Saturday, March 29, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Gift of the Phoenix

1. Another tie -- and it's not even his color. Mike Cranston's ingratitude, and rash decision to regift, unleashes the fiery wrath of a mythological creature with frightening powers.

2. Three men--a warrior, a wizard and a peasant--are thrown together on a mission that could save the world. They must work together to protect the magical Phoenix from the cunning one out to steal its immortality: the evil and fearsome mastermind known as . . . the Cunning One.

3. Jeff's mom celebrates his 10th birthday by throwing a costume party with her rowdy friends and relatives. It is a riot: broken furniture, live garage band, drunken parade, and spontaneous combustion of an old Volvo. Next morning as Jeff eats Cheerios on the back porch, a magnificent bird emerges from the blackened car. Adventure ensues.

4. Samantha always wanted to own an exotic bird. When a mysterious admirer sends a live phoenix to Sam’s office, she’s torn between delight and concern. She sends a text message immediately to the number on the card. But when the bird spontaneously bursts into flame and a holographic image of the pizza delivery kid appears, she immediately clicks the unsend button on her cell phone. After that she spends a year in therapy . . . and that’s what this book is really about.

5. As the strange giant egg Mink Xappa found under the mango tree incubates in a basket of feathers, Wizard Suavo Parker fears his broom might not make it across the entire ocean. He's using the ancient map, but will he actually reach the fabled island where phoenixes breed? Or will he soon be fish food? Plus, pirates!

6. Temporarily broke and without transportation, Fred accepts the gift of a 1976 Ford Phoenix. Over the following weeks a pattern emerges: the car runs beautifully in the morning but it breaks down every night, successively stranding Fred at the homes of customers, relatives, and his high school sweetheart. Hilarity ensues, until Fred wonders why he ever accepted the . . . Gift of the Phoenix.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Agent:

In a place where magic is rare and often lies hidden in the deep recesses of the earth, a great power will threaten the world - and few will know of it.

Three strangers are thrust together by a common enemy - the Cunning One - who seeks to steal the immortality and magic of the Phoenix. [Heroes would laugh at a villain called the Cunning One:

Cunning One: Step aside or die, subcreatures.
Heroes: Who the hell are you?
Cunning One: I am known as . . . the Cunning One!
Heroes (rolling on floor): Ha! Ha ha! Hahahahahha!

So would readers. Call her the Archimage.]
But uniting will not be easy for these men. Nicolai, a peasant with a powerful secret, seeks only to protect the woman he loves from danger. [Is she in danger from the Cunning One? If so, why? If not, why is Nicky even involved?] Marcellus, warrior prince, rebels against magic and insists only military strength will defeat their enemy. [Wrong. Cunning almost always trumps military might. Rankings of conflict tactics, from least effective to most:

10. Donning colorful uniforms, assembling in a phalanx, and marching directly toward the enemy.

9. Handing over the Sudetenland in return for a promise of peace.

8. Getting involved in a land war in Asia.

7. Recruiting ruthless criminals to fight for you.

6. Cheating.

5. Overwhelming military strength.

4. Cunning.

3. Blowing up enemy's planet with Death Star.

2. Recruiting army of unkillable ghosts and offering them closure.

1. Attacking the enemy's solitary, trivial, inaccessible weak spot.]

Corren, the true heir, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

Their quest leads them deep into hidden worlds of magic [Are you sure this is "a place where magic is rare"? We've already encountered the magic of the Phoenix, a powerful wizard, and now hidden worlds of magic.] as they seek to find out what they must do to protect the Phoenix. Once they learn the Cunning One is Corren's powerful sage Aradia, [Presumably Aradia doesn't want it known that she's the villain, so she uses the alias, the Cunning One. Yet the heroes learn she's Aradia almost immediately. Maybe she should have worn a disguise, too.] they fear they are destined to fight a battle they cannot win. But fight they will. They learn the key lies in protecting the Gateway leading to the Phoenix and draw on every magical and military resource to defend it. Meanwhile, Corren understands the thirst for power that drives Aradia, [(the Cunning One)] and fears the same corruptive desires lurk in his own heart.

Struggling to overcome Aradia's betrayal and the strife that still exists between them, they suffer an astouding failure. Aradia shatters through the Gateway [That was easy. What, exactly, did "every magical and military resource" consist of?] and the Three hastily pursue her into the hidden Realm of the Phoenix. There they must unite, or be destroyed. [They weren't united when they were defending the Gateway? What were they doing, arguing about whether to kill the Cunning One with a sword, a pitchfork or a magic wand? ]

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy, which takes us deep into the heart of a wondrous world and the three men destined to defend it. I wrote this novel as a stand-alone, but left plenty of room for a sequel which is already loosely planned. [I don't think "already" goes well with "loosely planned." It's not like it normally takes years to loosely plan something. In fact, in the time it took me to type that last sentence I loosely planned a novel about undersea creatures taking over Jamaica. Yes, already.] I have a Bachelor's Degree in Writing from X College, where I also served as Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning literary magazine, X.

I would love to send you part or all of the completed manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.



It would be easier to protect the Phoenix if the warrior prince called on his army of soldiers and the wizard called on his army of lions and wolves. Instead, they have a peasant. What can one peasant do when faced with . . . the Cunning One?

Isn't the Phoenix's magic powerful enough to protect itself? If not, why does the Cunning One want it? Doesn't the Cunning One have powerful magic of her own? She must, or the wizard wouldn't have thought his team was destined to fight a battle they couldn't win.

Selected Comments

pjd said...I can not comment on the query at this moment because I am sitting in amused awe at the blue text. Well done, EE.

One thing you missed though:

"Corren, the true heir, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all."

True heir of what? And if he's the true heir then what is Marcellus prince of?

OK, one comment on the query: This seems to suffer a malady similar to my recent face lift fodder. You talk about this happening and then that happening and then the other happening, but take a long look at EE's GTP and start over from that. Too bogged down in names and details such that the actual story gets a bit lost. I get the sense there's a reasonably simple plot with some reasonably complex characters and a lot of conflict both external and internal, but I got lost in all the details.

I think it might have been Dave F that told me to step back and look at the forest for a bit and ignore all those trees getting in the way. Seems like you might benefit from a similar exercise.

