Monday, August 31, 2015

Synopsis 45

The Actaids are the four gods who keep order in the world. The Lord of Life keeps domain over all life on Earth. The King of Corpses dwells over death. [Does "dwell over" mean what you think it means?] The Baroness of Balance keeps order and harmony among the people. The Girl of Gifts gives humans their animal forms by their eighth birthday. [Change their name to The Actaids of Alliteration.] Rae, the half-dog, and his sister Arella, the half-coyote, break every law trying to survive while their father leads the rebellion against the weasel King Nalvero. [Is King Nalvero a weasel or half weasel? (I assume there are full weasels on this world.)] The two cause as much trouble for Nalvero’s soldiers, the Red Guards, as they can.

One day, however, they go too far. [Not clear what that means. What did they do?] The Red Guards trap them in a forest and set it on fire. The pair is rescued by a strange, young girl who resides in the forest. This stranger however, turns out to be more than she appears; she is the only human teenager on earth. [Wait, we're on Earth? And there's only one human teenager?] Rae and Arella plan to use the girl’s unique fighting skills and frightening appearance to help break their father out of jail. [The father is leading the rebellion from jail?] The young girl agrees to go, under the impression they know of someone who can help her obtain her animal form and become normal. Having lived alone in the forest for quite some time, she refuses to even give the pair her name. [I don't see the connection between having lived alone and refusing to give her name.] The group encounters Red Guards, a bounty hunter, curses, and several battles on their journey. Throughout their adventures [Meanwhile], King Nalvero consults with the King of Corpses through black magic and places numerous obstacles to stop the group on their mission. The King’s plans fail as the young girl begins to open up as she slowly bonds with Rae and Arella. [I don't see the connection between the plans failing and the slow bonding,] On the night before their father’s execution, [If Nalvero wanted to stop their mission, he should have moved the execution time up to immediately.] the group finds shelter with a canine tribe. The young girl even reveals her name -Ana. However, she quickly retracts her trust as she learns of Rae and Arella’s plan to use her. [Unfortunately, it's too late to retract the crucial revelation that her name is Ana.] The tribe is then captured by King Nalvero, who pretends to care for Ana as a part of a scheme devised by the King of Corpses. The whole setup turns out to be a trap as Nalvero reveals his malicious plan to kill them all. Just when Rae is about to be executed, [Rae? What about the father? Was he executed?] Ana realizes she does care about them and a great power surges up from deep inside her. [It is the Custodian of Colons.] She levels Nalvero’s army with just a wave of her hand. The trio realizes Ana’s great power and appearance must be a part of a well-known prophecy. They decide to travel together and push forward towards their destinies as a team. [What about the Dogs of Defense? Did they get killed? If so, change it. No one will want to read about dogs or even half-dogs being killed.]


I don't see the point of starting with the Actaids. First of all, only the King of Corpses gets mentioned as part of the plot, so he's the only one worth mentioning. Secondly, his role in the plot is minor, so even he isn't worth mentioning. And thirdly, the name "King of Corpses" sounds so silly that even if he were worth mentioning, mentioning him would kill your chances of selling the book. In fact, all the Actaids have silly deal-killing names. If they play a big role in the book, give them real names. We don't say God of Thunder, God of the Sky, God of the Sea. We say Thor, Uranus, Aquaman.

I realize that Superman often teams up with Batman, but that's just because he feels sorry for the guy. He doesn't need Batman. Likewise, if Ana can level armies with a wave of her hand, she doesn't need to be part of a trio with Dogbert and Wile E. You've given Ana unlimited power, without showing anything the other two can do beyond annoying the Red Guards.

You could condense this into the brief summary you include within your query letter. Once you get rid of the Actaids and the unnecessary information (e.g. The girl refuses to reveal her name. The girl reveals her name.) it should be about the right length for that. I recommend querying those who want you to include a synopsis only as a last resort. Better to focus your efforts on your book than on a synopsis.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Face-Lift 1274

Guess the Plot

Keeper of the Woods

1. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, so someone else can take over my job as . . . keeper of the woods.

2. In a woodsy world where all the people are half-animals, a half-dog and his half-coyote sister must rescue their father from the half-weasel's soldiers. It seems hopeless until someone who is 100% human arrives and saves the day, thus demonstrating the universal truth that humans are better than animals.

