Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Success Story

You may recall that the author of The Lair of the Twelve Princesses (Face-Lift 1153) sought our help in creating copy to accompany an e-pub version of her previously published tale. It's now up at Amazon.com. The author writes: I finally got this up. Thanks to everybody for your work on the description and contents!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Synopsis 39

Fourteen-year-old Cordenqua becomes an orphan when he accidentally kills his father during battle. [Suddenly the one flaw in the decision to battle at night becomes clear.] Consumed with grief and guilt, he declines the sacred ceremony of manhood, earning the condemnation of the villagers.

Shamed, hated, and alone, Cordenqua runs to Eloq’s Temple, aware the God will strike with lightning any but the Called who enter. Killer of Father, traitor of faith and tribesman, he leaps through the archway.

Nothing happens.

Certain he has been Called, Cordenqua intends to tell the Elkek, the village Holy Man, of his Calling. However, as he remembers the Elkek’s insistence that only a Holy Man can be Called, he decides to keep his Calling secret. [I note that the Elkek hasn't leapt through the archway.]

Though the tribesman hate Cordenqua, the Elkek shows compassion and adopts him as his son, filling the void that his father’s death left. Cordenqua becomes bonded to a new companion and adopted brother—the Elkek’s son Rhatanqua.

Cordenqua attempts to convince Rhatanqua he is Called by leaping into the temple unharmed. While trying to stop him, Rhatanqua trips through the archway. Eloq strikes with deadly lightning, killing Cordenqua’s adopted brother.

Cordenqua drags his lifeless companion’s body back to the village—the second death he has caused. Consumed with anger, the Elkek attempt [attempts] to kill him, and Cordenqua flees the village, having lost all those he’s ever loved.

Before he leaves, Cordenqua takes the Holy Writ, the sacred text of his religion and discovers a hidden prophecy that suggests that Cordenqua will save his people by destroying their false religion. Cordenqua refuses to accept the prophecy, choosing instead to believe that his Father’s spirit flies among eagles.

After finding shelter in a cave, he discovers a glowing box (computer monitor) that spies on both his tribe and the enemy’s. Seeing the glowing box, he recalls the words of the prophecy that foretells such an encounter, yet still he rejects its validity. [It was foretold that I would encounter an impossible glowing box that spies on my tribe, and so I have, but it could have been just a lucky guess.]

Upon the mountain’s top, overlooking the land below, he sees the enemy tribe preparing to attack his village. Though they hated him, he warns the villagers. He plunges into battle, hoping for death. [If you're really hoping for death, I recommend plunging into battle without your sword and shield.] Before the fight ends, the dead bodies of his enemies litter the ground and the village welcomes him back, naming him the village hero.

He finds the warmth of acceptance addicting and rejects his destiny, ignores the prophecy, and lives among his people. However, the Elkek maintains his hatred for Cordenqua, and his hatred intensifies when Cordenqua falls in love with his niece, Ariane. After a long battle with his hormones, he rejects her, hoping his abstinence will win back the love and acceptance of the Elkek. [If you want to win a guy's love and acceptance, rejecting his beloved niece is a good start.]

Ariane marries another, and Cordenqua chooses again to live in isolation, too heartbroken to be near her. In a fit of jealousy, her husband attempts to kill her, but Cordenqua kills him instead, leaving Ariane widowed with a child. [He's in isolation, too heartbroken to be near her, but he happens to be on the scene when her husband tries to kill her?] [Also, that kid appeared awfully fast. Maybe sticking "Nine months later" in there somewhere would help.]

Having saved the life of his niece, the Elkek finally forgives Cordenqua and consents to their marriage.  [This says that the Elkek saved his niece, which isn't what you mean. (Whether it also says that the Elkek is going to marry Cordenqua depends on the times they live in.) If you want to say this in one sentence: Having saved Ariane's life, Cordenqua is forgiven by the Elkek, who even helps plan the Cordenqua/Ariane wedding.]

Cordenqua speaks to Ariane of his secret doubts and she makes connections he had missed, proving the religion is fabricated [The line "Once we convince them to worship us, they'll do any ridiculous thing we want" was the giveaway.] and the rituals of their faith serve no other purpose than to keep them in perpetual war with their enemy. [It's perpetual only if no one ever wins. Is there some reason neither side can win the war?]

His father’s death was meaningless, as were the deaths of many others. [His father's death was meaningless whether the religion is legit or not, as it was an accident.]

Enraged, he runs to the temple, intending to kill the enemy that hides within its walls, but not before the village learns of his intentions. Half the villagers, led by the Elkek, hunt him, [This Elkek flip-flops more often than a politician.] while the other half attempt to save the village hero.

