Thursday, January 30, 2014

Face-Lift 1183

Guess the Plot

False Memories

1. I was walking down the beach in Malibu when Julia Roberts came running down from her mansion and invited me up for a nooner. Then there was the time I went to get my driver's license renewed and there was no line. And once . . .

2. In the future, when dentures come with a free set of fake memories, two octogenarians find a way to hook up as versions of themselves fifty years ago. Can they stay inside their memories, or will their nasty nurse "spill" their memory tumblers?

3. Reg is haunted by memories of alien abductions and painful and invasive medical procedures. Finally he meets a hypnotherapist who eases his mind and relieves the terrifying flashbacks. But were the memories real in the first place? Or is the therapist manipulating him into becoming a hitman for the CIA?

4. Is her name Margot, or Celeste? Is she a brain surgeon, or a deep cover Russian operative? And why does she have a gun smoking in her hand? All of these questions might be answered whenever whoever she is analyzes her . . . False Memories.

5. Down South.

6. When Allison goes into the hospital for brain surgery, the surgeon decides to try an experimental procedure, grafting a dead girl's gray matter onto her brain. Now Allison's remembering stuff that happened to the dead chick and getting involved in her life of drug abuse and murder. Which, frankly, is more interesting than her own life ever was.

7. When Meagen didn't grow into the voluptous busty gal she always wanted to be she sought the knife of a famous plastic surgeon. Now she's in demand and loving it. The problem is she didn't pay the piper and the repo man is hunting her. Will she live the life of false mammaries or renege and develop . . . false memories?

Original Version

Most Evil Editor,

Sixteen-year-old Allison wakes up after losing ten months to a car accident and brain surgery – not your average brain surgery, but an experiment grafting some dead chick’s gray matter to her own. [Surgeon: I don't like the looks of this chick's brain. Let's try something unusual. Nurse, is there a dead chick around whose brain we could scrape some gray matter out of? And some super glue?] Her life’s in ruins: stuck in a rehab hospital, she’s hearing voices and reliving what the doctors call false memories – but the lure of that one Kansas pasture remains. [Wait, what? What Kansas pasture?]

Allison explores the memories, until her parents, surgeon and psychiatrist insist on drugs to block the thoughts. Drugs she won’t take. They think she’s crazy, [Is that how the psychiatrist worded his prognosis when talking to Allison's parents? "I think she's crazy."?] but the voice, begging for help, feels like her only sanity – a dead girl [chick] wanting to make amends to the little brother she left behind. Allison goes AWOL from rehab, heading to a town she’s never seen before and stumbling onto tragedy, drug abuse and murder. Then Allison wants redemption for a life that slipped over the edge – even knowing she could be next.

FALSE MEMORIES is a contemporary YA, complete at 48,000 words with series potential. [Is it a series in which each book is about another character who has gray matter from some dead chick grafted onto her brain, or are all the books about Allison adapting to having some dead chick's gray matter on her brain?] The manuscript is written in dual points of view (Allison as well as the girl who died) [I think you should continue to refer to her as the dead chick.] and would appeal to fans of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY.

I’m a member of SCBWI, and write both MG and YA. I practice medicine as well, but [not legally.] I’ve yet to master the brain-grafting-thing; it seemed so easy in the story. [The problem is obvious. In the book, the dead chick is fresh, and they can get the gray matter with a spoon. You're apparently using a chick who's been dead about 12 hours; try a chisel.]


Is the Kansas pasture Allison's memory or the dead chick's? And why is it in the query?

I'm thinking you could just tell about the brain surgery and "memories" and say that Allison believes they feel too real to be "false," without mentioning the gray matter graft. Even if you're dead-set on the graft in the book (instead of the dead girl having died in the same accident, or having been in the same hospital room with Allison), because it's believable in the book, you can do without it in the query, where it may give the wrong impression about the book, namely that it's totally wacko.

The setup: Allison wakes from 10 months in a coma to find she has memories of a girl who died recently. She sets out to find some kind of redemption for the girl. That's about all we have. We want more. We want to know what she does, who wants to stop her from butting in, what's her plan, what if she fails?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Face-Lift 1182

Guess the Plot

Things I Can't Unsee

1. Vampires crashing my mother's funeral.

2. My sister choking to death on the jerky I gave her.

3. My grandparents having sex on the floor.

4. Happy Gilmore

5. My gym teacher's penis.

6. Satan killing my family.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Enid Apcarne is a good girl who’s lived a sheltered life for eighteen years—[ When I hear the phrase "good girl" I assume we're talking about a four-year-old or a dog, not an eighteen-year-old.] [Also, the name "Enid Apcarne" sounds like a name that somewhere in the book is going to turn out to be an anagram of something, and the key to solving a mystery. For instance:

 Canine Padre


                                Darn Nice Ape

The darn nice ape, of course, is Magilla Gorilla. I haven't thought about Magilla Gorilla in decades, but fortunately his theme song is available at YouTube. Which I mention not because the theme song is good, but because what if you were one of the singers on the theme song, and it turned out that the most impressive thing you ever did in your life was to sing on this theme song? Would you put it on your resume? Could you even live with yourself? Anyway, do you really want your readers stopping on page 1 to try to solve an anagram?] until strangers crash her mother’s funeral and freak her father, Morcant, right the hell out. Though he tries hard, he can’t hide his closet-skeletons from her for long.

Morcant’s a law-abiding, church-going man now, but he wasn’t always. He’s a vampire who spent nearly 900 years killing, maiming, and wreaking general havoc before settling down. [Hey, we all go through our wild periods.] The strangers are fellow vampires from Morcant’s law-breaking, church-burning days who want to draw him back into his old life. They try to kill Enid and her younger brother, Geraint, [Anagram: ingrate.] and only barely fail. [If I were trying to convince one of my old army buddies to join me in painting the town red for old time's sake, murdering his children would not be high on my list of inducements. Maybe it's different with vampires.] Then they kidnap Geraint, intending to turn him into a vampire. While Morcant gets distracted by his former lover, [I gotta go rescue my son from . . . You look fantastic for 700 years old, babe.] Enid struggles to stop the vampires from ripping her family apart, preferably before [they rip her throat apart.] she becomes their next victim.

But then she learns that Morcant’s not really her father, [Did he adopt her? I ask because an adoption agency would have to be pretty lax to let a guy with 900 years of killing, maiming and church burning in his past pass a background check.] and she’s not quite human herself. She can see visions of people’s pasts—a dangerous gift around someone with that much blood on his hands. [She's been around him for eighteen years.] The more she learns about Morcant’s past, the less sure she is that she even wants to save him. [It's not Morcant who needs saving; it's Geraint. And ASAP.]

THINGS I CAN’T UNSEE is a 122,000-word YA urban fantasy novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


The opening phrase isn't grabbing me. How about: The day of Enid Apcarne's mother's funeral was a downer even before the gang of vampires crashed the service and demanded that Enid's father join them on a church-burning/killing spree. And things only went downhill from there.

This "not quite human" aspect comes in kind of late. Are her visions the only thing making her not quite human? Because if she has no other powers, it's hard to buy a gang of vampires failing to kill her. Unless she's wearing a garlic necklace, holding a cross, and the sun is just coming up.

