Monday, September 29, 2014

Face-Lift 1225

Guess the Plot


1. Slogging through the sewer, Jenny plummets into a land of talking animals, height-altering tarts, a red queen, a white rabbit . . . and a hunky Hatter. It's like Wonderland, but topsy-turvy.

2. Chasing his pet rabbit, eleven-year-old Gregor falls through a vent in his basement and lands in a grim world called Underland, where he ends various wars, fulfills various prophecies, and falls in love with a princess.

3. Billy has developed a new type of pig that grows in the ground like potatoes. The other farmers laugh and sneer, but how will their Cumberland sausages stand up against his Underlands?

4. Just as the trophies are handed out at the 2033 World Bacon Eating Championships, randomly ethereal underworld wizard lord Voorg the Majestic's thumb manifests inside a discarded pig's skull. Can Mage Hunter Hoolihan dismantle the Five Portals of Doom with only a single digit to aid him? And who is the fat woman from Boston who demanded "more Porky"?

5. Bobby gets into the secret club under the lunchroom one Tuesday because the bullies made him wear his underwear on his head for an hour. Young outcasts gamble here and girls dance in their underwear, and they make Bobby the Boss. It's revenge of the Underland Club.

6. Welcome to Underland, where the Vampires are arrogant bastards, the Zombies do all the dirty jobs, and the Skeletons dominate the music and art scene. But when a human teenager enrolls at Underland High, will everything go to Hell?

7. The Underlanders live on moss and have learnt to echolocate, but nothing can prepare them for the deep mine that will cause their caverns to collapse. It's up to 8-year-old Eddie to save the day.

Original Version

Dear EE,

Chasing that creep was a terrible idea. And following him into the sewers? Even worse. But seventeen-year-old Jennifer Pilgrim refused [refuses] to let him steal her chess piece necklace, a gift from her deceased mother.

Then, mid-pursuit, the ground disappears under Jenny’s feet.

A terrifying tumble ends in an urbanized Wonderland—now coined Underland by its inhabitants. Talking animals, height-altering tarts, and the outlaw of the color blue. [A reader could interpret that as an outlaw who always wears blue. You could use "outlawing" or "banning." Or "where blue is taboo."] Nothing makes sense [here] and showing up with blue eyes and a blue dress? Jenny is in constant danger.

Desperate to escape the topsy turvy world, Jenny turns to Cornelius Hatter, finder extraordinaire. He reveals that the thief was actually a White Rabbit, the Red Queen’s bounty hunter. Terrified the Alice-look-alike will somehow retrieve the necklace, the Queen unleashes [has unleashed] her guard to capture Jenny. Or more specifically, her head. [The first two sentences of that paragraph don't seem connected to the last two because the last two have nothing to do with the Hatter. You can connect them by specifying that the Hatter tells her that the queen is out for her head.]

No way is that happening. Jenny formulates a plan: get her mom’s necklace and get home. [That's her goal, not her plan.] [Perhaps replace the paragraph with: All Jenny wants is to get back her necklace and get back home.]

Except Jenny’s strategy pushes her [keeps falling] deeper into Underland. With their memories taken by the Red Queen, Underland’s inhabitants teeter between revolution and submission. Through the Oyster Rebellion’s intel, Jenny discovers that her necklace originally belonged to Alice. And holds the key to returning everyone’s memories.

Jenny finds herself torn between a world—and a man—she has come to care for and the family and home she has always known.

Complete at 80,000 words, UNDERLAND is a steampunk/urban twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Thank you for your time and consideration.



If the inhabitants don't have their memories, why do they teeter toward revolution? I would expect them to consider revolution after their memories are returned, and to be submissive before.

You could put the 2nd paragraph at the end of P1 and the 5th paragraph at the beginning of P6.

You didn't happen to see the 2010 Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland, did you? In it, nineteen-year-old Alice falls down a hole in the ground and ends up back in Wonderland, which is now called Underland. (Actually, it was always called Underland; Alice misheard it when she was there as a child.) It's a place filled with talking animals, etc. She learns her true destiny is to end the Red Queen's reign of terror. (The movie was not the first use of the name Underland;  it's the name of all the land under Narnia, and Henry Payson Dowst long ago wrote a short story called "Alice in Underland."). 

Focus the query on the necklace and the urbanized/ steampunk aspects of the world, as you haven't made it sound much different from Wonderland or Burton's Underland.

I'd get the significance of the necklace in earlier, even if you have to claim she finds out from the Hatter instead of the Blue Oyster Cult. (Which, of course, is what you should call the Oyster Rebellion.)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Miranda Contract

1. Carmen has ditched the hat and the song-and-dance routine, but Fosse's not ready to let her go yet. Can she get out of her contract to marry John Jakes, the hobo of her dreams, or will she be forced to pretend to be a vivacious Latina till the day she dies? 

2. When Arda Arnhem is arrested for a murder she didn't commit, she is offered the right to remain silent. But this contract has a catch-- if she chooses to waive the right to remain silent, anything she says can and will be used against her in a court of law! Fortunately, she has the right to an attorney, public defender and amateur sleuth Wilma Wilkins.

3. When the dead gigolos start piling up at the city morgue, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Guns don't kill people, bullets do; and some gal named Miranda sure had a lot of boy friends.