Before any can stop him, he leaps through the archway. When they see he’s unharmed, some hail him as a god, while others seethe with hatred. As he prepares to enter the temple’s doors, the neighboring tribe crest a hill adorned with battle armor. [I suppose we can infer it's not the hill that's adorned with battle armor, but if the neighboring tribe, adorned with battle armor, crest a nearby hill, you'll escape the grammar nitpickers.]

He fights desperately to protect his wife and adopted child, but an enemy breaks their line of defense and stabs her [the wife or the child?] in the back. [He's fighting desperately to protect his wife and child, yet the single enemy soldier who breaks the line of defense manages to get within stabbing distance?] Dying, she commands [Implores?] Cordenqua to take care of her child. He circumvents the deadly barriers to the temple and enters, convinced that their enemy has magical powers that can heal Ariane. When he enters, he finds dozens of corpses and a message on their computer monitors—Project Eloq—Training and Selecting the Nation’s Warriors. Program Terminated. [Is this a novel or a Twilight Zone episode? The Holy Writ is . . . a cookbook!!!] 

Ariane dies, [What?! You're killing off the only likable character? This is worse than the third Hunger Games book, though I'll probably still watch the movie just because I believe Jennifer Lawrence is my destined soulmate.] leaving him alone with his adopted child.


Did the tribes have any religion before Project Eloq began? If so, is the Holy Writ the sacred text of the tribe's original religion? If so, is there also a sacred text of the false religion? If not, why have the tribe chosen to follow the new religion?

So are the corpses the people who were monitoring the project? If so, were they killed by the God? If so, why did he wait so long to kill them, allowing all these meaningless deaths?

The techno-superior race secretly monitoring a more primitive civilization is the plot of a dozen Star Treks, but the training-of-warriors aspect may add a different twist. Which nation's warriors are being trained in this project? If it's the techno-superior nation's, I don't buy that they would need great warriors from tribal villages. Unless they're selecting gladiators to fight for their entertainment? Even if that's the plan, you haven't said that the best warriors are suddenly disappearing.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Face-Lift 1177

Guess the Plot

Eloq's Lightning

1. They say anyone who dares enter Eloq's Temple will be struck by lightning. Which explains the low turnout on the sabbath. But one grief-stricken boy decides to end his life by entering the temple, and . . . nothing happens.

2. Kelsey, third-year student at Rugglesbottom Witch School, is fed up. The other girls are snotty, the boys are jerks, and Master Snoftrun just gave her alchemy final a C. When she finds a strange wand in the library, she fools with it until she knows what it does. Fourth year is going to be much, much better.

3. Thor's dorky younger brother Eloq wishes he was as cool as the god of thunder, but all he can manage are a few sparks and a gurgle. Until he finds the incriminating shots of Zeus, that is, who grants him the power to control solar flares. Take that, Thor! But can the god of geeks outrun a gang of fried gods, furious at the blackened remains of their pantheon?

4. There is a reason not to feed beans to Eloqs after midnight. Eloqs are bald, fat, and flatulent, and cowards to boot. Blue fire spews forth from them like stink from a skunk. Only history will show how a small band of humans saved Endor with the help of "Eloq's Lightning".

5. It's 10000 BC and humanity has crawled from the primordial soup. Eloq's band of Neanderthals is doomed unless they can figure out how to stay warm in the frozen wasteland. Hey! What's that sky fire all about?

6. Stocky quarter horse Eloq's Lightning looks nothing like his race-winning parents. The hard-luck colt spends his first three years battling illness and his handlers. Now a three-year-old gelding, will he finally prove to be a real runner--or just another failure on the way to the slaughterhouse?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Fourteen-year-old Cordenqua becomes an orphan when he accidentally kills his father during battle. [Oops. Sorry, I thought you were an orc.] Consumed with grief and guilt, he declines the tribal ceremony of manhood, earning the condemnation of the villagers. [We give you the honor of going into battle against our enemy to save our village from destruction and to save us from slaughter, and all we ask in return is that you participate in a meaningless ceremony. And you decline? Never show your face here again!]

Shamed, hated, and alone, Cordenqua runs to Eloq’s Temple, aware the God will strike with lightning any who enter. Killer of Father, traitor of faith and tribesman, he leaps through the archway.

Nothing happens. [Out of curiosity, have all others who've entered been struck with lightning, or has no one else ever entered? If the latter, have they tried sending in a goat? Or sentencing a criminal to enter the temple?]

Uncertain why Eloq spared him, he searches the Holy Writ and finds a hidden prophecy buried within its text, foretelling [of] one who will save his people by overthrowing their false religion. [Is this "Holy Writ" their Bible? Because it would be odd to discover a passage, even in one of the more obscure books of the Christian Bible, declaring that Christianity is a lot of hooey.] [Possibly there was one, and back when they were deciding which books to include in the Bible they came upon it and said, "Whoa. This has gotta go. This could put us out of work and we'd have to give up our cushy digs and toil in the sludge business."]