Is Morcant Geraint's father? Where's Enid's father?

Even though it's not all backstory and setup, it doesn't take us very far into the book. Basically, Enid finds out stuff about her father's past, and that he's not her father, and that she suddenly can see other people's pasts. So what does she do with this knowledge? What does she want? How does she plan to get it? What happens if she fails?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Success Story

Jennifer Buhl reports that her book Shooting Stars is scheduled for release April 1. The book is available for pre-order at Amazon. Some of you may recall the book from Face-Lift 1028, where it was titled Snap! Memoir of a Paparazza.

Jennifer also reports that she has some TV interviews scheduled, "including Entertainment Tonight and (my favorite) Fox and Friends (not)."

The author was the winning bidder of a complete edit by EE in last year's Brenda Novak auction, and you can win a complete edit by EE in Irene Goodman's February auction to benefit hearing and vision charities. Bidding opens soon.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Flesh and Steel

1. Lois Lane once got goose-flesh just thinking about her hunky man of steel. Turns out his feet are cold as ice, he's too heavy to be on top, and she can't friggin' breathe when he hugs her. Also, grabbing a magazine and announcing "I'm off to the Fortress of Solitude" was only funny the first hundred times.

2. The sociopath known as the Butcher of Kafran-Helai falls in love with a local villager, and has second thoughts about creating an army of robot werewolves to overrun the village.

3. There's a war. People die. There's a plague. More people die. There's a smith and a doctor. They philosophize about life, do business, and die to the ZOMBIE HORDES!!!!!!

4. Jerome, lives in a world of science. He switches places with his alternate reality self who lives in a world of magic. They're both happy until they find out their universes are now colliding. If they destroy technology in both universes will they be able to stay where they are?

5. Vegas show promoter Roxy has what she thinks is the perfect concept for a new act: naked sword fighting. Rehearsals soon prove that the idea is not without a few hitches.

6. Afflicted with a rare bone disease, Charles Garvin agrees to an experimental treatment in which his bones are replaced by steel rods. He decides to become a superhero known as Captain Steel, but it turns out he weighs so much he can't even get out of his hospital bed.

Original Version

Sfanior thought she was going to be killed when she demanded the Butcher of Kafran-Helai stop stealing and desecrating her village’s dead. [Understandable. It's almost always a mistake to make demands of someone who goes by the name The Butcher of Kafran-Helai.] [When someone named the Butcher of Kafran-Helai comes into my village, I'm overjoyed to find he wants only the dead. Take our dead; they're only obstructing goat-cart traffic anyway.] Instead, the sociopathic and strangely charismatic Friché merely imprisoned her in a castle maintained by automatons, patchwork combinations of human, animal, and machine. [Robot werewolves.] Despite Friché’s difficulty grasping concepts like respect for the dead, Sfanior is drawn to her. [This sociopath may have used my father's corpse to create a robot werewolf, but I'm a sucker for anyone with the "it" factor.] Compared to the stuffy rules and stifling traditions of the village, life in Friché’s castle is freedom. [Except when the moon is full and the robot werewolves run amok.] Sfanior soon finds her growing feelings eclipsing her desire to defend her home, especially when Friché finally returns her love. [Question for discussion: Did Clarisse ever return Hannibal Lecter's love?]

Sfanior is ready to turn her back on her former kith and kin when Friché receives a client who offers her a job. Make that a noble from the capital, who offers the very secret assignment of creating an army of automatons for the queen. Friché is overjoyed, but Sfanior is suspicious (why approach the Butcher, of all people?) [Wait, Friché is the Butcher? Am I the only one that wasn't clear to? I thought she was one of the Butcher's minions.] [I guess I'm just not used to women being nicknamed the Butcher of Anywhere.] [Also, whaddaya mean, Why approach the Butcher, of all people? The Butcher has a castle full of automatons, and thus seems like the obvious person to approach if you want an army of automatons. It's not like you can approach just anyone and place an order for an army of automatons. My question is, How do you keep your assignment secret when it involves creating an army of anything? There's a reason Hobbits didn't often travel to Mordor. Word quickly got around that there was an army of Orcs being created.] and she cannot help feeling abandoned when the work sucks up all of Friché’s time. [Hey, when you fall for a sociopath, the price you pay is having to play second fiddle to her "work."] Her suspicions are soon realized when she discovers how the client intends to tie up loose ends once the job is done – with an execution. [I can live with the fact that you've hired my lover to create an army of robot werewolves that will destroy my home village, but I will not stand for an execution.]

As Friché draws [Withdraws?] further into herself and the noble’s threat hangs over her head, Sfanior has to decide what is most important: her kin and kingdom, or her love.

FLESH AND STEEL is a romantic fantasy of 60,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Can't Friché program/train the army of robot werewolves to protect her from the noble if he/she should betray her?

Usually people who have armies aren't that interested in villages. They want to attack other kingdoms. Is it her village that Sfanior wants to defend from the army of robot werewolves?

Also, usually in a romantic fantasy, neither of the people who are in love is a sociopath creating an army of robot werewolves. It may be difficult for readers to root for the heroine to live happily ever after with someone known as the Butcher of Kafran-Helai.

What I'm saying is I'm sure in the book the Butcher has a softer side, but that needs to come across in the query if you're going to describe the book as romantic.

Selected Comments

Anonymous Aika said...I think you need to bump up Sfanior's likeable qualities. I'm sure she redeems herself by choosing kin and kingdom, but your query emphasizes the opposite, the part where she abandons her principles and family for her bad girl crush. Why would a reader like her?

Also, the query reads as if it is mostly set-up. Sfanior falls in love with the sociopath who's been attacking her home. That leaves you with just one sentence of plot - now she discovers a scheme to assassinate her sociopath lover. (My reaction was: "perfect", which I don't think is the reaction you want to evoke. Can you make it clearer she has an actual dilemma?)

The automatons sound interesting and super creepy. Are any of them made of parts of Sfanior's relatives? Do they talk sense into S?

vkw said...Is it me or is this a no brainer?

"Sfanior has to decide what is most important: her kin and kingdom, or her love."

I've seen this particular delimma a few times in queries - should I save my familiy and homeland or stay with my lover? Hmmm. Let me think. . .I wonder if someone will think I am a sociopath for not doing whatever I could to defend my friends and family. The answer would be YES. Hmmm, let me think, should I stay with my sociopath lover who basically is ignoring me and making deals with the evil queen or try to save my homeland? Hmmmmm. I wonder if someone will consider me socially and intellectually challenged for even contemplating what most would find to be obvious answer to that question. The answer is still YES.
If your hero has some valid reason to hate her kinfolk - like they tear the heads off of chickens and roast children alive, then perhaps you should let us know. Otherwise a different delimma should be considered.

Perhaps the hero's delimma is more along the lines she knows there is nothing she can do to help that wouldn't end up with her being killed. So should she even try? If she does succeed, she'll lose her lover and that's going to be sad but at least she can live with herself. And, if this not the case. . . do you have a hero you can tell us about?

