Monday, March 24, 2014

Buy This Book. Cure Diabetes.

As usual, Evil Editor will soon be donating his services to the Brenda Novak Auction, which begins May 1. 

Auction site link.

Among my offerings is the following:

Your Book (up to 100,000 words) Edited by EVIL EDITOR, the world's most famous editor.

Last year's winner of this item had the good fortune to quickly land an agent who quickly sold the book to Sourcebooks, and despite the publishing industry's reputation for dragging their feet, the book has just been published, and the author has appeared on Entertainment Tonight in the US and Mornings in Australia.

Of course declaring that last year's auction winner has had the book published should increase the final take this year, but think how much more it would increase if Ms. Novak could declare that the book made the bestseller lists! Dare I think we could be talking seven figures?

Sure, you can help cure diabetes by bidding on Evil Editor this year, but that would make a significant dent in your bank account if you somehow won. And only one person can win an item. But thousands of people can buy the book, making it a huge success and driving this year's bids into the stratosphere.

Here's a link to the book's Amazon page.

You can also get it at your favorite bookstore. You can request it at your library if you prefer not to buy it. You can buy gift copies for your friends and relatives. I foresee not only diabetes, but all diseases being cured as a result of your generosity. Also, you'll probably like the book.

Disclaimer: Evil Editor has no stake, financial or otherwise, in the success of Shooting Stars.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Face-Lift 1196

Guess the Plot

Get to Know You

1. Alex can't stop thinking about Clara, the hot girl in his creative writing class, and how cool her short stories are. Will he blow off his special lady friends for her, or keep imagining what kissing Clara might be like as he kisses them?

2. Annika's biological father has decided he wants to get to know her. So he forces her to come to New York City and work in his bar. If this isn't the way to start a loving relationship, what is?

3. A psychopath stalks and murders attractive young women in Loudoun County, Virginia. His victims’ bodies are found dressed in high fashion and staged in provocative poses with notes: “Got to know you.” FBI profiler Sally MacRae takes the case. She leaves notes for him: “Getting to know you.” Sally gets closer to him as he gets closer to her. Then she discovers she has DID and she is him.

4. Albert has all the time in the world to get to know his new friends. His perfect, pretty friends who never contradict him and are always pleasantly silent. It takes a while to find these friends and bring them to his home. But taxidermy makes it all worthwhile in the end.

5. When my father strayed from his wife, I was the result. Around town in polite society I was the unholy bastard. In the bars, I was my pa's get. After twenty years of isolation, I'm the recipient of my father's estate. His children invited me to a party. They call the event a Get to Know You soiree. Hilarity ensues.

6. He's pleased to meet you. He hopes you guessed his name. He's Lucifer, and in this epic retelling of the Rolling Stones song, this fallen angel would like to get to know you. Yes, YOU!

7. Cara had no idea what would happen when she had too much Purple Drank at the unsupervised party with the varsity football players, but she never expected to learn Parcheesi. Or, the finer strategy necessary to win at Risk. Also, campfire songs and mugs of cocoa.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Annika Fitzpatrick gets an email [from Danica Patrick, threatening a lawsuit] in the middle of her graduation from high school and finds her worst nightmare has come true: her father wants to spend more time with her.

In my completed 80,000 word YA contemporary manuscript, Get to Know You, Annika a self professed musical theater nerd, is forced to spend the summer after graduation with her absent biological father in New York City working at the music venue he owns and, much to Annika’s embarrassment, named after her. [She's forced to do this? Was that a threatening email? I'm surprised it wasn't a tweet:


Hey, Babe. Pack your crap and move to NYC and work for me in my nightclub or I'll ruin you. Love, Dad (Biological).

She insists on being called Annie, in an attempt to hide her ties to her father, the boss, and hopefully make friends with her co-workers, especially Theo. The gorgeous and talented musician who’s [is] a fixture at the bar with his family band that’s on the verge of making it big. [The bar? The "venue" dad named after Annika is a bar? Coulda been worse; he coulda named a whorehouse after her.] [Or are you saying it's a club that has a bar in it? In which case aren't Annika and Theo a bit young to be hanging out at the bar?] But Theo has things he’s hiding too, like his plans to leave the band and his feelings for Annika. When Theo surprises Annika by kissing her shortly after her arrival, [Not sure how he has feelings for her already if she just got there, but it doesn't sound like he's hiding them.] then quickly changing his tune, Annika must decide if being Theo’s friend is worth risking her heart. This novel is one part Anna and the French Kiss with a dash of Pitch Perfect, mixed with sexy rock bands instead of acapella.

I’ve always been a storyteller, first through theater and preforming [performing] arts, but I also know how to spread the word when I’m passionate about something from years of working in fashion PR in New York. I am a member of SCBWI and this is my first novel.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.


