Friday, October 30, 2015

Eight Days of Halloween Films Dredged Up from the Vault


Face-Lift 1283

Guess the Plot

The Graveyard Festival

1. All the dead 70s rock stars try to recreate The Woodstock Festival. Simon Cowell, Britney Spears and Aretha appear.

2. Thana sleeps in graveyards. Why not, there's plenty of peace and quiet there. Or at least there was until this damn traveling carnival set up shop. Oh well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. 

3. Vampires, demons, and witches join forces to change their image. They collect Christmas toys for poor children, take kids on trips to Disneyland, and raise funds to fight childhood diseases. And every month on the thirteenth, they hold a graveyard marshmallow and weenie roast. But everybody is not pleased. The League of Paranormal Publishers hires slayers to brutalize the undead until they return to their scary ways. 

4. Dancing under the full moon was so romantic. It was fun to see everyone in their antique clothes and old-time hairstyles. Not everyone held it together until the break of dawn, but some were so fresh and vibrant ... and sex under the stars was exquisite. Too bad I have to spend the whole next day re-burying everyone.

5. Elijah was a real bastard! Cheap, arrogant, and petty. Everyone in town had a grievance. When he finally died, the town decided it was time to celebrate and decided to dance on his grave. They weren't ready for what would follow.

6. It's time for Halloween! All the kids in the cemetery will gather for a festive, fun night of scaring teenagers, making a racket, and screwing up paranormal investigators' equipment.

Original Version

Sixteen-year-old Thana sleeps in graveyards [In different graveyards? Does she have parents? Because if she were my daughter, I'd want her sleeping in the closest graveyard, not some randomly chosen graveyard across town.] and crafts surreal dreams for those who want them. [Does she craft them in the graveyard? While sleeping? That's kind of what it sounds like you're saying. If that's not it, maybe we don't need to know where she sleeps in sentence one.] The dreams she creates are so vivid and detailed that they may as well be real. [When I'm having that dream where I'm being tortured by Borgo the Disemboweler, no matter how vivid it is, I never wake and think it may as well have been real.] For the inhabitants of the town nearby, Thana’s dreams are drugs. [I have lots of questions, and you don't have room to answer them, but here goes: Does she sell the dreams? Does she have to be present while the recipient is sleeping? If I go to her at noon and say I want to have a surreal dream tonight,  does she cast a spell? Give me a potion? Does she put together the entire "plot" of the dream while I wait, or just cause me to have a dream whose plot she knows nothing about? Can I tell her what I want to dream about? How long does it take her to create a dream for me?]

When the Graveyard Festival arrives in her cemetery [By "her cemetery" do you mean the one she always sleeps in or the one she happens to be sleeping in that night?] in the middle of the night, Thana meets Jonathan, a mysterious boy with tattoos he can bring to life. [Is that like in The Illustrated Man, which would be similar to Thana's dream creation, or is it more like the snake tattoo will bite you if you get too close?] By sunrise, Thana is a member of the traveling carnival that moves from cemetery to cemetery. [How's the attendance at these middle-of-the-night carnivals in cemeteries? Do they put up posters so the locals know the festival's in town?] Her dream-crafting abilities do what the Festival does best: catering to every whimsical fancy one may have. [My whimsical fantasy in the middle of the night is getting some sleep, which is why I bought a house next to the quietest place in town, the cemetery. And now there's a frigging carnival going on?]

But the Graveyard Festival isn’t just a carnival—its members guard the gates to the land of the dead, and something has gotten past them. Jonathan believes Thana is the key to returning the demon back to where it belongs, but as her dreams turn to nightmares that come to life, Thana can’t control her devilish creations. 

Something ruthless is within her, and is dying to get out.

THE GRAVEYARD FESTIVAL is a young adult fantasy novel complete at 69,000 words. I believe it will appeal to lovers of Erin Morgenstern’s THE NIGHT CIRCUS and the dark magic of SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES[i].[/i] [An odd failed attempt to italicize a period?] {You forgot to include The Graveyard Book.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


If your book is similar to The Night Circus, which is pretty low on plot, this isn't bad. But it sounds like it's mostly setup for the escaped demon story, which is barely (and vaguely) mentioned. If you condense the setup to something like:

16-year-old Thana has the power to create vivid dreams for those who want them. When the Graveyard Festival--a traveling carnival that caters to every whimsical fancy one may have--comes to town and sets up in the local cemetery, it's a perfect match. They want her talent, and she wants to get out of her podunk little town.'ll have extra room to tell us about Jonathan and what the demon is doing and how they plan to send the demon back and what goes wrong and what will happen if they fail. In other words, your story.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Eight Days of Halloween Films Dredged Up from the Vault


Eight Days of Halloween Films Dredged Up from the Vault


Synopsis 46

Synopsis of Not Another Child (Query in previous post)

Somewhere in modern day Canada, an imprisoned child feels abandoned.

An infamous paedophile is being released from prison. To avoid demonstrators he is flown to Ottawa airport where he is killed by a sniper bullet. Janice Williams, head of the RCMP Sex Crime Division is assigned to a task force where [when] evidence shows that the killer is an insider.

Janice surfs the deep web to find a pedophile, “stchris”, who she is hunting and has kidnapped four children and killed three, the fourth is still missing. [Was that supposed to be a sentence?]

Janice’s friend Laura Lamour plays the part of a victim in a Coast Guard training exercise and is an expert in Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for emergency workers. She is Janice’s anchor. [Nice insertion of maritime terminology for the woman who had a part in a Coast Guard training exercise, but I don't see this exercise as a vital part of the plot description.]

A few more pedophiles are murdered in different locations across the country. This brings a lot of attention to the issue of child abuse and the public begin to lobby for harsher laws. [No one cares about the abused kids, but when the abusers get murdered there's an uproar.] 

Janice’s squad identifies the “stchris”  [Anagram: Christ's] killer and heads to Sudbury, Ontario. The priest is found murdered [What priest?] and the child is rescued. [Is this the imprisoned child who felt abandoned in modern-day Canada? I assume we're getting back to that kid at some point.] 

