Thursday, February 27, 2014

Face-Lift 1188

Guess the Plot

A Song of Steel

1. A stranger has arrived, and no one knows his name or where he's from. He could be a singer or even a steelworker. No one knows. What is known is that if no one stops him, he'll crush the entire country, and if anyone tries to stop him, they'll be crushed. Perhaps we'll call him . . . The Crusher!

2. Tired of constantly being tasked to save the world, superman hangs up his cape and turns to lyrical composition.

3. It was the forbidden song. Throughout the ages its words were sung surreptitiously wherever there was oppression and hearts longed for revolution and freedom. So the wizard overlord cursed the song so that its lyrics now invoke the dreaded steel vampire.

4. In the middle of an international performance, a violinist discovers his bow has turned into an arrow. He promptly changes professions, becoming an assassin who musics people to death.

5. In ancient Japan, a samurai went everywhere with his sword. Of course, only Haribo took it to extremes. This is the untold story of the samurai who forsakes all others for love of his sword.

6. What did Jesus really do? In this memoir based on recently found scrolls, get the true story of Christ's few years of turning water into wine and drinking it, spending too much time "saving" prostitutes, and carving obscene figurines out of olive wood. And steel.

Original Version

Greetings Evil Editor,

Civil war sets Valzyr on the path to destruction. The work of one man brings it crumbling down. No one knows who he is, and for their own good, no one ever should. [I can't tell if Valzyr is a country, a planet, a religion, or a super robot. A couple extra words in the first sentence would clear it up.]

There are those who try to unveil him. Let them, if they can see past the corpses on the battlefield to the true enemy.

There are those who try to stop him. Let them, if they think they can outmatch him in his game of shadows and blood.

Stay silent and watch him crush the Republic; [Him and what army?] interfere, and be crushed as well. [I choose to stay silent.] He will destroy Valzyr and build his kingdom on the ruins. The only unknown is: whom will he kill? [Actually, that's not the only unknown. Other unknowns include: 
  • Who is he? (True, you did warn me that for my own good I shouldn't know that, but it is, technically, unknown.)
  • Will we be better off if the Republic is crushed and this guy builds his kingdom on the ruins? Or worse off? Things aren't exactly going well at the moment, what with the civil war and all.
  • What are this guy's superpowers, and do we have any super-powered guys on our side?
  • Is his "game of shadows and blood" available as an app? It sounds pretty good.]
[My unknowns were better than your unknown. I don't really care who the guy kills, as you haven't mentioned any characters.]

A SONG OF STEEL, 100K words, showcases the tragic fall of the Republic and its heroes in the shadowy politics of Valzyr. It sets the political intrigue and grey morality of Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen in a failing democracy reminiscent of Rome. [Is that the failing democracy of Rome in ancient times or the failing democracy of Rome in 2014?] I am 15 years old [What the-? Okay, unless you can convert this into a book that sets the political intrigue and grey morality of Philippa Gregory’s The White Queen in a middle school, revealing that you're 15 won't work in your favor.] [On the other hand, it's amusing to imagine someone finishing your gut-wrenching, tear-jerking, emotional roller coaster of a book, sighing with satisfaction, and turning to the author bio only to find that you're a 10th grader who enjoys hanging out at the mall, Biebs, and talking on the phone with your BFF.] and this is my debut novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours Sincerely,


After your book gets made into a blockbuster movie this can be the script the voice-over actor reads during the trailer. First things first. You've told us the situation that exists as the story opens. We also want to know what happens.

The only character important enough to be mentioned in the query is a guy whose identity no one knows, and no one ever should know? I assume he isn't referred to in the book as the man whose identity no one knows, and no one ever should know. What's his name?

Is he the main character? If so, why is he out to crush the Republic and how can he manage such a Herculean task? If not, you need to choose a character (who presumably is trying to stop the man whose identity no one knows, and no one ever should know) and tell us his/her story. How does this person plan to stop a guy capable of crushing the Republic? What happens if the Republic is crushed? Readers need a character to get behind and cheer to victory. The query needs to focus on that person, their goal, the obstacles keeping them from succeeding.

Your writing is excellent, but what you've written is vague and doesn't even begin to tell us your story. Start over and take us far enough so that we simply must know what happens to whomever.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New Beginning 1026

1. Negotiation

‘So, Alice, let me get this straight,’ said the stranger in his deep, captivating voice, ‘you don’t believe in God; am I right?’

Alice nodded enthusiastically, as if the stranger had asked her if she liked double chocolate ice cream topped with roasted hazelnuts. ‘I’m more correctly an agnostic, rather than an atheist, though. I don’t think that a god exists and even if he does, I don’t care. I just ignore him.’

The stranger cocked a dark eyebrow. ‘Do you now? Fascinating!’

Yes! Alice could see that she had impressed the charming stranger. He talked with an accent. A Frenchman, for sure – or maybe a Russian? And how old was he? Twenty…or forty perhaps?

‘And I assume you don’t believe in the Devil either?’

Alice laughed heartily. ‘Of course not! I chose a long time ago not to believe in such fairy tales.’

‘Sweet girl! Thank you, thank you very much! I wish there were more people like you around.’

Alice blushed at the compliment, although its meaning skipped her. ‘What did you say your name was?’

‘I didn’t,’ replied the stranger with a smile.

She glanced again at his dark, somehow threatening eyebrows, his intense, smoldering eyes, his strange haircut. And then she saw them.

The pointed ears.

'Oh my GAAAAAAHHD,' she squealed. 'You're a Vulcan!'

Opening: Barbara Agabiti.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Face-Lift 1187

Guess the Plot

Truth and Other Superpowers

1. Charlene slipping her latest herbal remedy into Lydia's tea results in more than her eyes opened. Now Lydia can hear people's thoughts--not good for Lydia's unfaithful boyfriend. Oh, and now Lydia can levitate on command. This may, or may not, be a good thing.

2. Invisible plane, bullet-proof bracelets, and legs that go all the way up. They don’t call her Wonder Woman for nothing. But isn’t the Lasso of Truth really where she gets all her superpowers? Evil Editor will use his minions to find out. Maybe then he can use it on the slush pile.

3. Truth swears she was adopted. Her parents, Capital Vice and Cardinal Sin, think she is going through a phase. A phase!? Just because she can't lie,steal, sleep around, kill, and...and what the hell is wrath? Her seven siblings are supportive, but they have their own issues. Nothing makes sense until Captain Purity arrives to sample her blood.

4. Accidentally inducted into a mysterious cult, Emmett acquires the power to know when people are telling the truth. And other superpowers. Now he must take on a napalm-drooling legion of hell and an army of super-powered soldiers in order to save the world from a guy named Jeremy.

5. Phineas decides to put his gift to public use. As an intern on Capitol Hill, he's going to get the serious dirt on every member of Congress. Until Phineas discovers his truth-seeker power is useless against corrupt narcissistic assholes.

6. A lab explosion leaves Caitlan with a number of strange superpowers. But the scariest is that whoever she touches is incapable lying for the next 30 minutes. Hired by the government to use her power during an international summit, she accidentally touches her own diplomats. Boy, is she going to need those other superpowers now, to outrun a furious government.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

No good deed goes unpunished, so when Emmett Garcia helps Morgan, an unconscious stranger, get home safely, [If you happen upon an unconscious stranger, your top choices, depending on who you are, should be to call 911, perform CPR, steal his wallet, or look the other way and let someone else deal with it. Finding out where he lives and taking him there can only lead to trouble.] he’s barely surprised that he is ushered into the house at gunpoint. [See what I mean?] When he is then accidentally inducted into a cult dedicated to saving the world, [I'm a member of what? I thought this was a Tupperware party!] Emmett begins to worry. [What is the cult trying to save the world from?] And when he starts seeing people’s lies, [What does that mean?] he is forced to ask: how important is Morgan’s life, to be punished this much? [He's forced to ask that? I don't even understand it. If Morgan's life was at stake, why wasn't he taken to a hospital instead of his home? Is seeing lies the only punishment? How do you accidentally get inducted into a cult?] [If I accidentally inducted someone into my cult, I would immediately un-induct him. Even if the induction included a permanent tattoo, you could un-induct him by tattooing on one of those circles with a line through it.] 

