Friday, June 29, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured most recently here, would like feedback on the following version of the query:

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

She-wolf is a nickname twenty-eight-year-old Verity Hearst earned as one of the world's highest paid assassins. She spends her free time adding to her Louboutin shoe collection and relaxing in bubble baths, but lives for the pleasure of the kill. When she's told she'll have a partner on her next assignment, taking out men at the head of a billion-dollar human and drug trafficking operation, a partner sounds like a good idea. Until she meets his ego.

Verity's new partner Cy looks like a Greek god, and frequently checks himself out in mirrors. He's the world's most elite assassin, and Verity's instincts mean nothing to him. When they're sent to a booby-trapped island to eliminate their final target--a psychopath with kidnapped children in cages--Cy insists they use his maps [do everything his way]. Too bad [But] Verity isn't sold on his version of strategically winging it. ["Winging it" seems to me like what you do when you have no specific strategy. Maybe: But Verity isn't sold on his "strategy" of simply winging it.]

Verity knows Cy's plan will [probably] get them killed. He refuses to back down, and prepares for their mission with whiskey cocktails and a power nap. She could break the rules and kill their target on her own, but she needs Cy's help fighting off the island's guards. She'd rather step on a landmine than reason with a reckless man-child, but she has little time to weigh her options. Their target is expecting them. Working with Cy is the only way Verity will survive, and she sure as hell isn't letting a dangerous pedophile get away.

KILLER IN HEELS in [is] a 70,000-word suspense novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


If you change "psychopath" to "pedophile" in P2, we'll know you're talking about the same person in P3.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Face-Lift 1378

Guess the Plot

The House at the Crossroads of Time

1. Dennis is lost again. In a nearly perfect world, where everything has its place and makes sense, Dennis can’t remember where he lives. He knows he went up the right road and made the right left, but when? Is that Albert kid playing tricks again? 

2. All Peter Finlay wanted was a place to hole up until the manhunt moved on. He was willing to put up with a few ghosts, until he discovered himself among them. Now he's not certain he'll still exist if he leaves. Also, taxidermy instruction. 

3. Delightful anachronisms happen all the time(!)...dinosaurs on the driveway, romans on the roof, crusaders in the cupboards. As long as the indoor plumbing remains fixed in this century, the Fillison family has some great alliterative adventures. 

4. When Cody Little learns that leaving his house by the side door puts him on the street one hour earlier than leaving by the front door, and the back door opens onto yesterday, how will he use this ability to control time? Should he save lives, cheat the lottery, or finally catch up on binge-watching Netflix? 

5. Jezebel saw the house for sale in the local paper. It was reasonably priced and within walking distance of her job. Yet after the house tour, it seems twenty years have passed since anyone has seen her, and she hasn't aged a day.

6. If only the real plot were one of those first five, but no, it's about a young woman destined to be the Great Queen of Faerie . . . or is it? 

Original Version

Dear sirs, 

I am writing to you because you have published authors that write Fantasy and Urban Fantasy.
In my 55,500[-]word fantasy novel, titled THE HOUSE AT THE CROSSROADS OF TIME, a young woman discovers that she is to be the Great Queen of Faerie.  As the story unfolds, she realizes that to become this “Great Queen”, she must kill her aunt, who had been the Queen of Faerie two-thousand years ago, and her aunt’s brother, who is presently [currently] the ruler of Faerie, and absorb their essences. [Two sentences is all we get to decide if your plot is worthy of our time?]
A graduate of the University of Redlands, with of [a] BA in Liberal Studies, I hold a CA Teaching Credential and am currently teaching elementary school.  My interests include Celtic Mythology, which reflects heavily in my first novel. [Your school, degree, and job aren't needed. That you teach a course in Celtic mythology would be more relevant than that it's one of your interests.]
Thank you for reading my query. 



If this character with no name doesn't kill her nameless aunt and (uncle? father?), what will happen? The nameless ruler will continue to rule? Is he a good ruler or a bad ruler? If good, why not let him continue? If bad, maybe absorbing his essence isn't such a good idea.