3. Margot asks too many discomfiting questions, so she's expelled from her coven of teen witches-in-training. As she wanders deep in the woods, she meets a hoary old character who has some answers for her. His dark, brooding grandson with pointy ears and a wicked aim with a cross-bow is also kinda cute.

4. Alexis Hightop has had her fill of random men and sloppy sex. Now she's determined to find a worthy substitute in the local sex shop. After months of research, she's got a box full of "toys" and she's ready to share her knowledge with other women.

5. As man continues expanding his domain at the expense of other creatures, soon there is only one who stands between nature and humanity's encroachment: the superhero known as  . . . Keeper of the Woods.

6. Priapica is flushed down the Schwongo. But who killed the curator of the Boner Museum? And what species of testosterone-devouring gnat inspired the murder weapon?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My name is X. I was born and raised in New Jersey [I am completely objective when reading queries; no need to try to win my sympathy.] and am currently working as a middle school Special Education teacher. I would like to send you my novel, Keeper of the Woods, for your consideration. It is a 56,000 word middle grade fantasy novel. The story takes place in a world where by the age of eight everyone takes on physical characteristics of an animal which mirrors their personality, all except for one person. [Just for my own enlightenment, would someone whose personality mirrors that of an elephant simply become larger than most people, or would he grow a trunk? Or maybe I should ask if he would have an elephant's head on a man's body or a man's head on an elephant's body.] [Also, do animals take on the physical characteristics of people who mirror their personalities? Like you could have one bear that looks like Russell Crowe and another that looks like Stephen Colbert.] [Wait, I have an even better idea. People who take on the physical characteristics of whichever vegetable mirrors their personalities. Boring people would look like iceberg lettuce and sexy people would look like jalapeƱos. Ideally you would want to look like an ear of corn.]

Rae the half-dog and his sister Arella the half-coyote [She's very coy.] break every law [Is that an exaggeration? Are there laws against murder, rape, kidnapping, child abuse?] trying to survive while their father leads the rebellion against the weasel King Nalvero. [I assume he's the king, and half weasel, rather than the king of the weasels, right?] When word comes that their father has been captured the two quickly devise a plan to get him out [Out of what? Is he in a cage, a prison, a POW camp?] with the help of the strangest creature ever found-a human girl named Ana. Ana rescues the two from Nalvero’s soldiers, [Wait, last I heard "the two" were devising a plan to rescue Dad. Suddenly it's the two who are being rescued?] the Red Guards, [so named because they have taken on the physical characteristics of cardinals,] and joins them under the impression they can make her part animal like the rest of the world. [Making her part animal would be dangerous if her personality is shark-like.] Red Guards, a panther bounty hunter, curses, [a polar bear dentist,] prophecies, and Rae and Ana’s constant arguing [Sounds like Rae should be half cobra and Ana should be half mongoose. Consider making the change.] complicate the journey further. [What journey? Where are they going?] In the end Ana must choose who to trust in order to fulfill a destiny far beyond her choice. [Is it truly her destiny if she has to make the right choice to fulfill it?]

Keeper of the Woods will fit in well with audiences who enjoyed the spirit of friendship in the Percy Jackson series or the unusual world of the popular TV series Avatar: The Last Airbender. The main character will also appeal to those who related to Frozen's Queen Elsa and her fear of being a monster and subsequent isolation. [In addition, those who admire Wile E. Coyote's persistence will identify with Arella, Rae will appeal to fans of Scooby Doo and Mr. Peabody, and the weasel King Nalvero should remind those who enjoyed Lord of the Rings and The Wizard of Oz of those works' villains.] Your website indicates you are seeking projects with animal stories and a multicultural aspect. I believe my series contains these by demonstrating universal truths in unusual circumstances [If we knew more about your plot we might have an idea what universal truths are demonstrated.] and the amusement of animal behavior [Are you saying the book has cat videos? If so, count me on board.] combined with average people. Per your website's instructions I have attached the synopsis below. This is my first novel for submission and it is the first in a series of three books, which have all been written [completed]. If you do become interested my contact information is as follows: cell phone X and e-mail: X [Having an email address that's the same as your phone number could be confusing. Like the phone rings and you answer, but there's no one on the line because it was an email.]



It may seem reasonable to devote much of the query to yourself and movies and TV shows instead of your story when you're also attaching a synopsis, but that's only because you have somehow convinced yourself that the recipient will read the synopsis. Once the recipient reads the query there are three possibilities:

1. This plot doesn't appeal to me, so I'm sure as hell not gonna plod through the synopsis.

2. This plot sounds exciting, original and brilliant, but I'd better plod through the synopsis to make sure it doesn't turn into another Harry Potter ripoff.

