Thursday, September 19, 2019

Feedback Request

The author of the query most recently featured here would like feedback on the following version, (which is only the plot summary). 

-----
Dear EE,

Mercenary Tali Adilrein foils a kidnapping, but the surviving kidnappers escape with the help of a hidden mage.  So, Tali accepts a job as bodyguard to the girl she rescued.  Her new client, Shimmer, is a "dragon treasure."  She can provide otherwise unobtainable power to those who wield dragon magic--the rare type of magic that aided the kidnappers. [So it's the mage who needs Shimmer, and he hired the kidnappers?]

Further kidnapping attempts, which Tali thwarts, worry officials.  They convince Shimmer she'll be safer at the governor's palace while they search for the kidnappers. [Shouldn't this mage be using his dragon magic to assist the kidnappers in achieving their goal? If he is, does Tali have any magical powers that help her thwart the mage?]

The enemy mage sends out independently acting flames that seek Shimmer [uses a spell to locate Shimmer].  More covert spells exert a subtle form of mind control on people likely to approach her.  [Shimmer's friends (or whoever) would be better than "people likely to approach her."] Those people's unintended machinations result in Shimmer being arrested 
 [Unintended machinations is vague. Either tell us what they do or just say she gets arrested.] [I would expect the mage's spells to result in his capturing Shimmer, not in her being arrested.] and Tali getting fired. [I'm wondering if we need the kidnappers in the query. They screw up every attempt at kidnapping Shimmer, and they don't need Shimmer anyway, as they don't have dragon magic. The mage is the villain.] [Although he doesn't seem that competent either; if the flames located Shimmer, he should just go get her instead of inducing her friends to machinate her into jail.] 

Tali is determined to protect Shimmer, job or no.  She hunts through the city for the mage [She's hunting the mage and the mage is hunting her?] until a local troublemaker warns her there's a price on her head.  [Never believe anything a local troublemaker tells you.] She needs to either leave town or, in effect, submit to arrest herself.  [In effect?] She then discovers Shimmer is missing.

-----
[That's it? You need a better wrap-up than that.]

Your 1st paragraph could be:

Mercenary Tali Adilrein accepts a job as bodyguard to a girl named Shimmer. Shimmer, a "dragon treasure," can provide otherwise unobtainable power to those who wield dragon magic, a rare type of magic that [what does dragon magic do?]

Then you introduce the mage who will do whatever it takes to capture Shimmer so she can enhance his power, allowing him to [What's his goal?]

Finally, Tali gets fired, Shimmer disappears, and Tali vows to find the mage and get Shimmer back. What's her plan? What will happen if she fails?

Monday, August 26, 2019

New Beginning 1085


Before you die you lose everything, a gold filigree earring, your favorite animal, cat or dog, your health, and if fortunate, the Gods smile down at you at the end and take your mind.

I didn’t think when we left that my Nanna knew she would die on the way. I was very young. She knew I wouldn't leave without her and so she, so willingly, came with me as I was sent out to work the fields, growing rice, endlessly and forever it seemed a year or two on. It was the beginning days of the upheaval of the Khmer Rouge when we left. I am Cambodian. My friends in the fields are gone, my Nanna. I am so alone.

Especially since I also lost my car keys and my Facebook password. 


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: Paul Penna

Thursday, August 01, 2019


                                   Happy 200th Birthday, 
Herman Melville




Sunday, July 28, 2019

New Beginning 1084



It sang with a sweet high pitch then tore into my shoulder. 

"Oh God, I'm hit!"

I fell into the pool, clutching my bleeding shoulder, then sank under. It was peaceful under the water.

My wife must have dove in after me,she pulled my head above the water, screaming "911 911! NOW!"

She dragged me to the pool edge where my half tanked neighbors reached out dragging me over the hard tile and applied pressure to the wound. 

There I lay poolside, stunned, wanting to stay conscious. I was failing. I needed to stay on this plane.

My wife screaming, "Stay with me, don't you close your eyes!" 
The paramedics arrived. Fast and efficient they determined I was in no threat of death. 

I was hearing laughter, someone offering them a drink. 

The big paramedic, the one in charge, leaned over me, slapped my face lightly and with a big grin informed me I was fine. I had been hit with a red paint ball. 

I sat up. Looked at my shoulder. Apart from a bruise I was fine. The pool party continued with great hoots, slaps on the back as I scanned the house wanting to hurt the kid inside who hit me with the red paint ball. 

He was lucky his father got to him before I did. When I heard the kid over the paddling he was getting I smiled and asked for an ice filled glass of club soda. You know, it is best served cold. That would be revenge. 


It slid down my throat with bubbly sweetness and then my chest exploded into fire.

“Oh God, it’s a heart attack!”