4. Miranda the Hooker was always getting cheated, beat up, and abused. Taking control of her life, she goes back to school and earns a law degree and an MBA. Now she gets the respect she deserves, because all her johns have to sign...The Miranda Contract.
5. Dan Galkin's grandfather, an evil psychopath known as the Mad Russian, wants Dan to kill pop sensation Miranda. It'll be good publicity for the "family" business. But Dan feels a certain electricity between himself and Miranda, which he thinks may be true love, rather than his electricity-manipulation super power.

6. An exploration of the very different viewpoints in the two original versions of the "Miranda" rights contract, which were eventually merged into the warnings we all know and love. Includes point-counterpoint between 'You have the right to speak, but only in a polite and respectful tone' and 'You have the right -- nay, the responsibility -- to shut the fuck up.' 

7. Miranda is a fairy with only 24 hours to live, and though fairies aren't supposed to live as long as mortals, she really is attached to the life she has. She makes a deal with an amateur warlock to extend her life but at the cost of transforming into an imp. After losing her beauty, Miranda realises how shallow the fairy world is and becomes hell-bent on usurping the Fairy Queen to bring in a new regime. 

8. Miranda has spent too much time on the Internet, reading about the goofy things people do to make money. When she convinces a local rich family that paying her to pretend to be their cat will be quirky and entertaining to guests, she'll get free housing and food for a year. But can she get out of the contract when she finds out they've also rented her ex-boyfriend as the family dog?

9. It's 1940. “Lucky” Luciano sends Lenny “Wolf” Lupo to kill Gina Miranda – a jewel thief who burgled the wrong mansion. He watches her and falls in love. When they meet, she tries to kill him while he tries not to kill her. They wed, leave the life, and hide in a sleepy southwestern town. But after the war, change comes to Las Vegas. 

10. When the body of crime author extraordinaire Jim Trisham is found dangling from the mast of his yacht "Miranda Contract", Homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, Trisham didn't hang himself by the testicles and two, since keeping a 100 foot yacht at Marina del Rey means you have more money than God, he probably shouldn't have contributed to the boat by buying Trisham's books.

11. Actress Miranda Gabriel, fresh from her Iowa community college drama department, is discovered and slated to lead in the edgiest new drama of the season. Her agent tells her she first must sign a contract -- in blood. Welcome to the West Coast, he says, it's all part of the biz. 

Original Version

Dan Galkin is seventeen and desperately trying to keep his life unremarkable, but when you were a teenage super-villain for two weeks at the start of high school and your grandfather is an evil psychopath hell-bent on making you his successor at any cost, it’s not going to be easy. [No need to say "at any cost," as it was implied by "hell-bent."]

Dan is an uberhuman, ["Überhuman should have an umlaut, shouldn't it? Wait, should "umlaut" have an umlaut? Even if it shouldn't, it should. And we should spell apostrophe apostr'phe. And hyphen hy-phen. Etc.] [How to pronounce Über:  ˈyːbɐ. Thanks, Wikipedia.] born with the ability to sense and manipulate electricity, [For instance, when he gets out of the shower and wants to dry his hair, he senses that there is electricity on the other side of the bathroom outlet. He manages to access this electricity through the use of the metal prongs dangling off of his hair dryer. He then manipulates the electricity into a steady rush of warm air through the use of the on-off switch on his device. Other controls allow him to regulate both the air flow and temperature from low to medium to high. He feels it's only a matter of time before he's starring in his own comic book.] [An appendix in the back of the book details how Dan is able to manipulate electricity to recreate the sound of Mick Jagger singing "Brown Sugar in a recording studio in 1969 and to create a grilled cheese sandwich.] and when he accidentally rescues pop sensation Miranda Brody from a mob of fans, he is strongarmed into becoming her bodyguard. [When you're desperately trying to keep your life unremarkable, and you become Britney Spears's bodyguard, you weren't trying desperately enough.] Unfortunately, his grandfather, The Mad Russian, has orchestrated the whole thing and wants Dan to kill Miranda and use the resulting publicity to take over the family business. [Usually in a family business the heir to the throne is the most powerful or the most qualified or the first-born, and whether you've killed a pop star doesn't figure into the equation. What kind of business is the psychopathic Mad Russian's family in?Dan has no interest in becoming a killer so he and Miranda end up running for their lives, dodging a string of Dan’s childhood teammates and developing a love-hate relationship along the way. [He loves her; she hates him.]

As the villains close in, Dan’s powers are acting wildly, but he manages to turn the tables on the Russian and he and Miranda escape the city in a stolen car. [Can you imagine Britney or Gaga abandoning their careers to flee in a stolen car with a seventeen-year old?] They end up at Dan's deranged mother's house where he realises he has gone as far as he can. He stops running - from his grandfather and from his past. Using clues from the previous attacks, [There've been attacks?] his grandfather's contacts, and his ability to tap into the mobile phone network, he tracks the Mad Russian's location to a shopping centre. [Überhumans don't go to shopping centers. They have minions, flunkies and underlings for that. Although I did see Spiderman at a mall on Halloween once. He was in line at a Cinnabon.]

It’s here at the endgame that Dan is pushed to his limits keeping the people safe and taking down his grandfather, eventually scrambling the electrical impulses of the Mad Russian's brain, although it nearly kills them both. In the aftermath Dan is labelled a hero. But it’s bittersweet for Dan, as Miranda walks away from their growing attraction, leaving him to find a way to live his own life instead of in the shadow of his past crimes and family. [What?! He saves the world but doesn't get the girl? What was the point?]

