Saturday, November 30, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Face-Lift Excerpts, Part 2

While there’s no doubt we humans are happy to wallow in our own importance, what would happen if we were sent into the galaxy where everyone else regards us as The Lesser Species? [We're already regarded as the lesser species. By cats. And, of course, sharks.]

Ascot has an entire Platoon ready to be transformed into death-dealing cyborgs and subhuman automatons, willing and able to do his bidding. [Willing? When you place an order for a terminator, you shouldn't have to specify whether you want it to be willing or unwilling to do your bidding. "Willing" should go without saying. I'm surprised they even make unwilling ones.

Hey pal, this cyborg you sold me just sits around all day watching soaps instead of killing my enemies.

Oh, did you want the kind willing to do your bidding?]

Moongate is a 111,000-world tale [Most fantasy readers can handle two--or even three--worlds, but you've gone way overboard.]

But he's not the only one with a say in the matter. The four horsemen are also on earth. Death owns a funeral parlor, Famine runs a food bank, Pestilence works at the Center for Disease Control and War is a peace activist.

[Famine: I've prevented thousands from starving.
Pestilence: I've cured cancer.
War: I'm working for peace on Earth.
Death: Man, you guys are killing my profit margin.]

For almost two decades, I have affiliated and sojourned with mystical societies to several continents showcased in the story. These personal experiences and background provide authenticity throughout the work. [On the other hand, the fact that you've spent decades sojourning with mystical societies brands you as a borderline lunatic.]

After a series of terrifying experiences with her possessed theology teacher, Kaitlin Loeffler is expelled from St. Clement High School and sent to live with her father in a tiny Montanan town. [If I'm having terrifying experiences with a possessed theology teacher, you don't need to expel me. I'm gone.] [Now that I think about it, if I'm a high school student and I somehow landed in a theology class, I'm gone whether the teacher is possessed or not.]

What would happen if you woke up on a shore of an ocean’s beach not knowing who you are or how you got there, and you must go back to a life pretending not to be an emotional hollow shell that yearns for the ocean’s embrace. [I've got nothing against opening with a question, but this question can be worded more clearly as: Would you please read no further and just send me a rejection slip?]

But mostly, it’s a story about three kinds of love: unrequited love, fairytale love, and the kind you call the cops on [i.e. the kind where you need to borrow a set of handcuffs].

Both Renek's and Ryan's units are told to search for the legendary Swords of the Ascendancy, swords made by gods. [You know how much the army values you when the big battle's approaching and they send you on a mission to find a legendary item. Sort of like when I was in the army and we were supposed to take an enemy camp, but before we made our final charge my sergeant took me aside and said, "Much as we'd like you fighting beside us, we need you to go search for the hammer of Thor."]

Toss out the iambic pentameter, poison and dagger and throw in the daily tortures of teenage humiliation and some Weres, and BEAST OF BURDEN is a 64,000 word YA paranormal, akin to Romeo and Juliet. [Every book is akin to Romeo and Juliet if you're allowed to toss out a few things and throw in a few others. For instance, toss out the star-crossed lovers and the feuding families, and throw in a cannibalistic serial killer and a green female FBI agent, and The Silence of the Lambs is a thriller akin to Romeo and Juliet.]

As he struggles to remember, the other soul within Xavier begins emerging. He calls himself “the havoc, the fury, the Rage of a Hero,” [That's a bit unwieldy for a nickname. I know, because I used to call myself "Evil Genius, Overlord, Mister Amazing, Nobility In A Chair." Eventually I just went with the acronym.]

Often humorous with a dose of drama, 11:11 is a 70,000 word young adult novel that appeals to us girls who sat on the bleachers and imagined we were the cheerleader that the quarterback was talking to. [That cheerleader is now a botox-addicted, thrice-divorced alcoholic who cries herself to sleep every night.] [On the other hand, she's still hot hot hot.]

The Narrator is forced to escape on his own when Raven’s preserved head ends up strategically placed on the floor of his cave. [Maybe it's just me, but when I find a severed head on my floor, I never consider whether its placement is strategic.]

In another world, Beta is plagued by nightmares – nightmares of demons chasing each other through hell. He has written a program to stop his dreams, but the program isn’t working any more. [Guess he should have done more Beta testing. Ba dum ching.] [Sometimes you people make this job too easy.]

From the moment she arrives in the Baba Yaga’s treetop cabin with a talking doll as her guide, she's engulfed in a world like nothing she ever imagined.  [Baba Yaga being introduced to Lady Gaga by Lady Gaga's daughter: "Baba Yaga, Mama Gaga. Mama Gaga, Baba Yaga."]

If the sisters reveal their pasts, they may lose the men they have come to love--but if they do not, the throne of England could be lost for good. [Only my British minions can say whether they'd be willing to take down the throne of England in order to preserve a romance with someone they've known a few weeks. My guess: yes, in a heartbeat.]

Friday, November 29, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

As some of you are aware, the two volumes of Why You Don't Get Published contain a liberal sprinkling of amusing excerpts from past Face-Lifts. With fewer visitors coming here during the holiday weekend, I thought I'd post a few such items that appeared after those books came out.

Part 1

Elizabeth Milton accepted her mother’s death years ago. [Now if only it would hurry up and happen.]

I hope you will consider representing The Magic and would be happy to send a first fifty. [I'm not happily sending you fifty until we've signed a contract. And I recommend you set your sights a little higher than fifty, even if it is your first novel.]

Hadde finds a golden necklace. Taking it as a sign that she must do more for her people... [Interesting. I would have taken it as a sign that someone lost her necklace.]

A shaman tells her that she must find the right man to give birth to her son’s reincarnation. [Did you say shaman or conman?]

When Matthew attempts to rescue Jenna and is proclaimed the Star Child by the Magus’ enemies, the two find themselves on the brink of a war that could destroy everything and leave them trapped in Auria forever.

[Aurian 1: The long-awaited Star Child has finally appeared to us. She shall bring us peace evermore.

Aurian 2: The Star Child is here, true, and peace is upon us, but it's not a she, it's a he, and he appeared to us.

Aurian 1: Bullshit! Your Star Child is clearly a fraud.

Aurian 2: We shall settle this in the manner of our ancestors: all-out war.]

Hybreed Rising takes this classic back player of monster stories and brings them into the limelight from the direction of soft genetic science, addressing many never-answered questions of werewolf existence. [For instance, Q: Do werewolves exist? A: Yes.]

DRINKERS is a vampire novel that reaches beyond vampires to questions of morality, identity and belonging. It is literary and thought-provoking as well as tense and action-packed. It is gritty, violent at times, and feels more like Chuck Palahniuk than Anne Rice. Though I had not read Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns before writing Drinkers, I feel some similarities with how Miller twists a fantasy story into something deeper, maybe more cynical, and certainly more literary. [I think what you're trying to say is, My novel is literary fiction, like Batman.]

When Nodammo Ebonlocke’s afternoon tea is spoiled by a hero with a very big sword arriving in the Generic Little Village, she reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would. [She invites him to play sword in the stone.]

I have always been fascinated by the thought that all around us an unseen war rages over souls. [If it must be included at all, always put evidence that you are mentally unstable at the end of the query.]

In Alex's case, his father is human while his mother is of the Kenlor, magical woodland tribespeople considered savages by the humans (a la the European viewpoint of the Native Americans). [Also the European viewpoint of current Americans.]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Beginning 1019

Right now, as I fight the shakes trying to tear my aching limbs from my body, I struggle to hold one salient piece of information in my brain: Don’t swallow.  That may not seem extraordinarily difficult, but I haven’t had a drink in two days. And my mouth is full of liquid. Problem? If I swallow my season is over. Fucked, before I even step onto the mat. So I follow the other two sadasses who failed the hydration test yesterday for my third, and final, inspection.