Again I say well done, EE. Especially the top 10 list. Though I'm not sure "archimage" is the right word for The Cunning One... makes me think of photos of landmarks in Paris. Can't wait to read your Jamaica book.

Anonymous said...This is so generic. Have you actually written the book?

December/Stacia said...The Archimage made me wonder if the Bettimage and the Veronicamage would be along at some point too.

Xenith said...Someone somewhere, possibly one of the agents blogs, said a query should show how your novel is different to all the other novels that deal with similar topics.

I'm not getting that here.

A group of characters trying to save the world from a great power that few know about is a common storyline in epic fantasy. I've read enough of them, and I'm sure far more never get published.

So why is this one different?

DragonChick said...Thanks for the critique EE and pjd. I'm definitely having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I have one version - one of about a hundred, it feels like - which lays out the basic premise, but I was told I needed more details. It's hard to know what to do. Anyway, I really appreciate the advice! I'll keep plugging away. (And yes, the book is written.)

Phoenix said...Brilliant title. I wouldn't change a word of it. :o)

Xenith said it exactly. What's different about this story? I did a rewrite to see if I could think of a way to make the story sound different and more exciting. I'm afraid, based on what you've given us here, I didn't succeed. The climax, especially, falls really flat. If you have some unique hook (other than that fabulous Phoenix!), put it out there, front and center.

Hidden in the deep recesses of the world, the magic of the Phoenix -- long a foundation of the empire -- bides. Tempted by the legend's power, the sage Aradia devises a cunning scheme to steal its magic and claim its immortality.

Her pawns: A peasant who knows the Phoenix's one weakness, and may trade that knowledge to protect the woman he loves. A warrior prince who scoffs at magic and gambles his reputation on military might. And a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

Under Aradia's influence, the men set out in uneasy truce to stop the one they know only as "the Cunning One" from finding and violating the magic that holds their empire together. But [obstacle one] and [obstacle two], as well as their own animosity toward one another, threaten their success.

Then, at the Gateway, where the mundane world and the magical realm collide, Aradia's true nature outs and the men discover they've been betrayed. Their only chance to save the empire now is to protect the way leading to the Phoenix. But when the men clash over whether to use magic or military strength to stop her, Aradia takes advantage of that moment of indecision. Shattering the Gateway, she charges into the Realm of the Phoenix with the men in hasty pursuit. In their race to save the empire, the men must find a way to unite -- or be destroyed.

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy. Complete at 120,000 words, it's a stand-alone with series potential. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Writing from X College, where I also served as Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning literary magazine, X.

I would love to send you part or all of the manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Try posting one the other 99 versions and see what the minions think of it. Maybe between the two, we can all come up with something that really grabs!

OMG. EE. I do love your top 10 lists. And you even snuck in an allusion to LOTR *heart flutters*. This title, your list. My night is complete.

DragonChick said...Glad you like the title Phoenix, ;) and thanks for the generous offer. It was hard to pick another version cuz I still can't see the forest for the trees, but I settled on this one. It's pretty rough but it should give you a little more information about the story. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Three strangers are thrust together by three mysterious stones, the knowledge that they’re actually brothers, and a common enemy who seeks to steal the immortality and magic of the Phoenix. But uniting will not be easy for these men. Nicolai had lived as a peasant, but his hidden friendship with earth faeries imbues him with a knowledge of the earth’s secrets. Marcellus, the warrior prince who is no longer heir to the throne, rebels against magic and insists only military strength will defeat their enemy. Corren, the eldest brother, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

As the Phoenix’s regeneration and only time of vulnerability nears, their quest to find out what they must do to protect it, what role their elusive stones play, and who their enemy truly is leads them deep into worlds of hidden magic. Once they learn their enemy is Corren’s powerful sage, Aradia, they fear they are destined to fight a battle they cannot win. But fight they will. They decide they must prevent Aradia from breaking through the magical Gateway leading to the Realm of the Phoenix, and draw on every military and magical resource available to defend it.

Meanwhile, Corren understands the thirst for power which drives Aradia, and fears the same corruptive desires lurk in his own heart. Struggling to release his ambitions (which include the crown meant for Marcellus), Corren realizes his stone may grant them victory but claim his life in the process.

Struggling to overcome Aradia’s betrayal, her horrific evil, and the strife which still exists between them, they suffer an astounding failure. Aradia shatters through the Gateway and the Three ultimately confront her in the Realm of the Phoenix where they must unite, or perish.

DragonChick said...LOL! Evileditress is DEFINITELY her new name! Actually, she doesn't call herself the Cunning One - it's just how she is referred to in a warning delivered by the Phoenix. I can see how that was confusing though, so I'm just taking "the Cunning One" out of the query. The Phoenix is only vulnerable as it is dying, before it regenerates, so that is why it needs defenders. I don't know if that comes across in the other version I posted - of if that's even enough information.

Am I even speaking in complete sentences? My brain is so fried, LOL.

Phoenix said...Hey Dragonchick, maybe think cause and effect as you do revision 101. When A happens, B results. Here are some things I think are missing from both versions:

We know the Phoenix's vulnerability and that it possesses magic and immortality. But why must it be protected? What happens if it isn't protected? What are the stakes for the land or the world, which is what epic fantasy is all about? Why are the men willing to risk themselves to protect it?

Aradia feels like a very stock villain. She wants to claim the Phoenix's powers to what end? Does she want to be a ruler? Are Mar and Cor's inheritances threatened by her? What makes her a villain I want to read about? Telling me she's a horrific evil isn't good enough. What horrific evil will she do once she has Phoenix Power?

What happens in the middle of the story? Notice the [Obstacle 1] and [Obstacle 2] in my rewrite? What happens on the way to find the Phoenix? We go from the Phoenix somehow being in danger for vague reasons to the men materializing at the Gateway

If Corren is such a powerful wizard, why do they think they can't win the battle against a powerful sage? Are sages more powerful than wizards?

Good call in ditching the stones in query 1. In the second query, they're just annoying.

If you aren't going to explain something in the query, don't bring it up. For ex, Nic's lady love in the first version (who is she and why is her life endangered?) or that he's had a hidden friendship with earth faeries (why hidden?).

