Friday, January 30, 2015

Face-Lift 1247

Guess the Plot

Dragon Bait

1. Sluggish creatures! How can we get human women to hump us again? We must lose weight and offer ourselves as exotic dancers in bowties. We'll rule as the world's sexiest monsters!

2. In this hard-hitting expose of Chinese restaurant menus, journalist Kaley Higgenbothams unravels the secret of General Tsao's chicken. Also, fried rice.

3. With his hypnotic eyes (transplanted from a dragon), and his velvet top hat, Uncle Joe hunts down and kills Red "traitors" in 1950s America. The daughter of one of his innocent victims seeks revenge, but first she'll have to get past the dragons protecting Uncle Joe's TV station.

4. Lorelei kept pestering her older brother and his friends to let her join their knight-in-shining-armor game, but when the young girl finds herself tied to a stake and sees an actual dragon swooping toward her, she wonders if she shouldn't have stuck with playing house.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

It’s a 1950s where dragons rule the skies and the nearly-human Dragonlord rules the Americas. [Also, a 1950s where America doesn't have an air force of lethal fighter jets.] The Dragonlord’s carefully chosen Draconem hunt down and eliminate Red traitors. The Draconem used to be human until their eyes were cut out and replaced with the mesmerizing eyes of young dragons. [I heard they've experimented with transplanting pig hearts into people, but I didn't realize those people would then be described as "used to be human."] [Is "used to be human" (draconem) the same as "nearly human" (Dragonlord)?] Leading the charge is the Dragonlord’s favored Draconem, Uncle Joe.
With his hypnotic eyes, his crushed velvet top hat, and his pointy white beard, Uncle Joe has the nation’s devotion. And its fear.

Catherine Pearce is stunned when Uncle Joe announces her dad is a traitor on national television. She sprints home, only to pull her dad’s lifeless body from their burning home. Cat knows her dad was innocent. It was his unsanctioned science experiments that made him a danger to the Dragonlord’s power, not his loyalties. [The Dragonlord was being paranoid. Dad's experiments transplanting dragon mouths onto dogs would never have led to an army of fire-breathing poodles.]

Cat’s mother leaves Cat with her wealthy yet aloof Great-Aunt Ro in a misguided effort to protect Cat. Bullying and loneliness fuel Cat’s desire for revenge against Uncle Joe, and his television station is right in her hometown. Sure, it’s surrounded by dragons, and whenever Uncle Joe looks into your eyes, you have to obey him, but Cat’s pretty sure she can figure out some way around that. [X-Ray specs.] She’s got her Dad’s old notes, her own burning hatred, and her Aunt Ro’s influence at her disposal.

DRAGON BAIT is an upper MG Fantasy complete at 63,000 words. As per your guidelines, I have included [whatever the guidelines say] below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



If, as seems likely, this is meant to be analogous to 1950s US history, I'm not sure middle graders will get that.

Examining the analogy (for our foreign readers), the 1950s was the period of "McCarthyism," when Senator Joe McCarthy led a movement of "red baiting" (which consists of accusing people of being communist, socialist, anarchist... ). In your book, it's the 1950s, and Uncle Joe is out to get Red traitors. The title suggests that maybe dragons are replacing communists, but it turns out the "enemy" is still "Reds," while the dragons are on Joe's side.

So here's how to change the book:

Instead of 1950s USA, set it someplace innocuous, like maybe a farm. Dragons fly around minding their own business. Some of them help the farmers (like Superman does, except with fire breath instead of heat vision). Jo-rah (a giant hog who resembles Godzilla) wants to shoot down all the red dragons because he thinks they're all menaces (actually, they're no worse than the purple and green dragons), just because there are lots of red dragons in the faraway land called Stollen.

My point being that in Animal Farm, the setting and all the characters represent some entity.

Of course, I could be way off. Maybe what you're going for is not allegory, but alternate history. A novel that explores what McCarthyism would have been like if dragons really existed.

In any case, I think we need to get to Catherine a lot sooner. Obviously you don't want to end the query by saying: Also, dragons. But if you start by introducing your world, drop the Dragonlord and draconems and just let us know dragons exist and a mesmerizing TV personality named Uncle Joe rules the country through fear. Then on to Catherine.

Or start with paragraph 2, slipping in important facts about the world (like that there are dragons) whenever you get the chance.

You might want to include what dad's unsanctioned experiments were all about so we know he wasn't a mad scientist experimenting on human children, and thus even worse than Uncle Joe.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Success Stories

Success as a writer can be measured in many ways. Reviews: You win awards and the critics adore you. History: People still read your books though you died two centuries ago. Popularity: You just gained thousands of followers on social media. Volume: You churn out 3 books a year, and most of them sell to major publishing houses. Money: You rake in the big bucks. Fame: You're invited to be on Dancing with the Stars.

