Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Face-Lift 1200!!

Guess the Plot


1. Finding out your second grade teacher was secretly a porn star in unsettling, but nothing compared to learning that her buff stallion was your own father. Dom Scorlini's first taste of Internet mischief results in a serious upset in his family's equilibrium.

2. When workaholic pediatrician Dave Marzotti falls in love with Katie, the mother of one of his patients, she brings a new balance to his life. But then Katie and her daughter are kidnapped, and Dave must rescue them, for their DNA holds the key to the fate of the entire human race.

3. In the competitive world of international equine high-wire performance art, Jamie Lancaster thinks he has the next grand champion in Dapples, a feisty little horse he rescued from a pony ride concession. But when vertigo strikes, can Jamie and Dapples recover their . . . equilibrium?

4. Klutzy fashion model Crash Bang can't stay on her feet long enough to complete a runway walk. She's sure her career is over until a quirky, new designer announces a line of "walker" dresses for drunk celebutantes. But can she make it through the go-see without toppling over?

5. Single Mom Shauna-Lee was happy for any sort of work, even scrubbing floors in the strange laboratory deep in the Arizona desert. Flirting with the cute scientist makes her day bearable. But when her kids are kidnapped, the only way she will see them alive again is to steal details of Project Equilibrium.

6. When psychic Malora tried to fight off the wizard's advances, she not only lost, she got turned into a statue as punishment. Now she's the Justice figure in a family courtroom. By day she listens to the cases. At night, she uses her still-formidable powers to manipulate the papers so the right party wins.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Pediatrician Dave Marzotti is content with life as a workaholic until he falls in love with Katie, the mother of one of his patients. Their whirlwind romance is cut short when Katie and her daughter are kidnapped.

Dave must risk everything - his medical practice, his relationship with Katie, even his own life - to rescue them. [Why does he have to rescue them? How does he know where they are? Do the authorities know about the kidnapping? Usually kidnappers contact a family member, not the family's pediatrician. If I tried to contact a pediatrician to announce I'd kidnapped one of his patients, I'd get the person who answers the office phone, who would tell me Dave was with a patient and I'd be forced to leave an incriminating or extremely vague message.] For it quickly becomes clear that their lives are not the only ones at stake. Their DNA holds the key to the fate of the entire human race. [How does this quickly become clear to Dave?] [More importantly, WTF? You can't just toss that out and expect us to buy it. What does "key to the fate" mean? Key to our survival? If the villains know about the DNA, wouldn't the good guys also know? Wouldn't they have Katie and her daughter in protective custody in a fortress on a mountain surrounded by a shark-filled moat?]

EQUILIBRIUM is a commercial novel, complete at 65,000 words.

I am a member of the [XYZ] association. My blog is available at [URL].

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Have the kidnappers contacted Dave? If they've got the fate of the human race in their hands, they have enough leverage to be contacting governments or billionaires. What they can get from Dave is chicken feed. If they haven't contacted Dave, what's preventing Dave from calling in someone who's better than he is at rescuing people?

If they haven't contacted Dave, have they contacted the press or anyone to make their intentions known? If so, what do they want? Money? Are they threatening to destroy the human race? We need to know if Katie was kidnapped for ransom or if some evil overlord kidnapped her to destroy humanity. Either way, we need to know what's so special about this DNA and we need to know: Why Dave? If the fate of the human race hangs in the balance, I want James Bond or Ethan Hunt on it, not some schmuck named Dave.

How many people are aware that Katie and her daughter hold the key to the fate of the entire human race? Do the kidnappers know, or did they just get lucky? Do governments know?

As you see, the plot sounds incredible, and not in a good way. Fortunately, your query is so short that you have plenty of room to fill in the holes so we don't find ourselves asking all these questions.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The 4th Annual Evil Editor Auction

As usual, some of the items I offered to the Brenda Novak Auction were rejected, and I'm forced to conduct my own auction, which, like Brenda's, will run throughout the month of May.

Here are a few of the items up for bid, just to whet your appetites.

Solid gold Egyptian funerary mask of pharaoh who resembled Evil Editor.

Trust me. Nothing can inspire you to finish that novel like a death mask hanging in front of your computer, especially when that death mask looks a lot like your nemesis, Evil Editor.

One ticket to the Evil Editor Writers Conference on the isle of Crete.

Transportation, food, lodging not included. 

*Evil Editor's appearance at conference subject to availability.

A critique of your application to compete on Hell's Kitchen.

Not every heavy-smoking, loudmouthed emotional wreck makes the cut. Let Evil Editor help you book your personal 3 months of abuse.

*Winning bidder not guaranteed to appear on show.

Pressure washing of one computer keyboard.

Bad enough that dust gets in the cracks between the keys, but if you're a regular at EE's blog, you've probably spewed coffee on the keyboard a few times. Let me get your keyboard looking like new.


Name Evil Editor a character in your will.

It's one thing, having to think of all those names for fictional characters in your books. But your will needs names of actual people. I'm talking about people who are going to get your best stuff unless you stop them by specifically leaving that stuff to Evil Editor.

Ornate Picture frame with Picasso watercolor of Evil Editor

#27 in Picasso's Evil Editor series.

 Take Evil Editor on a world cruise aboard your yacht.

I promise to do all my barfing over the side if you promise not to bring your unpublished novel aboard.

An evaluation of a tweet.

Once you tweet, you look like a twit if you screwed up. Let Evil Editor turn your twitness into litness.

Box containing numerous books I bought because I liked the authors' first books, only to discover they were one-hit wonders.

Help me create room in my bookcases for other books by authors who started phoning it in after first-book flukes.

Breakfast with Evil Editor's Chiropractor.

Who knows? Maybe EE will show up and join you!

*EE unlikely to join you.

The Evil Editor Kaleidoscopic-Image Area Rug

Give your living room a touch of sophistication and a splash of color.

*EE not responsible for rug burns resulting from spontaneous love-making sessions.

One Marine mammal.

Dolphin or whale.

*Our choice.

Bubble Bath with Evil Editor.

Nothing beats a soothing, relaxing bubble bath. Unless it's a soothing, relaxing bubble bath with your secret crush.

New Beginning 1028

It’s generally not a good idea to hide from someone by crouching at the bottom of the pool. Firstly, in case you hadn’t noticed, water is usually transparent and doesn’t provide much cover from prying eyes. Secondly, you can’t really stay there for very long. Not unless you were okay with turning blue. But I guess then you’d camouflage nicely with the colour of the pool and it might actually be a great place to hide.

But today it worked. I slid into the far corner of the pool and huddled on the gritty concrete floor and Mum dashed right past me before I got even close to turning blue. Once I was sure she hadn’t just pretended to not see me, I kicked-off and stuck my head out. She’d dashed out the back gate and was looking around wildly and hollering "Ben - Ben!". Probably to see that I hadn’t done what I had promised and crossed my heart I’d never do. Like hop into the pasture with those unbroken horses Dad brought over last night. Wild things, she said. Stupid idea to get within a mile of ‘em.

At least her panicking like that gave me a chance. I could sneak back into the house, dry off and get some clothes on. If I did it fast enough she’d never see where the huge stallion had took a huge chunk out of my back. It was stinging real bad from the pool water too, but I had to suck that up. Who’d have thought an animal that only ate rabbit food could get so mad so quickly?

Actually, now I think about it, Michael Phelps probably would have. They say he's a dab hand at figuring out conundrums when he's not swimming or spelling out his surname over the phone.