It doesn't seem like a "family band" would be a fixture at a club that features sexy rock bands.

It does seem like a musical theater nerd would relish the opportunity to spend a summer in NYC.

Also, wouldn't it be better for the story if dad owned an off-Broadway theater instead of a bar, or if Annika were a self-professed rock music nerd?

I'm not reading 80,000 words to find out if Annika decides it's worth being friends with a guy who kissed her once and then changed his tune. It sounds like a trivial matter. Less trivial would be if she falls in love with him and he wants her to come with him on tour, but dad forbids it. Or she auditions for a part in a Broadway musical, gets it, but dad insists she wait tables and Theo wants her to be his roadie.

Possibly the decision to be friends with Theo happens early, and you decided that was enough. It wasn't. We want to know what's preventing Annika from getting what she wants (be that a career in theater, an escape from dad or a torrid affair with Theo) and what she plans to do about it.

Things it wouldn't be hard to work in: what Annika does at dad's place; what Theo plans to do after leaving the band (Quit music? Go solo?).

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Face-Lift 1195

Guess the Plot

Callie's Revolution

1. 1678. Jacques Callie has been working on a machine that will provide perpetual motion while creating endless piles of gold. All he has to do is balance the wheels, cogs, gears, humours and the spheres and he'll be set. That's what the owls tell him, anyway.

2. Bored with Victorian morals, Callie heads west in 1916 and gets involved in the Mexican Revolution. She rides with General Pershing's troops on the fastest horse in Mexico, on a mission to capture Pancho Villa. Also, movie star Lillian Gish.

3. When Lassie reaches that age of maturity when ED commercials make too much sense and low "T" is a problem, she decides to strap on a set and go to war. Screw Timmy, it's a call to arms, even if she only has legs. It's time for a revolution, a Callie's...uh-oh, never mind.

4. Tired of her parent's meddling, Callie hatches a plan to live with her gay BFF, Zak, until graduation. Then Daddy Dearest decides he's not paying for college, so Callie begins a youth outrage movement by taking him to court.

5. Callie, procrastinator extraordinaire, is chosen during the Harvesting as a divergent..I mean…dissonant revolution leader, believed to the be the right one to lead the nation toward the New Order of Enlightenment and Life (N.O.E.L). But can this indolent teen inspire the crowds when she has no motivation to run a comb through her hair?

6. Will Callie's Bible class believe that Jesus has been visiting her every Tuesday night bearing nachos and telling funny stories? If not, she'll take over the pulpit, and make the whole church believe with the robe He left behind.

Original Version

The idea--place a somewhat naïve young female journalist into the macho, dangerous maelstrom of the Mexican Revolution in 1916. Then watch what happens. [But since it's always best to experiment on animals first, we start by placing a bunny in a cage with six hungry wolves.]

Callie’s Revolution is a parallel story of political and social revolution, and the personal revolution of an adventurous young woman.

Through her eyes we ride with General John J. Pershing’s troops into the Chihuahuan desert, go with Callie into a dark cave hideout, face to face with Pancho Villa, fly in a Jenny Curtis biplane with ace pilot, Casey Wilde, and watch Callie and Casey fall for each other. [I realize the book is already written, but with a little tweaking you can dump ace pilot Casey Wilde and have Callie fall for Pancho Villa. Here's a photo of Villa and Pershing, chumming it up in 1914:

The way I see it, Callie's in love with Pancho, but in her position as a journalist she's covering Pershing, who falls in love with her. This gives Pershing's mission to ride into Mexico and capture Pancho a romantic motive. He doesn't care about following orders or stopping Pancho's raids; he just wants to eliminate his competition. Callie spends the entire mission trying to talk Pershing into letting Pancho escape (It's like in The Princess Bride when Buttercup agrees to marry Humperdinck if he'll let Westley live. Very romantic.), and when Pershing refuses, she rides ahead to warn Pancho (she has the fastest horse in Mexico). Which explains how Pancho did escape.]

We follow her into the heart of Mexico, [Who is this "we" you keep mentioning? I'm more interested in what Callie does than in what "we" do.] where she is seduced by the alluring sensations of an exotic culture, is awakened to her sexuality, and undergoes a stirring encounter with the mystery of the pyramids at Teotihuacan.

Then, into the nascent Hollywood movie colony with D.W. Griffith and the Gish sisters, the nightmarish experience of filming in the midst of World War 1, [Better title: Bride of Zelig.] and a brief, and nearly deadly reunion with Casey.

We fall into her delirium as she is pulled down to the brink of death by the raging Influenza epidemic.

Callie is tested time and again and survives, with her Colt 45, the fastest pony in Mexico, and a relentless desire to live an impassioned life. She is no saint, and constantly wavers between desire and morality

A Native American connection is alluded to during her illness, and is fully revealed near the conclusion--she is half Comanche, by a mother she never knew.