Whirlochre said...Sfanior sounds like a pun waiting to happen. Or a snake creeping about in a pair of knickers worn by a hussy.

No matter how I try, I can't get past this, subjective me.

Meanwhile, decide on your style. The strangely charismatic section makes you sound erudite but later you use more casual phrases like "sucks up" and "tie up loose ends".

Agree with vkw about the dilemma.

Chelsea P. said...Okay so say Friche is born of a race that Sfanior's people have oppressed and vilified and she's not really a villain, Sfanior just starts out thinking she is because that's what she's always been taught. And maybe she's stealing the dead to use as her patchwork automatons to defend against Sfanior's people's army because it's the only way to survive. And MAYBE the Queen has been kind of ambivalent about the war between Friche and Sfanior's people but now that she wants something from Friche, Friche will have a fighting chance against those stuffy ruled villagers with stifling traditions.

In other words, maybe there is something really wrong with Sfanior's people and that's why choosing between them and Friche is a relatable dilemma. We get "stuffy rules" and "stifling traditions" but what we really need are "barbaric customs" and "a penchant for locking up their women" in order for us to understand why a sociopath's castle represents freedom for Sfanior. We need, at least, something to somewhat vilify the villagers because otherwise Friche sounds like an unsympathetic psycho and Sfanior sounds young and naive *at best*.

These are, of course, just my opinions. And the story may well support my theory that there is, in fact, something bad or sinister about Sfanior's villagers. If it does, we just need to see that in the query.

The writing is enticing and there are a lot of intriquing elements here. I just need to understand the main characters a bit more.

Khitty Hawk said...Author here. Hi everyone.

(Who submitted GTP #5? Have you seen this?:

Remember the person who asked if I could practice query-writing for something in the really early stages? Like ‘barely have a chapter written’ early? Yeah, that was me.

I wrote up an explanation to everyone's questions, but it ended up being twice as long as the query itself. Would you like me to post it anyway, asking the readers what would be most relevant to put in a query?

So far I do plan to boost everyone's likability by 200% and explain how they fall in love instead of just merely stating it.

Khazar-khum said...I was thrown off by the Butcher being a woman. Not because I think women aren't inherently capable of butchery, but because the title 'butcher' is typically used for a male.

Why should she pick her now-distant lover over her home? Does the Butcher distance herself from her lovers before turning them into robot werewolves?

AlaskaRavenclaw said...At one time the feminine ending for a person engaged in a trade was -ster. This survives in the surnames Brewster, Webster [weaver], Baxter [baker], I can't think of any others right now.

So I suppose a female butcher would be a Butchster. We talked before about people named Butcher. I'm pretty sure no one is named Butchster.

I do remember reading once a passing reference to a female butcher in 18th century NYC.

About the only thing I have to say about this query is that giving your characters odd names is problematic. For one thing, it makes it difficult for readers to identify with the character if they can't remember his/her name.

Khitty Hawk said...I'll admit that I use more unusual names because I'm tired of fantastical names that fit too well into English phonology.

Reading the comments, I've replaced 'sociopathic' with 'antisocial'. I meant that Friché has some problems with empathy and understanding why people do illogical things, not that she's a closet serial killer who tortures bunnies.

@Chelsea P.  I wouldn't call the villagers barbaric so much, but they are definitely repressive to women. The only reason Sfanior even confronts Friché is because her father caught her flirting and demanded she must marry to prevent any further shame. Sfanior, who's heard some horror stories, panics and asks the elders if they would let her be if she could chase away the Butcher.

Looking at the story again, it now seems that it's less that Sfanior must choose between Friché and her village and more that she wants to be treated equally, and Friché ends up doing so first. Will change that.

(As for the automaton army, uh, it's actually a cover story? The client actually needs some ridiculously complicated surgery that no one can know about and plans to nuke the area when she's gotten what she wants. Kind of like Sfanior's backstory up there, I wasn't sure if this would make the query too complicated.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Travelers

1. Raels travels from Australia to attend college, and meets other visitors who become obsessed with her. Two of them just want to get her in the sack, but one of them wants her dead, because she's a danger to all of . . . the Travelers.

2. Some of the gods hang out in heavenly Olympus. Others are Travelers who roam the universe and make occasional visits to our world to cause trouble, get laid, do battle, whatever. This is their story according to a talking Liverpool cat who was formerly Prime Minister of England.

3. Take one map, one car, a girl with no sense of direction, a mysterious hitchhiker and toss out the map. Wherever The Travelers go, trouble and romance follow.

4. When Mark and Mason Colbert, the twin singers who founded the 60's folk group "The Travelers", are found stuffed together in an antique steamer trunk, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: someone took the group's old song "Bound Together" a little too literally; and he'll be stuck dealing with aged hippies all weekend.

5. A scrappy band of exiles from planet Zora-nai agree to transport land-dwellers infected with the Red Plague across hostile skies to quarantine in exchange for a full reprieve. But the Plague looks curiously like political dissent, and reprieve looks less and less tempting.

6. Mo, Dixie and their week-old daughter Sunsprout hop a Greyhound from Utica, New York to Seattle, Washington. But when they get off in Billings, Montana to buy diapers, they find themselves mistaken for spies who've come to trade Soviet-era nuclear weapons for gold stolen from Fort Knox.

Original Version

Dear [Agent],

I am seeking representation for my 100,000-word young adult paranormal novel, The Travelers, a story about an Australian girl who discovers a link between two handsome students and ghost stories in her college town.

When 18-year old Raels starts her freshman year at Algonquin University, strange things happen from the moment she steps off the train. A shockingly attractive stranger guides her to her dormitory, then vanishes in mid-air. [Was he/she in midair during the entire trip to the dormitory? Because if someone hovering in midair offered to guide me somewhere, I'd hail a cab.] [There are enough attractive people in the world that I doubt it would be shocking to encounter one.] Dark shapes seem to follow her through the forest when she goes jogging. [I thought this was a list of strange things that happened as soon as she stepped off the train. Why is she jogging through a forest?] The mystery turns sinister [What is the mystery?] one night when she witnesses a woman pushing a man off of Ulysses Tower—but when she peers over the edge, there’s no body below. [He vanished in midair. Happens a lot in this place.] [Isn't it odd for a freshman girl to be on top of a tower at night? That sounds more like a sophomore guy thing.]

Masquerading as PhD students, Zane and Severin are actually members of an elite group of djinn who sojourn in the human world. They call themselves Travelers. Witty, sly, charismatic and cruel, Zane thinks he has seen it all before. Aloof and quietly observant, Severin is Zane’s protégé. [Are we still in the same novel?] [I'd dump these adjective lists and focus on what happens.] But neither knows what to make of Raels, a human who has an aura almost like the djinn. Zane and Severin's friendship is put to the test when they both start pursuing her.

Like _Twilight_ or Becca Fitzpatrick’s_ Hush Hush_, this [book could be a huge moneymaker, possibly for you. It] is a story about [You already said what it was a story about in the first paragraph. Choose the description you like best and live with it.] an ordinary girl [I don't think a girl with a djinnish aura qualifies as ordinary.] who discovers around her a hidden world of powerful, attractive, and sometimes dangerous creatures. There is a mystery to unravel: who are these beautiful men with pale eyes, and what are their designs on the girl? And there is also an unfolding romance, one which is threatened when an unknown Traveler decides that Raels is a danger to all djinn.