In both versions, Gateway and Realm of the Phoenix (some trees you're seeing) don't carry much meaning for the reader. You want to give a peek into the world you've created, but you need to be a bit more concrete in your descriptions. Both queries use the term "hidden magic" but I'm clueless what that means. What happens in the hidden magic worlds and in the Realm of the Phoenix? Does the magic in these realms start doing funny things to people with magic?

It seems like a LOT to cram into a query letter when the questions are laid out like this, but with careful word choice, careful editing, and a bit of sentence rearranging, you can get a lot of these concepts in without increasing your word count.

The biggest takeaway here is that if this is epic fantasy, the overall stakes must be bigger than the lives of the brothers, though they must play out the drama in microcosm. Tell us what those stakes are in the query.

Good luck!

Pater a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy...

My question is, is it necessary to state this in a query with multiple main characters? I would think that if the PoV delivery style was really unique then it would be something to mention (or convey in the actual story description), but otherwise just wastes words.

I ask because my current work essentially alternates between two characters chapter by chapter and this query has me wondering if this is something that I need to convey to the agent ahead of time. Thanks.

Evil Editor said...Unless the story is told in first person, there's nothing noteworthy about having more than one POV character, and no mention is necessary.

Whirlochre said...Forgive me, but unless the final outcome of this epic fantasy turns on the subtlest of million-to-one anomalies in the Dwarven Cheese Cycle or the lapsed amnesia of an unfamiliar familiar (and these are crub, crub examples, I know) then I remain interested, yet unbeguiled.

Perhaps it's in the nature of synopses about world-girdling tales of myriad armies and empires, with all their their nefarious subterfuge - particularly if magic is involved - that the ironing restrictions of a brief summary must necessarily flatten out more of the interesting wrinkles than
would be the case with the (say) eagerly flashed harlot's knickers of a Whodunnit.

So - I concur with others - Xenith in particular - that this all sounds a little too familiar, and I
would hope that, in being a synopsis, it hath but an unfortunate exchange a-madeth twixt the tickling of the general fancy and the lopping off of very specific bollocks.

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.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Author/publisher-related terms that aren't in the dictionary, but should be.

Adulagency--the act of informing an agent that you chose her because you love her clients' books, even though you never heard of the agent or her clients--Evil Editor

Bioverload--the irresistible compulsion to tell one's life story in a business letter to a complete stranger--Evil Editor

Blogtrophy: A decline in an author's writing skills proportional to the amount of time spent reading blogs--blogless_troll

Ejacugiggle: Orally, or nasally, spewing a beverage on to computer hardware in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.--blogless_troll

Fraudspew: Falsely claiming to have ejacugiggled in order to gain the acceptance of one's peers--blogless_troll

Hara-Query: The act of writing a query so bad that it kills your chances of getting a request for a partial.--Bunnygirl

Laxnix: a rejection stamped or written on your original query--Anonymous

Micropubglow: The pride felt upon discovering that one of your continuations made it into Novel Deviations--Evil Editor

Optimisappointment: The disconnect between the initial enthusiasm a writer feels upon submitting a work for critique and the soul shredding contempt the work receives once people read it--blogless_troll

Plotvomit: A query writing technique in which an author spews a multitude of random, irrelevant, and often pointless plot lines into a query, in the hopes an agent or editor will welcome the author’s artistic brilliance in lieu of a story--blogless_troll

Pomposify: To make a work of fiction more literary by adding “: A Novel” to its title--blogless_troll

Pseudohook: An engaging, attention-grabbing first sentence having no apparent connection to the remainder of the query or story--blogless_troll

Spagtacular: Describing a manuscript which, whatever else is wrong with it, the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are just fine. Can also be used ironically to mean the complete opposite--150

Uniqueryism: The belief that the person to whom you're sending your query has not seen ten identical queries in the past 24 hours--Evil Editor

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--?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Mysteries and Cemeteries

1. For hundreds of years, people have been reading mysteries, and for hundreds of years, those people have been eventually dying. Coincidence . . . Or curse? This book unravels the mystery of this strange correlation once and for all.

2. Tamara likes to wander through the local cemetery while her husband cavorts with their whore neighbor. But lately Tamara's realized that something beneath the soil is not resting in peace. Could it be . . . ZOMBIES?!

3. Tanya is beyond bored with the life she's chosen as a taxidermist, something her bohemian, Voodoo-practicing mother warned her about. But hilarity ensues when she tries to learn the old ways of her ancestry and finds she has little talent for controlling the dead.

4. When a gravedigger notices the names of the "fictitious" murder victims from the Inspector Jones mysteries he's been reading, on the new headstones in his cemetery, he asks one too many questions. Now he's on the run, and hoping he won't be the victim in the next Inspector Jones book.

5. Detective Bungle has made a remarkable discovery: Everyone in the Eternal Rest cemetery is dead! Now it's up to him to learn the truth: Is there a murderer on the loose? Or is this all part of some bizarre ritual?

6. When all the flowers and other grave decor goes missing, everyone interred in Shadyside is miffed. Dr. Skull is elected as chief inspector by his peers and lurches off in search of culprits. Meanwhile, Tansy Ragwort arranges the slightly wilted roses Bob Murphy gave her and wonders if he'll pop the question tonight.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

When ace homicide detective Bob Bungle discovers that everyone in the Eternal Rest cemetery is dead, he knows two things: there must be a crazed serial killer on the loose, and he won't need to stop at the florist shop to bring his wife flowers tonight. Bungle has one clue: the killer is an anal organization freak, having taken the trouble of labeling each corpse, putting their names and dates of death on stone tablets like butterflies in a display box.

In an obvious effort to taunt Bungle, the killer also buried each of his victims under several feet of earth. Bungle hires a night work crew to dig up the bodies and bust open the boxes in which the killer concealed them. Unfortunately, most of the victims have been dead several decades, leaving behind little or no forensic evidence, like when a body is burned and the ashes are thrown into sulfuric acid, but not that bad.

Bob Bungle specializes in digging into cold cases, and this one's spent ages buried in the homicide vaults like pirate booty. But when Bungle discovers that Eternal Rest isn't the only killing field, that they're spread all over town like Starbucks but without WiFi, he realizes he may finally be in over his head.