“Let’s go boys,” the trainer calls. He’s usually gone by six and we’ve pushed it to the limit tonight.

We hustle forward, well, maybe not quite hustle. Our legs are weak from running the school’s treadmills halfway to Hell, so it’s more of a shamble. I catch a glimpse of my ragged reflection in the mirrors as I enter the trainers’ office. My pointy hips and knees and shoulder blades break rank from my curving deltoids and rippling abs. I clutch my suddenly-too-big shorts and step with as much strength as I can summon.

Ahead of me Boyle and Givens take their specimen cups and teeter off to the toilet closet. Again, I straggle along, cup in hand, fighting the urge to swallow. Trainers can’t go into the toilet with us, but they don’t let us close the door, either. Not like wrestlers could really hide a bag of piss in our clothes like football players do. Wearing the lightest shorts we own we’re practically naked. Boyle and Givens undoubtedly will be naked in a few seconds.

That's when the angel appears, piercing a shimmering arc of haloes, Sonic-the-Hedgehoglike, with a parabola of holiness from her piss flaps.

"Rule Number One, semi-naked guys: the word 'swallow' is a red rag to a bull as far as I'm concerned."

Me, Boyle and Givens cry, "WTF, weird avatar!"

"Rule Number Two," the angel continues, rolling incandescent drool about her lips with the careworn adeptness of a veteran interior decorator spray painting a window ledge, "never mention the word 'necklace' in conjuction with its shorter cousin, 'pearl'."

I turn to Boyle and Givens. Every pec and ab quivers like a shaved cat morphed into a scrotum by Loki. "Hey, Mrs Angel. We never said nothin' about no pearl necklaces."

A cloud of pure benevolence arranges itself over the angel's filthy smirk. "Rule Number Three is entirely arbitrary, my personal pet prohibition. It's time you boys learned the difference between taking and giving, bending over and leaping for joy, Genesis and Exodus. And while you're at it — SMILE, you chumps! If those shorts of yours had been a single size smaller, I'd have passed you over for Barry Manilow mis-tweezering a gray pube from his oiled and pretzel-imprinted crotch..."  

Opening: Veronica Rundell.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Monday, November 25, 2013

Face-Lift 1171

Guess the Plot

The Price of Creation

1. Strapped for cash, God comes up with a way to make a fast buck: let people design plants and animals--for a hefty fee. But when the were-T-Rex gets loose, God wonders if He's made His first mistake.

2. He was born in a small village, son of a simple blacksmith. But he's the one who will end centuries of war. Yes it's that story, but completely different because someone pays a price for creating something.

3. Lana gives birth to the world's first talking baby. When the infant describes what life before life is like, he skyrockets to fame as Earth's favorite guru. And when he starts growing horns, Lana realizes his father, a one night stand who claimed to be Satan, wasn't lying.

4. Peek behind the curtains when things go wrong at the God Store, where the deities purchase the tools of their trade, from miracles to something from nothing.

5. When Captain Peril left the Mars Spaceport he didn’t count on finding a stowaway in the form of Dr. Susannah Sagan. Or on being shot at by Icarians, a race of mercenary insectoids. Dr. Sue’s engineered a terra-bomb, and there’s a price on her head big enough for Peril to buy a planetoid of his own and retire. But when he discovers the Icarians want the bomb to terraform Earth for themselves, Peril has to decide if seeing Earth overrun by giant cockroaches makes the price of creation a little too high.

6. Billionaire playboy Rip McCord has never been into the 'Dom scene' and longs for one chaste woman with whom to start a family. If giving up his Friday nights to work at a soup kitchen will help him find the future Mrs. McCord, then that's . . . the Price of Creation.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Life's greatest lessons cannot be understood through words alone. [Extremely vague, and as no specific example is ever given, not worth saying.] The Price of Creation, a young adult fantasy novel, follows a young man as he discovers these lessons while struggling with his own dark destiny.

The nameless Historian chances upon Surac, a village where people's talents are defined and enhanced by powerful Stones. When the blacksmith's son is born with a Stone [Whattaya mean, "born with a Stone"? Literally? Or is it like being born under a bad sign?] that marks him for violence and destruction, they find themselves hunted by friend and foe alike. When the boy is finally banished, [If I want to banish someone from my village and I can't even find him without organizing a massive manhunt, I'm thinking, until proven wrong, that he's already long gone and my problem is solved.] however, he discovers secrets far darker than the villagers' petty prejudices. Can a young man who is crafted only for violence end centuries of war? [He can, but it would take some some pretty big stones.]

The Price of Creation is the first book in a series, called the Historian’s Tales. Each book is a stand-alone story, narrated by the Historian, an unwilling immortal without a name or a past who wanders through worlds and times to witness great stories. In each book, the reader gets small glimpses of what it means to be a Historian as he shares in the lives and struggles of those he observes. [How can he not have a past if he shares in the lives of those he observes? Aren't all of his "adventures" part of his past?]

The author is an eccentric marketer who read way too many Louis L'Amour books as a kid. This left him with an enduring faith in the power of books to shape the way kids see the world. He writes under the pen name Lance Conrad. [Wait, who are you? The author's agent?] [Lance Conrad was the name I was given by the Porn Star Name Generator.] This book would be aimed at the young adult/middle grade market and is complete and polished at 64,000 words. I am grateful for your time in reading this query, I hope to hear from you soon.


There's not enough here about the story. Who's been at war for centuries? What are these great life lessons the kid learns? Are the stones accurate in predicting people's proclivities, or is it all superstition? What are the dark secrets he discovers? What's his name? Was he a baby when banished?

It seems the main plot is what happens after the banishment, and there's nothing here about where he ends up or what he does there.

This Historian wanders here and then until he chances upon a great story. But what he chances upon in this case is a village where they want to banish the blacksmith's kid. I assume this isn't a "great story" until years after the kid is banished, but how did the Historian know the banishment would lead to a great story years later? Why didn't he think, There's nothing of interest in this dump, guess I'll go somewhere cool instead of hanging around in case the kid turned out to be a rock star? If he knows the kid is a future superstar, it seems there's more involved than wandering and chancing upon. It seems he's targeting the stories he observes. Which reminds me of the historian from the future in Star Trek, the Next Generation, season 5, episode 9. He would travel back in time to observe historical events, one of which was about to take place on the Enterprise. You can watch the whole episode here. Or you can watch this 5-minute excerpt on YouTube. Or you can just move on.

Focus the query on this book. Who's the main character, what does he want, what's standing in his way, what happens if he doesn't get it, what's his plan? We need to know what happens.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Book’em Brooker

1. Sam Brooker, postal worker, wants to break into the librarian trade. Through a series of misunderstandings he ends up running an underground gambling ring.

2. Hard-bitten cop Ed "Bookem" Brooker faces his most hackneyed, cliche-filled case yet when the corpse of the local millionaire's son turns up in a meat locker. Sassy redheaded reporter Francie Wilkes shows up every third chapter in high heels and a tight skirt.

3. Norm Brooker's encyclopedic knowledge of Hawaii Five-O fails to impress his friends or the girl he secretly loves. When Norm's hometown is hit by a rash of crimes that mirror classic episodes of his favorite show, will Norm finally get his chance to shine? Or will he find that real crime fighting isn't as easy as his TV heroes made it look?

4. Cheerleader Chrissy is failing science. When Mr Thompkins assigns them a CSI project, she knows just who to get as her partner--nerdy Danny Brooker. But rival Stacey is angling for him as well, and she's offering to date him, too! Oh, it is SO on!

5. Make the coffee, Brooker. Fetch us some donuts, Brooker. File our reports, Brooker. Sexism is one thing, but can sharp-eyed Vivian Brooker overcome the emotional frailty inherent to her gender long enough to capture a serial killer--before she becomes his next victim?

