Thursday, September 22, 2016

Success Story

Though the author never contacted me, I just discovered that Damsel to the Rescue, the book featured in Face-Lift 1027, came out last year.

Amazon page link 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Synopsis 54

Lauren Haywood is an optimistic worrier. [Meaning what? She's optimistic that none of the horrible things she worries about will actually happen?] Ever since she saw monsters barging into her house and her parents being mauled in the blink of an eye, [she's become a pessimistic worrier. Can you blame her?] she took [has taken] it upon herself to find food so that the same thing wouldn’t happen to Dustin, her brother, [If she finds food, monsters won't maul her brother? Why not?] even with the beratement she received. [What was she berated for, and by whom?] So that they could live to reach an evacuation centre. [Which is a place you go when you've evacuated another place?] 

But in the middle of their traverse, a mountain lion disrupted their path and turned on them. [It's pretty standard to use present tense when summarizing a plot.] Dustin barely surviving with lethal cuts, and then ambushed by Unawakened, she exerted herself beyond the limits to save themselves. [Terrible sentence. Easier to delete it than to try salvaging it.] When she manages to come [comes] to, a stranger is with her and with some hesitation, they accepted his help to guide them to the nearest evacuation [centre]. [That sentence starts in present tense and ends in past.]

After Dustin and Lauren were successfully admitted, everything went back to an almost daily-like life. [I assume a daily-like life is a life that passes one day at a time. But what is an almost daily-like life?] Just with some exception of fighting and learning how to combat and protect, while blending in as a human, [Are they human?] courtesy of her parents’ instruction. When Dustin was conscripted into the patrol, some residents took advantage of his absence and threatened Lauren. For the price of revealing her elemental power in self-defense, she was thrown into jail to be executed. 

Storming [Brainstorming?] for ways to escape, Cory, the stranger, told her her brother wasn’t one of the three survivors from the patrol. Lauren broke herself out with assist [help] from Cory and went to find him. Discovering him with a three-day-old bite mark, Cory explained that he knew someone who could help. A biologist. Unknowingly, she stepped into the trap. He disclosed that her father, James Haywood, was an instigator of wars between Mages and humans. That Cory’s father was killed by him. That he anticipated the day he could have his revenge.

Kept and experimented [Imprisoned and tortured,] she tried to escape and succeeded [escaped], but [was] caught when she searched for Dustin. Tied in front of the residents, the crowd riled up [This says that the crowd is tied in front of the residents. Also, people can get riled up or rile up other people, but they don't just rile up. ] at the notion of the instigator’s daughter at their mercy. [Seems more likely they'd be thirsting for blood than getting riled up.]

Day after day passed agonizingly by when [until] help came in the form of a boy. As they broke out with a kidnapped Cory, they headed to their destination to rescue Dustin : Twin Falls. The place where their parents died.


There's no point to working on a query and synopsis until you improve your writing skills by doing lots of reading and writing and studying, paying special attention to word meanings and grammar. Sorry to sound so evil, but when you submit to Evil Editor, you know what to expect.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Face-Lift 1329

Guess the Plot

The Hatchet

1. An innocent hatchet, bought by a serial killer, must devise a way to bring his master to justice.

2. You may have read the Newbery Award-winning young-adult wilderness survival novel of the same name. Same story, but this time it's about a girl. Also, this one has talking animals. 

3. A hatchet found in an abandoned hotel where a grizzly murder spree took place is now on display at a local museum. Will the class touring the facility successfully write their required report on the exhibit, or will they succumb one by one to the haunted object? 

4. Ah, my pretty, so firm in the hand we are, so strong, so smooth, so sharp. Are we cold and hungry? Why yes, yes we are. But not for long my pretty. Soon the screaming will begin and we shall find warm flesh to sate ourselves in.

5. Lauren finds a hatchet and wonders if it's the hatchet that was buried back when the humans-mages feud ended. It must be, or someone wouldn't have written a book about it called The Hatchet. Which means the hatchet will fetch a pretty penny on eBay, or it would have if civilization hadn't been completely decimated.