With her long black tresses and amazing ability with a horse and a pistol, Callie Masterson is a new kind of heroine--utterly feminine, compassionate, and fierce. She grows and changes in huge leaps because of her curiosity about life and her inborn courage. She is strong, gutsy and resourceful, but it is perhaps it is her compassion that will speak most fervently to the modern reader. [If her compassion speaks most fervently, you might want to include an example thereof, rather than listing all these adjectives (feminine, compassionate, fierce, curious, courageous, strong, gutsy, resourceful, compassionate again, horse-savvy, gun-loving, black-tressed.]

Callie is a trailblazer, pure and simple, who demands rights that women would not fully achieve for another fifty years. She straddles two different worlds in 1916: her past is Victorian morality, her future, Twentieth Century emancipation. She leaps into her destiny on the fastest horse in Mexico [Yes, her horse is fast. We got it.] and never looks back. [Another paragraph just describing Callie. If you show us what she's like, we'll be more intrigued than if you tell us.]


It feels like you're describing a biography of a fictional character, except that it all takes place in a five-year period. I think you should focus the entire query on whatever most drives the plot. That could be the mission to Mexico, during which Callie earns respect as an adventuress/journalist, or it could be the romance with the ace pilot or it could be the remarkable compassion she shows when she resists shooting Pershing's sexist troops. Right now it comes across as just a list of lists. Tell us a story.

The Gish sisters and the flu and the allusion to a Native American connection are eating space you need to make us care enough about Callie to want to read the book.

Success Story

Phoenix reports that Deadly Dozen, a multi-author boxed set of 12 mystery/thriller books she manages in her position as managing director at Steel Magnolia Press has reached #13 on the New York Times e-book-only bestseller list.

A visit to Amazon reveals that the Kindle version of the entire set is currently on sale for $0.99. What the--?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Face-Lift 1194

Guess the Plot

Noah's Ark

1. Earth was destroyed centuries ago, and thousands of people bought their way onto Noah's Ark, which is taking them who knows where. Sort of. Actually, the Ark is a game set on a simulated Earth, and if you lose in the game, it's game over in the real world too. Shoulda read the fine print.

2. When Noah closed the hatch before the dinosaurs boarded, God was pissed. A simple three-hour tour--A three hour tour!--turned into...well, you know the tale. What's unknown was God's plan to use dinos as population control. Now look at the mess were in. It's all Noah's fault.

3. New scientific evidence has been uncovered that confirms the historical "flood" story was more than Biblical fiction, and that while Noah had two of every creature, he reluctantly brought seven brides for his son Shem, and his six brothers.

4. Unashamed of his fetish for dressing as a furry cartoon character and having anonymous Comic-Con sex, Noah maxes out his credit cards to open the Noah's Ark nightclub, bringing down the wrath of PETA, fundamentalist Christians, and Russell Crowe in one fell swoop.

5. Writer Johnathan Springman's autistic son Noah features prominently in his columns for the New York Sun. When Noah begins talking about his collection of animals, Springman decides to investigate. That's when he finds the warehouse full of bodies. Now what?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen year old Victoria Fischman desperately regrets buying her way into the Noah's Ark. [The Noah's Ark?] 

The exclusive simulated excursion becomes a lethal game when an unanticipated attack wipes out half of the students in the area. [Not clear to me whether people have been wiped out in the game or for real.] If Victoria dies here, it’s game over for her in the real world. [Not clear if you're saying she actually dies if her character in the game dies. Sounds like it, but who would sign on for that game?] Same thing goes for her missing younger sister and best friend, and ten thousand other students. Guilt-ridden for getting her sister and friend into this, Victoria is determined to do anything to find and escape with them.

To escape, Victoria has to defeat invading alien Commanders in a cybernetic Earth, [Unsure what a cybernetic Earth was, I looked up cybernetic, which means "pertaining to communications in animals and machines." Still don't know what a cybernetic Earth is. I'm guessing a virtual Earth?] modelled after the real one that was destroyed centuries ago. Putting down her strong need for self-sufficiency to team up with military-trained Liam Ignatius, she becomes one of the strongest fighters by slaying hostilities [Hostiles?] to gain Experience Points and Levels. [Is it game over in the real world for those she slays?]

But an impossible Quest arrives, and she realizes that individual strength isn't everything when she's forced to work with Anna Drew, leader of the other survivors. [The other survivors besides her and Liam?] Her conscience screams for her to inform the others when the charismatic and cunning Anna sacrifices a few followers for information. [By "the others" do you mean Anna's other followers?] [From whom does Anna want information? If it's from a neutral party, they would want valuables, not the sacrifice of her followers. If it's from the enemy, how can she trust the information is legit?]