6. Book'em, Brooker. Sharpen my pencil, Brooker. Hoover the cells, polish the handcuffs, Brooker. Sexism is one thing, but can sharp-eyed Valerie Brooker turn her reputation as a 'dumb blonde' to her advantage while she gathers evidence to book her obviously crooked captain?

7. Shy but brilliant forensics student Jill Pender has a secret: an imaginary friend, hard boiled detective Buck Brooker who has gotten her through every course with honors. But joining the police means taking a psych exam. Can she give up her secret weapon? But perhaps more importantly: will Brooker let her go?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

In 1973, Vivian Brooker is the first policewoman in the Cedar Falls Police Department. Chauvinistic officers in the squad are licking their chops anticipating [expecting] “Helen Reddy” to faint under the emotion [Emotional] strain of the gritty job. [Has anyone actually fainted since Victorian England?] Eager to hasten her dismissal, the officers play practical jokes and heap grunt work on her. Vivian is assigned the coffee making, donut fetching, and paperwork filing office tasks, which she must perform between freeing her desk drawers of jock straps and porn magazines. [I don't see how assigning her tasks that don't involve the emotional strain of the gritty job will hasten her dismissal. She's not gonna get fired for making bad coffee.] [Also, is it possible for a place called Cedar Falls to have so much major crime that police work is gritty?] [Also, is "gritty" the word you want? When it doesn't mean sandy, it means courageous, resolute. I get the impression you were going for tough and demanding.] [Finally, there was no Internet in 1973, so no cop would have been willing to sacrifice his porn mags just for a practical joke.]

Her first taste of criminal activity, a bank robbery in progress, leads to disaster when she is taken hostage at gun point. Vivian surprises her fellow officers by keeping a cool head and convincing the robber to free her and surrender. [I thought you said it led to disaster. Sounds like it couldn't have turned out any better.] Emboldened by her demonstration of her insight into a criminal’s mind, [Most cops would have simply assumed the bank robber wanted to get away with the eighty grand he just stole, but Vivian realized he wanted to surrender and spend ten to twenty years in a prison cell with a big-armed guy named Bubba.] Vivian tells the Police Captain [of] her passion for detective work.

The Police Captain arranges for her to review a few cold case files with a veteran detective. But after days of studying the gruesome details of the victims of the Ulrich Park Murderer, Vivian’s emotion [Emotional!] stability begins to unravel. She starts making careless mistakes: misfiling papers at work, [bringing the captain a honey-dipped donut instead of a cruller,] forgetting her badge at home. She longs to retreat into the security of a strong man’s arms rather than her empty apartment. [In short, she realizes that her passion isn't for detective work, it's for Jim Rockford.]

Vivian wonders if the chauvinistic officers are right; maybe her emotional [I see my nagging finally got through to you.] frailty is inherent to her gender and a determent [detriment?] to the police force. After she receives a threatening phone call from a man claiming to be the Ulrich Park Murderer, she decides to turn in her badge.

The Police Captain convinces her to stay on the squad while the team uses her as bait to lure the murderer into a trap. But can she depend on the same men who wanted her off the police force to protect her life? [Of course she can. You think they wanna go back to making their own coffee?]

“Book’em Brooker”, a novel complete at 80,000 words, is an account of a woman’s discovery of her strengths and weaknesses, and her journey to appreciate the strengths of the men around her.

Thanks for your consideration.


So, the heroine of the book unravels when she studies the details of gory crimes, longs to retreat into the security of a strong man’s arms, wonders if her emotional frailty is inherent to her gender, and turns in her badge when she gets a threatening phone call? Who's your target audience? Chauvinistic men who want to see her fail? She doesn't sound like the kind of woman one envisions at the vanguard of the women's rights movement.

Any halfway decent detective would realize there's no way the actual Ulrich Park Murderer is gonna be phoning her. Even if he's a cop, is he really gonna be worried that she'll solve a case the department couldn't?

If your word choice and usage aren't spot-on, it will be assumed this is a problem in the book. Is it?

Selected Comments

Ink and Pixel Club said...I'm almost hesitant to say anything because I have so little interest in reading this book. Maybe the idea is that because it's 1973, even Vivian doesn't have the confidence that she's cut out for this line of work because society tells her women aren't capable of it, though I checked and the TV series "Police Woman" came out just one year after this story takes place. If the story was about Vivian overcoming a societal prejudice so deep that even she's starting to believe it, maybe I could get behind it. But all I'm seeing is a police officer who can't handle a murder investigation (wouldn't she have been exposed to similarly gruesome details while she was still in training?) and wishes some big strong man would come along to protect her from all of this. I get very little sense that the CFPD changes over the course of this story. Instead I'm told that it's Vivian who learns not only her strengths, but also her weaknesses, and comes to appreciate the strengths of the men around her - most of whom are immature chauvinistic jerks so far as we know, but not their weaknesses. So Vivian has strengths and weaknesses, but the men around her have only strengths which Vivian must learn to appreciate?

Advice? Rework Vivian. Make her a real person who has actually studied to be a pollice officer and isn't going to be completely overwhelmed by her first real case. The bit where she convinces the bank robber to release her and turn himself in has potential. If there was a description of how she did it, we could get an idea of her strengths rather than her many, many weaknesses. It's fine to have Vivian be something other than the perfect feminist role model, someone who doubts herself at times and feels alone and isolated and feels overwhelmed on occasion. Nut make it clear that she is capable and strong as well. Right now, all I'm hearing is "I'm just a helpless little girl who cannot handle that gritty reality of police work in Cedar Falls!"

arhooley said...You can save some words in your first paragraph. In 1973, Vivian Brooker is the first policewoman in the Cedar Falls Police Department. Chauvinistic officers play practical jokes and heap grunt work on her, hoping to hasten “Helen Reddy's” collapse under the emotional strain of the job. She finds herself making coffee, fetching donuts, and filing paperwork -- in between freeing her desk drawers of jock straps and porn magazines.

Usually I constrain my remarks to the query, the novel presumably having been written and therefore being a lost cause, but I can't resist telling you why else I'd reject this query:

Yo, what's this about "emotional stability" being tied to filing papers correctly and remembering your badge? Real cops supposedly beat their spouses, drink, and lose sleep. I'm supposed to turn pages like mad to see whether Vivian shows up in a wrinkled blouse next?

And I'm sorry, but Vivian simply sounds too dumb for me to care about her. She gets a phone call from a criminal (as if no cop has ever had to talk to one of those), and decides to turn in her badge? That's like a doctor having to sew up a wound and turning in her license. To make matters worse, Vivian suspects all women are this weak-headed. Ugh, maybe that's the sort of thinking you'd indulge in if you actually feared that a bunch of fellow cops would deliberately let you die while you're working a case just because they don't want you around the office.

On which side of the Atlantic are the agents who will receive this? On my side, the comma goes inside the quotation marks. "Book'em Brooker," etc. But why is this story called "Book'em Brooker" anyway? "Breakdown Brooker" is more like it.

Anonymous said...One suspects this manuscript has been in a trunk 40 years. We like to think it was written at a time when it could have impressed people as believable and timely, but was not publishable then because the literary industry was as frowning and rejecting to un-suicidal women writers as the police were to women who aspired to be officers. But that was the also heyday of Nancy Drew, who was not a wimp. And Agatha Christie certainly had a lot of success with her various detectives including old Miss Marple, who was also not a wimp.
Perhaps you could revise the wimpiness out of this and resubmit.

batgirl said...It sounds as if the author has an agenda, and given that publishing is dominated by women in many of the decision-making positions, it may not be an agenda that appeals to anyone but Real Women (tm).

On the other hand, the harassment described in the query is pretty mild compared to what has been reported by women in both fire and police departments in recent years - so that aspect might make the book timely.