Is your main character a human, Faerie, or combo? How young is she? Is she torn with regard to killing two "people"? Does she want to be queen? Either way, what's her plan? What goes wrong? What if she fails? 8 to 10 sentences should be enough to answer these questions, giving us a better idea of what happens in your book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1375 would like feedback on the following revision:

I am seeking representation for Hamilton Boggs, a 91,000 word YA fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of writers as diverse as Diana Wynne Jones, Philip Pullman, and Diane Duane.

When orphaned 13-year-old Hamilton Boggs comes home to find his apartment destroyed and his grandmother mortally wounded, he learns he is a young wizard with a price on his head. [Who tells him this? Does he just figure it out?] After barely escaping capture by the chimera Ruzgar, the right-hand monster of the mysterious Yellow King, Hamilton travels to Savannah, Georgia, one of the last neutral cities in the war-torn wizarding world. There, he is given refuge at Westley House, a southern manor converted into a school for magic for the refugee children pouring into the city.

But Savannah, Hamilton soon learns, is anything but safe. It is crawling with spies and mercenaries, all of them looking for a secretive monster and the terrible weapon it is said to possess. [Usually we don't think of monsters as having weapons other than their jaws and claws and laser vision and fire breath.] Befriended by Daisy Blue, the only daughter of the manor-turned-school’s scions, and Ozzie DeLillo, Savannah’s young magical genius, Hamilton begins to his own search for the monster, intent on doing what he can to fight the Yellow King and avenge the death of his grandmother. Aided by a series of unlikely allies (including a Bartleby Cat, a bad omen dealer, a Voodoo prince and the last king of the Dalwyn, a magical race banned and persecuted in previous centuries), Hamilton, Daisy and Ozzie work to find the monster before its weapon can fall into the wrong hands. 

Along the way, they unearth the duplicitous scheming of Savannah’s Mayor Wallace, discovering the lengths [how far] he will go to profit off the misfortune of the refugees. As asylum seekers continue to flood into the city, ghettoized in a camp on the outskirts of town and vilified by the mayor and his followers, Hamilton and his friends must race to secure the weapon before Wallace’s secret pact with the Yellow King can be concluded [Do they know about this secret pact? If so, it's not really secret. Also, if there's a pact, why isn't it "concluded"? They haven't signed the paperwork yet?] and the Savannah they know destroyed forever. [Why would the mayor of Savannah want Savannah destroyed forever? He's already the top dog in the city. What more does he want?]

Though originally from Boulder, Colorado, I currently live in Istanbul, Turkey, where I teach and do freelance writing and advertising work for several magazines and companies. I am a member of SCBWI. 


Hamilton's goal is to find the monster who has a secret weapon. Which is pretty much stated three times:

P3, S3: Hamilton begins his own search for the monster,

P3, S4: Hamilton, Daisy and Ozzie work to find the monster before its weapon can fall into the wrong hands

P4, S2: Hamilton and his friends must race to secure the weapon

The stakes, apparently, are that if they fail, the Savannah they know will be destroyed forever. Still not clear how Savannah is described as neutral if there's a war of sorts in progress there.

Characters mentioned in query: Hamilton, Daisy, Ozzie, Yellow King, Ruzgar, monster, grandmother, Mayor Wallace, Voodoo prince, Dalwyn King, bad omen dealer, Bartlelby cat. (Not to mention spies, mercenaries, refugees, and mayor's followers). Too many. We can do without the four unlikely allies, and if you start when Hamilton arrives in Savannah, we won't need grandma or Ruzgar.

How do these kids plan to get the monster's terrible weapon when all the spies and mercenaries in town can't do it? With their great magical powers? Hamilton has progressed from not even knowing he was a wizard to being a really powerful one pretty fast. In between their goal and what happens if they fail, we need to know their plan, what goes wrong, what they do about it. 

Is the monster working with the Yellow King, or are they on opposite sides? If you don't tell us how they're connected, maybe you should limit the query to one villain. We can assume the mayor and Yellow King are working together as one villain. But I'm not clear on what the two (or more) sides in this war are fighting for. 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Face-Lift 1377

Guess the Plot

Beast Weaver

1. Beauty’s friend takes up a new hobby.

2. A comprehensive guide on how to weave in 200 different animal designs as part of whatever craft project is on hand. Plus 10 short stories that inspired some of the patterns.

3. When Ferdinand sets out to win the 'Best Weaver' prize at the local state fair, well, let's just say there's a slight misunderstanding.... 