Now Victoria has to decide if that’s worth upsetting the solidarity of the survivors, as the fall of the town would lead to their annihilation. [The town? This is set in a town? I thought we were on a spaceship. Is the town on a planet? Is it a sim-town?] [You haven't connected upsetting the solidarity of the survivors with the fall of the town. To whom is the town in danger of falling?]

NOAH'S ARK is my debut. It is an 80,000 word YA novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Kind regards


Is Noah's Ark a computer game? If so, why can't players just turn off their computers if they want to quit?

How does Victoria know it's game over in the real world if she dies in the game? Where, exactly, are the people who are playing the game?

I don't find any of this clear.You need to ground us in the situation: When Martian colonist Victoria talks her sister and best friend into playing Noah's Ark, a computer game set on a simulated planet Earth, she has no idea Noah's Ark makes The Hunger Games look like Candyland. THEY'RE ALL GONNA DIE! FOR REALSIES!

Unfortunately, once I have that setup, even though what happens in the game is far more exciting than what happens in the real world, I'm more interested in what happens in the real world than in the game. Go figure.

If the vast majority of the book involves gaining Experience Points and Levels, I'm thinking the type of person this would appeal to is the type who would rather be playing their own games than reading about other people's games.

It sounds like you have an adventure story that might be exciting in its own right, but that you decided the story would be better if were happening on a game board rather than in real life. True, the stakes are higher than in a game of Risk, but even if I knew the winner got to kill the losers I wouldn't want to read a novel about a game of Risk. Your query needs to clearly tell us what's going on, and if most of what's going on is set in the real world, focus the query on that, rather than on the game.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Face-Lift 1193

Guess the Plot


1. Professor Corelli's bad breath is getting increasingly worse. He refuses breath mints and won't open any windows because it's cold out. Will he drink the coffee on his desk with magic potion No. 37 in it (the bad breath one) before he loses his favorite students?

2. He ran all day. He ran all night. He chased over hill and over dale, and sought the object of his heart's desire. And when Sam finally caught that juicy squirrel, he was . . . Breathless.

3. When the body of marathon runner Brian McGahey is found smoldering on the horse trail in Griffith Park, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, McGahey didn't rip out his own lungs, blood-eagle style; and two, it's gonna be a smoggy, miserable week in LA.

4. Running has been the only joy in Amy Smith’s life. But when the local 5K turns into a zombie run (something about a virus released by the disgruntled 2nd-place runner at last year’s event) she has no time to catch a breath between trying to escape the dead, not run into her ex and overcome the most untimely and painful ankle sprain. Is there a happy ending at the finish line or the sloppy embrace of a zombie?

5. Shannon is trying to get back to the old homestead ranch of her childhood, a place so beautiful it leaves her breathless. But it's a long journey across a poisoned landscape of mutant fauna and predaceous flora, of psychokinetic hunters and sand demons. Maybe she'd a been better off stayin' in the big city.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Of all the scars we bear, it is the one within that truly mars us. [Instead of putting that at the beginning of the query, put it at the beginning of the novel and attribute it to some famous personage like Virginia Woolf or Rudyard Kipling. No one will check to see if it's an actual quote, and whereas I need read only the paragraph below to determine that the statement has nothing to do with the plot, readers of the book will have to trudge through 450 pages to prove your statement is irrelevant and meaningless.]

The pagan Shannon Farwell, last of the eccentric Druids of Cold Fire, and dying from the affliction overtaking her planet, rides on a final journey to the pagan city of Truth. In her travels, she encounters Marithane, on the run from her [former] captors, the Magi, the race of psychokinetics who govern Shannon’s world. For Marithane bears a Shard of the Heartwood, an object some Magi would murder for in the promise of the god-like power it harbors. [I think I know how this goes. She gives the Magi the Shard of the Heartwood as a gift, and they're so grateful they gift her the Glue of Elmer, not realizing it's needed to stick the Shard back onto the Heartwood.] [Also, no reason for that sentence to start with "For."] Together, Shannon and Marithane embark on an odyssey across a poisoned landscape of mutant fauna and predaceous flora, [Shannon was already on a final journey; does this odyssey have a different destination than her journey?] of pagan skeptics and Magi zealots, in hope of uniting a people on the brink of extinction [The only people described as on the brink of extinction are the eccentric Druids of Cold Fire, and as Shannon is the last of them, there are none to unite her with.] and restoring Marithane to her own world. [Is her world on a different planet? Can't she use the god-like powers of the Shard of the Heartwood to return to her world?]  Shannon will face her truest fears, however, as they come at last to the homestead ranch of her childhood—where demons of her past lurk beneath the sand, waiting for her to draw her final breath. [The sentences in that paragraph average over 31 words in length. Break up a few of them.] ["Demons of her past" sounds metaphorical, but "waiting for her to draw her last breath" sounds like they're actual demons. Then again, Shannon's dying of some affliction and a bunch of demons wait under the sand instead of crushing the last breath from her body? Real demons aren't that patient.]