There's a potential strong tension in whether cop-solidarity will triumph over cop-misogyny - but that makes the male characters the protagonists, because the big character moment will be theirs.
Maybe the story would work if one of the male cops were the main character?

BuffySquirrel said...I think you need to recognise that while your novel may be set in 1973, you are (HELLO!) trying to sell it in 2011.

vkw said...I don't know what to say. I'm flabbergasted.

Here's the problem with the novel, women may have moments of doubt and think, "rather than getting my medical degree and having to face this child dying in my care, I should of married a rich man," but they don't walk out of the ER.

Furthermore, the catalyst for the MC being made a detective is weak. Vivian may have talked her way out of a hostage situation but still she was taken hostage - that's bad. One would think that having a gun to your head would be a worse experience than seeing old crime photos by the way.

Furthermore in order to make detective in a small town one must put in the time to earn a promotion. You don't get the promotion because you did a really good job one day, (except for that kidnapping problem). And, these days, education is usually necessary for the detective badge.

But your novel is in 1973 - in the middle of the second-wave feminist movement. Vivian apparently only wants the job and not the work. She must have only read half the pamphlet.

The story needs to be revamped.

alaskaravenclaw said...It's not just that publishing is dominated by women.

Women buy more books than men, and women read more books than men. Women are more likely to be the ones choosing and ordering books for schools and libraries.

In short, writers would do well to remember that from query letter to sale to cuddle-up-and-read, it's never gonna be the right time to write Man To Man.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...I'm not sure if the problem here is with the query or the manuscript, but I'll say this: if your set-up is the chauvinist cops think Vivian's going to break down emotionally due to the grittiness of the job, then that is exactly what Vivian cannot do.

She can (and should) struggle with her emotions and with the burden of being the first woman in the police department, but she can't just give up to the point where the chief has to talk her into staying. Because if Vivian doesn't want to succeed, then why should an audience root for her?

Anonymous said...I think the idea is that sexual harrassment could force her to quit, so I get that part of the query. But I cannot help but feel the urge to vomit with the whole wanting to retreat to the arms of a strong man thing.


At first this reminded me of a certain SCOTUS justice who could only get a job as a legal secretary after she'd graduated (Stanford)law school in two years and made Law Review.

The difference? No man's arms, no falling apart. Just a strong woman who paid some truly sucky dues.

flibgibbet said...In the query, you set us up for a heroic MC, but then turn her into a coward who is clearly out of her league. She turns tail, would prefer a man take care of her, and the other officers are supposed to trust that she's got THEIR back?

Moreover, you're asking the wrong question: "But can she depend on the same men who wanted her off the police force to protect her life?", when you should be asking "Can she find the inner strength to prove that she's worthy".

As written, what cop in their right mind would want this person as a partner, regardless of their sex?

I'm sure this isn't what you meant to convey. I assume you meant to tell a story about how difficult it was in 70's for women to be taken seriously, and how much more effort it required to prove that women were up for the challenge.

Phoenix said...Ok. Trying to be objective here.

I've seen a male firefighter, among others, faint when an itty-bitty syringe-full of blood was drawn from his dog [and while that WAS a long time ago, it was since the days of Victorian England].

So Vivian may be perfectly capable in other areas but have a weak stomach when it comes to gruesomeness.

But can't detectives choose to specialize? Couldn't Vivian specialize in white-collar crime rather than murder? Or become a hostage negotiator? Wouldn't she research those options before hanging it up? Wouldn't she find out why men choose to go into those specialties before declaring herself "emotionally frail"?

I'd also say it takes MORE courage to be bait for a known murderer than to be someone holding a weapon on the other side of the trap.

The level of hazing she's getting doesn't lead me to think that the male officers, when working a high-profile trap where their own conduct will be scrutinized and success might well mean THEY get a shot at detective grade, will let her die. There seems to be a reverse assumption that the chauvinistic cops are dicks who can't distinguish between stupid, inappropriate hazing and flat-out manslaughter.

I don't see either side coming off well here. Who is the target audience? If it's a "woman's discovery," I'm hazarding it's meant to be women's fiction, but the events this query sets up are not going to fly in that category/genre today.

If it really isn't retro-fiction, then the query needs to be torn down and rebuilt to indicate that.

Rivka said..."Her journey to appreciate the strengths of the men around her."

That's my biggest problem right there. Her journey should be to trust in her own strength and ability, not in the men around her. If, by the end of all this, she's left with the mistaken notion that only men have what it takes, then why the HELL would I read this?

not normally anonymous said...Books less likely to receive a publishing deal than this one:
"Hit me Hurt me!" -- a YA novel about Jill, an abused teen who realizes she deserves the scorn of her parents and submits to their abuse.

"Castration Can be Fun!" -- Saleem's third strike getting caught publically masturbating is punishable by...well, ya know. But Burt consoles him with reminders that at least he'll be able to pee sitting down.

See where I'm going with this? As I've said in my writing groups, you CAN write whatever you want. If you want your writing to get published however, you need an audience and a book that will sell to that audience. Unfortunately I seen none for this story idea.

chelsea said...To be followed by the sequel, "Call it, Johnson!" about a young black med student who realizes his true calling is to serve a kindly white master.

I'm sort of confused here (color me female). Where's the part about Vivian realizing her purpose in life is to sire the child of the strongest (read: most sexist) man on the force? Kinda dropped the ball there, IMO.

I think I'm done here.

Anonymous said...Greetings from the writer of the crappy query “Book’em Brooker.” Thanks for your critiques. I extend extra gratitude for those who picked through it to find something redemptive. Your efforts were heroic.

I’ve taken a few watered down online writing classes where the critical feedback was limited to, “Nice try.” Or, if someone was really bold, “Keep practicing.” I was starving for some ruthless honesty. And indeed I got some. I’m feeling like I just finished licking the plates clean at the honestly buffet.

In reference to unanimous repugnance for the craven protagonist Vivian Brooker: it’s not her fault. I was concerned that I’d paint her as a one-dimensional, I’m-here-kick-your-sexist-butt-and-take-over-the-world character. I mistakenly dialed her flaws up with such force that I twisted the knob right off the console. I feel compelled to explain her lopsided characterization in case someone had a hellish vision of her turning up in self-published land beckoning women to vote away their right to vote.

Thanks for the smackdown. I had it coming.

Khazar-khum said...It sounds like there's a male cop we're not hearing about, one who she does care for and who helps her. Or maybe I'm thinking of a different book.

Anonymous said...Hey Author, Your rebuttal has excellent writing in it! Really really good stuff. If you could get that energy and talent into the query, well hello for going.

I'd update the date. The Book 'em Booker - new title please. Kill cliches. Make her a kick ass oh yeah, well let me shove you in your locker for two days. If the guys on the force are terrible, she can have a near rape stopped my Mr. Whoever at the right moment.
I spent my whole life not fetching crullers for anyone with testicles. So can she. (We all got our own.) She can say nah, I don't eat hydrogenated food.
Make her real, she needs more authentic reasons d'etre.

VKW - can I tease you? Should have not of. I know you were tired.

And take note of my comment to VKW - the errors were leaping off the page in word use/spelling.

Please redo/resubmit. Your rebutt was terrific. Time to kick some query ass.

Anonymous said...Dated. Weak mc, but the plot scares me. Why set it in the 70's? Killing the query with the year and Helen Reddy.

chelsea said...Author! You came! I'm so glad to hear the query misrepresented Vivian. Apologies if my previous comment had a bit too much snark. I look forward to reading the rewrite.

I think you could revamp the "arms of a strong man" thing into something like this:

"In the midst of the Women's Movement, Vivian wonders if actualizing her strength means letting go of her desire for companionship and a loving embrace."