3. I'm on the fence with this plot; should I plod through the synopsis or . . . Hmm, that next query on the pile has an intriguing font.

As you can see, the best you can hope for is #2. So you need to tell us a good story that will leave us reluctantly resigned to having to plod through your synopsis.

Is their main goal to rescue Dad? To overthrow the weasel king? To complete their journey to wherever? To turn Ana into an animal? What happens if they fail? 

Why are weasels always the bad guy? Just once I'd like to see a book where weasels are enslaved by evil kittens.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Face-Lift 1273

Guess the Plot


1. For years Johnny Maxwell has dined out on the stories he tells of his time in Afghanistan: thrilling tank battles, narrow escapes, firefights . . . But when his girlfriend Lorna digs into his records, she learns the shocking truth: Instead of a front-line hero, Johnny worked the laundry detail in Alabama. Should she confront him with the truth, and break their son's heart, or stay quiet while Johnny sorts the socks from the panties?

2. One night, 16-year-old Elrican gives shelter to Harlequin, another 16-year-old of noble bearing, in the humble iron forge where Elrican works. Elrican forgets to put the grate over the fire and Harlequin falls into the fire pit in his sleep. The next morning when soldiers show up looking for their prince to lead them into battle against the Dragon-Trolls, Ellrican assumes Harlequin's identity. Thus begins his unsought life of valor.

3. While traveling to a video game tournament, the five members of Team Valor are struck by a lightning bolt that gives them radiation poisoning but also gives each of them the magical powers of the character they play in the video game. Sara uses her healing power to heal them all. Then they head for Iraq where they use their powers to rescue a battalion of Marines from terrorists.

Original Version

Valor Book One is 77,559 words. It's a fantasy story about five teenagers that receive the magic of their video game characters and what they decide to do with it. [Change the first sentence to Valor is a 78,000-word YA fantasy, and put it toward the end of the query. Dump the second sentence, which tells us nothing that isn't restated in the next few paragraphs.]

Charlie Hayes, Sara the girl of his dreams, and three [four] of his best friends are traveling to Japan to participate in a video game tournament. Lightning blows through the window Sara is sitting next to [Sara's window] and travels through her hitting [hits] all of them. Team Valor is knocked unconscious and the plane makes an emergency landing.

At first they seem to make a full recovery and go on to play [brilliantly in] the tournament where they play brilliantly despite becoming increasing ill. By the end of the tournament they are so sick they require hospitalization. The doctors determine it's radiation poisoning and they [They? The doctors?] are put in isolation and treated[comma] as investigators try to find out where they were exposed.

Charlie's heard the doctors talking while they thought he was unconscious and knows they [They?] are all dying. In a feverish delirium he tries to intercept the healer using the same spells as his video game character. He finds himself by Sara's bedside where he realizes what he just did and begs her to pray for them all.

She does. At first using traditional prayers and then at Charlie's urging her video game character[apostrophe]s prayers. She is able to heal them all. They realize they all can do the magic that their characters had [have acquired their characters' magical abilities]. They tell no one[comma] hoping to return home and explore their new abilities before others find out. [Those four paragraphs are the setup. In video game terms, the setup is the part where you slip the Final Fantasy XXVII disk into your Xbox and read a bunch of crap before you take control and start battling creatures. If you're writing a synopsis, you can spend four paragraphs setting up the situation. In a query letter you should condense the setup into one paragraph of three or four sentences.]

Unfortunately, Charlie's brother Rick and his entire Marine battalion go MIA in Iraq. [A battalion is 300 to 1200 marines. That's a lot of people to go MIA.] They [They? The battalion?] decide they will use their new abilities to sneak into Iraq and try to rescue him. They also decide to tell Charlie's mother[comma] who helps them reluctantly. [We don't need to know about Charlie's mother.]

They sneak on and off both ally and enemy bases searching for Rick. [If Rick is MIA, what makes them think he might be on an allied base?] Charlie knows hiding on Incrilik airbase in Turkey is no place to declare his undying love for Sara, but when he realizes she isn't as aloof as she seems he can't stop himself.

When they finally find Rick they have to fight the terrorists that have him to escape. Their secret is now out[comma] their abilities known.