On this blog we consider any accomplishment a success story, but for this post I decided to check in on the authors whose success consisted of getting their first book published after seeking help from EE and his minions, to see if they went on to further success. Some writers sell one novel in their lifetime, and that's it (which is fine - it puts them in company with Harper Lee). But it turns out a lot of authors, after informing us of their first sale, vanish into the world of book tours and deadlines, leaving us in the dark regarding their later successes.

Below are updates on six authors. None of these authors had had books published before they posted here. Presumably none of them had literary agents. It happened to them. It could happen to you.

The names of the authors are links to their Amazon pages, in case you want to see their other book covers. Or buy their books.  I've also provided links to some of their query "Face-Lifts."

6. Beth Revis

Across the Universe (an Amazon best book of the month) Shades of Earth (Kirkus starred review) and A Million Suns made up a successful YA series. We did the query for Across the Universe under the title A Long Way Home. Beth also has short stories in some impressive anthologies. 

5. Rachel Aaron

We had the query for The Spirit Thief; the book got a starred Booklist review. There are now 5 Eli Monpress books out (Legend of... compiles the 1st three). Rachel's most recent book is Nice Dragons Finish Last and she also has four science fiction books out under the name Rachel Bach.

4. Stacia Kane

Besides her urban fantasy demon and ghost series, Stacia has several books out under the name December Quinn.

We had the query for her 1st "Downside Ghosts" book as well as the query for Personal Demons. And she contributed numerous openings and continuations under both names

3. Kiersten White

Author of numerous cartoon captions, openings, and writing exercises on this blog, Kiersten credited our help with her query for Flash with helping her land the agent who has sold her many YA novels. Kiersten has a new 3-book series beginning in 2016, which should get her into double figures if she isn't already.

Her last contribution to the Evil Editor blog was this parody of "The Raven" in our annual Write like Poe exercise. It seems to suggest she'll be back, but years later we're still waiting.

2023 update: Kiersten now has 20+ books in print.

2. Jenna Black

The six pictured books include one each from each of Jenna's series, which add up to 20 books in urban fantasy, YA fantasy,  YA science fiction, and paranormal romance. She also has a new horror series coming, with the 1st book scheduled for a 2016 release. Jenna posted two openings on the EE blog before landing her agent. 

2023 update: Jenna's The Women's War trilogy, written under the name Jenna Glass, received rave reviews from Booklist, Publishers Weekly, and The New York Times.

The minions' comments on Maggie's
query for The Horses of Roan, though that book didn't sell, were undoubtedly responsible for her future success as a YA author. The starred reviews her books have received in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews are way too many to count. Some of these books were #1 NY Times bestsellers. Update: As of 2023, Maggie has more than 20 books in print.

A search for her name on the blog turned up two queries in which other authors declare that their books should appeal to fans of Maggie Stiefvater. You know you've made it when people think dropping your name will help them make it.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Face-Lift 1246

Guess the Plot


1. When a string of mythical creatures invade their hometown, teen twins Charlie and Rylen must send them back to their own dimension. The catch: they must do so secretly, because like most teens, they don't want to draw attention to themselves.

2. When the body of film 'producer' Roger Frankel is found dangling from the mast of his sail boat Gauntlet, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things. One, Frankel was no longer on fire when he was tied up there; and two, Zack's daughter is gonna need a new outfit for the school's Winter Ball.

3. Gauntlet is bummed when the king de-knights him and he's a Sir no more. He can only regain his status by competing in a three-day jousting event, slaying a kraken, and winning the heart of the hunchbacked princess. Hmm . . . going for his MBA is starting to sound pretty good after all.

4. When celebrity buzzard rehabilitator Leroy Kwang cures an Arabian movie mogul's stricken avian of its agoraphobia he becomes embroiled in a covert plot to brand falconry "evil as bullfighting". But twixt every man and bird a bond of glove exists — and this one is MAILED.

5. Frat house pledge (and total dweeb) Elston can't be kept out of phi omega because he's a legacy pledge. So when it's time for the "gauntlet," a hazing ceremony, the brothers trade in their paddles for baseball bats when it's Elston's turn, and he ends up brain dead. Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Original Version

Dear [Name],

I am seeking representation for my YA urban fantasy novel, GAUNTLET. [Random personalization nonsense that means nothing to me or the agent.]

As Rylen matured, so did his inexplicable sense of time. As a soon-to-be seventeen year old, however, his mother [If his mother is a soon-to-be seventeen-year-old, how old is Rylen?] tells him he needs to stop spouting the exact time by instinct in public; because it’s odd. [So knowing what time it is is his super power? Actually, while that isn't necessarily useful in defeating Brainiac or Dr. Octopus, I can see how he'd be good to have around as a member of a team of superheroes. I don't think any member of the Justice League wears a watch, so they'd probably like having a new guy who can tell them when it's time for their coffee break. Of course, getting through the job interview could be troublesome:

Timekeeper (That's his superhero name. Rylen is his secret identity): You guys hiring?