Cordenqua is terrified of losing his own faith, but unable to suppress his curiosity. He unravels [investigates?] the [tribal] traditions and discovers that an unseen enemy with mystic powers [AKA God] created their religion to compel them to war against their neighboring tribe. Cordenqua must either fight his own people and religion and save those who hate him, [Not clear to me what "fighting his own people and religion" entails. When a hated fourteen-year-old kid declares himself the prophet destined to overthrow his haters' religion, his haters might be inclined to provide him a different destiny.] or submit to tradition while those he loves die in meaningless battles. ["Those he loves" meaning those who hate him, right?]

ELOQ’S LIGHTNING, complete at 50,000 words, is a YA novel that blends science fiction and fantasy. Set in a culture similar to tribal Native America, it incorporates a fantasy-like setting with plot twists reminiscent of The Maze Runner and I have queried you specifically because you represented this book.

Below I have included a synopsis. Thank you for your consideration.


Not bad, though one or more of the issues I've brought up may be worthy of consideration in the query.

Creating a religion that requires a tribe to war with another tribe is a good strategy if you're in a third tribe. But I don't see why you need to have mystic powers to do this. If you have mystic powers you can either convince the tribes you're a god and order them to war, or use your powers to wipe them out yourself. Creating a whole religion seems like a lot of trouble if you want people to wipe each other out rather than worship you.

You might want to make Corky older than 14. He'll be more useful in battle when he's bigger and stronger and smart enough to tell the difference between his enemy and his own father. Plus YA readers prefer to read about kids older than themselves.

Also, consider changing his name to Corky.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Night Before Christmas Quiz

There are dozens of books with The Night Before Christmas in their titles. For instance, you can fill in the blank in The _______ Night Before Christmas with any of the following words, and that's an actual book:

Nurse's, Firefighter's, Soldier's, Cat's, Dog's, Principal's, Texas...

Below I've listed 34 ways the blank could be filled in. Seventeen are actual books according to Barnes & Noble's web site. The other seventeen could exist, but as far as I know they're fakes submitted by the Evil Minions.

Drunk Driver's
ER Surgeon's
Heartbroken Hooker's
Meth head's
Naughty Nanny's
Racecar Driver's
Red Hat Society
Scratch and Sniff
Serial Killer's
Sober Socialite's
Wise Men’s

Answers below.

The fakes were submitted by Jo Antereau, Khazar-khum, Mister Furkles, and Veronica Rundell.

The actual book titles are:

Racecar Driver's
Red Hat Society
Scratch and Sniff

Friday, December 20, 2013

Face-Lift 1176

Guess the Plot

A Crimson Stain

1. GV Black knew his world was coming to an end. The wunderkind of the dental superheroes was aging and ill. A disease was upon him and eventually it would turn him to worm food. If only he could remember the name of the cure; the unspoken, dental "F" word. If he doesn't invoke the cure he will die and his legacy shall always contain . . . A Crimson Stain.

2. Nothing hurts business at a brothel like a crimson stain on the sheets, especially when it's the result of one of the girls having her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces. Now it's up to Wayward Russell to figure out if the place is haunted, and if so, by what.

3. Vivacious duchesse Louise la Fontaine is mad for the gallant dandy Louis la Vaux. But he's the bastard son of the prince, and the King has forbidden him to marry. Can she use her wiles to convince the King to change his mind?

4. When meek housewife Holly finds a stain on the collar of her husband's dress shirt, she immediately recognizes the crimson lipstick of the bimbo next door. Drama, tears, and midlife soul-searching ensue.

5. When DJ Shazam enters his apartment he learns two things. First, he should have stayed in Aruba. Second, the body in his bathtub is going to leave...A Crimson Stain.

6. Crimson McStainian is a professional pimple-popper, leaving calling cards on the faces of bathroom mirrors. Business is booming until Acne McFacecleaner moves into town. His own self-worth threatened, Crimson must either find new meaning in life, or stain the streets with crimson from more than just bad acne.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

London, 1860. Wayward Russell has spent his entire life running from monsters. Ghosts, demons, werebeasts—he knows about all of them, the creatures hiding in the shadows and watching for their next victim. Every night he draws protective wards around his room, every day he moves on to a new place, [Every day? Moving is a pain if you do it every few years, and a guy who moves every day has long since run out of friends he can ask to help him move.] [If protective wards work, why does he have to move?] constantly looking over his shoulder to try and escape the horrors he knows are there. [If you're trying to set a scene in which monsters exist, you're overdoing it. I'm starting to think the monsters aren't there and Wayward is nuts.]