At one time in my life I was an avid video gamer and a member of serious raiding guild. [You seem to think whoever reads this will surely know what you mean by "a member of serious raiding guild." Think again.] A common theme in guild chat was what would you do if you could cast the spells your character could. With over ten million people playing of all ages the answers always amazed me. [You kids think you're so special. Don't you know your parents and grandparents used to fantasize about what they'd do if they had the powers of characters in the Fantastic Four or the Justice League or the X-Men? Ancestors you never met fantasized about being the Invisible Man or Merlin or Hercules.] [When I was young I fantasized about being Superman. When I got older I fantasized about having sex with Wonder Woman. Nowadays I fantasize about having a good bowel movement.] I hope you enjoy reading Valor as much as I enjoyed writing it. [Fascinating that you were amazed by the answers of ten million other people, but what we really want to know is what were your answers?] [I was joking! We don't care about your answers or anything in that paragraph. Get rid of it. It's killing you.]

Thank you for your consideration.


The writing isn't polished. Possibly it's a rough draft, and you can whip it into shape. You use a lot of words to say what would be clearer in half as many.

You need a paragraph in which you tell us a video game team acquires the powers of their characters. and two paragraphs in which you tell us the story of the rescue, by which I mean what's their plan, how do their powers come into play, what goes wrong, etc.

Then wrap it up with the title, word count, genre. 

Also, some editing of the actual book may be in order. I have a feeling you can get this down to 65,000 words without losing any of the plot. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Face-Lift 1272

Guess the Plot

Bending Livi

1. Sheena thought Latin was stupid. Then Bella brought that funny-looking scroll to class. Now they have Livi as Latin teacher, and Sheena can't wait for 6th period.

2. When cat burglar Livi is given court-ordered community service in a retirement home, she feels like a fox ordered to work in a hen house. Will the retirees win her over and help her straighten out her life, or will she rob them blind? Also, Russian acrobats.

3. Livi's strict kosher parents promise to stop ragging her about her taste for Daisy Dukes and halter tops and purple hair and McRib's if she spends a summer at the kibbutz. She agrees (anything to get out of the house) and packs off for a camp somewhere outside Tel Aviv. Then the vampires show up.

4. Olivia is a headstrong businesswoman with no family ties to slow her down. Matt is a soft-hearted midwesterner who just made partner in his law firm. But when Olivia is accused of murder and needs Matt to save her, he's got his hand full trying to make her likable to the jury. If only she'd bend just a little and stop wearing that "I kicked Satan's ass" t-shirt.

Original Version

Seeing as how you represent mainstream fiction, I submit to you Bending Livi, It is a Southern woman’s tale mixed with humor and personal grit about becoming someone better. [Not the best opening to a business letter. "seeing as how" is too informal. Just say "Because." Or mention where you learned this information. Also, the first sentence needs a period at the end, not a comma. The second sentence is vague. We don't know what you mean by "personal grit" or "becoming someone better." It's information you can show with specificity in your plot summary. I recommend dumping the whole first paragraph.]

Who is Livi? A loving caretaker? Or a thief who preys on the city? [You can save some more space by starting with the answers instead of the questions.] Livi is a stubborn young woman who finds herself on the wrong side of the law, a cat burglar with extraordinary athletic skills. [Saying that a cat burglar "finds herself" on the wrong side of the law is like saying a chef "finds herself" in a kitchen. It's not an accident.] At the risk of losing her brother to the court, she is required to do service [to serve] in an [a] retirement community home, in Biloxi, Mississippi, in the late 90s. [Punishing a thief by making her work in a retirement community is like throwing Br'er Rabbit into the briar patch.] [Also, when the courts start ordering thieves into my retirement home, I start looking for a new retirement home.] Her boyfriend, E.J., is a negative force, drawing Livi deeper into a life of crime. Detective Woodard, whose father is at the home, believes that she’s more than just a caretaker. His logic says she’s one thing, his police intuition casting doubts on Livi, [Is it a secret from the police that she's there because of court-ordered community service?] but his heart says something else as he sees the care she gives his father. Will Sergeant Major, a family of Russian acrobats, a retired entertainer, and a broken-down boxer, the Groundskeeper, [No reason to capitalize "groundskeeper" . . .  unless it's the broken-down boxer's stage name. Which would make more sense if he were a professional wrestler. I wouldn't mind seeing a match between The Undertaker and The Groundskeeper.] [Also, isn't sergeant major a fish?] help Livi change her life? [Actually, I'm more likely to buy that she turns her life around because of a fish than by joining a Russian acrobatic troupe. Have her steal an aquarium from one of the retiree's, and then learn life lessons from watching the sergeant major deal with a broken filter and a pesky Siamese fighting fish.] The duality of emotions and morals is the conflict that Livi has to navigate.


