Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Feedback Request

 The author of the query featured just below this posting would like feedback on the following version:

Dear Agent,

Twelve-year-old Declan isn’t expecting any thrills on this field trip. A national forest with lots of boring moose hardly screams “awesome.” His dreary day gets a jolt when he glimpses a monstrous figure stalking through the wilderness. Seven-feet-tall and falcon-headed, the creature slips away before anybody else spots it. [I need to clean my glasses, I first thought that said "monstrous figure skater."] [Now that I think about it, would you consider changing your book so it is a monstrous figure skater? It's sure to be better than a seven-foot-tall guy with a  bird head.] 

Declan: Look, at 7-foot-tall monster with a falcon head!!!!

Teachers & the other 25 kids on the field trip with him: Where? Where?

Declan: Too late, it slipped away. But I saw it, I tell you.

Teachers: You know the rule, Dec. If you bring LSD, bring enough to share.]

With his two best friends, Declan follows the clues [feathers, talon prints, and massive bird droppings.] and finds the ruins of a long-dead civilization beneath the forest. They learn this advanced race once created human-animal hybrids. Led by the falcon-headed Ra, the rebellious hybrids seized control of ancient Egypt, claiming to be gods. After their creators banished them to the distant forest, the hybrids faced imprisonment in cold storage. Finally freed by a malfunction, Ra intends to salvage the technology and produce countless hybrid warriors, enough to enslave humanity. [I know you say "countless," but realistically, how many human-animal hybrids do they think it will take to enslave humanity? Humans with falcon heads aren't that scary. Falcons with human heads, on the other hand, can at least fly, so they might be able to enslave a few easily impressed humans. I'm not even sure human/lion hybrids or human/bear hybrids could enslave us all. Your best bet is to leave out the human part, and go with cheetah/shark hybrids.]

Stranded, Declan and his friends dodge swarms of mythical Egyptian beasts, from a rampaging Sphinx to the jackal-like Anubis. When his friends fall into Ra’s clutches, Declan embarks on a daring gambit. To rescue them and stop Ra’s murderous crusade, he must reach a failsafe device that can destroy the hybrids in one fell swoop. But first, he’ll need to brave explosive geysers, dizzying mountain heights, and crossbow-armed monsters. All of a sudden, those boring moose don’t sound half-bad. [Also all of a sudden, Declan realizes he can always find new friends.]

MONSTER GODS is a middle grade adventure, complete at 49,000 words. It blends the mythological focus of the Rick Riordan Presents series with the action of Laura Martin’s Edge of Extinction. I have my Honors degree in English Language and Literature. [Unfortunately, that will not influence the reader of your query any more than it will influence anyone you contact in your future job search.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


This is an improvement. Most of my comments focus on whether the reader will buy into the plot.

Wouldn't it have been easier for the hybrids' creators to use the failsafe device to destroy the hybrids in one fell swoop, than to banish them to a place no one knew existed?

Adding the friends helps, but only until they get captured and Declan now has to save them along with stopping Ra’s murderous crusade. Maybe leave out their capture and tell us how they aid the mission.

Apparently Ra is unaware of how much the population and weaponry have advanced while he was in cold storage. Otherwise he'd probably shoot a bit lower than enslavement of humanity. Like, enslavement of Delaware.

Sunday, November 07, 2021

Face-Lift 1419

Guess the Plot

Monster Gods

1. Declan Vokes must endure explosive geysers, frenzied rapids, dizzying heights, and crossbow-armed beasts to save modern-day humanity from being enslaved by ancient Egyptian gods. Preferably before his 13th birthday.

2. When a warp in the fabric of time sends Conover Lutz back to ancient Greece, he discovers that not only were the Greek gods real, but they were narcissistic, sadistic monsters. And they don't appreciate the new guy's 21st-century wardrobe.

3. Meli is scheduled to be sacrificed to the monstrous gods her people worship, so she appeals to a higher authority--the gods of the gods, so to speak. Unfortunately, those gods are also of a monstrous sort. The gods of those gods, on the other hand, might be ok, or maybe their gods.....

4. A brief look at the myths and legends surrounding the more unusual deities humanity has worshiped. Includes maps, ancient art, the most up-to-date archeological findings, and a brochure for exploratory expeditions in some very unusual destinations . . . including hell.

5. We tend to think of "gods" as benevolent caretakers of humanity, but if you've ever read mythology or the Old Testament, you know that Zeus, Allah, God, Odin, etc, were pretty much all bastards. This book blows the lid off the whole worshiping scam.