At 115K words, Breathless tells a science fiction story of friendship, faith, and the song we sing at the end of all things. [This is fantasy, not science fiction.]

Thank you for your consideration.


Start over. When you introduce Shannon, tell us why she's going to Truth. Get rid of "last of the eccentric Druids of Cold Fire," as we don't know what that means. When you introduce Marithane, tell us why she's desperately hanging onto the Shard. If she wants its god-like power, why? If she just wants to keep the Magi from getting it, why?

Why do Shannon and Marithane team up? S is trying to get to the city of Truth and apparently to unite a people on the brink of extinction. (What people?) M is trying to get to her home world. What goal do they have in common? I can see an "I'll help you with the psychokinetics if you'll help me with the demons" arrangement, but you've told us nothing about them that suggests they aren't hopelessly outmatched by either group. They need to do something besides flee. Do they have a plan?

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First 10,000 Words Of Your Novel Edited By EVIL EDITOR
Item: 3326043

Monday, March 10, 2014

Face-Lift 1192

Guess the Plot

When Fire Ignites

1. Boarding school? Try bored-ing school. How many games of field hockey can one girl tolerate? Silvy's ready to run away until she discovers just how much fun pyromania can be.

2. Shortly after an irascible literary editor rejects a manuscript for being thinly-disguised plagiarism of a Ray Bradbury novel, he bursts into flames.

3. Bad enough that fire elemental Cassidy got stuck hosting Thanksgiving dinner yet again, but then air elementals crash the party, murder some of the guests and kidnap others. And you thought Thanksgiving sucked in your family.

4. Severely burned in a suspicious local church fire, fireman Sam slips into a coma. His soul travels out of his body in an attempt to solve the mystery of the arson. Will a nurse who seems able to communicate with ghosts help him or will she and Sam succumb to vicious demons that appear to be planning something evil for all the parishioners?

5. Tina is a rare elemental fairy, able to control fire. Imprisoned in an iron cage and sold to a wizard, Tina must use every trick in her tiny little body to win the wizard's love . . . and expose a ring of black-market fairy traders.

6. Beautiful Beverly is the youngest of the Smoke Eaters, brave firefighters who parachute into dangerous wildfires. She's never thought a man could meet all her dreams, until she meets Captain Hank Jordan. Unfortunately, Jason Bradley feels the same way.

7. When Jonathon Storm was a little boy he hated water. The rain made him sad and Saturday bath night made him bat shit. His sister, Susan, could just disappear whenever she wanted, but she never skipped bathing. Magic happened the first time Jonathon lit a match, and his screams of, "Flame on!" are legendary. When Fire Ignites: The Human Torch, an unauthorized biography.

8. It's usually a one-way trip to the remote mining planet of Shiro. The indentured workers have been tricked into accepting such lousy wages they will never earn their passage home. Until one stands up to the corporation and ignites the fire of revolt in the hearts of the downtrodden. And ignites fires in the oxygen generators . . . oops, didn't think that one through.

Original Version

Dear Agent X,

For Cassidy MacNamara, Thanksgiving’s no piece of piss—after all, throwing a bunch of fire elementals in one room incites brawls and torched curtains. [It sounds more like Thanksgiving is a piece of piss. Not that I'm familiar with the term, but I assume it means the same thing as piece of crap or piece of shit.] [Oops, a bit of research reveals it's British and means the same as piece of cake. Hey, at least cake, unlike piss, comes in pieces, you crazy Brits.] [Wait, do Brits even celebrate Thanksgiving? Additional research shows they don't, but these could be Americans in Britain or Brits in America, so I'll let it go.]  However, this year air elementals crash their dinner, killing some of her own and kidnapping others. including her little sister. [The word "however" suggests that this year Thanksgiving is a piece of piss, when in fact it's still no piece of piss. What you want is something like: Thanksgiving's never been a piece of piss, but at least it's never been a piece of shit. Or: Cassidy didn't expect Thanksgiving to be a piece of piss—after all, putting a bunch of fire elementals into one room incites brawls and torched curtains. But when air elementals crash their dinner, killing some of her own and kidnapping others, including her little sister, she declares it her second-worst Thanksgiving ever.] [Note that I changed "throwing" to "putting." "Throwing" was giving the wrong impression.] [By the way, "piece of piss" is a great tongue twister. Say it five times fast.]

