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.)

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. 

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.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Chris Eldin Fellowship

Some former minions, and others, are running a fundraiser to set up an annual fellowship for middle grade writers in the name of the late minion, Chris Eldin (aka Takoda/Church Lady) who passed away in 2012. Chris was very active in promoting the work of new writers and we thought that setting up a fellowship in her name was a good way for us, and others, to remember her.

We’ve got some great donations to the fundraiser, including goodies from Hugh Howey, Ken Follett, Jonathan Franzen, and many other authors.

We’re trying to promote the fundraiser at the moment – it only runs until the end of September.
And the fellowship itself is now open for entries: 

New Beginning 1031

The hospital reeked of blood. It filled Morcant’s nose even before the doors opened, pulling him from the shocked stupor he’d been in ever since he got the call from his son.

He lurched toward the reception desk, shoving people out of the way. “Where is she?” he demanded, his voice hoarse and broken.

The receptionist leaned away from him. “Sir, you can’t just—”

“My wife, damn it! Where is she?” He clenched his eyes shut, willing them not to turn silver.

“Dad.” Enid pulled at his arm. How could she be so calm?

A doctor came through a pair of doors. Mid-forties, African-American. “Morcant. Enid. I’m so sorry.”

In two steps he was in front of her, ignoring the stares of those in the waiting room. “Where is she, Helen?”

Sympathy filled her gaze. “Morcant, no. You don’t want to see her. The accident was ... It was bad. I thought Geraint told you.”

If Morcant’s heart could have beat, it would have cracked his ribs. Instead, his stomach heaved. “I need to see her.” 

The doctor sighed. "You would have seen her already if your eyes weren't clenched shut. Open them and look around."

Morcant's eyes, which had so far not changed into any precious metal, opened slowly and took in the waiting room. Now he understood why the place reeked of blood.

"She's right there in the corner," the doctor said in a gentle voice. "And on the ceiling, and a bit near the receptionist desk, and on what's left of the carpet."

Morcant's stomach heaved again. "You say this was an accident?"

"Well, drinking the gasoline was an accident. Apparently the bottle was mislabeled. Having her wait for treatment in a seat next to a dragon with hiccups was ... well, let's just blame Obamacare, shall we?" 

Opening: SB.....Continuation: JRMosher

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Face-Lift 1221

Guess the Plot

Boats, Boys and Other Water Hazards

1. Sarah has had the hots for Rodney Reel since they were kids, so she's thrilled to land a job on his father's fishing boat. But can she navigate the uncharted waters of a relationship or will she and Rod drift through the doldrums like ships that pass in the night?

2. Against a hostile takeover bid by a worldwide amusement conglomerate, one family attempts to keep its privately owned miniature golf course afloat. 

3. Archie Spellman asked his bored teenage niece Shelby to write a booklet about the hazards in tourist-trap Lake Anglers. Unfortunately, she spells 'buoys' as 'boys'. Hilarity ensues.

4. Charlie has seen all types at her parents' time share on Lake Arrowhead. This summer will be different, though. She's 16, has her first real bikini, and right next door is a hot piece named Jacob.

5. Noise pollution in the marine environment has become too much for Swishy to cope with, and while contemplating suicide by beaching herself, she gets rammed by a boy on a jet ski. Forget suicide, Swishy embarks on a mission to clear the waterways of all humans by raising an army of sharks.

6. Do guys want to use Kate for her body, her dad's yacht, or both? What happens after college graduation and her trust fund/birthday party? Who poured bong water in a champagne Magnum bottle again? Who still smokes from a bong? Who's the dead guy in the head?

7. Donnie, sixteen, takes Bridget, fifteen, diving off the Florida Keys. A whale attacks their boat and it sinks. Donnie and Bridget lash themselves together. They’re carried further out. They fight off sharks. A storm blows them back toward shore. They cling to a buoy for twenty-nine hours. The Coast Guard rescues them. The shared experience leaves them hating each other.