6. Just as humans have worshiped gods through the centuries, so do werewolves, vampires, Krakens, Godzilla, and other monsters have their own deity. They call him Jymm, and trust me, you don't mess around with Jymm.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

When his class visits a national forest, twelve-year-old Declan Vokes expects to see a bunch of dumb, boring moose. But this forest has a secret link to ancient Egypt -- a link that puts Declan in the path of mythology’s most sinister monsters. Forget the yawns. Cue the screams.

An attack launched by Ra, the falcon-headed god, sends Declan escaping into the wilderness. [How does he know it's Ra? It could be Horus, who is also an Egyptian falcon-headed god. As I understand it, the only difference between them is that the  "eye of Ra" is his right eye, while the "eye of Horus" is his left eye. But I doubt Declan would have known this.] [BTW, at times the two deities were merged as Ra-Horakhty. Just as the Romans combined Horus and Uranus into Horse's- Anus.] Stranded, he finds himself dodging swarms of mythical Egyptian beasts, from a deadly Sphinx to the jackal-like Anubis. [A list made from the members of "swarms" should have more than two items. I recommend adding Heset, the goddess depicted as a cow with a tray of food on her horns, and Sepa, who appeared as a centipede with the head of a donkey.] While struggling to survive, Declan uncovers the truth behind the myths. These so-called “gods” are actually freaks of nature. They’ve spent the passing centuries hidden beneath the forest, suspended in hibernation. [A 12-year old kid, while dodging swarms of mythical beasts in a forest, finds time to uncover all this information that no one else has ever been able to uncover? Did he go through a time portal to the Great Library of Alexandria?] But the time to reclaim the world has come. With Ra leading them, the monster-gods set out to reach the largest mountain in the forest, a mountain that houses ancient technology. There, they’ll have the means to enslave humanity once again. [When I think of ancient technology, I think of the compass, the magnifying glass, the catapult, the crossbow. If these monster gods plan to enslave us with those, I'm shaking in my boots.] 

Declan must reach the mountain before the creatures. Only then can he use that same technology to destroy them. [Wait, it's up to Declan to save us all? This technology isn't just sitting there on the mountain, it must be inside an impenetrable fortress invisible to humans. Declan has no chance of finding it. He needs to use his cell phone to contact his mom and tell her he's lost and to send the US military to rescue him.] But first, he’ll need to brave explosive geysers, frenzied rapids, dizzying heights, and crossbow-armed beasts. All of a sudden, those dumb, boring moose don’t sound half-bad. [Obviously this kid's never heard of Bullwinkle if he thinks moose are boring.]

MONSTER-GODS is a Middle Grade adventure, complete at 50,000 words. It blends the mythological focus of the Rick Riordan Presents series with the action of Laura Martin’s Edge of Extinction. I have my Honors Degree in English Language and Literature. Thank you for your time and consideration.


There's a reason Frodo recruited Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf for his quest. He was a Hobbit. Pretty much worthless in a fight. The leader on Mission Impossible would choose a team of people, each with their own skill. Even Dorothy had an armored man and a lion backing her up. If Declan has skills we don't know about, tell us. If he has a crew of experts following his lead, say so. So we'll think he has at least a one in a million chance of succeeding.

Did it ever occur to these freaks of nature that enslaving a world of seven billion people who have bombs and aircraft would be more difficult than enslaving a few thousand people who are still fighting with sticks and stones? 

Also, why did these Egyptians do their hibernating in North America? Mount Kilimanjaro would've made more sense. And why didn't they hibernate in the same place where they stored their ancient technology, so they'd have it when they woke up, and wouldn't have to race some sixth-grade kid to get to it?

I'm sure my comments are addressed in the book, but try to at least convince us in the query that one child with ancient technology can defeat monster gods capable of enslaving the planet. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Friday, July 30, 2021

New Beginning 1097

It was pizza day and there was an uproar in the Cafeteria because the only topping available was pineapple and anchovy. The trainees declared it a tragedy––pizza was the only thing they had to look forward to––while the more experienced caseworkers picked flecks of fish and soggy fruit off their slices and silently cursed the kitchen staff. Amelia Morgenthal alone was unmoved; she’d never really understood the appeal of pizza. 