The Miranda Contract is a 70,000 word Young Adult superhuman [Überhuman] fiction novel, exploring issues of family pressure, overcoming negative reputation and labels, as well as a healthy dose of redemption, adventure and heroism. [If "fiction" is describing "novel," it's redundant. Or is "superhuman fiction" a single term, like "science fiction"? If so, is "superhuman fiction" your genre, or your opinion of your book?] [I'd go with "superhero novel."] 

I have had several short stories published in print and online publications, as well as editing the superhuman fiction ‘zineThis Mutant Life for two years. One of my stories, The Scoundrel’s Wife, was short listed for the Chronos Awards in 2011 (Australian science fiction awards).

The Miranda Contract was long-listed for the 2012 Hachette Manuscript Program. [A shrewd but transparent way of saying The Miranda Contract couldn't even get short-listed for the 2012 Hachette Manuscript Program.]

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,


I would drop the paragraph with the deranged mother and move directly to: In the endgame... 

It's better to let the issues explored in your book be obvious from the plot description, rather than to point them out.

Pop sensation Miranda Brody would just go by Miranda. 

Not sure the term "Miranda rights" is familiar in Australia, but in the US that title will probably give readers expectations of a police procedural.

Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...I was definitely with you through the first paragraph. After that, I'm afraid my relationship with your query deteriorated.

Question: who strongarms Dan into becoming Miranda's bodyguard, and do they do it with or without the knowledge that Dan's grandpa wants him to kill her? I found this very confusing and it felt contrived.

What i mean by "contrived" is that it seems like something dropped on the characters by their Author rather than something that evolves naturally from events and personalities. That may not be the case in the ms; it may just be the query.

With regard to the fourth paragraph, I don't think queries generally include the novel's ending.

This reminded me of two YAs I'd read:

1. Markus Zusak's also-Australian _I Am The Messenger_, which is a terrific book until the last chapter, when I'm sorry to say I had to throw it across the room. Talk about contrived.

2. Louis Sachar's _Small Steps_, in which a teenage boy who's done time in juvie hooks up with (wait for it) a teen pop star. This couple, too, are the objects of a devious scheme: the singer's stepdad/manager tries to kill her and frame the boy. This doesn't feel contrived because the boy's been set up throughout the book as the perfect patsy.

Anyway, on the rewrite here I'd try not to tell the whole plot, just enough to get us interested. Try to keep the focus on Dan... if he doesn't know something, don't tell us.

Kelsey said...Hi author, At the beginning of the query you mention that Dan was a villain for two weeks, but then it isn't mentioned again. If it's not relevant to the central conflict, cut it.

While I think it's a good idea that the grandfather has manipulated Dan into his close contact with Miranda (the fewer coincidences, the better) I hit a snag with the bodyguard issue. I'm unclear about whether, in your novel's world, uberhumans are known or hidden. From your intro about Dan trying to keep his life normal, I assumed no one knew about his powers (generally the default in superhero fiction). But then, how does he save Miranda? If he saves her without powers, he's just a 17-yr-old kid, unremarkable, who maybe was in the right place to Miranda out of the way of a gunshot (or something), which makes me extremely skeptical that this kid would then be 'requested' as a bodyguard; on the other hand, if he uses his powers to save her and that's why they want him as a bodyguard, then these powers must be societally normal because otherwise there would be all sorts of awkward questions raised. You don't have to give the play-by-play of this scene in the query, but do work in if uberhumans live openly so it's more believable.

I'd think about changing the Grandfather's villainy to something other than Mad Russian--the Russians get picked on as villains a lot. Your story may play on cliches purposefully to be campy, but if that's not what you mean to do, look for a fresh villainy.

I do, though, think it's cool that the Dan doesn't get the girl. (Apparently every guy plus girl that are thrown together fall in love forever.) But in the actual novel I'd suggest working in small clues that this romance isn't going to be rosy early on, just so readers don't feel their break-up comes completely out of left field.

Good luck!

Author, I quite enjoyed this. I do think it's a bit synopsis-y toward the end, and I think you could delve more into the Dan-as-a-two-week-villain stuff, but you're off to a very good start. Would you consider writing a version with more lead-up and less ending? Just so we could kind of compare and point out what we think should stay in the final query?

Again, I think this is good stuff. But I'd love some more set-up (and trust me, you don't hear that a lot around here) so I can know what the bones of the story are.

AA said...This is more of a synopsis than a query letter. That is, it's a list of things that happen in the story. The main thing that seems to be wrong with it is that I don't care. I don't care about some kid with a vague superpower that is difficult to visualize working. I don't care about some pampered pop star who isn't even described. I think the grandfather is pretty interesting, but that may be because I'm curious about him. Anyway, I'm not supposed to feel like siding with the villain.

I think part of the problem is that by trying to cram too much info into the query, you may be diluting the main thrust of the story.

"Dan is an uberhuman, born with the ability to sense and manipulate electricity."

I'm not feeling this. As EE showed in his blue text, this could mean almost anything. Try being as specific as possible here.

Also, I'm confused as to why Dan should be required to kill Miranda. Seems to me this will only get him prison time. What good does it do the "family business?" I think the best killers would be quiet, stay in the background, and be difficult to pick out in a crowd. Certainly publicity is the last thing they want. Maybe I'm missing something obvious here.