Batman: Depends. What's your power?

Timekeeper: I know what time it is. Go ahead, ask me what time it is.

Batman: What time is it?

Timekeeper: 4:15.

Batman: Damn, I was supposed to pick Robin up at 3:30. Gotta run.

Also, Superman can use his X-Ray and telescopic vision to look at clocks no one else can see, and the Flash can run to London, look at Big Ben, and calculate the local time on his way back, all in less than a second. And they all carry i-phones in their capes. So what do they need Timekeeper for? Unless . . .  figuring out the time when you've crossed the International Dateline can be tricky. Like one minute it's noon on Wednesday and the next minute it's 10 PM on Thursday. So if Timekeeper is good at that, I say they should hire him.]

Turning seventeen causes Rylen and his twin sister Charlie to understand that they have far greater problems than just being “odd”. Anxiety becomes their personal parasite as random explosions of unknown power from their bodies turn the simple task of crossing the parking lot into a headache. [I don't see the Justice League hiring someone who can't cross a parking lot to handle their crossing-the-International-Dateline data.] [Is it turning seventeen that releases their power? Because it seems kind of arbitrary. You can cross a parking lot one day, and the next day it's a major challenge? Was it something in the birthday cake?] [Also, there's nothing odd about random explosions of unknown power from people's bodies. My own have been known to clear a room in mere seconds.] Only when Charlie accidentally uses that power to call a beautiful creature named Mirra into this world, do the twins learn of their biological connection to Eden—the dimension below ours that is home to all manner of mythical beings and monstrous creatures called eidolons. An organization called the Sentries sealed the bridge between Eden and Earth three thousand years ago to prevent a war, but Rylen’s sister just broke the seal.[Having revealed Charlie's name, you can use it now.] [Also, that was the first sentence that clued us in to what the book is about.]

A different beast of Eden threatens to expose them almost every day, [What is so bad about being exposed?] and the FBI trying to figure out what is causing so much destruction in the suburbs of Colorado isn’t making it any easier for the twins to remain anonymous. [This is not a job for the FBI (unless we're talking about Scully and Muldur). It's a job for the Avengers.] Teenage life was already dramatic enough, but now the twins have to go to school and secretly repel the steady stream of weird creatures from another world [That sounds like a decent place to start the query:

Teenage life was dramatic enough before Rylen's twin sister Charlie accidentally opened the long-sealed bridge between Earth and Eden. No, not that Eden; a dimension filled with demonic creatures that are now crossing into the twins' hometown and causing massive destruction. The good news: Rylen and Charlie have new powers like force fields and super strength that help them repel the monsters. The bad news: they have to do so secretly because they don't want to be the next TMZ celebrities.]

—if Mirra can teach them to control their powers in time, that is. Charlie’s daydreams for her crush Ben—Rylen’s best friend—slip further out of reach with every demonic encounter, and Rylen can hardly think straight with the dazzling Mirra taking up an extra seat at the dinner table.

Gauntlet is a 106k word YA urban fantasy with elements of traditional fantasy and paranormal romance.

My name is ____________ (writing as C. James), and I am a self-employed 28 year-old in Lakewood, Colorado. The manuscript for GAUNTLET is complete and sample pages or the full ms are available on request. Thank you for your time.



Rylen's time-spouting ability is as useless in the query as it would be against the Joker.

3000 years ago Colorado would have lost a war to demonic monsters. In modern times Colorado would win . . . unless they pin all their hopes on two seventeen-year-olds.

Not clear why the twins must remain anonymous as they save Colorado from destruction. You don't see The Thing and The Hulk being discreet about pummeling monsters.

What are the powers they need to learn to control? The only powers mentioned are clockless time telling and bodily explosions.

I've given you a sample setup paragraph. Follow it (or something similar) with details about the twins' plan, what happens if they fail, what's stopping them from succeeding. One obstacle being their inability to control their powers—until the dazzling Mirra crosses the bridge and takes them under her wing (literally, assuming she has wings.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Writing Exercise Results

Write Like Poe
(Something Old, Something New)

Happy Birthday, EA

“By his dead smile I knew that place for Hell.”—Wilfred Owen

How different that place appeared from all that fancy had limned or stern morality foreshadowed! No Dantean warning overarched the door which swung lightly at my touch. Still I crossed that threshold with one hand at stretch behind me to preserve the possibility of my escape, my eyes braced for darkness and my nostrils for sulfur.

Instead I came into the well-lit dining room of a hostelry. The clothing of the diners was elegant, their faces not unhandsome. The babble of their voices drowned the sound of the closing door.

Talk like theirs might be heard at any fashionable watering place; gossip grown slightly stale, and second-hand wit; and they smiled on one another, though with no great warmth. Only when I passed close by a table did the conversation die, and the company turn their eyes on me with a terrible longing. I essayed a smile and asked them if dinner was to be served soon. At this they looked reproachfully on me and turned away. The conversation resumed, halting and hurrying, disjointed as the ticking of a clock gone mad.

