Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Face-Lift 1371

Guess the Plot


1. An illiterate Republican senator wins reelection.

2. 1878. When the lake that formed the natural boundary between the Cole ranch and the Parker ranch dries up, both families lay claim to the new land. Will this dispute make it all the way to the Supreme Court, or will it simply result in a range war? Three guesses, and the first two don't count.

3. The moon has been destroyed, but there's plenty of moon dust floating in rings around Earth, and moon dust is the world’s most precious energy resource, so of course war is inevitable.

4. A geologist and an archaeologist team up to salvage what artifacts remain after an earthquake destroys an Egyptian pyramid. But one American billionaire wants first crack at a priceless amulet, and will do whatever it takes to get it. Including . . . murder!

5. When an ancient reliquary disappears from the Louvre, it's up to ace detective Louis Charlemagne to recover it, along with its contents: the skull of Saint Augustine.

6. Lawyer Benident Screw has a new client who has been accused of murdering a stranger, stealing a priceless painting, and disturbing the peace. Can Mr. Screw defend his client when he knows it's all true?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Sylar spends his life [has been] researching the Earth’s rings in the fourteen years since the Moon was destroyed and Ring Sickness claimed four billion. The Silver Sifters don’t care if Sylar finds a more stable future for mankind. The slavers [They just] want his self-sustaining cache of Moon Dust, the world’s most precious energy resource. [I can't speak for how things will be done in the future, but currently we don't capitalize energy resources, the moon, or diseases that aren't named after people or places.] 

Rumors are widespread that Sifter leader, Grant Star, faces war. [I don't feel those commas are needed.] He needs resources before it breaks out. He needs Sylar’s Moon Dust. And he will paint his city with blood to get it. As the hunt begins, Sylar contacts the other Moon Dust syndicate vying for control of the Pacific Northwest. [Not sure if you mean control of the Moon Dust reserves or total governmental control of the geographical area. Also, calling something the "other" Moon Dust syndicate, suggests you've already mentioned one Moon Dust syndicate. Are the Silver Sifters a Moon Dust syndicate? Is Sylar the head of a syndicate? Is Star hunting for Sylar or for his Moon Dust? Does Sylar have his Moon Dust on his person, or is it hidden somewhere? Is it dangerous to have Moon Dust? I ask because I suspect Moon Dust can cause Ring Sickness.] 

Their captain gives him an option. [Offers him a deal? It's not really an option unless there's more than one.] Help take down Grant in return for protection along with anything he needs for his research. But there is a price for picking sides. [Give us your Moon Dust.] A gruesome one. By the end of the night Sylar will have to choose who dies. His friends, or Sifter slaves. [Now that's an option.] [Tough decision, with several factors to consider. How many friends are we talking about, and how many slaves? Would the slaves prefer death to slavery? Is it possible to spend fourteen years studying moon rings and still have friends?]

RELICT is a YA Sci Fi complete at 76000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration. [If Sylar's been researching Earth's rings for 14 years, I'm guessing he's way too old to be the main character of a YA book. He must be at least 30.] 

[Author's note: RELICT (the title) comes from the fact that the Moon is gone and the Earth is drastically changed.]  


Silver Sifter sounds too much like Silver Surfer. It's like calling your villains the Black Pinchers. Are they called that because they sift through Moon Dust searching for silver?

What destroyed the moon?

I don't get how Sylar's friends got involved. Is Grant holding Sylar's friends hostage? Is it like this?

Other Syndicate: Will you help us take down Grant Star?
Sylar: Yes.
O.S.: Great. Now, decide who you want to die, your friends or the Sifters' slaves.

Who would win a battle between the Silver Sifters and the Silver Surfer?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


It's that magical time of year again, when the Fark Fiction Anthology looks for contributors. All the gory details are here: 

All proceeds go to St Jude's for Children.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1370 requests feedback on the following version of the query:

Ilana will never forgive herself for what she did to Lucrezia. Though they were raised as sisters, they share no blood or last name - one is Pond, the other Skye. What they do share is a desire for family, and that’s what Pond and Skye were - until Ilana’s Celestian tore Lucrezia’s face apart and a monster was born. [What did Ilana do to Lucrezia?] [Usually when one character tears another character's face apart, we consider the one who did the tearing a monster. Apparently Lucrezia became a monster, and not because of how her face now looks. Was Ilana's Celestian at least charged with assault?]