You're not telling us your story. You're telling us the main character's situation and listing your other characters. Basically, this is the setup: When cat burglar Livi is caught in the act, she's given a choice:
perform community service in a retirement home or lose custody the little brother she's raised since their parents died. She makes the obvious decision, but Detective Woodard, whose father lives at the home, is wary . . . until he witnesses the loving care Livi gives his dad.

Now you have plenty of room for a paragraph in which you show us what happens when horrible E.J. enters the scene and how Livi deals with him, and what goes wrong. Then a paragraph in which you show us Livi at the crossroads and tell us what will happen if she takes the left fork or the right.

I don't think Tiffany's would put up with courts ordering convicted jewel thieves to work in their stores. I suppose there's an explanation of why the owner of this retirement home is okay with a convicted thief working there? Seems like a bad business decision.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Face-Lift 1271

Guess the Plot

Black Lick Creek and the City of Broken People

1. Sixteen-year-old Jenna James is leading a pack of teenagers hell-bent on getting out of their small town. There's only one problem. They can't get across the raging river ridiculously called Black Lick Creek. Then Jenna hatches a plan. They can break off branches from the trees and make a bridge. Only she doesn't realize those trees are magical people, and they don't take kindly to meddling kids breaking them. Bedlam ensues. Oh, and a praying mantis.

2. The Tarrant trio (father, son, and blonde, teenaged grandson) are taking a trip across country when they make a wrong turn off the I-10. They find themselves in a city that's populated with folks suffering from various mysterious, crippling symptoms. Then they discover that somehow they can't go back the way they came in and the town is NOT ON THE MAP -- but a cave with a water formation named Black Lick Creek is, and it seems to be the only way out of the town.

3. Undead backpackers converge on Hell Central to discover angels have split EVIL in two. Fiends line up along the creek, zombies team up in the City, every nightmare soul eager to battle to the death — or kiss and make up.

4. Carla, Dean and Lyle love to frolic down by Black Lick Creek, but when they aren't doing that they're a vigilante team of abused 10-year-olds out for revenge on their abusers and any abusers who would break the spirits of children.

5. The city of Black Lick Creek holds a writers convention. Unknown to the city fathers, Black Lick is also scheduled for the Semi-Millennium Demons' Convocation. Writers flock to the venue but due to a NYC snowstorm, few agents or editors are able to attend. The writers mistakenly sit in on Satan's black mass. Afterward, over drinks at the hotel bar, the writers decide it must have been Evil Editor's symposium.

6. ehosephat "Black Lick" Creek has been riding the wild canyonlands of the west for years, never staying in one place. In a side canyon of the Snake river, he runs into a town of...well, people, he guesses, even though so many are crippled and twisted it's a bit hard to tell. Can he help them secure their town from the raging flash floods? And will he be able to do so without having to marry all seven of the ugly, one-eyed Olsen sisters?

Original Version

Title - “Black Lick Creek and the City of Broken People”

Manuscript completed - about 96k words - dark YA fiction with dreams and a psychic [Most people care as much about fictional characters' dreams as they do about real peoples' dreams.] 

I am an attorney with a background as an assistant prosecutor in juvenile court. In an earlier career I was a clinical psychologist. I have drawn on experiences in both careers to formulate my storyline [in which the main character ditches a promising and lucrative career as a clinical psychologist for a low-paying, dead-end career dealing with drug-dealing, crack-smoking punks]. Thank you for your consideration

Overview: [No need to label each section of a business letter.]

Suppose an abused child fights back. [Good for her.] Suppose three of them, each 10 years old, form an unbreakable pact to protect each other from the depredations heaped on them by the adults who should have loved, nurtured and kept them safe. [Yes. I like it. What are their super powers?] They are more than close friends. Their lives meld into one entity and one purpose - to love, protect and succor one another through all adversities. [Screw love and succor. If you want this to become a blockbuster movie they have to form a vigilante team, kill their own abusers, and then go after all abusers.] Carla, the ostensible leader of the threesome, began her life in a home of privilege but was suddenly placed in the care of a selfish aunt and predatory uncle. Dean was forced to murder his psychotic mother [Now that's what I'm talking about.] to keep her from murdering him. Lyle, a skinny, introverted genius, harbored an obsession for revenge against his two half-sisters twins for their false accusation of sexual abuse by his father leading to his death. [Lyle doesn't seem to belong. You said there were three abused children, but Lyle wasn't abused, and apparently his sisters weren't either, and Lyle didn't have depredations heaped on him by adults (or are the twin sisters adults?)] Seeing and experiencing life in a way that at times resembles combat, only two of them survive. [Yes but how many baddies did they take out before one of them succumbed?] 