Yeah, he'd say, "I'm 100% behind the concept of rabbit food producing madness. If I was forced to eat rabbit food 24/7 I'd go crazy. If I chose to eat it myself I'd already BE crazy, so the conundrum here would be figuring out how rabbit food could make a crazy person even crazier, and I guess it would depend on whether there's a max-out ceiling for craziness beyond which no amount of rabbit food (or pet boosting stimulant of any kind) could ever have any effect."

But that's just supposition I suppose. My stallion wound is not. And turning blue isn't such great camouflage now that the water's turning red.

Opening: Jo Antareau.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Monday, April 28, 2014

New Beginning 1027

Marcia Weston, thirteen years old and wearing a damp purple bikini, mixed martinis on top of her parents’ stereo cabinet.

“Isn’t she something?” Mr. Weston said. “Sophisticated, eh?”

“Yes, sir,” I said automatically. I had never seen a bottle of hard liquor before, much less anyone my age mixing drinks. Mr. Weston put his hands on my shoulders and steered me to Marcia's side. “You two girls go play now.” He picked up the tray of martinis and nudged open the sliding glass door to the patio.

Marcia looked me over, taking in my peter-pan collared shirt and corduroy play pants. “Where’d you move from?”

“Raleigh, North Carolina.”

“Oh my God, you sound like the Andy Griffith Show. No, Gomer Pyle. Here, Rah-lee, take this.” She handed me a shallow dish of green olives and grabbed two bottles of cola. “Come on.”

We retreated to a playhouse in the narrow side yard, shaded by a eucalyptus tree. “What’s with the ‘yes, sir'?” Marcia asked. "Is your dad in the military?" She placed olives on her fingers and waggled them. “Eat one. They're soaked in gin.”

In retrospect, it should have been obvious she was talking about the olives, not her parents, and a bit of  intuition on my part would have prevented the horrors that were to follow.

Opening: IMHO.....Continuation: Anonymous

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Anatali: Eternal

1. Anatali is bored with immortality. He spends every moment attempting suicide. Unexpectedly, the fruitless attempts awaken a creative spirit in Anatali who begins to pass the nights inventing new and interesting ways of self demise. He then publishes his book: 1,000,000 Ways to Off Yourself.

2. On the planet of Q'xtlm, emperor Rlpbzp forbids all vowels and terrifies with his army--until a warrior takes the name Anatali and incites revolution.

3. Lanrete Ilatana, an Anatali warrior from the Im地ken tribe, sets out to recover the Amethyst of Eternity from the Mountain of Death to defeat Lord Blackheart.

4. Aboard the S.S. Anatali, a week before Academy finals, an artificial life form runs a gauntlet of student riots, corrupt cops, and zombies, trying to keep her roommate from being expelled.

5. Geeky Baskin-Robbins scooper Bobby Hullet falls for the mysterious woman who makes daily visits for frozen treats. Will he melt her chilly heart? Or will the path to her love remain a rocky road?

6. Puzzle book author Eric Lynn can't spell. But his books of anagrams fly off the shelves because no one else can either . . . until his 4th grade teacher reappears in his life, determined to right a decades-old wrong.

Original Version

Dear //Agent//,

ANATALI : ETERNAL is a 100,000 word space opera, blending cyberpunk and paranormal though [through] an intimate voice. [Intimacy and cyberpunk: they go together like bacon and butterscotch.]

Dark Energy Theory, a cutting-edge science, fuels humanity's exodus from our solar system [The grass is always greener on the other side of the universe.] by harnessing the universe's most abundant--and dangerous--resource [: Styrofoam].

S.S. Anatali - January 27, 4128 - A week before Academy finals, Lillian, a prototype Artificial Lifeform, embarks on a midnight crusade to save her roommate from expulsion. [Why is her roommate being threatened with expulsion? Why would an Artificial Lifeform care whether her roommate was expelled? Why should we care? Is this Artificial Lifeform your main character? Artificial Lifeforms have to take finals? Do they ever fail? I mean, Data was an Artificial Lifeform, right? Even if he forgot to study, Data would never fail an exam. He'd be one of those annoying guys who finishes the whole exam and walks out while you're still on question 3.] When a hacker's security virus throws her dormitories into bedlam, Lillian and her friends run a gauntlet of student riots, corrupt cops, undead assailants, [Please use the scientific term: zombies.] online gaming, a love hexagon, and baking-- [Baking?] yes, baking. Center stage in a paranormal power play, [Hockey riddle: What do they call it when the New Jersey Devils are a man up? A paranormal power play!] the truth about Dark Energy Theory and her own mysterious design are about to collide. [The sentences in this paragraph need better connections to one another. Right now it sounds like a list of random stuff in the book. If you let ideas build on one another, we'll get a sense of story.]

I've included a brief sample, per your submission guidelines. At request I can send the entire manuscript or any part thereof. [I'll take the love hexagon part.] I use my website as a forum for short stories and new content, and as a device for building [artificial life forms and] an online community around my project. Thank you for your time and consideration.



More information about the plot is needed. Is this book about dark energy or Lillian's roommate, or something you've barely touched on? Where is the Anatali? Where is it going?

As dark energy theory exists in 2006, it seems unlikely to be a cutting edge science in 4128. In fact, it seems unlikely to still be a theory. Setting this book more than 2000 years in the future means assuming that hackers and online gaming and cops and baking--yes, baking--will not be long-forgotten, just as chariots, gladiators, and sandals are today.

Selected Comments

Aarin said...Thanks for the write-up, EE! Never in the story do I ever drop the 'Z' word, so I figured why force 'zombies' into the query.

Evil Editor said...I, on the other hand, jump at any opportunity to force zombies into my blog.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

How to Kiss a Ghost

1. Step 1: Tilt your head to keep the scruff from tickling your chin. Step 2: No tongue unless you want to get kicked. Step 3: Lots and lots of breath mints. What? Oh, I thought you said "Goat".

2. First you have to die, no faking. Next you have to make sure you're on the same wavelength as your non-corporeal other. Ignore all the spectators. Are you sure you wouldn't rather just go for someone normal?

3. Find a really, really hot guy, and accidentally run over him. Then get a Ouija board and pucker up.

4. Elsie falls in love with a guy who exists in her mirror. Is he a ghost? Was he trapped there by a witch's spell? Would it look weird if someone saw her kissing the mirror?

5. Jack and Bertha run a B and B in Wyoming which is on the brink of collapse until they start running seminars on the secrets of 'love beyond the grave'. Hilarity ensues when spoil-sport Tammy Hillburg attends undercover as a 'widow' to make a documentary film exposing the fakery.

6. Being dead has its advantages for Greg, but sex with your lover isn't one--especially when she's still alive. So to help others overcome this obstacle, Greg and Sally sit down together to write their first self-help book.

7. When Claire Wincefield's husband died in a freak yachting accident on their honeymoon, her friends told her to put it behind her. But Claire is made of sterner stuff; now, with the help of unconventional psychic Cassiopeia Milestone, she's planning to put the romance back into necromancy.

8. Film star Ellen Lauder must appear to carry on an entire 'romance' with her CGI co-star, who will be supplied in post-production. Meanwhile no one is there. She finds this impossible until the ghost of Sidney Jackson appears. And then she gets fired for being 'too X-rated' -- but now the ghost won't leave!

Original Version

Dear Agent,

In my 60,000-word YA Paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST, seventeen-year-old Elsie can see him, she can hear him, but she can't touch him or can she? [Put a dash or an ellipsis after "touch him."]