I fell into the pool again, clutching my aching chest, then sank under. It was still peaceful under the water.

My wife must have dove in after me, she pulled my head above the water, screaming, “Are those paramedics still here?!”

The big paramedic, the one in charge, leaned over me, slapped my face lightly and with a big grin informed me I was fine. It was indigestion.

I sat up. Opened my mouth and let loose a loud belch. Instantly I felt better.

I was hearing laughter again, but I ignored it. I was more concerned with the smoke from the barbecue grill, which wafted into my face, sending me into a coughing fit. Holy Crap! I had lung cancer!


Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: JRMosher


Saturday, April 27, 2019

Face-Lift 1393


Guess the Plot

Believing in Magic

1. Soon there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean. Our planet has just had the warmest year ever. Countries with nuclear weaponry are increasingly run by megalomaniacs. But it's all good. Just sit back and believe in a magical fix-it that requires no effort whatsoever.

2. One man's quest for a weedless lawn. 

3. When Marcy starts seeing dragons, unicorns, and fire-breathing monsters wherever she goes, threatening her life, she decides to find the being controlling them all. Yet as she goes about her quest, she starts to doubt that what she sees is real.

4. A patrician president, wishing to appear sympathetic to minorities, appoints a black basketball star to the National Commission on Aids only to have the ballplayer openly criticize the president’s policies. Then at the height of the election cycle…Oh, wait. This is real life not a novel.

5. Alyss has the most dexterous digits of any prestidigitator in Cathayathay, and she's going to need them when she's caught between the vizier and the most important wife in the sultan's harem. Treachery, magic, politics, magic, illusion, magic, and of course a genie.

6. Seventeen-year-old Maggie just found out she's a witch, but that her powers will disappear unless she devotes herself to learning how to use them. But that might mean abandoning her family. Tough decision. Of course, as a witch, she could probably just make a new family.

7. Having been dumped by his girlfriend, ripped off by his best friend, and disowned by his parents, Philly Philmore needs something to believe in. Why not magic?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen years ago, in Door County, Wisconsin, a powerful young witch gave birth to a little girl. Three days later, the new mother mysteriously died. The girl was put up for adoption and the records were sealed.

Now it’s the summer of 2019 and the Bennett family is headed to Door County on vacation. Maggie has no idea a chance meeting with local shop owner, Carlee Corey, is about to change her life. The only detail Maggie has ever known about her birth is the peculiar request her adoptive parents agreed to: to name the little girl ‘Magic’.

She’s about to find out why.

Carlee Corey not only spells out how she and Maggie are related, but also insists they’re witches; that they come from a long line of witches. Maggie’s uncertain what to believe, but with the secrets of her true origins on display, she can’t help but be drawn in. She’s tempted by this new world, with its magic spells and ghostly messages, not to mention Keller, a handsome young charmer with secrets of his own. As summer’s end approaches, Maggie must choose: explore her newfound destiny or go back to the comfortable life she knows and loves, leaving magic behind forever. Adding to her fray [dilemma]; if she doesn’t decide soon, the powers she never knew she had will disappear before she ever learns to use them.

Torn, Maggie will attempt to combine the craft and her old life, but it won’t be without cost. When she [Maggie] returns home she’ll need to put[s] her feelings for Keller aside and attempt[s] to learn magic from a teacher who’s 300 miles away – all the while keeping her newfound talents hidden from the people who mean the most to her. As time goes on, [But] the more magic she learns, the more powerless she feels. When her powers take a dark turn, a near tragedy will teach her to believe in the path – and the people – she’s been bound to all along. [Can you be more specific about the dark turn and the near tragedy?]

BELIEVING IN MAGIC is a complete, polished YA magical realism manuscript at 75,000 words. [By the simplest definition of magical realism, this may qualify, but I think I'd just call it a fantasy.] Fans of Hoffman’s Practical Magic and the television series Charmed will enjoy this variety of witches, [Not sure what you mean by "this variety of witches." Are there lots of different witches? Because it sounded like Maggie went home to study witchcraft in solitude.] while its young cast of characters and fun, light brand of fantasy will have it appealing [appeal] to a broad range of readers. If successful, it could readily be the foundation for a series.

This is my second endeavor in novel writing, the first being a self-published YA/Women’s Lit piece titled LITTLE FISH, which serves as a platform for my work against domestic violence. I studied Professional Communication at Moraine Park Technical College and I work as a freelance / staff writer. I’ve been published in several local and regional magazines and news outlets, such as InSpire Magazine, Hoards, AgriView and Wisconsin State Farmer. I think it’s worth mentioning, with me you get a writer who not only is a passionate about her work, but also understands publishing is a business and professionalism is the cornerstone of any good business relationship. [This whole paragraph can go. Yes, even the part about being published in Wisconsin State Farmer.]