The novel’s fictional college town is based on Princeton University, where I studied [and first encountered Travelers hovering in midair]. [And here I thought it was based on Algonquin College, in Ottawa. This is like saying it's set at fictional Harvard, based on Yale. Sort of.] I currently teach anthropology at a university in Australia and I am the author of an award-winning nonfiction book published by University of Texas Press. Unfortunately, this may not be of much help in marketing the novel [But it will help when they're making the movie trailer: From the producer of The Hangover and the director of Lord of the Rings and the author of The Anthropology of Aboriginal Societies comes . . . ] since the overlap between readers of ethnography and paranormal genre fiction is not huge (if the snickers of my colleagues are anything to go by), [Your colleagues are idiots. Paranormal fans are into vampires, wolfmen, zombies and Bulgarians, four of the leading ethnography . . . things.] but I will shamelessly promote the book amongst the 1000+ students I teach every year [Welcome to Anthropology 101. The three textbooks for this class will be Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, The Human Species: a New Perspective, and The Travelers.] [You claim you teach 1000+ students about Anthropology every year? Maybe fiction is the right field for you.] with promises of extra credit for anyone who reviews it on [Do they have to read it or just review it?] ["I gave your f#*king Travelers five stars on Goodreads! And you give me a C?!! WTF?"]

Thanks for your time and consideration. Enclosed are a short synopsis and the first three chapters. Please let me know if you would like to review the full manuscript.

Sincerely, etc


Too much of this is spent introducing the characters and the setting, and too little on the plot. What's the story? What happens? Who is Raels (really), what danger is she in, what is she gonna do about it, and what happens if she fails? Don't describe the book's aura; tell the story.

Selected Comments

Anonymous Anonymous said...Having your main character be attractive to beautiful others isn't a major achievement in fiction, so no need to say much about that. Your plot description seems under-developed. I'm expecting the book to lack action while you ramble on about how good looking everyone is.

Eric said..."I'm expecting the book to lack action while you ramble on about how good looking everyone is." Well, the query did say it was like Twilight...

Seriously though. Most editors are already even more aware than you are that your academic publishing history is not relevant to your current project; so there's no point taking a whole paragraph to say so. If you want to mention your previous publishing cred, just say, "My non-fiction book Unfortunately Nothing To Do With Vampires was published in 2009 by University of Texas Press and won an X award," end sentence.

With that paragraph gone, you've got more space to describe the plot, which is what you should be doing in the first place.

If the "mystery" is "who are these beautiful men with pale eyes?" that was already answered in the previous paragraph. Djinn is a good concept, but not a plot. How does the suspense develop as a story in your book? Tell us what happens!

Phoenix Sullivan said...Author, another thing to think about is that this isn't YA. The protag is 18 and the djinn are masquerading as 24-year-olds (4 years undergrad + 2 years masters = Ph.D. student).

One Big 6 imprint was experimenting with "New Adult" titles (ages 18-20 or 22) -- I'm not sure how successful that is/has been. Otherwise, the ages of your characters, if pitched as YA and described in terms of school and other YA conventions, will likely make this an auto reject from editors and agents alike.

So for homework, think about how you would pitch this outside of YA.

150 said...I'm not sure "And I'm willing to assign grades dishonestly for personal gain!" is something you want to put in a business letter. Even to an agent.

Scarecrow Boat said...The beginning of the query was beginning to pull me in, but then it did sort of take a nose-dive into chit-chat about snickering colleagues and such. Cutting it all out is going to free up a lot of space to expand on the plot.

Also, I had no idea what a djinn was until I looked it up. Is that dumb of me? Not sure if that's common knowledge or not.

Ryan Mueller said...This query letter is way too long as it is right now, and it doesn't really tell us anything.

What I'm getting from this:

-There are hot ghosts following Raels (not sure about the name; it might bother a lot of readers to have a main character whose name they don't know how to pronounce).

-Mysterious things are happening, but I'm not quite sure exactly what they are.

-Only Raels seems to notice that anything strange is happening.

I also found the sudden transition to Zane and Severin jarring. Up to that point, the focus of the query is entirely on Raels. Introducing two new characters like this is abrupt.

Here's the general outline of what your query should answer:

-What does Raels want?

At this point, you haven't really given her motivation (I'm sure it's there in the book, but it's not here). Does she want to solve the mystery? Does she want to hook up with the hot ghosts or djinn (or whatever they are)?

-What's keeping her from getting it?

You hint at an unfolding romance and a Traveler who sees her as a threat to all djinn. But this needs to be a little clearer.

-What choice/decision does she face?

Right now, I don't really see anything to answer this question.

-What terrible thing will happen if she makes the wrong choice?

You don't have to answer these questions exactly. Every story is different. But you should provide enough details to give an agent a better idea.

As of now, it seems like everything happens to Raels. What does she do?

The key is finding succinct plot details instead of saying vague things like, "This is a story about..."

vkw said...My first thought is: Is it ethical to give extra credit in Anthropology for reviewing the professor's book?

I'm not being judgmental but I would strongly encourage you to make sure you get a written letter from your Dean, stating he/she will allow this.

I had a professor who has written two textbooks now in her field of study - two very good books by the way; and her university would not allow her to require students to read her textbooks until she could prove that professors in other universities would use the textbook.

Try selling that to your editor! "Wrote this great textbook covering a narrow field that no one has covered, but before I can require my 56 graduate students to read it my colleagues in VA have to agree to use it in their class - fortunately they like me, I'm sure they do and I am the national expert in this field. . . I'm sure this isn't going to be problem."

As for the query - I'll take a look at it later - right now I'm trying to save your day job.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...EE, when you were a sophomore boy you clearly did not know the right freshman girls.

Author, take it from me, there is nothing more embarrassing than getting five stars from people who gleefully state in the review that they are your students. (And this happens even if you don't ask them to do it.)

I get that the penultimate graf is humorously intended, but it could also come across as flaky (ntm, since people already have, unethical). This is a business letter: Play it straight.

Kings Falcon said...I'm not sure if the "will force students to review this book for better grades" was meant as humor (like the sniggering colleagues) but as you can tell from the comments, it fell flat. Worse, it's a BIG red flag to avoid this story. The last thing any professional wants to do is work with someone of suspect ethics. Again, your ethics might be just fine, but that's not how it comes across. Regardless, you've gotten more comments on the "will review for grades" portion than the rest of the query. Ditch it. It's distracting and may hurt your chances.

Are you sure Raels is your main character? Because she sounds awfully passive in your query and that's not good for a main character. BTW - I keep trying to type "Reals" for "Raels." If she goes by "Rae" just call her Rae.

As Pheonix pointed out, given Rae's age, the story isn't really YA. It needs to stand up against Adult Urban Fantasy.

Query writing is frustrating since you need to be specific but at the same time general enough to convey the information an agent or editor must have when looking at your proposal. You suffer from having the wrong details in this query.