Elsie doesn’t remember being pushed into oncoming traffic by a drunk driver, getting broadsided by Aiden Prescott’s BMW, [Could you diagram that accident for me?] or even dying and returning to life with a gift for seeing ghosts. All she knows is her sister is dead and she should be dead too. [What makes her think she should be dead too, if she doesn't even remember the accident?] To escape the pain, Elsie attempts to overdose, [Elsie had nothing to do with her sister's death, right?] but a ghostly boy appears in the mirror as the bottle touches her lips, freaking her out at first, [When you look in a mirror and see someone else's face looking back, first confirm that the mirror isn't actually a window; then freak out.] [Especially if it is a window.] [Also, as she has a gift for seeing ghosts, I wonder why seeing this one freaks her out.] then giving her a reason to want to live again.

Aiden's the only person (or ghost) Elsie feels comfortable talking to – the only one who doesn’t force her to talk about that night. [Why do all other people and ghosts force her to talk about that night?] [What about her sister? Is she a ghost?] As their friendship starts to heat up, so does the mystery surrounding him. [Can she see Aiden anywhere except in the mirror? Because if I had a friend who existed in a mirror, I would feel pretty weird if the friendship started heating up. You definitely don't want anyone to see you making out with a mirror.] [Although it is pretty erotic.] [I'm told.] If his secret of who he really is, his sudden disappearance, and the absence of touch doesn’t disrupt their relationship, Mimi Jenkins will. [Who's Mimi Jenkins?] [Are good men so hard to find these days that women will fight over a guy who exists only in a mirror?]

In her search to find out why Mimi is so bent on hurting her, Elsie stumbles across an article about the accident. Not only does she discover Mimi's dad caused the wreck, but she also finds out Aiden may be alive. [Did he claim to be dead? Or did he say, "Help me! I'm alive, but I've been trapped in Mirror World ever since the automobile accident in which I was thrown into my rear-view mirror. Get me outta here!"] [I wouldn't mind living in Mirror World if I could appear in any mirror. Is Elsie's bathroom mirror the only mirror Aiden can appear in? Or can he appear in her rear-view mirror when she's driving her car? When Elsie looks in her mirror and sees Aiden, does she also see herself? If so, does Aiden talk to Elsie or to Elsie's image in the mirror? If not, is Elsie a vampire?] She now knows why he kept his identity a secret. His car was the last one to hit her; killing her sister. In order to find him she must first face off with a deranged Mimi – who doesn't care who hit who, or that her dad was a drunk, fact is, Elsie caused him not to come home – if she fails, Elsie will lose more than Aiden, she could potentially lose her life. [Could you diagram that sentence for me?] [She could lose her life if she fails at what? Finding Aiden? How does finding Aiden protect her from Mimi?]

Thank you for your time and consideration.



So Mimi's dad plows into Elsie's stopped car, knocking it into the path of Aiden's car. I'm thinking most of the force of the first accident would be absorbed by the cars, so that Elsie's car would not be moving very fast or very far into the intersection, and Aiden would have had time to swerve and brake . . . unless . . . Aiden had his eyes closed because he was in the middle of an allergy-related sneeze. Note how with a little applied logic I was able to explain the seemingly inexplicable.

It doesn't seem that someone who was about to commit suicide over the loss of her sister would so quickly get involved in a hot and heavy romance with her mirror.

How many of these cars had airbags?

It's not easy to buy Mimi blaming Elsie.

No one's named their kid Elsie since it became the name of a famous cow half a century ago. Change it to Elise.

Selected Comments

Steve Wright said...It's not awfully clear. By dint of much puzzling and innate cleverness, I think I've got the sequence of events straight in my mind - but it could usefully be laid out more straightforwardly in the query.

It's nice to have an antagonist, but how does this Mimi Jenkins person pose a threat to Elsie? Is she following her around with a chainsaw, or just trying to get her locked up as "that crazy girl who's always snogging mirrors"?.... Like EE says, it's a bit hard to swallow her blaming Elsie for her father's death, unless there are things you've not told us about the accident. (Come to think of it, is her father dead, or just in jail or something? All we know is he "didn't come home".)

Is Aiden dead or alive? If the latter, how is he haunting Elsie's mirrors?

I bet this whole novel could have been avoided if they'd all just worn their seat belts.

Mother (Re)produces. said...Seems to me that the catalyst (the accident) is pretty well described, but everything after that gets a little vague. I like the mirror thing, find it intriguing, but what *happens*?

I'd keep reading.

Joseph Lewis said...Definitely change to "Elise"

And there had better be a very good explanation for the supernatural elements if the "ghost" guy isn't really dead.

Phoenix said...I love the title!

As for the query, I think it needs a bit more dot connecting. I know you want to keep the mystery around Aiden, but you're doing it to the detriment of the story line.

Aiden is the boy in the mirror, so presumably dead. Yet the query says he may be alive still, and that Elsie could lose him. He's also disappeared, but you kind of throw that in quite casually. Again presumably, Mimi is behind the disappearance, but the reader (me) isn't sure if it's a ghost or real person who's disappeared. Is his image in the mirror some sort of astral projection?

Maybe try the query once more and lay things out a bit more concretely. For instance, what is Mimi doing that leads Elsie to know the girl is bent on hurting her? Since Elsie doesn't know that the guy in the mirror is Aiden -- the guy who hit her -- then explain what Elsie thinks about Aiden maybe being alive in that last paragraph. Does she want to kill him, forgive him, or does she suspect he and the guy in the mirror are the same guy?

Matthew said...Author, it looks like you've over pared the query, sacrificing clarity. Remember: each line in the query should lead to the next, making it exciting and easy to follow.

Try not to raise too many questions. Each time you make the reader think, "Huh?" you have to explain it or leave it out (like saying the ghost in the mirror might not be a ghost).

Anonymous said...I think you need to commit to the mirror guy being dead or not, at least for the purposes of the query.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...This starts off good but gets muddled towards the middle. First you say Elsie has a new gift for seeing ghosts, which made me think this was going to be about her dealing with the paranormal. Then actually it turns out she just sees one ghost in her bedroom mirror and he's more of a therapist than anything scary or threatening. Then it turns out Aiden isn't a ghost at all and the plot turns into a thriller about a missing guy and a psycho stalker.

So many changes in direction make it hard to get a sense of the story. But I do hope you post a revision because I really like the title and the concept.

150 said...Just yesterday I was wondering if ghosts were next on the "superpowered, immortal, unattainable" list of trendy romantic interests.

I have some trouble believing Elsie hadn't already seen all the coverage of the accident, and it's rarely best for a character to "stumble onto" anything--it just lays the author's machinations bare.

I'd like to see some voice and liveliness in the next version.

Good luck!

Khazar-khum said...Why do I suspect Elsie's the real ghost; not Aiden?

Oh, and 150--the ghost romances are already in print.

150 said...Khazar-khum -- Yeah, but they've yet to join the vampires-fey-angels level of notorious trendiness. Or maybe they peaked in the eighties....

vkw said...Are good men so hard to find these days that women will fight over a guy who exists only in a mirror?


Rachel said...

batgirl said...Hey! Elsie was my mother's name. Okay, she was born in 1924, in England, and I've never met anyone else with that first name, but still--

Okay, my guess is that Aiden's in a coma and astral-projecting. I can sort of buy Mimi hating Elsie just for being alive when others are dead - hatred isn't the most rational emotion - but that maybe needs to be brought out more. Mimi seems like an afterthought here, 'oh yeah, I need an antagonist, don't I?' especially since her actions are undefined.

Sarah makes an excellent point. Is the book about Elsie dealing with her ability to see ghosts, or her relationship with one ghost?

Anonymous said...Hi, everyone. This is the author. First, I want to thank everyone for your comments. I really appreciate your feedback. Batgirl actually figured out what Aiden was. I have a new version of this query, but decided to leave out the entire accident scene and Mimi since they were confusing everyone. I decided to focus primarily on Aiden and Elsie since that's really what the story is about. Okay, enough with the rambling. Here's my new version of the query for HOW TO KISS A GHOST.

