Monday, December 21, 2020

Feedback Request

The author of the book whose query appeared in Face-Lift 1410 would like feedback on the following version of the query.

Dear Evil Editor, 

When the villagers of Lambahvras are forced to evacuate their homeland by an invasive toxic weed, they decide to take up residence in an abandoned island fortress, Carraig Runda [anagram: agrarian crud]. The villagers choose it as a place to escape the poison plants [agrarian crud] and maintain their independence from the rest of the world.  

Upon reaching it after a difficult journey, they must establish a steady food and heat source before winter freezes the lake. As they explore, they find evidence of the previous inhabitants: furnished rooms, garden ruins, glyphs. They also discover remnants of advanced technology that would make habitation here self-sustainable. [How'd that work out for the previous inhabitants?] But how to activate the mechanisms eludes them. 

Rue, the priestess of Lambahvras, believes the structure is a temple. And that a human sacrifice would awaken the gods and allow access to the power here. Her target is Petal Longseed, [sister of Pippi Longstocking and] an orphan village girl. 

Mathieu Westerhall is not one of the Lambahvras. He’s a scientist who journeyed with them from the village to the fortress. He volunteered to care for Petal when her mother was killed and superstitions ostracized her Petal. He’s come to love the gentle, studious girl like a daughter. To protect her from Rue’s religious faction, he’ll need to convince everyone that blood won’t unlock the secrets of Carraig Runda. But if not blood, then what? 

SEEDS IN SHALLOW SOIL is a 108,000 word fantasy novel. It is a standalone book with the potential to become a series. Comparison titles for this work would be Joe Hill’s The Fireman, [and] The Wicker Man (1973), Fiddler on the Roof (1971), and The Oregon Trail computer game. [Including those last two will make the reader wonder if this is a hoax query.]


Way better than the original. Now we have a story with some conflict.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Q & A 194

As word count expectations vary across genres. Do these expectations apply to the query letter? Is it somewhat expected that a query letter in fantasy, science fiction, or historical fiction will run longer than one where the setting/time is more familiar?

I certainly hope not, or books like War and Peace and the Bible would have query letters ten pages long. Devta, by Muhiyyu-d-Deen Nawaab, would have a 50-page query, which would be bad enough, but it would also be written in Urdu. 

The reason queries are supposed to be about a page has nothing to do with the length or genre; it's because that's as much as an agent or editor can bear to read. Chalk it up to short attention spans.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Q & A 193

 I have signed up for a 7 week writer’s group hosted by a published author that I am a fan of. 

There are five other students in the class and we will be critiquing each other’s work. Would EE care to offer any pearls of wisdom on how to provide feedback to writers? Of course I’ll be modeling my behavior on your examples from the blog but is there any advice you could provide explicitly?

Also, any advice on ingratiating myself to the author? I’m going for an easy A and access to her network of contacts in the publishing industry. 

The 1st thing you need to do is figure out how many of the other students think they're the smartest person in the class. Those people won't listen to your comments, except for the ones in which you praise them effusively, so start by praising them effusively, but then tell them they'll never make it as a writer because no agent will want to work with a narcissistic ass. 

The other writers will probably only respect the opinion of the published author, so agree with whatever the author says, especially if they're arguing with one of the writers. This may ingratiate you. A better way to ingratiate yourself (and get that "A") is to sign up for the author's follow-up course. 

The only way the author will give you access to their network of contacts is if you produce stellar writing. But not so stellar that the author fears you'll become more famous than they are.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Face-Lift 1410

Guess the Plot 

Seeds in Shallow Soil

1. Sacked from selling seashells at the seashore, Sue seeks to sow seeds in shallow soil. 

2. When magic and science both fail to kill the toxic weeds destroying their crops, farmers, led by a stranger in patent leather shoes,  set out on a brutal journey in search of a new home, one surrounded by a fortress that weeds can't penetrate.

3. Rose was always down on her luck. Now that she's grown, she wants to help her old friends, Iris, Holly, and Violet. But can this trio of miscreants rise above their meager surroundings? Or will they always live in the shallow end? 

4. Conman Jonas accidentally discovers he's good enough at the self-help guru shtik to thumb his nose at the feds who're giving him the eye. Unfortunately, he's good enough at it to become internationally recognized, and his long, long trail of unhappy marks want back what he bilked them out of. Plus interest.

5. Don't worry, this isn't yet another preachy allegory. It's your complete guide to the exciting world of tillandsia--plants that grow anywhere, need minimal care, and die after they flower. Which, come to think of it, pretty much makes it yet another preachy allegory.