My sincerest wish in querying is to find an agent who will guide me as I work to build a writing career that’s not only successful, but enduring as well. I look forward to hearing if you feel we would be a good fit. (As a professional courtesy, I will let you know I am currently querying multiple agents / publishers.)

Thank you so much for your time and consideration

Please find the first twenty pages of my manuscript below signature, per instruction.

Regards,


Notes

This is longer than most agents want in a query. We can cut the first 3+ paragraphs down to:

During her adoptive family's summer vacation in Wisconsin, 17-year-old Maggie has a chance meeting with a shop owner who claims she and Maggie are related--and that they come from a long line of witches.

Italicize titles of books, magazines, TV series.




Saturday, April 20, 2019

Face-Lift 1392

Guess the Plot

Roadside Attractions


1. When ace detective Zack Martinez is called to investigate a body found near Interstate 10, he knows one thing: all those buzzards must be here for a reason. 

2. He was standing on the shoulder of the northbound interstate, handsome and rugged, with his thumb outstretched and a smile in his bright blue eyes. She was going the other way, white dress and red hair dancing in the wind of passing vehicles. The attraction was immediate, intense, undeniable … but could it survive crossing eight lanes of high-speed traffic? 

3. Mrs. Lovette's Roadside Attractions is the best bar and grill off highway 666, with a sympathetic bartender who tells outrageous local ghost stories. Until, that is, the health inspector arrives to find out what's in the Mystery Meat Special. Fortunately, he stops at the barbershop next door first. 

4. After Amanda's boyfriend dumps her in the middle of their romantic road trip, she has a choice to make. Go home or take advantage of all the roadside attractions, namely the bars and motels and truck stops along I-95. Time for an adventure.

5. For over 70 years people have stopped at the MacDonald family of Nevada's little roadside gift shop to eat at the 'best burger joint in the galaxy' and pay a few bucks to see the 'alien mummy'. It's great, until the day the aliens show up to claim their son's body. Will the MacDonalds cede possession of their prize attraction without a fight?

6. Julia has always walked the same roadway to school. To the side, there is always someone new selling a new thing. After she gets her allowance, a new attraction has caught her eye. Too bad she has also caught its eye. 


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Amanda’s romantic road trip becomes a celibate single’s tour after her boyfriend dumps her. She envisions miles of loneliness with only sarcasm and liquor to keep her warm. Audacious isn’t a self-descriptor, but she’s off and running. [Not sure what that sentence is saying, but it seems contradictory to the previous sentence. Is it saying she never considered herself audacious, but now she's gonna prove herself wrong? Would "adventurous" be a better word?] [Were they in her car or her boyfriend's?]

On the road, Amanda realizes the difference between lonely and alone. She squirms less while dining solo and unapologetically builds blazing campfires for one. All this independence doesn’t go unnoticed. She’s befriended by a group of men out for one last hurrah. [This sounds like the men all befriended her at once. Which may be the case, but if it's not, change "group" to "string."] [Also, I don't know that men out for a last hurrah are specifically drawn to independence in a woman. Unless "independence" means aloneness.]

Old-Amanda would’ve relinquished her singlehood with the first husky hello. ["Singlehood" meaning solitariness, rather than marital status, I assume.] But old-Amanda was stuffed in the trunk somewhere along I-95. 
[So she has the car. That she was building campfires had me wondering if she was walking and hitchhiking.] Even so, it’s hard to ignore her thumping, especially when two of the men want more than a single night. 

It’s one thing to allow them in her bed, [or her sleeping bag] but her heart, well that’s another matter.

ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONS is women’s fiction at 87,000 words.

Thank you for your consideration,



Notes

So her boyfriend dumps her and she decides she's not gonna let that jerk ruin her road trip, and the plot is basically a string of events as she drives the Interstate, most of them involving men chasing a last hurrah? That's a typical format for a road trip novel and there's nothing wrong with it, but perhaps some specific examples of her encounters (the funniest, the worst, the most appealing...) would give us a better idea if we want to read about this trip. We want to know there's more than bars and motels. We want to know what really goes on at South of the Border.

There's some good stuff here, and I mostly nitpicked, but do throw in some sexy details and hint at the attempted murder.



Friday, April 12, 2019

Face-Lift 1391

Guess the Plot

The Murderer from Jerusalem

1. In ancient Jerusalem, there's a murderer loose in the temple. If scrub maid Arsiya can expose him, she's positive the king will make her the first Priestess of Jerusalem. 

2. Someone killed Lord George, but detective Collier isn't sure whether it was the butler from Jerusalem or the gardener from Geneva. You'll never guess which one.

3. Don't believe everything you read. That story about Jesus being crucified? Hogwash. He was murdered by a fat guy from Jerusalem. This is his story.