Dear Evil Editor:

In my 60,000-word YA Paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST seventeen-year-old Elsie's dream of a perfect life is shattered when she survives an accident which kills her sister. The constant pressure from her counselor, her foster parents, and the alienation from her peers in school cause Elsie to resort to suicide in order to escape the pain. All she wants is to be left alone to die. The last thing she expects is the spirit of the boy who killed her sister to interrupt her plans, but, unknowingly to her, that's exactly what she needs.

Aiden is in a coma – his spirit is stuck in a metaphysical limbo in between life and death – after his BMW broadsides Elsie's car, killing her sister on impact. Unable to cross over or to return to his body, his essence is drawn to Elsie's tortured heart. Aiden's only intention is to help her, but he unexpectedly falls in love with her. Knowing that the truth of who he really is could potentially destroy their relationship, he keeps his involvement in the accident a secret.

Immersed by the warmth burning in their souls, Elsie and Aiden refuse to let the lack of touch come between the love they have for one another. But as the secrets surrounding the accident start to unfold, Aiden's spirit mysteriously disappears, and Elsie is left with more questions than answers. The only thing she knows to be true is that Aiden is alive, and neither of them are at fault for what happened to her sister. Destined to be together – divided by a force beyond their control – Elsie must find him, no matter what it takes.

I chose to submit my manuscript for your consideration after I read in your bio you have an interest in YA novels. So, I thought my novel, HOW TO KISS A GHOST might interest you. I am prepared to send the entire manuscript upon your request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Anonymous said...This is the author again. On a quick note, everyone is probably wondering why I called my novel HOW TO KISS A GHOST when Aiden's not really a ghost. Well, that's because Elsie thinks Aiden is a ghost at first -- until she finds out otherwise further in the story -- and, well, she's wondering how she could possibly kiss a ghost.

Phoenix said...Much better. Taking Mimi out of the query and replacing her with a mystery instead works quite well.

It's still a little wordy with redundancies and trite phrases, I think. And there are a couple of things I think you can still clarify:
* How/where Elsie can see Aiden.
* What "Elsie must find him" really means. Is it his spirit or his body she must find? If his body, then lots of other people will be involved with that disappearance, but if it's his spirit, that -- and the stakes -- needs to be made clearer.

Also, I know the last paragraph is a placeholder, but you don't need to take up space saying "I'm sending you a YA story because you indicate an interest in YA." That you've done your homework should be evident in your sending the agent stuff she's interested in.

I think the title is perfectly fine even though Aiden isn't technically a ghost. I think people were having issues because the first query wasn't clear on whether Aiden was really alive or dead.

Here's how I would tweak the query:

In my 60,000-word YA paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST, seventeen-year-old Elsie's life is shattered when she survives an accident that kills her sister. Pressure from her counselor, parents, and peers wears at her, until survivor guilt pushes her into a suicide attempt. All she wants is to be left alone to die. What she doesn't expect is the spirit of the boy who killed her sister to interrupt her plans.

Aiden is in a coma -– his spirit stuck in a metaphysical limbo between life and death -– after a drunk driver forces his BMW to broadside Elsie's car. Unable to cross over or return to his body, his essence is drawn to Elsie's tortured heart. He appears to her in her mirror, offering words of solace and hope. At first, his only intention is to help her -- unexpectedly, he falls in love with her.

Elsie and Aiden refuse to let so simple a thing as lack of touch interfere with their growing passion. But as secrets surrounding the accident start to unfold, Aiden's spirit mysteriously disappears, and Elsie is left with more questions than answers. Destined to be together but divided by a force beyond their control, Elsie must find Aiden's spirit before the lovely boy with impish eyes and tousled hair lying in a cold hospital room slips from her grasp forever.

I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.


Anonymous said...This is the author.


Thank you for your comment. I thought taking Mimi out of the equation would be less confusion. I know everyone wants to know how Elsie can see Aiden, but I'm afraid if I say she died and returned with the gift for seeing ghosts it would confuse everyone again. Because in the story she only sees him, and the reason is because he pushes himself towards her. She doesn't only see him in the mirror, that's just where she first saw him. He actually follows her everywhere after that incident forming a bond of friendship that turns into something more. I mean, some psychics can see ghosts, and sometimes there is no explanation why they do.

The second part of your question is she has to find his body since she finds out he's alive somewhere and his spirit disappears. Now here's where it gets tricky, she races to the hospital and the receptionist says " I'm sorry he left us last week." And she takes it as he died last week. But he is very much alive and is recooperating from the months of being in a comma. I mean, he very well can't return to his body and all of a sudden jump up and run out of the hospital. It wouldn't really be logical. So, she returns home brokenhearted, thinking he's dead and she'll never see him again when Mimi ( who I don't want to name in the story because of confusion) shows up, almost kills Elsie foster mom and Elsie, until Elsie rises up and defeats Mimi. At the end Elsie is standing in her place of refuge when Aiden pulls up and well, I'm sure you can figure out the very end. It's where there is plenty of crying and smootching and everything is laid out on the table so to speak.

I definitely like the way you tweaked the query, but I'm a little worried about mentioning eyes and hair because agents get turned off on any physical description. Thank you again.

Matthew said...Try not to over think it, author. The general rule about description is that it wastes space, but Phoenix' revision still clocks in around 250 (I'm eyeballing it).

I think the description gives the query more of a story like feel, but it's not make or break. Remove it if it makes you uncomfortable...or replace it with something you, as the author, know would be more suitable.

But whatever you do, don't stray too far from what Phoenix wrote; it's good, and she's the best.

Anonymous said...Matthew, I don't plan to stray to far at all from Phoenix's version. I thought it was great! Here is the new version. I only changed a couple of words, not much at all. Let me know what you guys/girls think.

In my 60,000-word YA paranormal romance, HOW TO KISS A GHOST, seventeen-year-old Elsie's life is shattered when she survives an accident that kills her sister. Pressure from her counselor, parents, and peers wears at her, until survivor guilt pushes her into a suicide attempt. All she wants is to be left alone to die. What she doesn't expect is the spirit of the boy who killed her sister to interrupt her plans.

Aiden is in a coma – his spirit stuck in a metaphysical limbo in between life and death – after a drunk driver forces his BMW to broadside Elsie's car. Unable to cross over or return to his body, his essence is drawn to Elsie's tortured heart. He appears to her, offering words of solace and hope. At first, his only intention is to help her – unexpectedly, he falls in love with her.

Aiden and Elsie refuse to let so simple a thing as lack of touch to interfere with their growing passion. But as secrets surrounding the accident start to unfold, Aiden's spirit mysteriously disappears, and Elsie is left with more questions than answers. Destined to be together but divided by a force beyond their control, Elsie must find Aiden's spirit before he slips from her grasp forever.

I look forward to sending you the completed manuscript.


Thank you everyone,


Friday, April 25, 2014

Practice Query #9

Dearest Ms. Rogers:

May I massage your feet? Does your floor need waxing? Would you like a box of fine chocolate? If you said no to all of the above, then please take moment to read my query. It will delight you. This query will make it to the bestseller list, get a movie deal, and float forever in time.

It's a beautiful day outside and Kasee and Klaire are stocking shelves in their Granpappy's country store, Buck Country Beer Store. He's a fine man they think, and he funds their tattoo and plastic surgery requests, but jeez, when is going to stop stinking up the back room.