There were more tables than I could count, but no food on any, and around all of them the same false laughter. Cold bedewed my brow. I no longer desired understanding or anything but flight. As I passed the last table before the door she spoke to me. “You do not belong here. I can talk to you.” Her figure was shapely and well-nourished, almost beautiful, but her eyes were starving. “He won’t serve us. Oh, there’s food, and he takes our orders, but he’ll never serve us.”

She spoke even lower: “I know why. He believes there’s a famine. Believes no more will come. He told me why, once, when I was new here. Now no one will talk to me. And I won’t talk to them. It’s not safe. You know they’re all waiting.”

As she leaned closer I beheld my face reflected in her eyes, and behind my face the door. But between me and the door a shadow loomed, half-formed, hideous, waiting to engulf the fool who dared try to leave. With horrible clarity I realized that they all had seen this and now waited with desperate hope for someone else to test the door and prove their fear false, or at least to distract that loathly guardian. Not I; surely not I! I could not approach that fearsome shadow. But could I join them? I had disappointed them, and what vengeance might they not take?

Again I met my mirrored eyes, and they were frenzied as hers.


Once upon a noontime dreary,
While I wandered lost and weary,
Searching for that agent most respected,
I came upon my doom,
When I came upon the room
Where my pitch session was expected;
Where I hoped would be selected
Sweet novel now perfected.

With no further hesitation,
I went in with aspiration,
Eager to confirm what I suspected.
When with a flirt and flutter,
The agent moved to utter,
“Sit yer arse down; let’s be ’earin’ yer suggested.”
Though her tone was unexpected
I did as she directed.

I gazed at her breeches velvet,
Leather sash and satin jacket —
Pirate captain? So her clothes suggested.
But what struck my fancy fair
Was the bird upon her chair,
A parrot, by my presence unaffected.
“Well, hello there!” I inflected.
Quoth the parrot, “You’re rejected.”

Still I’d come to make a deal,
So I plunged into my spiel,
Determined that my talent be detected.
“Aargghh,” the agent scritched,
When I’d finished up my pitch.
“That novel should be quartered and dissected.”
“But you’ve not read it yet,” I interjected.
Quoth the parrot, “You’re rejected.”

“Time’s up!” The agent swore,
Pointing cutlass at the door.
I felt trod down, unworthy and dejected,
She’d rammed my life’s boat
And left my dreams afloat,
So from that wretched room I fast defected.
And in my soul it echoes still,
the judgment thus inflected,
That cruel refrain, that oft-heard strain:
“Author, you’re rejected.”


Having completed the task of walling up yet another living being in my basement (now reduced to the size of a closet, owing to the number of new walls I'd been obliged to construct therein), I took leave of the city. A week at my country home would, I hoped, reinvigorate me. And so it did.

Thus it was that I boarded the train home, ready to plunge into my latest project with renewed energy.

Not long after taking my seat, I chanced to notice, on the floor of the aisle, a quarter dollar. As I pondered whether to simply lean into the aisle and collect the coin, or whether to "accidentally" drop my book, allowing me to surreptitiously snatch the coin as I retrieved the book, I couldn't help but notice a fellow passenger across the aisle also eying the coin. Before I could release my book to the floor, this boor was reaching down and taking possession of what I now considered to be my prize.

I need not impress upon you the rage I felt at this moment. And yet I resisted the urge to claim the quarter as my own, or to lay siege upon the thief. No, instead I calmly befriended the fellow, asking his destination, and his business. So clever was I that when I invited him to dine with me at my home, he readily accepted, having no business in the city until the following day.

How convincing I was as we partook of the venison stew and the wine. I gave no sign of what was to come, and he suspected nothing, even as, after dessert and brandy, I led him down the stairs to my basement and shackled him to the wall under the guise of helping him stretch his tired limbs. Not even after the bricks and mortar had reached his waist did he fully perceive his peril, but when he was at last fully walled in, his muffled screams brought me satisfaction unimagined. Until the moment I realized that I had neglected to remove my quarter from his coat pocket.

—Evil Editor

The gray-haired grouse toddled in, unannounced, sidling his way up to my booth with nary a look hither or yon. His nerves must have sought out mine in a misguided sense of camaraderie—but mine were the shivery jitterings of first-day employment at Rebekah’s Ped-y-Man; where his were plainly in agony from excessive contact with inferior composition. For yes, I did recognize Evil Editor Himself—and despaired he could smell the failed manuscripts ink-stained on my hands.

I kept my face averted even as he ascended the throne where I would service him.

“Hah,” he cried. “What’s with the sudden shyness? No need to be coy—attend me!”

Too much to hope his ratty eyes and eagle mind would not identify me as a minion. I could not even look up to see the response from my co-workers, so mortified was I.