First three sentences:

Chapter 1
God how they played! All three of them, ten years old, ran as hard as they could through the field, jumped the ditch, vaulted the fence and scooted down the loose rock bank to the creek. Elmer Gantry was drunk. [Yes he was, often. But what's he got to do with your book? Is Elmer Gantry preaching down by the creek? Is he one of your characters? If only you had provided four sentences.]


Three sentences? Anyone who wants a sample included with the letter will want at least three pages, possibly three chapters. Check their submission guidelines.

I'm sure both of your previous careers required you to write business letters at times, and they probably didn't begin:


Dear Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence,


I regret to inform you that your son Barry is a sociopathic delinquent.


Sincerely yours,

This is the first example of your writing the reader will see, so use sentences and paragraphs.

This is just a list of your characters and their backstories. What led to their forming a pact is interesting, but your story is what happens after that. You need to tell us that story, providing specific information about the trio's goals, obstacles, plans, setbacks, dilemmas. Summarize the story in about ten sentences that connect logically to the each other.

I'd put the part about your careers at the end rather than the beginning.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Face-Lift 1270

Guess the Plot


1. Only teenager Skye Briar can put an end to humans' destruction of Earth, for she is the daughter of the one and only Mother Nature. But those who profit from the devastation of nature will stop at nothing to destroy Skye. Plus she has a hunky boyfriend. We're doomed.

2. Before Mother Nature was a mother she was a dyslexic teen tormented by the other sprites -especially Jack Frost. When he writes her name wrong in the ice is he mocking her, or has she finally thawed his frozen heart? 

3. Clem has a pet Nutria named NATURAE, who needs a heart transplant. The vet wants payment in full before the operation and Clem sets off on a wild crime spree. He robs a health food store in Memphis and a laundromat in Murfreesboro. Can Clem come up with the money in time?

4. Alexia Brentwood is not about to grow old gracefully. Her seventy-five-year-old skin is as taut as a teenager's and her long brown hair as silky as a child's. But her secret to youth comes at a price. Every full moon she must find another dose of the magic elixir Naturae or she'll wind up looking like Keith Richards in a dress.

5. When attorney Sophie Bennet loses another high-profile case, she's forced to enter the Naturae Naturopathic Clinic or lose her job. She's supposed to get techniques on stress relief and a good night's sleep. But when she meets hunky Zach, the towel guy at the spa, she has her own ideas of "stress relief." Then Zach turns up dead in the mud bath and Sophie gets a blackmail note in her robe. Now Sophie needs more than just Naturae to help her sleep. She needs an Uzi.

6. Smaller than elves, tinier than fairies, the Naturae live close to the ground where their magic helps trees take root and flowers grow. Unfortunately, being so little and close to the ground makes them vulnerable to bustling beetles, curious cats, and weed-whackers.

7. Steve Hodgson persuades the new World Government to put his newly-invented AI in charge. After all, "Naturae," as it is called, is perfectly rational and omniscient and would be the best decision maker. The trouble is, Steve programmed it to be a bit too "natural," and it soon becomes red in tooth and claw and the world is once again on the brink of destruction. Now Steve has to deprogram the thing, with the assistance of the feisty, red-headed female journalist who was predicting this all along.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Abandoned for unknown reasons by her mother as an infant, Skye Bryar grows up in the small town of Deep Cove, a uniquely beautiful girl with secret abilities that even she does not understand. It is not until she meets Holt, a mysteriously quiet and undeniably handsome out-of-towner, that she is led to the truth about her past, and finally learns who- and what- she really is.

When Holt rescues Skye from a strange encounter with some very dangerous men, he whisks her away to a world that she never knew about, but one where she truly belongs. This is the island of the NATURAE, where those who can control the pure elements- earth, air, fire or water- reside. They are ruled over by none other than Mother Nature, the Queen of the Earth. Skye is shocked to learn that this woman is in fact her own birth mother- making Skye the Elemental Princess, the only individual on earth who holds the power of [over] all four elements within. [Mother Nature doesn't hold this power?]