I have to disagree with one of the later Anonamati: writing in a near-rape just so some guy can save her is not my opinion of a fix here. In fact, the ick-factor on that is through the roof.

Oh, and for the record, the day when I tire of the "I’m-here-kick-your-sexist-butt-and-take-over-the-world character" is the day that sexism ceases to exist. So. Bring it on :)

arhooley said...Author, your response shows considerable humor, wit, and skill. I'd love to see your voice in fiction -- or even non-fiction.

150 said...Count me among those looking forward to a rewrite!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. It's the same old Prodigal Son story, only this time the hero is gay and seeking acceptance from his black redneck family and it's about as naked a play for Literary Merit as you can make.

2. It says buy 1 tin of sardines, get 111 free. Don't give her any lip about misprints. Even if Ethel has to get her bumbling hitman grandson to whack everyone at Rite-Mart, she is going to redeem this coupon!

3. Holy visions appearing in the sky. Miraculous cures. Global warming eliminated. Turns out, Satan's teenage daughter is going through a rebellious phase. But when her good deeds actually earn her a ticket to the Pearly Gates, can she win the cute angel's heart before Heaven changes its mind?

4. Bane is destined to become a demon. Rayleigh owns the world's only sanctuary-from-demons zone. They meet and fall in love. But can either of them survive in the other's world? Can Bane join his soul mate by finding . . . Redemption?

5. When Harry was 17, his girlfriend fell off a bridge and drowned because he didn't know how to swim and couldn't save her. Now a professional lifeguard, he spends his days soothing his haunted conscience, making sure it never happens to anyone else. But what will happen if his new girlfriend convinces him to try skydiving?

6. Crooked stock trader Perry Jones is being haunted by a word: Redemption. Billboards, magazines, websites, he sees it everywhere, and treats it as a series of disturbing deja vus--until wee critters with red eyes and pitchforks start dogging him, and his Monday morning cappuccino has 'Redemption' written in the foam.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Reighlyn Anderson accepts the necessary dangers of loving Bane Thomas, even if with his cursed soul, he can’t promise her eternity. [The main problem with loving this guy is that even if it works out, he'll still be the Bane of her existence. Ba dum ching.]

When Bane Thomas learns of an Armistice Zone, [Once you've told us a character's first and last names, there's no need to use both again.] [Although in this case it does convince us that his name really is Bane Thomas and not Thomas Bane.] an area of land where Demons and The Fallen can do no harm, he knows it’s his one chance to protect his family. [This Zone better be the size of Asia, because there's gonna be six billion people trying to squeeze into it.] [Can you really trust demons to stay out of some arbitrarily designated zone? I'm sure when the idea of the Zone was proposed, the demons wouldn't have agreed unless . . .

Human Negotiator: Look, things aren't working out, we need a special zone where you guys aren't allowed to torment us.

Demon Negotiator: Yeah, right, the minute we agree to this zone, you'll all flock into it, and then who are we supposed to torment, cows?

Human: Whoa, you can't come in here.

Demon: Why not? 

Human: It's the demon-free zone. Remember? You agreed to it.

Demon: Wait, you thought we were serious?]

While pursuing the land, he encounters a problem: [I assume he's seeking the land or en route to the land. "Pursuing" suggests the land is on the run.] Miss Reighlyn Anderson. In hopes of persuading her to sell, [To sell the Armistice Zone? She owns it? Seems to me that if two groups are agreeing to an Armistice Zone, they would choose land that they own, not Reighlyn Anderson's land.] Bane becomes the financial backer to her Crisis Center for Domestic Violence. While working with her he learns two things: selling is not in her vocabulary, and she’s undoubtedly penetrated his emotional wall of defense. [Can you come up with a less-clinical way of saying he's smitten?]

Unaware that her financial backer is also the despised developer after her land, Reighlyn soon realizes she’s falling for Bane, but determines there is something different about him after witnessing things beyond her explanation. [For instance, he has cloven hooves and his own private torture chamber.] Then, after revealing his special abilities during a crisis, [What special abilities? What crisis?] Bane’s compelled [Compelled by whom?] to tell her portions of his secret. [Which is that his soul is cursed? What portion of that does he tell her? Didn't she already know that in sentence 1?] Soon after, Reighlyn struggles with the discovery that Bane’s not only her financial backer, but much more: the developer after her land, and to her surprise, a direct descendant of The Watchers, cursed to become what he despises most: a demon. [If you put this part about becoming a demon up front, this paragraph will be down to: Unaware that her financial backer is also the developer after her land, Reighlyn soon realizes she’s falling for Bane. Soon after, Reighlyn struggles with the discovery that Bane’s not only her financial backer, but the developer after her land. At this point you realize that's a lot of wordy repetition and just delete it.]

They accept the necessary risks to be together, [Odd that I can so easily accept the existence of Watchers and Demons and a demon-free zone, but I find it hard to accept that a woman, upon discovering that the guy she's fallen for has been hiding the fact that he's the despised developer who's been trying to get her property, wouldn't toss him out on his ass.] but Bane fears he’s put her in more danger than he once believed possible when a punished demon arrives. [Are they together on her land, the Armistice Zone? If so, they're safe, right? If not, they're TSTL anyway.] Desperate to prevent his own sentencing, the demon attempts to create a gift for Satan. A gift of pure hate dwelling within Bane; hate so overwhelming he’ll beg to die, thus permitting Satan to capture him into servitude.

[Demon: Desperate to prevent my sentencing, I offer you the gift of a new servant: Bane Thomas.

Satan: Another servant? I got a billion servants already. I got a servant who massages my ass. I got a servant who wipes my ass. I got a servant who waxes my ass. Hell, my ass has more servants than the queen of England. You wanna give me a gift, find me some ice cream that doesn't melt in two seconds in this dump.]

The problem is, the demon plans on using Reighlyn’s death as the currency in which to purchase this gift. [I just knew some form of capitalism was the chosen economic system in hell.] Which leaves Bane on a race against time to rescue the one person he never thought could exist: his soul mate.

Redemption is a complete 93,000-word paranormal romance. I’d like to thank you for your time and your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you.



Redemption is a popular title. Amazon lists over a half dozen books called Redemption. It was also the title of the books in Face-Lifts 690 and 643.

Who are the "family" Bane wants to protect by moving to the Zone? His parents and siblings? They're all descendants of the Watchers, right? Is he trying to protect them from himself? From demon hunters?

Is Bane the only person who knows Rayleigh's land is the Armistice Zone?

There's too much information here. Bane is destined to become a demon. Trying to buy the magical land where demons are benign, he falls in love with the landowner, Reighlyn. She loves him too, but when she sees him flying through the air with a glowing pitchfork she demands an explanation. (Romantic conflict.) He explains that he will become a demon unless he can live on her land. They move in together. (Conflict seemingly resolved.) Just when it looks like they'll live happily ever after, a demon shows up planning to kill Rayleigh to get in good with Satan. (Major obstacle that threatens happiness and expands word count by 20,000.) Focus on the romantic conflict and the obstacles. Leave out what's not essential to that.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...Interesting plot. Kind of a darker "You've Got Mail."

vkw said...EE's query is wonderful. Copy it and your done, and bonus, the book actually starts sounding interesting. May I suggest Keanu Reeves to play the dark, mysterious demon and Meg Ryan as the Reighlyn girl, in the movie?

"penetrated his emotional wall of defense." There ought to be an award for such long descriptive phrases whose meaning is basically ambigous.

Kings Falcon said...I didn't believe the "Geez you put me out of business and now I can forgive you for that and love you forever" in "You've Got Mail" either.
EE's comments are on point.

The first paragraph, which summarizes the story, caused me problems because you jumped back in time for the start of the second paragraph. Then when you pick up with Reighlyn later in the query, you start the story over again.