6. When Todd shoplifts a hatchet from the hardware store, he has no idea his little brother will get hold of it and use it to chop up their baby sister. What Todd does know is that he's the one who'll probably get blamed for this, which would be totally unfair.

7. He wanted to be feared. His calling card- a hatchet left standing in the ribs of his enemies-should make his alias known throughout Ontario. His next victim: the news editor who keeps reporting him as `that ax guy.' 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The Hatchet is complete at 49,000 words and a low fantasy YA.

Civilizations has desecrated into ruins and disrepair [First of all, desecrated isn't the word you want. You may have meant decimated, but even so, civilization hasn't decimated; something else did the decimating, and civilization has been decimated.] ever since the incursion of Unawakened. [To simplify: Civilization has been decimated by the Unawakened.] [Who named them the Unawakened? If they managed to decimate us while they were sleeping, I'm glad we never had to face them when they were awake.] And Lauren wants nothing more than to survive holed up in an evacuation centre somewhere with her brother, Dustin. But when he's gravely injured, things had to take a detour and she is forced to overexert herself to save him from them. When she strangely manages to come to, [Before stating that she comes to, you might state that she lost consciousness. It isn't implied by the action of overexerting. Also, the word "manages" suggests that she takes an active role in coming to, which isn't usually how it works when you're unconscious. Also, what do you mean "strangely"? I admit it's strange that she manages to do anything after losing consciousness, but perhaps it would be best to simply say, When she comes to.] she made [makes] her way to the nearest evac-but not alone. [No point saying "but not alone" unless you also say who else is along.] All was [is] well until Dustin is reported as dead.

As she escapes the evacuation [centre] to find him, [Why is it called an evacuation centre? Refugee centre or safe house sounds more like it. Evacuation centre sounds like a public restroom in Great Britain. It's not clear that anything was evacuated, anyway, unless all of civilization has evacuated all places.] she discovers a secret that'd long breathed in the dark. A hatchet that's dusted only on the surface. [Is "escapes" the right word? Are those in the centre not permitted to leave?] [What do you mean "dusted only on the surface"? I can't tell if that means there is dust on the surface or there isn't. Or neither. Where else could a hatchet be dusted besides the surface? I mean, if you look at a hatchet and say, "This hatchet has been dusted," we assume you mean the surface. We don't wonder if the interior of the hatchet has also been dusted.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


{The Hatchet refers to the feud between humans and Mage, that comes from the saying 'bury the hatchet'. In this case, "A hatchet that's dusted only on the surface" means the humans tried to broker a peaceful pact with Mage but did nothing to soothe the hatred and resentment simmering under the surface. Thus, creating a hatchet that's polished on the outside but has hidden cracks.} 

[1. Presumably this explanation is not part of the query, and thus will not be read by anyone, and thus will not clear up the meaning of "dusted only on the surface." 
2. If the phrase is to be used at all, maybe it should be "polished only on the surface," as "dusted" can mean that dust was applied or removed. Better yet, "only half-buried," since it comes from "bury the hatchet." Is the hatchet she finds one that was buried after the feud? In any case, finding a hatchet is an odd way to end your summary. It sounds more like where the main plot begins than where it reaches a crucial moment. It's no more meaningful to us than if she found a pendant or a yoyo or a screwdriver.
3. There's nothing in the query about anyone named Mage, but there's a brief mention in the synopsis that was also submitted (to be posted tomorrow) of a war between humans and mages. Not clear why it's Mage (singular) in the explanation here. Is Mage a country? Are the unawakened the Mage?]


You need to clearly summarize your story in the query. The synopsis may have more detail, but no one's going to read the synopsis if the query is unimpressive.

The plot summary switches back and forth between past and present so often I got dizzy.

Who are the Unawakened and what do they want? What does Lauren want, assuming she finds her brother?