Stuck with each other, Emmett and Morgan do their best [Apparently Morgan is now conscious and no longer a stranger.] to survive a napalm-drooling legion of hell, an army of super-powered soldiers, [Where are they now? Are the legion and the army trying to kill them? Do Emmett and Morgan have super powers that can help them survive a legion of hell and an army of super-powered soldiers? I ask because the title includes "Other Superpowers" but I can't tell if these other superpowers belong to Emmett and/or Morgan or to the army of super-powered soldiers. Hard to believe seeing lies, whatever that means, will help defeat an army and a legion.] and most importantly, each other. But when they meet Jeremy – a polite, bow tie-clad psychopath dedicated to spreading lies and death – they realize that merely surviving isn’t enough. [So Jeremy is the main villain? They survive a napalm-drooling legion of hell and an army of super-powered soldiers, only to be confronted by . . . Jeremy?] They need to work together to save the world. [I thought the cult was dedicated to saving the world. How come it's now up to these two guys?]

Should you be interested, the completed 66,000-word manuscript [of my YA fantasy novel Truth and Other Superpowers] is available for your review. I hope to hear from you soon.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Start over. Just tell us the story. From what I can tell your plot summary should read about like this:

When Emmett Garcia happens upon an unconscious stranger and revives him, the man, whose name is Morgan, insists he doesn't need medical help and requests a ride home. Emmett agrees, but when they arrive at Morgan's home, they discover a cult has occupied the place and is conducting an induction ceremony. Mistaken for prospective cult members, Emmett and Morgan become the newest members of a group dedicated to saving the world from Armageddon.

The cult members divide into two-man teams, each with a mission. Emmett and Morgan, being the newest and least experienced team, are assigned the task of taking down a napalm-drooling legion of hell and an army of super-powered soldiers. They succeed, in no small part thanks to Emmett's newly acquired ability to tell when people are lying to him. But before they can even report their triumph to the other cult members, they encounter . . . Jeremy! Yes, Jeremy, the polite, bow tie-clad psychopath they thought was an urban legend.

The battle between good and evil is coming to a head. Our champions and defenders: two guys named Emmett and Morgan. At stake: only the world.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Unlocked: A Journal

1. Locksmith Doug Carlisle thought it would be an easy $200 to unlock Pandora's newly found diary. And it was, except for the legions of vampires, zombies and werewolves who burst from its pages and started to hunt. Now Doug and his useless apprentice have to round them up.

2. Pages from the diary of locksmith Henry Pickler tell the tortured love story of a reformed burglar trying to go legit and a beautiful detective who keeps misplacing the keys to her unmarked cop car.

3. Due to prison overcrowding, serial killer Richard Snead is released after three months of incarceration and ordered to keep a log detailing all his activities. This is it.

4. Looking forward to a new school year, Gwen is kidnapped and locked in a shed. Her captor explains that she must save the world from three magicians who want to take over. She agrees. Hey, when someone locks you in a shed, you'll pretty much agree to anything.

5. A three-word text message turns 16-year-old Tiffany's blood to ice. If someone has read her private short story, "What Happened When Me And Justin Bieber Were Locked In A Closet Together," she'll just DIE!!!

6. 2079. When the crew of the Martian explorer Dragon recover the crashed remains of a Russian ship on Olympus Mons, they discover a journal amid the wreckage detailing sex, aliens, alien sex, and murder. Wait--murder?

7. Rapunzel reflects on 25 years of marriage to her prince. Was it worth losing her locks? On the whole, she thinks not.

Original Version

Title: Unlocked: A Journal

Two thousand years after the Romans took control of a small kingdom in Britannia, its story remains unfinished.

Gwen is settling into her new home on the west coast of the United States. She is looking forward to a new school year, but her plans are ruined when she is kidnapped and awakens in a garden shed with only a stranger for company. [I think we can lose the phrase "but her plans are ruined." It pretty much goes without saying that when you get kidnapped and awaken in a garden shed, any plans you had are ruined.] She is convinced that Kian, her captor, is a raving lunatic. But, when he shows her visions of a past life, Gwen begins to remember [remembers] another place and time. Her curiosity is ignited, [Passions are ignited; curiosity is piqued.] and she agrees to listen to Kian's story. [She agrees? She's his captive. Who's in charge here? She'll listen to his story, or he'll find new uses for those garden tools.] [Also, as this appears to be Gwen's story, I suggest opening the query with this paragraph rather than with the Roman conquest of Britannia.]

He tells her of an ancient kingdom, magical warriors and three magicians who sought to take the earth for themselves. [Is this supposed to convince her that he's not a raving lunatic?] Today, they are still present and their powers are growing. They want the world, and only the magical battle that emerged so long ago can stop them. [If they couldn't take the Earth 2000 years ago, when its population (rounded off) was zero, do we really need to worry?] [Also, while I feel certain these guys can be stopped, I don't think it's by a battle that emerged so long ago. Emerged from what?] But Gwen's power is hidden inside her ancient soul, and the only way to recover it and be strong enough to win the bi-millennial war [Is three guys against a teenaged girl really a war?] is to remember her past life. As she embarks on the journey to recover [recovers] her magical strength, she suffers the physical consequences of a divided soul, and soon finds that some memories are better left forgotten. [For instance?]

Together, Gwen and Kian travel across the Unites [United] States and England to find the three others of her kind and stand a chance against the Magicians. [Ah, so instead of three against one it's four against three. Now we're talking war.] Battling the past-lives that threaten to consume them, Gwen and her new friends need each other to piece together their memories and solve the puzzle of their last days in ancient Britannia. [Are the three others of her kind also locked in garden sheds getting briefed on the situation? Or does Gwen have to convince them to drop what they're doing and save the world from three magicians? Because if a teenager tried to persuade me to join her in a war against three guys who were capable of taking over the planet, I would come up with a good excuse to decline. Like I've got a hair appointment.] They are only as strong as what they remember, but a troublesome history threatens to tear them apart and leave the Magicians to inherit the earth. Even as Gwen works to reconcile reality and her former life, Kian's own desire to go home to the past may pose the greatest risk of all. [This is all vague. If you can't be specific about something, don't bring it up at all.]


Those last two paragraphs are vague. What does Gwen have to remember, and what happens after she remembers it? What exactly can these magicians do to inherit the Earth? Be specific.

Would the world be worse off if these magicians ruled it? How much worse off could it be? Shouldn't we let them have a shot?

You need more than a summary. Is this YA? How long is it? Is it in the form of a journal? This is supposed to be a business letter.

At the moment, I don't feel three magicians are much of a threat to the modern world, and if they are, I don't feel confident that Gwen is the person to save us. You need to tell us what kind of power Gwen will have once she gets her memories back and explain what will happen to us if she fails.

Selected Comments

Anonymous said...The query sounds like the book contains numerous chapters of preparatory stuff: kidnapping, dude locking girl in the shed, memory recovering psychobabble, a dissertation on reincarnation and review of ancient history, etc. None of that is needed. It sounds like you started without knowing what the story was about or who your characters were and now those chapters are mostly cluttering the narrative and killing the pace.