Then one night he meets Jenny, a young prostitute at Madam’s Cat knocking shop. [Is that where you take your cat to get it knocked up?] There is something haunting Madam Cat’s, and Jenny wants Wayward’s help in getting rid of it. But Wayward has made a career out of never sticking his neck out for anyone, [So why does Jenny go to him for help?] so he sends Jenny away with a bagged exorcism and instructions not to bother him again. Wayward thinks that’s the end of it—until a week later, he’s dragged into Madam Cat’s and told that Jenny’s dead, [What? Jenny was the only character I liked.] her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces. The fiery Madam Cat demands that Wayward fix the mess he’s created, and, shaken by Jenny’s violent death, Wayward reluctantly agrees. [Have you considered having Madam Cat's throat get ripped out and Jenny, who of course has a heart of gold, seeking Wayward's help?]

But his investigation reveals something far more dangerous than the simple haunting he expected. There’s something else in the brothel, something that creaks the floorboards in empty rooms and makes lamps explode, something that tears the girls’ clothes in the night and leaves bloody claw marks on the walls. [Lemme get this straight. Jenny has her throat ripped out and her body left in pieces, but it's only when Wayward hears creaking floorboards and sees torn clothing that he realizes this is far more dangerous than a simple haunting? This list is stuff I would expect if it is a simple haunting.] Something old and wild and vicious that greatly resents being interfered with. Creatures like this are exactly why Wayward never gets involved, but this time he has no choice—Madam Cat won’t let him leave until her house is safe, and she has enough thugs to make his life very unpleasant if things don’t work out to her satisfaction. And Jenny’s ghost has returned, terrorising Wayward every night and insisting he save the other girls from what killed her. [Does she tell him what that was?]

For once in his life, Wayward may end up doing the right thing, but will it cost him the very safety and anonymity he has worked so hard to protect?

A CRIMSON STAIN is historical fantasy of 60,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The protective wards and bagged exorcism hint that Wayward has useful knowledge, but you haven't convinced me he's any more qualified to handle this than the thugs are. If he hails from a family of ghostbusters you might mention that when you introduce him. Introducing him as someone who's been living in fear of monsters his whole life leaves us wondering why anyone consults him in such matters. Who is he?

The list of things that prove this isn't a simple haunting needs to be shorter and scarier.

This is mostly setup. One paragraph setting up the situation (Lily-livered Wayward Russell has been charged with investigating strange goings-on and murder in Madam Cat's brothel) would leave more space to tell us what his plan is and what goes wrong when he puts it into action.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Face-Lift 1175

Guess the Plot

Captain Henry's High-Flying Haberdashery

1. Captain Henry has horrible business sense. His first two shops closed in the red. Who knew an underwater pet store that didn't sell fish or a restaurant that served raw brains wouldn't fly? Henry borrowed money from the mafia to finance his next gig. He knows he has nailed it this time. Wing-walker's headwear today, and cement galoshes tomorrow.

2. Captain Henry is looking for an angle to make his haberdashery successful. Realizing that nomadic tribesmen don't have ready access to fine men's clothing, he rigs his shop for flight. Hey, if Mohammad won't come to the haberdashery . . .

3. When dashing Captain Henry visits the small rural hamlet, the folk are captivated by his urbane wit and charm, and tales of his wondrous Haberdashery. They don't associate him with the spate of mysterious disappearances. Like everybody else, they're just in awe of the amazingly soft leather jackets he tailors for the creme of Society.

4. Hank buys a secondhand hat store. The inventory comes from the deceased left at the county morgue. The store curses the hats--when a buyer dons a hat, the dead person’s spirit takes control of the wearer’s mind and completes the deceased’s unfinished business.

5. When orphan Divel is sold to Captain Henry for a silver coin, he expects to at last have a chance at decent clothes and a good place to live. But the flamboyant Captain isn't a tailor; he's a pimp, with the most demanding clientele in all of Outer Gabloosh. Now Divel just has to find a supply of fresh, cross-dressing gnomes. He's gonna earn those clothes.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor and co.,

Prince Leo is engaged to be married. His fiancee is Princess Isabeau, a beautiful young woman with an alarming fondness for pointy objects. Their marriage will mean peace and prosperity for their two kingdoms. There's just one problem with the arrangement: Leo doesn't love his bride-to-be. [Actually, that makes two problems, the first being the ice pick she keep under her pillow.]

Desperate, Leo flees the palace, disguises himself as a commoner, and finds work aboard Captain Henry's High-Flying Haberdashery. As part of the airborne shop's crew, Leo flies from one town to another, buying, selling, and seeing the world beyond the palace walls for the first time in his life. Along the way he befriends not only his crew mates but also the nomadic tribes of rovers who wander the kingdom. [No need to call them both "nomadic" and "rovers."] [Also, if the shop flies from town to town, when do they have time to befriend these roving tribes? In fact, has it occurred to Captain Henry that these tribes are nomadic because they're trying to escape the haberdashery that keeps landing in their midst trying to sell them fezzes? I can see landing your haberdashery near a nomadic tribe once, figuring they would find it convenient not to have to go into town to buy pants. But when they see you flying in a week later they're thinking, WTF? We bought these pants just to get rid of these assholes and they're back already? It's like this charity that was phoning me every day so I finally thought, Maybe if I give them money they'll give me some peace. So I sent them a check and they started phoning twice as often. Luckily I have caller ID. My point being, Leo doesn't have time to befriend the tribesmen unless the haberdashers drop in on them so often they develop a seething hatred of all haberdashers.]