Janice returns to Ottawa and briefs the task force that there are more than twenty-five murdered pedophiles. [Reminds me of the old lawyer joke. What do you call 25 murdered pedophiles? A good start.]  Janice, Kilgour and Forbes go over case files to look for clues and decide to set a trap. [You toss out the names Kilgour and Forbes as if we know who they are.]  The killer avoids the trap and kills a pedophile under police surveillance [Killer avoiding your trap: embarrassing. Killer killing someone while avoiding your trap: priceless.]

Janice relives the trauma of her own abuse and how she rose above it.

On a northern Quebec reservation, a small child is raped and beaten and left to die but is found and hospitalized while the rapist is arrested. Laura responds to the reserve to counsel the affected responders and the community members.

Janice’s team follow up leads with passenger lists [Passengers of what?] while also planning a raid for an individual that wants to have sex with a twelve-year-old. The planned take down becomes rough but thanks to the skills of a new recruit, two men are taken into custody.

Laura learns about the Residential School system from one of the Elders which might explain the violence and abuse with her people. The Elder tells Laura that she will fight for the innocent.

One of Janice’s team accuses her of suppressing information and that the passenger list clearly identified Laura Amour as the killer. [It's so much easier to capture killers in Canada where they're identified as killers on passenger lists.]  [Also, is her last name Lamour or Amour?] Janice asks both her teammates [to give her?] until morning to convince Laura to turn herself in. Janice meets Laura and realizes that Laura will not stop her crusade.

Janice and Kilgour attend the trail [trial] for Lapointe, the abuser from the Reserve to protect him from Laura. However she is in Victoria B.C. hunting an international child pornographer. [Just because you can't convince a killer to turn herself in doesn't mean you have to let her travel across the country.]

The government caves into [in to] public pressure for tougher legislation and penalties.

After the trial, Janice and Kilgour transport Lapointe to the airport in Val-d’or, Quebec for his flight to Montreal. Using insider information, Laura is ready when the flight lands in Montreal and is able to kill Lapointe and avoid capture. Janice and Kilgour are suspended for their failure [utter incompetence]. The Minister puts Forbes in charge and tells him to ensure that Laura does not make it to trial. [The Minister?]

Laura calls Janice and Forbes’s people are able to track the call to her apartment. [You screwed up when you made that phone call Laura. We never would have thought to look for you at . . . your apartment.] Forbes has the elite anti-terrorist group assault Laura’s Montreal apartment. [But even they allow her to escape capture.]

Laura plans to escape to the U.S. with the help of a First Nation Reserve cigarette smuggler. To avoid detection, the entire reserve launches their boats from the reserve towards the U.S. border, however through deductive reasoning; Forbes predicts where they will make landfall and enters U.S. airspace. [She's on a boat heading for land so he enters air space? I assume if the reserve is sending dozens of boats, and Laura is on one of them, they're sending them to different locations, so that Forbes won't know where to wait. He deduces which boat she's on?] 

After arriving on the U.S. soil, she is confronted by Forbes, Janice and Kilgour. Forbes reveals that the government wishes her dead, something he refuses to do and offers future cooperation. [What? Cooperation in killing pedophiles?]


Janice has spent months on a Caribbean island rejuvenating but is ready to resume the hunt, possibly in Europe. [What hunt?]


I recommend submitting to agents who don't require a synopsis. 

Failing that, get rid of anything that isn't essential so you can provide more detail about  what is essential. 

If Laura is still free at the end of the book, maybe she should be the main character.  Readers are more likely to sympathize with a woman who murders pedophiles than with a woman who tries to stop her. You won't even need Janice. A series of books about a vigilante killer of pedophiles would be . . . 

Hmm, a Googling of "vigilante killer of pedophiles novel" reveals there are a few such books already. But they probably aren't about Canadian vigilante killers of pedophiles.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Face-Lift 1282

Guess the Plot

Not Another Child

1. Police officer Janice is supposed to help bring down a serial killer of pedophiles, but she's torn. Sure, a commendation would be nice, but if she holds off a few weeks on capturing the killer, he'll have time to send a few more abusers to hell. Maybe it's time to go on vacation.

2. Ogard is a troll and Malfeasia, his wife, is the wicked witch of the forest. Ogard comes home late on a Friday as Mallie is stuffing one of the neighbor's boys into the oven. Ogard attacks her and she casts spells in all directions. Several forest folk die in the chaos. But prosecutors take Mallie's side and send Ogard to the slammer where he becomes the star linebacker on the prison football team.

3. When Clarissa's daughter is murdered, she starts the Not Another Child foundation. Donations pour in. When her daughter comes home, very much alive, will she announce the good news--or make sure the donations don't stop?

4. Nineteen kids, and counting. Nineteen! Sure, the TV show money helps pay some of the bills, but do you have any idea how much these kids eat? I can't even remember half their friggin' names. I swear, if he comes near me with that thing again, I'm cutting it off. Well ... maybe one more.

5. When a two-month-old infant is left on a pawn broker's doorstep, the over 5,000 members of the American Pawnbrokers' Association decide to raise this one as their own. Now Faust must prove he's the baby's daddy before Lucifer finds out he's got competition in the used souls market.

6. Youtube was made for movie trailers, instructions on making the MS Word bullets and numbering feature work, and Russian hood-cam footage, not your "cute" baby videos. A hard-hitting, wide-ranging look at the explosion of sickening terabytes of giggling kids, fighting kids, singing kids, etc. that is slowly destroying the Internet.

7. After hearing that his wife would like to have another child to add to their twenty children, Dillon goes to outlandish lengths to avoid both his wife and the wedding bed.