Ilana and Lucrezia live in a world shared by two races: Humans, and Celestians - intelligent beings whose animal-like bodies [When you say "animal-like," I'm not sure whether to picture an elephant or a mouse. Is there a specific animal they most resemble?] are made of earth, air, water, and fire.  Once they lived in harmony, [I wouldn't call it living in harmony when members of one race periodically tear apart the faces of members of the other race.] but now war is brewing, and Ilana and Lucrezia fight for opposing sides. Ilana - a fierce and loyal warrior - stands with Humans who see Celestians as equals, worthy of respect. [While Lucrezia sees Celestians as creatures who will tear your face apart on a whim.] But many live in constant fear of Celestians, and Lucrezia, forever scarred by her experience, has stoked that fear into hate. [Do you mean her own fear has grown into hatred, or that she stokes others' fear into hatred, like if she had a Fox News show where she spewed out lies about Celestians? In any case, I feel some of the credit for stoking the fear into hate lies with Ilana's Celestian.]

When Lucrezia murders [assassinates] the ruler of their world, [Why?] it’s the final straw for Ilana. [I let it go when you moved out of our house, and even when you joined the Anti-Celestian party, but I simply cannot turn a blind eye to your murdering the ruler of our world.] She sets out with her Celestian (a quick-witted gryphon) to kill her sister...but and when they come face-to-face, Pond and Skye find they cannot hate each other. [Wait, is this Celestian Ilana has with her the same one that tore Lucrezia's face apart? Because if my Celestian tore my sister's face apart, I'd have it put down and look for a more docile one.] [Also, if I'm Lucrezia and my sister approaches, accompanied by the Celestian that tore my face apart, I'm shooting first and asking questions later.] Everything Ilana values is about to be tested, for to defend Celestians is to destroy the only family she’s ever known.

Pond and Skye is a fantasy story of loyalty, family, and discrimination. [The] Hunger Games meets His Dark Materials, it is complete at 70,000 words. [You don't mention the ages of your characters, but the books you're comparing the book to feature teens and children. If your book isn't YA, maybe find an adult fantasy it's similar to. If it is YA, say so. Also, it's not necessary to make comparisons unless requested, but if you do, you don't need to choose two of the bestselling books of all time.] It features LGBTQ+ characters and a protagonist of color in a world where skin color isn’t what sparks hatred - either you’re Human, or you aren’t.


Twice you refer to "Ilana's" Celestian. As if Celestians are pets or slaves or property. What makes this gryphon Ilana's? Is Ilana also considered the gryphon's human?

Are their last names significant in some way? I think the query would be better with just their first names. The problem with that being that you've used their last names as the title. Of course the title could be Ilana and Lucrezia. Or Skyler and Lucy.

I'm not sure we need the face-tearing. It seems to lead to a lot of questions you don't answer. It does give Lucrezia a motive for hating Celestians, but I got the impression you wanted to show that Celestians were hated by some Humans unjustly because they look different. Of course someone whose had her face torn apart by a Celestian is going to be somewhat biased.

That they find they cannot hate each other isn't much of a wrap-up. Do they have a shared goal they can work together to accomplish? What do they want to do, and what's standing in their way? For instance, now that Lucrezia's killed the ruler, it seems like their shared desire for family is out of the question, as Lucy will be dead, imprisoned, or on the run, but maybe they can steal other people's identities and open a mead shop.

 Irrelevant science: 99% of the Human body is made up of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus. If we consider the oxygen and hydrogen water (55 -60% of the body) and the nitrogen (plus more oxygen) to be air, and the minerals to be earth, Humans are the same as Celestians, except we aren't on fire. How do they know Celestians are part fire? Is the fire visible?

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Face-Lift 1370

Guess the Plot

Pond and Skye

1. Mr. Pond and Miss Skye are typical neighbors during the week. However, every weekend they team up as a top spy team. When software known by the acronym T.E.R.R.A. threatens the world's supply of data, can this amazing duo save us all

2. In a world shared by two intelligent races, Humans and Celestians, Lucrezia Skye is set on wiping out the Celestians, while Ilana Pond wants to protect them. Not only do these young women hold the planet's future in their hands, but since they're sisters, those family dinners can get awkward.

3. Geoff Pond is involved in the archaeological dig in a medieval ruins in Scotland when his daughter Skye says her brother and Geoff's son have been in a terrible accident. Rob 'Frog' Pond, comatose, starts giving clues to priceless relics in Geoff's dreams, but is Rob leading Geoff astray?

4. Pond, a Poodle puppy, and Skye, a Siamese kitten, must join forces to find their way home after being inadvertently left at a Minnesota truck stop. Will they make it home in time for little Lindsey's birthday?