She sped past the Cafeteria and through the halls, hiding her face in a file. She didn’t think she could bear one more unnecessary question or inane comment, yet she’d have to, since she still had eight more practice sessions to lead today and in decades of doing this job she knew that trainees were never prepared for their first assignment. 

Amelia darted into the relative safely to her cubicle. High-stepping over boxes, she angled herself around the desk, knocking a few loose files onto the floor. She bent to retrieve them and something caught her eye. 

There was a present on the seat of her armchair, wrapped with smudged printer paper and tied with an incongruous purple ribbon. It was obviously from Tad. Amelia rolled her eyes. When will he learn that this crap doesn’t work on me? 

She wanted to toss it straight into the wastebasket, but Tad was her boss and Amelia knew he’d come fishing for a thank you later. The package was heavier than expected. She tugged the ribbon and the paper fell away, revealing a snowglobe. Iridescent flakes settled around a grey plastic mountain; at its peak was a little man, raising his arms in victory. Painted along the bottom in a bright yellow script were the words, ‘You can do it!’ 

Amelia frowned. Why had Tad given her this thing?

She decided she'd just have to go ask him.

Taking the quick route through the cafeteria, Amelia picked up a couple of slices of pizza. A thank you gift in return couldn't hurt, and Tad never turned down a slice, though maybe it wouldn't hurt him to miss a meal...

Tad's office was clean and tidy. No books or boxes on the floor, no papers strewn around. Just today's newspaper in the center of the desk. As she surveyed the privileges of being in charge, a noise in the doorway caused her to turn around.

"Oh," Amelia said. It was Tad's secretary. "I was looking for..."

"Sorry," the woman replied. "You just missed him. He's out until next Thursday."

As the secretary bustled away, Amelia took another look around and shrugged. Oh, well -- a gift is a gift. She wrapped the pizza slices in a sheet from the newspaper and left in on his chair.

Opening: Rachel D'Erminio.....Continuation: ril

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Face-Lift 1418

Guess the Plot


1. When adventurer Amelia dies near the summit of Mount Everest, she finds herself in her own personal hell: holding down a tedious office job on the production staff of the afterlife's most popular reality show, Romance Live Stream.

2. After foxy Wendy Fitz says she'll never date Bill "One-Up" Stetson, he tells her she'll never forget him. The fates conspire against them both with experimental magic, mad science, and multiverse time travel to prove them wrong. And right.

3. The latest rumor in Hell is that whoever climbs the highest mountain, Neverest, can escape to purgatory and finally find some rest. Is it true or simply the latest diabolical torture? Mountain climber Sid Shanks is about to find out.

4. Asked by his teacher for an example of an adjective along with its comparative and superlative forms, Joey replies, "never, neverer, neverest. She compliments his answer profusely, rather than risk he'll murder her after class. Just another day in the Newark school system.

5. It had always been Marion's dream to scale Everest, but when she gets halfway up  and sees the mess of garbage and frozen corpses cluttering the once-pristine mountain, she turns back and starts a Go-Fund-Me project to raise money for trash bags, body bags, and a community cleanup project.

6. In a parallel universe, climbing Neverest is the goal of the most daring mountaineers, not because of its height so much as because it's crawling with abominable snowmen who will stop at nothing to protect their home from interloping humans.

Original Version

NEVEREST is a gender bent reimagining of Dante’s Purgatorio, complete at 100,000 words. Like Olympus, Texas it is inspired by literature and weaves together a narrative through the eyes of multiple characters; like The Good Place, it explores a dysfunctional afterlife and uses satire to question the status quo. [Or, to put it more succinctly, Neverest is a combination of an 800-year old poem no one has read, a novel(la) no one's had time to read because it just came out in May, and a TV sitcom.] 