4. Tel Aviv police detective Lev Mendelsohn has enough on his plate, what with Passover approaching, but when someone starts killing people by battering them with stones stolen from the Wailing Wall, it looks like he'll be missing the seder. Oy vey.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In ancient Jerusalem, lofty priests sitting in luxurious temples control science and magic. Being a priest in the Holy Temple is one of the most desirable jobs a man can have. Unfortunately, Arsiya is a thirteen-year-old girl who dreams of becoming a priestess. Honestly, she’s done nothing wrong. Trying to get accepted into the priesthood program with the boys in her city doesn’t count, right? Alas, the snotty priests who sentenced her think she’d do better as a scrub maid in the Holy Temple. [That was a lot of words to set up the situation. This is more concise: In ancient Jerusalem, thirteen-year-old Arsiya dreams of becoming a priestess. But the temple priests would never accept a girl into the priesthood program. They put her to work as a scrub maid in the Holy Temple.]

Yeah, right. Arsiya would rather spend her time in prison than waste her days tasting firemelons and other strange fruit as part of her work. [I don't see tasting fruit as a scrub maid's job.] But right before she tries to escape her “new home”, she overhears a conversation about magic. Now, that’s an opportunity she is not going to miss. She decides to stay, read some scrolls, and become the first priestess of Jerusalem. [A shorter version of this paragraph: No way is Arsiya going to waste her days cleaning floors and scrubbing pots. But then she overhears a conversation about magic, and decides to stick around after all. She'll secretly study some scrolls, and become the first priestess of Jerusalem.] 

Refusing to give up on her dream, Arsiya scours the temple for a scroll of secret [arcane] knowledge that will help her prove she’s as good as any other apprentice. Instead, she finds the mutilated body of a maid. Eyes pricked and flying in the air, the dead maid is definitely [has] not [been] sacrificed to the god Resheph; she has been murdered. As the bodies pile up, Arsiya’s quest of [for] secret scrolls turns into [becomes] a search for a killer. If she catches the murderer who lurks within the walls of the Holy Temple, the king will name her First Priestess of Jerusalem. If she fails, she might be the next victim.

ALADDIN meets AGATHA CHRISTIE, THE MURDERER FROM JERUSALEM is an #OwnVoice middle grade fantasy, complete at 54,000 words.

Best,


Notes

There's a lot that's unclear. What was the sentence the priests handed her? Is she in prison? If not, why does she need to escape? If so, how is she free to look for scrolls? Did the king tell her he'd make her a priestess? Whose bodies are piling up? Important people or maids? Eyes pricked and flying in the air? If you shorten what you have as suggested, you might have room to answer some of these questions.

A better title would help.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Success Story

Jenna Glass (pen name of long-time minion) reports that her feminist epic fantasy The Women's War was released today. The novel has received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist, and is one of Amazon's Best Books of the Month: Science Fiction and Fantasy.

Feedback Request

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



Dear Evil Editor,

Eighteen-year-old Mea Gwen is a 22nd-century dynasty kid (basically, she was born into a billionaire family). She has all the tools to thrive in a power-hungry society consumed by money, booze, and virtual realities. But she couldn’t care less. She would rather join America’s first Intragalactic Pioneer Program and spend the rest of her life [in] space. 

But before she can reach the stars, Mea’s kidnapped by the Reformers, a terrorist group led by the creators of an annoyingly popular VR game. To prove that the elite aren’t untouchable, the Reformers force the richest of the rich to compete in their newest game, and the only way to survive is to win. Determined to get back home, Mea promises to do whatever it takes to reach the number one spot. 

Soon Mea discovers that the Reformers are being exploited for a larger political conspiracy, and they’re only [at?] level one toward the ultimate goal — authoritarian control of America. Level two: starting a war that would break an already divided country. Now Mea could either follow their rules to save herself, or she could risk her life trying to expose who’s really out to destroy America. 

A PAWN OF SEDITION is a 90,000-word Young Adult science fiction novel with culturally diverse characters. It will appeal to fans of Warcross by Marie Lu and The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee. 


Thank you for your consideration,

Notes

Saying they're only at level one doesn't mean much unless we know how many levels there are. More compelling would be to say they are only one level from their ultimate goal. But apparently they are more than one level away? 

So level 1 of the conspirators' plan is to convince the creators of a video game to kidnap billionaires and force them to play The Hunger Games, and level 2 is to start a new American civil war? I can sort of buy level 1 if the Reformers were already a terrorist group before the conspirators decided to exploit them, but level 2 seems like a huge escalation from level 1. Like there would have to be a few levels in between.

