filthy and poor, he is too busy serving tables and hoping for a decent meal. [After hearing about the mysterious and powerful demon horn with its far-reaching scarlet radiance, it's a bit of a letdown to realize the query will focus on a filthy waiter in a bar.]

The great hall is loud with boisterous drinkers. Aden lingers to admire the knights who fought so well at tournament. A group of wealthy youths mock and insult him. Furious, Aden blindly throws himself at Paulo without considering the consequences. [If "blindly" means "without considering the consequences," you can delete it. If it means he's blind, okay.] A tavern boy, who is only familiar with using a broom, has no business (or future) sword fighting a squire. [Or does he? Let's read on and find out.]

Ramon, the blacksmith, leaves the company of his favourite girl and follows the fight outside. No one pays him any attention or guesses at how much he knows. [There's a fight going on; of course no one's paying attention to anything else. If you're in a bar and a fight breaks out, do you look at some guy off to the side and guess at how much he knows?] Unlike the king, Ramon fears that a terrible new enemy is coming. [That's true of those insane bearded guys you see in cartoons, carrying signs that say The end is near. Why should we believe this blacksmith has better information than the king?]

From the shadows Ramon watches Aden struggle. [Normally a bunch of people would pour out of the tavern and surround the fighters, cheering them on and placing bets. Why is Ramon in the shadows?] He knows Aden is special but sees a fire in him as dangerous as it is powerful. Can he forge this reckless boy into the weapon they need or is it better to let him die? [If the dangerous powerful fire in Aden isn't enough to defeat one squire, perhaps he isn't so special after all. Let him die.]

A fantasy, DEMON HORN is complete at 88,000 words.

This is my first novel. I believe it is a fresh view on a medieval world with colourful characters and Portuguese influences. [Boisterous drinkers. The wealthy mocking the poor. A muscular shirtless blacksmith named Ramon who'd rather watch guys wrestle than be with his favorite woman. Yep, this has Portugal written all over it.]

Thank you for your time.



We want to know what happens in the whole book. This sounds like what happens on page 1. Of the prologue.

Is the book set in Portugal? Is the terrible enemy Ramon foresees an actual historical enemy that attacked Portugal? Is it a demon? Is there a Portuguese legend involving a demon horn? Is the horn the kind that grows out of a demon's head? Did Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan pass through Cape Horn?

Presumably the setup is Ramon forging Aden into a controllable weapon of mass destruction. Which makes this scene the setup of the setup. It gives a sense of what's coming, but so does this: There's a storm brewing, and it's going to be a big one. Dorothy should be in the storm shelter, but she's gone off to search for her dog Toto. Doesn't really give a complete picture of the book. Apparently Aden will develop some skills that make him the key to defeating some enemy. For all we can tell from this query, Aden gets conked on the head by Paulo's sword and wakes up in Oz.

Selected Comments

Anonymous Sarah said...Whoever slipped the Futurama ref into GTP2 deserves a pat on the back!

To the author - I was initially intrigued by the powerful demon horn, but then it's not mentioned again for the whole query. Instead, we have a waiter who's starving (lack of practicality in the character right there; kitchens are busy places and there's a lot of food lying around). There was also an abrupt scene shift between paragraphs that left me wondering whether the great hall was in the tavern.

What's Ramon for? Presumably he doesn't just watch, so what does he do? He comes across as passive in your query. And why is Aden special? I think my biggest problem with the query was a lack of specificity about everything but the fight, which it seems is only there to clue Ramon in to Aden's specialness. I'm more interested in why he's special and what the evil demon horn is up to, assume it's not just EE's new way of announcing the start of a writing exercise. Actually, I'd still read that.

In spite of the above, I think there's a pretty cool fantasy in here somewhere. I hope to see a revision of this query at some point. :)

Dave F. said...You are doing your novel a disservice in trying to sell it with that one scene -- a fight in a bar. That's not a fantasy. I once worked with a guy who was banned in four bars for fighting drunk.