Many of the word choices are either way off or at least not spot-on. This will lead anyone who reads the query to assume the book has the same problem. I know this because I have made this assumption.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Face-Lift 1328

Guess the Plot

From the Skies

1. Everyone is running, for the birds of the sky have a delivery for anyone below. If you thought Hitchcock's version was bad, just wait until you read the aftermath:  From the Skies: The White Deluge

2. It drips. It sprinkles. It dribbles, drizzles, plops, splashes, pours, and mists. There are many ways to describe rain. But what's coming down isn't rain. It's blood. And it reeks. 

3. Apprentice falconer Charles cleans the mews, treats the leather gloves, jesses, and hoods, etc. When one of the prized gyrfalcons falls ill, Master Abdul orders Charles to kill her. Instead he spirits her off to his quarters and nurses her back to health. Under his command, his new friend will take out Abdul, making Charles the head falconer.

4. The leader of the Skye Mission has been swooping in aboard his dragon and burning entire cities right and left. No one else has done anything to stop him, so it's up to Logan Winters to save the world. But is this thirteen-year-old girl up to the task?

5. When crack cable-car operator Hafno Witz suddenly discovers that his gondola is in free fall, he springs into action, organizing his panicked passengers into a synchronized arm-flapping team.

6. On a routine reconnaissance mission, air force lieutenant Chichun Liddle finds holes in the sky leading to another dimension. Unfortunately, the top brass are too concerned with budget cuts to fight off an alien invasion. Also, Cthulhu. 

7. The official cause of Mark Rugger's death is 'fall from an airplane'. But why does he have giant claw marks on his back?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Novel Title: From the Skies

Logan Winters has been chosen to join the Celestial League, a warrior alliance which governs her world. Logan is thirteen; her parents and friends tell her she is too young to survive on her own in the vast country of Lunos. [What's the connection between joining this warrior alliance and surviving alone in Lunos? That's like if you got drafted by the Golden State Warriors and when you show up for practice they tell you you're not actually on the team, you're playing alone in Antarctica.] [In other words, why are her parents saying, "You're too young to survive on your own in Lunos" instead of "You're too young to join the warrior alliance that governs our world."? She and her best friend Tracey set out to prove their naysayers wrong, confident they are capable of wielding Celestians, magical creatures with which humans have a fraught history. [Apparently to survive in Lunos you must be capable of wielding Celestians? What does "wielding Celestians" mean? Maybe there's a better word than "wielding."] [Also, I don't like "fraught history." A history fraught with betrayal/mistrust/treachery.] Shortly after leaving home, [Did their parents agree to let them go, or are they sneaking away?] Logan and Tracey [Has Tracey also been chosen to join the Celestial League?] encounter unexpected obstacles within themselves and without. Logan struggles to reconcile who she is [Logan Winters.] with who she wants to be, [Ariana Grande.] and Tracey is visited nightly with strange nightmares of darkness and terrible voices.

Logan and Tracey are blissfully unaware of the massive conflict threatening to strangle [a massive threat to] the Celestial League: the anarchistic Skye Mission, a once-noble organization whose leader has been burning cities left and right atop his golden dragon. [How did all these cities get on top of his dragon?] Will McCrae, who has served the League for years, joins his peers in an attempt to quash the destruction. [Rebellions are quashed. Destruction is ended.] An upheaval stirs the League; those who would choose peace struggle with those hungry for war. [As usual, those hungry for war are the ones with the dragons.] Will himself must decide which he values most: his duty to the League, or his duty to those he might lose if he remains loyal. [Whom will he lose by staying loyal?]

The Skye Mission suffers corruption of its own. Skylar Lethe, its leader, is a dangerous yet noble man, focused not on destruction [This is the guy who's been burning cities left and right, right?] but reconciliation with his past mistakes. [Once he's incinerated every city he ever made a mistake in, he'll finally be able to sleep at night.] His obsession with what was has blinded him to what is: an uprising within the Mission, led by a woman with a love for depraved killing methods and a man whose incredible intelligence only enhances his sociopathic tendencies. [Finally, some characters I can identify with.] Skylar is ruthless: he sees the clear path from point A to point B and he will do absolutely anything to achieve his ultimate goal. [Which is point C.] [He sounds a lot like the depraved woman and sociopathic man. What's Skylar's ultimate goal, and what's theirs?] 