8. This nonfiction expose of the U.S. educational system comprises a series of first-person accounts of elementary school teachers. It focuses on the growth of average classroom size from 2 children per classroom in 1900 to an anticipated 67 in 2020, and the heretofore undocumented stress this uncontrollable increase has on teachers.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I would like to submit my thriller novel, NOT ANOTHER CHILD, complete at 84,000 words for your consideration. It is the story of Canadian Police Officer, [No need to capitalize a person's occupation. True, I capitalize "Editor," but that's because it's my last name.] Janice [Jones?], who is assigned to a task force to hunt down and capture a killer. The killer has targeted a well-documented and abhorrent pedophile as he is released from prison. Evidence points to someone in the justice system and the kill rate is growing. [This isn't clear. Are you saying a serial killer who's been killing at an ever-increasing rate has declared his/her intention to kill a specific pedophile as he is released from prison? Or are you saying someone killed a pedophile as he was being released from prison, and that killer has since gone on to kill more people? Seems a bit stupid to announce the time and place of your next murder, so I'd normally assume the latter. But the tense of the 3rd sentence (has targeted as he is released, rather than targeted as he was released) suggests the opposite.] [I'd be interested to know if the other murder victims were also pedophiles.]

Abused as a child, Janice has overcome the trauma but it has left its mark. [In fact, it's left quite a few marks.] She is obsessed with stopping the abuse of children. She has always believed in the Law but admits that the killer’s solution is more decisive and permanent. The abuse victims never have to worry about a repeat assault. When the killer leaves Janice a note with the latest victim, Janice realizes that the killer is close to her. [Geographically close, or it's someone she knows? What's in the note?] She will need to keep her head on a swivel, to figure who she can trust and where the killer will strike next. [Keeping her head on a swivel might keep the killer from sneaking up on her, but I don't see how it will tell her whom to trust or where the killer will strike next.] 

Recently retired as a Deputy Fire Chief, I have experience with PTSD, multi-agency task forces, arson investigations and Coroner’s Inquests and have drawn on this experience to develop my story.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


A lot of setup, but not much plot.

Not sure if this is your story, but . . .

Canadian police officer Janice Jones is assigned to a task force hunting a serial killer who, thus far, has targeted only pedophiles. A victim herself, Janice is obsessed with stopping the abuse of children. She has always believed in the Law but admits that the killer’s solution is more decisive and permanent.

When the killer leaves Janice a note with the latest victim, a note referencing Janice's childhood  trauma, she realizes she may be dealing with someone she knows, possibly someone in the justice system.

That leaves you plenty of room to tell us how Janice plans to capture the killer, what goes wrong, what will happen if plan B fails, how she deals with her dilemma.

If that isn't your story, well . . . maybe it should be.

Eight Days of Halloween Films Dredged Up from the Vault

# 4 Ghost Stories

Monday, October 26, 2015

Face-Lift 1281

Guess the Plot

Little Boar

1. There is nothing interesting about you. You talk and talk but never say anything worth listening to. You never want to do anything fun. You never have any good ideas or suggestions. Plus, you look like a pig with a serious dental problem.

2. Little Boar has a problem: no one wants him in the neighborhood. Apparently, rooting, wallowing, and trampling are frowned upon by the domesticated hoity-toity farm animals, not to mention Farmer Brown. When the old man revs up the ATV for a feral pig hunt with the more than 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association, it’s every hog for himself!

3. The true, tragic story of Edward of Middleham, Richard III's legitimate heir.

4. Little Boar is a pilot with the Red Army in WWII. Her career seemingly ended in a dogfight with Luftwaffe pilot Gerhard Rademacher, Little Boar becomes addicted to morphine. But she vows she won't rest until she gets reinstated and takes her revenge, even if it means flying missions while numbed out of her mind on drugs.

5. After the forest fire, Priscilla Porcupine leads the woodland creatures into Green Valley. Farmers chase them away until Priscilla and her friends rescue prize-winning piglet Little Boar. When Farmer Jack sells him to a new bacon restaurant, Oink's, Priscilla organizes a protest and Oink's switches to turkey-bacon. But the local gobblers protest so Oink's settles on tofu-bacon which everybody agrees sucks. After the restaurant's failure, it is replaced by Jim's Southern Bar-B-Que'd Ribs.

6. Little Boar lives in the prairie. Little Boar eats carrots. Little Boar plays with his baby brother. Little Boar gets hit by a truck on Ranch Road 2243.

7. Tommy is seven, over-privileged, and never has anything interesting to say. One day, he fails his spelling test, and as a punishment, his mother orders him to pen a sign to wear around his neck, identifying him as a 'Little Boar.' Then he joins the circus.

8. Little Boar has been separated from his family and must find his way home with the help of new friends that he meets along the way. He and his friends must out-wit the hunter and his pack of dogs to reunite with his family.

9. When a missile hits a Midwestern farm, the animals are bathed in gamma rays. A newly foaled pig is shrunken to microscopic size, and he wants revenge! It begins to crawl into human's bodies, eating them inside and out. Only his former master can find a way to stop . . .  Little Boar.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Nadezdah “Little Boar” Buzina, a pilot with the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment, dreams of becoming an ace. Those dreams shatter after a dogfight with Gerhard Rademacher, a crack Luftwaffe pilot, leaves her as the sole survivor from her flight and too badly burned to fly in combat.

Struggling with survivor’s guilt, Nadya vows to shoot down Rademacher and give peace to her fallen sisters-in-arms. To that end, she secretly starts using morphine to manage her pain and succeeds in being reinstated as a pilot. Her drug use, however, turns into addiction, and she soon realizes she can’t safely fly while numb, but she also knows if she quits [without] the morphine, the returning pain will keep her forever on the ground [grounded] and Rademacher out of her sights.

To complicate matters, the skies are vast, making Rademacher impossible to find. [Trying to find the specific plane of the guy who shot you down by flying through the sky is like trying to find the specific whale that bit off your leg by sailing through the ocean.] Nadya, fearing she’ll never cross paths with the man again, takes her wingman on increasingly dangerous patrols deep into German territory where the Luftwaffe reign supreme. [You'd think a crack pilot like Rademacher would be flying missions over enemy territory, not defending the homeland. Apparently not.] After a few brushes with death, Nadya has to decide if killing Rademacher is worth not only sacrificing [risking?] herself but also the girl flying at her side. [Few are aware that the term "wing nut" originally referred to any wingman who agreed to fly with a drugged-up vengeance-obsessed pilot.]