With her aunts and uncles arguing among themselves and her drunk Ma cradling a bottle in the corner, [This is in the same room with the corpses of their relatives lying on the floor?] Cassidy, like always, has to take responsibility. Those bastard air elementals took her little sister, but she’s going to get her back.

Problem numero uno though: fire elementals are restricted to the South. If she crosses the border, the elemental Council will send their extraction team after her. [Problem numero uno should be arranging for the Council's disposal team to get rid of the bodies in the dining room. Otherwise Sis will be coming home to a highly unpleasant scene.] [Are air elementals restricted to the North? If so, why didn't the extraction team deal with them? If not, how does Cassidy know her sister's been taken to the North?] If caught, not only will her little sister be gone for good, but Cassidy will be stripped of her powers. A fire elemental without fire is nothing. Even though all she’s armed with is a couple of her crazy, but loyal cousins, her ‘69 Camaro and a hostage who won’t shut up, [You forgot to include the ability to manipulate fire. When you have flamethrowers and your enemy has leaf blowers, I like your chances.] Cassidy will make sure her family comes home, no matter what the cost.

"When Fire Ignites" is a 90,000 word urban fantasy.



You'd think a society that has extraction teams to keep elementals in their own areas would also have authorities to deal with renegade air elementals who commit crimes.

Presumably the mix of mythological creatures, Thanksgiving, "piece of piss," "numero uno," is part of the book's charm, and not anachronism gone wild.

I like the voice and humor if the book is also funny, but it's unusual for a query in which the main plot development is that characters are murdered and kidnapped to stress the comical aspects. Is the plot more adventure/thriller or comedy?

The query is mostly setup. When her little sister is kidnapped by air elementals, Cassidy and two of her cousins head into the forbidden North on a rescue mission. Expand that into a three or four-sentence paragraph that includes the important stuff I left out, and you still have room to tell us what the plan is, what obstacles pop up, what the air elementals want with Little Sis.

Friday, March 07, 2014

Face-Lift 1191

Guess the Plot

Princess of the Four Corners

[Sorry, author of When Fire Ignites, but we have to go out of order because only one fake plot has come in for your title.]

1. Cinderella is married and happy with her prince. Or is she? Seems like she never gets to leave the castle, not even to visit the Korean fusion food truck down the street. Maybe she'll accept the handsome gardener's invitation for a night stroll since the prince is never around anyway.

2. When 10 year old Sylvania wins Young Miss Colorado her star-struck mother signs on to the pageant circuit. Winning Princess of the Four Corners is the first big step Sylvania must achieve, but is she cut out for the cutthroat world of big-time child pageants?

3. Sally Lapone longs to be named Queen of Quilt Fest, but her points are never perfect. A mysterious little man with a very long nose tells her he can help her...for a price. Should she trade her beloved Marie Osmond dolls for a chance at being the Queen?.

4. Growing up on the sprawling Navajo reservation, Naomi Begay sees beauty all around her. But when a friend convinces her to enter the "Princess of the Four Corners" beauty pageant, a contest traditionally won by Anglo teens from Albuquerque or Flagstaff, Naomi is exposed to the ugliness of competition -- as well as the beauty within every person.

5. Princess Winny has flitted about in satin dresses for seventy years. She owns everything to the horizon. Too bad she lives in BFE and "everything" is a flashing yellow light, a gas station and a hovel. But the frackers are in town and they want mineral rights. It appears she will be screaming, "Off with their heads!" more than usual from now on.

6. The soul of the princess was removed sixteen years ago and distributed to four babies. Now those four girls have been brought to the castle so the princess's soul can be restored to her by the wizard. But the wizard can't find the spell and he didn't memorize it, and . . . Shit! Now an evil sorceress wants the soul!

Original Version

Dear Agent,

When a group of warriors tears sixteen-year old Gwinn away from her remote village to take her to the king, she has no idea why. She’s shocked to learn she’s a Bearer – one of four girls selected when she was a baby to hide a piece of the princess’s soul from Metheda, a vengeful sorceress. Metheda has been killed, and the warriors are bringing the Bearers to the castle so the wizard can perform the spell to restore the princess.

But the spell nearly kills the Bearers. The wizard discovers someone replaced it with a fake, [They take these incredibly elaborate measures to protect the princess and then the leave the spell lying around?] [It sounds like the spell is an object. Normally a spell is a series of words. Maybe accompanied by a recipe or a ritual. Would it have killed the wizard to just memorize the spell?] so he confines the girls to the castle grounds until he can either find or recreate the true spell. Not content to wait, Gwinn begins her own search [It shouldn't take the wizard more than a few minutes to determine if he can recreate the spell. She can't wait that long?] even as she struggles to figure out where the princess ends and she begins. [Has she considered that without the princess's soulness she might have become a serial killer?]