All sides in this war threaten to converge in a cataclysmic final battle in the city of Columba. Logan and Tracey will suffer betrayal; Will, heartbreak; and Skylar, treason. [Everyone ends up miserable? Is this fantasy or litfic?]

FROM THE SKIES is the first in the six-part Celestial Cycle and is [complete at] 100,000 words in its completed form. It follows a close-third-person point of view style and is told in the unique voices of five characters from different sides of the conflict (Logan, Tracey, Will, Skylar, and a conflicted member of the Skye Mission named Natalia). It’s a fantasy novel that examines the morality of war, along with the fundamental definition of a good person. It will appeal to new adults who grew up on the Harry Potter series with its diverse cast, youthful protagonists, and adult themes hidden beneath dragons and adventure. [It is a standalone fantasy novel with series potential.] [If that's not true, you'd best make it true, as there's no chance of selling a six-part anything at this stage of your career.]

I am a graduate student at Villanova University, studying for a Masters in Theater. I am an avid reader of fantasy; I was reared on The Chronicles of Narnia and Harry Potter. [I don't see any of that helping your cause.]



So in a few days a planet-ruling warrior alliance and a guy with a dragon capable of burning entire cities and Goldfinger and Dracula's bride and a thirteen-year-old girl with her best friend will converge on one city. Lemme guess: the kids win.

This is mostly a list of characters with some information about each one. It's pretty vague when it comes to what happens. The people threaten to converge. If you choose one character to focus the query on you might have room to get to the plot. Obviously the most intriguing character is the woman with a love for depraved killing methods, but it seems Logan and Will play bigger roles. I'd focus on Will, as he's the one with the obvious conflict, and Logan, being thirteen, is more likely to appeal to sixth-graders than new adults.

You might consider putting this project aside while you write a 90,000-word fantasy. Like The Hobbit. When you reach the point where everything you touch turns to gold, you can hit them with your epic hexalogy.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Face-Lift 1327

Guess the Plot

Time of Death

1. Morty is tired of calling out the time of death for all of his clients. Even the most lively ones die. But hey, at least work as a grim reaper is nothing if not steady.

2. 74 year old Ralph Commings has an old Regulator clock that tirelessly ticks away his life. One night he hears it say "When I stop, you will die." Is he losing his mind or is he really tied to the clock? Or is his 34-year-old trophy wife behind it all?

3. Every time Kevin dies he comes back to life thirteen hours before his death. Now he has to decide whether to use this power to prevent his death or to commit suicide thousands of times until he's a child again. Also, a serial killer who targets fencers.

4. Father Time wants a vacation, but the only other AP (anthropomorphic personification) available to fill in is the Grim Reaper, and Grim has a tendency to kill everything he touches. Maybe FT should just take a long weekend.

5. The body was found in a grocery store freezer, right between the frozen shrimp and the ice cream. Now ace forensic scientist Trent Lockwood must find a way to determine the time of death without body temperature, or the serial killer known as The Eskimo will go free.

6. 4:30 P.M. If you're talking about Lord Nelson.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Novel Title: Time of Death

Yesterday, Kevin and Jenna crossed blades in their playful [play-foil] fencing competition. Today she is lifeless on the ground, stabbed through the heart by a man calling himself a shadow duelist. And he’s going to get away with it. [Somehow (possibly it's the word "playful") I got the impression Kevin and Jenna are children with Styrofoam swords. As we're about to find out they're in high school, you might change "in their playful fencing competition" to "at fencing practice." Although . . . Are the events of yesterday and today connected? For instance, was Jenna's body found today where it has lain since yesterday when she was killed by the shadow duelist who took possession of Kevin's body during their fencing competition? If so, that could be made clear, and if not, do we need to know they crossed swords yesterday?] 