Mysteries and Cemeteries is the fifth in a series of unpublished Bob Bungle mysteries. Thank you.

[Oops! That wasn't the real query. That was a fake query I wrote as part of a 2010 writing exercise in which the task was to choose a random Face-Lift and write a query based on one of the fake plots. Here's the real query, from 2007:]

Dear Agent/Editor

Tamara Godfrey likes to wander the local cemetery. [As does Evil Editor, though I'm guessing Tamara doesn't do it in the nude.] It’s a great place to think when trying to get away from the problems of her life – like the job that is giving her high anxiety and the obvious and growing attraction between her husband and the whore next door. ["Whore" is such a strong word. Can't we just call her "the bitch next door who gives her bastard husband blowjobs"?]

But soon, Tamara realizes something in the graveyard is very wrong. Some things beneath the soil are not resting in peace. [It's zombies. It's been a while, but once again we have zombies.] Every night she wanders the graveyard, [Every night? Whether you suspect there are zombies about or not, it's best to limit your graveyard wandering. Either your brains will be eaten or people will talk.] reading the tombstones, hoping for a clue as to who it is that haunts her nights. [What kind of clue is she expecting to find on a tombstone? An epitaph reading, 

Someone else knows exactly what she might find, and they are determined to stop her before she manages to solve the mystery she didn’t know existed. [We don't even know it exists. What's the mystery?] And her husband and the whore may be conspiring in more than just the bedroom. [Why am I getting the impression you wrote this book as therapy after your husband ran off with your neighbor?]

Mysteries and Cemeteries is a 92,000 word mystery set in a lonely town on the windy shores of Lake Superior.

Thank you for your time,


Better title: The Whore Next Door. Or tell the story in 1st person, and call it My Disgusting Husband and his Fucking Whore. Be sure to send them a copy.

Is the neighbor an actual prostitute? Or is she just having an affair with Mr. Godfrey? Either way, I'd call her something other than "the whore" in the query letter.

If this is a murder mystery, I'd be interested in knowing who the victim is, who's accused, and who else had motives. It sounds more like a horror novel the way it's described. Possibly some additional detail in that last plot paragraph would do the trick.

Selected Comments

Bernita said...The heroine comes across in the query as excessively passive in the Gothic style.

Anonymous said...This sounds like enough plot for a good short story but I'm afraid unless there's more to it than you describe here, the novel version might have a lot of redundant night wandering and husband loathing scenes, giving you a very slow pace. Plus it seems to be taking itself awful seriously for something so thin on significance.

Two Write Hands said...Maybe "the whore" isn't used for name-calling, guys. Maybe she's using it as she would "the butcher next door"--you know it's about occupation, not character.

Evil Editor said...Even if the woman is employed in a legal Nevada brothel, I'm sure she doesn't refer to herself as a whore. If your character was a goat farmer you wouldn't refer to him in your query letter as someone who murders kids.

150 said...More information please! Plot details! Events! Cause/effects and motivations! Also, could you please make a distinction on the "whore" use? I'd like to see either "prostitute next door"--which lends for madcap brothel capers and a heart of gold--or "slut next door"--which lends for dirty comedy and an excuse for Tamara to pursue the hot gravedigger. I'm guessing you chose it because it rhymes with "next door", but that's not so clever that it's worth sacrificing clarity.

AmyB said...Author, I agree with the others. We need more details. Also, the beginning sounds slow, and seems to lack an inciting incident. I'm not going to have much patience for a novel that opens with the protagonist wandering aimlessly around a cemetery, night after night. Hopefully something actually happens while she's out there.

Anonymous said...The cheating husband plotline and the suspicious cemetery plotline don't seem to be connected at all. Probably they are in the book. You need to put that info in the query letter, and also how her job mixes in with all of these things. Tamara just seems to suffer and wander. She needs to be stronger to be appealing as a main character.

whoever said...EE, thanks for "the treatment". A little mocking is good for a writer's ego, LOL.

To clarify, "whore" is used because that is what Tamara constantly calls this woman, until the chip comes off Tamara's shoulder anyway, and I guess I was trying to stay in her voice a little bit. The neighbour is not an actual whore though. So I'll tone it down a bit.

I can see where I have to add more details. When I see it in the cold light of the blog, I realize I haven't really given enough of the story.

Thank everyone for your time in reading and commenting.

blogless_troll said...You gotta change the title. I counted only one cemetery and one mystery, so that would make it Mystery and Cemetery, which, frankly, sounds retarded. You wrote 92,000 words. You can drum up three or four more good ones. Make a list of titles. And not just five or six. I'm talking 50, 100. Don't think about it. Just write shit down until something sounds good. Then write 50 more. That's a few hundred words, which is probably less than your daily word count during the months you spent writing the damn thing. That is all.

Beth said...In this query, we have a husband who's screwing around with the broad next door, and a wife who wanders graveyard at night looking for she-doesn't-know-what.

Need more story.

pjd said...Maybe it's just me, but if you are worried about your husband's growing attraction to the woman next door, I wouldn't think wandering the graveyard every night is the way to shore up your relationship. Maybe his eye wanders because he can never find his wife after sundown? That would put a crimp in my marriage, I would think.

Not much else to add to other people's comments.

writtenwyrdd said...If the woman next door is planning to kill your main character, you need to tell us. You also need to tell us what's up with the cemetery. DO we have zombies or not? Undead needs a mention in a query letter. You spring the undead on someone and you've misled them about the genre. I don't think that will win you points.

I felt like you were trying to hold back the good stuff, and that's not the way to get a request for a partial. The audience for this letter wants to get a general idea of the entire book, including the main plot, the main characters, and the general ending. I imagine you can fudge on these things somewhat, but you cannot leave them all entirely out and just discuss the set up.

Sounds like it's gothic, based on what you shared. And your main character came across as a wimpy little passive creature who probably deserves to get munched by zombies. I suspect that this is not the case at all, so perhaps you might look at concrete things that she does in the story for the revision of the letter.

Good luck with the revisions.