Maybe something like:

Raels didn't expect college to be easy, but she figured physics was the worse thing she'd have to overcome. Unfortunately, she finds out that she's not quite human and her new boyfriend is a Djinn.

Now tell me why people are either trying to seduce or kill her.

BuffySquirrel said...I like the setup, but what happens? What's at stake?

And don't worry about the minions complaining about character names. They do that to all the Aussies.

batgirl said...No one made a lame pun about Travelers riding the Raels? Okay, I guess it's up to me.

batgirl said...Oh, and one small observation: the Morganville Vampires series is set in a smalltown college, the heroine is a first-year student, and it's marketed as YA.

Bell Curran said...Hi everyone, author of The Travelers query letter here. Thanks for comments and good advice about focusing query letter on plot rather than set-up and beauty of characters (but srsly isn't that what teen girl readers / adult women romance readers all want to read about? beautiful boys? Eric nailed it with his Twilight comment).

batgirl, totally awesome pun -- I may have to change heroine's name just because of that.

And to everyone, the paragraph about my snickering colleagues (yes they mock me) and me assigning the book to my students (good Lord I would never do that -- I don't even assign my anthropology book to them, never mind an urban fantasy novel!) was just me being silly for this blog. I'd never put that in the query letter I submit. Everything else was in serious -- I swear I'm not trying to waste everyone's time and critical brain activity on a bogus query letter! But clearly the joke fell flat. Sigh.

EE yes I really teach 1000+ students a year. Frightening isn't it? But 700 of them come from one enormous first-year class about drugs.

Thanks for having fun with it and giving me some great feedback! I'll go write some Guess the Plot descriptions for you now.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Fave-Lift 1181

Guess the Plot


1. When Alicia discovers that her sister is being held by The Tinker, who plans to assimilate her into the Borg collective, there's no time to lose. But it's worse than that, because even if Alicia rescues sis, there's a curse that will pit sister against sister in a Thunderdome death match.

2. At 12, Lisa foolishly told her witch of a grandmother that she wanted to be a writer. Grandmother laughed and said, "All you'll ever do is eat words." Now she's 23, starting her first day at a literary agency, and they've given her the slush pile to filter. Was grandmother, after all, right?

3. The day after he was cursed by a witch, Jack lost both legs in a mysterious accident. She cursed him again, and this time he was attacked by a vampire. But in bat form, he didn't need legs and lived happily ever after.

4. The medical examiners could find no cause of death, but paranormal investigator Maxwell Maxwell could easily see the hallmarks of a deadly curse. All the clues lead to his ex, Helen, a witch with a quick temper. Can he gather enough evidence against her before she carries out her earlier threat to curse him with an affliction beyond the reach of Viagra?

Original Version

Dear [Agent]

Alicia of Capeford returns home after being lost at sea [Alicia of Capeford? Is that the name she goes by? Does everyone in Capeford have "of Capeford" as part of their name? Of course I'm aware of Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves and Tarzan of the Apes, but I never knew whether they were called that while alive or later by historians, and if while alive, I never knew if everyone had a place as part of their name or if "of Cleves" was tacked on to distinguish her from Anne of the Thousand Days and Anne of Green Gables or if it was just royalty who got place names added to their names. Clue me in, history buffs.] and discovers that her sister, Keelty, [Wait, shouldn't that be Keelty of Capeford?] has been arrested for witchcraft and sold to a man called Tinker [of Turkey]. He’s infamous for injecting drugs and implanting clockwork into the people he’s bought. Those who are lucky die on the operating table, and those who aren’t become [cyborgs] his mindless slaves. [Question for discussion: Is it better to be dead or a cyborg?] Upon hearing this, Alicia immediately sets out to find and rescue her sister before [she becomes Keelty of the Borg Collective.] it’s too late.

Unfortunately, Tinker isn’t the only monster she must contend with. The Night has fallen on the world of Eisheim [I before e, except after c.], and the sun won’t return for two seasons. During this period, the Duhan roams. It’s a creature that relentlessly stalks and feeds on all who enter its forest, and Alicia’s trek forces her through the heart of its domain. [I'm guessing this wasn't named after Johnny Duhan, whose song "The Voyage" has been sung at millions of weddings, funerals, anniversaries, etc.]

However, both Tinker and the Duhan turn out to be the least of her worries. [I'm glad. You want her biggest worry to have a more terrifying name than Tinker and the Duhan, which reminds me of the cartoon Pinky and the Brain.] [Also, you want your query to focus on the main character's biggest worry, not the least of her worries, and you've devoted two thirds of it to Tinker and the Duhan.] Alicia learns that Keelty had accidentally cursed the family while she was away. [So Keelty is a witch?] Unless Alicia can understand how both Tinker and the Duhan are integral to the spell’s design before the week is up, it will pit her against her sister until one of them kills the other. [It seems to me that by the time she figures out how both Tinker and the Duhan are integral to the spell’s design, Keelty will be a Borg. Shouldn't she rescue Keelty first and then worry about the spell?] [Also, "integral to the spell's design" makes it sound like the spell is one of Tinker's clockwork contraptions.]

Cursed is complete at 72,000 words and is my first novel. The first five pages are included below.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


This is mostly the setup. If you condense it to one paragraph:

Alicia returns to her home in Capeford to find that her sister Keelty has been arrested as a witch and sold to The Tinker, a mad scientist who plans to turn her into a mindless slave. What's worse, Keelty has accidentally put a curse on the family, which will pit the two sisters against each other in a caged death match--unless Alicia can reverse the curse.

. . . you'll have room to tell us about Alicia's plan, and what obstacles she must overcome. For instance:

But first things first. Alicia must make her way through a dark forest roamed by basketball player Chris Duhon and rescue Keelty from The Tinker's workshop before he can install his clockwork mechanism where her heart should be.

That still leaves plenty of room to tell us what goes wrong and to take us to the moment of truth when the sisters are about to enter the Thunderdome.

With two people contributing to the Oscar GTP post, and one person contributing a fake plot for this query, perhaps the handwriting is on the wall, and the GTP feature has run its course?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Charity Auction

Mega-Agent Irene Goodman has been running a monthly auction of her expertise and that of other agents and editors for some time now. You can read about it here.

If you regularly make tax-deductible contributions anyway, here's your chance to get something back in addition to the satisfaction of helping others: valuable feedback on your writing from publishing bigwigs (instead of rejection notes from slushpile interns).

I bring this to your attention not only because it's a good cause, but also because I'll be one of the donors in February and I don't want to be embarrassed by a lack of bidding.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The 8th Annual Oscar Guess the Plot Quiz

Below are the Motion Picture Academy's nominees for best picture. The actual plot of each film is hidden among a few fake plots. Can you get them all right?


A lonely writer gets help with his personal problems from his new computer operating system. But can she help with his biggest problem, the fact that he's fallen in love with her?

The true story of Catherine Williams, an African American opera singer who was captured and sold into slavery.

The true story of the last Aztec and how she clung to her belief system and her culture until she was ultimately murdered for no good reason.

Claude has been invited to his first dinner party. After he uses the master bathroom, he asks the hostess why her robe hook is labeled her and not hers. She claims it says hers, and the other guests agree. Is it Claude, or is everyone in his new neighborhood crazy?