8. During a weekend at the lake, Janine tries to impress her boyfriend with her mad boat-driving skills. It works ... until he falls overboard and gets caught in the propeller. He manages not to die, but everyone at school knows what happened, and now Janine's having trouble finding a new boyfriend.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Sarah “Plain-and-Tall” Conway [That's her nickname? Kind of unwieldy. I can't see people calling someone Plain-and-Tall.] has always fit snugly in the Good Box—good student, good athlete, good liar—and she wants out. This just isn’t how she imagined it happening. [I'm not crazy about the term "Good Box," as it could mean stuff she's good at or stuff that indicates she's a good person. If it's the former, wanting out makes little sense: she doesn't want to be good at history or volleyball? If it's the latter,  being a good liar doesn't belong on the list.] [As you haven't revealed what "this" is in that last sentence, and all we know about "it" is that it stands for getting out of this Good Box, I'm thinking we can do without the paragraph.]

When a motorboat meets a summer storm and catapults her into the uncharted waters of Orphanism, [When her parents are killed in a motorboat accident] she’s going to have to navigate the foster system, the open roads of Florida, and a boy with a secret all on her own: Sink or Swim. [All orphans navigate the foster system without their parents. Whether they have to do it all on their own depends. Does she want to do it alone? Does anyone want to help her?] [Navigate, uncharted waters, sink or swim... Don't go overboard with the nautical terms. On the other hand, I may join in, it sounds like fun.]

Enter the boy: Rodney Reel Treakle. Intelligent, a bit cocky, and freaking gorgeous, he’s been the stuff of Sarah’s dreams since they were kids. [How old are they now?] When she lands a summer job aboard his dad’s fishing boat, Sarah starts to find herself—the girl she knew existed, but never entertained: confident, steady, [even-keeled] and a bit rude. And Rod notices. [Basically, she's morphed from someone who's a good student, athlete and liar to someone who's confident, steady and rude. As good student/athletes are often steady and confident, the before/after comparison doesn't work. Was she unsteady, lacking confidence, polite before her transformation?] 

Armed with her notebook, [What notebook?] a pocket full of anger, and a well-hidden Jar-O-Mom, [What the--?] Sarah struggles to let anyone in. Even Rod. [Is she struggling to let people in? Or struggling to keep a wide berth?]  She can feel herself falling—but in love? Or is she just drowning?

An impromptu July road trip sends Sarah on a quest [voyage] for the truth. [The truth about what?] The truth about a certain wedding picture. The truth about Rod. [Time to deep six this bilge-sucking dog.] The truth about the Good Box.

Sarah-Plain-and-Tall may have been a lie, [She's actually only 5 foot 1.] but will Sarah be able to reconcile the girl her parents knew with the girl she may actually be? [Or will she remain trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea?] [Will she stem the tide or run aground?]

BOATS, BOYS AND OTHER WATER HAZARDS, my young adult novel, is complete at 105,000 words.

With a BA in anthropology and eight years of medical practice under my belt, I have spent my entire academic and professional careers immersed in other peoples’ stories. [Well, screw other people.] It’s refreshing to craft my own.

Thank you for your consideration.



I think you can inject some voice into the query without going totally adrift. Some of the attempts to be clever are better left for the book.

This is mostly setup. Parents die, girl takes job on fishing boat, begins finding herself. That's the setup, and a three-sentence paragraph can handle it. Then, though I know nothing about it, I suspect most of the summary should focus on that road trip. It's the part where something seems to happen. What wedding picture? What truth about Rod? These seem like crucial points in Sarah's growth or coming of age, so don't toss them out just to tease us. 

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Face-Lift 1220

Guess the Plot


1. In the sequel to the award-winning Drifter, Dustin Leahry finally settles down and gets a job.

2. HVAC technician Cinna is the only person who can fix the capital city's broken heat source. But if the heat isn't repaired, residents of the capital will freeze to death and then Cinna can make the repairs and move to the capital. Tough decision.