BuffySquirrel said...Whore, slut...anyone got a pejorative name for the (apparently) cheating husband?

jjdebenedictis said...Skanking slime-dog crap-weasel, of course.

phoenix said...Well, Buffy, EE inferred you might just be calling him "dead"! Can't get more perjorative than that. I agree, though, that if the author wanted to call the neighbor a whore to keep in the MC's voice, then we should get the language the MC uses when she thinks about her husband.

Carefully read this sentence again, author: "Every night she wanders the graveyard, reading the tombstones, hoping for a clue as to who it is that haunts her nights." You have a logic loop here. If she's wandering at night, then whoever it is isn't haunting her nights any longer, are they? Or are they haunting her in the cemetery where she's doing her wandering?

You sound like you have an idea where to go with this query now. Would love to see your revision when you're ready to post it!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Ituri Project

1. Tammy Ituri is nice, but she's the ugliest girl in school, which makes her perfect for Tina Winston's term project in fashion merchandising class. But as the makeover progresses, Tina realizes nothing is working. Should she admit defeat and accept a "C" in the class, or will blue hair dye, false eyelashes, and a sequined tube-top save the day?

2. Jim Knife wants to retire with a bang: introducing the miracle vaccine developed by his company. But as employees of the company begin mysteriously disappearing, it's up to a lowly college intern to discover the truth about . . . The Ituri Project.

3. Picking on the junior-most capable CPA, Jason Barlow's accounting firm sends him to Africa to sort out the financial mess at an uplift project he considers a worthless waste of money. That is, until he's been there a few weeks and gotten to know the Ituri. But now the backing company agrees with his earlier assessment and wants to pull the plug.

4. Psychic Rod Mayhem can read the future, a talent that puts him at the top of the heap of international arms dealers. But peace breaks out in war-torn Ituri. Is this his chance to reconcile with his ex-lover Glenda Goode, head of the Ituri food bank?

5. Scientists Jack and Imelda Ituri drill through the Antarctic ice cap -- straight into a pocket of Mesozoic soil. Ancient spores sprout in the lab, producing gigantic parasititic brain-sucking amoebas. They'll quickly destroy humanity if 14 year old Jamelda Ituri can't kill her parisitized Zombie-ized parents before they escape to Australia.

6. Ugandan land owner Hema Lendu and Democratic Republic of the Congo strongman Ernest Wamba vie for the Rainforest Cafe Franchise. But Ituri pygmies have other ideas as they successfully mount their own media blitz and land a spot on American Idol.

Original Version
Dear Agent:

What if the world’s most powerful company held the secret to its most powerful cure?

[Three possibilities:

1. The company guides the cure through the painstakingly slow patent and FDA approval processes. Hundreds of thousands die.

2. Insider trading by the company's employees alerts the world that something's up, and manufacturers of less-effective cures sabotage the project. Millions die.

3. The CEO realizes that the product will eliminate all disease, putting them out of business, and thus terminates all research and production. Billions die.]

That question lies at the heart of my novel, THE ITURI PROJECT, a thriller about an intern who stumbles upon a dark secret at America’s largest company. [Exxon-Mobil has the secret to the world's most powerful cure?]

Brian McAllister is struggling to prove himself in a cutthroat jungle. Only months away from earning a degree, he’s counting on his internship at API to land a job after graduation. That’s when he uncovers a simple mistake buried in the company’s paperwork. [A Pakistani researcher's report that said, The drug is toxic, lethal, and could wipe out humanity if released, was translated as The drug will cure all disease.] But as he digs deeper, the world outside Brian’s cubicle begins to crumble.

That’s because Jim Knife, API’s star CEO, has just announced his retirement – sending shockwaves through boardrooms everywhere. As power players [Will Spoon and Les Fork] begin to maneuver for Knife’s position, the chief executive quietly orchestrates his greatest achievement yet – [A spork that actually works.] a revolutionary new vaccine worth billions. Knife plans to launch the vaccine and topple API’s competitors, but another employee – Daniel Kamat – threatens to blow it all by going public first. [How does that blow it all? If the vaccine is better than anything else, does it matter when it goes public? Are you saying Kamat is coming out with his own better vaccine?]

Meanwhile, Brian’s search soon leads to a disturbing discovery – illegal payments authorized by a top API executive to dozens of employees. [There's nothing illegal about paying your employees. It's not paying them that causes problems.] When those employees begin to disappear, Brian goes head-to-head against the powerful API in an effort to save his life and discover the truth behind the Ituri Project. [What better way for this lowly intern to land a job after graduation than to bring down the company he's interning at?] [You might want to mention what the Ituri Project is before mentioning that someone is seeking the truth behind it.]I have a degree in English Literature, and have spent the past seven years working with executives at two Fortune 100 firms. [Now that I've been fired, I'm blowing the whistle on them. Revenge shall be mine!] Most of the market knowledge and business insight described in this book was learned during that time.

THE ITURI PROJECT is approximately 90,000 words in length. May I send you the completed manuscript? I’ve enclosed a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your reply.



How does this intern seem to have access to more information than anyone else in the company? What does this vaccine do? What is Kamat threatening to do, exactly? What is the simple mistake Brian stumbles upon? A few answers in the query would mean fewer questions arising.

When you say employees who received illegal payments disappear, I think they were paid to disappear. Am I supposed to think they're dead? Does Brian think his life's in danger because he received one of these payments? That seems a logical conclusion to reach, though I suspect it's not your intended reason.

Selected Comments

dave conifer said...I really like your story, author. The rosy-cheeked intern stumbling across the "error" is intriguing to me. If I were you I'd stay with that a little more in the query.

Instead, you keep "walking up the ladder": now this guy is retiring, NOw they have a great vaccine, etc. Does the great vaccine derive somehow from the mistake that rosy found? Does that mean it's less great than people think?

I guess I feel like I don't know what the climax is here. I thought that finding the error was the major plot point but it's mentioned once and disappears. In my opinion it was the most exciting part of the story.

Also, EE is right. How does an employee "going public" negate the successful result of hundreds of millions of research dollars which found a great drug? In this industry, everybody knows way ahead of any announcements when a company has a blockbuster in the pipeline. What does "going public" mean anyway? If he granted an interview and said "I'm a minion at this company that has a great vaccine coming out," the reporter would say "Yeah, that was already leaked twenty times before."

I think this is a really good one.