The rovers are valuable business partners [How so?] and invaluable friends to the crew, [Wait, didn't I just quash that argument?] so when their encampments are destroyed in a series of suspicious fires, the haberdashers vow to find and stop the arsonist. [I've bought into detectives who were blind, deaf, missing limbs, paralyzed, and even Belgian. But haberdasher detectives? Come on, man!] It soon becomes clear that keeping their promise will force the haberdashers to risk their own lives- unless Leo is willing to sacrifice his new-found freedom to pull some royal strings.

Meanwhile, Leo's fiancee is hunting him, determined to marry him and gain control of his kingdom by any means necessary.

CAPTAIN HENRY'S HIGH-FLYING HABERDASHERY is a 73,000-word YA fantasy novel. [There's been no hint that this was YA. You should mention Leo's age when introducing him.] My fiction and poetry have appeared in local publications, most recently in the young adult-oriented newspaper Teen Ink.

Included in this submission are things that I would include but am not going to right now because reasons. Thank you for your time and consideration!



How old is Isabeau? Her determination to gain control of Leo's kingdom by any means necessary suggests she's older than I would expect for a key character in YA. Why is this YA? The flying shop suggests steampunk.

A series about crime-solving haberdashers would be cool. And I would expect it to be funny. And based on the title and the amount of time devoted to the haberdashery, maybe that's what we have. But based on how the query opens and closes, the Leo/Isabeau story is the main plot, and not so funny. If Leo is the main character, we need to focus on him; all he does is join the crew of a flying haberdashery. Is he active in solving the crimes or does he merely pull some royal strings, thereby allowing others to solve the crimes? Does Leo want to continue being a flying haberdasher because he has friends and freedom and is pretty good at selling pants, or is he just trying to avoid marrying Isabeau? If the latter, he's just stalling. What's his ultimate plan to accomplish his ultimate goal?

I realize the book is already written, but if it doesn't fly, consider dumping Leo and Isabeau and writing about Captain Henry's High-Flying Haberdashery and Detective Agency. They're not only great detectives, they're always dressed impeccably. You can fill lots of space describing fabrics and wardrobes the way the Nero Wolfe books talk about food and the John Rain books talk about single malt whiskies.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Face-Lift 1174

Guess the Plot

The Cobweb Tree

1. No Grandma! You can't make a Christmas tree out of fake cobwebs from Halloween! But Grandma did, and strung it with lights, and Jake and Alyssa loved their grandma's cobweb tree until it started eating stuff. Now it's trying to eat them.

2. The sun shines bright
And the winds blow free
And Charlotte nests safe
In The Cobweb Tree

Then the sky turns dark
And the air sooty
Tiny Charlotte coughs
In The Cobweb Tree

Poor Charlotte takes wing
Flies to new safety
And at night she cries
For her Cobweb Tree.

3. Wanda is the coven's newest Wiccan candidate. To prove her mettle she must raise awareness and funds. She tried a bake sale and a warlock walk to no avail. The town's founding father's have taken notice and built bonfires at Wanda's newest idea. Hilarity and death ensue when Wanda starts her own "gifts to the poor" Cobweb Tree.

4. Katie is thrilled when Finn asks her out, but not so thrilled when he abandons her deep in the forest where the first person she meets tries to put her to work for his credit agency. She escapes, but can she also escape the mysterious and unmentionable . . . cobweb tree?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor (may your shark's grin never blunt)

Sixteen[-]year-old Katie Harrison has had only one thing on her mind for the past two weeks: new boy Finn O’Malley. The most exciting thing ever to happen in her chocolate-fuelled, [fueled] bookworm life, he’s mysterious as a cattall and dark and utterly gorgeous. Katie is sure he’s interested in her, and when he asks her to meet his family, it seems that all her fantasies are coming true. What she didn’t expect was for Finn to tell her that he and his family are actually sidhe—wild, magical beings from an other [another] world. [Is it really necessary to tell us she didn't expect this? No one would expect this. And if it happened, who would believe it? Reminds me of the time when Get Smart and The Man from Uncle were popular shows and I phoned one of my classmates I had a crush on and told her I was a spy and needed her help on my next mission. She not only didn't buy it and agree to help me save the world, she also gave me a wide berth for the rest of my college career.] And none of her fantasies included Finn abandoning her in the never-ending sidhe forests to save his own skin.