3. Luigi is a brilliant businessman in Providence. He owns a seven-bedroom house overlooking the marina, has an Olympic pool, and buys a new Cadillac every year. All this from a small automotive repair shop. Whenever he returns from a business trip, he brings everybody gifts. Nobody can figure out how he does it until Tommy Gambino stops to say “Hi” one afternoon.

4. They told him opening a medical practice on a space station was an idiotic idea. No one would put their life in the hands of an android doctor. But the way Clink figured it, machines had human mechanics, and weren't humans just another type of machine?

5. Don't know what to do with that MA in Modern Literary Poetry? This handy booklet is all you need to get out of that fast-food uniform and into a paying career!

6. By day he's a mechanic, rebuilding Volvo engines for fifteen dollars an hour. By night he's the Mechanic, the superhero who can fix any machine, and the mortal enemy of the villain known as Rustman.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Cinna is a mechanic. Born with dragon's blood, she's the only one in her village who can repair the dragonstone that's their sole source of heat. She has plenty of talent, but with so few resources it's a struggle keeping the deadly Ice of her frozen world in check.

Then Prince Skye comes to her village. The stones in the capital are dying and he wants Cinna to fix them. He can give her people everything she never could: food, supplies. Life. All she has to do is go with him. To save the capital that's never lifted a finger to help the villages. [But which now offers to provide food, supplies. Life. What's the problem? Have the villages done anything for the capital in the past? Did Cinna ever offer the capital a dragonstone maintenance program in return for resources for her village?]

But the massive city isn't the evil incarnate she first thought. Neither is Prince Skye. His fight to keep his people from freezing is disturbingly similar to her own. When Cinna finds a way to fix the stones, she's faced with a choice: save the capital and hundreds of lives, or turn her back on them and give the villages a chance to rise. Because in her world, heat means power, and it's all in her hands. [If heat means power, why hasn't Cinna's village already risen? Heat's the one thing they have.]

MECHANIC is my 83,000 word young adult novel. It's a standalone with series potential, and will appeal to readers of the Graceling series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



While your story is probably nothing like The Hunger Games, you have a main character who lives in the hinterlands and who agrees to journey to a capital city that never does anything to help the villages. Thus I recommend not naming your main character Cinna, which is the name of the Hunger Games character who "fixes" Katniss so that she'll appeal to the populace. I suppose the name Prince Skye won't evoke President Snow--though if people are already thinking Hunger Games, it might. What I'm saying is, if your story opens with a tornado that knocks out the main character, you don't name her Glinda. Or The Great and Powerful Oz.

Here's how commerce works. You have something I want, like all of your oil. I have something you want, like all of my money. We make a trade and everyone's happy. Win - win. Here Cinna needs resources and Skye needs stonework. That Cinna even considers letting hundreds of people die when there's a win - win offer on the table doesn't make her a sympathetic character. I don't see that her village will rise anyway, as they still won't have resources, unless her plan is for everyone in the capital to die so her people can move there.

Are these dragonstones mechanisms? With parts that need repairing? If they're just some sort of magical stones, you'd think there'd be a better term than "mechanic." Like "thermal engineer" or "Stonemage."

I think you need to make it clear how the capital has been keeping the villages down (if they have). Canada is richer than Uruguay, but without evidence that Canada is responsible for Uruguay's poverty, you're unlikely to see Uruguayans bad-mouthing Canadians or letting them die unnecessarily. How does it help Cinna's village if a few hundred capital city people -- people she's now discovered aren't so bad after all -- freeze to death? Make that clear, or her decision is easy. It's pretty easy anyway, if she has a shred of decency.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Face-Lift 1219

Guess the Plot


1. Jacob is a Drifter, a man who is not anchored in time but instead slides, or drifts, from year to year, often centuries apart. And then one day it's 1939, and Adolph Hitler just handed him a gun.