Or, more accurately, Lack of Gravity. After their shuttle is destroyed in space, a man and a woman are left tethered together, floating in the void. The woman doesn't complain, mainly because the guy looks just like George Clooney.

Get ready for the real story about this natural force that's bigger than nature, and stronger than you! Everything you thought you knew about gravity has been completely disproved. Take a wild journey with us in this four hour documentary.

The true story of the slave ship Gravity, which carried countless African-Americans to New Orleans.

As the population of Earth rises, the weight of Earth does as well, until Earth's increased gravity starts pulling the moon closer and closer. Scientist Roger Carpenter has a plan that could save us all: ship all the elephants into space.


Noting that their books don't sell well in Nebraska, a publisher titles their next book Nebraska in hopes of spurring sales in that state. A slight improvement in Nebraska sales is accompanied by a massive drop in all other states and yet another bankrupt publisher.

A guy wins a million-dollar sweepstakes and drives to Nebraska to claim his winnings, taking along his estranged son on what could turn out to be the road trip from hell.

t was the state all of Grace's plastic tchotchkes had been shipped from, and each had been signed Gerald. Is Gerald the man in Grace's dreams? Grace leaves everything behind and road trips across America to find herself and the man who fondles her tchotchkes.

The true story of a colony of former African-Ameican slaves as they try to settle the unforgiving plains.


Philomina, an Evil Editor minion, decides it's time to fly to New York City for the first time. She's going to find EE in the bustling crowd and get his autograph. The week she arrives is also the Annual Muttonchop Convention. He's everywhere in every shape and size!

No idea what this one's about, but it sounds like one of them foreign films.

It's an Academy requirement that no Oscar ceremony can go on without at least one movie based on a true story and starring Meryl Streep, Judi Dench, or Maggie Smith. Whichever one it is is searching for her long-lost son.

The true story of a former African-American slave who struggles to establish a university in Nebraska.

Captain Phillips

The plot's not important. What's important is that it's got pirates! Arrrrgh!

Move over Morgan! There's a bigger badder captain waiting to crawl inside all the fine young lasses, and he's going to make you eat parrot stew and strut down the plank in a pink tutu and red heart pasties.

The makers of Phillips Milk of Magnesia decide their product needs a mascot. Enter Captain Phillips, a constipated walrus, who needs fast relief if he's to pilot his schooner across the Bering Sea.

The true story of Jack Phillips, who commanded the slave ship 'Nebraska'.

12 Years a Slave

After signing a three-book deal, author Jessica Lorenz discovers that the fine print in her contract forbids her to write anything in any genre for anyone until her contract is fulfilled. If only she were more prolific.

Hercules has had it with Omphale's demands, and three years have felt like a dozen. When she tells him she's pregnant, he plans to leave like any smart man would, but forgets to put the toilet seat down the night before.

An African-American man is kidnapped from his home town in New York. The next thing he knows he's been transported to the American South in the year 1841 and sold into slavery.

The true story of Simon Cohen, a Yale-educated, Holocaust survivor financier at a bank owned by Harvard grads in Nebraska.

American Hustle

As usual, the top prizes at the International Ballroom Championships are being won by Russians and Ukrainians. But wait, there's a new event this year: American Hustle. And Americans Oxsana Yurivich and Alexei Karsai are looking to take home the gold.

The true story of former African-American slaves who founded a drag club in Pittsburgh.

The thirty-ninth installment of the world's most intriguing twelve hour documentaries about various cities in random countries and their flea markets. Next week: Cleveland (a thirteen hour special!)

Two conmen are forced to work for the FBI, and . . . aw, who cares what happens, it's got Jennifer Lawrence.

Dallas Buyers Club

Members of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders open an online auction site offering game-worn garments, and bringing in 50 times the money raised by their football-playing counterparts' game-worn jerseys and do-rags.

The true story of a Texas organization that purchased African American slaves for use in Georgia.

In the obligatory AIDS-related nominee, a homophobic bull rider starts a club to help AIDS patients (like himself) get their drugs.

Every city Thomas has been to recently seems to have a Sellers Club. But where are all the Buyers Clubs? Thomas must find the last Buyers Club before he gets attacked by the 50 foot woman.

The Wolf of Wall Street

The true story of Peter Lupin, the Nebraskan former African American slave who financed the importation of African American slaves while hiding behind a veneer of abolitionism.

After losing everything in the recession of 2008, a werewolf sets out to take revenge on every banker he can get his fangs on.

Brokers have noticed the cute mangy canine that roams the halls of Wall Street's financial houses, but no one knows it's a hologram. One Tuesday afternoon, it morphs into a nine foot werewolf and clears the trading floor. Enter Victor, the werewolf's programmer, and Wall Street's fiercest wolf.

The rise and fall of some stockbroker. Wall Street criminals may not get what's coming to them in real life, but maybe in the movies . . .

Answers below

Fakes submitted by CavalierdeNuit, Khazar-khum and EE


Her: Computer love
Gravity: George Clooney
Nebraska: Road trip
Philomena: Judi Dench
Captain Phillips: Pirates!
12 Years a Slave: 1841
American Hustle: Jennifer Lawrence
Dallas Buyers Club: AIDS
The Wolf of Wall Street: Stockbroker

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guest Blogger!

Our guest blogger is Hannah Rogers, literary agent. Her website is here.

Hi! I'm Hannah. It's a thrill to talk to the famous "Evil Minions." I wish I had minions, although I wouldn't call them that. Maybe Hannah's Flunkies. I'd prefer something that rhymes, but all I can think of is Hannah's Bananas.

Anyway, I'm known as the first agent to accept manuscript submissions of only the first sentence. It's a big time saver. Not only does it save me reading time and you writing time, but I'm able to respond within hours, sometimes minutes. Depends on whether I'm at my computer when your sentence comes in or out to lunch with my unpaid intern, Chelsea.

I have a theory about writing. My theory is this: If you can come up with a fantastic first sentence, the book will write itself. That means your manuscript doesn't need to be complete to submit to me. In fact, all you need is the first sentence.

Why write a whole book, only to have agents read the first sentence and reject it? There's a better way. Write the first sentence, submit it to me, and if I give you the go-ahead, write the book. If I don't, you've saved months of futile work.

Being a twenty-first-century agent, I'm into digital everything, including responding to submissions on Twitter. I post your sentence and tweet my reaction to it. Tweet tweet! What this means is that if your first sentence is more than 140 characters (For instance: The package that came in the mail contained the diary of a man I'd never heard of, but what intrigued me even more was the two missing pages.), it won't fit, and if it's much more than 100 characters, there may not be room for me to say something like, I love that sentence; please send me the complete manuscript now or whenever you finish the book. See, that was 97 characters. So Hemingway those first sentences, don't Tolstoy them.

You may be thinking, Since when are "Hemingway" and "Tolstoy" verbs? That was my way of saying, If you make Hemingway and Tolstoy verbs in your manuscript, most agents will reject you immediately, but not me, because I've done it myself.

I challenge every Evil Minion to send me one fantastic first sentence today. Who knows? I may be tweeting you a book contract tomorrow.