"Dan has no interest in becoming a killer so he and Miranda end up running for their lives, dodging a string of Dan’s childhood team-mates and developing a love-hate relationship along the way. " Okay, but if one of the team-mates (What does that mean? Teamsters?) kills Miranda, does Dan still get the family business? What if one of them kills Dan? Then who gets it? It's confusing.

"As the villains close in, Dan’s powers are acting wildly..." Just wanted to point out- "teen superhero protag who doesn't quite know how to use powers properly yet" may be THE most common cliche' on this blog so far. With the possible exception of "teen turns out to be half-magical race and also royalty."

I'm skeptical of the whole premise, actually, but if you can re-write this so that the pressures in the story seem more immediate and the characters are more like real people, I might be persuaded to believe that a hardened, crafty boss is going to hand over the "family business" to some wet-behind-the ears teenage kid.

Mister Furkles said...You need to rework this. Aside from what EE and the other minions said, your typical sentence is too long. Your first sentence is 50 words. One agent wrote that when she see this, she assumes the manuscript is loaded with run-on sentences.

I don't get any feel for Miranda. She would seem crucial to the story because her name is in the title. We need to know something about the family business. Is it Celebrity Murder Inc.? Can you make Dan a more appealing person?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Face-Lift 1224

Guess the Plot

Where Angels Weep

1. In God's gilded commode! He has way too many Grooms of the Throne. Any angel who gets the job knows why Lucifer quit, and Lucifer welcomes those who need a new position that doesn't involve holy sh*t. Gabriel is tempted. 

2. Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park, Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium.

3. Someone killed Vi's father, and she needs to find the killer before he sends someone else she loves to the angels. But will anyone believe her when she reveals that all the evidence points to Cookie Monster as the killer?

4. When the body of softcore porn queen Cherie Sweet is found dragging behind a Los Angeles bus, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she didn't tie herself to the bus by her hair; and two, the Angels are in the playoff hunt and now might be a good time to take the kids to a game.

5. Angels must be perfect. In everything. But young Marielle is fat, her hair is a mess and her legs are hairy. Every day she tortures herself in “Heaven Sent”, a beauty centre. She runs on the treadmill, eats only ambrosia light and a beautician waxes her legs. But with a group of other overweight, not-so-perfect angels Marielle plans to take over Heaven Sent. And screw the divine standards.

6. Amy thought working in heaven would be awesome. Divine offices, fun coworkers, free donuts in the lounge. Like Google, only with harps. But it turns out God's a lousy administrator, and the Archangel Michael is an overbearing, self-righteous jerk. Can Amy survive Michael's micromanaging and climb up heaven’s ladder, or will she end up huddling in the stairwell...Where Angels Weep?

Original Version

Dear ________,

I'm currently seeking representation for my YA novel (with a bit of mystery) WHERE ANGELS WEEP. I thought it might be the perfect addition to your list since you were [are] interested in young adult fiction.


Vi Thorne has a confession to make. [If you open with the confession instead of the announcement of the confession you'll save space.]

She may or may not be in love with her best friend. [Was that the confession? As that's true of everyone who has a best friend, it's pretty lame as confessions go. If a detective is grilling a suspect and says, "You killed her. Confess and we'll take the death penalty off the table," he's not gonna be satisfied with a confession that goes, "I may or may not have killed her."] I mean, he should have known that giving a sugar-obsessed monster a cookie would seal his fate. [Seal whose fate? The friend's or Cookie Monster's?]

She even made a pact with herself: She'd confess her undying love to Lincoln, [So is that the confession? Does it count as a confession if it may not be true?] [Is Lincoln the best friend, or did the best friend get murdered?] they'd get married, have three kids and a dog named Speckles, live on [in] a beach house where she'd paint endless scenes of blue -- because red just reminds her of blood now -- and Linc could not have girls throw themselves at him every five minutes during his self-defense classes. [Not clearly worded. Also, if girls want to throw themselves at Linc, it's out of his control. Though in a self-defense class they're more likely to throw each other.] Clearly, she'd thought this through. [Wait, what happened to Cookie Monster?] [Is that the "bit of mystery"? Who killed Cookie Monster? I'm not sure Sesame Street will let you use Cookie Monster as a character, especially if he gets killed or turns out to be a murderer. But it can't hurt to ask. I for one would love to read a murder mystery in which the detective calls the suspects together at the end and they're all sitting in the detective's office wondering which one of them is guilty and wondering what Cookie Monster is doing there, as he hasn't even been in the book up until then, and the detective reveals that Cookie Monster did it, and Cookie Monster confesses that yes, he did it, but the victim had it coming because he put out a Pepperidge Farm cookie assortment at a party, but had first eaten all the Brussels cookies.] [Now that's a confession.]

Instead, she's trying not to run away screaming like a deranged monkey as her best friend tells her he's a killer and, apparently, so was her murdered father. [I believe the word for the father is "killee."] [Also, if her best friend is gonna be in the query twice, use his name. I assume this is the same best friend she may or may not be in love with? Lincoln? Once we know his name is Lincoln, call him that. Or is this her other best friend?] Of corrupt people, he says. But she should think not. [Not clear what that awkward sentence means. She doesn't buy that her father was a killer? Or doesn't buy that he only killed corrupt people? Or something else entirely?] And, through a series of unexpected discoveries that not only include a kidnapping, but also a noose, she finds out her father was not the person she thought she knew.