Instead of seeing a high school girl murdered, police will shake their heads at the tragedy of a car accident. The ancient magic of the shadow duels will conceal the truth. Kevin must to step up and beat the shadow duelist at his own game. [His own game being fencing?] [Was Kevin present when the shadow duelist killed Jenna? If not, how does he know what happened?] If he fails, his friends will be the next to die. [He knows this how?] But will his own skills be enough? [Since you asked, I would say the chances of a high school kid named Kevin out-fencing the shadow duelist can be rounded up to zero.] Or will he meet the same end as Jenna, swept under the rug as a victim of cruel fate? ["Swept under the rug" suggests the police consciously tried to hide what happened. "Mistakenly labeled" sounds closer to reality.]

I graduated last spring from Southwest Minnesota State University with a Literature – Creative Writing degree, and am eager to begin my professional career. [I hope you mean your career teaching literature or creative writing.] At present, I run a satirical blog called “Socks and Moccasins” on my website, and publish a weekly serial, “The Adventures of Little Richard and Tangles” on JukePop Serials. 


[The query doesn't exactly explain the title. Since my story is a bit convoluted, [A word I don't recommend using to describe the story to anyone who matters.] I tried to keep the query tight and simple, but here is the reason for the title: whenever my main character dies, time is set back thirteen hours, and he gets a chance to relive the same day over again.] [That's similar to what happens to Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow, except that Tom keeps dying in a battle and Kevin apparently keeps dying in a fencing duel? Spoiler alert: If Kevin keeps committing suicide as soon as he comes back, eventually time will be set back to before Jenna was stabbed. Then together they can take down the shadow duelist and become shadow duelists themselves and live happily ever after. 


I was going to suggest that something like one of the following would be a way to start the query if you don't want to start with Yesterday Kevin and Jenna were happy fencers: 

The body of Jenna Parker lies on the ground, stabbed through the heart with an épée.  But the police, inexplicably, are calling it a car accident.

One minute Kevin and Jenna are at fencing practice, preparing for their next meet. The next minute Jenna is lying dead, stabbed through the heart, and Kevin is wondering what happened.

However, the clock turning back every time Kevin dies seems like something that may drive the whole plot, in which case it should be in the query, assuming Kevin dies with any frequency.  

So now I'm thinking you should start:

Yesterday Kevin Martin was killed by a man calling himself the Shadow Duelist. Today (which is actually the day before yesterday because time went backwards thirteen hours when Kevin died), Kevin is out to get revenge before the SD kills all his friends. 

Okay, that sounds kind of convoluted. How about something like:

It was after the third time he died that Kevin Jones finally figured out he was trapped in a time loop, reliving the last thirteen hours before his death.

This shadow duelist, being backed by the ancient magic of the shadow duels, would seem to be a larger-than-life character, and thus ought to have better things to do than go after Kevin's friends, many of whom probably aren't even fencers. Right now the villain appears to be a serial killer who chooses fencers and friends of fencers as his victims. Is it ever explained what his motivation is, why he killed Jenna, why he's specifically targeting Kevin's school/town/whatever?

Did the clock go back thirteen hours when Jenna died? If not, then what's so special about Kevin? Do we even need Jenna in the query? She's dead before we know what's going on.

Your bio and credits aren't so impressive that they should be included at the expense of your word count, genre, and enough information about your plot to make it clear. Actually, the writing itself was fine, and made the plot clear, but it was the wrong plot. You've focused on a motiveless insane immortal killer who's out to kill fencers because his beloved wife was murdered by a swordsman hundreds of years ago, when your story is about a kid trying to alter history to prevent his own death (and possibly that of Jenna).

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Face-Lift 1326

Guess the Plot

Chipeta's Beading

1. A 1200 page expository on historical Native American beadwork. No illustrations, but comes with a small pouch of beads.