4. After Evelyinne's parents sell her to an evil fairy, she escapes and goes to the big city to work in the textile industry. She hears rumors of guards hunting for a malicious witch who's turning people into animals, only to realize later the cloth she weaves is responsible. Can she convince the fairy who now hates her to help her learn to control her powers?

5. Who cares what the plot is? There's a beast with the head and wings of an eagle combined with the torso of a man and the arms, legs, and tail of a lion! Yowza!

6. What else do you call a cross between a bear and a tarantula?

7. A genius geneticist manages to breed Przewalski horses recently reintroduced to the Russian landscape with the DNA of mammoth creatures. So what do you get? Huge horses with tusks and elephant feet. Quite a combo plate. 

8. Lisa’s new weaving kit looks like a lame present. But one day she starts to use it, and strange things happening. Fierce creatures roam through her house every night. Seems like she’s the one creating them with the kit. Can she weave one big enough to bite off her French teacher’s head before her mid-years?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

In all the nine kingdoms there is no place quite as safe and boring as the village of Ruthaven, no mythical creatures and no adventures to be had, the perfect place to hide a future king. [I'm not a stickler for sentences actually having to be sentences, but this being the first sentence, and the first impression, I'd go with: In all the nine kingdoms there is no place as safe and boring as the village of Ruthaven. With no mythical creatures and no adventures to be had, it's the perfect place to hide a future king.] Edmund Olivale has done his best to raise Lancel, the future king, alongside his daughter Kira, [Is Lancel Edmund's son? Stepson?] but when an assassin shows up at their front door the village is no longer a safe place. 

Edmund flees with his family to the eastern mountains, searching for an old friend. With the head and wings of an eagle combined with the torso of a man and the arms, legs, and tail of a lion, Edmond’s friend is a beast of his own creation. 
["His" meaning Edmund's friend or Edmund?] [Sounds like a griffin, although a griffin doesn't have a human torso. Then again, what difference does it make what kind of torso it is? If he were smart he'd have given it a torso of something less vulnerable, like a rhinoceros or a dump truck.] Now Kira knows why her father taught her the beast language of Rarack. He’s a beast weaver and with a little practice, she can be one too. 

[English to Rarack Translator

Human : Rarack
Lioness : Rarack
Weapon : Rarack
Villager : Rarack
Covfefe : Rarack

Typical Beast Conversation

Beast 1: Rarack rarack!
Beast 2: Rarack rarack rarack!
Beast 1: Rarack.]

Kira will need her new ability to help her brother earn his rightful place on the throne of Vanderhelm. The creatures she creates become increasingly valuable [vital?] when the children are separated from their father. [What role are the beasts playing? Scouts? Guides? Bodyguards?] With little knowledge of the nine kingdoms, they place their faith in a well-traveled fifteen-year-old boy named Varro to guide them from kingdom to kingdom as they try to build an army.

To win support they must embark on quests like defeating an army of vengeful battle-toads, gathering ingredients to cure a paralyzed king, and recovering a flightless groundhawk that serves as a kingdom’s mascot. Soon the three kids find themselves with an army of followers, but how can they best assassins that seem to pop out of every corner and how can they ever beat the warlock king who can turn himself into the most fearsome beast imaginable, a three-headed dragon? [They have no chance of success. The good news is you won't have to write a sequel.]

Beast Weaver is a middle-grade fantasy novel, clocking in at 60,000 words. [I haven't seen "clocking in at" used for anything other than time. "Coming in at" might be better, although you could say Beast Weaver is a 60,000-word middle-grade fantasy novel.] I chose you as a literary agent [I'm writing to you] because you have represented M.G. fantasy before. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Unless there's a good reason for your future king's name to be so similar to Lancelot, change it.

Why is Edmund's son the future king? Who is the current king? Why and from whom did Lancel have to be hidden, and how come he's now free to travel everywhere recruiting an army instead of finding another hiding place? What enemy is Lancel's army going to fight, and why?

If you've got two beast weavers in your family, wouldn't it be better to create an army of beasts instead of recruiting a bunch of puny unreliable humans? 

Why would soldiers be willing to join an army led by kids, and if they are willing to do so, why weren't they willing a few weeks ago? Just because the kids rescued their mascot and stomped on some toads?