She was once told [by a raving lunatic] that sanity is best judged by those who lack it. Completely valid statement. Not valid for a person who dreams she is another person at night, a Tori Sommers, badass runaway. And it can't possibly be a coincidence that Vi started dreaming of the girl the night of her father's murder. Of course not.

Teaming up with her former best friend, [Is this "former" best friend the same best friend we've been talking about, except they're no longer best friends, or was this best friend her best friend before she moved on to her current best friend? I can't tell if she has one, two or three best friends.] Vi is on a mission to find this killer before someone else she loves gets hurt. In [From] a letter addressed to her father, Vi pieces together the evidence that led to his murder, realizing much too late that the murderer is closer than she thinks. [He's the postman.]

But, let this be a lesson to everyone: Life never happens the way you want it to.

Damn cookie [monster].


WHERE ANGELS WEEP is complete at 60,000 words.

Thanks for your time and consideration! [No exclamation point.] Should you choose to finish WHERE ANGELS WEEP in its entirety, I would be thrilled to discuss the (shocking) ending with you! [No exclamation points!!] [And no offers to discuss the ending.]


This is all over the place. You're trying way to hard to put voice into the query. Start over. Summarize the plot in clear simple sentences that a middle grader would understand. Let each sentence and paragraph follow logically from the last, with smooth transitions. Leave out Tori Sommers. Once you've done that, you can go back and add a few clever touches that show your voice/tone/style.

I'm more interested in what this YA novel has a lot of than what it has a bit of. It sounds like a YA thriller. Or YA mystery. Or YA romantic suspense.

If Cookie Monster isn't in the book, change the cookie to a candy bar. And get rid of all other references to cookies. Then remove the candy bar.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Face-Lift 1223

Guess the Plot

The Spirit Swindler

1. Hey! Hey you! Cubicle meat sack. That soul thing? You're not using it, right? So I'll give you a million bucks now, and another million later. Come on. What have you got to lose?

2. A unicorn promises the late Brobro a new life in a new body. Naturally he jumps at the opportunity, but be careful what you wish for: his new body turns out to be Adolph Hitler's! And the SWAT team is at the door!

3. It was a classic tale of fame and fortune. He had it, but it could also be yours – for a price. All you need do is take care of the Nigerian Prince. But be careful what you wish for – because he's . . . The Spirit Swindler.

4. The ghost of Al Capone returns to 1960s Chicago and wreaks havoc on the city's hippy counterculture. Ultimately prohibited from committing any worldly sin, Capone is consumed by a hatred of Bohemianism bordering on the fanatical. Only Shaggy and Scooby can stop his nefarious plans to exorcise the desire for pleasure from the human spirit.

5. Jake has realized that spirits are not souls. No one in Hell wants to buy any, and Jesus just chuckles at Jake's ambition. But why do so many useless specters keep appearing at Jake's door? Is Jake a Specter Whisperer or an unpublished writer with a too-big imagination?

6. When little Bobby Bacardi came over from the old country, one step ahead of the prohibitionists, he thought he might have at last found a refuge. But that was in 1919, and things went down the hatch quickly. When a drunk-with-power Sammy Seagram catches up with him, Bobby knows he's in for the bar fight of his life. Wearing a mask, and working mostly in the dimly lit back rooms of speakeasies, Bobby becomes the vigilante known as… The Spirit Swindler.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Brobro was tired of being dead. The service was bad, the rent was too high, and the frequency of teenage girls trying to summon him at sleepovers was just exhausting. When a unicorn named Swagfast promised him new life in another body, how could he refuse? [No reason that paragraph can't be in present tense.]

Now Brobro's alive, exactly where he died. Everything's just as he remembered [remembers] it, right down to the time on the clock. The only difference is his wife's terrified expression. Oh, and the fact that his "new" body is Adolf Hitler's. 

It doesn't take long for the SWAT team to arrive. [Why are they arriving?] Brobro's alone against the law, and his narrow escape just means they'll crack down harder. His retreat leads him into the NYC sewers, where he finds a fellow misfit named Jazzhands. The winged clown claims to have been a beautiful pegasus, before Swagfast cheated her out of her body.

Together they decide to search a world that hates them to find Swagfast and the lives that he stole from them. [Swagfast didn't steal Brobro's life; Brobro was already dead when they met.]

THE SPIRIT SWINDLER is a 128,000 word historical romance. [Really? Whether the romance is between Brobro and his wife or Hitler and the winged clown (or Brobro and Hitler, in which case it would be a Brobromance), you need to have something about the romance in the query. And if it's historical romance, reveal the historical period in which it's set. Even now that I know the romance is the main focus of the book, I'm inclined to think romantic comedy or paranormal romance or farcical fantasy.] If you are interested, please email me at ___________. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The tone is good, assuming it fits the book.

Not clear if Brobro has possessed the body of the real Adolph Hitler or just has a body that looks like Hitler's. As there were no SWAT teams when Hitler was alive, I assume the latter, but as dead people can be given new lives, perhaps it's the former. Perhaps Hitler, too, got tired of being dead and Swagfast gave him a new life, except he was being as big an asshole in his new life as he was in his old one so Swagfast let Brobro have the body, figuring he couldn't be any worse in it than Hitler. Then again, Swagfast is apparently the villain, so he'd probably be happy if Brobro were worse than Hitler. New title suggestion: The Man Who Was Worse Than Hitler.