5. Pond and Skye are fated to be mortal enemies, like Romeo and Juliet if Romeo were an albino plant monster named Skye that came from the sky, and Juliet were the creature from the black lagoon, except Pond is more of a mutant triffid from a toxic dumping ground puddle. Also, a wallaby poacher. 

6. In this inspirational picture book, faeries Pond and Skye teach small children important lessons about the dangers of untied shoelaces, failing to hold the hand-rail when going up or down stairs, riding on the side of the kart in the supermarket and spiking the day care staffs’ coffee with rat poison.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Novel Title: Pond and Skye

When Ilana and Lucrezia were allowed to choose new last names, Lucrezia chose Skye - vast and powerful, like herself. “Can I be the Sea?” Ilana asked. “No,” Lucrezia explained, “you’re more of a pond.” [You said they were allowed to choose their last names, but the book's title suggests Ilana got stuck with Pond instead of Sea. Did she?]

Years later, Ilana has yet to escape her foster sister’s shadow. Pond and Skye live in a world shared by two races: Humans, and Celestians - intelligent beings whose bodies are made of earth, air, water, and fire. Fierce and loyal, Ilana fights alongside a wisecracking gryphon [Are gryphons Humans or Celestians or neither? If neither, isn't the world shared by three races?] to protect the world’s balance, while Lucrezia, vindictive and cunning, seeks to tear it apart. If Lucrezia gets her way Celestians will be wiped out, leaving the world to be ruled by Humans [and gryphons].

Ilana knows what needs to be done. [Meaning Lucrezia must be killed? I find it hard to believe all the Humans on Lucrezia's side will abandon their cause because their leader has been eliminated. More likely the rift between the sides will be widened.] The war on Celestians begins and ends with Lucrezia. But Ilana is small as a pond, and Lucrezia is the only family she’s ever known. An entire race hangs in the balance...does Ilana have what it takes to save it? [Seems highly unlikely.]

Pond and Skye is a New Adult Fantasy story of loyalty, family, and discrimination. It features LGBTQ+ characters and a protagonist of color in a world where skin color isn’t what sparks hatred - either you’re human, or you aren’t. [Is Ilana a Human?] It is complete at 70,000 words and will appeal to the same people who devoured The Hunger Games and His Dark Materials.



Why does the war on Celestians begin and end with Lucrezia? Why is either of these women so important? Do they have super powers? Is Lucrezia the queen of the world? Is the planet's population less than 50? I think you need to tell us who's in charge on this world. If it's Pond and Skye, you wouldn't think they'd need someone's permission to choose their last names. If it's someone else, why are these two the focus of the book? Who are they?

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Face-Lift 1369

Guess the Plot

The Art of the Steal

1. Theodore Gobblin, although blind and missing both arms, crafts exquisitely intricate installation pieces from steel. You will laugh, you will cry as you follow his remarkable journey as he overcomes adversity and... What? Steal? Never mind. 

2. When a bunch of kids break into a house during a power outage, they are delighted to find more cash and jewelry than they dreamed of. Stealing it was easy. Fencing and laundering is a little harder. So they turn to a mobster for help. Turns out it was the mobster's boss's home they broke into in the first place. Oops.

3. Art gallery manager Lucy Highgrove’s just signed a 2-year lease on a snazzy apartment when the gallery owner dies suddenly. Lucy’s sure to lose her job. Unless . . . Setting fire to the gallery means insurance might keep it open. But the night she chooses, someone more dangerous than Lucy has the same idea.

4. When one of her paintings is stolen, an art student is secretly thrilled that someone likes her work enough to steal it--until she learns the thief only wants it to cover up the masterpiece he's planning to smuggle out of the museum.

5. That total hellbitch from Johnson High, Kaycie Matterson, has written a how-to manual for taking guys away from 'undeserving' girls. Everything's just peachy until Lora Roberts decides to apply Kaycie's foolproof method against her, winning over hunky Chad Arnold in the process.

6. Mayfaire Woddy liked to consider himself a gentleman burglar, until the lithograph (Dante's Hells, 13/666) he stole turned out to be demonically possessed. Now he must find and steal the other 665 prints and the original lithographic plate used to print them or end up a red streak of ink in the picture.

7. Rody is a modern day pirate. Music, art, dance moves; they've all fallen sway to his wiles. Yet when someone plagiarizes his stolen work, he discovers that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a thief. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Four years ago, free-spirited artist Emily Sanger turned her back on her family, their fortune, and their overbearing expectations in order to pursue an art degree. With only one semester to go, she becomes the victim of a robbery and a suspect in a murder investigation.