What's your genre? This matters. If your main chick is part of a gang of characters with superpowers going to war against some evil magicians you can start with some impressive action and make it a wizard war thriller with a gripping storyline by ditching the detours and distractions. Yes, it's true: just because you wrote a fabulous literary scene about a hapless girl locked in a shed doesn't mean it belongs in your wizard war novel. On the other hand, if your real interest is in a literary thing about a hapless girl locked in a shed, you can lose the wizard war.

Anonymous said...Thanks E.E. - will take your comments and go on to re-write!...and then re-write some more...and then re-write some more...

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Is Brittania the ancestor of the present UK, or are we talking alternate reality here?

Why are the other three magical warriors hanging out in only England and the US? Seems like they could be anywhere by now. Presumably much of the book will be taken up with the quest for them, which will be successful. Not gripping. Maybe leave it out?

That aside, there's a lot of vagueness in this query. Examples of vague phrases that could be better replaced with specifics:

"the west coast of the United States"
"visions of a past life"
"the physical consequences of a divided soul"

Instead, say Portland, Oregon; memories of her life as a druid priestess of the Iceni; the grandmother of all toothaches.

It's also not clear to me exactly what's been going on for the last two thousand years. Did someone call time out? If not, then I assume that something we've noticed-- say, unending war-- is the mundane visible symptom of this two thousand year struggle.

BuffySquirrel said...It doesn't take long to travel across England; it's only +-300 miles wide.

I confess I wanted to know more about the small kingdom in Britannia.

k said...The shed seems to be from a different book.

batgirl said...I'd suggest dropping the shed - though a literary / slipstream story about a girl held captive in a shed and brainwashed into believing she's the Chosen One and engaged in a magical war would be kind of cool - and spending more time on specifics, like what Gwen has to do. I'd also like to see a little more on Kian and her companions, though it's difficult to give them much space without clouding Gwen's plotline.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Face-Lift 1186

Guess the Plot

Skeleton Gorge

1. Three rustlers. One lawman. Five Indians. Two hundred cattle. Just another night at the Skeleton Gorge saloon--or so Sweet Sally thought.

2. When you live in Skeleton Gorge, the biggest worry is landslides. So when a mage named Landslide shows up with an army of zombie skeletons and starts causing landslides, it's up to the Skeleton to protect the gorge.

3. When the body of Olympic figure skater Johnny Watson is found out in Skeleton Gorge, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, there's no way Watson cut out his own liver; and two, his daughter is going to be clamoring to go ice skating this weekend.

4. Unable to fathom how seemingly sane people leap from Deadly Peak, DJ Shazam hits the trail running. First order of business: learn how to rappel; it's the only safe transit into Skeleton Gorge.

5. Ezekial Young forgot to wear his Mormon undergarments, and he's about to drive his family through a gorge in Utah known to claim travelers' lives. Should he have faith they'll make it, or stop and let his wife drive?

6. Archeologist Dr Kramer discovers hundreds.of human skeletons in a gorge in an isolated mountain range. All beautifully preserved, all featuring some rather pointy incisors. All wanting to feast on fresh human blood to reform their flesh...

7. Motorcycle stuntman Mike “Crazy” Trane fails to jump 47 ½ busses in his last Vegas stunt. Newscasters across the globe label him a has-been. Mike declares he’ll make another jump: Skeleton Gorge, the ravine where all the zombies were tossed at the end of World War Z. Does he have what it takes? The living and the undead can’t wait to find out.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In the past decade, many old mythologies and fantasy tropes have been brought back into modern media and re-imagined – witches and wizards, vampires, demons, and monsters of all sorts are all finding places in books and movies. One creature that has of course transitioned along with its mythical brethren is the [skeleton. Sure, kids dress up as skeletons on Halloween, but are there any books in which the main villains are all skeletons? No. Until now. And my skeletons are even more unique because they're in a gorge.] dragon. From Eragon to the Song of Ice and Fire series, dragons are definitely coming with us into the future. But as a huge fan of these creatures and nonhuman point of view books, I noticed something very odd – there are almost no books that feature dragons as main characters. So, I did what any nerdy book-lover would do; I wrote my own story. [Your credentials as a nerd will be called into  question if you insist on declaring there are almost no books with dragons as main characters. In any case, if you summarize a plot in which the characters are all dragons, the reader will get the idea, so there's no need to devote a lengthy paragraph to the history of fantasy tropes and the reason your book has no characters readers can identify with.]

During the middle ages, dragons were driven out of the human world and into magically-shielded mountain ranges. One band of these dragons settled near Skeleton Gorge, a fantastic and mysterious canyon-land that turned against them when the mage and necromancer known as Landslide was exiled. With the help of a stranger known only as Skeleton, the dragons defeated the mage and his skeletal army, leaving a safe haven for their descendants. [Is Skeleton a dragon?] [What is a skeletal army? An army of skeletons? Skeletons of dragons?]

Fifteen-year-old Bone-Crest, like the rest of his colony, knows nothing about this centuries-old battle, [A fifteen-year-old dragon living in Skeleton Gorge and knowing nothing about that battle is like a fifteen-year-old human living in Sweden and knowing nothing about the Battle of Ueckermünde.] until he is chosen by a black dragon in a bone helmet to become the next Skeleton. A Skeleton, blessed with an inner magic that allows him or her to connect with the gorge in ways other dragons can't, [Such as?] is charged with protecting Skeleton Gorge and the dragons living alongside it from any future danger. Though the Gorge has remained safe for years, Bone-Crest and his mentor are quickly cast into a search for an heir of Landslide as inexplicable rockslides threaten the colony dragons' lives, [Who makes the decision of whether a rock slide is explicable or not?] reanimated dragon skeletons appear in the gorge's shadows, [Now that's inexplicable.] and Bone-Crest's rival Black-Thrash [Rival for what?] becomes the victim of a curse. [Searching for an heir usually doesn't mean so you can kill him. I'd say they must take him down or face him in battle rather than search for him.] Are two guardians of [from] an ancient line of protectors enough to stop Landslide's apprentice, before he and his army of the undead find the vengeance and conquest even his predecessors couldn't achieve? [Probably. I don't see how, but I'm confident they'll pull off this seemingly impossible task.]

Skeleton Gorge is a 128,000-word young-adult fantasy. Thank you for your time; I greatly look forward to hearing from you!


Not clear why you've chosen the word "Skeleton" for the protector when the enemy is a skeletal army.

It's all setup. In a land where dragons exist and humans don't, a dragon named Bone-Crest is chosen as the "Skeleton"--protector of the dragons in Skeleton Gorge. Then a descendant of an ancient necromancer named Landslide starts wreaking havoc on the land with his army of zombie dragon skeletons. That's about it. Dump the rest and tell us what Bone-Crest's plan is, what happens if it fails, what goes wrong, and what he can possibly do about it.

Landslide is a terrible name unless this is for children. Which maybe it should be, though not at this length. I can't see the YA crowd digging this.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Beginning 1025

Robyn White turned her head to the front door. Someone was ringing the door bell. Robyn opened the door. Two men in suits stood there, looking at Robyn, a pretty young woman in her early thirties. She had brown hair, striking blue eyes and a crooked smile.

“Good morning, Miss White.”

He said in perfect Castillo Spanish. He was tall, unusual looking and extended a police badge into her face.

“I am Officer Black and this is Officer Hegel. May we come in, Miss?”

Robyn looked at the other man. He was well built, handsome and had a playful twinkle in his eyes.

“What for?”

Hegel and Black exchanged looks.

“We’d rather discuss this inside, in private.”


Robyn’s morning gown looked inappropriate at this time of day. The garden could be seen from the living room. A black horse was grazing in the garden.

“Is that a horse?”


“What’s it doing there?”

Robyn shrugged.

Black and Hegel exchanged looks, and sat down opposite her, looking stern, although Hegel had trouble keeping his serious front.