6. Farmer Hiram sows his corn on barren, rocky soil. After years of failure, he sells his tractor, moves to Washington, and makes a seven-figure income lobbying for farm support. 

Original Version 

Dear Evil Editor, 

Nobleman Mathieu Westerhall is nobody’s idea of a hero. He’s privileged and aloof. He doesn’t venture outside of his upper crust neighborhood in the capitol [capital] if he can help it. 

Which is why he’s dismayed to be squatting in a field in the remote hamlet of Lambahvras; [Wasn't lamb bah vras the sheeps' password in Babe?] a place so small the name on the map far outsizes it’s [its] geographical area. [I assume you mean its geographical area on the map, and not its actual geographical area, because otherwise Lambahvras would have to be about two inches wide. Or the map would have to be about a mile wide, in which case it wouldn't fit in the glove compartment, even when folded up. Not that they have glove compartments in Lambahvras, I assume.] [When you think about it, every country's name would outsize it's geographical size on the map if you use a big enough font size.] [I wonder if stage coaches and hansom cabs had glove compartments. Never mind me, I'm babbling.] He’s attempting to scoop up dirt samples with one hand and keep his handkerchief pressed to his nose with the other. [If only he had a coronavirus mask.] All while avoiding scratches from a thorny, foul-smelling weed that the village innkeeper assures him is toxic.

No one mentioned this agricultural problem when the Queen assigned him the dreaded task of land survey. He was expecting quaint hospitality and platters of fresh food. [If that's what he expected, why is the task "dreaded"?] It wasn’t until the carriage driver had gone that he learned there was no food to be spared. That the town had been overrun by this stubborn weed that chokes crops and cattle alike. 

He ought to have returned at once to report this to the Royal Botanists Society. He could have returned home, filed a report, and resumed his wedding plans. But by the time his reports are [got] reviewed, the homesteads could be destroyed. 

The Lambahvrans are desperate. Desperate enough to allow a city man like him to use his fancy science equipment and interfere with their hexes. These are their homes. Their farmland. And their reservation. [Can you be more specific about the fancy scientific equipment? That Matt arrived by carriage and not car, and that he's wearing patent leather shoes, would indicate it's betweem 1820 and 1910. If we're on Earth. So I assume we're not talking about crop dusting airplanes.] 

What Mathieu doesn’t know yet is that his fancy science is going to fail. [Thus portending the rise of the first Trumpians.] And the Lambahvrans are going to leave. It’s going to be Mathieu of all people who suggests hiding out in an ancient island fortress. [Wait, what are they hiding from? The weed? That's the only threat that's been mentioned.] 

Perhaps most absurd of all, he’s going to go with them. On a hard march through the wilderness. In patent leather shoes. And that reaching this fortress -- if they can -- will only prove the first challenge. [The second will be convincing his privileged fiancée to move into an ancient island fortress with a bunch of impoverished strangers.]

SEEDS IN SHALLOW SOIL is a 108,000 word fantasy novel. It is intended to be the first novel in a series, although I designed the structure to work as a standalone book [with the potential to become a series.] 

 Thank you for your time and consideration.


I think you left something out. If they can't beat the weeds, why don't they just march to somewhere with good soil and no weeds? What does this island fortress offer them? Your entire plot seems to be farmers facing ruin because of weeds take up residence in an old fortress.

If most of the story takes place after they get to the fortress, you could just start with:

When the hamlet Lambahvras is overrun by toxic weeds that choke their crops and their cattle, the people embark on a long and brutal journey to an ancient island fortress. 

Then you have plenty of room to tell us what happens in your story.  

If most of the book is the journey to the fortress, tell us about the obstacles they must overcome along the way, and how they plan to overcome them. I'm assuming these obstacles are more interesting than weeds.

Either way, we need to know why they're going where they're going.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

Six Books for Ten Bucks!

It's been years since anyone bought these books, so it's time to get them off my bookshelves. All six for $10 plus another $5 for shipping and packaging. While supplies last. But wait, that's not all! You also get the PDF version of Evil Editor's History of the World in Tweets, which you can read on your computer or tablet while you wait for your books to show up. 

Why You Don't Get Published, vols. 1 & 2, the funniest books about writing, and the only ones anyone has ever finished.

Novel Deviations, volumes 1, 2, and 3. 

Openings to actual books, continued
by EE and his minions.

Evil Editor Teaches School
101 hilarious writing exercises by Evil Editor
and his minions (mostly Evil Editor)

To order, go to Evil Editor's Bookstore, click the box with EE's picture and "6-book special." 