I always thought Pegasus was one specific creature, rather than a species or race. Or that if there were lots of them, that Pegasus was the name of one winged horse and the other winged horses had their own names. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Summer of the Flood

1. When a hurricane leaves Galveston Island flooded, residents are forced to wade to school and work. The wet clothes and shoes are bad enough, but the worst part? Sharks.

2. Sixth-grader Annie wants to stage a production of Hamlet with local children, while her cousin Maggie wants to jump in the rising river and drown herself. Either way, there's gonna be a tragedy.

3. Abby and Jake may be only 14 years old, but they know they're in love. Can Abby get her dad, Noah, to give Jake a place on his precious ark?

4. That was the year. The year we all despaired. The year red heels were found washed up on the beach. The year glue-on mutton chops sold on e-bay. The year NaNoWriMo happened in June.

5. Everyone in the valley is making fun of that crazy old religious man, for building that giant boat. When storm clouds roll in, however, and a parade of paired animals begins making its way through town, folks start getting nervous.

6. Stranded on the roof when the river breaks its banks, Elsa bludgeons her abusive husband and casts him into the deluge below. But her actions are witnessed by a ghostly child who taunts and goads Elsa the entire summer.

Original Version

Dear E.E.,

The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie goes crazy. The kind of crazy where she runs away from home and tries to commit suicide.

Maggie’s parents don’t know what to do with her. They think a summer in Northern England with her recluse grandparents – former Shakespearean actors who sing to their sheep [Baa baa baa, baa baa baa ram.] and haven’t left their house in six years – will [inspire her to get it right this time.] clear her head and get her out of their hair. [Nice. Their kid tries to kill herself and they want her out of their hair.] 

Annie – she’s coming too, with a grand plan for their English summer that includes finding clues about the mother she never knew, getting Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river, and convincing her grandmother to stage Hamlet in their backyard, cast with children from the local village.

[Quotes from 6th-grade Hamlet:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be
You may not borrow nor shall I lend my iPod.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy comic books.

Something is rotten in the refrigerator.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than football cards, Barbie dolls and Xboxes.

Get thee to a video arcade.

Bieber or the Biebs -- that is the question.]

Maggie – she’s not having any of it. Her heart’s still set on running.

SUMMER OF THE FLOOD is a middle grade novel of 51,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


How old is Maggie?

You've given us the characters: Maggie, Annie, reclusive grandparents. You've set up the situation: the two girls are spending the summer in England. Now . . . What happens?

You can cut the setup to something like:

The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie runs away from home and tries to commit suicide. Maggie’s parents decide a summer in Northern England with her reclusive grandparents will set her on the right track, and Annie goes along, hoping to find clues about the mother she never knew--and to keep Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river.

Now give us two more paragraphs in which you relate the plot.

Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...See if you can tweak the phrasing slightly to acknowledge that 
you know Maggie's parents are totally lame.

I know and you know that parents really do things like send a seriously troubled kid to stay with whacko relatives in a foreign country instead of getting help for 'em, but the neutral "don't know what to do" makes it sound like you consider their choice an acceptable one.

And then, yeah, say what happens.

And why Hamlet? I mean I get that its discussion of suicide works for your story, but most sixth graders haven't even read the play. Why is this kid so interested in it?
Anonymous AlaskaRavenclaw said...
ps-- nothing against the UK, and not meaning to imply that it contains relatives any more whacko than those we enjoy here in the US. But the point is the parents are getting the kid to a place where, when the @#$# hits the fan, they won't be the ones dealing with it.
Anonymous vkw said...Yeah, about the parents. I know of parents who have done exactly this. 
However, I don't think they did it to get the kid out of their hair. They did it because 
after months and months, perhaps even years, of dealing with a trouble child that 
climaxes with a serious suicide attempt they are exhausted and overwhelmed and at 
their wit's end. And, a change of scenery has falsely been thought of a cure for 
problems of every kind. And, grandparents are notoriously nice, most of the time, 
wanting to save/help their children and grandchildren. All that love and not giving up 
on family members gets in the way of their thinking.

Of course, maybe that's not the case with Maggie's parents or grandparents but I get it. I wouldn't be flippant about it, though. Either glance at it the way EE did or explain it better if it is part of the story or understanding your characters' motivation.

This is a good setup. I am notoriously bad about not liking middle grade queries because I think they sound shallow. But, this doesn't sound shallow, this sounds interesting and deep and even fun.

Please rewrite your query to convince me I am right.

Blogger BuffySquirrel said...Once upon a time, when depression was known as melancholia, a common cure was the sea change. You go on a nice long cruise and by the time you get back home you're better.
I can't imagine an intercontinental flight having *quite* the same effect.

Boy is Annie going to be disappointed when she finds out what the North's idea of 'summer' is. Hope her theatre isn't outdoors.
Blogger BuffySquirrel said...
Oh, wait, just noticed the title. Guess that answers the question about the author's familiarity with Northern summers.
Blogger AA said...
I agree with AlaskaRavenclaw- I only read Romeo and Juliet in high school (and didn't like it). Hamlet is much better, but most kids have no experience with it. I hadn't been exposed to Shakespeare before high school except for pop culture references like tv shows.

A line about how grandpa recites some of it to Annie, or whatever, would be good. For believability, I want to know why this has to be THE play.

I do think it sounds interesting. I'd also like a hint if Annie finds anything surprising about her mother, or maybe something she didn't want to know.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Face-Lift 1222

Guess the Plot


1. A mommy blogger tries to parody Lewis Carroll's the Jabberwocky and can't think of a rhyme for "blog".

2. The secret son of Evil Editor and Julia Roberts is starting his own blog…and he’s going to reveal lot of shocking news about his parents.