2. Chipeta's beading is in great demand, as each bead can grant a single wish to someone pure of heart. When a greedy lord inherits a tapestry with her beading, no one cares--until they realize "pure of heart" includes pure greed.

3. Chipeta volunteers to create a prayer shawl to save the country of Miggiglegigle. Unfortunately, each bead costs the soul of a noble, voluntarily given. Jack decides the nobles don't need to know what they're volunteering for, and a dictatorship would make people happier anyway. Also, unicorn pearls.

4. Dr. Amber Garcia believes the exquisite Ute beadwork piece in the box of junk jewelry is actually the work of Chipeta, the famous Ute woman. But how will she convince the head of the department to spend the money on the box, and restore the gorgeous piece?

5. Native American Chipeta once rode in the president's private railroad car, and was photographed by Matthew Brady, but instead of letting fame go to her head she always clung to the old ways, like making stuff with beads. This is her incredible story.

Original Version

Most Americans are not familiar with her name, but Chipeta is a beloved figure in Colorado [history], where [she] was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985. In the late 1800's, she was a true partner with her husband, Chief Ouray, and the only woman allowed to sit on the Ute council. She shared her husband's desire for peace, and travelled with him to Washington D.C. in 1880. CJ Brafford, director of the Ute Indian Museum, says "Her greatest strength was her gentleness." 

[Chipeta was inducted into the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame in 1985.] Her story is important because she puts a human face on the enormous changes that faced the Native Americans during the whites' push west. In her lifetime she tanned hides with animal brains, and later had her portrait taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady. She was nearly lynched to shouts of "Kill the red devils!" and later cheered by crowds as she waved from an automobile in a parade. She saved her band's women and children, protected the captives of the Meeker Massacre, and rode in President Taft's private railroad car, [and had her portrait taken by famed photographer Matthew Brady]. Through all the changes around her, she held on to the old ways through her skilled beadwork. [That's like saying, Though she ruled the British Empire for 63 years, survived several assassination attempts, and hosted the first Wimbledon tennis championship, Queen Victoria is best remembered for her prolific knitting.] 

I'm encouraged by the 2015 publication of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Roberston [Robertson] and David Shannon (Harry N. Abrams). That PB is 48 pages long, and shows there is an interest in Native American subject matter. There are no picture books about Chipeta, and the museums I visited said they'd be happy to carry one. "Chipeta, Queen of the Utes" by Becker and Smith, and "Searching for Chipeta" by Krudwig are for older readers. Mine [Chipeta's Beading] is for elementary students, grades 2-5.

Why am I the one to write her story? My author friend Nancy Flood and I talked about this at the SCBWI non-fiction summit in Boulder. Nancy feels we are fortunate to have the time to research and write, and that since we are able to share stories of Native Americans, we should, always hoping that our books will inspire Native children to write their own books. I've lived most of my life in western Colorado. I soak in the hot springs where Chipeta soaked and ride through the same aspen groves where she rode. We both loved children I feel a kinship with her. and When I visited her grave, I found a white feather on the path. One translation of her name is "white singing bird." [This is a clear sign that Chipeta has chosen me to tell her story.] 

[I am an SCBWI member. My hope is that my book will inspire Native children to write their own books. I've enclosed an outline of the book and the first five pages.]


Does Chipeta sound more like Chippewa or Chiquita or Gepetto? I hate reading a whole book and finding out I've been pronouncing the MC's name wrong in my head.

I see no reason this project wouldn't find a publisher. If you've already written the book, you need to say so and include some sample pages. If you're waiting for a publisher to okay the project, I still recommend getting started so you can include sample pages. Maybe the entire book will be finished by the time someone gets back to you. 

I'm sure Chipeta's beadwork was important to her, but I don't see how it rates being in the title or even in the query. Even though she was a prolific knitter, Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography isn't titled Eleanor Roosevelt's Knitting.