Amelia Morgenthal had a distinguished life: daughter of a billionaire, an adventurer and mountaineer [Wait, she had three parents?]––until she died near the summit of Mount Everest. [I don't see "distinguished" as descriptive of  the life of a mountaineer, adventurer, or billionaire's daughter. If we just go with adventurer and mountaineer, you could call her life rip-roaring or electrifying or stimulating. Having peeked ahead, and seen that her parents and her finances are never mentioned again, I think we can leave out the billionaire's daughter line. Which leaves us with: Adventurer and mountaineer Amelia Morgenthal led an electrifying life––until she died near the summit of Mount Everest.] In the afterlife, she’s a failure, stuck for decades as a caseworker in the Life Imbalance Modification and Betterment Office. [I deleted the failure part because I suspect she did a good job as a caseworker, despite finding the work tedious. ] [It might be better to say she's stuck for decades in LIMBO--the Life Imbalance etc....]  Just when she thought nothing could get worse, a routine New Soul Intake goes awry. Rosealie Durante arrives screaming, and in a fit of frustration, Amelia erases the young woman’s memories of her last day, hoping to shut her up. [If you want us to sympathize with Amelia, "hoping to ease her transition (or her mind) would be better than hoping to shut her up.] The shortcut is a mistake; Amelia has unwittingly interfered with The Colloquium’s favorite cosmic reality show––Romance Live Stream #1.  [It sounds like Rosealie is in the fit of frustration until I examine the punctuation carefully. To keep it clear, you could try: Rosealie Durante arrives screaming in terror (or anger or whatever). In a fit of frustration, Amelia erases the young woman’s memories of her last day, hoping to shut her up, but unwittingly interfering with The Colloquium’s favorite cosmic reality show––Romance Live Stream #1.] [Also, the TV show needs a catchier title. Love Eternal or Match Made in Heaven or Paradise by the Deathbed Light.]    

The Colloquium, a mysterious collection of souls who influence life on Earth, demands that Amelia tend to Rosealie while waiting for the other half of her fated bond, Max Lieberman. There’s just one small problem: Amelia erased a long-awaited reconciliation between the two. So when Max arrives ready to resume his relationship with Rosealie, he is promptly rejected, and Amelia must get the two wayward lovers back together.  [You know, if you spell her name Rosalie, Blogger's spell check won't keep underlining it in red.]

The more Amelia discovers about the couple and their past lives, the more she is convinced that they deserve to be free from The Colloquium’s voyeuristic gaze and each other. Rosealie becomes the one person who makes Amelia feel seen, and Amelia decides she cannot betray her new friend, [It would be a betrayal to get her back together with the man she just chose to get back together with? So the colloquium was behind their reconciliation?] even if it means giving up on freedom. [Not sure what that means. Is Amelia a prisoner? Or does she get to do things on the weekend and holidays, like watch Romance Live Stream #1 and go to harp concerts?] She confesses everything to Rosealie and the women form a plan to escape, [From where to where? Wait, do they climb through the seven levels of Colloquia?] but The Colloquium has a secret weapon––Max––and they are willing to do anything to keep their beloved show running. [The show got along fine before Rosealie died, why won't it get along without her now?] [Is Max a secret weapon because he's working with the Colloquium? Or are they just threatening him if Rosealie doesn't take him back?]


Despite all the blue words, it's not bad, in that it's organized and has some specificity. But it inspires a lot of questions about the plot, which should be avoided unless you want to answer them in the query.

Is it really a reality show if the Colloquium can demand that the plot progress exactly as they want it to? The Bachelor season doesn't end immediately if the bachelor doesn't give a rose to the woman the producers wanted him to end up with.

If you die, and find yourself in a job as a caseworker who investigates the past lives of new arrivals in the afterlife, and you believe nothing could get worse, I have no sympathy for you. That job sounds fascinating. I can think of lots of worse stuff, much of it described in detail in Dante's Purgatorio

Speaking of which, I don't think calling your novel a reimagining of Dante’s Purgatorio in your first sentence is going to entice a lot of people to venture into your second sentence. If your book is light, like The Good Place, You don't want to compare it to something really heavy. And I'd put the first paragraph at the end of the plot summary. 

Popular works (among hundreds) that mix afterlife with reality: Good Omens, American Gods, Heaven Can Wait, half the seasons of Supernatural. Your book may have a similar tone to one of these.

Because most of the plot takes place after the Everest tragedy, and in another world, the title comes across as an attempt to be clever or cute or funny. Doesn't work for me.

Friday, April 30, 2021

New Beginning 1096

Alexis guided the cursor over her favorite words. After ten hours in her cubicle, the phrase “Sign Out” was better than any other two words in the English language including “free shipping” and “new episodes”. It was even better than her favorite three word phrase: “number two combo”. 

She clicked the button. Instead of turning grey, it remained green. Alarmed, Alexis clicked the mouse again and again. No please God not now, not this! 

Too late. Cheerful music blared in her ears. Alexis knew it would be an insult to war veterans and trauma survivors everywhere to suggest that the upbeat tone ‘triggered’ her, but the anxiety that overcame her was real. That zippy ditty meant that someone, somewhere, was angry and about to take it out on her. She would have to absorb that anger, make it a part of her, reshape it, paste a smile on it, and hand it back. 