This is like those old Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland movie where they need to save something and they stage a musical to raise money. That's also the plot of THE BLUES BROTHERS. Now people watched Rooney and Garland because they were great and people watch Jake and Elwood because they entertain (my personal favorite is Cab Calloway's Minnie the Moocher).

So what is the story after Ramon and Aden share a plate of chorizo sausage? Why would we fall in love with Aden like people fell in love with Edward and Jacob?

Stephen Prosapio said...Agree with EE (as usual). This is written pretty well, but one situation in the story isn't a query.

M. G. E. said...For a query I think you at least have to give away the opening, the complications, and most of the middle of the story, until we reach the 2nd plot doorway, the "will he or won't he moment."

That's not to say a query is a synopsis, but it's much more like a synopsis than what you've got here.

If I were to boil this down to an actual query format it might go something like this:

Aden is a young barboy in a land wracked with war, poverty, and ridiculous prophecies.

But Ramon, the local blacksmith, knows about Aden's secret past. No one believed Aden's mother when she claimed to have been raped by a demon, but Ramon saw the whole thing. Too scared to confirm her story, he's watched the boy grow up, knowing Aden is half-demon, and could be the key to overthrowing "the wicked antagonist" if his latent powers are properly guided.

And that would really just be like a start--I simply don't know what else happens in your story :P But we'd want to get some sense of how Aden goes about it and what personal challenge he faces, and who the enemy is.

Right now, too much of this query is completely cliche for me to be much interested. Even the writing was overly familiar.

Stephen Prosapio said...M.G.E.'s opening hooked me!

arhooley said...Right now, too much of this query is completely cliche for me to be much interested.

Joran/Aden/Luke Skywalker was a farmboy/waiter/farmboy with latent powers, and a brown mage/Ramon/Obi Wan perceives his specialness and potential for defeating the imperialist enemy.

Despite your adherence to convention, I think you got a good start on distinguishing Aden from his counterparts in Star Wars and Stool Wars. But it was a little jarring that he is both resigned to his fate and furiously resentful of it -- hoping only for a good meal and then fighting madly for his honor. Can you work out his psychology better and, as the others say, give us the plot?

Whirlochre said...Can't see how the Portuguese influence manifests itself here — unless, after chapter 1, Cristiano Ronaldo sidefoots evil into the Mediterranean.
Your first paragraph tells me more about your story than everything else combined.

But, poor boy vs demon thing could work.

Looks like you're lopping everything after para 1.

AA said...I didn't get past the part where a waiter is going hungry. HE IS SURROUNDED BY FOOD.They didn't even mind eating after each other back then, since germs had not yet been discovered.


M. G. E. said..."They didn't even mind eating after each other back then, since germs had not yet been discovered."

Oh, it's worse than that. London in the middle-ages had children fighting each other for undigested chunks of food found in the feces floating through the street's open sewers.

And while they realized that disease could be spread by the air, they believed foul air could be warded off by good-smelling things, and often wore a pouch of good-smelling herbs and scent around their neck (otherwise known as potpourri") :P

Angela Robbins said...As usual, the previous comments--including ee's have said it all. We need the meat and bones of your story, not just the appetizer.

What MGE wrote was excellent, and I would focus on writing a query more in the lines of that. Or just steal it! ; )

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Talk Like a Pirate Day

A film from the vault.

Be Careful What You Wish For

Authors were asked to write scenes based on the following prompt:

Miss Snark was thrilled to find herself trapped in an elevator with her favorite actor, George Clooney, but the strict method actor refuses, even under such dire circumstances, to abandon the "pirate" persona from his current film, O Laddie, Whar Be Thee? After two hours, the "act" has begun to wear thin. Even Miss Snark has her limits.

1. It shouldn’t have surprised her, but it did. Ever since she quit blogging, the world presented itself with uncompromising clarity.