Arms atremble, head bowed, I grabbed my pumice stone and set forth to remove my frustrations from his feet. Propping his left foot in the stirrup and removing his sandal, though, I saw not dead skin but a shimmery darkness like onyx caked to his feet. He laughed at my sudden hesitation.

“The souls of those I have crushed. No matter, they will soon be gone. Scrub hard.”

And so I did, imagining his foot an unpolished manuscript, and I— I, the editor.

—Kaolin Fire

My humble work, the reek of laudanum and ink clinging to the pages still, lay like a sacrifice before this mad editor upon whose word the whole of industry now turned. My breath held bated in my lungs as his eyes, glossed with filmy blue, peered through the thick portals of the pince-nez perched upon his nose. I could scarce hold still as each second ticked away, interminable as sea rock being beaten into grains upon the strand.

At long last the man let out a sigh that rolled through the close chamber like a death knell. He raised a hand that had surely seen too many days wielding a quill, curved as each finger was in the semblance of a tiny scimitar, and flicked that monstrosity of flesh my way in the modern fashion of bored dismissal. “Pass,” he ejaculated, and the word sounded to my ears like nothing so much as a knife’s dull edge drawn across the whetting stone. In that moment, my revulsion knew no bounds. I admit to great imaginings: his large corpus walled behind stone; a bladed pendulum seeking to rend him in two; a cursed companion shadowing his soul till it could nevermore bear this wretched world.

I knew then what my course must be: to see each of these demises carried through. Already I could hear the scritch scritch scritch of nib on parchment as my visions found fulfillment. I would allow, nay welcome, this evil, tortured face to haunt my dreams and guide my writings as no opium flower ever could. What greater punishment for this glorified scrivener than to serve as my poor muse?


Friday, January 16, 2015

New Beginning 1038

Chief Detective Tommy Turner flailed in bed, gripped his pillow, moaned, lashed out. He was cold, gasping, and suddenly eyes wide awake. A dim green puddle of electronic status lights lit the room. The bell tower of the Church of St Panfilo Spoltore across the street rang too few times. He heard the never-ending rain on the roof and against the windows; its persistence bringing decay; its burden, guilt.

The three story house, once white brick now brown, leaked, seeped and rotted. Already the basement and first floor were lost to the damp. The gutters bubbled over their edges and flooded the sewers. Brown water gushed into the basement. The pumps struggled to keep it out. Soon, the stone foundation would give way without portent, without ceremony, sucking the house into a muddy hell.

Turner felt Demon’s hand trying to calm him. He pushed it away.

“What’s wrong?” Demon asked. Demon wasn’t its Hellish name, that was its first instrument of torture; an evilness that captured souls, killed at will, inexpressible by human tongues. Hence, it was merely, since the day of the summoning, Demon.

“Chanting,” Tommy spoke in a harsh whisper. He stared at the clock’s greenness - - three-thirty AM. “I thought we agreed no chanting. I thought we agreed the night was mine, no diddling the socks and sheets for fun, no sleep learning, no subliminal messages, just sleep.”

Turner rose from the bed, stumbled to the bathroom, moaned, splashed porcelain. A dim yellow puddle spread toward his bare feet. He heard the never-ending drip in the bathtub and flushed the toilet too few times; its burden, still floating.

The carpet, once plush now threadbare, felt sticky between his toes. Already his side of the bed had grown cold, the mattress sagged, the springs sharp in his back as he settled back in.

Turner felt Demon’s hand again, and did not push it away. “All right,” he said, “maybe a little diddling. But after that, sleep. I need to be up early for the interview with Better Homes and Gardens.”

Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: JRMosher

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Face-Lift 1245

Guess the Plot


1. Here? Are you kidding? Fugeddabout it!

2. Truth is not your typical rat-ass ho working the tracks of New York. She's building a future along with her street family of three boys. She's going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday and live happily ever after. At least that's her plan, but for some reason things don't always go the way you want when the streets are your crib.

3. Plummeting 10,000 feet strapped to a sloth and a bag of surgical waste, Meredith reflects on her recent, regrettable decisions. She can’t help but wonder how her life would have been different if, at Johnny’s alcohol-fueled party the night before, she hadn’t chosen ‘dare’.

4. We here at deplore the excesses of crass commercialism that Nirvana, Inc., has fallen into. We would rather our sincere, but somewhat over-zealous brethren could channel their enthusiasms into more philosophical endeavors… But we are concerned with facts. Facts are true. Our guiding light here at is that "Facts are truth, and truth facts." There is no other way to say it. Anyone who tries to deny that over-riding principle is a heretic.… and will be destroyed.

5. They say truth is stranger than fiction (Google it), so why don't people just write about truth? Saves the bother of making shit up and more interesting to boot. Well, turns out they do. The library has a whole wall of books just about true things. People are making money just writing about things they see happen; about things that actually exist. Fucking awesome, and complicated twists to keep track of. So here's the definitive, totally factual Potatopedia: Volume One -- From Accent to Exquisa.