Of course the book may make all of this seem more believable than the query can.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Feedback Request

The author of the query most recently seen here would like feedback on the following version:


Ratman, a giant rat with mind control abilities and an annoying habit of turning invisible, is on the loose. That’s not exactly what twelve-year-old Cody was expecting when he snuck into a secret underground city.

But why is that freaky fur-face attacking him--and only him?

Maybe it’s because Cody’s from the surface, and outsiders are absolutely not allowed. Or maybe it’s because everyone else down there has awesome paranormal abilities like reading minds and levitating objects.

Cody suspects it’s because he’s been searching for the missing Detectors, the underground people who protect the city from natural disasters and invading beasts. If he finds them, he’ll be a hero and he’s sure the city leaders will let him stay. [Why should a 12-year-old kid who's unfamiliar with this place be able to find the Detectors when the people with awesome paranormal powers who live there can't?] 

Whatever the reason, Ratman has already pushed Cody down the Devil’s Mouth hole, roasted him with a hot crystal, and tried to drown him in the river. But since Cody is the only one who ever sees the giant rat, no one else believes Ratman even exists.

Now Cody’s determined to hunt down Ratman in order to find the Detectors and save the city from whatever this whiskered weirdo is plotting--or at least before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him.


Notes

Not clear why Cody wants to stay in a place where he's absolutely not allowed to be and where he's already been attacked three times by a creature that wants him dead.

In any case, this is mostly setup. We know Cody's situation and his goal but how does he plan to achieve this goal? What goes wrong when he puts his plan into action? If he's choosing to be here instead of going home, why? What will happen if he fails to find the Detectors?

If you trim your query down to:

Ratman, a giant rat with mind control abilities and an annoying habit of turning invisible, is on the loose. That’s not what twelve-year-old Cody was expecting when he snuck into a secret underground city whose residents all have awesome paranormal powers.

But why is that freaky fur-face attacking him--and only him?

Cody suspects it’s because he’s been searching for the missing Detectors, the underground people who protect the city from natural disasters and invading beasts. If he finds them, he’ll be a hero and he’s sure the city leaders will let him stay, instead of sending him back to his horrible abusive parents.

... you'll have room  to tell us something that happens. For instance:

Cody figures the Detectors are being held captive by Ratman. If he can follow the creature, to his lair, he might be able to free them, but so far he almost dies every time he gets near Ratman. Obviously he's gonna need help from . . . who else? Batman!


If the other people are also looking for the Detectors, why is Ratman only attacking Cody? If they aren't looking for the Detectors, why not?

Friday, February 01, 2019

Feedback Request

The author of the opening featured in New Beginning 1029 would like feedback on the following revision:



The trees didn’t say a word. They never did. They watched.

Well today, I watched them right back. I stood in the middle of the dog park, staring at the woods in the distance. The sun roasted my shoulders right through my Green Lantern t-shirt, but I didn’t move.

Every day those freaky trees huddled along the back of the dog park like giant green aliens studying me for some crazy experiment. But today, their leaves flickered in the breeze as if a million green fingers were reaching out, begging me to come inside.

What were those trees hiding in there?

Of course Mom’s warning blared in my brain. I mean it, Cody, she’d said a bazillion times. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. I don’t care what the other boys do. You’re never to go in there. Understand, Cody? Never.

Never? C’mon. Is never supposed to mean not ever for the rest of my life?


Notes

I'm not crazy about the trees as aliens simile. Why would the trees behind the dog park look any more like aliens than the trees he sees hundreds of other places?

Cody is probably smart enough to know that even if "never" doesn't mean for eternity, it also doesn't mean he can go in right now.

You don't lose much of anything if you start:

I stood in the middle of the dog park, staring at the trees in the distance. Mom’s warning blared in my brain: I mean it, Cody. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. I don’t care what the other boys do. You’re never to go in there. Understand, Cody? Never.

Never? Come on. "Never," I decided, didn't mean never. It's just a word grownups say when they mean "not today." 

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1212 would like feedback on the following version of the query:



When a giant rat terrorizes his underground city, twelve-year-old Cody’s got some exterminating to do. 

Cody is fed up with his too-busy-to-care divorced parents and runs away. Then he discovers a secret underground city with crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome abilities like reading minds and blending in with nature like a chameleon.

Best. Home. EVER.

But Cody’s adventures take a dark turn when the Detectors, the people who protect the underground city, start disappearing. Without their warnings, the city could get blind-sided by earthquakes, floods, or invasions by deadly beasts.

Cody isn’t about to let his new home come crashing down around him, but every time he tries to help find the Detectors, a mutant man-sized rat attacks him. Ratman roasts Cody with a hot crystal, pushes him down the Devil’s Mouth hole, and tries to drown him in the river. But since Ratman has a talent for mind control, and an annoying habit of turning invisible, no one else believes the freaky fur-face even exists. [Starting that sentence with "But" led me to think you were going to explain why Ratman's attacks failed to get the job done. Perhaps you should explain that there, and start the next paragraph: Because Ratman turns invisible when anyone besides Cody is around. . . .]

