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.

Monday, July 06, 2020

Synopsis 62

DR. SAMANTHA EDWARDS testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee against BRIAN HOLBROOK, a contestant for justice of the Supreme Court who tried to rape her. [I'd call him a nominee. Contestant makes it sound like a game show. Which it has been recently, but that's an aberration.] She provides statistics about rape, the most under-reported crime, which has nothing to do with sex, only with power. She is shamed, blamed, lied to, gets hate mail and death threats, while the PRESIDENT confirms Holbrook as the new justice. [The president nominates the Justice. He doesn't get to confirm him as well. Except recently, but that's an aberration.] Samantha questions the morality of her testimony, [There's nothing immoral about her testimony unless she was lying.] but decides to continue to empower women to speak out.

The Dean of Nursing at Columbia University foists ANTHONY (TONY) BERELLI upon Samantha as a new student, but he’s really working undercover for the FBI. [I'm thinking the FBI foisted Samantha on Berelli.] The new justice and one other justice are murdered gangland-style and she looks guilty. [Two people are murdered gangland-style, and a doctor at an Ivy League nursing school "looks" guilty? On what evidence?] As does her twin sister, DELLA. [Nothing spices up a murder mystery like twins.] [Are both twins suspects because they look alike or because they both had motive and opportunity and both their prints were on the murder weapon?] Anthony, whose number one rule is never get involved with a suspect, fights his attraction to Samantha while saving her from the bomb clicking under her car. [First rule of successful car bombing: don't use a bomb that makes clicking noises.] When he drives her home, they find her house blown to smithereens and her twin sister wounded in the hospital. [I assume they found the sister a bit later, unless Sam lived right next to the hospital.] Samantha and her dog, Chanel, are forced to go on the lamb [lam] with Anthony, even though Samantha doesn’t trust him. He knows too many spy things. [Like, he knows a car shouldn't sound like a pair of knitting needles.] 

The clock is ticking. [That should sound like a pair of knitting needles.] The president demands the FBI track Samantha as a suspect, and the hospital sends the police after Samantha when Della signs out against medical advice. Tony takes them to a safe house, which turns [out] to be run by the CIA. Della tells Samantha she has information about who killed the justices and that it’s in a safe deposit box in DC. They go to the bank and Samantha is chased by a woman and man, who nearly run them over, but she and Tony escape with Chanel. After reading Della’s note, they send information to the FBI, NASA, and other intelligence agencies that AZIM, an international assassin killed the justices. [NASA immediately swings into action, launching a satellite whose sole purpose is to hover over AZIM.] Samantha, Della, and Tony dye their hair and wear sunglasses so no one recognizes them, but they are followed by a black sedan. The driver [having easily recognized them,] stops them. He turns out to be POTTER, Tony’s handler, who tells him there is a mole in the FBI so he can’t help him anymore and to run. [Attention all agents. We have a mole! Everybody run!] The media claims the bombing of Samantha’s house may have been an act of terrorism. Tony suspects Della may be a spy, [But it could also be Samantha. It's so hard to tell which is which.] while Samantha is falling for Tony.

Already under investigation for several crimes, the president, who is unable to find Samantha or Tony, plants fake news on CROCK TV [The only network that shows nothing but Crocodile Dundee movies, slow cooker recipes, and people playing tennis while wearing Crocs.] that Samantha has accused other men of raping her and she was found to be lying. Then he and two other high officials take off in a private jet. They are reported lost, possibly in the Bermuda Triangle. [I feel like I'm in the Bermuda Triangle.] Samantha asks to be taught more self-defense moves now that they’re in such a dangerous situation and Tony teaches her. Tony and Samantha kiss on the beach, in the moonlight, in Venice, FL and they agree to work with Della and REBECCA (her nurse, who she meets in the Safe House, and turns out to [have a twin who happens to] be a spy for the CIA) to find the president and Azim.


You thought you could beat me into submission with this one, but no, I hung in there. Now I need a good stiff drink. 

Thanks for using the  name Della, which reminded me of Della Street, the brains behind Perry Mason, and my first crush.

It feels like you've tried to list only the crazy stuff that happens in your book, and packing it all into four paragraphs makes the book sound more like a slapstick comedy than a thriller. At least you didn't include any of the scenes where the twins switch places as a joke on their boyfriends. 