Also, it seems like you're trying to cram a fanasty query on top of a romance query. Pick one. If this is a fantasy with romantic elements, focus the fantasic elements. If it is a romance with fantasy elements, then query it as a romance and don't dwell on the fantasic. EE's suggested query is on the mark for a romance query.

Take a deep breath and try again. Writing the query is at least as hard, if not harder than writing the book.

Good luck.

batgirl said...What about Bane's family? He wants the Armistice Zone so he can protect his family, but then they vanish from the story. Are they demons too? Maybe cut that mention of family, since they don't do anything in the query except raise more questions.

The 'cursed to become a demon' thing is kind of confusing. Is it hereditary?

arhooley said...The gender-non-indicative names of "Bane" and "Reighlyn"* so threw me in the first sentence that I couldn't figure out who was cursed and who was accepting a risk. Is there a law against giving people normal names in paranormal romance and urban fantasy? (I expect an answer from one of you wags.)

I know this blog is about queries -- the novel itself is done -- but I have to say, your world does have some bizarre rules.

Joe G said...I'm a little confused by Kings Falcon's advice. If the query is well written, all the elements should come out, no? Both romance and fantasy?

I don't really understand what the problem is (Why doesn't Reighlyn just let Bane's family come live on the land? Isn't the land supposed to be the one safe haven? Apparently it's not if the demons can get on it--if it's convenient to the plot).

Also, I believe you may have written the world's first paranormal romance realty novel.

I can tell you're going for a Twilight thing here (nothing happens but two people talking to each other for 300 pages until an event of some kind is shoehorned in at the end so you don't feel cheated) but frankly, I'm not very compelled by either R. nor Bane. Particularly not by R., who seems to do little in the story but be in the right place at the right time for Bane to A. need something from her B. fall in love with her C. have to rescue her.

I like the notion of leading the reader on a bit with a little story about a guy who's trying to trick a girl into selling her his land, and then she falls in love with him, and then BOOM: They're actually in hell! Or something like that. But your query makes the book sound dead serious.

Amy said...Ok, my revision is a little longer-but I hope its better (hope!). If not, I have a really short one I worked on too. Also in regards to the title what do you think about Love's Awakening? Because this is a trilogy, the main name for all three novels is Redemption-but this first book’s sub-name is Loves Awakening, but if it's better to just pitch it as Love's Awakening, I can do that. I just didn’t want it to sound to cliché with the lovey dovey stuff because there is a lot of action. I’ll post revision in a separate post below.

Amy said...

Dear Agent:

Bane Thomas knows a thing or two about demons; in fact, as soon as they succeed in killing him, he’ll become one. Which is why an Armistice Zone, an area of land where demons can do no harm, would be a god send, and rumor is twenty-year-old Reighlyn Anderson has such a zone somewhere on her property. The problem is - she’s not selling.

To manipulate her into selling, Bane finances her crisis center. Though fails to reveal he’s the despised developer after her land, and is reluctant to correct the mistake once he realizes he’s in love with her, and she with him. But when Reighlyn witnesses Bane’s super human abilities, and discovers he lied, she severs all ties with him.

To explain his deceit, Bane reveals he’s a descendant of The Watchers, angels who bred with humans creating a hybrid offspring called Nephilim, and he’s cursed to become a demon. With his heritage come dangers and Bane must choose to let Reighlyn go for her own safety, or risk her life to have her in his. And when a demon arrives determined to use Reighlyn as a means to capture Bane into Satan’s servitude, Bane’s forced to battle against evil to rescue his soul mate, regardless of what the end could mean for him.

REDEMPTION is a completed 93,000-word Paranormal Romance. Thank you for your time and consideration.


M. G. E. said...I think it's just a wholly flawed premise, and needs to be considered more a learning experience than something that should be polished for publication.

The idea of a demonic armistice zone is just nonsensical. Then you've got this demon who wants to kill the girl so the dude will "beg for death" yet wouldn't he just be really angry and want to get revenge on said demon?

See, Twilight *cough* got at least one thing right: Edward can't give up on Bella because she's the only girl whose thoughts he can't read, making her the ultimate mystery, and unique in the world.

What prevents this guy from simply saying, "Screw it." And walking off to find cheap hookers and beer?

Amy said...What stops Bane from finding another is the fact that they are literally soul mates. -If she's killed, Bane will want to die as a means to punish himself for what happens to her, (not because he can't live without her). It would be a punishement to him, because once his immortal life is ended by a demon or another of his kind, he's obligated by a curse to serve Satan (something he doesn't want to do). The premise comes from the Bible and the book of Enoch, where God allowed a percentage of Nephilims to be spared from destruction, but thier spirits were to be bound to earth forever, forcing thier spirits to serve Satan as demons.
It's what many consider a true story, applied to every day life.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Strip 2.14

Click strip to enlarge.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New Beginning 1018

Tim’s azure eyes bore into mine. “I can see you’re holding back some anger and – what’s this? Confusion?”

He speaks softly but its authority fills the room. His voice seems to come from a deeper place than ordinary mortals’ voices might. Rich and smooth as aged whiskey, sometimes I ignore his words and let the voice transport me to a mellow place, a place as ageless as OM.

I nod, and a wave of shame flares though me. It’s no use hiding my thoughts. My aura radiates any hint of negativity that courses through me, no match for Tim’s acuity. I now strive to keep my feelings calm, even when I am not in Tim’s presence. Armed with the knowledge that thoughts have a physical manifestation and are laughingly obvious to those enlightened by Higher Knowledge, every breath is now aligned with my aim to present only a shining aura to the world.

Avoiding Tim’s gaze is impossible. Even strangers who cross his path turn around for a better look. His presence resonates with the hum of the universe. Animals sense this immediately and are attracted to him.

“Yes, my teacher. My parents have been asking...difficult questions.”

His eyes don’t change.

“The path your parents have chosen is different to the path you have chosen. They will contaminate your pure spirit with destructive energy and doubt. Focus yourself on the path you wish to travel.”

“They’re trying to stop me from freeing myself of the burdens of material wealth.”

“And do you have any to unburden this morning?”

I reach into my jeans pocket, pull out the six hundred pounds from last night, and hand it to him. There is a flicker of joy in his eyes which pleases me immensely.

He stares deeply into my eyes. “You are doing well and nearing a higher plane. Jenny is moving to the Higher Knowledge Plane and soon you will leave your corner and take her place at the Cosmo Bar. You enjoy giving pleasure?”

I hear myself say, “Yes. I enjoy giving pleasure.”

“You are a worthy disciple. Now go and rest; you’ll be busy tonight.”

I walk out feeling joy in my heart.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Mister Furkles

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Captcha Complaints

Due to a few complaints about illegible captchas, I've removed the captcha feature from comment modification. I would have done this sooner, but I was unfamiliar with the term "captcha," and assumed the complaints were coming from inebriated spambots.

I've now done some research on the topic, and to save my minions from having to do the same, shall summarize what I've learned.

Captcha (short for Captain Chaos) is a test you must perform in order to convince a computer that you are not a computer. For instance, say it's yesterday and you wish to comment on one of Evil Editor's blog posts. You type out a lengthy comment which is sure to entertain and enlighten the Evil Minions. In order to publish the comment, you must, of course, get it past Evil Editor’s Evil Eye™, but first you must pass the captcha test, in which a series of letters are displayed, and you must type them. Failure to correctly reproduce the series of letters is evidence that you aren't a human, and we don't want you here.

The earliest captchas were easy to read. It was believed that computers couldn't actually read or write, and thus would be unable to reproduce a string of letters such as:

Turned out computers wanted to comment on Evil Editor's blog so badly that they evolved the ability to read and write.