The sidhe otherworld is treacherous and secretive, full of unwritten rules and protocol that Katie has no idea how to handle. Just introducing herself is dangerous, as she discovers when she accidentally binds herself into the thrall of the druid Cahal. Katie can’t believe that Finn would desert her like this, [Already said; see last sentence of previous paragraph.] but [and] in the end, only blind chance saves her from a lifetime of slavery. With no sign of Finn and no food, no toilet paper or hand sanitizer, just rain and trees and creatures that howl in the night, Katie is desperate to get home. Too scared to trust anyone after Cahal, the only thing she can think to do is to try and get to the edge of the forest. So she starts walking. 

But the forest is full of dangers, and a growing number of creatures are curious about Katie’s involvement with Cahal, who, she discovers, was far more than just an ordinary druid. [Considering how little is known about the druids by us, not to mention Katie, how can she tell if a druid is ordinary or not? It's like a spaceship from another galaxy lands on Earth, and when the first being exits we immediately declare it no ordinary space alien.] Her connection with him puts her at the heart of a massive network of curses, promises, debts and secrets; and all of the people involved are now looking to Katie to write off their debts, fulfil their favours and tally up their credit. [Cahal is no ordinary druid; he manages a payday loan agency.] Katie’s never so much as killed a spider before, but in the forest, weakness is something to be exploited and ignorance is no excuse. No one believes her protests of ignorance; bluffing her way through the business transactions complicates everything; being kind only creates more problems, and things start getting bloody very quickly. With werewolves, ghosts and sidhe hunters on her trail, and the threat of dysentery, mortal injury and starvation, Katie's going to have to learn fast if she wants to live to see tomorrow, never mind get home in one piece. 

THE COBWEB TREE is a YA fantasy novel of 75,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration. 


Finn has too big a role in the query. He's here only to explain how Katie ends up in the forest. 

Bad enough that Katie Harrison's secret crush turned out to be sidhe; now he's abandoned her in the treacherous sidhe forests to save his own skin. Seeking a way out, she meets Cahal, the sidhe equivalent of VISA, who wants to enslave her as his collections officer. Katie escapes, but now everyone in the forest is after her to write off their debts, and if she can't bluff her way through a few business transactions, she may not live to see tomorrow, much less her home and family.

That's your setup, and it leaves plenty of room to tell us what happens. What's Katie's plan? What goes wrong? What's her new plan? Does she have an ally? Make sure you're telling a cohesive story, not just listing a few random things that happen. One thing leads to another. Cause and effect.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Face-Lift 1173

Guess the Plot

On the Way to Santa Fe

1. Benny's boss asks him to send a shipment of "product" to Santa Fe, NM. Unfortunately, the dyslexic Benny sends it to Santa Fe, MN. Now Benny's on the run from the feds, rival mobs, and his own crew. Will he make it to Minnesota, or will he perish...On the Way to Santa Fe?

2. Free-wheelin', beer-lovin', good-lookin' Joe Ditman makes ends meet with odd jobs in Milwaukee. When he inherits the multi-million dollar estate of his long-lost uncle, he heads south to collect. But On the Way to Santa Fe, he meets a sexy angel who changes his heart.

3. Lights in the New Mexico sky can only mean one thing... Sadly, nothing to do with hallucinogens this time. On the way to the state's capital, Cory and Rob are captured by aliens who promptly return them after appropriating all their recreational substances. But time dilation means 1969 is long gone and our boys are out of date. And worse still, their supplier is nowhere to be found.

4. When blood is found in Daniel Bristol's trailer outside Denver he becomes a suspect in the disappearance of a local girl. To stay one step ahead of the law he heads for Santa Fe, New Mexico, 400 miles away. Kind of a road trip designed to make him look guilty as hell. Also, a wily coyote.

5. A scrappy group of Dionne Warwick impersonators prepare for the biggest talent showcase of the year. Hilarity ensues when they entrust their travel arrangements to dim-witted Candida Splendida, and their simple trip becomes a wild adventure of hitching rides with drunk clowns and tap-dancing nuns.

6. Mallory's dog ran away, her fiancé left her for her younger sister, and she just lost her job. Trading her last $78 for a one way bus ticket, Mal finds the last thing she was looking for...On the Way to Santa Fe.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Two quarreling brothers, one missing girl, [one missing verb,] and a family secret that could kill all three. I believe my psychological suspense manuscript ON THE WAY TO SANTA FE (72,000 words) will interest you [Maybe, but I'm not going to Santa Fe to read it.] as it balances the fast-paced plotting of a thriller with the introspection of a literary mystery. [Is a literary mystery something like Who really wrote Shakespeare's plays? Or is it a murder mystery by someone who writes better than all those hack mystery writers who somehow keep getting published?] [I realize thrillers, mysteries, and psychological suspense will probably all be shelved in the same section, but I prefer that you name one genre (say, thriller) and then show that there's psychological suspense and a mystery in your plot description.] [Also, the fact that your title rhymes has started that San Jose song running through my head, which is not something you want to be responsible for. What's wrong with Albuquerque?]