“Arrrr! It cannot beeee!”

Miss Snark gritted her teeth. The way he rolled his eyes and paused before saying something was beyond irritating. You could actually see the wheels turning in this nitwit’s head. He flipped his cell phone shut. “Did ye say somethin’ durrrin’ meeee…cellularrrrr…er, convarrrrsationnnn?”

“I said, you’re a nitwit.”

He gazed upward, mouth open. After a few seconds, he spoke again. “Arrrrr ye callin’ me the Pirate Lorrrrd of Nitwitarrrrreeeee?”

Miss Snark swung her Prada handbag. Cap’n Clooney fell back, smacked his head on the wall, and slid to the floor. Blood dribbled from his nose, down his clean-shaven cheek. He even bleeds like a wuss, she thought. What was I thinking?

The elevator suddenly lurched and began descending. When it stopped, the doors opened only a few inches, but a pair of incredibly sexy hands appeared and pried them apart. The elevator was still two feet above the third floor, and standing in the doorway with an outstretched hand, was a really gorgeous man. He had a thin goatee and long dark hair underneath a black fedora. “This way, Miss.”

Miss Snark let him help her down. He peeked inside the elevator, saw the buffoon laid out on the floor, and glanced back at her over his shoulder. Then he flashed a wicked grin and pressed the down button.

An overweight man in coveralls waddled up to her rescuer and shook his hand. “Thanks for your help, Mr. Depp.”

“Anytime, mate.”

Without thinking, Miss Snark wrapped her arm around his waist. He raised an eyebrow and smiled. Now this is a real pirate, she thought as they strolled down the hallway. I wonder if rum comes in pails, too?


2. "Aye wench, my cutlass do not rise an' salute ye like the bowsprit on a dandy's prow." George said to the woman with moss-green eyes and yapping poodle.

"I love you George, and all you do is act like you're grogged to the gunwales. Your middy stinks of dead cuttlefish, too." She bawled into an overworked hanky, never noticing a light blinking their imminent rescue.

"Don't be cryin' wench. I be wantin' an heir from ye, a stout, ruddy lad. Methinks ye might be me prize schooner."

"Take me to, I think yuns call it, Viola's garden."

"I be mountin' your gangway. Ye wouldn't have me use that squiffy cur Damon, would ye?"

"Scupper that scurvy dog. Sail ho on this bounty!" Miss Snark raised her skirts, revealing scarlet-red silk lace.

"Ye're saucy . . . festoons 'n all. Kiss the gunner's daughter and I'll plow thy seas."

A chime sounded. The elevator door opened. Matt, dressed as a nerdy repairman with no chin, grinned. George whipped out his cutlass.

"Ye scurvy dog, ye be wantin' to plunder me booty. I'll keelhaul ye, scurvy cur!" George yelled. Matt bolted. George pursued. Killer Yapp ran after both.

"Lost him again." The elevator doors slid shut as Miss Snark sank into an ocean of despair.


3. “C’mere, me buxom beauty.”

“You, you . . . filthy landlubber! Take your hands off me!”

“Avast! Ye've another man? Who be he? That scurvy dog. I’ll crush his skull. Be it Capt’n Boner? Or that other rat, Evil Egghead?”

It’s you! You nitwit! I’m in love with you. But not this phony pirate you’re pretending to be.”

“Ah, me ol’ self. Tossed 'im overboard quicker'n I down me grog.”


“Me liquor, lassie.”

“I could use some grog.”

“Aye, lassie. Here ye are.”

“Thanks. Hey, I said, take your hands off me!”

“But I have to get me pillagin’ n rapin’ in somehow . . . More grog?”

“When is this elevator going to open?”

I've a better portal fer ye. Arr. I can open it now. Arr.”

“That’s . . . disgusting.”

“It’s not the size o' the boat. It’s the motion o' the ocean. Arr.”

“No, George. It IS the size of the boat.”