“Thank you for contacting Smiletronics,” she answered. “My name’s Alexis, could I get your name please?” 

“June 24th, 2011,” the woman on the phone began.

"A date that will live in infamy?" Alexis guessed.

"The day a SWAT team broke down my front door, killed my four children and my husband, and then realized it was the house across the street they were supposed to be raiding. I happened to be at the grocery store."

"On the bright side," Alexis said, "I assume you only had to attend one funeral for all five victims. I hate going to funerals, don't you? So depressing. I remember when my great grandmother died, she was 98 and bedridden, and I had to go out and buy a black dress, which is not my best color, and which I've never worn again because on the way home from the funeral I stopped at Wendy's for the number two combo and spilled grease on the front. My best color is turquoise, which goes well with my light brown hair. Although I could have colored my hair to match the black dress, but then I'd have had to buy new shoes. Any--"


Opening: Amanda Barrett.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Face-Lift 1417

Guess the Plot

Monsters Like Us

1. That's right, they really do. We sell out every show and have wild parties afterwards that leave them in a drunken stupor, the perfect condition to be snatched up and sold. And if their friends and relatives don't like it, well, they should have paid us what we agreed on. 

2. Crying babies with leaky diapers. Screaming toddlers who bite. Surly teenagers. The stuff of nightmares that we, as parents, have created in our own image. What the hell have we done, and more importantly, can we ever be stopped? 

3. Police. Republicans. Old white men. The Swiss. Mimes. Editors. They may look like us, but they're evil. And they're coming for us.

4. The year is 3011 and the metropolis infrastructure is crumbling. The old sewers can't keep up with the explosive waste. A sub-race of humans, disfigured and discolored, adapted long ago to high levels of pollution. Will they agree to clean the pipes of their oppressors? Or will they unionize first?

5. A behind-the-scenes history of Japan's Toho Studios, with special emphasis on the violent jealousies that arose between the little men in the rubber suits that threatened to tear the company asunder as thoroughly as Godzilla and Ghidorah devastated Tokyo. 

6. When Matt hides the crate of experimental opiates he found, he doesn't expect to become the target of the CIA, a major drug cartel, and foreign agents. Lucky for him he knows Taekwondo.

7. In a secret underground lab, Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman perform terrifying experiments on potatoes, glue, eggs, and other common household items in this science book for kids. Includes a fun pronunciation guide by the evil Doctor Dihydrogen Monoxide.

8. No one knows where they came from. They started cutting down trees, polluting our rivers, and destroying the land. These humans.

9. Calista Kalspar's life is turned upside down when she learns she is a half breed of the race of the mucus-oozing creatures her parents have devoted their lives to hunting. Hunting to prove the existence of, that is.

Original Version

Dear highly personalized agent 

Matt grew up tough in his opioid ravaged Appalachian town. When his high school sweetheart dies of a fentanyl-laced overdose, he kills the dealers involved. Feeling guilty for taking the law into his own hands [(and worried that it might be illegal to murder a bunch of guys)], he vanishes to a quiet life in Los Angeles where he teaches kids at the local Taekwondo school. [When people in LA want a quiet life, they move to West Virginia. West Virginians move to North Dakota.] 

That’s until [Then] a crate parachutes onto the path of his mountain bike ride. Matt swore he wouldn’t get involved again but no ordinary drug shipment comes with serial numbers and expiration dates. [Actually, that's how ordinary drug shipments do come. It's the parachuting part that makes this shipment suspicious.] With his past, he doesn’t dare involve the police, so he hides the drugs on the mountain while taking [and takes] a bag to get tested. If they’re standard street fare, he’ll anonymously notify law enforcement and return to his law-abiding, if boring, life. [But if they're the really good stuff, well, let's just say he'll have a lifetime supply.]

Only the CIA, who developed the drug at a secret facility in South America, is sending in a team after the test results activate a government tripwire. The cartel who stole it is close behind. [After the test results activate a government tripwire, the CIA, who developed the drug at a secret facility in South America, sends in a team. The cartel who stole the crate is close behind.] And the foreign agency manipulating everyone is planning to discredit the CIA by using their own drug to fuel a new wave of addicts. [Manipulating the CIA I can buy, but just trying to manipulate a drug cartel is asking for trouble.] 