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Face-Lift 1409

Guess the Plot

Dreams of Ethereal Ash

1. Chimney sweep Bucky LaRue keeps dozing off on the job. Hilarity ensues. Also, a disreputable roofing contractor.

2. Ist, son of Ars, dreams of the lost third heaven where mountains of fire consumed the land and sea and sky. He finds the place and bottles some of the sparkly ash to sell to the gullible. Unfortunately, a group of rather determined men and women tell him his dreams are the key to stopping the destruction of all worlds, heavens, and hells. Is it too late to pretend he made it all up?

3. Returning to her home kingdom after a journey to the eastern islands, Eleanor finds the land covered in ash. The long-dormant volcano, Mount Hephaestus, obviously erupted in her absence. Equally obviously, Eleanor's prayers to the god Vulcan have finally been answered, and she won't have to go back to her high school ever again.

4. When TV Skincare guru Dr Ashley Seborrea wakes to find her material form stolen by demons, she longs for her regular life. How to advise the nation on the perfect popping of their pustules when she's invisible, intangible — and emitting random wails for comedic effect? A chance meeting with Butch the Insubstantial Beagle on the outer rim of the Astral Plane solidifies Ash's emerging master plan. The pair rematerialise into one another's lives, drawing the demons out of hiding. But when the great cosmic battle is over, will Butch give up his new-found passion for treating underarm acne — or will he cast Ash into the nightmare world of superstore dog feed and knobbly rubber bones till the end of time?

5. Sixteen-year-old Bennett longs to become an Imperial Knight, so he can hunt the degenerate pirates bringing terror and death upon the enemies of the empire. But first he has to summon his animal familiar, aka his ethereal, which will be difficult because he's the only person who doesn't have one (well, dead people don't have one because when you die your ethereal crumbles to ash, but that's another story), and he can't get an ethereal because he would need magic to get one and he's also the only person who doesn't have magic. If he had an ethereal it could help him get magic, but . . .  In the end, Bennett abandons his childhood dream and becomes a pirate himself and screw the empire.

6. Big trees, little tree, red trees, blue trees. Samson has been dreaming of trees for as long as he can remember. Does the new ash tree in his dreams have anything to do with the murder spree happening in his hometown? 

7. In this collection of post-apocalyptic, Mad-Max-style fairy tale mashups, Cinderella joins Hell's Angels to overthrow the monarchy, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White battle it out in a top secret cryo-lab, and the Pied Piper meets his match in Hansel and Gretel. With cameo appearances by other favorites.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

To hunt degenerate pirates afflicting [raiding? plundering?] the islands under imperial protection and to bring death upon the enemies of the empire. [Not clear so far whether it's the islands, or the pirates afflicting the islands, that are under imperial protection. Perhaps "To hunt pirates raiding the empire's islands . . . " would address this minor point. Also, as the enemies of an empire are more likely to be countries with armies than individuals, you could go with destroy or repel rather than bring death upon. A colon after the first sentence might be better than a period.] These are the responsibilities of Imperial Knights. For sixteen-year-old Bennett, becoming a knight would fulfill his dream. 

In a society where magic is as unique as one’s own fingerprint and animal familiars called Ethereals are a part of daily life, standing out can be difficult, becoming a knight, near impossible. Especially for Bennett. Unlike everyone else, whose lives revolve around magic and their Ethereal, Bennett has neither. [A person who's unlike everyone else would "stand out."] To obtain magic, he needs to first summon his Ethereal. He can’t. What he can do is fight anyone who ridicules his malady.

On his fourth and final chance [attempt?] to summon, an attack on his home island of Sutton shatters his world. Were it an ordinary pirate raid, life would go on, but Sutton’s protectors were never prepared for a rebel invasion. The empire fails to protect its citizens, and Bennett loses everything. His misguided faith in the knights leads to his sister’s abduction, and for the first time he sees the empire as an uncaring, self-fulfilling [Self-indulgent? Self-serving?] regime.

With nowhere to go and his remaining family kidnapped by rebels, [Remaining family besides his sister?] Bennett tosses aside his childhood dream, taking on a life of piracy. Together with new friends, Bennett will devise a plan to rescue his sister [family?] while spitting in the faces of both the empire and rebellion before all-out war tears her [them?] from his grasp. [If his sister is his only remaining family member, just say sister.]

DREAMS OF ETHEREAL ASH is a 92,000-word YA fantasy appealing to readers of The Storm Crow and Dark Shores.