It is on this island that Skye discovers she is the key to something much greater than she could have ever imagined. Mother Nature brought Skye [her] into the world with a prophecy that her child by blood would be the only one who could [to] put an end to the humans destruction of the earth. But an elite group of people known as the Avarice, [If that's an  acronym standing for Association of Vile And Rapacious Individuals Consuming Earth, you don't need "the" in front of it, and AVARICE should be all caps.] who profit from the devastation of nature, have been searching for Skye since the day of her birth, and they will stop at nothing to prevent her from changing their ways. ["Changing their ways" doesn't sound so threatening. 

We must stop this child now, before she manages to change our ways. 

Come out with your hands up and we'll give you a chance to change your ways.

You'll never take me alive, copper. I'm too set in my ways to change them now.]

As Skye embarks on the journey to harness her powers, [What are her powers, exactly? For instance, can she turn into fire like the human torch and swim with the fishes like Aquaman? Are these powers useful in preventing ocean pollution and rainforest destruction?] she develops new friendships with those around her, and a deep connection to the earth and its elements. And a [blossoming] romance with Holt blossoms, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about the world she left behind. [Everything? There's not a single thing she doesn't question?]

But will Skye be willing to help Mother Nature, and the earth, even if it means betraying the humans she loves? [Does she love the humans who are causing the devastation of nature? How can protecting the planet from AVARICE be called betraying humans?] Or will the Avarice get to her before she even has a chance to choose sides?

NATURAE is a YA paranormal romance novel. The novel has a unique focus on the current and important issue of how humans are impacting the environment, intertwined with extraordinary magic, a heart wrenching love triangle, [Who's the third side of this triangle?] unwavering friendships and betrayal. This is intended to be the first in a 3 or 4 part series. [Does it have a satisfying ending or are we left hanging, waiting for the next installment? Are you querying the whole series or just this book? ]

NATURAE is my first novel, inspired by my travels and experiences around the world. With a bad case of wanderlust and a love for animals, I have lived in many countries including Australia, Canada, Dominican Republic and Mexico, and have worked with animals including dolphins, sea lions, horses, penguins and sharks [, the latter of which explains my two missing limbs]. My intimate connection with nature world-wide has only further highlighted the many issues our earth faces and I hope this novel will inspire the younger generation to make a difference. [If we want our planet to be respected, we can start by capitalizing its name, as we do every other planet and every ocean, country, city, mountain, etc.]

Thank you for your consideration of this query. At your request, I would be happy to send along part of the story, which is complete at 50,000 words.


It's a bit long. I've pointed out some phrases that you can afford to lose. You can also shorten the paragraph about you to something like: My experiences working with animals and nature around the world have touched on many issues our planet faces, and I hope this novel with inspire young people to make a difference.

Not sure how hot the love interest gets, but I tend to think a book in which a girl gets whisked off to an island where Mother Nature lives would be more appealing to a younger audience than YA.

I'd like to know more about what happens in the book. This is mostly the situation. What does Skye actually do? And perhaps more about the betrayal and the love triangle would reveal aspects of the story we're not getting.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Face-Lift 1269

Guess the Plot

Antonov's Diamonds

1. Ruthless Russian Colonel Antonov makes off with a fortune in gems from a diamond mine in the Ural Mountains. It's a case too tough for the FBI, so they call in pawnbroker Flynn Christopher to help them devise a plan. Also, a pair of nitwits.

2. Sixteen-year-old Cam has seen a lot as the daughter of an unorthodox archeologist. To keep him out of trouble, she travels with him on his latest quest to find Antonov's Diamonds. Cam is concerned this will turn out like the times when he went searching for those damned yellow moons, pink hearts, orange stars, and green clovers.

3. Joe Singleton is struggling mightily to start his own jewelry shop in St. Louis. His fast-talking brother-in-law points out that every other successful jeweler has an exotic foreign name. Joe googles "Russian boy names" -- and he doesn't even need to search beyond the A's for a new business name. The trouble is, "Antonov's Diamonds" is also the code term for a super-secret remotely-guided nano-weapon that the CIA has been tracking, and Joe is sucked into a world of international intrigue.