Cody knows it’s up to him hunt down Ratman in order to save the Detectors and the city from whatever this whiskered weirdo is plotting-or at least before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him. Looks like Cody’s got some exterminating to do. (Will eliminate this sentence if I keep the hook.)

RATMAN'S REVENGE, my middle grade adventure story complete at 54,000 words, may [should] appeal to readers of Brandon Mull's Fablehaven.  May I send you the manuscript?

Thank you for your time.


Notes

You've taken much of the advice the minions provided way back when, and it's an improvement.

As paragraph 2 precedes paragraph 1 chronologically, if you keep P1, Change P2 to past tense.

It probably reads better without the hook, but that puts Ratman too far down in the query. You could work him into what would be the first sentence: Fed up with his too-busy-to-care divorced parents, Cody runs away to a secret underground city with crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, chameleon people . . . and a mutant man-sized rat that keeps attacking him.

This would require changing the rest of the query somewhat, but that might be a good thing if it gives you room to tell us how Cody plans to defeat Ratman and what goes wrong, and what  happens if he fails.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1390 (below this post) would like feedback on this version of her query.


Dear Evil Editor,

Eighteen-year-old Mea Gwen has all the tools to thrive in a 22nd-century society consumed by money, power, and virtual realities. Too bad she couldn’t care less. She would rather join America’s first Intragalactic Pioneer Program than stay on Earth, even if that means leaving her family’s multi-billion dollar tech company behind.

But before she can experience life among the stars, Mea’s kidnapped by the Reformers, a terrorist group led by the creators of a popular VR game. To prove that the elite aren’t untouchable, the Reformers force the richest of the rich to participate in a deadly competition, and winning is Mea’s only hope for survival. Determined to get back home, Mea promises to do whatever it takes to reach the number one spot.

As she’s pulled deeper into the game, Mea discovers that the Reformers are part of a political conspiracy to gain authoritarian control of America. Either she follows their rules to [possibly] save herself, or she risks her life stopping a plan that would break an already divided country.

A PAWN OF SEDITION is a 90,000-word Young Adult science fiction novel with culturally diverse characters. It delves into the issue of social and economic division and will appeal to fans of Warcross by Marie Lu and The Thousandth Floor series by Katherine McGee.

Thank you for your consideration,


(Not part of the query: I tried to rewrite the query to focus more on the science fiction aspects, but I'm scared it might've added more confusion and unnecessary questions.)


Notes

This is much more intriguing and informative, and I don't have many questions. While I'm interested in whether Mea has to kill other contestants to win, as in The Hunger Games, or whether she's indirectly responsible for their deaths by winning, you've at least said that winning is the only hope for survival.

It's possible some reader could at first misinterpret "Either she follows their rules to save herself, or she risks her life . . . " not as her choice, but as cause and effect. If it said "She must choose: either follow their rules and possibly save herself, or risk her life trying to stop a plan that would break an already divided country." there'd be no ambiguity.

Of course since she's not guaranteed to win the competition, and the Reformers can't be trusted to spare her life if she does win, her life is at stake no matter which choice she makes. She might have a much better chance of survival by trying to stop them, depending on the skill level of her opponents in the competition. Like if the competition is one-on-one basketball, and the other competitors include LeBron James and Kevin Durant, even a 1% chance of stopping the Reformers would be worth the risk. But that's more a concern in the book than in the query.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Face-Lift 1390

Guess the Plot

A Pawn of Sedition

1. Armenian chess master, Ivana Sedition, reveals the secret to her five year run of spectacular wins: the pawns were dictating play to her all along. 

2. Fifteen year old Casey Robbins is sick of being used in his parents' endless war with each other. So tonight he's got Mom's sewing scissors, and when Dad goes to sleep on the couch, Casey's going to end this mess once and for all.

3. Kidnapped by terrorists, Mea must follow their rules to survive. Or she could risk her life trying to stop their plan to kill millions of people. Millions of people who, let's face it, are going to die eventually anyway.

4. Hearse was accepted as Pawn for the Sedition Order, but he has higher aspirations, namely Knighthood. However, to become a Knight, he must make his way across the land, avoiding the Obedience Cult who will stop at nothing to capture him.

5. Queen Mirahda has been trapped in her loveless marriage to King Roneda for thirty long years. Her last hope for revenge against her cruel husband is her 16 year old son, Guthry. Armed with Guthry, her son-in-law Prince Tephy and loyal wizard Demitus, she's ready to launch her play to remove the King. Unfortunately, Guthry is autistic and only interested in wagons and numbers. Can her coup succeed?