If Matt was a cautious man, he’d run as fast as he can. But a cautious man wouldn’t have killed those dealers ten long years ago, and there’s no way he’ll let more kids die. [Also, once a vigilante, always a vigilante.] 

 Monsters Like Us is a 115,000 word suspense novel.


Not clear why Matt has to determine whether the drugs are standard street fare before he anonymously alerts the police. And if he does need the test results first, it would be hard to stay anonymous while taking a bag of drugs to some laboratory, requesting it be tested, and 
asking to be notified when the testing is complete.

Matt's goal is to prevent more kids from dying. Presumably that means from getting their hands on these drugs, and not that Matt wants to take down the cartel and the CIA. Obviously he doesn't want the drugs going to the cartel or the foreign agency. Probably not the CIA either, as their use of a secret lab in South America suggests they're up to no good, as usual. The police aren't much more trustworthy, but since Matt was planning to notify them anyway, if the drugs were street fare, he could just FedEx them the crate. Or he could just destroy the drugs himself after Googling "How to destroy drugs safely."

You'd think the cartel would've had people waiting and watching for the parachute. Guys with binoculars and machine guns.

If you can answer or prevent some of the questions I've brought up, it will help.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

New Beginning 1095

Eliza Mack was trying to think about her dead brother. Maddeningly, she was failing. Mikhail Shamoun, the love of her life, had driven her thoughts away from the innocent dead and back to himself this morning with a persistence that was nothing short of demonic. He was the one man on earth who had the power to hurt her more than anyone else, and he used it. Eliza picked up speed as she cruised south on the 405 while sapphire skies, glittering office parks, graceful palm trees, garden-like beach towns, and shimmery plains of ocean evaporated in her rage. 

 It was a gauzy Sunday in June, and she had begun her day with that springy feeling that always followed a night, or nowadays a Skype, with Mikhail. Their groove of anus-licking and violent orgasmic passion -- which they had adapted to cybersex due to their new geographic circumstances -- left them both groaning and unconscious in a way that equaled them out until the next cycle of injuries and apologies. Before she left her apartment, she had snatched a few minutes to surf the net for something that was gnawing at her mind, and she struck google gold. Escalation of commitment.

* * *

Evil Editor looked up from the manuscript, eyebrows raised. "Well, Miss Persimmon... You certainly know your target demographic: Wild free spirits, wanderlust, sudden rage; love of bright colors and shiny things; obsession with computer screens; noisy, wild sex and, ah, anus licking...

He adjusted his spectacles. "Anus licking." He paused for a moment. "Frankly, there's just one thing that will prevent this becoming a best seller. Cats can't read."

Miss Persimmon huffed, grabbed her papers and headed for the door.

"Anus licking." Evil Editor repeated quietly to himself, as he reached for the intercom button. "Mrs Varmighan? Would you step in here a moment? There's something I need you to do."

Opening: anonymous . . . . .Continuation: ril

Friday, April 16, 2021

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1415 would like feedback on the following version: 

The Counterfeit Girl is a 93K suspense novel, in which a woman who shouldn’t be alive finds the secrets of a town that shouldn’t exist are more than even its creators expected. [More . . . numerous? Mysterious? Dangerous? What did the creators of the town expect its secrets to be? Maybe it should be . . . a woman who shouldn’t be alive finds the secrets of her hometown are more sinister than she could have imagined.] 

Thirteen years ago, five-year-old twins were kidnapped from Castor, Oregon just before it was destroyed by a mysterious explosion killing all the inhabitants. [An explosion that wipes out an entire town won't be mysterious for long. It'll be newsworthy and investigated. More mysterious would be if everyone in town suddenly disappeared.] Now, one of the twins, eighteen-year-old Trina Radu, has discovered she’s grown up in a copy of a town that no longer exists. 

Trina’s counterfeit town is hidden by impregnable forest and maze-like trails. Her parents have been replaced by actors, [her] friends [have apparently moved away] and family dead and gone, any mention of the outside world carefully edited. All that’s left is her sister, seductively whispering through Trina’s dreams. Find me. Save me. And rescue the whole damn world. Only, their kidnappers believe the twins hold the secret of Castor’s destruction and their reunion will result in a global holocaust. [Do they want a global holocaust? If not, they could have left the twins in Castor to die with everyone else. Why did they kidnap them?] 

Trina will do anything to rescue the only family left in her life. A quest that will either save a world Trina has never known—or burn it to the ground. 