Thank you for your consideration.


You need an Ethereal to get magic so summoning an Ethereal apparently doesn't require magic. What does it require, and why can't Bennett do it? Because he has a malady? Is there an Ethereal somewhere waiting to be summoned by Bennett, and thinking, Come on, you moron, just say my name three times?

Now that Bennett's seen the light, why doesn't he want to join the rebels? It would give him easier access to his sister than being a pirate. True, a sixteen-year old kid would be welcomed by degenerate pirates, but not for the right reasons. Plus, his sister isn't gonna want to be a pirate, so it's either join the rebels or move to another empire.

Was Bennett on the island when the rebels attacked? What are the rebels doing with all the people they kidnapped? 

If everyone except Bennett has magic, he should know he's disqualified from becoming a knight. He'd be like Peter Parker before he became Spiderman, fighting against Doctor Strange.

Whether you need to mention Ethereals in the query depends on whether they are useful after they give you magic. You summon one, it gives you magic, and then? Abandons you? Hangs with you like a wise-cracking sidekick? 

I don't think we need everything in the first paragraph. If you started something like:

For sixteen-year-old Bennett, becoming a knight would fulfill his every dream. But in a society where magic is as common as cockroaches, becoming a knight is impossible for someone without it. Someone like Bennett. 

An attack on his home island of Sutton shatters Bennett's world. Were it an ordinary pirate raid, life would go on, but the Imperial Knights were never prepared for a rebel invasion . . . 

you might have room to provide some answers to my questions. Or to tell us what kind of magic we're talking about. Apparently the knights can't stop the rebels by creating a force field or making them all disappear or turning them into frogs. What do people use magic for?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Face-Lift 1408

Guess the Plot

Waking Horizon

1. Beware, for the days of yore have come to pass and the horizon wakes to cleanse the world. Too bad Jenna sleeps in until noon.

2. 6'6" 330lb Marco Bryce attends the Air Force Academy on a linebacker scholarship, but he really wants to fly jet fighters. Unfortunately, so do a lot of shorter, lighter applicants. Fortunately, they are shorter, lighter, and a lot more fragile.

3. Narcolepsy is ruining Vern's life. His well-meaning mother sends him to a clinic for necrophobia which happens to be an undercover training grounds for killing the undead. Vern enjoys training to become a slayer, but falling asleep at the wrong moment leads to an unfortunate misunderstanding of which side of the grave he belongs on.

4. When Mary picked up a book on lucid dreaming she didn't think it would lead to setting loose a dream demon. Now half the population is falling into comas, the other half is going crazy from lack of sleep, and the Dream Keepers tell Mary her death is the only way to stop the demon. She just hopes prom isn't cancelled.

5. When witch Anisa gets accused of accessory to attempted murder, the alpha of the lupine pack is pissed. This could bring unwanted attention to all the new species infiltrating the human race. Also, an unlikely romance.

6. As the sun rises, the residents of the Corgian Kingdom see the purple horde army of their enemy, Annuviul IV, moving through the plains, and it doesn't look like they're coming for a party. Can one teenage girl thwart them with her secret superpower? 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Killing people is complicated. Nearly as complicated as [getting rid of the body, but she'll find a place to put it if it takes] the rest of Anisa Claire Hawthorn's life. She'd [She's] spent the last fifteen years of her damned existence running.Now she kills the same monsters that killed her mother. The modern world has become a frightening place.The human race is still adjusting to news of the three new species that call themselves "The Kindred". [Are the monsters who killed her mother people or actual monsters? If she's killing non-human monsters, why not open by saying killing monsters is complicated?.] They bear resemblance to the mythical creatures that human folklore has painted in many shades over the centuries- and Anisa is one of them.She's a craft weaver, whom many in human history have labeled a witch. If only they knew there were much worse things out there. [Who is "they"? Many in human history? How would the world be different if only they knew?] [Are craft weavers one of the three new species? Because they aren't that new.] [Three of the sentences in this paragraph didn't have a space after them.] 

But trying to be inconspicuous isn't alsways [always] easy when you're a Kindred. Humans view the Kindred in equal parts reverence and fear. Some, with a healthy dose of suspecion. [suspicion] Regardless, Anisa tries to start anew when she settles in a small, rural town in Northern Georgia.