When signs of dark magic surface, Gwinn suspects Metheda is still alive. One of the Bearers is attacked in the gardens, and after testing the magic used in the attack the wizard confirms Gwinn’s fears – the sorceress has returned. [Brilliant. A sixteen-year-old figured it out before the wizard did. This guy is the most incompetent wizard since Rincewind.] The Bearers search for clues and find evidence Metheda is amassing an army to the east of the castle. The kingdom sends all of their forces to fight, hoping to make a final stand against Metheda.

Unfortunately, she’s been hiding in the castle the entire time. [The entire sixteen years? Has she been disguised as a cook or hiding in a trunk in the attic? How do you amass an army while hiding in the castle?] Gwinn must find a way to defeat Metheda without the aid of the kingdom’s warriors, and locate the stolen spell, if she ever hopes to return home. [I get why locating the spell will help her. Why does she have to defeat Metheda?] [Why would whoever stole the real spell hide it in the castle? Why wouldn't they destroy it so it could never be used?]

PRINCESS OF THE FOUR CORNERS is an 85,000-word YA Fantasy. Thank you for your time and consideration.


What difference does it make to Metheda whether the princess's soul resides in the princess or in four sixteen-year-olds? Is Metheda's army less likely to triumph if the princess has her soul? Does Metheda want the four soul-parts for herself? If so, why? If not, why not just kill the four girls?

I seem to be more interested in Metheda's plans than in whether Gwinn gets what she wants. Possibly that's a sign that the well-written query is not focusing enough on Gwinn's problem, which is that carrying around a fourth of the princess's soul is a burden she doesn't want (even though a week ago she didn't even know she had a problem). Or perhaps it's that there are three other girls with the exact same problem, so I'm less inclined to see Gwinn as the focus. Are the other three also interested in defeating Metheda? 

Presumably the soul was distributed to others to keep Metheda from getting it. We need to know what will happen if she now gets it. The fact that Gwinn's goal of figuring out where the princess ends and she begins is solved whether her soul-part goes to the princess or to Metheda would be interesting if Gwinn had to choose whether to keep the soul-part or give it to Metheda, but as no one seems to know where the spell is, I guess that decision never comes up.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Face-Lift 1190

Guess the Plot

Obeah Women

1. You will if you ever want to have sex again.

2. Post-apocalyptic tale of Earth's repopulation. Cave dwelling survivors adapt to matriarchal rule and polyamory, while the Obeah women practice monogamy, with each other. At least, until the youngest of their ranks becomes pregnant.

3. Mayra hires an Obeah woman to put a curse on Mayra's ex-boyfriend. But the curse requires a sample of the ex-boyfriend's dried semen. No way is Mayra going to seek it the old-fashioned way. When her alternative plan backfires, hilarity ensues.

4. Chelsea, a small town high school girl bored to death in Ohio, dreams everyday of being a supermodel. When a group of tall, beautiful women invite her to L.A., Chelsea hops in their Vivid Entertainment tour bus. She's finally going to make it.

5. Every generation, a woman of the Obeah clan is born as the embodiment of the Goddess Mazoura, and all those in the clan must honour her and pay tribute. Hilarity ensues when three women simultaneously claim to be the embodiment of Godess Maz.

Original Version

When Mayra Finch hires a New Orlean's [Orleans] based OBeah [Obeah] woman to exact revenge on her cheating exboyfriend, [ex-boyfriend] she doesn't expect the hoops she'll have to jump through to make it happen. [It takes a lot of gall to expect your ex-boyfriends to remain faithful.] Given the impossible task of finding stray hairs,replicating footprints, and recovering dried semen she feels more like she's on a treasure hunt [scavenger hunt] than a revenge mission. [Always gather your boyfriend's hairs and dried semen before he dumps you. It makes those black-arts revenge missions so much easier.]

But when her exes [ex's] girlfriend turns up dead-in New Orleans of all places- [Why "of all places"? Where does the girlfriend live? Wyoming?] dried semen becomes the least of her worries. [Considering how brief this plot summary is, it's amazing that you managed to work dried semen into it twice.] Mayra is now number one on the police's suspect lists [If the police have more than one suspect list, either this guy deserved to die or the police need to switch to a smaller font size.] and the real killer will do whatever it takes to keep her there. [Including planting dried semen in her laundry hamper.]

Obeah women [Capitalize "Women."] [Should the title be Obeah Woman? I didn't get the impression there's more than one Obeah woman in the story.] is my 60,000 word Mystery/thriller. May I send you the completed manuscript?


If I were the cops, the victim's boyfriend or her ex-boyfriend would be closer to the top of the suspect list than the victim's boyfriend's ex-girlfriend.

Some details that might be worth working into the query:

What form of revenge was Mayra seeking? Death?
Why do the police suspect her?
How did the victim die?