Selected Comments

Phoenix Sullivan said...As Hannah is my ONLY choice for an agent, I have been diligently working on my first sentence since she opened shop. Since I'm not sure she reps my favored genre, I want to be sure I submit something -- anything -- she can relate to. Sadly, my sentence is not Twitter friendly, so it looks like a simple business model change is about to shatter my dearest dream.

Unless ... Help me, Evil Minions. You're my only hope! How can I edit my sentence to meet Hannah's twit of a guideline?


It's time to tell her it's over between us, Wolfgang, the ex-neo-Nazi-turned-alfalfa farmer, thought as, in the ethereal glow of the Californium-251-fueled reactor, he embraced Rhoda, svelte heiress to the Silverstein fortune, who ran her tongue over his broad, muscular chest, reaching down with one long-fingered hand to stroke his hard, rigid piece that he always kept strapped in the leather holster at his side because you never knew when or where the Mafia would skank, especially now since the drought meant the bottom had fallen out of the timothy market on earth and demand for low-G alfalfa like the kind he was raising on his lunar plantation, Tara, had sent the price of alfalfa soaring higher than an exploding shuttle and you never could trust those sons-of-bitches wise guys anyway even in the best of times, and besides, there was always that incident with Hikaru -- where had the blood come from? -- to be considered, though he never liked to think about it too long because it always gave him one of those terrible headaches that felt like someone clamping a vise around his head, and then the visions would begin -- those prescient nightmares that had foretold the deaths of several of his closest friends (like Tex, the Oklahoma cowboy who'd bit the dust after bein' bucked off o' th' meanest, loco-ist bronc this side o' th' Pecos; McDuff, the shy brewer who had choked to death playing "Greensleeves" on his beloved pipes; Alfonso, the bullfighter and international drugrunner who had been devoured by that great white while diving off the coast of Australia; and Lucky Pierre, the New Caledonian rebel leader whose head had been -- but no, he wouldn't let himself think about them), and Wolfgang was afraid that the next time he dreamed, he would dream of Rhoda, and he couldn't bear to see her dead and lifeless body laid beneath the cold, cold earth of the moon.

Melinda S. Collins said...Hi Hannah! I guess I'll be the first evil minion on this one *smile*

"Today was a day I wished I had the gifts of my immortal characters."

BuffySquirrel said...You're going to share with us when she gets her first real submission, right?

Stick and Move said...Chuck Truett watched from behind dark sunglasses as people streamed in and out of the bank.

Scott from Oregon said...Waking from a coma was much easier than all of just about everything I ever did.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Phoenix, a sentence like that should go straight to a publisher. Why give an agent 15% of it?

Phoenix Sullivan said...Why give an agent 15% of it? Why that's heresy, AR! I'm surprised either agent or editor allowed that comment through.

OK, here's my edited sentence:
It's over.

See how that embodies everything from the essence of the problem at the heart of the story to an observation about my writing career after submitting this?

And it leaves plenty of room for Hannah to include all the pertinent deal points she'll be strong-arming a certain editor for.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...The problem is "it's over" doesn't work in most of the genres you've got in your original sentence:

Romance: It's over... or is it?

Erotica: It's over. Shall we do it again?

SciFi: In a sense it's over, but time is a kleinbottle.

Western: It ain't over till the last man eats dust.

American Saga: It's sort of over, but the plains stretch on forever. Time to milk the elk.

Laurel said...Well, this is not a twitter worthy sentence, but here goes anyway:

It was bad enough our new high school’s colors were orange and black, its mascot was a raven, and it was dedicated on October 31st, but when Mr. McKay discovered the body of a student on the third floor landing, there was just no way our town’s new school was going to escape the nickname Halloween High.

Dave Fragments said...In the year 2055, Ulysses Walker-Evans ran to the airlock of Warehouse Three on Moonbase Alpha and climbed through as fast as his small feet would carry him.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Veratrum in the News

This month's issue of Clinical Toxicology includes an article theorizing that Alexander the Great died as a result of veratrum poisoning. As some of you may not be familiar with veratrum, this is the perfect time to repeat the query below, which I expanded with my extensive research notes on veratrum.

Dear Cruel Lord of Print:

Your profile at Agent Query indicated you had an interest in urban fantasy. Please consider representing my contribution to the genre, The Wayfarer, an adventure novel told in 100,000 words.

Mallory used to be a vampire. Then his brother, Veratrum, a stronger vampire (perhaps the strongest vampire) [Dracula is the strongest vampire. Don't you know anything?] killed him. However, Mallory rose again, [Making him a zombie vampire. Or is it a vampire zombie?] [Was he killed with a stake through his heart? Because if vampires can return after that, there's no hope for humanity.] this time as a wayfarer, one who stalks the physical and astral planes. Possessed of humanity, he condemns the sins of his former life and swears vengeance on Veratrum [Who would name their kid Veratrum? I Googled it, it's a plant. Also a homeopathic remedy for dozens of things, and that's just under the heading of "Stool." For instance, you supposedly should take Veratrum if your stool is any of the following:

Strong and sharp (acrid), corrosive, wearing away skin; bilious; black; brown; copious; flaky; forcible, sudden, gushing; frequent; green; hard; involuntary; involuntary during flatulence; large; mucous, slimy; odourless; thin, liquid; watery; like rice water.

Veratrum is also recommended for the following symptoms (among hundreds):

Feeling excessively religious; vomiting during diarrhea; face that appears dead; craving refreshing things; imperceptible pulse; collapse after diarrhea; shrunken hands; shrieking.]

and all who serve him. Over a century of failures has stretched Mallory’s patience and forced him to compromise more and more of his ideals in service of his oath. [A century? If you've been seeking revenge on someone for over a century and consistently failing, you have to be the most incompetent wayfarer of them all.] [A zombiefied vampire stalking the astral plane in search of vengeance needs a scarier name than The Wayfarer. He'd have killed Veratrum long ago, but he walks in and it goes:

Mallory: Prepare to die, Veratrum.
Veratrum: Who's gonna kill me?
Mallory: It is I . . . The Wayfarer!
Veratrum (laughing): Hey minions, check it out. The Wayfarer. Run for your lives!
Minions (laughing hysterically as they pummel Mallory): Ooh, The Wayfarer. Save us Master.]
The final assault begins with the rescue of Aethe, a woman Veratrum wants as more than just prey. What exactly he wants with her, Mallory does not know, and when she refuses to tell, Mallory keeps her with him under the guise of protection. The same for Claud, a bystander Mallory carjacks in his flight with Aethe, who manages to get bit by one of Veratrum’s minions. The bite, of course, infects Claude with the Nosferatu. [Quick, give him two tablespoons of Veratrum.] In order to keep the man pacified, Mallory claims there is a cure, but really he wants to use the disease in Claud’s veins to track Veratrum. [The closer they get to Veratrum, the brighter Claud glows.] [Make up your mind how Claud(e) spells his name.]
They take shelter with Mallory’s friends, who are happy to help until they discover where they rank in relation to Mallory’s fevered thirst for revenge. Unable to hear their words over the roar of his obsession, rationalizing his every betrayal, Mallory makes a bargain with another vampire: Aethe for Veratrum. [How can this other vampire deliver Veratrum? Veratrum is stronger. Is it just because it's two against one? In an entire century of trying to kill Veratrum, this is the first time Mallory's thought of enlisting help? What about Veratrum's minions? They're not going to stand by while Mallory and Claud kill Veratrum.] Can he go through with it? At what price vengeance?