“Miss White, we have reason to believe that your, erh- boyfriend-“

He looked at her uncomfortably, flinching at the uncertainty of her liaison with Brent Kent. Black continued, studying something behind her.

“Erh, that Mr. Kent is involved in a case of international concern.”

"Blah blah blah," Kyle muttered. He fast-forwarded to the part where Robyn unzips one officer's pants while the other feels her up under her morning gown. Kyle never could understand why porn movies took so long to get to the good stuff.

Opening: Kat.....Continuation: Anonymous

Monday, February 17, 2014

New Beginning 1024

The first time I saw her I was a few thousand feet above the Atlantic, blue sky above and pillows of clouds below. She didn’t have a harp or halo or wings, but she was definitely there. On the other side of the window. Hovering above the mist, yet keeping up with the plane. She looked straight at me, green eyes twinkling, smiling, as if she and I shared a secret joke the rest of the world would be too stupid to understand. Then she turned and was gone as if reality had suddenly noticed a breach of its rules and engulfed her.

The moment had lasted a few heartbeats at most, but I did not doubt what I had seen had been real.

My Dad snored beside me. No use waking and telling him about her. Adults struggled to believe perfectly well-crafted excuses; he’d have no hope with this. So I kept my secret to myself and pressed my face against the window for the rest of the flight, willing her return.

It was to be another ten years before I saw her again. I was in the supermarket, white knuckles gripping the kart, my pulse thundering in my neck, the shelves and their gleaming choices towering above me. I was only able to keep walking because I willed every step.

"Come along, Clive," the fair-haired vision exhorted me, grabbing me roughly under the arm and hefting me along. "People want to get home in time for today's supper, after all." Her green eyes shone with mirth and I saw my own reflection in the shine on her white teeth.

It was then I saw her pointed canines and realized how she flew without wings. Perfect. Wasn't bad enough I was the last non-mutated human male to survive the thermal holocaust. Now I had a guardian vampire.

Opening: Jo Antareau.....Continuation: Veronica Rundell

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

The Future of Evil?

We seem to have a recurring problem: not enough queries or openings in the queues to legally refer to them as "queues." Do I have to offer an incentive to get writers to submit? A weekly drawing among all submitters, winner gets an Evil Editor coffee mug? The graph below shows the number of visitors to Evil Editor's blog over its entire lifespan. You'll note that I've labeled a number of spots where the number spiked and I've also labeled a few troughs.

....A...........EE agrees to critique query letters for free.
....B...........EE agrees to critique openings.
....C...........EE posts photo of naked woman.
....D...........EE posts cartoon depicting an agent being tortured.
....E...........EE takes day off; Evil Jr. does blog.
....G...........EE wins 1st Nobel Prize for Blogging.
....H...........Dominos provides free beer and pizza on EE's blog.
TV Guide announces EE to compete on Dancing with the Stars.

....F............Miss Snark retires; Blogosphere in mourning.
....I.............Twitter gets hot; readers can now be entertained in 140 characters.
....J............Twitter credited with world peace. Blogs suddenly irrelevant.
....L............EE posts confusing graph instead of useful post.

Evil Twit
The writing appears to be on the wall. For Evil Editor to remain relevant, he must transform himself into Evil Twit. Critique the first 140 characters of people's novels. This may seem ridiculous, but some agents already are accepting only tweeted submissions. Hell, Hannah Rogers accepts only the first sentence. It's what the world is coming to, and if we don't adapt we'll be left behind.

However, before shifting to Twitter, I'd better confirm that there's a demand for critiques of the first 140 characters. So, submit as a comment to this post the first 140 characters (or fewer) of your current WIP. We'll see how it goes.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Dismal Key

1. The members of a garage band dream of hitting the charts. But because they play all their songs in A minor, they don't stand a chance.

2. Peopled by blood-splattered retirees, Dismal Key is the only remaining zombie habitat in the southeastern United States. And a Florida real estate developer has her eye on it.

3. Eleven year old David Connor finds a mysterious key in the attic of his new home which gives him the power to unlock the spirit world. When he uses this power to defeat the bullies at his new school, David unlocks . . . a dark and menacing power he doesn't know how to control!

4. Mckluskey is enjoying his summer in the Florida Keys--until human traffickers swoop in, kidnap his girlfriend, and turn her over to a serial killer to satisfy his cravings.

5. When Babi was a twenty-something pop star, famous for her bright and frankly annoying singing style, she sneered at her critics. Now a forty-something has-been, plagued by depression and addiction problems, Babi has one last chance to save her career--singing the blues.

6. Bud and Judy put their life savings into a retirement island off the Florida coast, not realizing they'll be thrashed by every hurricane to hit the Caribbean. Suddenly Minnesota doesn't look so bad. Still, their lives aren't totally ruined -- until Bud rents half the key to a gang of drug-smuggling pirates.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Sixteen-year-old Mcklusky Harvey is enjoying his summer in Florida until a group of human traffickers decides to store their next shipment of girls in The Ten Thousand Islands. [I know how he feels. I've had more than one vacation ruined by the sudden arrival of human traffickers.] [I think human traffickers would prefer to be called a ring or a gang rather than a group. Also, they'd probably come up with different words for "storing their shipment," which sounds more like what drug smugglers do. Perhaps you should temporarily infiltrate a ring of human traffickers until you pick up the lingo.] Ex-CIA agent John Becker follows the traffickers seeking retribution for his sister’s kidnapping and death. [This guy is involved professionally and personally with the human traffickers. Why did we open with some random teenager spending the summer in Florida?] Instead of cussing Yankees and working on his grandfather’s fishing boat, Mcklusky [We're back to Mcklusky? Maybe we should focus the first paragraph on Mcklusky, and bring in Becker in paragraph 2.] is tangled in a treacherous rescue mission. [Mcklusky may be a Red Sox fan, but do we really need to know, in the query, that he isn't cussing Yankees?]

When Mcklusky's girlfriend is kidnapped by the traffickers, his grandfather and Becker leave him behind to save her. [That could be interpreted to mean Gramps and Becker head for the hills, leaving Mcklusky behind to save his girlfriend.] But Mcklusky isn't one to let others determine the fate of someone he loves. Intent on killing the traffickers, Mcklusky tracks them through the mangled maze of mangroves to Dismal Key, an inhospitable island. Once there he discovers that his girlfriend is not meant to be sold but to satisfy the cravings of a serial killer/rapist who works with the traffickers. [Whether you're a circle of knitters, a book club, a baseball team or even a human trafficking ring, it's pretty stupid to recruit a serial killer as part of your group.] [Where do these human traffickers get their shipments of girls? Why wouldn't the serial killer be satisfied with one of those girls, thus making it unnecessary to kidnap girlfriends and sisters of people with the means to seek revenge, like ex-CIA agents?

Human Trafficker 1: New shipment of Laotian girls came in.
Human Trafficker 2: Great. Now go kidnap an American girl.
Human Trafficker 1: What for?
Human Trafficker 2: To satisfy the cravings of Borgo the Disemboweler.
Human Trafficker 1: Tell me again why we keep this guy around.]

Armed with a KA-BAR knife, Mcklusky confronts the traffickers. [It's pretty stupid to confront a crew of human traffickers with a knife. Do I have to post this scene yet again:]

Once the traffickers know who Mcklusky is, his failure to kill them will cause the death of everyone he loves. [Because human traffickers have nothing better to do than research your life and travel throughout the country hunting down your loved ones.]

DISMAL KEY is a Young Adult Thriller complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



You have nine sentences of plot, and seven of them contain the word "traffickers." Which beats the old record on this blog by seven. Not that I'm suggesting calling them criminals once or twice. I'm suggesting always referring to them as "human traffickers" rather than just "traffickers." I figure if one use of the term "human traffickers" is amusing, seven uses would be hilarious.