While there are numerous World War II novels, none focus [focuses] on any of the all-female flying regiments of the Red Army Air [Force?] . [Not necessarily true, depending on whether you count this novel.] [Agent specifics, pub creds].

LITTLE BOAR is completed at 90k words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Are there nonfiction books about the 586th? 

Did you make up the nickname "Little Boar"? Seems like a strange nickname for a fighter pilot.

That one sentence at the end may not be enough to clarify that the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment was the real deal. You don't want readers thinking you made the whole thing up. Perhaps if you began the query:

Few Westerners are aware that the Red Army’s 586th all-female fighter regiment played a major role in preventing Nazi Germany from adding Russia to its early conquests.  My novel Little Boar is the story of Nadezdah Buzina, a pilot with the 586th, who dreams of becoming an ace. These dreams are shattered when Gerhard Rademacher, a crack Luftwaffe pilot . . . 

In searching to see if Nadezdah Buzina was a real person, I discovered real people named Nadezhda Buzina. I also was directed to a Goodreads Beta reader request in which you say:

Through the last half of 1942, she struggles against crack Luftwaffe pilots, a vengeful political commissar, and a new addiction to morphine, all the while questioning her worth and purpose in a world beyond her control. It’s not until the Soviet counter-offensive at Stalingrad that she finds her unlikely answers, and only then after she’s saved the life of a mortal enemy and fallen in love with another who tried to kill her.

To me, some of that seems more interesting as a wrap-up than the decision of whether to risk her wingman's life in dangerous patrols (I assume if you became a member of the 586th, you expected to fly dangerous patrols) especially if the person she saves or falls in love with is Rademacher

Does Nadia consider the possibility that her enemy had been killed in a dogfight or that his plane took enough damage that he's now flying a different one? She could shoot him down and not even know it.

Eight Days of Halloween Films Dredged Up from the Vault

#3 Costume Shop

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Beginning 1049

The darkness was overwhelming. It made his entire world. There was no way to anticipate where the next pain, probe or pinch would come from.

His attacker never spoke, except through actions. Caresses ended with pain. Bite marks covered his entire body but were then covered with kisses.

Love and hate combined as one; becoming neither.

His world of darkness hides a bundle of rags for a bed and a couple of dishes for food and water, similar to a dog’s. They were always full of fresh food and water; yet no one appeared to fill them. There were four walls and what felt like a door that had no handle on this side of the room. No matter how high he reached or jumped, he could not touch a ceiling or window.

He knew of these from his last life, when he had a family, or so he imagined in the darkest moments.

He seems to remember a mother; all loving and warm with kisses and hugs and peanut butter cookies and pushing him high on the swing. He remembers or imagines being tucked into bed and cuddled with stories of dragons and knights in shining armour who conquer all evil. THEY WERE LIES!

"Excuse me!" He shouted. "Can anybody hear me?" No one replied.

"A blanket," he said. "I just need a blanket! It's so, so cold in here." But his pleas went unnoticed as the room hummed and shook around him.

He brought his knees up to his chin, tried to make himself as small as possible, tried to ignore the pain. It was to no avail. There was to be no release, until... Until the journey was over.

And as though this were not punishment enough, he'd had to pay $30 to check his suitcase.

Opening: DW.....Continuation: ril

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Face-Lift 1280

Guess the Plot

Winter's Queen

1. Handsome rapscallion Robin Winter has been commissioned by the Darklings to capture Queen Eldyrianaleselore of the Outerlands so they can take possession of the Opal Dragon Charm and rule the world. He captures her all right -- but she captures his heart.

2. Teenager Arial is kidnapped by the Winter Prince, who demands that she marry him and become his queen. Or die. If she marries him she'll become immortal, which is kind of the opposite of dying. But dying might be better than being married to this clown for eternity.

3. Seventeen-year-old Winter Hayes falls hard for the beautiful Phoebe Jackson, only to find that "she" is actually a gay drag queen whose real name is Jason. When hilarity ensues, can love conquer all?

4. Adrian Winters is famous for elaborate sacrifices that win chess tournaments across the globe. But when his wife becomes terminally ill, can Winters make one last sacrifice, donating his heart so his queen might live?

5. Experimental musician Edgar Winter, of Frankenstein fame, decides it's time for a resurgence. He decides to focus his next hit on the Bride of Frankenstein, but falls in love with his subject along the way. Then he decides to pen an ode to Freddy Mercury. Same problem.

6. Ilyenna is fatally wounded when a neighboring clan attacks her village. Instead of letting her die, the winter fairies heal her and make her their queen...but it comes at a price. Her humanity, her emotions, her memories, her family...her love.

7. Moscow, May 1876. A talented young student from a wealthy family commits suicide out of decadence and boredom. Or does he? Young sleuth Erast Fandorin is on the case.

8. Kevin Bixter just wants to be a drag queen. But he arrives in San Francisco the day a hyper-conservative congress passes a law forbidding his new lifestyle. Now he receives a cold reception from the once welcoming community. Kevin is the last drag queen in a new frozen culture. He is . . .  Winter's Queen.

9. This years Gay Pride march has a Four Seasons theme...and the competition for the title of Winter's Queen is really heating up.

10. Young, virile King Winter III wants nothing more than to play the field, sampling girls without marrying until he's in his 40's. But he needs an heir. When his friends take him to a drag show in the capital, he suddenly finds himself longing for a very different kind of Queen.

11. The untold story of Snow White's mother, once a foundling child lost in the snow, who rose in power and ruled a kingdom with an icy fist. Also, blue dwarves.