6. After being kidnapped by aliens, Lyle creates an Anarchist's Cookbook for his fellow slaves in an attempt to sow enough internal dissension that he can make a break for freedom. Unfortunately, he succeeds too well, becoming the galaxy's go-to agitator, and the only thing stopping a militarized hegemony from conquering Earth.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Eighteen-year-old Mea Gwen knows that to prosper in a society consumed by money, power, and lies, one has to understand the basic tenets of 22nd century America:

People in poverty didn’t work hard enough.

Races can’t get along, so don’t even try.

Facts don’t matter; truth is subjective. [Wait, those are the basic tenets of 21st-century America.]

Luckily Mea has all the tools to thrive — fame, wealth, and her family’s multi-billion dollar tech company. Too bad she couldn’t care less. Wary of the dark world of business, Mea would rather join the first Intergalactic Pioneer Program and spend her days discovering new planets.

But before she can experience life among the stars, a terrorist group calling themselves the Reformers bombs mega bank, United Finances. Their first attack kills hundreds, but it’s only the beginning. Claiming [Vowing] to bring back economic justice, [I'd go with "establish." You can't bring back something that never existed.] the Reformers begin kidnapping the richest of the rich, striking fear through [into?] every designer-wearing floosy [plutocrat? capitalist?] in the country. When the group finds its way [Reformers find their way] to Mea and her company, her trip to through space becomes a distant dream.

Now stuck in the Reformers’ murderous scheme, Mea finds herself twisted [entwined? caught?] in a political conspiracy that threatens the lives of millions. Either she follows their rules to survive, or she risks her life stopping a plan that could break an already divided country. [If Mea is one of their kidnap victims, I don't see that she's also involved in their conspiracy. What do they want her to do?]

A PAWN OF SEDITION, is a 90,000-word Young Adult science fiction novel that delves into the issue of social and political division. The story unfolds using a mix of hacked documents and standard narrative.

Thank you for your consideration,


Notes

It seems more likely that the Reformers would throw all the billionaires into prison than involve them in their conspiracy and trust them to follow their rules.

I want to hear more about how the lives of millions are threatened by the Reformers. It sounds like their goals go well beyond economic justice, so maybe you can let us in on what Mea learns about their true agenda.

The only hint that this is science fiction is that Mea hopes to go into space and look for new planets. It might as well be set in 2018 and she wants to be an astronaut. Can you work something into the query about the science or how the 22nd century is different from the 21st?

You're spending the entire plot summary setting up Mea's situation. We want to know what she plans to do, what goes wrong, what her plan b is. If you condense your first six paragraphs into something like this:

Eighteen-year-old Mea Gwen has all the tools to thrive in a 22nd-century society consumed by money, power, and lies, but Mea would rather ditch her family’s multi-billion dollar tech company, join the first Intragalactic Pioneer Program, and spend her days discovering new planets. Unfortunately, before she can experience life among the stars, she's kidnapped by the Reformers, a terrorist group who've vowed to establish economic justice throughout the country (world?).

... you'll have plenty of room to tell us what happens after she's kidnapped.

Note that I changed "Intergalactic" (between galaxies) to "Intragalactic" (within our galaxy). Inter seems a bit optimistic for the 22nd century. We haven't even explored Uranus yet.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

Face-Lift 1389

Guess the Plot

Shadow Blade

1. Half-human, half demon Jake finds himself in the unenviable position of keeping common folk from stepping through the gate of Pandemonium. Armed with the demon sword Nightforcer, he leaves his human self behind and becomes--Shadow Blade. At least, when his mother lets him.

2. Mara finds a dull dagger in her family's shed. While the physical blade can't cut anything, its shadow is the sharpest she's seen. Now with war on the horizon, can she save the family homestead or will she always remain in shadow?

3. Jen enrolls in a culinary school where the pastry chef is invisible, the pixies steal her bread homework, and the chickens tell her what she's doing wrong while she dismembers them for stew. When a relationship with the hottest guy in school wreaks havoc on her ability to control cooking temperature, does she still have a chance to win the coveted Shadow Blade awarded at the year-end cooking competition? Includes recipes adapted to the mundane world.

4. Some preternatural beings have the ability to heal. Kit has the opposite power: The ability to kill with her mind (also known as "shadow blade"). It would make her a valuable weapon if war breaks out, but not wanting to be used by Parliament as a weapon, she goes into hiding. But can she hide for an entire novel? Also, a vampire.

5. Sir Donald decides to attack the black knight's shadow with the shadow of his sword. But his blade unexpectedly ends up stuck in the ground, leaving him defenseless as a volley of blows rains upon him. Hey, it was worth a try.

