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.


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.)


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,


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.



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?