12. Queen Fione hates being depicted as a crone just because winter is considered the end of the year. So she starts a decades-long sulk that results in global warming. The queens of spring, summer, and fall don't care--but it's a good excuse for a tourney. 

13. On a world where the four continents are known as Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring,  Winter's queen is tired of ruling a land that's always so freaking cold. Especially now that most of her subjects have moved to one of the other lands. Can she get to Spring when her only form of transportation is a snowmobile?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Sixteen-year-old Ariel Hawk doesn't simply believe in the Fae—she knows full well they exist. They’re not the sweet, sparkly little pixies most people imagine: they’re dark and decadent, proud and powerful, capricious and cruel. [They're the Republican Party.] So when their Winter Prince kidnaps Ariel to the realm of Faerie, she's not shocked or confused. She's pissed. [More suitable would be "incensed."]

Ariel’s abductor—His Royal Smugness, Prince Fiachra—wants nothing more than to marry her. He won’t tell her why he needs a wife so badly, [Does the wife have to be Ariel?] nor will he take no for an answer. But for Ariel, a fairytale wedding is [would be] a waking nightmare, not a dream come true. [A three-cliche string! Impressive. I'm told someone once managed four, but I never saw the evidence.] Living in Faerie would eventually make Ariel part-Fae herself—as inhuman, immortal and amoral as her husband-to-be. [I can live with amoral and inhuman if you're throwing in immortal.] [If she's just as amoral, immortal and inhuman as Fiachra, why is she considered part-Fae? What aspect of Fae-ness is she lacking?] Returning to Earth [The realm of Faerie isn't on Earth?] after that, with or without Fiachra’s consent, would kill her. [How come going to Earth to kidnap Ariel didn't kill Fiachra?]

Loathing all that Fiachra is and what he would have her become, Ariel resists his fickle attempts to woo and subdue her by turns. He tries to force-feed her enchanted fruit, and she spits it back in his face; [That's some pretty lame force-feeding if the food is still in her mouth and spittable.] he proposes with a beautiful silver ring, and she drops it into her chamber-pot. Even an icy dungeon can’t hold Ariel for longer than it takes to hack her way out with a stolen knife. [She should have stolen an ice pick.] [So she hacks the ice away from the door and it's unlocked?]

As Fiachra’s patience crumbles, Ariel’s desperation mounts. If she marries Fiachra and becomes the Winter Queen, she’ll be bound to her kidnapper and tormentor for eternity. But if she refuses him or fails to escape, she’ll be killed. [I'd go with "and" rather than "or." Better yet, "if she tries and fails to escape..." She has, after all refused him several times already without being killed.]

WINTER'S QUEEN is a YA fantasy of 81,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Does anyone know why Fiachra insists on marrying Ariel, but won't tell her? For instance, do you know? If so, I see no reason to leave it out of the query. For instance, if he must convince her to marry him without telling her why or everyone in Faerie will die, I wouldn't be too hard on him. His reason seems to be a key point. If not marrying him has dire consequences for anyone else, she has a difficult choice. Otherwise, she obviously would try to escape and either die or make it home.

If Faerie isn't on planet Earth, I'm not sure where she hopes to escape to. How can she get to Earth?

The query causes me to ask questions that you presumably know the answers to. Answer those that you need to, and reword it so the others don't arise.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Face-Lift 1279

Guess the Plot

The Blood Blade

1. Eduardo Rodriguez has had it. Starting tomorrow he's trashing his razor and getting an electric shaver.

2.As the king lies on his deathbed, his youngest son slays his older brother and marries his widow. Then the Bahari tribe forms an alliance with the nobles to overthrow the ghostlings. Oh, and everyone wants . . . the blood blade.

3. 14-year-old Jacob Moonbright is destined save his hometown of Ivaline from the armies of Shadowguard, and he needs the Blood Blade to do it. There's just one problem: the blade is in the clutches of the over 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association.

4. A scientist, stricken mad by the loss of his lover, goes on a quest for a mythical weapon fabled to raise the dead. But when he finds the Blood Blade and uses it to resurrect his gigolo lover, he unleashes an ancient evil on a modern college campus.

5. The prince of Troander is driven from his kingdom by monsters and mercenaries who don't realize that in the dead of night the prince will magically transform into a deadly assassin, wielder of . . . the blood blade.

6. A surgeon. A scalpel. An appendectomy gone horribly wrong. Can Detective Mary Dunning find the murder weapon before the mad doctor turns his attention on her? 

Original Version

Dear EE,

Seventeen-year-old Arek Pa’Gorin, the orphaned prince of the Kingdom of Troander, is oblivious he has an alter ego- an infamous assassin named Rykter. [I recommend changing his name to Rhektum. It's appropriate for a guy whose occupation includes the word "ass" twice.] [Also, I can tell already this story needs a little comic relief.]

Wielding the mystical vampiric Blood Blade and bent on ridding the world of evil men, the assassin only manifests while Arek is sleeping. [It sounds like "virtuous" would be a better description of the assassin than "infamous" if his goal is to get rid of evil.] Though they inhabit the same body, neither is aware of the other. [You already said Arek is oblivious, so this doesn't add much.] That is, until the Lord Regent hires the assassin Rykter to kill Prince Arek. [Is Prince Arek evil? Or does Rhektum take jobs on the side to pay the bills?] [Not clear how being hired to kill his alter-ego makes him aware he has an alter-ego.]

Prince Arek flees the kingdom, but danger continues to stalk him. [It sounds like he's fleeing because the Lord Regent hired an assassin, but it also sounds like he now knows he doesn't have to worry about the assassin. So why's he fleeing?] Not only are the Lord Regent’s mercenaries on his trail, [Usually you hire a hitman because if you send your mercenaries to do the dirty work you'll be blamed. Usually if you don't care about being blamed, and you've got mercenaries on your payroll, you don't spend money on an infamous assassin. That would be like the president, despite being surrounded by Secret Service agents all the time, hiring The Jackal to protect him.] but he is also pursued by a horde of mutated creatures known as the Dragonspawn. [Not only that, but no matter how fast and far he goes, he can't seem to get this Rhektum dude off his tail.] Now that Prince Arek has left the protection of the castle walls, the Dragonspawn see their opportunity to recover what was once theirs. [Which is what? The castle? The kingdom? The throne? Maybe the Dragonspawn will kill the Lord Regent when they attack the castle, solving Arek's problems.]