6. When assassin-in-training Liffelio loses his shadow blade in the darkest part of Night City, he'll need to find another way to take out his training target--the iffy comedienne Carla-Arla--without actually killing her, but proving he easily could have, while getting involved but not letting it get personal; and keep his instructor thinking he still has the shadow blade while simultaneously looking for it and trying to buy a new one. 

7. Half devil, half angel Tonner walks the earth in search of entrances to Hell or Heaven. He kills their keepers with his holy Shadow Blade, then sucks their vitality with the sword. Yep, Jim Harris is convinced that this superhero he's created will sell to Marvel, DC, or Dark Horse. Then maybe he can pay his Mom rent for living in the basement.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When the psychic Parliament orders her keeper to remove the bind that's kept her abilities locked inside her head the past few years, Kit Chase is thrilled. [I'm not crazy about three pronouns appearing before their antecedent is mentioned. It would be easy for a reader to assume the "her"s refer to the psychic Parliament. Or that the first "her" refers to the psychic Parliament and the next two refer to the psychic Parliament's keeper. Admittedly we don't think of a Parliament as female, but we also don't think of one as psychic, and in a fantasy novel some author might decide to call the ruler of a kingdom its Parliament rather than its queen. Perhaps: Kit Chase is thrilled when her keeper removes the bind that has kept Kit's abilities locked inside her head for years.] She would be more thrilled if she didn't suspect ulterior motives behind the order. After all, the Parliament's not exactly known for its charity and, having been raised around the machinations of vampires and Fae, Kit recognizes a hidden agenda when she sees it.

Her suspicions are borne out when she finds their interest [Presumably "their" refers to the psychic Parliament, not to her suspicions or to vampires and Fae? If so, I note that in the previous sentence you used singular "its" as the pronoun referring to the Parliament, and now you're using plural "their." Assuming the Parliament consists of more than one being, I'd go with "their" consistently.] stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, the rarely seen counterpart to the healing ability. [It sounds like you want "antithesis" rather than "counterpart."] So rarely [seen], in fact, she's unaware she has the ability until she's made to execute a prisoner. [I don't think the fact that a power is rarely seen has anything to do with whether a person knows she has it. For instance, most of the members of the Justice League and the X-men and the Avengers have rarely-seen powers, but they all know they have them. I would change "stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, the rarely seen counterpart to the healing ability. So rarely, in fact, she's unaware she has the ability until she's made to execute a prisoner" to "stems from her ability to kill with kinesis, a power she's unaware she has until she's made to execute a prisoner." Or you could change she's unaware to she doesn't suspect, which makes sense if it's extremely rare.] Mutterings of war with the rest of the preternatural community follow swiftly amongst the Parliament members. [You're saying the members of Parliament mutter about going to war with the other preternatural beings because having Kit on their side would assure victory? Aren't the members of Parliament part of the preternatural community? If the British Parliament had a super-powerful weapon, they wouldn't declare war on the British people. They'd declare war on America.] 

Kit's not the type to take orders well, especially when they include the words 'preternatural war' and 'weapon'. Disappearing into the human world sounds like a fine way to avoid those words. She doesn't realize it's going to set the entire preternatural community after her, including the vampire that raised her mother and refused to take her in after the death of her parents.

Hiding from the Parliament is easy. Hiding from the vampire that taught you to track, not so much. Preventing a war that would destroy a millennia of peace and spill over into the human world? Impossible. But then, people say the same thing about kinesis.

My debut novel, SHADOW BLADE, is urban fantasy complete at 93K words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

A lot of blue words, but mostly for minor stuff.

There's been peace for a thousand years, but as soon as Kit shows she can kill one person with kinesis, Parliament is ready to go to war? Why?

"Kinesis" means movement, right? I don't think it's clear what Kit does to kill someone. Does she just think, Die!? Or is there some movement involved? The word "kinesis" isn't self-explanatory.

Not sure how they knew Kit had this power when they made her kill a prisoner, or how they explained to her how it works, but I'd have been afraid she'd turn the power on me after I made her kill a stranger.

I wouldn't bring up the psychic Parliament in sentence 1. No one will know what that means. I'm still not sure what it means. They're all psychic? I'm guessing they rule over all preternaturals? I'd give them a better name.

A woman who can kill with some rare power and goes into hiding to avoid becoming a weapon of war is intriguing. Even if everyone else including the one tracking her is human. That she's being tracked by a vampire seems to detract from the main conflict. Did you make him a vampire because she could easily kill anyone who isn't already dead? 

Possibly you could tell us what Kit's goal is, and how she plans to achieve it. Right now all she does is run and hide. Does she do anything that could help prevent a war? Does it work, or does something go wrong? Does she have a difficult decision to make?