A quick count reveals that I have mentioned human traffickers fifteen times in my notes and comments, thus shattering your record.

Who's in charge of hunting down kidnappers and human traffickers? Has Becker or Mcklusky informed the authorities of the kidnappings?

It seems like a sixteen-year-old kid who isn't even from Florida wouldn't have the skills to track someone to one specific island among ten thousand.

How did the maze of mangroves get mangled? And can you say "mangled mangrove maze" five times fast?

Mcklusky sounds like a last name. Are you sure his name isn't Harvey McKlusky?

Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...I don't know much about serial killers, but I know that they prefer to find their own victims.

I don't know much about human trafficking, but I know that it relies heavily on the trafficked humans feeling trapped by their lack of familiarity with the language and culture of the country they're trafficked to, and on their awareness that they're in the country illegally. And on any lies their captors care to feed them about what the authorities will do to them if they seek help*. IOW, an American teenager in the US wouldn't traffick very well.

*Nowadays trafficked humans are eligible for asylum.

I don't know much about my beloved homeland, but I know we enjoy The Rule of Law. This means that when a teenaged girl is kidnapped, one can always try calling the police and trusting them to show a modicum of concern.

To put this another way: nothing in the plot follows logically. It could, easily. Say, for example, the girlfriend actually is a Lao who's in the country illegally. And say none of her friends want to call the cops because she's also wanted for-- oh, I don't know, let's say manslaughter. And aggravated bunny-molestation. Then the plot makes marginal sense.

alaskaravenclaw said...PS-- I suppose not calling the cop could also make sense if Gramps and the boyfriend are neck-deep in organized crime themselves. Serial mangrove manglers, say.

Dex said...This seems a little dark for YA. It's not just the feeding kidnapped teenage girls to a serial killer, either. McKlusky (please just call him Mick) finds out that his girlfriend has been kidnapped by human traffickers and his first instinct is to get a knife, hunt them through a swamp and kill them all? That really doesn't sound like a well-adjusted teenager. That sounds like Rambo. Rambo, by the way, was not a well-adjusted human being.

If McKlusky is actually a brave and clever hero who has NO OTHER OPTION but to risk his life to save this girl, then you need to find a way convey that in the query. If this is a dark action story with lots of killing, then you might want to consider making this an adult novel and really fleshing out the character of this bloodthirsty young man.

Anonymous said...Not seeing why you put the CIA dude in if he doesn't do anything helpful. This scores low on the believability scale and not in a good way. As EE points out the setting and certain plot elements and cast choices seem to be getting in your way. Seems like your MC will need wizarding skill to achieve his goal but all you gave him is a knife. Everyone would be better off if he stayed home and did nothing. Not sure of audience for books with such badly matched protagonist and dilemma.

vkw said...I didn't realize the novel is meant to be YA until the author told me so.

There is some serious plot problems the way this query is written. Alaskaraven is correct. Human trafficers do what they do best with women who can't run away for one reason or another. (I read an interesting article in TX newspaper that the police and FBI were gearing up to bust human traffickers during the Super Bowl. Apparently an influx of women come in during major events.)

Maybe the girlfriend is from Mexico and no one is calling the police because they threaten to kill her parents. And the reason she is illegally in the US is because she's a runaway that hates her parents.

I'm more concern with the CIA guy? CIA or FBI? FBI would work better. In the query the author should explain why the CIA guy is willing to get fired for not calling in the police or the FBI. If he just want to kill, kill, kill then he's a bad guy that no doubt would not want to leave witnesses between the age of 16-80.

EE said...Becker is an ex-CIA guy, vkw. There' s no indication what his current occupation is, if he has one.

Blogger L. said...My knitting circle is doing just fine with our serial killer. Thank you. Odd how attendance has been dropping off, though.

Phoenix Sullivan said...C'mon, guys. If everyone called the cops when there was a crime, we'd be hard-pressed to hire enough detectives. Have you SEEN the number of murders solved by ordinary citizens in cozy and regular mysteries? Or the number of bad guys bad-ass guys and gals take on in thrillers? You can't walk down a back alley or on a college campus without running into murder and mayhem.

A thin veneer of a reason will help, of course. Maybe McK is pissed that he's in Florida and not back home tracking and whacking wildlife, which demonstrates that he has tracking and whacking skills. Maybe Gramps is a bit senile and mis-remembers information about the girl. Maybe Becker drinks too much and has health problems and he only thinks he's still as good as he was in his glory days with the CIA. And that's why McK can beat 'em to the scene.

Maybe the girlfriend is Cuban, it being Florida and all. And maybe it was really Becker's half-sister who was half-Cuban who got whacked.

As for the serial killer ... OK, I've got nothing for that.

The point is that just a few words in the query are all that's needed to divert some of the questions readers will have. As long as the story backs those words up.

150 said...Since this is a thriller, you might try to focus your query on answering two questions:

- Why is Mcklusky the only person who can save his girlfriend and take down the traffickers?
- Why is he the one who must?

Adele said...The first sentence left me thinking that your MC is a stranger, just in Florida for his summer vacation. Took me a few reading to realize he's a local boy. You should make that clearer because it's hard to imagine a tourist being able to track anything through a swamp.

The KA-BAR knife - possibly a detail best left out. Even if I knew what a KA-BAR knife was, it sounds a little too "Boy's Own Adventure Stories" to be taken seriously. Plus, if KA-BAR is a brand name, there might be legalities involved.

Speaking of "Boy's Own Adventure", this plot does remind me more of the 1940s and 1950s than the 2010s. I think that's because the plot seems to turn on having no police force (or a corrupt one) and being physically isolated from any ouside help.

It reminds me of the movie "Key Largo" (similar setting, Bogie tangling with gansters all on his own) but even at the time the plot only worked because they were isolated by a tremendous storm. Nowadays with digital cameras and the Internet, you can so easily get your message out to everyone in the world, and it seems you'll get a lot more help than Gramps and the ex-CIA guy.

And what help are those two, anyway? They seem to turn on the teenager at some point and say "Well, we're going after the traffickers, why don't you tackle the serial killer and save your girlfriend." If that's not what happens, again, you need to clarify.

Anonymous said...According to the query, he doesn't ever save the girl or anybody else. He just pisses the criminals off, and inspires them to massacre the rest of his significant others. Hard to sell a plot like that.

Maybe it's a lesson about why youth should call 911 or get an AK-47 instead of chasing thugs through a maze of mangled mangroves armed with a mere knife.

Maybe the query leaves big critical plot elements out.

BuffySquirrel said...There's no reason not to use brand names in your fiction. Just remember to capitalise them.

There need to be reasons not to call in the cops. Even if they're flimsy, not very convincing reasons.

Also, Rambo was not a very believable human being, either.

alaskaravenclaw said...A Cuban pretty much can't be in the US illegally, because of the Wet Foot Dry Foot policy.

In fact, if you ever find yourself in the US illegally, claiming to be Cuban would be a good gambit to try.

Anyway, the illegal alien thing isn't nearly enough to explain not calling the cops. Deported vs. raped and murdered is an easy call.

I think it works better if they're all wanted for smuggling illegal hatpins or something.

batgirl said..."Once the traffickers know who Mcklusky is, his failure to kill them will cause the death of everyone he loves."
Okay, so my first reading of that was: Mcklusky fails to kill the traffickers, so they kill everyone he loves (presumably girlfriend and Gramps, possibly parents if they're local too).
Is it possible that I'm supposed to read it as: If Mcklusky fails to kill all the traffickers, they will go on to kill everyone he loves, presumably after killing him? So he has to kill every one of them. With a knife.
It may well be marketable, since Hunger Games has as brutal a premise, but I think the author needs to clarify what's actually happening and why.