Anonymous said...Internships in "big companies" and a bachelor's degree in English seem like obtuse preparation for writing about cutting edge science. When I read that I'm even more concerned that the sketchy approach to the science in the letter will prevail in the manuscript. I don't think this kind of plot can work if you don't get the science or economics right. You need to include enough specifics to make it clear that you're talking about a vaccine for a real disease and tell what problem is motivating all these murders etc.

Anonymous said...There are tons and tons of people with non-science backgrounds in companies like API. I haven't read this story, of course, but I'm guessing that the rosy-cheeked intern is one of those.

Most of the hair-sprayed, glib talkers from the big pharmaceutical companies have never even seen a test tube. This premise could work.

shannon said...I always think it's best to avoid rhetorical questions, at least when starting a query out. You see what EE did, and this is pretty much what a lot of people do in their heads when they read rhetorical questions. It sets you up for an argumentative reader - and slush pile readers (like me [cue evil laugh]) get pretty snarky when they read this kind of thing in the opening line.

Slick Tommy T said...Thanks to everyone who has responded here about my query for The Ituri Project. I appreciate your thoughts and suggestions (even the sarcasm - when it's well deserved). I'll take all of this into consideration for my revised letter. Hope you all have a very happy holiday and a great 2007!

Dave said...I really liked the "gigantic parasititic brain-sucking amoebas"

As for the story, I think the query has to focus on one person and not a plethora of people.

API as the company name: API stands for American Petroleum Institute for anyone working in petroleum, oil, gasoline or energy business. You might consider changing the names.

shelby said...Good luck with this. I'd read it. But drop the part about the literature degree and the experience with working for big companies. That really doesn't matter if the writing isn't there.

xiqay said...I got tired of reading it.

The set-up question isn't interesting. The largest company holds the secret to its most powerful cure?
What are you really trying to say here? A powerful new cure is in the hands of a large company only interested in profits-right?

Brian the intern discovers a mistake in the paperwork. He digs deeper. Why? Why doesn't he call the mistake to his supervisor's attention? That's what interns do, isn't it.

The question has been asked-how does Kamat's going public screw up the plan by Knife to launch the vaccine? Does it just mean that Kama will get credit instead of Knife? That has no effect on Brian.

I'm guessing that both lowly intern Brian and Kamat have discovered that the great vaccine isn't going to work the way Knife thinks. And the illegal payments have something to do with how the company got great results.

But if that's it, none of this story makes sense. Because I think there would have to be some (semi) independent study of the vaccine before FDA approval. (This is in America, right?)

Tell me I'm wrong about the story.

The story sounds like David and Goliath--but we need to be clear who Goliath is. Is it Knife? Kamat? The top API officials?

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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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.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. Dying solider Tony Block challenges Death to a game of scrabble in order to buy himself a couple more hours of life. But can he convince Death that "garwaf" is a real word?

2. Randy searches for a job where his speech impediment won't be an issue. Emily helps him get a job where she works, at the car wash. Or, as Randy would say it, the Garwaf.

3. After years struggling to make a go of their computer-programming business, Icelandic sextuplets Garwaf, Gafraw, Warfga, Wafrag, Fragwa and Awfgar finally strike it rich by selling their word verification algorithm to Blogger.

4. When the priest sneezes at a crucial point in the christening, Garwaf James Ackerman's destiny is set. While the blessed spittle is soon wiped from his forehead, it causes his death from pneumonia, seventy-three years later.

5. Gabriel has been turned into a wolf by his wife. When he finds himself in the royal court, the king decides to make him his pet. Can Lady Beau help "Garwaf" regain his humanity before he rips her throat out?

6. Hazel is fired from her secretarial job after Word mis-corrects the title of the book her boss is trying to submit to a big-league New York editor.

Original Version

Dear Benevolent Editor:

How is a man supposed to be a man when he’s trapped in the body of a wolf? [I've struggled with that question all my life--except, for "wolf," substitute "god."] And what is the woman who loves him supposed to do about this rather awkward situation? [I once dated a woman who was trapped in the body of a wolf, and it wasn't awkward at all . . . well, except for the night we went to a dinner party at the home of a couple whose son was trapped in the body of a sheep.] A romantic fantasy/adventure for young adults in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, GARWAF retells the story of Beauty and the Beast- with a twist.

Gabriel, a werewolf who was once the favorite knight of the king himself, was trapped in his wolf form permanently by his unfaithful wife when she learned his dire secret. [If I'd been unfaithful to my husband, the last thing I would want to do would be to permanently make him a creature capable of turning me into cole slaw.] Ensnared as an animal in the woods, cut off from everyone and everything he ever loved, Gabriel is slowly losing his mind and his memory. By a trick of fate, Gabriel finds himself back in the king’s court. [Trick of fate = whim of author.] Instead of a knight now he is the king’s treasured pet.

[King: I should have a treasured pet.
Trusted Adviser: Yes sire. Dog? Kitten?
King: I was thinking wolfman.]

Entrusted to the charge of the sweet and steadfast Lady Beau, [An oxymoron if I've ever heard one.] Gabriel might, with her help, be able to return to his human form. Old enemies and his own inner demons quickly converge, [How do his old enemies know he's Gabriel, and not an actual wolf?] and Gabriel’s tentative grip on his human half is tested when he almost kills Beau, the one person who is trying to help him.

Opinionated and outspoken, Lady Beau has been packed off to the royal court by her father to snare herself a rich husband. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, Beau’s loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet. [In other words, puts her in charge of cleaning out the wolfman's cage.] Beau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems. Resolving to do all in her power to help him if she can, she is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with the people who betrayed him lead Gabriel to stray ever closer to losing his humanity forever. [This paragraph contains information that's been presented already: Gabriel is the king's pet; he's entrusted to Lady Beau; old enemies are out to get him; he's losing his humanity.]

I did extensive research into the medieval era to help me construct this novel. [Thank you. There's nothing more annoying than finding historical inaccuracies in a wolfman fantasy.] A synopsis, first 50 pages, and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete, 90K word manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.



As you declare it a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, you wouldn't be taken to task for calling her Lady Belle.

While it's not a strict contradiction, describing Beau as sweet and steadfast and later calling her opinionated and outspoken may give two different impressions of her.