Despite her best efforts, Anisa suddenly receives more attention than a girl in hiding could ask for-becoming an accessory for [to] attempted murder to start [for starters]. Now some of the local Kindred aren't happy with her; namely, [especially] the alpha of the southern lupine pack. Still trying to stay under the radar, while simultaneously ["While" implies simultaneously.] attempting to clear her name, Anisa uses every tool at her disposal to find whose [who's] set her up. [You said she became an accessory to murder, but clearing her name suggests she didn't do it.] Can she awaken the foreign magic within in order to save herself and those she loves? [If she's been killing monsters, I have to assume she's already awakened the magic within. If you have magic powers, you don't keep them buried within when you're going monster hunting. You didn't see the Scarlet Witch taking on Thanos without using her magic.] Or will she lose to the impending threat just waking over the horizon? [What is the impending threat that's just waking?]

Waking Horizon is a 94,000 word paranormal romance novel. [This is a romance novel? Who's the romance between? Anisa and the wolfman?] It is the first installment to a series. Readers that enjoy works from Ilona Andrews and Gena Showalter might also enjoy this.

I live in Birmingham, Alabama where I work as a nurse in the ICU. I've had a love for reading my entire life, and have recently developed an equal love and enjoyment for writing.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


How many monsters were involved in killing her mother? Shouldn't have taken more than two or three, so Anisa should be finished with her mission.

Start over. Paragraph 1: Who's your main character, what's her situation, and what's her goal? (Saving the world? Hooking up with the hunky warlock?)

Paragraph 2: What obstacles are preventing her from succeeding? What's her plan to overcome them? What goes wrong?

Paragraph 3: What's at stake? What will happen if she fails? (To the world or to her lover or whatever). 

Something about the romance should be included.

Monday, August 17, 2020

New Beginning 1090

I am twelve. I have reddish blond pigtails, a retainer, big front teeth my orthodontist says I will grow into. He made me feel bad when he said I was in the ugly duckling stage. I wanted him to fix, really fix my teeth. I read the story when I was six, my Dad read it to me when I was three. I know what an ugly duckling is. It isn’t nice to be called names.

Especially that name when you know that is what you are.

I have glasses. I have to wear them at school. My teacher makes me. She makes me sit at the front. I don’t want to be in front. The side, the back – anywhere but the front.

I got up from my front row desk, walked over to her at her desk and told her “You are very sick.”

I think she thought I was being rude or nasty. I put my arms around her. She felt stiff. I told her it was okay, we all get sick one day. Her sickness just came early. I touched her face, told her it will be fast and not to worry.

I handed her tissues as her eyes filled, we have to carry tissues in our breast pocket at school. I felt bad.

I took my glasses off. I always see better without them. I closed my eyes, my arms still around her.

“I will miss you when you go.” Tears dripped down my face. I tasted salt.

My teacher went kind of soft and put her arms around me.

“Thank you.” She whispered close to my ear. I hugged her more.

I am an Indigo Child. And that means...

"But," she interrupted me, "It's indolent. You are an indolent child. Look it up -- it will help you with your essay: And I'm not going anywhere until you finish it."

As I stepped back, she thanked me again with a firmer voice. Then she took my hand, un-clenched my fingers, and took back the pearl necklace I had removed from her during the hug. "First my purse, then my cellphone, now this," she said, shaking her head. "You're the one who is sick."

Opening: Wilkins MacQueen.....Continuation: ril

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Face-Lift 1407

Guess the Plot

The High Lord's Demon

1. Jake Lord loves his rum. Perhaps too much.

2. It was so cute when he found it, all scales and nibbly teeth and a tail that curled around his wrist. Now that it's grown though, Aldred's having a hard time keeping it fed. Maybe it's time to let the inquisition gather up witches and heretics for meal times. Or have a war.

3, The Duke has a cherub. The King has an archangel. The High Lord is supposed to have a guardian angel, but instead has a demon. Wacky Faustian adventures ensue.

4. When High Lord Vreshex had his mother-in-law executed, he thought that would be the last of her. Unfortunately, she's come back as an agent for Hell's most diabolical schemes. Vreshex doesn't care what she does, as long as she's gone. But she has other plans.

5. High Lord Arkaen's lover has an inhuman seer's power that makes him near-omniscient. He has predicted a coming war, but Arkaen doesn't know if he can trust him. After all, the guy could be a demon from hell! Also, a spy in need of debt forgiveness.