I am as yet unpublished. The first five pages are enclosed, as well as an SASE for your response. Thank you for your time,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The 8th Annual Oscar Awards Guess the Plot Quiz (Prep)

Each year we play Guess the Plot with the Best Picture nominees. To prepare for the quiz, I need you to submit fake plots for any or all of the titles below. I will use the Internet to come up with the real plots. Once we have at least four fakes for each title, the quiz will be posted.

Captain Phillips
12 Years a Slave
American Hustle
Dallas Buyers Club
The Wolf of Wall Street

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Face-Lift 1180

Guess the Plot

The Queen of Steel and Fire

1. Once again the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance, and once again it's up to a sixteen-year-old girl to save us all. This time her name is Claire, but by the time it's all over you'll be calling her . . . The Queen of Steel and Fire.

2. Karoleena is stuck making a costume out of dusty feathers and fast food wrappers because the other queens have taken all the fun props. But wait, the construction site across the street has a burning torch and pieces of steel no one needs. Karoleena is going to rule the catwalk.

3. Fierce, independent Catherine Mc Bride has inherited her father's railroad and awesome power. Handsome, crafty Roger Boline has a stake in coal and admires her caboose. Will they be able to join forces against the sinister trestle cartel, or will their lives be a trainwreck?

4. Forced to marry the aging King Trunglow, Princess Letitia is furious. Vowing to never bear an heir, she flees to the edges of her new kingdom. When her erstwhile husband and her distraught father are slain attempting to find her, the recalcitrant bride accepts her new reign. Odd how any job is more tolerable if you aren't married to a geezer.

5. Alexander "Alex" Owens, a welder at a Pittsburgh steel mill who lives with his dog Gigi in a converted whorehouse, works nights at Mawby's Bar and Grille which holds a nightly burlesque. It's a plum gig--until the night three of his coworkers accidentally drop in.

6. Queenie Flourtnoy is Fire Robinson’s blues singer until she falls for Steel Sanders and sings for his bluegrass band. Fire is furious and says “I’ll kill ‘em both”. Then cops find Queenie decapitated and Steel with a .40 cal bullet in his heart. Hot detective Mary McRae is determined to nail Fire this time. Will she get Fire or will she be singing the defeated detective blues?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Your agency’s representation of many fresh works with strong female protagonists is one of the primary reasons that I am writing to you. I’ve also followed your blog for several years, and I’ve always found your advice and insights very helpful and interesting. [It's a fine line between flattery and sucking up. The thicker you lay it on, the closer to the end of the query you should put it.] As I see that you accept fantasy queries, and that you currently represent several writers in the young adult fantasy genre, [If you're talking about the same material you called "fresh works" in sentence 1, let's move on. Opening with a whole paragraph about why you chose to write to this person would be called burying the lead if you were a newspaper reporter.] [If the job "newspaper reporter" still existed.] I would like to submit my novel, The Queen of Steel and Fire, for your consideration.

After her father’s sudden death, sixteen year old princess Claire Erinn is about to become the first female ruler of Keldaren. But when Claire learns that the king was poisoned, she begins to unravel the vast conspiracy closing in around her. [At this point I would expect her to "suspect" the conspiracy rather than to "unravel" it.] After Death herself attacks Claire during an assassination attempt, [Who is attempting to assassinate whom?] enemies begin to arise on all fronts…even from within her own family. [If both Death and someone else were attempting to kill Claire at the same time, I'm wondering how she's still alive. They wouldn't call Death Death if she screwed up her missions.] Unprepared to rule, Claire must fight to save both her kingdom and her life. When war erupts, the fate of the entire world hangs in the balance, as Claire’s enemies turn to sorcery, and the dark power behind the conspiracy is unveiled. [When the fate of the world hangs in the balance, there's gotta be a better hope than a sixteen-year-old who isn't even prepared to rule one lousy kingdom.]

The Queen of Steel and Fire is the first volume of a planned series. Although this is the first novel that I have written, I have previously written short stories, some of which have been published in The Peninsula Pulse, a local news and literary magazine. The manuscript is complete and is 96,000 words. May I send you sample pages for review? Thank you very much for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.



I would drop the whole first paragraph. The last paragraph can do without the second sentence, and you can drop any two of the last three sentences.

That leaves the plot paragraph,which would be okay if this were the voice-over of a five-sentence movie trailer or the back cover copy, but I would like more information. How does this teenager plan to defeat conspirators, sorcerers, a "dark power," and Death herself? The Fantastic Four couldn't win this battle.

What do all these enemies want? To rule Keldaren? How can the fate of the entire world depend on whether Claire Erinn, who isn't prepared to rule, rules Keldaren? Why doesn't she go hang out at the mall and let everyone else fight it out? Perhaps if we know why Keldaren is so special, and if you reveal who's behind the conspiracy and what super powers Claire possesses . . .

The title suggests the steampunk genre. Or does steampunk have to be iron instead of steel? In any case, if Claire has a magic sword that shoots fire, say so.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Become a Contributor

Although The History of the World in Tweets is as comprehensive as anyone could reasonably expect, there are a few years between 10,000 BC and 2013 AD that are unrepresented in the book. Here's your chance to get your name on the "Acknowledgements" page.

Get a copy of the book (now only $1.99), choose a year that has no tweet, look up all the events that happened that year, and choose one you can make a funny comment about. It's easy if you can find an event involving Münster, Boris Godunov or Flemish people. Event + comment must be tweet-size, of course.

Because the book is digital, I can easily slip your contribution into its proper place, and all future copies will include you. Naturally you'll want to buy another copy to see your name on the acknowledgements page. You may even want to buy several copies to give to your friends and relatives.

Plus, when you query your current work-in-progress, you'll have something impressive to put in your credits for a change, namely: My work appears in The History of the World in Tweets. Doesn't that sound better than "I posted an article about strip mining on my blog "Bloomington Today" once."?

Of course all contributions must be deemed worthy of inclusion by EE, who has already rejected dozens of his own tweets, so don't get your hopes up, but at least for once you'll get your e-jection the same day you submit instead of three months later. Plus I may post the unchosen ones on the blog some day when I have nothing else to post, which, lately, is most days.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Overseas Customers . . .

As the Square Market has yet to open outside the US, I have created a temporary Paypal button for each of the 2 new items in the EE store. You may click on "overseas purchases" in the sidebar, opening a page on which you may buy either book through Paypal. You'll be given a chance to pay with your Paypal account, or to click that you don't have one, which opens a window allowing you to use your credit card.

The price is higher on Evil Editor Strips Again, because of the expensive overseas shipping. As The History of the World in Tweets is digital, the price is the same $1.99. If you are overseas and there's something else in the Evil Editor Store that you want, let me know and I'll create a Paypal button for that.

Strip 3.01

Click strip to enlarge.