It might be better organized if it began with Beau, something like:

Lady Beau has been packed off to the royal court by her father to snare herself a rich husband. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, her loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet wolf.

Beau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems, for this "wolf" was once Gabriel, the king's favorite knight. Resolving to do all in her power to restore him, Beau is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with those who betrayed Gabriel lead him to stray ever further from his humanity.

Now there's room to tell us what happens beyond the set-up. And to tell us what the twist is. Does Belle fall for the king instead of the beast in this version?

Garwaf anagrams:

FRAWGA--Ted Kennedy's favorite video game
GAFWAR--US invasion of Iraq

Selected Comments

writtenwyrdd said...
I've struggled with that question all my life--except, for "wolf," substitute "god." ROFL, EE!!

Church Lady said...Loved GTPs 2 and 3! I'm sorry, But I just imagine (okay, dream) of putting my husband in a cage and calling him a pet. Except when it's time for sex- then he can be let out for five minutes.

Author, I agree with EE's rewrite of the opening 2 paragraphs. You're lucky he's feeling generous today.

Dave said...A few weeks ago, when this appeared on Electra's Crapometer, I suggested not starting the query with a rhetorical question. I see I have to explain this.

You ask "Is a man, a man when he's trapped in the body of a wolf " ... Notice I asked the question so that I couldn't say "NO' as a sarcastic remark and set the piece of paper down (or delete the email).
That's the first reason. Rhetorical questions are easy rejections.

What is this story about? It's a clever retelling of Beauty and the Beast. It's a love story, a romance.
That's the second reason why your rhetorical question is bad. This isn't about just the Beast, it's about Beau (or Belle, or whatever her name is). You ask the reader of the query to accept the world of an anthomorphic wolf but he can't be made human again without the love of a woman. That immediately switches the entire metaphysical basis of the story.

And one last reason.
"What makes a man, a man" (which is the essence of your opening question) says the novel is closely associated with the MALE figure. It also implies that Garwaf might not return to being human. Garwaf the lupine beast might remain Garwaf the wolf forever.

Is that the twist? Are we seeing the same gimmick as we saw in Shrek? The romantic female interest joins him in being a wolf? If that's so, I would ask "what makes a woman a woman."

Your question emphasizes the male in the story at the expense of the female. The story isn't about one or the other character, but both as they interact. At least half of the story wil be the Lady Beau's efforts to redeem Garwaf from his wolfie existance and then, i guess, they live happily ever after. (unless they go bankrupt thanks to high priced depilatory and electolysis bills).

Oh yes, what is the end of the story? Happy - they marry? Sad - they part? Furry - they have puppies? or Alien rabbits arrive and...

I think EE's given you a great start for a query, BTW.

elissa said...I like the sound of this story (but then, I'm a sucker for Beauty and the Beast stories). I like that your heroine has to participate in the intrigues of the king's court if she's to help Gabriel--this tells me that she likely grows and learns through the course of the story, since she decides to do something so distasteful and unnatural (since she's outspoken, and politics etc. often requires sneaking about and great subtlety and diplomacy) to her.

Calling her "Lady Beau" would really bug me for the whole length of the novel, however. Not only is Beau a man's name, it's the masculine form of the word meaning "attractive" or "handsome" in French. So you have a heroine with a guy's name, and a name with a mascuine meaning. You've named your girl "Handsome."

phoenix said...Poor author. You're getting a rehash of all the crapometer comments here.

I'm still comfortable with your one-two setup of questions at the beginning that focus on the hero and then the heroine. I think Dave may have overlooked the second heroine-related question?

You begin with a question that is 1) not directed to the reader of the query, and 2) not answered by a yes/no response. "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?" is a actually good example of a line that is better because it's a rhetorical question.

As with all writing, cliches, stock characters/plots, and rhetorical questions can sell based on execution. Otherwise, explain the $1.5M for the cliche apocalyptic vampire novels that just sold. Never say never...

Yes, your story is a romance and therefore about both characters. By default, however, since you've set up the hero as more out of the ordinary than the heroine, attention will get focused on him. Do you mainly remember Belle or the Beast? Christine or the Phantom? Fiona or Shrek?

The conventions for a romance query are a bit different, and you've almost got it here. Your first character paragraph is about Gabriel. Good. I would then move the paragraph about Lady Beau so it comes next, but keep it tight to Beau's perspective - what she needs and wants. Then the final paragraph can talk about the trials that must be overcome before they can be together. In this case, since you've called it a romantic fantasy and given us the traditions, we know it'll have an HEA, so you shouldn't have to explicitly state that they wind up together. It's well implied.

Apologies if I led you wrong on the "twist" thing. I think it's clear, but others are apparently having a problem. Still, you don't want to make it seem it is simply a retelling. Not for a YA audience, at least. It needs something hook-y to assure the agent of that. You MIGHT get away with a non-parody retelling with the younger crowd, but YA requires something novel.

You're almost there! This version has come a long way from the one on COM. And I like the name Gabriel much better than Garwaf! (But could you rethink Beau's name, too?)

(Wowzer, just what the heck is "Benevolet Editor" filtering out??)

Um, Church Lady, let hubby out for five minutes for sex? Honey, you and me need to talk...

Ello said...To be honest, I'm a bit put off by the title and I agree that Lady Beau does not ring right. EE's rewrite is excellent and Dave makes some great points. My only addition is that you mention it is in the tradition of Diana Wynne Jones who I equate with stories of magic, but magic is really not a part of your query, just an assumption that it is involved because of the wolfman bit. It seems a disconnect. But the story idea sounds very interesting.

Evil Editor said...Your first character paragraph is about Gabriel. Good. I would then move the paragraph about Lady Beau so it comes next

It does come next. The king/adviser dialogue interrupts one long paragraph.

blogless_troll said...This sounds interesting, but I would like to know how Gabriel got permanently trapped in wolf form by someone who just found out he was a werewolf. It sounds too easy. Unless his wife could use magic, in which case that might be a better description than "unfaithful."
Also, I'm not a werewolf expert and I've never researched medieval werewolfery, but it seems there are three basic shapes: human, wolf, and the in between monster you get in movies. You're saying the longer he stays in wolf form, the less human he becomes. So, wouldn't it follow that if he stayed in human form longer, he would become less wolfy? Then why didn't the wife just trap him in human form instead? If it's because she's "unfaithful" that's kinda weak. There's gotta be an easier way to get rid of a husband you don't want.