4. When four-time World Chess Champion Vladimir Antonov is involved in a fatal car accident, he doesn't think twice about challenging Death to a game with eternal consequences. He couldn't have known that Death would pick bridge instead of chess and partner up with Satan, or that his own partner--a 206-year-old babushka--would promise to make his death a living hell if his incompetence ruins her winning streak.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

For your consideration:

Pawnbroker Flynn Christopher is enlisted by the FBI to help ensnare the cold blooded and ruthless Russian Colonel Alexei Antonov and recover untold millions in stolen diamonds. [On the off chance that the cold blooded and ruthless Russian Colonel Alexei Antonov comes in here to pawn millions in diamonds, we need you to stall him until we get here, okay?]

Flynn's pawnshops are entertaining, you never know what's coming through the door. Stun guns, diamonds, sharks teeth or a pair of nitwits. Hey, it's a job... [Usually it's after describing a crappy job that you make the comment Hey, it's a job. Not after describing a job as wildly entertaining as Flynn's.] 

Flynn meets a mysterious FBI agent while playing golf who asks his help in recovering a diamond once owned by Peter the Great. [Were they playing golf with each other, or was the FBI agent waiting on the 5th tee when Flynn got there?] [Also, you might want to mention why the FBI wants Flynn's help. Was Flynn chosen at random or because he's a pawnbroker or for a reason you're ill-advisedly keeping from us?] Mayhem ensues at Baltimore's Inner Harbor when Flynn comes face to face with the thief. [And? Does he get the diamond?] Meanwhile the FBI is running a sting on Colonel Antonov in Philadelphia that ends with two dead[.] Antonov returns home to his store, Satchels and Sandals, a mecca for ladies shoes and handbags, [You pretty much have to be cold-blooded and ruthless if you're a ladies shoe salesman.] but their [there] is an evil secret in the backroom. Once again the irreverent Flynn is recruited, [Is there no case the FBI can solve without the aid of Flynn the Pawnbroker?] [Also, when did Flynn become "the irreverent Flynn"?] this time it’s more deadly. [This time he must try to get Mrs. van Pilson's size nine feet into a pair of size eight pumps.] Antonov orchestrates the takeover of a secret diamond mine [Secret from whom?] deep in the Ural mountains of Russia. [He orchestrates this from Philadelphia?] He makes off with incredible wealth and the death toll rises. Back in Baltimore, Flynn and the FBI devise a plan to outwit the maniacal Antonov [The FBI agents need a Pawnbroker to help them devise a plan to outwit a maniac?] and recover the diamonds before the unsuspecting Flynn becomes [one] of Antonov's victims.

I managed jewelry stores in the Baltimore Washington area for twenty years before becoming a pawnbroker, owning and operating my own stores for fifteen years. [So this is autobiographical. How much will you give me for my VHS player?] I am a jewelry expert, a certified diamontologist, gemologist and appraiser. [If Flynn is a diamond expert and the FBI needs his expertise to outwit Antonov, say so. I would expect the FBI, if they don't have their own expert, to seek one at a jewelry store rather than a pawn shop (or golf course).]

ANTONOV'S DIAMONDS is a thriller of 95,000 words.

Evil Editor, thank you for your consideration and time, I can be reached at ____________.

Warmest regards,


Not clear why the FBI is involved in recovering diamonds taken from a mine in the Ural Mountains. Or what Flynn brings to the table. Or why Flynn is approached on a golf course. Actually, this is so all-over-the-place that nothing's clear. Maybe you should focus the query on one case, either recovering Antonov's diamonds or Peter the Great's.

No need to waste space with a one-sentence summary of what we're about to read.

Start with a brief setup of Flynn's situation: You never know what's going to come through the door of Flynn Christopher's pawn shop. Stun guns, shark's teeth, banjos . . . But even Flynn is surprised when a pair of nitwits try to pawn a diamond that once belonged to Peter the Great.

Then tell us what happens: Turns out the diamond is the real thing, and the FBI is using it in a sting operation against Ruthless Russian Colonel Alevei Antonov. They want Flynn to take the stolen diamond in hopes that Antonov will be lured into the pawn shop. Antonov has his sights set on bigger game--a fortune in newly mined diamonds--but he can't resist a diamond that's part of his homeland's history.

Then finish with Flynn's decision, the one that determines whether he wins or loses. I'm not sure what he wins or loses, maybe a job as an FBI consultant or the reward money for recovering the diamond.

Focus on Flynn, what he wants, what's keeping him from getting it, how he plans to overcome this, what happens if he screws up.

 Also, I recommend using the details of my plot summary rather than yours.