6. Father Leofwin tries his best to steer his flock toward heaven, but how can he compete with the high lord's demon, who tempts the peasants with wine and pastries and medieval torture porn? Maybe it's time for a new holy war.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The High Lord's Demon is a high fantasy novel complete at 110,000 words planned as the standalone opening to a series. The book will appeal to lovers of low-magic fantasy [I'm sure Stephen King didn't tell his publisher that Cujo would appeal to fans of 101 Dalmatians, even though that was obviously true. So perhaps it's better to say it will appeal to fans of Naomi Novik and Jacqueline Carey than to lovers of low magic fantasy.] [Also, I think I'd prefer this paragraph at the end of your plot summary, before or in place of your credits.] while including political and fantastical elements that will also draw readers of Naomi Novik's novel Uprooted. 

Niamsha's debts to the local thieves guild may be unpaid, but it's hardly her fault the damned high lord of her home province destroyed the economy—and Niamsha's only chance at a decent life—with his new laws. In a desperate attempt to save her brother from joining her on the streets, Niamsha [Anagram: I, Shaman, which might be a better title for the book if she is a shaman. In fact, I like that title so much, consider making her a shaman if she isn't one already.] [Of course if you do make her a shaman, you should change her name so it isn't an anagram of the title.] accepts a job as a spy against [spying on] a disgruntled nobleman. But when her advice inspires rebellion, the situation spirals out of her control and puts more than just her brother at risk. [I'm not sure what the "situation" was, but I find it hard to believe it was ever in her control. Niamsha is in debt, living on the streets, and has no chance at a decent life. Yet someone (whoever hired her, I assume) takes her advice in a situation so serious it could inspire a rebellion?]

High Lord Arkaen should be on the path to martyrdom. He sacrificed his childhood innocence fighting a civil war and relinquished a comfortable life with the man he loves to reclaim his place as high lord from corrupt nobles. And one of these days his blind idealism is going to get him killed. But his lover, gifted with an inhuman seer's power that makes him near-omniscient, predicts a new war. One that demands a united front from Arkaen's fractured province. Despite the magic his lover commands, all Arkaen knows about the coming conflict is that, somehow, Niamsha is caught in the middle of it. [How does he know this? Did his inhuman seer tell him?] 

With the province divided, Arkaen and Niamsha must find common ground to protect their families from a deadly coup. But Arkaen's lover has mysterious plans of his own, and even Arkaen can't predict what steps he might take in the name of peace.

I have a bachelor's degree in English with a creative writing emphasis, I work as a freelance developmental editor, and I have been active in multiple creative writing groups, including holding a position as an officer of my local writer's group.

Thank you for your consideration.


The Niamsha paragraph is vague. Who hired her? What's her objective as a spy? What's the situation that's spiraling out of control? Who or what is at risk besides her brother, and in what way?

It's usually best to focus on one main character. If you have two main characters, I would focus on Arkaen. The paragraph about Arkaen has more information and specificity. Plus, Arkaen's the one with the demon.

Now, if you have only one main character, and it's Niamsha, put in some information explaining why she's a major player in this rebellion/war/situation. Does she have followers? Powers?

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Face-Lift 1406

Guess the Plot

Two of Cups

The heartwarming dual memoir of a transgender single father and his recovering alcoholic teenage daughter, told in alternating points of view, centering on the day they finally come to understand one another's story during a long afternoon spent arguing, laughing, crying, and bra shopping.

2. Two of Cups, Three of Swords, Seven of Clubs. When Susan started tarot reading she thought it a fun way to pass the time. But her predictions always come true and her demise has been predicted by the Tower card.

3. When a witch at a Philadelphia occult co-op is killed, the other witches fear a serial killer whose signature is that they only kill witches at Philadelphia occult co-ops is on the loose. Can they expose him/her, and if not, which witch is next?

4. Lord Two of the island of Cups has problems. Lady Two hates him. Dog Two prefers getting petted by the butler. Son Two doesn’t look a thing like his supposed father, Lord Two. And the island of Cups is slowly sinking into the sea. Hilarity ensues. Also a weredingo.

5. Tarot cards are the order of the day at the Magicians annual poker tournament. This year, Vremes the Not-Quite-There-Yet casts a spell to ensure his victory and the admiration of Alealea, winner of Hottest Magician three years standing. But, when The Fool card comes to life and stacks the decks, The Tower becomes the venue; Death, the barkeep; and Vanna White summons up the Wheel Of Fortune. Hijinks ensue. 

6. Pessimist Yolanda keeps getting the two of cups at her Tarot reading. She refuses to accept that her relationship with Brad will be happy and fulfilling, and keeps paying for new readings, hoping to get the three of swords so she can back out of the wedding. She fails, but it's Brad who backs out when he discovers Yolanda has run up a $47,000 credit card bill on Tarot readings. 