3. Piper and Chad are assigned to work together on a blog, but they both refuse. Will their teacher make good on her threat to fail them both? Or will she decide her job security is more important?

4. Private Investigator Amanda Socci sets up Kidblog, a decoy kiddie-porn site with enough spyware to positively identify any creep who tries to download from it. Then she figures that blackmailing high-profile creeps is far more lucrative than handing them in to the authorities. But she didn't figure that mega-creep Senator Giles could trace the technology straight back to her.

5. First we had PBSKids, then NBCKids and National Geographic kids, and any number of shows pandering to the younger set. Then a plucky, comic-relief kind of character suddenly gets his big break, and squanders it all tackling the most vile evil of all: Wordpress! Hilarity and grammatical errors ensue…

6. Eight-year-old Ricky starts a blog dealing with life at Fontana Elementary school. Tough tests, tough teachers, Tough-Luck Bobby (Maria likes Finn). Meanwhile, mommyblogger Cindy Sharon starts a blog about raising her home-schooled genderneutral child Moon as a vaccine free, gluten free, and religion free vegan. Everything's fine until Ricky and Moon email each other.

Original Version

Dear Evilicious Editor.

I am seeking representation for my realistic fiction Middle Grade manuscript, Kidblog, complete at 21,100 words. The story is told through a dual-voiced narrative, blog entries and comments, online chats, and text messages. [What, no tweets?] [When it comes to fiction, kids have always been ahead of adults in the technology fields. Back in the 1870s it seemed like every other middle-grade query was told through telegraph messages, smoke signals, and hand-written letters, none of which today's kids have ever heard of.] [Am I showing my age?] [If archaeologists ever find a middle-grade query from prehistoric times it'll probably claim the story is told through cave paintings, cuneiform, and signs from the gods.] [Also, "dual-voiced narrative" sounds pretentious. Just say much of it is told through...and list the other stuff.]

Play-it-cool Chad has big plans for seventh grade: smooth talking his way to decent grades and acing the basketball team tryouts. Play-by-the-rules Piper has big plans, too: keeping up her straight-A streak and crafting a surprise birthday gift [for?]. Neither plans on being partners for a clutch English assignment. But their kazoo-tooting [Play-the-kazoo] teacher insists they must work on the class Kidblog together – or fail! [Does she tell them this with the kazoo in her mouth? Because that would seem a bit disrespectful.] [And yet I'm not sure why the teacher's only trait worthy of mention is her kazoo tooting if she does it only in a respectful manner.]

A Slurpee versus m & m-fueled battle of wills ensues when first Chad then Piper decides collaboration WILL NOT HAPPEN. [There'd be more conflict if only one of them refused to collaborate. If they both refuse, it's a win-win situation. Or lose-lose, if the teacher makes good on her threats to fail them both, though that's unlikely, as it would cost her her job when the parents sue the school system.] With the clock ticking, conflicts pile up at school and problems bubble up at home. Then, with their plans unraveling fast, Chad and Piper face twin family emergencies that force them to find common ground – and even friendship – in the unlikeliest of places. [This would be much more interesting if you were specific about the conflicts, problems, plans, emergencies and places.]

Writing credits include x, y, and z. I’m an active lurker, if not poster, on FB, Twitter and Instagram. [Lurking is not a credit.] My website, currently being updated, is [If you hurry up and finish updating it you won't have to admit it's being updated.] [Also, I went there, and it's all about TV shows and nothing about your book.]

Attached are the first x pages/y chapters of my manuscript.

Thank you for your consideration.



The setup is okay, but  once you get into the story it becomes vague. We can sympathize with specific problems and emergencies, but we don't know what they are. We need something besides the format that hooks our interest.

Not sure what Slurpees and m & ms have to do with the battle of wills.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Immortal Island

1. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

2. Isla de Santa Susanna is not found on any maps. When fat, homely Isabel washes up on its beach after a plane crash, she's surprised to find a colony of people only too glad to welcome her. But are they normal . . . or vampires?

3. When a plane crash lands Marsha and her two friends on a strange island, they know they're in major trouble. But, they didn't expect that trouble to include hiding from a mad scientist intent on capturing them to use as subjects in his human immortality experiments. Are they fated to die in pursuit of eternal life?

4. 13-year-old Danny dreads the annual summer vacation on Immortal Island. But this year is going to be different, what with the rumors of buried treasure, disappearing gardeners, suspiciously smart dogs, and the help of a cute pyromaniac named Kimberly.

5. In an alternate-history 1970’s, a small island off the English coast becomes a haven for wannabe revolutionaries and small-time crooks. When an international arms incident catapults the island into the spotlight, thief Jerome and rabble-rouser David must choose between their ideals and their love for each other.

6. The network has spoken, and they've voted off survival reality show host Guy Sly. In a plot of cold revenge Guy orchestrates a mass kidnapping of network big wigs and plants them on an remote island full of immortal beings. Which fat cat will be dinner first? Will Guy redeem himself during sweeps week? Vampires, zombies and faeries galore!