Daniel Bristol is twenty-two, shy, and likes nothing better than sketching the mountains behind his trailer in Golden, Colorado. [That's because mountains are among the easiest things to sketch:]

He dislikes nothing more than his antagonizing brother. To say Dolan makes life difficult for Daniel is as much an understatement as saying a jackrabbit is prey to a coyote. [Calling "a jackrabbit is prey to a coyote" an understatement is an overstatement. I'd call it a fact.] [On the other hand, thinking, Evil Editor will be miffed by my use of an animal analogy to help him understand what I mean by the word 'understatement'" is an understatement.] [Also, the analogy should be roadrunner is prey to a coyote.]

When Dolan claims responsibility for the disappearance of a local girl, Daniel assumes it's another cruel prank, but changes his opinion after finding blood in the trailer and a detective at his doorstep. Daniel wants to cooperate with the police, but he can't. He knows his brother. [That statement does not clear up what you meant by he can't cooperate with the police.] The only way out [Out of what? Is Daniel a suspect? If Dolan claimed responsibility, why isn't Dolan the one being grilled?] is to stay one step ahead of the Law, unravel Dolan's motive, and find the young woman before it's too late.

Unbeknownst to him, Dolan harbors a dark secret that will drag them deep into the mountains of New Mexico. [Are they on foot? Golden is hundreds of miles from Santa Fe.] Facing the unspoken truth will require an unending reservoir of courage - something Daniel lacks. [Either it doesn't require unending courage, or Daniel doesn't lack unending courage, or someone else (someone with unending courage) should be the main character.] Failure will damn the girl's fate and leave him broken . . . wondering what happened ON THE WAY TO SANTA FE.

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to being ridiculed in public.



This becomes progressively more vague. Phrases like "harbors a dark secret," "the unspoken truth," and "damn the girl's fate" may sound good on the back cover when you're trying to entice someone to buy the book, but agents and editors aren't going to read your manuscript to find out what you're talking about. They want to know who's the main character and what's his situation. Then what's his goal and how does he plan to achieve it? Then what goes wrong, and what will happen if he can't overcome it? Be specific. Make it sound thrilling and suspenseful, but don't let on that there's anything literary about it.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

New Beginning 1020

Displayed in this prison Jeffrey calls a "proper dress", I fight a losing battle for dignity. He only trumpets our betrothal because he's convinced tolerance of a suspected exotic proves his standing. Lord Whithall revels in boasting the spoils his favor won in the East at every opportunity.

The moneylenders and I know better, but Jeffrey's grasping friends are happy to oblige his illusion. Slaves parade onto the lawn, laden with trays. The men shovel food into their sweaty faces as if it might otherwise disappear. I witnessed finer manners dining with Temüjin's hordes.

Bannantine wags a thick finger. "Better save your gold, boy-o. You're too old to play the gallant for Charles."

What of Charles? I'd ask if anyone would answer.

"More of this madness." Weakness tightens Jeffrey's voice. "Lambert will never allow his return."

Why must news travel slower than gossip?

If Charles rules, I can cast off the bonds of this farce. I won't need a ship. I'll fly to my northern lands. Until then, I can keep mum, forfeit what little fortune Jeffrey knows about, and endure.

The King will surely remember our adventures. Nine years isn't long, even for a blood-born man.

The theater lights came up in the private screening room.

"Jesus H. Chrysler, Priscilla," said Elvis. "No one's going to watch this crap, and the few who do will know it's about me and the Colonel. I don't care if you've picked an obscure moment in English history and changed everyone's names, I'm pulling the funding. I won't have the world remembering the Colonel and me as some flag waving rainbow coalition."

That evening, Elvis Presley was found dead in the toilet outside of the Jungle Room. 

Opening: Mich Fisher.....Continuation: Kregger

Monday, December 02, 2013

Face-Lift 1172

Guess the Plot

Captured by the Pirate

1. When Henri the pirate captures Kadi and puts the moves on her, she wonders if she should tell him that she's the queen of the vampires? He's pretty handsome, and something like that can be a stumbling block to a relationship.

2. Johnny Depp is on the run for a crime he didn't commit. When Hollywood hopeful, Stacy Sterling, stumbles onto his hiding place will she be . . . Captured by the Pirate?

3. Marcy jokes often, as she drinks from her rum-filled flask, that she has a little well-endowed pirate inside her. When he crawls out of her one night and whisks her away to his big ship, Marcy knows she's found her prince. Her friends will never believe her adventure!