With a mage’s apprentice, an assassin and a handful of King’s Guardsmen to protect him, Prince Arek must travel to seek the sanctuary of family he has never known. [I'd feel safer with the assassin and the guardsmen than with family I've never known. Why must he do this?] On his journey he wonders if killing people as Rykter makes him a bad person. [Of course it doesn't. Didn't he ever watch Dexter?] Worse yet, he worries that he will wake and find all of his protectors brutally massacred. By him. [Isn't he aware that his alter-ego kills only evil men?]

Dealing with his assassin alter ego and avoiding the pursuit of both men and monsters, Prince Arek must live long enough to reach his eighteenth birthday so he can return to Troander and claim his throne. [Yes, those men who drove him away and want him dead and the monsters on his trail will all suddenly relent and welcome him home with open arms when he turns eighteen.]

The BLOOD BLADE, complete at 83,000 words, is the first installment of an epic fantasy series. [If the book has a satisfying ending and can stand on its own, say so. The reader will want to know how many books you expect them to invest in.] Thank you for taking the time to consider representing my work.


I assume the Lord Regent wants Arek dead so he can rule over the kingdom. If Arek turns eighteen and then gets killed, who rules? If it's the Lord Regent, then I'm not sure turning eighteen makes Arek any safer.

It seems like the idea of being hired to kill someone and that someone is, unknown to you and the person who hired you, yourself, is the most interesting aspect (I found it cool in A Scanner Darkly), but your character somehow immediately knows he's after himself. Did you consider leaving it that he thinks Rhektum is always right behind him?

Combine the first two paragraphs. The fourth paragraph doesn't have much of interest. If you dump it you might have room to tell us why characters do what they do. 

Henceforth, until further notice, the more than 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association must make at least one appearance in the fake plots of each query critique. 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Story Day 2

Here's a story that appeared in a now-defunct British magazine called Farthing (May, 2006). I don't have it in my current computer, so I made copies of the pages. You can click on each page to enlarge it. Sorry, too lazy to retype it into Blogger.

Family Time

by Evil Editor

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Story Day

As the query and opening queues are empty, here's something to pass the time, a story I contributed to the Autumn, 2008 issue of GUD magazine. Not sure if they still exist. They still have a website, but it doesn't seem to have been updated lately.

Benkelstein and the Time Warp

by Evil Editor

Benkelstein, trying to recall the lyrics to a Rice Krispies jingle while driving eastward on Highway 70, almost missed the new sign.  It was green, with white lettering.  “To I-40,” it read, with an arrow pointing to the right.  Benkelstein hit the brakes, just hard enough to slow to twenty-five miles per hour, and pulled off at the new exit.  “It’s about time!” he said to his wife.  “I was beginning to think they’d never get this road finished.”

“Hmm?”  Mrs. Benkelstein said, looking up from her book.

“Why, this’ll cut a full ten minutes off our trip easily,” he went on.  “Let's see, that’s twenty minutes round trip, and since we visit your mother once a month, twelve times a year--twelve too many, I might add--we should--”

“I’m not listening,” Mrs. Benkelstein said.  She went back to reading 101 Ways to Slice a Batard.

Benkelstein pressed on the accelerator as he mentally calculated the number of years it would take this new short cut to save him a full twenty-four hours behind the wheel. 

Fifty yards in, Benkelstein passed the new road’s first sign.  “840,” it read, and below that, the word “Future.”  “That’s interesting,” he said to Mrs. Benkelstein.

“What's that?” she said, mildly irritated.  She was reading about the diagonal crosshatch heel slice.

“Apparently this is the road to the future,” he told her.  He checked the speedometer, which had reached 60.  “Hmm, 840 miles. At this speed, we’ll be there in fourteen hours.”

"Be where?" she asked him.

"In the future," he replied.

“What are you babbling about?” she asked, looking up.

“That sign we just went past.  It said, 840, Future.”

“What about it?”

“I think I know what it means,” Benkelstein answered.  Already he had discarded his original theory and formulated a new one.  “We’re in the future,” he said.  “Don’t ask me how; we must have passed through some kind of time warp.  And while this is the year 2006 in the present, it’s the year 840 in the future.”

Mrs. Benkelstein rolled her eyes.  “Correct me if I’m wrong,” she said, “but if this is the year 840--which it most certainly is not--then this would be the past, not the future.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Benkelstein said.  “There were no asphalt highways in the year 840.”

“As Columbus didn’t reach the new world until 1492,” Mrs. Benkelstein countered, “who’s to say what was here in the year 840?”

“A valid point," Benkelstein acknowledged.  "But you’ll at least have to admit that there were no road signs printed in the English language in central North Carolina in the year 840.”

“There were no cars, either," his wife noted.  "And as we’ve seen no other cars since you pulled onto this road, I persist in claiming this could as easily be the past as the future.  Or are you saying that cars no longer exist in the future?”

“Not at all,” Benkelstein said.  “I was merely suggesting that you think outside the box for a change.”

“Darling, I was so far outside the box, I almost fell out of the car,” she told him.

“Keep in mind,” Benkelstein said, “that time did not begin with the birth of Christ; only the calendar does.  And before the birth of Christ, they didn’t refer to the year as, say, 250 B.C.”

“What did they do?” his wife asked.  

“They undoubtedly measured time from some local historical event.  The year 52 since the end of the first Punic War, or The year 6 since Moscovicz got his tunic caught in the water wheel.”

“Uh huh.  So what, exactly, is your point about the calendar?”