6. Carol's fat, no one really likes her, her office job pays nothing, and she's scared as hell. But she saw that magic fax getting faxed to The Universe. Now she can read minds. Time to take control of EVERYTHING.

7. Tracy has finally gotten it all figured out. She knows the answer. To everything. It will reconcile all the world's religions, it will end hatred and poverty – it will turn the planet into a paradise. No more war, no more hatred. No more strife or greed. tt really was quite simple, when you came right down to it. It’d been right there in front of us all the time. It wouldn’t cost anyone any money. It didn’t require hallucinogens of any kind. It was perfectly reasonable, and incredibly simple. And it was going to get her killed.

8. High school is hard enough, but when everybody is a lycanthrope, it's twice as hard. Priscilla wants to be popular but the guys all consider her a bit stiff. She is the only wereporcupine in Thrope Academy and simply can't avoid those prickly situations. But it's love at first embrace when she meets Jerry, a werejellyfish. Follow these two kids through all their sticky adventures.

Original Version

Dear evil editor,

I’m seeking representation for my YA thriller, Truth, complete at 83,000 words.

Fifteen-year-old Truth is not your typical rat-ass ho working the tracks of New York. With a fat bankroll, Truth is building a future along with her street family of three boys. She's going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday, rescue her brother from foster care, and live happily ever after. [Possibly introducing your main character as a rat-ass ho--albeit an atypical one--isn't the best strategy. Maybe runaway or foster-care escapee or street orphan? I mean, if a query began "Hannibal is not your typical serial killer who eats his victims' organs; he's going to open a fine-dining establishment," would you want to read that? Bad example; of course you would. It sounds fantastic. But that's because sophisticated serial killers are all the rage, while rat-ass street hos are not. ]  

A brutal kidnapping brings Truth back to the realities of the streets. She manages to buy her way out of a death trap,

[Truth: If you don't kill me, I'll give you a thousand dollars. 

Killer: Deal.

Truth: Hand me my purse, will you?] [That joke sounded familiar, so I searched the blog for the phrase "Hand me my purse," and found it in Face-Lift 1214, which turns out to be for the same book, except that her name was Mercy instead of Truth.]

only to discover that her street family, her husband-to-be [He's included in "her street family," right?] and five strangers have been murdered in a seemingly senseless killing spree. Truth is devastated. Her apartment is sealed as a crime scene; her dreams of square love and happy-ever-after are crushed. As much as she'd like to nail the killer, all she has to work with is a single shitty lead, enough to realize that the cops got the wrong guy. [So the killer isn't whoever had her in a death trap? Why was she placed in a death trap? What is a death trap?]

Alone and homeless, Truth must crack the killer's scheme just to stay alive. The secrets she digs out reveal not only the killer’s identity and the fortunes at stake, but a side of the streets she could not have imagined.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


You've gotten rid of some of the problems with the earlier version. If you tell us Truth ran away from abusive foster parents or something, we might sympathize enough to want to read her story.

What crime was committed in Truth's apartment? If the cops have their guy, it shouldn't take long to unseal the crime scene.

Has anyone else ever noticed that when the main character is a cop, he's brilliant (though flawed), but when the main character is a private eye or a little old lady or a kid or a rat-ass ho, the cops are idiots?

Can you pick out one of the secrets she digs out and reveal it to us, just so we have a hint of why Truth is a key player in a plot where fortunes are at stake?

Obviously you're convinced that the people who buy YA books will want to read a story about a 15-year-old rat-ass ho who brings down a killer. Maybe they will. I'm told kids like to read about kids who are older, which, if true, puts your readership in the 13 - 14 year-old range. To me, the plot, despite the youth of Truth, sounds more like adult fare.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Face-Lift 1244

Add caption
Guess the Plot

Nirvana, Inc.

1. The Porn Channel's newest game show is Wordwheel. It's buxom star is Nirvana White who exposes letters. She strips an article of clothing for every correct guess but adds one when a contestant guesses wrong or hits Bankrupt. Zeke Martin, the first patrolman on-scene after she's murdered, knows two things: porn stars can be really hot and, uh, …, well, okay he only knows one thing. But that's an improvement for Zeke. Also a sardonic motorcycle.

2. When Gregory "Guru" Smith's marijuana plant starts talking to him about moving out of his parents' house, he thinks it's a prank. It isn't. Will fame and fortune cloud Guru's head, or will he stay true to his dream of owning a pot farm in Colorado?

3. Cyla makes her living bringing people to ecstasy by manipulating their brainwaves. When a Biotech Regulation officer asks her to help with a murder case, she wants nothing to do with it--until she finds out solving the case could bring down her main competitor . . .  Nirvana, Inc.