It's deer season and hairy, hungry men clamor at 4am to get into the store to get their grub. Sometimes they grab, but Kasee knows that a shotgun dance calms them down. Most of the men are harmless, but when Ted, one of their favorite guys, comes running out of the woods covered in blood, no one is sure whom to trust.

Ted falls, foaming at the mouth, into Klaire's wrinkled button down plaid shirt and dies. The Clockwork Shadow is in the woods again, and he's not going to stop eating hunters. Kasee and Klaire question the situation: should they tell the rude dudes to stay out of the woods, or let them be gone forever amongst the bloody trees? They also wonder how a shadow can eat flesh, and where does Granpappy disappear to at odd hours of the night?

My fictional novel, HUNTING SEASON, of 82,000 words, is sure to delight adults of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Please remember me when cooking bacon because I know you're a bacon fan and so am I. I like biscuits and gravy too.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Pratice Query #8

Fy year, Dr John Allcock has taught at Notre Dame, where this bespectacled man of letters has sought to mold the still impressionable minds of young people before the ice-hearted world assaults, incidentally becoming involved in the lives of some of them far beyond what the Dean approves of. Notre Dame is his home, hearth and love and he will not see her sullied by the unclean hands of the ponderous world.

Dr Allcock's Religious Studies classes are always full as word of his unique teaching method of summoning angels to his room draws many curious young people who are skeptical of the appearance of such heavenly beings in our confused world today. But they are real, and not people from the Theatre Department in costumes and so it is with trepidation that Sharlene and Jeff decide to take the class. they are joined by their friends the Warley brothers, twins with red hair and bright green eyes.

But Patrick Warley has a secret and that is that his mother called him the antichrist and now that he is 21 he believes that this might be true. So he tells Dr Allcock that his brother Shamus is the antichrist and hopes the professor kills the right one in class.

Murder 101:Introduction to death is my first non fanfiction novel. I would like it to be published by someone who will pay me money. Thank you.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Practice Query #7

I’d like to tell you about my Urban Fantasy novel, Guardian of the Lost Parakeet (185,000 words in three parts). In my research and pursuit of the genetics of parakeets, I’ve found that own one and share an interest.

When Perry Twitter, a former astronaut and test pilot, returns to Denver after his six month stint on the ISS, he discovers that he can understand the language of his pet parakeets Kiwi and Budge thanks to a stray cosmic ray that altered his genetic structure while on his last assignment, the ISS.

Unknown to any man and most of the governments of the world, parakeets and their enforcers, the secret Brotherhood of Werewolves, rule the world. However, the Malevolent Murder of Crows is challenging the parakeets power over the peoples of the world. Their only salvation is a prophecy that the chosen one, the Perspicacious Panjandrum, will rise form the mundane humans to defeat the murderous crows, acting as the amphotericin B of the human race. However, the Malevolent Murder of Crows are not only using fungal spores to sicken mankind but have enlisted the aid of a Cult of Vampires who have been lying dormant since the Inquisition staked their bloodthirsty hearts to their coffins.

Perry’s initial attempts at revealing the plot gets him crowned King of Comedy Night at the Fun Palace and a $500 award for the best Kevin McCarthy imitation. Proving the plot to the procrastinating world powers requires a leap of faith. Since the Malevolent Murder of Crows is rapidly spreading disease across the world, Perry has only a scant few days to physically join with the parakeets as the prophesied Savior-To-Be-Chosen-One. In his kitchen sink, Perry begins his first molt which will result in his ascending to the heavens giving him the power to defeat the crows and their evil allies, the vampires.

Guardian of the Lost Parakeet is a first novel and is written as emails and tweets. I’d be happy to send you a partial or complete copy of the manuscript for your review.

--Dave F.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Practice Query #6

Dear Evil Editor,

After faking his own death, Dan Duggen learns that a distant relation has left him a stock portfolio worth millions. Now Dan wonders how he can fake his own resurrection without attracting too much attention.

He makes a deal with Josh, an illusionist, and sets a simple plan: Josh has to pretend he’s a medium able to resurrect the dead.

While the Duggens are gathered in the family crypt, Josh puts on his show. But something goes wrong. Josh really manages to raise the dead, and Dan finds himself surrounded by zombie relations.

Whatever Josh has started doesn’t stop. Soon, all the graves in the cemetery are empty and zombies roam everywhere. And when Dan and Josh behead them, they rise again. Josh is one hell of a dead raiser.

Dan has to admit it; family reunions have never been much fun and old aunt Bessie trying to eat his brain is not an improvement.

And if Dan can inherit that money, why can’t aunt Bessie? Should she be discriminated against just because she has an eating disorder?

Now it’s up to Josh and Dan to send the dead back to their graves before all the dead of the world wake up or, even worse, one of Dan’s zombie relations gets the money.

Rest in Peace, Dan Duggen is a fanta-horror novel complete at 90,000 words and can be considered the prequel of World War Z.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Practice Query #5


When, Joanas and Moses Criist, the owners of the popular S&M nightclub Dominion extend the basement, they inadvertently open a portal to Hell. The Devil, or Bezel as his friends call him, doesn't see a conflict of interest between paying customers and lost souls. That is until The Church of You Know Who comes knocking. The signal might as well be worth the Shave and a Haircut riff. Two bits.

The Devil takes Dominion viral as mortal man cries for more debauchery. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse arrive, closing their tour. Imagine a thousand years of exquisite pain. Times are good, Bezel makes money hand over fist and parlays his popularity by opening Dante's Timeshare condominiums. To hell with goodness, the end of days have arrived.

Not wanting to be on the wrong side of history the Almighty turns a new leaf and buys a lifetime membership in Dominion. Now that's a lot of money.

Moses is perturbed at his followers. S&M is his art, his love and muse. He wants to go back to when whips weren't an allegory and decides to go and live in the desert. Joanas is hung up, in denial. All Moses ever wanted was to get his rocks off the front porch and shut the front door. He wonders, will Joanas ever wake up from denial, and will Bezel ever become the friend he said he'd be? Moses isn't sure he'd bet his soul.

Irreverently yours,


Friday, April 18, 2014

Practice Query #4

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my 80,000 word YA paranormal romance, “Stronger than the Night.”

Ella Van Helsing has always slept with a light on. As a child, she sobbed at every sunset. Ella suffers from nyctophobia, an abnormal fear of the night. But Ella isn’t a child any longer -- she’s sixteen, and she wants to ask hunky Taylor Smith to the end-of-term school dance. Ella must overcome her self-imposed ‘home-before-dark’ curfew, or kiss any chance of romance with Taylor good-bye. Adding to the pressure, Ella’s dad is famous vampire-hunter Abraham Van Helsing IV, and he’s deeply ashamed of his daughter.

Ella’s first planned foray into the night, a quick trip to the grocery store, becomes a life-or-death chase through the streets of modern London when she witnesses a trio of vampires kidnap her little brother. In Hyde Park she loses sight of the vampires, but stumbles into a werewolf pack meeting — Taylor’s pack. Her school crush turns out to be the son of the pack’s alpha female, who takes pity on Ella and commands a resentful Taylor to help her.

Ella’s desperate race pushes her to the breaking point, but aided by her wits, Taylor’s supernatural senses, and the garlic marinara sauce in her shopping bag, Ella prevails. She not only rescues her brother and vanquishes her fears, she wins her father’s respect – and Taylor’s adoration.