Mitch said...Hello All,

Being the author of this query, I thank you for your input. Before I try to fill in the plot holes, let me state that by me trying to fill in the plot holes I am admitting the query doesn’t work and therefore sucks.

First the human trafficking issues. American girls are kidnapped for sexual slavery, not on the scale that happens to girls in third world countries, but it happens. Think TAKEN but instead of Paris it happens in the US. In this story the girls are held on Dismal Key and moved to Cuba and then auctioned off.

Becker’s sister was one of them. He’s pissed off. He doesn’t want the law involved. He wants to kill the human traffickers himself. But no one goes into the Ten Thousand Islands alone. You wind up tearing the hull of your boat on oyster bars or sandbars or some other nasty ass stuff. You need a local like Mcklusky’s grandfather who is a fishing guide.

Mcklusky isn’t stable. He’s not meant to be. I am glad that part actually came through. Although once I start calling him George, he’s going to get more pissed off. He’s sixteen, horny, and his only piece of ass was just kidnapped. At sixteen I would have traversed a swamp, desert, and ocean for a piece of ass- It was harder to get girls to give it up back then. But really, he has issues. Too many to explain here that’s why I wrote a novel. After Becker and his grandpa leave him behind (Stupid Grandpa not taking his sixteen year-old grandson along to kill human traffickers) to find the human traffickers, Mcklusky decides he needs the help of his drug running cousin to find his girlfriend and the human traffickers (I’m going for the record again). His cousin doesn’t like the law either or human traffickers.

As far as the serial killer working with the human traffickers, the book does explain why he does what he does- mommy issues and all. But admittedly I am giving serious thought on how I can change this character now.
In all seriousness EE, minions, and anyone else, thank you for pointing out the flaws. I have blurred over this query a many times. My only regret is that I couldn’t break the record for using the term human trafficking or some variation of it. Keep the comments coming.

BuffySquirrel said...'Mommy issues'? Seriously? You might want to read some more up to date thinking on serial killers. Also, good luck getting teen girls to care about your hero if he perceives his girlfriend's kidnapping as merely an interruption to his sex life.

Khazar-khum said...Maybe the serial killer is McKlusky's estranged grandmother, whose issues drive her to kill girls whose sassy mannerisms annoy her. And the traffickers keep her around because she makes dinner. And one trafficker is her long-lost son, Fred. He got into trafficking to get a submissive wife. When Grandma offed his fiery Guatemalan girl, they were inextricably linked forever. Gramps suspects his ex is somehow involved after she shot the Haitian housekeeper for "stealing".

McKluskey takes after her, which is why he leaves skulls and candles in public restrooms.

Mitch said...Buffy, I was joking about the going after her for sex and mommy issues.

Sarah said...Hi Mitch -
Thanks for taking the comments with such good grace. To my mind, even after your explanation, you still have two big plausibility hurdles:

First, okay, maybe Mcklusky is crazy enough to go after a human trafficking ring with just a knife and his drug running cousin. But you've gotta give us some idea why he has a chance in hell of actually winning and not getting immediately slaughtered.

(On a side note - please don't forget that even anti-heroes should be sympathetic if not actually likable. All we know about this kid is that he's borderline sociopathic and he thinks of his girlfriend as a piece of ass. Give us some reason to want to spend time with him.)

Second, while some Americans may be the victims of trafficking, by and large traffickers go after populations that are already at risk, which usually means drug addicts, runaways, and the displaced. There's a reason the events of Taken happened in Paris - the victims may have been upper middle class Americans but they were also two isolated women in a foreign city. And I have never, EVER heard of people being trafficked out of America into Cuba or any other developing country. That just doesn't make financial sense: why go to the trouble when your destination country already has a bigger at-risk population, less efficient law enforcement, and a smaller pool of buyers? That's not to say it could never happen, but it's one more plausibility hurdle to clear in your query.

Xenith said...I found your explanation more interesting and easier to follow than the original query. That might be due to the lack of blue comments, but you use shorter sentences which have more impact and sound more natural/less like a back of book blurb. Also more specific details. Maybe forget you're writing a query letter and pretend you're telling a friend what the book is about?

Using "serial killer/rapist" makes it sound like its some "shadowy but obviously really, really bad" guy rather than a properly developed character.

arhooley said...Book jacket copy:

WILL Mcklusky Harvey get his piece of ass?

Not exactly stakes I care about. And I can't believe it's easier for Mcklusky to get it by grabbing his KA-BAR and going after a ring of human traffickers who have a serial killer co-worker. Aren't there whores in Florida? Drug-addled runaways who'll do anything for the price of a fix? Plain old loose girls?

This sounds like you're shaping it up to be suitable for adaptation into a kickass movie -- like Rambo. Have you read (tons of) advice on constructing a screenplay? You might get some useful guidelines for shaping your story.

Good luck. I think it has potential.

Mitch said...Hello All,

Again, thank you for your comments. I must point out two things though. First, I really was joking about Mcklusky (George, Jenn, Mick), or whoever you call him going after his girlfriend for just sex.

Second, many have said that human trafficking of American girls does not happen and so forth. I would truly have to disagree with this. For the sake of your daughters, sisters, wives and yourself I posted a link to the article below. Forget my novel; forget the plot holes. Just know that this is a serious issue that does affect our young women.

Take Care,

BuffySquirrel said...Sorry, Mitch. You're not the first person to find out I need a big sign saying Humour Starts Here!

Wilkins MacQueen said...The last time I was in Cuba I didn't see anyone with enough money to buy a new shirt. But that was a while ago.

I wish you good luck in this. You've got work ahead of you. Believable characters are the key imho. Hard for me accept the girls are sent to Cuba unless the Mafia from (pick any European country but Italy) have decided to get cosy in Havana with the new gvt. and so on. That's a different story, granted.

Look forward to your next version.

150 said...But no one goes into the Ten Thousand Islands alone.

Which is why we're all so hellbent on him calling the cops! TRUST ME, a girl will be no less grateful if a guy arranges her rescue by the authorities than if he swoops in himself with a Boy Scout knife between his teeth.

Mitch said...@ Wilikins, you hit the nail on the head, sort of. No mafia. But that is why I use Cuba- corrupt government and easy to pay people off. In my story Cuba is the meeting place for Rich foreign men to buy American girls. I am playing off the premise of what happens to these young, beautiful girls who disappear every year from middle class American families and are never seen again. For example Jennifer Keese from Orlando, Fl. Next, I am throwing in a what if this actually happened to them.

I know there is no evidence of girls being held in the Ten Thousand Islands and shipped to Cuba to be sold to wealthy foreign men, but it’s plausible.

@ 150- No cops. You’re dealing with an ex-CIA agent who wants to kill the Human Traffickers and a kid who recruits his drug running cousin to help him. There is one absolute truths about the Ten Thousand Islands (Well, besides the fact they are actually a intertwined system of mangrove trees). The drug smugglers and fishing guides know those islands a hell of a lot better than law enforcement. Besides a flurry of helicopters and boats searching the islands is a sure way to have human traffickers kill the girls and get the hell out of Dodge.

I understand my query stinks. The comments are very helpful. Like every author, I love my story. It may never make it to print. But your comments are making it better.

Some have mentioned that that what is the use of having an ex-CIA guy if I do not use him. While he is not prominent in the query, he is in the story. However, I am trying to focus on the MC in the query. Everything I have read tells me to do this. I am more than open to suggestions on how I might use him more in the query.

Below is a revision of my query. I think I am moving it in the right direction, but feel it is off a little, especially the beginning. I would love to hear more input.

Thanks Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Agent:

When sixteen-year-old Mcklusky Harvey leaves New Jersey for his annual visit to his grandparent’s house in Florida, he gets to help his grandfather run tourists through the Ten Thousand Islands. And Chloe, the half Seminole-half Irish goddess he’s always cherished as a friend, becomes his girlfriend. However, three human traffickers destroy the relaxing summer he just begins to enjoy.