4. Starlet Ruby McMahon is believed lost at sea, but a garbled voicemail brings her cold case to light. DJ Shazam is on the trail, if only he can get past Ruby's boytoy Ex. Also, a heroic dolphin trainer.

5. Feisty, fiery Annabelle takes over her father's merchant ship when he drinks himself to death. Using her cunning, sharp swordsmanship, and bouncing breasts, she quickly becomes the greatest pirate in the bay. When she takes a handsome young man prisoner, she must decide--feed him to her pet sharks, or see if he can survive her own 'feeding frenzy' while tied to the mast?

6. Impulsive, tempestuous Lady Ramona Bledsoe has vowed she will never give her heart to any man. Fiercely independent, with fiery-red hair and a will of iron, she bows to no one. Somehow, she's captured by a pirate and then she rips off her bodice. Erotica ensues.

7. With his magic markers, Ben draws a pirate who subsequently comes to life and takes Ben on his marvelous adventures at sea. But getting lost in a vast ocean and being forced to drink his own urine gets stale real quick for young Ben.

Original Version

Dear Deliciously Evil Editor,

Kadi, Queen of Fair vampire bloodlines, has embodied a pantheon of goddesses over her five thousand years. Though her days as the hidden world's greatest supernatural grifter have passed, she struggles to free herself from the stranglehold of the bards' myths. But, with the gathering of clans approaching, she forsakes the dream of life on her own terms until she can recover her sacred Aberdeenshire lands and defend her people from Raven lines' domination. [To someone who hasn't read your book, the following phrases are either open to multiple interpretations or make no sense at all: Queen of Fair vampire bloodlines; embodied a pantheon of goddesses; world's greatest supernatural grifter; the stranglehold of the bards' myths; Raven lines' domination. A simple opening such as After 5000 years, Kadi, a vampire queen, longs to settle down on her sacred Aberdeenshire lands. But first she must recover those lands from a flock of Ravens who've built their nests there. ...is more likely to lure us into the second paragraph.]

Then, the restoration of Charles II renders Kadi's planned marriage of convenience to a Cromwell favorite inconvenient. Moneylender Seamus MacGregor calls her betrothed's markers, so she visits Port Royal's most mysterious bachelor to renegotiate. [Not clear whether Port Royal's most mysterious bachelor is her betrothed or the person who originally negotiated her betrothal.] Instead of the rumored pirate, she finds an ancient Raven eager to win her favor. [But it's hard to even have a conversation with someone who never says anything except "Nevermore."] [Am I assumed to know what a Raven is?] Despite his unnerving collection of her past, [Knowledge of her past? Collection of mementos from her past?] including the labyrinth of her secret catastrophe at Knossos, [He has a labyrinth that used to be in Knossos?] Kadi's charmed by Seamus'[s] courtship. [Wait, Seamus the moneylender is courting her? So he's the mysterious bachelor? And her betrothed is . . . the un-mysterious bachelor?] So, when he offers her land, passage to England, and a god in her bed, she leaps at the chance for freedom. [The land and passage are just icing on the cake. The god in her bed was enough to clinch the deal.]

While Kadi revels, the real pirate [As opposed to the rumored pirate. It wasn't clear that there was a real pirate; it sounded like everyone thought someone was a pirate, but when Kadi met him he turned out to be a decent guy.] schemes. Henri Abelard, protégé of her estranged sire, suffers the labyrinth's thousand cuts to challenge her in combat. [Why?] Then, he attacks Seamus'[s] ship, taking her hostage. ["Her" meaning the ship or Kadi? What happened with the combat challenge? Did they fight? If so, where, and who won?] She resists Henri's advances, but discovers a true soul mate as he reveals his tragic past, and fights at his side against a bewitched crew. When his life is threatened, [By whom?] Kadi must decide whether to trust her heart and risk the fate of her people and eternal soul to save the man who loves the woman over the goddess. [How does saving Henri put her people at any more risk? Whaddaya mean, "loves the woman over the goddess"? Is Kadi the woman and the goddess?]

CAPTURED BY THE PIRATE is a complete 50K-word stand-alone historical paranormal romance novella and the first book of Blood Gods, a retelling of the hero's journey from a female perspective.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best regards,


If this is a romance, and Henri is the love interest, more of the query needs to be focused on Henri. One paragraph of setup is plenty. That'll leave you more space to tell us about the Henri/Kadi relationship. I can do without Ravens and labyrinths and Oliver Cromwell.

Not clear who Kadi's people are. People living on her sacred Aberdeenshire lands? People she's turned into her vampire subjects? Both?

Actually, very little is clear. You need to treat the reader as an idiot who knows nothing about anything, not as someone who's read the book and is testing you on whether you've read it.