Thank you for your consideration.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Practice Query #3

Dear Agent,
I am writing you for representation of my murder mystery novel, The Burning of Issobell Key. I am writing you, because in my search for an agent I discovered that you really like spicy food.
When Amelia Pettipants's sweet elderly neighbor Issobell dies in an exploding gas cooker accident, Amelia starts to investigate the odd circumstances around her death. Firstly, the police said that a cigarette ignited the gas fire, but Issobell never smoked, and secondly, Amelia has read enough murder mystery novels to know that nothing ever happens accidentally. Although she is convinced that Issobell was murdered, she struggles to find a motive. Issobell was the kindest old lady in the village of Boring-On-End and had never upset anyone in her life. Except she did make the hottest curries that Amelia had ever eaten. Amelia’s only lead to find the culprit is that one of Issobell’s recent dinner guests must have gotten chronic stomach problems from the intense spice. To track down the killer, Amelia throws a curry-making competition in Issobell's honor. It fails miserably when only three people enter the competition and none of them use chilies in their curry. Amelia finally comes to the depressing realization that everyone in the village is a suspect.
Frustrated and worried about her inability to uncover Issobell's killer, Amelia comes up with her most nefarious plan yet. She will host the entire village for a giant feast of her signature dish, Buffalo wings. To find out who would kill over a case of chronic indigestion she adds a secret ingredient to the wings sauce, a bucket full of the world’s hottest peppers. When she doubles over 75% of the villagers with her aggressively hot Buffalo wings, she realizes that infuriating the killer might be a mistake. But that worry is short lived, because now she won't be able to work out who the killer was as the whole town is out for her blood. Can she fend them off by throwing insanely hot Buffalo wings, or will they cook her up and turn her into the bland meal they all desire?
The Burning of Issobell Key is complete at 70,000 words. I have attached the first five pages of my manuscript, and the Buffalo wings recipe that I modelled Amelia's wings off. Please write back if you would like to request the rest of the manuscript or Issobell's Yorkshire pudding recipe.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Practice Query #2

Dear Evil One,

Apologies for the small handwriting but I am seeking representation for my 80,000 word thriller THE LEPRECHAUN CONNECTION and I'm not the tallest guy in the world.

See that last d? And the period? Took me half an hour to paint those. Ma said it'd be quicker to use a yard broom but that feels disrespectful given your credentials. So I'm sticking with a regular paintbrush. Horse bristles.


So. Anyway. My thriller.

I figure a hard-boiled private eye will play well in the current socio-political climate. Vampires and werewolves are so yesterday. And thanks to the British royal family, interest in princesses has blossomed worldwide, so (genre bust ahoy!) my thriller combines the two.


Back hurts a little. Will return tomorrow. I suppose I should have written 'tom' there and kept things simple to demonstrate my understanding of conciseness and editing etc but I left it in because industriousness and tenacity are bigger hitters in my book, especially when it comes to other people's books. Take Grisham. The guy's a sticker, a worker, a winner.


Apols. In hosp.


Eye rescues princesc
godam yard broom

If U want more, doc says I'm gtg for visits after 5pm.

Thx 4 tm & cons.

Rafferty O Flafferty O Lafferty


This dbls as follow-up 4 in 3 months.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Practice Query #1

It was a typical morning in Marion, Iowa, when John went out to the fields. Warm, pleasant, soft clouds on the horizon. No one ever saw the tornado that slammed him onto the corn crib. It was just a 'freak accident'.

At the hospital, they give him a choice: spend a miserable life as a quadriplegic, or permit experimental cyborg surgery. Unable to face a life without motion, John opts for the surgery.

Melded to a harrow, with small pitchforks for hands, he grows restless for his farm. But before he can return to his beloved land, one scientist makes him an offer. Join the underground Cyborg Fight Club, where he can make a small fortune that will allow him to expand his farm and truly live comfortably.

The fight club is easy money and no worries, at first. Until the day he meets Suzy Cola, a lovely vending machine cyborg. Unfortunately, her unscrupulous handler is forcing her to dispense her favors for anyone who can put in enough coins.

Determined to save her, John makes a rash vow--to meet the deadly Jean-Luc Zamboni in a fight. If he can beat the ice crusher, Suzy will be free and they can escape to his farm. If not? There's no 'if not'. He's taking down that Canuck junkmobile, or going to the scrap heap trying.

Cyborg Harrow is complete at 143,000 words. I'm a small time farmer who practices cyborg taxidermy, so this story is close to my heart. May I send you my MS?


Monday, April 14, 2014

Query Writing Practice

Help us get through the current lull in query submissions.

Go to this random integer generator.

Click "again." It should give you a number between 1 and 1199.

Search this blog for the Face-Lift with that number.

Choose one of the fake plots, pretend it's the plot of your just-completed book, and write a query letter that's sure to garner requests for the book from literary agents.

As always, humor is appreciated.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Gods of Lesser Things

1. Smerach, God of Paintchips, has lost the Holy Flame, and unless he gets it back by nightfall he will be stripped of his powers. Helping him are Ula, Goddess of The Random Bits of Plastic You Find in the Junk Drawer, and Farelious, God of Smut.

2. The old gods are no longer hot, so they try to hasten the end of the world. But they fail thanks to Bruce, who has the ability to rewind time.

3. The gods of carpet stains, broken chalk, and hangnails have tormented mankind long enough. Bob resolves to destroy them all, before the Earth implodes.

4. Diarrhea and Eczema watch as Aphrodite floats down for another hot encounter with a mortal. Eczema was itching to get her hands on a mortal for some fun and games. "Gotta run," 'Rhea said.

5. Whhir, the god of eggbeaters, is trying to organize his fellow deities into the Amalgamated Brotherhood of the Gods of Lesser Things and strike for better burnt offerings and a new temple. But will Whhir's ex, the goddess of mostly healed wounds, allow it?

6. Moistmorn, god of dew, agrees to take Saturday off so Bob's new golf shoes won't get wet. In return, Bob agrees to spend eternity in Hades.

Original Version


I am seeking representation for The Gods of Lesser Things, a completed modern fantasy novel of about 100,000 words, told in the close-third point of view.

Bruce--a software engineer and general slacker--leads an ordinary life in a small southern city. He stops by the coffee shop on the way to work, he waits for Friday and dreams of unattainable women. He's like you and me, [No, he's like you. Me, I stop by the chiropractor on the way to work, I hate Fridays because that's the day the carpenter comes by to sand off my foot calluses, and let's face it, when you're Evil Editor, is any woman unattainable?] only with one difference - Bruce has the ability to rewind time. [Do people walk backward during this process? Is everyone aware time has been rewound, so they can act differently the second time around, or do they do the same thing they already did when Bruce hits "PLAY"? Does Bruce have fast-forward abilities? Does Bruce use his power to save lives or just to relive his favorite moments, like when Eloise kissed him? I feel certain you're going to tell us all about this remarkable ability.]

The old gods continue to vie with one another through their distant mortal children. [Not clear what that means; drop it.] Some seek to hasten the coming end of the world, some to delay it. [What happened to Bruce?] Led by Bernard, a mysterious and powerful figure, Bruce, Michael (a schizophrenic time-traveler), and his compatriots [Should that be "their" compatriots? Or are they just Michael's compatriots?] fight the small battles that will help save the world from Ragnarok, the end of days. [I thought Ragnarok was the god of itches that itch even more after you scratch them.]

Struggling against the dark and enigmatic Loge, [god of balcony seating, and] leader of a group known only as the Others, Bruce learns that god (and godhood) is in the details, [What does that mean?] discovers a new meaning of friendship, [What does that mean?] and summons up a courage he didn't know he had to face his greatest fears.


[Choose from among:

1. I found you on a list of agents and decided to query all of you.
2. You handle Stephen King, so I figure you can make me millions.
3. You take email queries, and I'm so out of shape from sitting in front of the computer all day, I'd probably have a heart attack if I had to walk to the mailbox.