Original Version

Dear Evil editor,

Please consider my mss that I have completed entitled, ‘IMMORTAL ISLAND - Spellbound/Midnight Masquerade’ first book is part one and two. [Your first sentence is a sure deal killer--and not just because it isn't a sentence. The title is three titles; choose one. We don't care about parts one and two. Ms. is the abbreviation for manuscript. My mss that I have completed would be more concise as my completed ms.] [The good news is that you've got an excellent shot at the Least Effective Opening Sentence Award (an Evil Editor coffee mug), though you're in a tight battle with Face-Lift 333.]

It is about a young woman named Sarah Daniels who discovers secrets about her friends and family that changes [change] her life forever.

Sarah begins having visions that she cannot explain. At first they appear as dreams, but when she has them while awake she realizes what they really are. [Which is?] The first vision she has is of the parents [her parents'] death, when they don't return from their vacation she goes to the town sheriff to report them missing. [The sheriff of her town or of the town where they went for vacation?] She meets a handsome yet mysterious Undersheriff
named Chase Gavenport, who she has a unique attraction to. Things slowly start to unravel every day that she spends on the island.
 [What island? Immortal Island? I had no idea they were on an island.] Then a strange man dressed in all black begins to stalk her while at her parents [parents'] place. (Zadkiel).[Zadkiel? Is that the name of her parents' place? The name of the stalker? An exclamation, like Gadzooks?]When he finally reveals himself to her he tries to kill her but Chase comes to her rescue. They become close and Chase eventually reveals to her that he is a vampire and also tells her what the man in black wants. [(Zounds).]

Sarah’s ex-boyfriend decide [decides] to complicate things even more by adding himself to the equation. He reveals that he is still in love with her and wants her back. [The word "reveals" appears more often in the last four sentences than it does in the entire book of Revelations.] Sarah is torn and can’t decide what she really wants. [No need to say the same thing twice in one sentence.] They [Who?] share a house just off campus [Campus? I had no idea they were on a campus.] with close friends and things start to really heat up. She must choose but who will it be, the vampire who brings with him a life filled with uncertainty or her best friend and ex-boyfriend who loves her for everything he thinks she is. [Which is what?]

But now preternatural beings of Sarah's new world seem to be drawn to her. Her life is in constant peril, she cannot turn to her human friends. With witches, warlocks, were-animals, shape-shifters, [zombies, sharks,] to name a few, come to claim, and the power that dwells inside her begins to grow. [That sentence made no sense to me, apparently because I'm unfamiliar with the expression "come to claim."] A power Sarah does not know how to control.

Now Chase has disappeared and no one will give her any answers as to his whereabouts. [When you ask someone where the vampire is, you seldom get a straight answer.] Who will keep her safe from the nightmare that has become her life. Wait a minute there is always a white knight…Right? Erick the strange angelic man.Who always seems to rise to the occasion mainly when she is in harm’s way? Three times he saves her but why, he is a vampire too. [Making your most compelling character a vampire is a mistake. I liked him better when he was just Erick the strange angelic man. In fact, my desire to read more about Erick the strange angelic man leads me to insert this week's writing exercise here. Write a scene involving Evil Editor and Erick the strange angelic man. Don't make Erick a vampire. 300 words max; deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern.]

Then one night after giving up all hope she receives a mysterious letter. A Midnight Masquerade ball? Being thrown by the vilest of creatures out there. He has no sympathy for human kind and would rather rid his world of them. [Naturally she accepts the invitation.] Sarah must do what she can to save her life and the life now inside her as she comes face to face with the man who will take her life…Chase? [You're asking me?]

Sarah survives the Masquerade but not before her unborn child or is it children are infected with vampire blood. Now it's a waiting game. To see whether or not her children will live and be vampires killing her in the process with their savage birth, or if they are healthy and unharmed by the blood that was so easily given to her by the same vampire who on many occasions attempted [to] take her life. Ambrose and Sarah will forever be connected from that day forward. [Ambrose? Who's Ambrose?] Now she must tell the father that his babies could be vampires. How will Jeff [Jeff? Who's Jeff?] take the news that vampires exist and that his unborn children may be one [two] of them?

Turns out that the twins are affected by the vampire virus yet in different ways. Alaina is half vampire and half human, she prefers to drink blood. Wyatt is human but has all the abilities a vampire has, [If you have all the abilities a vampire has, you're pretty much a vampire.] however he is more unique than they know... His blood is the key, the cure to vampirism.

This is four parts all together book two is complete but not ready for viewing just yet.

Please contact me if you would like to review my complete mss.

word count -> 84,328

Urban Fantasy fiction for YA or Adults. There are intimate scenes that can be altered to fit YA.



A query letter should fit on one page. Trash the whole thing, start over, limit your plot summary to ten sentences.

It's riddled with errors. This leads the reader to assume the book is also riddled with errors. Even if cleaning up the query got a request for the manuscript, no one will read far into a manuscript full of spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Your opening hook is that this is a book about a woman who discovers secrets about her friends and family that change her life forever. Her family isn't in the query at all as they disappear while on vacation and never get mentioned again, and the only friend in the query is her ex-boyfriend, and I didn't see any secrets about him.

The hook might be something like this: Pregnant with twins, Sarah Daniels attends a masquerade ball at which she is bitten by a vampire. The pregnancy, birth and aftermath sound like they could make an interesting story. The witches and werecreatures and island and parents and campus and man in black and Zadkiel are cluttering the query. And possibly the book.

I decided you would rather view Erick the Strange Angelic Man's pitch session than read selected comments (which may be viewed by searching for immortal island on this blog).