By launching an investigation to clear her name, Emily learns that what looks like a drug smuggling operation is actually an art heist. [Art students don't launch investigations. Just say "While trying to clear her name..."] [Also, once you say Emily is a suspect in a murder investigation, I expect to hear who got murdered and why the authorities suspect Emily. Not that drugs are being smuggled from somewhere to somewhere, except they're not really being smuggled, someone is cleverly hoping to avoid getting arrested for stealing art by making it look like he's merely smuggling drugs.] A disgruntled museum curator has kept a masterpiece painting hidden within the museum for decades. [Brilliantly, he's hidden it in plain sight--it's hanging on the wall.] [Has he been disgruntled for decades? Usually when you're disgruntled, you're looking for more immediate relief than you'll get from a plot that takes thirty years to unfold.] He’s used her painting to smuggle it out of the museum and finance his multi-million dollar retirement.

Emily is determined to stop him but he’s been planning this heist for years and she only has days to thwart it. When all the evidence suggests Emily is guilty, [Of murder?] friendships begin to fracture. [We've been best friends a long time, but that was when I didn't know you were a murderer.] And time is running out. A shipment of artwork is headed for Barcelona in just a few days – a legitimate shipment that includes the smuggled masterpiece.

About to be arrested for a crime [Murder?] she didn’t commit, Emily calls her aunt for help. Running home might keep her out of jail, [If they're after you for murder, running home isn't gonna keep you out of jail. It's the first place they'll look. Unless they assume that you're not stupid enough to hide out at your aunt's home, in which case it'll still be the third or fourth place they look.] but it will mean giving up everything else. In jail, at least she could paint license plates. [That sounds like a clever wrap-up, though research shows that only North Carolina's plates are made by women, and the painting is done by a machine. Plus, a "free-spirited artist" would consider license plate painting torture. That Emily turned her back on her family to pursue an art degree doesn't suggest that if she returned to them she would have to give up everything. Wouldn't she be able to paint something more creative than license plates at home? Did her family disown her for going off to college?

I am a full-time aspiring author and former sales manager. I have a B.A. in Art, which was the inspiration for this book.

The Art of the Steal is a not-quite-cozy mystery complete at 90,000 words and will appeal to readers of K.J. Larson’s “Pants on Fire Detective Agency” novels. [If you must compare your book to someone else's, it would be a good idea to spell the author's last name correctly.] May I send you the finished manuscript? Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best Regards,


You've got a mystery in which there's been a murder. You need to tell us who got murdered and name a couple other people who had a motive to commit the murder. Whether a disgruntled museum curator gets away with smuggling a painting to Barcelona seems secondary when your main character is a murder suspect. If, in the book, the art theft has precedence over the murder "subplot" that's most likely a problem. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

New Beginning 1077

As an art student and painter, I’ve seen my fair share of bodies. Quick sketches of the human form are a basic step in developing the artistic skills of drawing, painting, and sculpting. However, no amount of figure studies prepared me for the sight of the lifeless body that lay next to me.

The dead man lay on his back, one arm stretched towards me along the grass. His hand lay open as if he meant to grasp my wrist, his forefinger curled in an abandoned attempt to touch me.

My gazed traveled over the white cuff of his shirt and beyond until I found his shoulder and, above it, his face. One sightless eye stared back at me. The other half of his face was smashed and bloodied. A cracked, wooden frame covered in blood lay between us.

I turned my head and heaved.

“Miss? Miss? Can you hear me?” A man’s voice asked.

The touch of a warm hand on my shoulder nearly brought me out of my skin. Another man, this one alive and wearing dark clothing, knelt beside me. I looked up into a pair of honey-gold eyes set amid beautiful caramel skin. He had short hair, close-cropped, military style. And shoulders that made me drool just a little.

“Who? You?” I dredged the words up from the thick gray matter that served as my brain.

“I’m Mr. Hottie,” he replied, or something similar.

The name fit. I was swept away to an island. With a white beach. Water clear as glass. And a warm Latino lover holding me in his arms, setting my heart aflutter.

“Can you tell me your name? Do you know where you are?” he asked.

“Emily,” I said and closed my eyes for a kiss.

No kiss. Instead, he said, "Emily, let me remind you where you are. This is the Pontypridd College of fine Arts -- the best art school in this town. All Professor Randall said to you was, 'You need to work on your brushstrokes and your use of color is a little pedestrian.' Oh, and you're going to have to pay for that frame."

Opening: Pam LaFollette.....Continuation: ril