“Just this: for all we know, some momentous event takes place in the year . . . oh, say 2340, and they decide to start a new calendar, start it with the year zero.  And now it’s 840 years later.  That would make it the year 840 to them, but the year . . . 3180 to us, which means--”

“Which means you’re a very old, very senile man.  Did you forget to take your pill this morning?”

“I don’t think--”

“By the way, even if we have gone forward in time, and this is the year 3180, it’s the future only to us.  To everyone who's already living here, it’s the present.  So your road sign should have read, ‘840, Present.’  Case closed.  Now may I go back to reading my--”

“Not so fast, dear," Benkelstein said.  "Maybe this road itself is the time warp, and is seen only by those traveling to the future--”

“The past.”

“And when we reach the end of the road--and our destination year--the road will vanish from sight.”

“It’ll vanish, all right, because you’ll pull off of the future 840 bypass, and onto Interstate 40, leaving your so-called time warp behind.  And I don’t mean a thousand years behind.”

“Oh my God!”  Benkelstein’s eyes grew wide.  “I just thought of something.  What if the entire population of the Earth is dying out sometime in our future?  What if the last few scientists still alive created this time warp as a means to bring a few people forward in time, beyond the year of the comet or the plague or whatever was threatening to kill everyone?  What if the road sign was there just to let us know we’ve come forward 840 years, so we won’t freak out when we see all the changes?”

“What if, what if, what if.  What if you keep your eyes on the road and your mind in reality?” Mrs. Benkelstein suggested.  "You're scaring me."

“If my theory’s correct," Benkelstein continued, "it would mean that the current year is actually 2846.  It would mean that by pulling onto this road, we’ve randomly been given the responsibility to maintain the human species, so that--”

“It would also mean that we are among the few people now on the planet,” Mrs. Benkelstein said.  “Possibly the only ones.”  Apparently she had given up on reading, and had decided to humor Benkelstein.

“Until we pass another car, I’m afraid we must assume that to be the case,” Benkelstein conceded.

“Passing another car won't prove anything,” Mrs. Benkelstein said.  “If this is the future, the driver of the other car could be one of the aliens trying to destroy all human life.”

“Aliens?" Benkelstein said.  "Yes, of course.  That’s one possibility, an intergalactic fleet of war birds.  Scientists knew they were coming and built this time warp so a few of us could escape to the future before the aliens wiped out humanity.  And now ground forces are no doubt driving around, looking for any survivors.”

“What kind of car would an alien drive?” Mrs. Benkelstein asked him.

“Klingons would drive SUV’s,” he replied confidently.  “And the Ferengi would drive PT Cruisers.”

“Vulcans, with their logical minds, would probably drive one of those cute hybrids,” Mrs. Benkelstein said.

“Wrong,” Benkelstein told her.  “Sports cars are the one weakness of Vulcan men.  Not only would they drive Porsches, they’d be leaning out the window half the time, hooting and whistling at Vulcan babes.”

Mrs. Benkelstein laughed at the image.  “Do the Vulcan women have a weakness as well?” she asked.

“Karaoke,” Benkelstein said.

“I see.”  She looked out the rear window.  “You know, it does seem odd that we’ve seen no other cars.”

“Yes,” Benkelstein agreed.  “Whether this is the future or the past or the time warp or even the present, you’d think someone else would find his way onto this road.  Perhaps we are the only remaining--”

“Aha!” Mrs. Benkelstein exclaimed, pointing ahead.  A bus was approaching on the other side of the median.  “What does that do to your theory?” she asked her husband.

“A bus,” he said.  “Hmm.  Interesting.  The Borg would need a vehicle that size, in order to house their . . . ”

“I can see that trying to get you to drop this routine is futile,” she said as the bus went past, moving at high speed.

“The Borg,” Benkelstein said.  “They’re going in the opposite direction.  If this road is a time warp, they’re heading for the past!  Possibly for 2006!  We’ve got to stop them!”  He swung the steering wheel to the left, veering onto the median.

“What are you doing?!!”  Mrs. Benkelstein shouted.  “Have you lost your mind?  Stop this instant!”  The car was bumping down a grassy embankment.  It reached the lowest point and started up the other side, tires spinning in the grass, Benkelstein ignoring his wife’s hysterical screaming.

Eventually Benkelstein eased the car onto the pavement and headed back toward highway 70.  The bus was no longer in sight.

“This has gone too far,” Mrs. Benkelstein said.  “Enough is enough.”

Benkelstein drove on, his eyes locked on the road ahead.

“What are you trying to do, catch up with that bus?” Mrs. Benkelstein said.  “That bus is long gone.  And even if you’ve gone so far off the deep end that you’ve convinced yourself the Borg really are in that bus, what are you planning to do if you catch up to them?  The Borg would absorb you so fast--”

“Assimilate,” Benkelstein corrected her.  It was the first word he’d spoken since he’d turned the car around.

“I know what’s happening here,” Mrs. Benkelstein said.  “You knew we were about to reach Interstate 40.  You knew we’d see the usual heavy traffic, knew we wouldn’t see some fantastic futuristic world of rocket cars, or some devastated lifeless shell of a planet . . . ”

Benkelstein kept his eyes on the road.

“You knew we’d find ourselves not in the year 3180, not in the year 2846, not in 840, but in good old 2006.  So to save face, you turned around, on the flimsiest of excuses, just so I could never have the satisfaction of saying, ‘I told you we weren’t driving down a time-warp to the future.’  Well, thanks to your childishness, instead of saving ten minutes, we’ve lost ten minutes.  Maybe twenty.”  She sank back in her seat.  “The Borg, riding in a bus,” she muttered.  “That’ll be the day.  The Borg have their pride, you know.”

Benkelstein refused to waver from his mission.  He pulled off at the Highway 70 exit and slowed as he approached the stop sign.  Suddenly Mrs. Benkelstein popped back upright.  “Quick, turn to the right,” she said.  “The Borg are above us; they’re trying to get us in a tractor beam!”