The Counterfeit Girl’s inspiration reaches back to Twin Peaks and The X-files and could be thought of as Jean Grey trapped inside The Truman Show. It would appeal to fans of Blake Crouch, Peter Clines and Patrick Lee. [Seven comps isn't nearly enough. You forgot to include the songs "Trapped" and "We Gotta Get Out of this Place" and that surreal dream you had four years ago.] 


"their kidnappers believe the twins hold the secret of Castor's destruction" makes it sound like the kidnappers had nothing to do with Castor's destruction. But they had to be in on the plot, since they presumably took Trina to fake Castor. 

 Perhaps you should explain why the kidnappers believe the twins' reunion will result in a global holocaust. How can that make sense to even the nuttiest conspiracy theorist? 

 I can't say I find this version any more intriguing. It's good that you focus on the plot rather than the set-up, but maybe you should stick with what Trina knows. She doesn't know what the kidnappers believe. Is a global holocaust a real possibility?

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Face-Lift 1416

Guess the Plot 

The Angel of No Consequences

1. When Eliza Mack’s fiancé ejects her from his life to clear the way for a new woman, the Angel of No Consequences appears to her and offers her one free murder. Spoiler alert: She takes the Angel up on it and pumps a bullet into her fiancé. 

2. All guardian angel Muriel did was make certain the fallout from the disasters his charges caused were completely insignificant. After the third one commits suicide, Muriel is branded a fallen angel and cast out. Can he rescue his former charges from hell by making their stay there unimportant as well? Spoiler alert: He makes things even worse. 

3. Sarah Fim, the world's wealthiest woman and ruthless CEO, dies on her way to a board meeting. On her first day in Heaven, she demands to be made an Angel, and when it's clear she won't take no for an answer, her wish is granted. She throws herself into her new role, answering prayers from the rich by giving them more riches and ignoring prayers from those she deems not worth her time. No one dares contradict her authority. Spoiler alert: the prayers she thought she was answering are just computer-generated fabrications to keep her busy.

4. Ask any angel: does he make love? No. Why? Because he is love. Gabe is not just any angel. He is a sex god. Life on Earth is paradise until Raphael blasts him back to heaven. Spoiler alert: It's actually hell this time.

5. When the fountains in heaven stop gushing, the lights stop shining, and the couples stop ... ahem, Vizriel leaves the group of happily singing investigators looking into this diabolical plot and goes to Earth where people have the decency to get upset when things go wrong. Also a depressed demon with a good attitude.

6. A counter-argument to Butterfly Effect theory, consisting of essays and mathematical models, the shape of which, when plotted, more closely resemble the wings of an angel than a butterfly.

7. Alaois Markey agreed to back the production of morality play No Consequences as a ploy for the gratitude of the ingenue playing the angel. But through the ups and downs of the inexperienced cast and crew, he discovers camaraderie and true love in the most unexpected place. Spoiler alert: in the arms of the mutton-chopped minister.

Original Version

Dear Agent, 

I’m an English major and sometime Outer Limits addict with a tingly-sense for the perverse side of justice. I’ve written a literary thriller inspired by the fate of Lady Macbeth: a tale of guilt that begins when a woman scorned decides to cool her fury with a murder. 

When Eliza Mack’s fiancé ejects her from his life to clear the way for a new woman, she winds up in a lowly motel room to lick [licking] her wounds. There, a mysterious and seductive creature that she dubs The Angel of No Consequences appears to her and offers the thing [gift? blessing?] she’s cried out for at the height of her rage: one free murder. She takes the Angel up on it, pumps a bullet into her fiancé, and flees to the gloomy estate of Madeleine, her late brother’s agoraphobic widow. 

As promised, Eliza’s crime goes unprosecuted--but not unsuspected. Desiray, the “other woman” who stole Eliza’s (now-dead) fiancé, is convinced of Eliza’s guilt, and she threatens Eliza with revenge. To Eliza’s horror, the Angel offers his services to Desiray. Knowing the Angel’s ruthlessness and lethality, Eliza strikes pre-emptively and poisons Desiray. This time it’s her own skill, not the Angel’s, that helps [lets] her escape the consequences. 

Meanwhile [In time], Eliza finds life at Madeleine’s estate increasingly bizarre. When she catches Madeleine dumping a bucket of blood down a drain, she resolves to quit the place. But one last intervention from her otherworldly accomplice forces her to return. 

I realize this reads [This may sound] like some sort of [a perverse] horror opera, but it's also a morality tale; after the desire to live, my characters are driven by the need to right their wrongs. 