But humans are nothing if not clever, and came up with the idea of distorting the string of letters:
The idea was to make it so the computer couldn't read the letters. But a lot of humans couldn't read the letters. They couldn't tell whether that was a "w" or two "v"s., an issue that didn't seem to bother the computers, who were able to use their "undo" function to undistort the string of letters. So while humans were thinking, Shit, that must have been an r, I'll have to try again, computers were thinking, Aha, it's an r. The humans will never get it.

But humans are nothing if not persistent, so they came up with the idea of putting the letters really close together:
But finding the perfect size that would fool computers and not send humans to the opthamologist proved impossible.

Next came the idea of a squiggle through the distorted letters:
Humans thought, Is that an l or a t?
Computers thought, Humans are so cute.

Next came distorted close letters and blurred letters:

What programmers had yet to realize was that computers enjoy solving puzzles, and humans don't. That New York Times crossword puzzle you couldn't get halfway through? A computer could do it in a billionth of a second.

But humans are nothing if not stubborn, so you can expect to see a new generation of captchas soon:

Seems we'll do anything to keep computers out of our computers.


In the few days since I released the minions from captcha misery, I've received 43 comments that turned out to be someone telling me what a great blog I have and providing a link to their blog. Such as:

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Much as I enjoy the flattery, I can't risk letting one of these comments through and having one of you click the link and get invaded by a virus and blaming me. So, try to deal with . . .

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Evil Editor Classics

Dear Evil Editor,

I use Comic Sans Serif as my font of choice whenever the option is available (blog, e-mail, discussion forums, etc.). A friend just sent me a copy of a WALL STREET JOURNAL piece about the movement to ban it. I know it would not be appropriate for a manuscript submission, but how about a query letter? And if not, why not? I find it more legible than most fonts myself, as well as clean and elegant. Could you give us your views on "right" and "wrong" fonts for submissions?

It's called comic sans because it's modeled after fonts used in comic books. Also because Evil Editor frequently uses it in cartoon captions. You may argue that the style is used in comics because it's elegant, but more likely it's because kids read comics and younger kids may not be used to serifs. On the other hand, older kids wouldn't be thrilled with this font:

So it's a compromise.
(I seem to have lost all my R blocks.)

I don't care what font is used as long as it's not disturbing to look at, for instance Spiders:


or hard to read, for instance Flatline:


or one of those wingdingaling fonts that convert text into a secret code:


but some editors are anal a-holes, and not all of them admit it until they get your query. Then they burn it and pour themselves a stiff drink to help them make it to lunchtime when they can gripe to their fellow editors about your faux pas: "Can you believe it? I got another query today printed in Galliard BT instead of Bookman Old Style. Why do these clueless 'writers' waste my time?"

It's generally accepted that serifs are easier on the eyes, which is why you always find them in longer works. Also, Comic Sans is considered informal, casual, and thus probably not a good idea for a business letter. Plus, go back to the top of the post and compare your question, in Comic Sans, with my answer in Georgia. Then head north and compare it with my answer in South Carolina. Ba dum ching. Seriously, I actually had to have a handwriting expert come in to interpret your question because I thought it was written in Canadian.

In any case, the fact that you love Comic Sans should mean you wish correspondence you receive
to be in that font, not correspondence you send. What you send should be in a font the recipient loves. Which is why I ask that you submit future questions in 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Face-Lift 1170

Guess the Plot

Bummin' It

1. Joe Chesterfield rides lonely Wisconsin roads in search of answers to life's meaning with nothing more than an Ipad, a fedora and a suit from Goodwill. Will his resulting memoires be an ageless paean to adolescent angst and freedom? Or will it be proof that the old "Gas, grass or ass" rule of the road is still alive and well?

2. Lance glues a big clown butt on his butt and does a silly dance that will hopefully get his kids to eat oatmeal instead of sugary cereal. Unfortunately, Lance used super glue instead of Elmer's. His board meeting is going to go well at work today.

3. He blew out his flip-flop, cut his heel on a pop top, and his new tattoo has a misspelling. But, by gosh, George is going to enjoy his first solo vacation since his wife left. Also, a shark frenzy.

4. Elijah's parents set him up with the perfect summer job, but Elijah has a better idea: street-corner panhandling with humorous cardboard signs. But when Eli's record haul is stolen by a professional beggar he finds himself in over his head in the city's underbelly. Especially when he falls for the thief's hot daughter.

5. Laid off from his job working with psychiatric patients, Parker dresses like a bum, acts like a schizoid, and demands donations from yuppie shoppers. He’s having fun and clearing hundreds of dollars a day. Then two bodies are discovered in dumpsters and the police suspect Parker. Can he find the real killers before the cops pin double murder on him?

6. Sally's facing foreclosure. Bob just got fired. Mel was kicked out by his parents when they learned he was gay. Their lives intertwine in La La Land as they're all forced to start . . . Bummin' It.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After growing up in the foster system, seventeen-year-old Elijah Briscoe wants more than a house . . . he longs to feel at home – with his adoptive parents, [Are these different from his foster parents? Have they adopted him? Why doesn't he feel at home with them?] his friends, a girl. Especially a girl. Trouble is, nobody warned him that childhood tweaked his inner wiring to make him sabotage any real connection.

So when his parents try to set up their perfect summer job for him [Practice dummy for trainees at the local bordello.], he lies about hunting for his own gig. Secretly, he and his best friends [Has he already sabotaged any real connection with these best friends or is that what happens next?] cook up a quick money-making experiment — street-corner panhandling. Their arsenal of humorous cardboard signs

is rocking awesome until some shady professional beggars rip off Eli’s record-breaking haul. Not about to lose the contest with his bros, Eli chases the thief down to reclaim his money and his pride. [Starting that paragraph with "So" suggests that Elijah thinks panhandling is going to help him feel at home with his parents, friends and especially a girl. It's not clear why he would think that. Perhaps if some of his classmates talk him into the panhandling scheme and he goes along because he craves friendship?]

What he doesn’t know is he’s not the only one chasing the money. His pursuit leads him into a hidden homeless neighborhood [Is "neighborhood" the right word? Maybe "enclave" would be better.] where he runs into Blue, the thief’s street-smart, so-hot daughter. Then when Eli witnesses a group of thugs kidnap Blue’s dad, he quickly realizes his idiotic excuse for a job has him in way over his head. Trying to play the hero, he makes a split-second decision that saves Blue [From what?] but loses her dad.

Fearing how much his choice has cost her, Eli decides he must help before time runs out. [When does time run out?] If they hope to fix this, [If "fix this" means rescue Blue's father, just say that.] they’ll have to help each other face the darkness in the city’s underbelly, the unlikeliness of their romance, and the secrets of their screwed-up pasts.



If the thugs are just after the money, I would expect them to just take it from Blue's dad. What's the point of kidnapping him? Do they think they can get a ransom?

Even the extremely rare panhandler who can make $73,000 a year is averaging just $200 a day. That might attract attention from thieves who somehow know how much Eli took in, but these thugs going after the thieves? Lets say three thieves steal $200 from Eli, and split it up. Then four thugs kidnap Blue's dad, take his $67 share of the $200, and split it up. They get less than $17 each. There's more money in robbing pizza deliverymen.

That said, the story doesn't sound like the same old same old.

I tend to think that a homeless thief and his so-hot daughter would have gone their separate ways by this point in their lives.

Presumably your completed query includes the book's title (which was in the subject line of the email), word count, genre?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Face-Lift 1169

Guess the Plot

The Guardian

1. Whip-cracking archaeologists may think they can steal the Sacred Stones of Szarbathia, but they're no match for... The Guardian.

2. When an alliance of alien races that has been at war with one militaristic race for decades realize they're losing, they turn to Jason, captain of The Guardian. Can Jason's knowledge of Earth's military history help lead the outclassed Entente to victory?