4. The realistic sex-dolls industry is booming, and the CEO of Nirvana Inc, ex-stripper Nirvana Meldrew, will never have to give a fat smelly old sleaze a lap dance again. But when the dolls somehow develop a murderous sentience, she must team up with the fattest of sleazes from her old life to defeat the remorseless assassins.

5. Everything Mike Jenkins has tried to make into a franchise from his Boulder, CO store has failed. The used textbooks from 1997--gone. Yoga studio for ferrets? Curled up. But now, with legalized marijuana, he may have finally hit on a winning idea for a franchise.

6. Four out of five psychiatrists recommend Bliss (TM), a new Prozac like drug. When the one unconvinced doctor is found dead, her sister begins a long and dangerous investigation into a pharma world that wants to make ALL humanity happy at ANY cost.

7. You get… not one, not two, but THREE Scratch and Sniff Heavenly Lottery cards, with which to try your luck at guessing which religion is the one true faith… and when it’s all going to end. NOW how much would you pay? But wait… you also receive: Two beautifully custom-designed spray bottles, for those rowdy pets – filled with holy water – to ensure your furry little friends will be joining you in the great hereafter. Order in the next ten minutes, and we’ll double your order… for FREE! That’s six Lottery cards, and four spray bottles, for the price of a single order. All you pay is shipping and handling. Customer satisfaction guaranteed.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In the slums of MainWay, where biotech implants are refurbished and stretched [enhanced?] beyond legality, Pleasure Pusher Cyla Hart manipulates others' brainwaves, bringing them to ecstasy. It pays for a residence pod at the top of the stacks, let's her keep a low profile, [Not clear how manipulating peoples' brainwaves to bring them to ecstasy keeps your profile low. My ability to bring women to ecstasy has made me the most sought-after high-profile editor in Manhattan.] and doesn't hurt anyone - a balance Cyla's worked hard to maintain. [Not clear what this is a balance between.] When her escape from a club raid leaves her EmoCore implant damaged, Cyla has no choice but [to] get it fixed, even when a simple [though the] fix could leave her dead or even worse, mindless. [She works for a firm that refurbishes implants, a job that doesn't hurt anyone. Yet fixing her own implant could leave her dead or mindless? Okay, I see I may have that wrong. She does her harmless brainwave manipulation in the same place where implants are refurbished, but she's not involved with implant refurbishing? I assumed MainWay was a conglomerate because of the capital "W" and because capitalizing "Pleasure Pusher" makes it sound like an official job title. We don't capitalize "drug pusher." Can Cyla manipulate the brainwaves of anyone, or just those with biotech implants? Why does she have no choice but to get her implant fixed? Will she lose her brainwave manipulation ability? Will she die?] [Less information is probably more. Something like:

In the slums of MainWay, where biotech implants are refurbished and enhanced beyond legality, Cyla Hart scrapes out a living illegally manipulating others' brainwaves, bringing them to ecstasy. It pays for her residence pod, not to mention her clubbing lifestyle. So when Cyla's EmoCore implant (her meal ticket) is damaged, she opts to get it fixed--even though the fix could leave her brain-dead.

Biotech Regulation officer Quirin Eberle doesn't like loose ends. He works hard to keep illegal implants off the streets. So when a simple club raid ends up with the dead body of the Augmented Reality CEO and a Pusher on the loose, [This could be interpreted to mean the dead body and the Pusher are both on the loose. We don't need the loose Pusher; a dead body of a CEO is enough to spur Quirin to action.] Quirin is bent on cleaning things up, even if it means heading into the darkest parts of the slums to find answers. However, with slummers sniffing his BR status a mile away, Quirin needs an in. So when [Someone like] Cyla turns [Hart, who just turned] up half-dead at an uptown treatment center, she couldn't be more perfect.

But Cyla isn't the type to help a BR officer infiltrate her neighborhood, even when he threatens to pin the CEO's death on her. Altered by the botched nano-repair job that almost killed Cyla, her implant is much more than an EmoCore [What else is it? (Never mind. You'll probably just say it's not just an EmoCore, it's also a Quasitronic Fluxistat.)] and when Nirvana Inc. gets involved, Cyla must choose: betray the only home she has or become a guinea pig in a corporate research lab. [Settle on whether her choice is between betraying her neighborhood and being tried for the CEO's murder or between betraying her neighborhood and becoming a lab rat. We don't need both in the query.] [Also, it's a little late to be springing Nirvana, Inc. on us. What is it? A legitimate Biotech implant company? Why are they getting involved? Are they the villain? If so, what do they want, and what happens if they get it? Does the real story start when Nirvana, Inc. gets involved, in which case all this was backstory? Is the story mainly about solving the murder or stopping Nirvana, Inc. from making people happy?] 

Nirvana, Inc. is a [an] 80,000 word adult science-fiction thriller with cyberpunk and biopunk themes [If you can work in some steampunk too, you can just call it multipunk.] that could be described as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick) meets The Repossession Mambo (Eric Garcia.) [I think just the titles or just the authors would be sufficient if you need to describe it in this way.]