And since this is YA, it might be less confusing to illustrate Gabriel losing his humanity with the help of some kind of mechanical device, like a Wolf-O-Meter. Nothing fancy, maybe a modest, wrist-worn gauge or something with the silhouette of a human on the left and a wolf on the right. If the needle ever crosses into the red Gabe loses his humanity forever sort of thing. You need some sort of deadline, because the query makes it sound like all Lady Beau needs to do is lock Gabriel in his cage until she finds a cure for him, even if it takes years.

dancinghorse said...This has some nice potential, but I see I'm not alone in my problem with the heroine's name.

If you claim to have done extensive research, but get a prominent and basic element wrong, that kind of blows your credibility. You'd be amazed how many fantasy editors, agents, writers, and fans are experts in the period. They will catch mistakes, and one this basic will blow you right out of the ballpark.

Now mind you, if it's short for, say, Ysabeau, and there's a story that goes with it, which indicates that you really do know what you've done here, that's different. (Hey, I can even justify naming a Viking princess Tiffany. But I don't just play a medievalist on TV, I are one. I know how to get away with it. Real expertise can do just about anything--as long as it backs it up with solid, and I mean granite-hard, research and educated reasoning.)

December/Stacia said...I agree about not startiing the query with a question, and I have to argue with at least one other statement. Claiming you did extensive research on the medieval period and then having your heroine (whose name is not great--research actual medieval names, please, and language, since for a large portion of the period the nobility spoke French) "packed off to court to find a rich husband" is a contradiction. Medieval ladies of rank and wealth had arranged marriages; they did not go off to "find a husband". Some of them were betrothed from birth, most had marriages arranged later, but it had to do with property and wealth and the decisions of the parents; there wasn't a marriage market the way that statement implies.

Those who weren't betrothed by a certain age might have been sent to Court, but not to "find" a husband; they would have been sent to be ladies-in-waiting while their parents or the King himself found a suitable husband.

It's a very Regency-era phrase you've used, and it's out of place for the medieval period. Sorry, but it really jumped out at me.

Bernita said...I think December nailed it. Your query does not reflect any extensive research into medieval realities, but rather contradicts your claim. Perhaps it is best omitted.

Anonymous said...AUTHOR HERE: This might become a little snarky. I apologize in advance. I really have learned and improved a lot from posting on this site and others. Thank you to everyone for their notes and helpful suggestions.

Now, after catching flak here AND on crapometer for my heroine's frigging name and me not knowing what I'm doing, etc I rise to defend myself.

1) Her full name is Isabeau. She goes by Beau for short.

2) I decided not to go with Belle or Beauty because those are cliche and have been done to DEATH

3) In the story she ends up rescuing her man. She is, in fact, HIS Prince Charming. So I gave her a more masculine name on purpose as a kind of amusing (to me) homage to that.

I did do my research. I do know what I'm doing and no, I'm not changing her name. So, can we please stop commenting on that?

Thanks again everyone for all your help.

Here's a revised query based on the feedback I've received. (If someone can come up with a better hook then I will ditch my rhetorical question.)

Critique away. Can't wait to see what everyone has to say.

Dear Benevolent Editor:

How is a man supposed to be a man when he’s trapped in the body of a wolf? And what is the woman who loves him supposed to do about this rather awkward situation?

A romantic fantasy for young adults in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, GARWAF blends the story of Beauty and the Beast with Marie de France’s lais “Bisclavret.”

Lady Isabeau has been packed off to the royal court to snare herself a rich husband by her father so she can pay his gaming debts. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, her loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet wolf. Isabeau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems, for this "wolf" was once Gabriel, the king's favorite knight. Resolving to do all in her power to restore him, Isabeau is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with those who betrayed Gabriel lead him to stray ever further from his already dwindling humanity. Trapped in his wolf form permanently by his unfaithful wife when she learned his dire secret, Gabriel struggles to fall into the ways of his old life and fights his wolfish urges to maim and kill.

As Gabriel and Beau grow to understand and care for one another despite his horrific curse, rumors of an uncannily intelligent and mild-mannered wolf at the royal court reach the ears of Gabriel’s wife, Alison, and her unscrupulous new husband, Reynard. All the circumstances of the wolf’s capture and his subsequent integration into court life lead Alison to suspect that the king’s pet “Garwaf” is none other than her first husband Gabriel in his wolfish aspect. Though her second marriage to Reynard has been far from happy, Alison knows she will need Reynard to quietly dispose of the king’s new pet. Gabriel, they know, is the one creature that, should he ever return to his human self, could strip them of everything they have schemed so hard to gain. Desperate and reckless, Alison and Reynard are unafraid to dispatch Gabriel and anyone else, like Isabeau, who might stand between them and the werewolf they need to kill.

A synopsis, first 50 pages, and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.


Church Lady said...How about opening with: Gabriel is a beastly lover. Lady Isabeau has no choice but to keep him in a cage.

Okay, I know people automatically think everything I say is a joke, but I am actually serious.

I remain in the camp that's against opening with a rhetorical question.

Good luck with your query.

Ello said...Hey author! I really like your new query. And I'm really intrigued. I would want to read this book. And I don't even like medieval romances! This sounds awesome. I don't even have any quibbles. And the fact that you say Lady Isabeau first before moving to her nickname took care of my initial problem with her name. Now it makes sense! I still think Garwaf is a funny name, but it wouldn't stop me from reading the book. I can't believe how much better this query is. You did a great job. Good luck!

Evil Editor said...Desperate and reckless, Alison and Reynard are unafraid to dispatch Gabriel and anyone else, like Isabeau, who might stand between them and the werewolf they need to kill.

Drop that sentence from the end of your plot; the previous sentence is a better ending.

 blogless_troll said...I liked this version much better. It flows from beginning to end instead of jumping around like the original.

And I would keep the rhetorical question opening simply out of spite. You have to keep in mind that some of these writing "rules" are just the result of a desperate need for blog content. (Not EE's, or course.)