Fans of Neil Gaiman, Kage Baker, and Charles de Lint might enjoy my mix of modern life and mythology. [Especially the hilarious scene where Bruce brings Thor to the synagogue, only to discover that that's not Thor, but Hogg, god of pork loins.]

I'm a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop with stories published by Deep Magic and The Sword Review. I’ve been a technical writer and editor professionally for seventeen years.

If you are interested, I will gladly send you either the first three chapters of this story, or the complete manuscript. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



It would be more effective to stick with Bruce and his time control and describe the small battles he fights. We don't need the names of all these characters or the cliché lessons learned.

Selected Comments

HawkOwl said...Ha. I'm putting all the fake plots in my Idea pile. As for the query, naturally, I stopped caring as soon as point of view was mentioned, but I do like surreal things about gods, so if I saw it on the shelf rather than in query form, I'd probably give it a try.

braun said...I have to say, I like the premise, quite intriguing. This was a rare instance of a Guess the Plot where I thought "Man I hope it's #2" - and it was.

That being said, it's confusingly laid out in the query letter. I'm not sure who the players are in this drama. You refer to some gods as trying to bring about the end of the world but don't say which ones. Similarly, 'small battles'? How do you battle gods? And where? And again, which gods?

Finally, casually mentioning that someone can 'rewind time' and then not telling us how he got that ability or how he uses it is particularly hard on your audience.

I dig the basic concept here, but am totally confused as to whether this is something I would actually want to read.

December Quinn said...let's face it, when you're Evil Editor, is any woman unattainable?


I like the concept a lot, but I'm also unsure about how Bruce can rewind time. The query in general is pretty pithy, though, and I like pithy.

Bernita said...Yes. Basic good idea, but...
(1) which set of gods.
Please. There are many pantheons and we need to know to both be comfortable and to connect.
Ragnarok is a more generic term than you may realize.
(2)We need to know how he has this skill and what he does with it.
He's a genetic descendant?

And if he re-winds time, the gods were stronger then?

acd said...I don't know, it just seems like mentioning Neil Gaiman is a straight-up admission that you ripped off American Gods. Others might disagree.

Jenna Black said...I want to thank the authors of the Guess the Plots for this one--you made me laugh and groan in equal measures. Great fun!

pacatrue said...I like the idea of the book as well but got lost in the query. Bruce is our main character, right? So when introducing everyone else, I'd want to hear about them in relation to Bruce.
Good luck. I hope you do a great job, because this sort of thing is right up my alley.

Zombie Deathfish said...I liked all the fake plots and thought the real one sounded intolerably dull. Sorry. The query letter didn't intrigue me, and whilst I'm usually all about gods battling and poor mortals being stuck in the middle, I just think this has been done elsewhere.
I also can't think of a convincing reason why a god would want the world to end. Who would worship them then?

whitemouse said...There is already a book - a very, very excellent book - called The God of Small Things. The subject matter is completely different from this, mind you.

I also thought this premise sounded like a bit of a rip-off of American Gods. I thought that even before I saw the reference to Neil Gaiman in the query letter.

Also, according to Wikipedia, Richard Wagner invented the Germanisised name Loge for the trickster-god Loki. The author should probably use the correct spelling, especially since s/he also mentions Ragnarok, which is certainly part of the original Norse myth.

Anonymous said...Loge, god of balcony seating--EE, I love you. Of course no woman is unattainable to you! Cyrano in disguise.

Anonymous said...Fans of Neil Gaiman, Kage Baker, and Charles de Lint might enjoy my mix of modern life and mythology.

The association you've made among these three authors is very tenuous. They have completely different styles and approaches. You might be better off naming three authors who write urban fantasy whose styles yours more closely resembles than just grabbing three of the biggest names in that category.

Poohba said...Your book may be nothing like either of these movies, but when I saw the name "Bruce" in connection with this plot, I immediately thought of that Jim Carrey movie, Bruce Almighty - and then of that Adam Sandler movie where he can rewind time with a magical remote control.

Those may not be the connotations you were going for with this MS.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Emerald Bearer

1. After a gigantic emerald is magically embedded in her hand, Samantha is transported to a world of peaceful centaurs and evil minotaurs. Can she use her emerald to stop the minotaurs from polluting the sacred spring, turning the centaurs into mindless animals?

2. After a gigantic emerald is magically implanted in her forehead, Lady Marigold develops superpowers. Can she now save her planet from the evil horde in that approaching space ship? Or must she make a pact with Prince Roland, the most irksome future monarch who ever attempted to charm womankind with his bulging muscularity?

3. When Al-Tortuga is tasked with carrying the sultan's emerald on the March of Redemption, he figures it'll be a cushy three week job . . . until he discovers that the emerald is the size of a mini-refrigerator.

4. When pirates hide the Great Emerald in a swamp on an uninhabited island, they make the mistake of marking the spot on a map, a map that soon falls into the hands of Loretta, Queen of the Night, who sets off to fetch it with a daring crew of nuns and orphans.

5. Dwarf Tyrannosaurs and giant crocodiles. Desert islands. Pirates bearing treasure in need of concealment. Half the British navy. Whales. The cyclone of the century. A navigator on another drinking binge. Hungry Polynesians. Volcanic eruption. These are the challenges confronting Emily when she crashes through the time warp. Also, a humongous emerald.

6. The ancient prophecy states that the Emerald Bearer shall lead the Gaaths to their Utopia. But when Joriff sees the size of the emerald, he decides he can find his own Utopia by killing the Emerald Bearer and pawning the emerald. Can anyone convince Joriff to put his people first? His wife, for instance?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve-year-old Samantha never trained to use a magic gem. She never asked to be an Emerald Bearer—she’d never even heard of one. But none of that matters [You've used your first thirty words to tell us something that doesn't matter?] when she finds a palm-sized emerald in the foothills of Arizona. When she picks it up, the huge gem embeds itself in her hand and transports her to Centaunia; a world of peaceful centaurs, evil minotaurs, and a handful of powerful humans with magic gems of their own. [I saw someone recently with a diamond embedded in her nose. There are probably people with rubies in their rumps and sapphires in their sphincters, but how would you know?] [If the main residents of this world are centaurs, why don't they call it Centauria instead of Centaunia? Is it because then the minotaurs would be pissed that it isn't called Minotauria, and they're too stupid to notice that Centaunia is Centauria with the flag on the "r" extended downward?] [Or did you decide to call it Centaunia because you thought it would sound stupid to call it Centauria when it's the home of centaurs, not realizing that we Earthlings refer to our planet as Earth and Vulcans refer to their planet as Vulcan, so it's perfectly logical that Centaurs would call their planet Centauria.] [Has there ever been a science fiction book in which natives of Uranus appear, and if so, are they referred to as Uranusians? That's a mouthful; I think creatures who live on Uranus should be called Roids.] [Is it just a coincidence that all the letters in the word "Uranus" can be found in the word "centaurs"?] [I now recommend dumping "Centaunia," and setting your book not on Centauria, but on Uranus. Not only does it allow you and your characters to make numerous Uranus jokes, but if the editor says that your book stinks, you can say, Of course it stinks, idiot. It's set in Uranus.]

Samantha becomes famous overnight as news of her arrival spreads like wildfire. [See, here's an opportunity already. You can say wildfires are particularly treacherous on Uranus because of frequent methane gas explosions.] The centaurs bow before her as if she was royalty. It doesn’t take Samantha long to figure out why.