The human traffickers hide two American girls in the Ten Thousand Islands until they can be shipped to Cuba for auction. But ex-CIA agent John Becker wants to save the girls and kill the traffickers who kidnapped and killed his sister, so he hires Mcklusky’s grandfather to take him into the maze of mangroves.

When Chloe goes missing, Becker suspects the traffickers, and Becker and Mcklusky’s grandfather go to save Chloe and leave Mcklusky behind for his own safety. However, Mcklusky isn't one to let others determine the fate of someone he loves. Intent on killing the traffickers, Mcklusky strong-arms his drug running cousin into helping him find Chloe. Once he locates the human traffickers on Dismal Key, he knows if he fails to kill them, it will cause the death of everyone he loves.

DISMAL KEY is a YA Thriller complete at 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Evil Editor said...It's an incredible coincidence that a guy whose sister was kidnapped by human traffickers and who is hunting down those human traffickers hires a guide who turns out to be the grandfather of someone whose girlfriend was kidnapped by the same human traffickers.

It sounds like:

Becker: I want to hire a guide to help me find the human traffickers who kidnapped my sister.

Gramps: You're in luck. I was just leaving to help my grandson find the same human traffickers, because they kidnapped his girlfriend.

Possibly the new version explains the coincidence.

If Mac is from New Jersey, are you actually saying that if he fails to kill all the traffickers, they will go to New Jersey to kill his loved ones there? If they've got time for that, they need to get a life.

Mitch said...Hey EE,
Not saying they will kill his family in NJ. That’s what I get for making a general statement. I will work on clearing that up.
As to the coincidence, this is the order. Becker hires Mcklusky’s grandfather. Chloe disappears (she is kidnapped off her dock). Becker finds evidence that points to the human traffickers and convinces Grandpa and Mcklusky not contact the law due to the fact the human traffickers are professionals and will kill the girls and flee at the first sign of a search party. Grandpa and Becker go into the islands to search. Mcklusky strikes out on his own.
Despite the shellacking I am taking on this story, I’m loving the questions. I see yet another huge revision in my future.

Phoenix Sullivan said...Why, why, why do people clinch when they go to write the actual query? *pounds head on desk*

Mitch, if you can channel the voice in your comments, your query would have a much more visceral impact. Xenith noted the shorter sentences and the punchier-- more thrillerish -- way you explained things. Use some of that smart-ass voice to advantage in the query. What you're giving us is milquetoast. It's safe. And that won't win you many requests.

With license regarding the ending:

Sixteen-year-old Mcklusky Harvey's parents shipped him off to Florida for the summer to work on those "behavioral issues" of his. He's actually enjoying himself on his grandfather's fishing boat -- until his new girlfriend goes missing.

Turns out the trio of human traffickers that took her have disappeared into the Ten Thousand Islands. There they're holding a slew of kidnapped girls who'll soon be shipped to Cuba for auction. Mcklusky understands two things: 1) The smugglers know the islands a hell of a lot better than any cop, and 2) a flurry of boats and choppers suddenly appearing in the area will just get the girls killed. Enlisting his drug-running cousin to help him navigate the treacherous waters, Mcklusky takes off after the bad guys with nothing more than a knife, his borderline sociopathic tendencies, and an optimism that far outbalances any good sense.

Lucky for McKlusky, an equally determined ex-CIA agent who lost his sister to the same traffickers is also closing in with revenge on his mind. But the ex-agent has hired Mcklusky's grandfather to boat him through, and that puts even more family at risk when the bad guys spring a fatal trap that not even the seasoned pro sees coming.

Dave Fragments said...Mitch, This type of plot (the drug lords coming after the policeman's family)
If Mac is from New Jersey, are you actually saying that if he fails to kill all the traffickers, they will go to New Jersey to kill his loved ones there? If they've got time for that, they need to get a life.
has been done several times in movies (Keyser Söze) and on TV. In fact one show, did it from both sides of the blood feud. Look it up on NCIS and find the entire season with the drug lord's nasty children and Gena Rowlands as a guest star a few episodes before that.

It's like the Hatfield and McKoys for modern times.

Mitch said...Phoenix I agree. I clinch up tighter than a virgin on prom night when I write a query. I am taking a break from it for awhile and then get back to it. Love your suggestions.


batgirl said...This is so much better when you leave out the serial killer.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day

She lifted the chilled glass to her lips, the candlelight dancing along the etched design, her tongue aching for the taste. Her lips parted as her vision finally focused on the table next to her. Instead of tasting the drink, she stifled a gasp.

Rob unfolded his napkin, shook it out and looked at her. “Something wrong?”

“Everything’s perfect,” she lied. “We, um, we need to talk about The List.”

That had Rob's attention. His eyes danced with amusement. “The List.” He laughed. “Perfect Valentine’s Day conversation, babe.” He reached across the table and took her hand. “I hate to break it to you tonight, but Angelina wants me. She dumped Brad last week. I know. I read about it on Perez Hilton, so it must be true.”

She shifted in her chair, not quite sure how to tell him that one of the top five on her list now sat just a few feet from her. And the arrangement, even made in jest, was forgiveness for any and all disgustingly delicious things one could do with List People should the opportunity arise, which neither believed would ever happen. Until tonight.

Rob stood and circled around her, resting his hands on her shoulders. “Happy Valentine’s Day, sweetheart,” he whispered. “Enjoy your gift.”

Before she could breathe, the man at the next table stood, turned and walked to her table. She saw his face for the first time. “Oh God . . . ”

He sat across from her and smiled. “Not quite, but almost.”

--Brenda Bradshaw

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Face-Lift 1185

Guess the Plot

Evil Vs. Good

1. Good Editor has four brains. He reads through all daily slush in 2 hours, makes notes, and responds to writers in 24 hours. Evil Editor has demanded satisfaction because Good Editor took the last cheese danish. Get ready for the fight of the century.

2. Nothing fun ever happens at St. Hubert's Catholic School for boys--until trash-talking, jerk jock Norman Good comes to fifth grade. Can quiet, brainy Johnny Evil use his wits to handle the nasty newcomer, or will his tae kwan do come into play?

3. Good takes a holiday when her archnemesis/hubby declares war. Evil's been ragging ever since his Low-T medication ran out. And Good's trip flies in the face of his ED. How dare she trifle with his rifle! Now there's only one thing left for the master of evil to do--sell the house and buy a sports car. Hilarity ensues.

4. Demons are supposed to possess humans. It's the natural order. So when a young demon named Shax is possessed by an insufferably good human named Emma, he's pissed. And when he starts doing actual good deeds he wonders: Has the world gone to hell?

5. When rival lawyers Rick Good and Jerry Evil face off in court over a missing poodle, it becomes increasingly difficult for the lovesick judge to tell who is good... and who is evil.

6. One little nudge, and Earth's climate trouble would be a thing of yore. Sam knew he had the stones, but really, how many twelve year old computer hackers take down coal-promoting super villains in real life? Just this one.

7. It's EE's newest experiment, a new blog called Good Editor, where he only makes saccharine-sweet comments about openings and queries. Will it attract more submissions than his evil persona's blog?

Original version

Dear (Agent),

Shax is a young fire demon used to being stabbed by his tutor, hit by fire waves from his father, sprayed with antiseptic sulphur by his mother and bullied by the Renegade angels. [Three items is enough for a list. I'd probably get rid of the mother, as she appears in the next list. Also, do we need to capitalize "renegade"? ] What he is not [he's not] used to is to be [being] possessed by a human.