The real killer must be pretty high on the suspect list to feel the need to . . . what? Plant the murder weapon in Mayra's car?

Keeping someone on top of the suspect list would require knowing who is on top. So clearly the real killer is the cop tasked with ranking the suspects. Even after Mayra turns out to have an air-tight alibi, this guy refuses to put anyone above her on the suspect list, while he inexplicably drops down about fifteen places on the list. But then he's found out when his DNA is found in traces of dried semen on the list.

A few minor punctuation errors might slip by, but there are those who will assume every page of your manuscript has as many errors as your one-page letter, and decide it's not worth the trouble.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Face-Lift 1189

Guess the Plot

On Fire Built

1. Icarun controls fire with his mind, and his girlfriend is a water spirit, but water spirits aren't supposed to be into fire people. Will they overcome their awkward social hang-ups and defeat the evil earth king who has suppressed their people with bad air for five hundred years?

2. The villagers honestly thought the volcano was inactive. How were they to know their new meeting hall was . . . On Fire Built?

3. Want to go somewhere unique for the holidays, spring break, or even your honeymoon? Of course you do. Hotelier Johnathan Krepps, Esq, has just opened his latest and greatest property: The Hellhole, located atop the area's finest Hellmouth.

4. When you build your home on an island that's also a volcano, you expect an occasional disaster that wipes your people out. What you don't expect is a bunch of travelers showing up with their diseases and their fancy ideas about how you should live your life. Maybe you should toss them in the lava.

5. Saphira toiled for years to become Head Fire Keeper, but her dreams are dashed when a teenaged neophyte is anointed Chosen One. Will Saphira cow to the bumbler's direction, or torch him in his sleep? Also, random torching.

6. When Alice walks into school one day, she realizes that her terrifying debate teacher has turned into a dragon and taken over the school. The students are forced to build the dragon's lair or be roasted. Alice must decide whether it's more important to liberate her classmates through Chosen One powers or learn debate.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Iolani, princess of Kaiahi, [If IOLANI OF KAIAHI  were the puzzle on Wheel of Fortune it would take them fifteen minutes to get it to  _ _ L _ N _    _ _   _ _ _ _ _ _.] has spent all her life between the Sea and the Fire. Only legends tell how her people came to inhabit their small cluster of islands, and no-one knows what lies beyond the endless waters which surround them. From the moment white sails appear on the horizon, Iolani dreads the great changes that must be coming.

The foreign travellers bring with them new knowledge and a new way of life but also a corrosive scepticism [Blogger is telling me you've spelled "skepticism" and "travelers" wrong, but I'm arguing that you're from the UK, not the US. Yet it refuses to listen.] which causes division and threatens to undermine the basis of the islanders' society. [This is all vague. What knowledge do they bring? What new way of life? They bring corrosive skepticism? Not clear if the travelers are skeptics or arouse skepticism in the islanders. In any case, who is skeptical about what? What is the basis of the islanders' society? Here's a more specific version of the sentence: The travelers bring new knowledge of computers and a life spent sitting in front of screens watching videos of kittens and people having sex, but they also lead the islanders to wonder whether the volcano god exists and whether they should continue tossing virgins into his mouth to appease him.] [Feel free to use that if I've correctly guessed the details of your story.] Even Iolani begins to doubt all that she once knew through her developing friendship with Will [Bligh], the son of the expedition leader.

When the virulent spread of disease brings relations to breaking point, the spectre of war looms. [Because when something is wiping your people out, you want nothing more than to take some other people with you.] Desperate to preserve her people and her heritage, Iolani must rally her faith and venture into the unknown to recover the deep power of her lineage - which she no longer believes exists. [Another sentence so vague I don't know what it means.]

ON FIRE BUILT is a 104,000 word fantasy novel which explores how we maintain our identity when everything around us changes.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(The title refers to the fact that the island is volcanic.)


Here are the things your main character does: dreads coming changes; doubts all she once knew; develops a friendship with a guy named Will; rallies her faith; ventures into the unknown; recovers the power of her lineage. The friendship is the only one that isn't totally vague. Is that a big enough part of the story that you could focus the query on it?

If not, how about this. Focus on Iolani, but tell us who the travelers are, what they want, what factions the islanders align themselves in, what the danger is, and what Iolani plans to do about it.

Is the war looming between the travelers and the islanders or between the two camps that have formed among the islanders?

I don't think the disease is needed in the query. With everyone taking sides on the modern vs traditional issue, there's bound to be conflict. Besides, the travelers are already playing the role of the disease, infecting the island civilization.

If there are signs that the volcano is going to erupt, that might be worth mentioning. You could also, in paragraph 1, call this archipelago a small cluster of volcanic islands.