It’s been eleven years since the last Emerald Bearer appeared in Centaunia. Since then, raiding minotaurs have been polluting the sacred springs—pollution that turns the centaurs into mindless animals. The purifying powers of Samantha’s emerald are their last hope. [It doesn't take her long to figure all of this out? I don't see how she figured any of it out. Admit it: someone told her.] What’s more, they’re her only hope of getting back home. But there’s something no one will tell her; what happened to the last Emerald Bearer? [That sentence isn't needed; it's interrupting the flow of the plot. If you decide to keep it anyway, change the semicolon to a colon.] With the help of three other Gem Bearers, Samantha heads deep into enemy territory [Uranus] in search of the polluted springs [prostate]. With the dark leader of the minotaurs after her, [Dark leader? Why not just the leader? Do they also have a light leader? And why would the leader be after her? The whole point of becoming a leader is that you get to send your orcs to do the grunt work while you rest comfortably in your tower using your all-seeing eye to watch them screw up.] Samantha has no choice but to fight. That, or learn the fate of the last Emerald Bearer firsthand... [I don't see why this is an either/or choice.]

A middle grade fantasy novel, EMERALD BEARER is complete at 58,000 words. This book would appeal to fans of the UNICORN CHRONICLES by Bruce Coville [in which minotaurs pollute the sacred springs of the unicorns].

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



Have all the centaurs become mindless animals? If so, I wouldn't expect them to even realize Samantha is their savior, and bow down to her. If not, why does she have to search for the sacred springs? Can't the healthy centaurs tell her where they are? Can't they lead her there or draw her a map? If the centaurs don't even know where the springs are, how has the polluting of the springs affected them?

It's not clear what Samantha can do beyond purifying the sacred springs with her emerald. Do the centaurs expect this twelve-year-old to also lead them into battle against the minotaurs? Centaurs ought to be able to take minotaurs anyway, as shown in this graphic depiction:

Selected Comments

batgirl said...I'm going to guess that the sacred springs are way up in a mountain somewhere, and the centaurs drink from them way downstream. Still, the centaurs should have at least been there before to have judged them sacred. Also, not knowing the details, I can't help but visualise the minotaurs as polluting the springs by peeing into them. So maybe be more specific about what the pollution is? Mind-altering drugs?

This could be a gripping enough middle-grade story, but I'd like a better idea of what goes on for Samantha, and what choices she makes. Right now she doesn't seem to be making any, she's a helpless tool in the hands of the centaurs, who don't seem to be willing to fight for themselves.
The other questions, like where the other gem-handed people come from and how the emerald got to our world, and whether having a giant emerald stuck in your hand reduces your dexterity noticeably - those probably won't occur to me if I'm more intrigued by Sam and her situation. What does she want? What will she choose to do? Those are the questions that need more space, I think.

alaskaravenclaw said...The evil minotaurs have a "dark leader"? Uncool. The United States has a dark leader, and we're not evil. Or at least no more evil than we were before.

In case Arhooley doesn't stop by to say it, I'll mention also that foothills are of mountains, not of states: the foothills of the [insert mountain range here].

Real problem here, as written, though: Agency. Things happen to Samantha. What does she do? Where's her will and motivation? I think if this happened to me my first act would be to try to get the damn stone *out* of my hand. Why does she adopt the centaurs' cause as her own, instead of the minotaurs'?

150 said...Too much about what she knows or expects. Not enough about what she does.

Dave Fragments said...I remember a set of scenes in an old movie (whose name escapes me) as the explorers or treasure hunters passed through two villages in India, the villages were at war because they both exist on one river and at varying times each of the villages would stand on the banks of the river just above the other city and piss in the water. Then they would taunt the other village when they came out to wash clothing or draw water for cisterns. So a state of war existed between the cities.

It was comic relief in the movie.

Anonymous said...My immediate guess was also that they're pissing in the springs. So she must be Miss Hygiene. Lots of logical questions followed. Having an emerald stuck in your hand sounds like a damned painful handicap. What is it supposed to be good for? Sounds like some sort of Barbie-goes-to-Naxos story. Did you just pop the minotaurs and centaurs out of Classical mythology and leave the rest of the gods behind?

Third grade girls might be all over this, I don't know.

vkw said...I thought it was okay. It's a third grade book.

alaskaravenclaw said...Look, she said for the umpteenth time, there's no such thing as good enough for middle grade. Believe me, it's a @#$% competitive market, and you'd better be on top of your game with everything: story logic, character motivation, the whole nine yards.

Yes, it's possible third graders would not ask the questions we're asking. But very few editors, agents, or reviewers are third graders.

Stephen Prosapio said...I agree with alaskaravenclaw - do NOT make the mistake of thinking that weak or lazy world building, dialogue, plot development or especially queries are "good enough" for middle grade. Everything has to be at or above the quality of adult fiction.

I'd bet my rent that the "dark leader" is the former Emerald Bearer and it's a surprise twist late in the novel....which may or may not be okay. The problem is that the vague and nebulous is NEVER as interesting as the specific and impending. Hence, because we don't know what's going to happen to Samantha, we don't really care what happens if she fails. Sorry. It's just a fact.

Story sounds like it has potential but the query needs serious revision. Good luck!

Wilkins MacQueen said...A proactive mc with some decisions to deal with would put the story on better footing. Specifying the cause of pollution stops speculation. Like the mixture of the Cent's and Min's.

Xenith said...I wonder if it would work better if it started at: It's been eleven years since the last Emerald Bearer appeared in Centaunia. Since then, raiding minotaurs have been polluting the sacred springs—pollution that turns the centaurs into mindless animals.

That seems to be the point where it becomes interesting/something different.

AA said...Okay, here goes: Are the minotaurs the bad guys just because they pollute water, or is there some other reason? So the centaurs are peaceful. If they don't do anything requiring frontal lobe development, they might as well be mindless animals, right? What makes them not mindless animals now? Do they have cities? Poetry? Art?

Is the point of this pollution to enslave the centaurs, make them pull plows?

I, also, wondered how the centaurs figured out she was there to help them if they're turning into mindless animals.

If other humans in/on Centaunia have emeralds, what makes Samantha so special? Why does she need to be there at all?

Do the minotaurs have magic? Does Samantha have powers besides her purifying power?

Is there any reason the centaurs must drink from the sacred springs? There's nowhere else in Centaunia to get a drink of water? If they know the spring is polluted, why are they still drinking there?

If a twelve-year-old is fighting minotaurs- let me rephrase that- a twelve-year-old is NOT fighting minotaurs. I would maybe believe, Sam and her Emerald Squad - or Quad - shine the magic power beams from their emeralds together to finally defeat the evil Minotaurian overlord. Like a cross between Ghost Busters and Power Rangers. But I don't believe 4 humans vs. infinity minotaurs.

What alaskaravenclaw said x2. "Dark leader" is an unfortunate choice of words, and kids need to have BETTER quality reading material than adults.

Jodi said...alaskaravenclaw said "The evil minotaurs have a "dark leader"? Uncool. The United States has a dark leader, and we're not evil. Or at least no more evil than we were before."

I'm assuming alaskaravenclaw is using dark in a different way than what I took the author to be using it: "10. evil; iniquitous; wicked: a dark plot." This came from

laskaravenclaw said...Jodi, the dictionary doesn't dictate how we use language, it merely reports it. I'm well aware that "black" and "dark" are sometimes used as synonyms for evil, though fortunately, less often now than in the past. (That's why it was definition #10.) To continue doing it simply because it's always been done seems as tone-deaf and tin-eared as saying "Man" and "mankind" to mean humanity.

It seems particularly irresponsible when writing for children, since there's a potential to do real harm.

Personally I always try to bear in mind that children of various races, sexes and ethnicities will be reading my books. You can do as you choose, of course. Good luck.