A moment of distraction, a curse from his mother, a thunderbolt thrown by the archangel Mikael, and Shax’s demonic possession test takes an unexpected turn; Emma, the woman he is [was] possessing, is suddenly inside his [his] body. But luck seems to be finally on Shax’s side when he discovers that Emma is the keeper of an ancient book of shadows. What looks like an [The] old, tattered tome happens to be the most powerful grimoire in Hell. [Is the grimoire in Hell? Or is it in Emma's bookcase? Calling her the keeper of the book suggests that she knows what she has. Has she been entrusted with protecting the book, or does she just happen to own it?] A grimoire that every demon wants.

Great new powers are great, [By definition. Dump the first "great."] but Shax could do without being chased by infernal scientists, who want to experiment on the first human-possessed demon in history, [and] the archdemon Ruax, who want [needs] the grimoire to enslave all demons and become the sole ruler of Hell, and kamikaze dragons, who couldn’t care less about Shax and the grimoire but fall from the sky anyway.

The worst part is that, due to the constant, unavoidable presence of Emma, whose kindness keeps intruding into Shax’s evil thoughts, unwillingly, Shax [he] discovers an almost decent side of him[self]. In no time at all, he [even] catches himself doing good deeds [running a philanthropic organization!] Is he becoming – yuck! – good?

EVIL VS. GOOD, complete at 89.000 words, is a young adult fantasy and my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The story sounds like fun. The query is listy and mostly setup. Setup: the tables are turned when an evil demon is possessed by Emma, a human who exudes goodness. Perhaps GTP #4 would take care of the setup:

Demons are supposed to possess humans. It's the natural order. So when a young fire demon named Shax is possessed by an insufferably good human named Emma, and starts doing actual good deeds, he's annoyed--until he discovers that Emma possesses a grimoire that can give its owner great powers.

Unfortunately, the archdemon Ruax wants the grimoire, for with it he can enslave all demons and become the sole ruler of Hell!

Now there's plenty of room to tell us what Shax/Emma plans to do, what's stopping him, and what will happen to the world if Ruax rules Hell. This assumes Shax is the main character, which seems odd if Emma possesses Shax. Apparently she doesn't have control, just influence?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Face-Lift 1184

Guess the Plot

Black, White and Violet

1. Officer Black wants to convict Mr. White of a crime he never committed. Mr. White's daughter decides to investigate on her own and learns that Violet, the head of a mob family, may be involved. Also, the professional equestrian circuit.

2. There's a new detective agency in town. Joe Black, a grizzled old-school detective. Mary White, a trash-talking clairvoyant from the wrong side of the tracks. And Violet, a mysterious six-year-old orphan with psychic powers she's just learning to control. Bad guys, watch out!

3. Margot's fancy apartment building always has free cupcakes out for residents, but tonight she's not sure if the cupcakes have been poisoned. An anonymous note had been slid under her door at 3 PM: Which one will kill you Margot? Chocolate, vanilla, or prune?

4. Violet drives a Black and White cab in the capital while studying Middle Eastern languages at Georgetown. She records backseat conversations for her education and uncovers a plot to destroy the city’s monuments. She wants to expose it. But the recordings are illegal. If the police find out, she goes to prison. If the terrorists find out, they’ll kill her.

5. Violet is a mute 6 year-old chess master. But when bad things start happening to people who get her into check-mate, (such as the therapist found in a locked room with the black king piercing her "jung-ular") Violet's mom starts to worry that the win-at-all-costs mentality might not have given her creepy kid the right message.

6. In the latest edition of the board game Clue, Mrs. White is the only character who isn't spending life in prison, but five new characters have arrived, including Doctor Black and Ms. Violet. New weapons include the mace and the poison dart, and there's a secret passage between the racquetball court and the sauna.

Original Version

Greetings Evil Editor,

The ill-fated cover up of a horse theft turns into a mob war. [I usually prefer that you get into the plot rather than open with a vague log-line. Now if it were more specific, something like: In an alternate universe, where mafia families are Wyoming ranchers, Carlo Gambino steals a horse from John Gotti and then tries to cover up the theft by substituting a sheep for the horse. But the coverup fails to fool Gotti, and a range war breaks out . . .]

Robyn lives on a small island in Spain, which is quickly becoming much too small for her. [I suppose I'm nitpicking if I say that if that sentence read Robyn lives in Spain, on a small island which is quickly becoming too small for her, it would be obvious that it's the island and not Spain that is shrinking.] She is tired of having to please her father, and feels pushed into becoming a professional equestrian athlete. [To all you people who lamented being pushed into the family carpeting business, see? Rich people have it rough too.] But secretly she dreams of a different life. Her father buys a new horse, which is supposed to help her win. However, the horse almost kills her, and Robyn refuses to go near another horse ever again. [Is this one of those gag hoax queries?]

Just when she thought [she's thinking] another life was [is] possible, a police investigation stops her. Her father is under suspicion. The horse he bought was stolen under ominous circumstances. When Robyn’s father is also accused of killing her boyfriend and then disappears, Robyn decides to investigate on her own. [Wait, did her boyfriend just get killed? That should be the lead, not the father being accused. Something like: When Robyn’s boyfriend is murdered, her father is at the top of the suspect list--and when he disappears, Robyn decides to investigate on her own.] [People investigating murders on their own seems to happen a lot more in fiction than in real life.] This leads her to Violet, the head of one of the two most powerful mob families in Los Angeles. [Is Robyn still on an island in Spain? We may need another step between that and Los Angeles.] There seems to be no escape between the mob and Officer Black, who wants to convict Robyn's father, Mr. White, for a crime he never even committed. [No escape for whom? Robyn isn't a suspect. Has Mr. White turned up in Los Angeles? Where did the crime take place?]

Robyn White’s adventurous character is designed to draw in female adult readers. [Originally the main character was a guy, but I didn't think female adults would be drawn in because he wasn't hunky enough.] John Grisham’s The Kid Lawyer [The title of that book is Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer.] and Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money are comparable crime mysteries. [If you're looking to draw in female adult readers, why admit that Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer, a middle grade book, is comparable?] Both are also told from the perspectives of unlikely, disinterested heroes.

The 100,000-word mystery novel BLACK, WHITE and VIOLET [You named your characters Black, White and Violet just so that title would make sense? Why is that title so important to you?] describes how one girl finds her path by feeling like a fish out of water and overcoming her biggest fears. [I didn't see anything about the path she found (unless she solves the crime and decides to become a detective) or about overcoming her biggest fears (the only fear mentioned is her fear of horses, and she never goes near one again, so I guess she didn't overcome that fear.]

I am a freelance writer, translator and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Highlights have included three science-fiction, fantasy novels, articles for online magazines, and my first short film Black, White and Violet. [That's why you wanted your book to have that title? Is the plot of the film the same as the plot of the novel? Or are you now planning to write a song, paint a picture, and open a restaurant all with the name Black, White and Violet?]

Thank you for your consideration.



Most of what's here has nothing to do with the main plot, which I assume centers around the death of Robyn's boyfriend and how she goes about investigating it. That her father is the main suspect is important. That she refuses to ride horses isn't. Why is her father the suspect? What's the connection with LA? Focus on what Robyn does, who tries to stop her from doing it, what will happen if she fails.

The opening sentence suggests a story much different from the one you tell. I don't know after reading the query who stole the horse, who covered up the theft, or why it started a mob war. So there's no point in opening with that line.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Success Stories

Sometimes authors forget to inform EE when their books, which we encountered on the blog, become available, thus costing themselves massive sales in the critical first weeks of publication. The following three were brought to my attention recently:

1. Monster School (City of Monsters), by DC Green, (Face-Lift 842).

3. The Good Daughter (new title) by Amra Pajalik (Face-Lift 58)

2. Kindar's Cure by Michelle Hauck, (Face-Lift 905)

No word on whether the authors acknowledged the role of the Evil Minions in their success.