Benkelstein looked at her quizzically.

“Do it!” she said.  “This is no time for indecision.”


“Okay,” she said.  “You would have figured it out sooner or later.  I took your wife’s place three months ago.  I’ve been surgically altered to look like her.  I’m Captain Janeway.  Now Hurry, Benkelstein!”

Benkelstein was about to speak, but his passenger stopped him.  “Focus on the road!” she said.  “I’m counting on you.  We all are.” 

Benkelstein turned onto highway 70 and floored the accelerator.  His eyes were shifting wildly, his face taut with stress.  Janeway? he thought.  How could--?

“Janeway” rolled down her window, stuck her head out and looked to the sky.  “They’re still back there!” she said.  Slow down; we can’t afford to call attention to ourselves.”

“Where are we going?” Benkelstein asked.  He could barely breathe.

“The Borg have set up headquarters at the Butner Psychiatric Hospital.  Do you know where that is?”

Benkelstein nodded.

“Then get me there.  Your life depends on it.  All of our lives do.”

Benkelstein gripped the steering wheel and flew eastward down highway 70, his blood racing, and his heart fluttering.  And the slightest hint of a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Face-Lift 1278

Guess the Plot


1. It's 1947, and former WAC Jill Avery has a rather adventurous plan for financing her trip from NYC to LA.

2. When Priscilla Porcupine's wood is lost in a forest fire, she narrowly escapes. But that is just the beginning of her odyssey. She must find another home-wood. She deals with rabid skunks, venomous snakes, ravenous coyotes, and clumsy bears in her desperate search for a safe home.

3. High-flying marketing exec Alex Stone has girlfriends all over the world. He's got a name for his habit: vagabonding. (Get it? He "bonds" with them, although it's always temporary.) When a freak accident leaves him in a state of amnesia, he has nothing but his little black book and a stack of travel records to piece together his identity. Hilarity ensues.

4. Dr K has a great idea for stopping sexual violence: A spray-on foam called vagabonder. Once the BDSM scene discovers it, though, it's used in all sorts of unintended ways. Porn shoots become...extended, as do honeymoons and date nights. Dr K will be rich . . . or will some lawyer claim a share?

5. After 23 years in captivity, a slave returns to his home in Uruguay and finds his father and sister were killed by robots. So he sets out on a journey to Kenya where he can take the space elevator to the moon and lead his people in rebellion against the mega-corporation that rules Earth.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

In 2238, Caen was removed from his childhood home in Uruguay as a member of OnyxCorp’s slave workforce. He doesn’t want to be a slave, but what choice does he have? He is Dua, a new species of hominid, the result of a worldwide plague that killed 80% of Earth’s population more than a century ago. While humans enjoy a life free from labor, [I'm sick of all these dystopian books; finally a book where humans are free from labor. And I'm not saying that just because I'm human.] the docile and easily manipulated Dua mine what remains of rapidly declining Earth and moon resources. [Moon resources: dust, rocks, golf balls, fast food wrappers, green cheese, one large monolith, three Lunar Roving Vehicles, and an abandoned potato farm.] In the absence of any real government, OnyxCorp reigns supreme, relentlessly pursuing power and profit at the expense of an entire species.

Twenty-three years later, Caen returns home [Slaves are entitled to two weeks unpaid vacation every 23 years. Hey, OnyxCorp isn't without heart.] to find his mother broken and terrified. She reveals his father and sister are dead, killed by Authority, OnyxCorp’s robotic military arm. What’s more, he’s in danger as well. For Caen is a Vagabonder, a legendary group of Dua who are smarter, stronger, and more humane than the humans who govern them. And OnyxCorp wants them eradicated. [He's smarter and stronger, but OnyxCorp never noticed this in the past 23 years?] 

The solution? Journey to the moon. Find the Vagabonders. Destroy OnyxCorp.

[The problem? There's no air on the moon. Or water. At least there's a Starbucks.]

Caen begins a perilous odyssey that will take him to Mombasa, where he can access the Vine, the space elevator that will transport him to moon. [To moon? So we finally decided, after naming the other 150+ moons in our solar system, to name our own, and the best name we could come up with was "moon"?] [Also, a 239,000-mile elevator ride? With a bunch of people who don't want to make any eye contact, so they just stare at the lights up above the door? And there's one guy who keeps farting?]
Buttons in space elevator
[It would be a drag to be running for the space elevator yelling, "Hold the elevator!" and the passengers just let the doors close and now you have to wait for it to go all the way to moon and back. Or if you miss your floor and have to get off at the next one, which is Mars.] [I hope the space elevator is faster than the one in my building, or by the time it reaches moon there'll be nothing inside but skeletons.] 
There, he will seek his ancestors, who are said to possess knowledge and wisdom that will end OnyxCorp’s repression of both human and Dua. [Knowledge that they have been keeping to themselves for decades.] [They are said to possess this knowledge and wisdom? What is it, a rumor? A myth? That's like finding out NASA spent trillions to put astronauts on moon just because they heard there was a really smart man up there.]

Sounds easy enough, but OnyxCorp will do anything to keep its malleable workforce intact. Lying, manipulation, subterfuge, murder: These are standard operating procedures. Even genocide. [Fortunately, Caen is strong, smart and humane, so he should have no trouble taking down an evil worldwide megacorporation.]

VAGABONDER is my debut science fiction novel of 160,000 words.


This is all backstory, setup. Condense the whole thing into one three-sentence paragraph, and then give us two more paragraphs about your actual story, which is how Caen plans to succeed, what goes wrong, what will happen if he can't overcome this obstacle.

Vagabonder means to wander (in French). Is that the title because Caen wanders around looking for Mombasa? I'd look for a title people will understand, like Moon Slaves vs the Robot Army.

160,000 words is two books. If you don't have two books, try cutting about 60,000 words of backstory and unimportant detail from your one book.

Here's a link to Dion singing his hit "The Wanderer," which is known as "Vagabonder" in France. Check out the people in the audience.