2. Drifting scross Texas in the 1800's, Dustin spots windmills and heads toward them. He reaches the Cartwright's Ranch, where he spots a naked woman bathing, and Hoss and Little Joe nowhere to be seen. Maybe it's time to finally settle down.

3. Dewey's the big cat curator at Wildcat Safari. He loves the big cats and they love him. When the park is forced into receivership, the bankruptcy administrator sells what he can and plans to euthanize the rest. At 3 A.M. Dewey takes his favorites—two lions, a tiger, and two snow leopards—into his RV and hits the road. Hilarity ensues.

4. When hang-gliding stoner Airey Weedpipe catches the ultimate drift in the Himalayas his seemingly endless ride becomes a metaphor for the world's hopes and dreams. Will he be joined by millions of would-be gliderphobes . . . or shot down by the Russkies?

5. Selene's mother keeps telling her she needs to find a nice man, settle down, and have a family--but it's not like Selene's some irresponsible wild child. It's just that when you're literally light as a feather, settling down is easier said than done.

6. The broken hull of the boat lies at the bottom of the ocean. The leg of the water-skiing frat boy sits partially digested in the shark's stomach. Annie sits in the tiny life raft cursing the day her dead boyfriend challenged fate and named the damn boat DRIFTER. Asshole.

Original Version

Dear E.E.,

Dustin Leahry is good at three things: drifting, helping people, and using his gun. [His metaphorical gun?]

Craving the adventure of his childhood heroes, Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok, Leahry set out for the untamed land west of the Mississippi;[,] taking with him his gun and his best friend – his horse Baker.

Years later the thrill is tempered by the reality of trudging through the dusty cactus[-] and yucca[-]filled plains of Texas after Baker loses a shoe. The Drifter would rather have a cool drink and a black smith’s [blacksmith's] forge than excitement as he plods toward distant windmills that hint at relief. [Blacksmith, shmacksmith. What self-respecting drifter would ride through the old west without spare horseshoes and nails in his saddlebag?]

Trouble finds Leahry when he arrives at the Cartwright Ranch [It's called the Ponderosa.] and catches sight of Shelly Cartwright taking an outdoor bath. He knows he’s in deep trouble when Shelly uses his distraction to center a rifle’s sights on his chest. Something about a woman wrapped in a towel holding a gun on him convinces Leahry to stay instead of continuing to drift. [Wait, what about the trouble he was in one sentence ago? What happened?]

His trouble escalates when he goes to work for Shelly. [What is this trouble that escalates? He can get a new shoe for Baker at the ranch; Shelly didn't shoot him; he finally has a job... He's got less trouble than ever, far as I can tell.] His penchant for helping people soon puts him in the middle of her struggle to keep the ranch from being taken over by August Benson. Benson is determined to own the city of San Angelo and the surrounding countryside. Naturally the Cartwright Ranch is the last obstacle.

Leahry finds himself in confrontations with Benson’s men, on a horse drive to earn ranch-saving money, and in a war between the ranches. After the deaths of several of Shelly’s men, he resorts to the thing [what] he’s best at as he heads to San Angelo and a showdown with Benson.

Drifter: San Angelo Showdown is set in 1898 Texas and is approximately 119,000 words. Drifter pays homage to classic TV Westerns while adding new characters to the fold. [Shouldn't you pay homage to classic western novels and let TV pay homage to TV westerns?]

Thank you very much for your time.



This horse drive to earn ranch-saving money suggests that the ranch will be saved if Shelly can pay her bills. The confrontations/war/showdown suggest that ownership of the ranch is more than a financial/legal matter. How has Benson come to own everything except this ranch? By taking it at gunpoint or buying it? Was this San Angelo area totally lawless as late as 1898? My guess is 1885 would be better, but I've been wrong before, or so I'm told.

The word count is kinda high for a western novel.

Instead of spending three paragraphs on Dustin's arrival at the ranch, try compressing that into one paragraph and devoting more space to what happens after he gets there.