4. Lacking a scabbard, George put his sword back in his pants. Muttering something that sounded like “heart o’gold, arrgh! buns of steel,” he slicked back his love-soaked hair and cocked an eyebrow at the Gin Flask from which the Snark was currently imbibing.

“ I thank ye fer a nip? I be needing to slacke my other thirst ”

Miss Snark adjusted her stockings and pouted contentedly at the pirate George. She was basking in her own private afterglow, but she handed over the flask.

“Where’s your rum, anyway?”

“Aye Missy Snark, ’tis a mournful tale. Me crew, y' see, me cabin boys and the cook (the pagan fool) struck mutiny, aye they set me afloat with nary crumb nor keg.

As the piney fresh gin soughed softly through the branches of her central nervous system, she found she could tune out the annoying cadence of his pirate-speak while floating in a hazy nap-like bubble. The bubble abruptly burst when she felt the stiffness thrust into her hands. Blinking twice, Miss Snark was amazed to see a 400-page Manuscript.

“Arrgh, Missy, could you be looking through me pages here? Damned if Satan himself, down the way o’ the Southern Cross, didn’t tell me you were the best agent in the two one two.”


5. If you say “Aargh” one more time, I’m gonna knee you in the nuts, buckle your swash and stick my stiletto up your butt, she thought, smiling sweetly at the man who used to be her favorite fantasy. And I’m not your f#@king wench!
She looked down at Killer Yapp, passed out on the floor. He knew within five minutes this would not be a pleasant party. He stole her flask, downed it quickly and now snored peacefully. Grandmother Snark’s favorite Parcheesi partner was nearing Davey Jones locker!

Oh dog, he was speaking again. “Miss Snark, now that you’ve heard all my lines from the dramatic, the semi-dramatic and the drunken pirate fight scenes, would you like to help me practice for my romantic encounter with the heroine?”

Now you're talking, thought Miss Snark. “Why yes, George, I’d be happy to help.”

“Okay,” he said. “You’re about the right age to be Griselda’s mother. In this scene you’ve caught us kissing and are forbidding her to see me anymore.”

“Yapp, you’re dead," Miss Snark said. "Note to self: Buy a bigger flask!"


6. "Look, George, it's been two hours. Obviously they're not trying to rescue us. We could be trapped here for days."

"Aaarrrrrgh! Right ye be, Missy."

"We could die here. I could be the last woman you ever see . . . touch . . . kiss . . . "

"Aye, me last wench. 'Tis--"

"Listen, bucko, could you do me a favor till we get outta here, and can the pirate lingo?"

"Aaaarrrrrrgh! Nay, ne'er, matey." He adjusted his eye patch.

"You realize you're ruining ten years of delicious fantasies, don't you?"

"Avast, ye smarmy--"

"Fuck. I knew I should have gone with Hugh Grant or EE. Look, George, someone's gotta climb through that door in the ceiling and figure out how to get help."

"Aaaaarrrrrrrrghhhh! Ye can't lift me that thar high, I be too heavy for the likes o' ye. I'll 'ave to lift thee."

"Fine. Whatever. Maybe I'll get lucky and there'll be someone in the elevator shaft who speaks English."

George squatted below the escape hatch. "Stand on me shoulders. That's it . . . Aaaaarrrrrrrgh!"


"Yer stilettos! They're diggin into me shoul--"

"Wimp. Dog, did I ever have you figured wrong."

"Can ye open th' hatch?" He looked up. "Whoa!"

"Now what?"

"Missy, I've plundered me share o' booty in me day, but that's the prettiest booty I e'er did lay me eyes on."

Miss Snark dropped to the floor and threw her arms around George. "Why Cap'n," she said. "Be that a cutlass in yer breeches, or arrrgh ye just 'appy t' see me?"


Another Film from the Vault.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Double Feature from the Vault

Strip 2.10

Click strip to enlarge.

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.