I think you need to rewrite the query in a way that answers some of my questions and doesn't inspire me to ask so many other ones.

It might help to focus the query on one character.

Even when I offer Guess the Plot, they're all written by me and the same two or three other people. Maybe no one comes to this blog anymore?

Monday, June 04, 2018

Face-Lift 1376

Guess the Plot

The Power of Dusk

1. The power of dusk is a curious thing / Make a one man weep, make another man sing. 

2. You can't stop it. You can't reason with it. It just keeps coming, relentlessly, until everything is black and even the sun is gone. 

3. After Carrie Silver's fiancĂ© departs in his sailboat on the short trip  to the mainland, he mysteriously disappears. Three days later, Carrie sets out . . . at dusk . . . on a stolen sailboat with her little terrier, Fickle, to find him. 

4. They come out . . . at dusk . . . and terrorize the small town of Loganville. But are they werewolves or vampires? Or both? It's up to blind sheriff Paul Matthews to end the carnage.

5. Lulu never worries about daytime, but as the sun sets, and night approaches, a cold sweat shakes her body, for she knows this could be the night she dies. That's . . . the power of dusk.

6. Surgeon Gene McAdoo has never separated conjoined twins, but not only has he taken on the task, he's also planning to perform the operation outdoors . . . at dusk.

7. The newest supervillain on the block has been underestimated for far too long! Dusk might have a power with no real use, but that doesn't mean he can't villain with the best!! Now if he could just find his keys, the world will pay!!!! 

8. With the setting of the sun, the ancient vampire rises once more. Will four plucky teenagers and their dog save the old village? Or are these their last highjinks? 

9. For decades, Dawn has been the best weapon in the Dishwasher Guild's arsenal. But Aunt Matilda's twenty-cheese mystery meat casserole won't be washed away so easily. This calls for something more powerful than Dawn. Something darker. Also, elbow grease.

10. In a world where fossil fuels have been banned and solar energy powers the grid, there is a time between daylight and darkness when things get a little draggy.

11. 17-year-old Morgan forms a bond of friendship with Jonathan and his sister Ava. But he soon wonders if the siblings have anything to do with the gruesome murders that have been committed lately . . . at dusk.

12. Medieval Persian Magician's daughter Blue Dusk has been reincarnated as a fluffy Persian kitten. Let's see how much trouble she can get into THIS time!

Original Version

I'm seeking the right agent to represent my manuscript THE POWER OF DUSK. The novel is New Adult – suspense with a word count of 85,459. Based on your varied interests, I believe you're the ideal fit for my manuscript. [Everyone has varied interests. Which specific interests are relevant to this book?]

THE POWER OF DUSK is the saga of MORGAN, a seventeen-year-old striving to escape life with his alcoholic and neglectful father in small-town Pennsylvania. [Seventeen is a good age for Young Adult books. New Adult books usually feature twenty-something MCs.] When Morgan must earn money to feed himself, he develops a friendship with AVA and JONATHAN. [After reading the first half of that sentence, I expect the second half to be something like . . . he takes a job at the local Exxon station. How does developing this friendship get Morgan money to feed himself?] As their bond deepens, Morgan receives the guidance and love absent from his life. [How old are these people giving him guidance?] Soon he learns the siblings have a secret. A dark secret he promises to keep. [What is the secret? Don't worry, this agent isn't going to reveal the secret to the world. She just wants to know whether the secret is they're vampires or they're sleeping together. Or both.] Meanwhile, the small town is on edge following a series of gruesome murders. [Is this the same small town where he was living with his neglectful alcoholic father? If I were trying to escape from my home life, I'd go farther than across town. Especially if the town I'm in is the scene of a recent series of gruesome unsolved murders.] A stranger from Ava['s] and Jonathan's past threatens danger. [Too vague.] When the threat becomes too great, Morgan must conquer his fears and alter his plans for the future. [Also vague.] But the consequences bring an extraordinary danger Morgan must defeat on his own to survive. [Still vague.]


We need to know what Morgan's goal is, how he plans to achieve it, what's stopping him, what he does about that. With specific information. Danger is threatened. The threat becomes too great. The danger becomes extraordinary. Who is the stranger, and why is he/she threatening our hero? Without specifics, we don't know what sets this book apart from other books.