I look forward to hearing from you,


Basically, you've introduced two characters, one of whom wants to solve a murder while the other wants to keep a low profile. What's going on? What's at stake? Keep it clear and simple. The agent isn't necessarily a science fiction geek who knows what an EmoCore is or what biotech implants do.

If you have to shorten what's here in order to add what isn't, it might be best to focus on either Cyla or Quirin. This would allow you to drop either the first or most of the second paragraph.

So MainWay is her neighborhood? If one of my neighbors can help rid my neighborhood of a murderer, I doubt the rest of us would feel we'd been betrayed. Guess that's the difference between living in MainWay and living in Trump Tower.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

New Beginning 1037

I sprinted to the principal’s office as soon as my name was called, leaving my stuff in the classroom.  Senior Constable Rogers stood as I burst into the Admin building, panting. The receptionists hurriedly looked away and shuffled papers on their desks.

I scanned Roger’s face for any sign of what he had to tell me, any hint that the nightmare of the past two weeks was over.  Because there were two possible outcomes – the one that we hoped and prayed for, the news delivered with a triumphant smile that the police had done a praiseworthy job – “We’ve found your mother”.

Of course, there was another possibility.  The one that I did not dare to think about but that haunted my thoughts and twisted my guts day and night. The reason that tears leaked from my eyes with no provocation at all. The other possible meaning of “We’ve found your mother” –this time said in the gravest voice, delivered with platitudes such as “we’re so very sorry”.

Roger’s face and voice held no clues as he greeted me gently.

My heart thundered in my ears. I had to know. Now. “So what’s…” I started.

My brother Jeremy leaped through the door, wearing just his PE shorts, his back glistening and wet. I guessed he’d just been showering after sport when he heard the announcement and tumbled out of the cubicle barely stopping to put anything on. His desperate expression mirrored mine as he gazed at Rogers.

How desperate we both were, him semi-naked and me just watching him glisten as my heart thumped to the beat of Rogers' pants.

If only my brother were wearing pants instead of PE shorts maybe Rogers' face would make with some regular emotion like "we nearly found your mother but got a dead tramp instead" or "I'm sure as hell sorry I never made the Bug-eyed Cops' necrophiliac weekend in Haiti".

Before Rogers could speak my sister Molly popped in through the window.

“Children, I have news,” Rogers said. “We have found you a mother.”

Just then my stepsister Josie descended through the open skylight, her expression bleak, her parachute billowing.

"Seriously?" Senior Constable Rogers said.

“You found our mother?” Jeremy asked. “That’s terrific! Is she all right?”

“We’ve not found your mother. We haven’t time for that. What we’ve found you is a new mother. Much easier job, that was. And she’s delightful.”

Jeremy and Molly and Josie and I stood silent for a moment. None of us had been prepared for a third possible outcome. We expected good news or bad news, but this was … fabulous news. After all, our original mother could never have been described as “delightful.”

“Thank you,” I said. I looked around the room. “Where is she?”

Rogers smiled and waved a hand at the empty chair next to him. “She’s –” His smile faltered. “She was here a moment ago. Are you telling me you've lost yet another mother?”

Opening: Jo Antareau.....Continuation: Whirlochre, Chicory and JRMosher

Monday, January 05, 2015

New Beginning 1036

I've been a valet for four days, and hated every second of it.

‘Chin up, Collins. You’re not at a funeral.’

Lord Alfred Gordon Byron Lyte Cadogan. A long name for a long pedigree that would look better on a dog than a man. He holds out his arm. The creases in his shirtsleeve are so perfect they’re almost a work of art. I think about stabbing him with the cufflinks, but instead thread them through his sleeves. He fastens them himself, which is a miracle, as I have to do practically everything else for him.

I hate rich people. I hate wizards. Most wizards are also rich. I don’t know why that is. Maybe the poor don’t have enough time to wonder about the existence of the supernatural or magical. Maybe the wizards have a system where one has to live in Kensington or Belgravia to discover their innate magical talent. Either way, they’re all snobs. I think they take extra delight in hiding from the rest of the world. A secret club that only the privileged and well-bred even know about, and only a handful of people are able to join.

Cadogan flicks his hand in my direction. ‘Collins. Jacket.’


Fuck you and your jacket.

'And now, it's time for the fox hunt. So I'm turning you into a hound dog. If you corner the fox there will be a nice biscuit for you.

'And Collins, I advise you not to poop on the oriental carpet. You'll just have to clean it up when I transform you into the maid.'

'As you wish, My Lord.' Fuck you and your carpet.

'Apparently you've forgotten, Collins, that wizards can read minds. After the hunt, I'll be changing you into a hot eighteen-year-old nymph and I will fuck you.'

Opening: Alice Smales.....Continuation: Mister Furkles

Thursday, January 01, 2015