7. Jack of Diamonds has always been the coolest card in the game. But now there's a weird new deck in town, and somebody's gonna pay.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

THEN: Sixteen-year-old Amelia knows that witchcraft is a crock of shit. [Okay, you're probably thinking I suggested deleting "of shit" because an agent might be turned off by encountering, in the first sentence she reads as she's enjoying her morning coffee, the image of an earthenware pot filled with shit. But no, it's because in Googling the word "crock" I found there are two definitions. 1. The previously mentioned earthenware container (which was often kept bedside in homes without indoor plumbing so people wouldn't have to trek to the outhouse in the dark of night, hence the term "crock of shit") and 2. Something considered to be complete nonsense. (informal; North American). The latter seems to be satisfactory in the context of your sentence, at least if you're in North America (which is a reasonable assumption, as otherwise you might have said "crock of shite.")] [Also, the crock pot full of chili I left simmering on my kitchen counter before leaving for work this morning is suddenly seeming less enticing.] [Also, the THEN/NOW format, which has been used for eternity on the TV show Supernatural, doesn't bother me, but I wonder whether it might be better to use past tense for the part of the plot summary that's been labeled "THEN."] Her best friend Cora isn't so sure.

When Cora asks for help with a spell, Amelia wants to say no. Devil worship isn’t the kind of thing her Jesus freak parents will let slide. [Everything I know about witchcraft I learned from watching Bewitched, but I don't remember an episode in which Samantha worshipped the devil.] But Amelia doesn’t know how else to help her desperate friend. Cora’s parents are dying, and she’s convinced a healing spell is the only way to save them.

Cora makes living in this podunk town bearable. Amelia can’t risk losing her.

NOW: Amelia is one of the top-rated psychics in Philadelphia. She’s also a total fraud. [Which means whoever is in charge of rating Philadelphia's psychics is also a total fraud.] She’s trying not to feel too bad about it. There are more scammers than sage [Sages? Seers?] at Newton Square, the occult coworking space where Amelia rents a room.

Only three legit witches [Did you mean "legit" or "LEGO"?] work there, including Cora and Nathalie. [If you change the word "including" to the name of the other legit witch, you won't have to refer to the other legit witch as "the other real witch" if she gets murdered later in the query.] Nathalie, the annoyingly beautiful newest tenant, disrupts everyone with her Latin chanting, stinks up the place with her potions, and scoffs at Amelia’s business.

But when the other real witch is carried out of Newton Square on a stretcher, Nathalie turns to Amelia for help. It should be simple for a clairvoyant to find out who’s behind the attack, and which witch is next. [In which case Nathalie and Cora are the ones who can find out. So why does Nathalie turn to Amelia, the fraud she scoffs at?] [Which Witch is a better title. Another book has that title, but you're allowed to use another book's title if your book is better.] [If it isn't better, how about The Next Witch to Die.]

Amelia may not have a sixth sense, but she’s pretty sure Nathalie knows more than she’s letting on. If she works with Nathalie, Amelia goes from under the radar to potential victim.  If they don't figure out who’s after Newton Square’s witches, Cora could be next in line for a body bag. [As could Nathalie. As could anybody if the killer can't tell which witches are real witches.] 

TWO OF CUPS is 70,000 words of fiction. [What?! This is fiction?] Chapters alternate between Amelia’s adult and teenage years. It is an #ownvoices narrative with several queer characters. I’m not a psychic (not even a fake one) but I do live in Philadelphia, and like Amelia [I can't wait to get out of this podunk town.] am too gay for my own good. [Not sure what that means, but "ownvoices" is probably enough.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


I don't see the need for the "THEN" part of the query. The "NOW" part is the right length for a query, and "THEN" part doesn't tell us much other than Cora and Amelia were friends before NOW.

Why isn't Cora bothered by her friend, who isn't a legit witch, potentially stealing real witch business from her? It's like when Hannah Rogers set up her literary agency (see sidebar) and suddenly all these big-time agents like Donald Maass and Sterling Lord were threatening lawsuits because people were sending manuscripts to Hannah instead of to them. She won those suits, but it cost her time and money to defend her right to pretend to be an agent.

After one Newton Square witch is killed, the main suspects would be her romantic partners, her disgruntled clients, the warlock whose spell book she stole, etc. It takes two Newton Square witch murders to establish that someone's possibly after Newton Square witches. As proof, two great European chefs were murdered before anyone asked, "Who is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?"