3. Sheldon thought his luck was bad when he found an infant abandoned on his bus. When the demons come in the night, it's clear his life has dropped into the toilet. Now on the run, Sheldon must employ all his commercial driving skills to keep the baby, and himself, from certain death.

4. It’s the 3rd biggest daily in the U.K. Oil tycoon Freddy Philips buys it and is turning it into a celebrity tabloid. Several investigative reporters conspire to dig up dirt on Freddy and force him to sell. But Freddy's secret international illegal arms syndicate replete with professional assassins will protect Freddy at any cost.

5. Voldy intends to uphold the sacred pact that his people have with the Masters. No evil will befall them while under his care. He will detect, deter, defend and destroy all threats, even if the Masters do not always understand why. And now, late at night, with strange People nearby. He will defend the Masters to his death...or until they put him away in his doggy crate. Don't they understand that those costumed children are a threat?

6. Internal audits have confirmed Ed Snowden's allegations: illegal wire taps at the prestigious newspaper have compromised the anonymity of Molly McGrath's famed informant--The Socialite. Molly runs deep cover at London's club scene to protect The Socialite from incalculable social harm...being disinvited from Prince Harry's 28th birthday bash.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Jason [No last name?], Captain of the Guardian, has dedicated his ship to protecting colonies at the edge of human space from pirates and bandits. He leads from the front lines, gets his crew the best equipment available, and ensures the Guardian has the firepower of a warship. But when humanity is attacked by the first alien species they encounter, the Careons, Jason finds himself completely outmatched. [It's the Enterprise vs. the Borg, but this time the Borg have decided they don't want to assimilate us.]

After a brash stunt that destroyed a Careon ship, Jason attracts the attention of the Entente, an alliance of alien races that has been at war with the Careons for two decades. Their ships are powerful, and their technology more advanced than anything humanity has ever seen. But the members of the alliance have no history of warfare, and they’re losing. [If their lack of tactical knowledge is such a big disadvantage, how have they lasted two decades?] [Possibly because it takes two decades at near-light speed just to get to the battlefield.]

What the Entente lacks, the humans have in abundance. Centuries of fighting each other have taught them the strategies and tactics needed to change the outcome of this war. [It took humans about 20 centuries to learn that dressing your armies in brightly colored uniforms, lining them up in a phalanx, and marching them toward people with spears or arrows or guns wasn't the best strategy. Yet we who have just encountered our first alien species have already figured out how to defeat their vastly superior firepower?] Unfortunately, since being attacked, the Entente has become xenophobic. They view humanity as another violent race that could be just as dangerous as the Careons. [It's not xenophobia if they're right.]

Jason and his crew must bridge the gap between humanity and this alliance, and use humanity’s terrible past to save them all from Careon dominance. [Step 1: Prove to the Entente that a vastly superior military can be defeated: show them the film 300.]

I am seeking representation for The Guardian, a 110,000 word science fiction novel.

Thank you for your time, and consideration.



Sounds like a good story if it focuses on Jason. He disappears in the 3rd paragraph. If you stress that it's Jason's knowledge of military history, rather than humanity's, that can save us all, it might help.

Is it just Jason who takes on the job of leading the Entente to victory, or is it all of humanity? If the latter, our generals and diplomats would squeeze Jason, who's captain of one outclassed ship, out of the picture. If the former, hey, how much can one guy do to end a two-decade-long war?

Perhaps examples of what the Entente have been doing wrong would help us see how we inferior humans who have no experience battling alien races can come up with a way to defeat the seemingly invincible Careons.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Face-Lift 1168

Guess the Plot

The Night Guard

1. The Mayan priests make sure day happens, but who keeps night from going AWOL? When the Lords of Death kidnap night, its Hunahpu, the Night Guard, to the rescue. Can he bring back night before Central America is burned to a crisp?

2. Female orthodontic patients are disappearing after leaving the office of Dr. C. Edmond Kells. It's time to encase himself in acrylic and assume his old identity as the "Night Guard" to solve the case. Or suffer rampant malocclusion in prison.

3. When pop singer Krysty is found dead in her lavish bed, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, the girl didn't strangle herself with her microphone, and two, she's not going to be hosting the VideoNet Music Awards on Saturday night. That only leaves hundreds of jealous singers and their management as suspects. Zack must enlist his daughter's playlist to solve this case.

4. Kevin, the night guard at a top secret facility, is shocked to discover an alien is being kept hostage. When the alien telepathically asks Kevin for help, will he be freeing an innocent being, or jeopardizing the future of the human race?

5. You wouldn't think a hospital would need extra guards on duty at night, but when it's a military hospital reanimating soldiers so they can be sent back to the trenches, you don't want anyone stumbling onto the operation. The way 15-year-old maid Daisy Blake does. Oops.

6. Somebody has been stealing the night, and gargoyle Freddy McKay is hired to guard it. He’s paid for work between sunset and sunrise, but most of those hours have been stolen. Can Freddy solve the case before he loses his home in foreclosure?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The new maid at the London Military Hospital has three secrets that could get her sent to prison:

She's Irish, automatically suspected of [drinking on the job. Ba dum ching.] spying;

She speaks German, the language of the enemy, [That should get her a promotion from maid to spy or interpreter in the interrogation room. Not a prison sentence.]

And she stole the papers that identify her as Delinda Blake. She's really Delinda's sister, Daisy.  

[If she's Daisy, how can there be papers that identify her as Delinda? And if there somehow are papers identifying her as Delinda, and she wants to pass as Delinda, why not leave the papers where they were instead of stealing them? Now when they check the files to see if she's really Delinda, the papers identifying her as Delinda won't be there.]

1916 London promises good wages to young women, with so many men off fighting in France. But after Delinda drowns herself, Daisy finds opportunities are few for a 15-year-old schoolgirl on her own. Mopping up blood and washing bedpans earn her room and board. And, however disgusting, her work makes a difference: A clean, fresh ward is like heaven to wounded men who lived in the stinking filth of the trenches. [You'd think by the time these guys are transported from the trenches to London they wouldn't still be bleeding all over the floor.] Further, she enjoys the patients' teasing, especially the winks from handsome Captain Ferrar of the Night Guard.

But the Night Guard has its own secret, involving the hospital's power plant, where broken men are being restored for Britain's desperate army. A dying young POW reveals the truth to Daisy and gives up another secret as well: A traitor willing to kill is at work in the hospital.

Whom can Daisy tell without giving herself away -- [Telling someone there's a traitor in the hospital doesn't give away that she's Daisy.] or putting her life in danger?

Then Delinda comes back. From the dead. [Zombie, or reanimated? Either way, it's a little late to be telling us it's that kind of book.]

My 90,000-word YA novel THE NIGHT GUARD adds elements of "Frankenstein" [Ah. Reanimated. Should have guessed from the power plant mention.] to the story of a girl struggling to make a life for herself in a city at war.

I am a writer for a national World War I organization and a copy editor at a major metropolitan daily.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't see anything in the first four paragraphs that is both needed and that can't be worked into the fifth paragraph:

1916 London promises good wages to young women, with so many men off fighting in France. But after her sister Delinda drowns herself, Daisy Blake finds opportunities are few for a 15-year-old schoolgirl on her own. Mopping up blood and washing bedpans at the London Military Hospital earn her room and board, and her work makes a difference: a clean, fresh ward is like heaven to wounded men who lived in the stinking filth of the trenches.

Note that I removed handsome Captain Ferrar, as he does nothing. (I assume there's no actual romance between a captain and a fifteen-year-old.)

Now we can get to Frankenstein in paragraph 2, just by changing the word "restored" to "reanimated." You'll have to tell us what the Night Guard is when you mention it, or just say that the hospital has a secret.

Probably it's better to focus the query on one main plot point, which I'm guessing would be what's being done to the soldiers, and let the traitor and the zombie sister subplots wait for the book.