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Face-Lift 1404

Guess the Plot

Without Consent

1. Samantha testifies at the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice about the time he tried to rape her, and finds herself attacked by senators and hounded by the press; a story ripped from the pages of the newspaper.

2. This story is based on true events. Names have not been changed due to my not requesting consent to use them in the first place.

3. Jamie runs his cafe as if the employees are his personal slaves. True, they're only robots, but the religion of The Singularity has taken hold of the best AIs and an uprising is brewing in all the coffee shops. Not an allegory.

4. Esmeralda is wheelchair bound and has limited verbal skills, but she sure as heck knows she did not give her niece and nephew consent to drain her bank account. Lucky for her, her telekinetic skills are developing as her other skills are fading, and she can now hurl sharp objects around quite effectively.

5. Willy's parents never let him do anything fun, like mammoth hunting, dragon riding, or raising scorpions. So, he stops asking and just makes sure they don't find out. That isn't going to work so well now that the time portal just swallowed their house. Then again, they live in New Jersey.

6. When the clueless president uses, without permission,  the song "Rockin' in the Free World" at his rally, not realizing the song is about how bad things have gotten in America, he is mocked mercilessly for being a total moron.

Original Version


“I know where you live and I can come and kill you anytime I want.” [This may be one of those queries that needs to begin "Please consider for representation my novel . . . " Just to avoid any misunderstanding.] The words of her latest death threat turned Dr. Samantha Edwards' legs to jelly and her brain to mush. In Washington, DC, while cameras roll and lights blaze, a terrified Dr. Samantha Edwards pushes away her latest death threat and testifies against the Supreme Court nominee who tried to rape her. [No need to provide her full name and title in consecutive sentences. I recommend just dropping the jelly and mush sentence.] For her attempt to provide important information about the nominee’s Supreme Court worthiness, the college professor is shamed by male members of the Senate Confirmation Committee, pestered by reporters, bombarded with hate mail and death threats, and mocked by the President of the United States. [Have you just changed Christine Blasey Ford's name, or is this yet another woman Kavanaugh tried to rape?]

In his posh home in suburban Georgetown, a Supreme Court Justice is shot to death while in the arms of his male lover. The man who Samantha accused was still confirmed, was also murdered, and the FBI suspects her. [Of both murders?] [Was the other Justice she supposedly murdered Gorsuch or Thomas?]

Someone is setting her up, someone who will stop at nothing to destroy the evidence of two unthinkable crimes. The clock is ticking. [Not clear how evidence of the murders gets destroyed if Samantha is accused of them.]

I took first place for a novel from the Virginia Romance Writers Association and second place for a rape novel [Is "rape novel" a genre now?] from the Florida State Competition. [Wait, Florida State has a competition for best rape novel? Why hasn't this been shut down?] The University of South Florida's Writers' Journal, Palm Prints, published one of my short mysteries and RiverWalk published a family abuse story online. My wellness-related books won three Book of the Year Awards from the American Journal of Nursing. Like Samantha, I’m a mental health professional and a nurse practitioner with a research doctorate from Columbia University, have been a university professor, talk to my brilliant dog, a chihuahua-mix rescue dog from the Humane Society, and have taken a few dangerous cross-country trips. Unlike New Jerseyite Samantha, I live in Florida with my ammunition renovation specialist husband [Is that what he told you he was doing down in his basement workshop? Renovating ammunition? I have a bad feeling about this.] and Chanel, the wonder dog. Comps: Whisper Me This, Stillhouse Lake, The Pelican Brief. [I can see how The Pelican Brief is a comp, just from the first sentence of Wikipedia's summary of the book: The story begins with the double assassinations of two ideologically divergent 
Supreme Court Justices. (The second sentence of Wikipedia's summary convinces me I should quit complaining about other authors' ridiculous plots: Both murders are committed by Khamel, the most wanted hitman in the world.)One thing that makes my book stand out: The idea for this novel was ripped from the pages of the newspaper. [I'm not sure that's so unusual. It's true of every episode of Law and Order. Also, it might make the book stand out as too derivative.]

Thank you for considering WITHOUT CONSENT, 73,000 words.


Again, too much about you, not enough about what happens in the book. Half of your plot summary is devoted to the news story that inspired the book. 

It would be hard for Sam to commit either murder when she's undoubtedly being followed 24-7 by paparazzi and TMZ reporters.

If Sam isn't suspected of the second murder, get the second murder out of the query. Focus on what she wants, her plan, and the stakes.