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Face-Lift 1405

Guess the Plot

The Colors of a Nation

1. An encyclopedic examination of the meanings of the colors of national flags. Includes fascinating stories about how each flag's colors were chosen to represent the nation's history and people and how those choices often led to riots and mass murder.

2. Edith has been drawing maps since she was old enough to hold a crayon. Unknown to her, this has been redefining geography and political boundaries in the world of Arycol. When she's magically transported there, she must decide: should she fix the mess she's made . . . or take over?

3. A political map of the world shows each country in a different color from those of the countries it borders. But who decides what color each country gets? Nathaniel Barkley does. This is his story. Includes trivia such as which color has never been used on a map.

4. An in-depth history of flags through the centuries. Not only includes anecdotes, legends, and lists of heraldry but also materials, patterns, shapes, and of course the importance of dyes and which country uses human blood to dye its flags. Also, flags' strange relationship to underwear.

5. A century from now, white supremacists will control the US government, enslaving people of color with mind-controlling chips and the threat of lynching. Think Trump lite. Can one 20-year-old girl bring equality to the nation . . . while also finding true love?

6. It took decades and the strong leadership of calm, intelligent Presidents to erase the craziness of the '16 to '20 era, but now the country is greater than ever. Racism, sexism, homophobia and other ills are all but solved, and neighbors interact with peace and love. That is, until one jackass decides to paint his house bright orange. Thank God we all still have our guns.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for THE COLORS OF A NATION, a New Adult Science Fiction novel complete at 92,000 words.

Six months ago, 20-year-old Meia Gwen was proud to be a slave. But that was before the mind-controlling chip in her brain stopped working.

In the year 2123, the U.S. government uses chips to promote slavery and their white supremist [supremacist] agenda, their biggest threat being people like Meia (Insubordinates, they call them). [What is it that distinguishes "people like Meia"? Are they all people whose chips have stopped working? Are they all people of color?] But unlike other Insubordinates, Meia doesn’t want to hide out to avoid getting lynched—she wants, no needs to fight back. So for months she has searched for the Party, an insurgent group trying to take down the chip system once and for all. [You claim that the government's biggest threat is Insubordinates, but then you suggest that most Insubordinates are hiding out. It sounds like the Party, which is actively doing something, is their biggest threat.]  Too bad she still can’t find them. 

Then they find her.

When three white men try to sexually assault Meia, the Party saves her by doing the unthinkable—killing “precious” white men in America. Enraged by the deaths, the brainwashed country goes on a retribution killing spree against minorites [minorities] while the government vows to find, torture, and kill Meia and the Party. [Government forces hunting down US citizens? You expect anyone to believe this could happen in America?]

To survive, Meia seeks refuge with the Party and finds herself falling for Maq, though biracial relationships are 100% illegal. [So they're different races. Do we care which two races?] But just when the Party takes down the chips, the government infiltrates [raids] their hideout and captures a majority of the members, including Maq. [Not clear what you mean by "the Party takes down the chips."]

With the chips deactivated, [So that's what you meant. Deactivates. Is this deactivation of all chips what caused Meia's chip to stop working? Or did hers just die like the batteries in my mouse and my keyboard do every week?] an explosive civil war erupts throughout the country. And while Meia fights to bring equality to the nation, she struggles to save Maq and the rest of the Party. Soon she’s faced with a haunting realization—the only way to win the war is by losing everyone she loves. [Tough decision. Save Maq, my current crush, or save my entire race from chiptatorship. Maybe I should flip a coin.]

I graduated from the University of Missouri with a journalism degree, and I currently work as a copywriter, living the not-so-exciting corporate life from 9 to 5.

Thank you for your consideration,

[Author's note: The title comes from the idea that we try to categorize people by race, sexual orientation, gender, etc. to make everything black and white and easy to decipher, but there's more to us than black and white.]


Why does the govt. lynch people when they could chip them?

It's hard to pull off something like this without sounding like you're preaching an agenda. Which you are, but you have to do it subtly so the ideas are absorbed by osmosis rather than drummed into the reader. You probably started writing this ten years ago, thinking it was going to be the next 1984, and not realizing that by the time you finished, most of the insanity you'd concocted would have come to pass. By the time you find an agent and then a publisher and the book makes it into print, even the mind-controlling chips will probably be a reality. You might have to change the setting to the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV.

Getting a mind-controlling chip into someone's brain can't be easy. Have they managed to do this to everyone who's not white? And these chips are not independent, but controlled from one central power source that the Party was able to shut down?

I hated the title. Then I read the explanation of how you came up with it. Now I hate it even more.