[Optional "I thought I’d query you because..."] 

The Angel of No Consequences is complete at 88,000 words. [The first xx pages follow my signature below.] May I send my manuscript for your consideration? 



Well done. I'd ask for the manuscript, if the first xx pages weren't a mess.

I assume you call this a "tale of guilt" not because Eliza is guilty, but because she is haunted by feelings of guilt, so maybe there should be something about that in the summary. Maybe instead of the bucket of blood, which, while intriguing, only leads me to wonder how Madeleine explains it.

Eliza: Um, why are you dumping a bucket of blood down the drain?

Madeleine: It's AB negative. I only drink A positive.

Eliza: No, I meant why not just flush it down the toilet?

Wait, is it Eliza's brother's blood? And Madeleine's dumping it because she was afraid Eliza would see it in the refrigerator and start asking awkward questions?

I think spelling Desiray's name Desirée or Desirae would lend a more gothic flare, and could be what puts this query over the top.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Face-Lift 1415

Guess the Plot

The Counterfeit Girl

1. While building a wild-west theme park, Mindy Lou discovers her deceased grandfather's deed to an abandoned silver mine is an old forgery. She must outwit collectors, pawnbrokers, and museum curators to discover who bilked whom out of what so she can finally bring back the shoot-em-up days.

2. Sitting in a stifling room at the back of a fake shoe store shuffling rubles, dollars, riyals, euros, yen, and yuan is no way to live. Svetlana is bored out of her mind and stuck in a financial rut she'll never escape as the Black Market Currency Exchange Girl. She'd kill to be The Counterfeit Girl -- glamor, opportunity, and a clean restroom.

3. Mindy drew her first perfect fifty dollar bill when she was twelve. Six years later, on the lam from the mob, the FBI, and various world-wide spy agencies, can she fake it as a budding artist in a retro-hippie commune long enough to forge herself a new identity?

4. She was made of yarn and string, a hopeful thing. But at what point does she become real? Dolly sets out to become a real girl, and Pinocchio has nothing on this determined kid.

5. Anniziq was created by the Spanner Corporation to be the ultimate female companion. But what happens when serial number RML-10038291 begins to sense its soul is that of a man?

6. Lela was the cutest Pomeranian in the world until she got caught in the cross-fire between a witchy stepmother and a fairy godfather. Now she's a human girl trying to survive on the streets. Fortunately, she still has the amazing ability to smell like a dog. Unfortunately, she also still smells like a dog.

7. Mary Joan Oswald reinvents herself as Instagram starlet Marisa Oz, hiding her identity as a coding bootcamp student. Her developing feelings for classmate Noel leave her at a crossroads. Down one road is the unrequited true love of a dweeb, down the other a posh NYC dream.

8. After 18 years in Oregon, Trina discovers that her entire life has been spent in China, in a town constructed as a replica of an American town. It's either some kind of experiment or a Chinese plot to destroy the world. Does Trina have what it takes to save us all?

9. Sasha is the criminal underground’s premier go-to for counterfeit bills. These days, she’s printing a revenge plan against her ex-boyfriend, master thief and wanker Darby Kingsley for shafting her on his last score.

Original Version 

Dear Agent 

The Counterfeit Girl is a 95K suspense novel, [Inconsequential nitpick: "K" is an abbreviation for "thousand," not "thousand-word." It's also an abbreviation for strikeout, kicker, Kelvin, and Potassium.] in which a girl who shouldn’t be alive, raised in a town that shouldn’t exist, must save the world in a way her kidnappers never intended. [Does that mean her kidnappers intended for her to save the world, but in some other way?]

Biomed company Nyquest has revitalized Castor, a remote town in Oregon. They provide the internet, support the police force, and offer free medical care and counseling as often as they think you need. [I prefer to get my medical care and counseling as often as I think I need.] With Nyquest’s juicy scholarship approaching, life is good for eighteen-year-old Trina Radu, the oldest kid in the safest town in America. [That makes sense if the scholarship goes to the oldest kid. Is she guaranteed to win the scholarship?] 

Then her boyfriend hints about a mysterious place called China. China isn’t in her geography class and doesn’t appear on the Internet. [I think the boyfriend should get the scholarship. He can at least find China on a map.] [In world maps in Trina's book and on the Internet, is there a blank space where China is? Or does it just have a different name?] 

Map of Asia in Trina's geography book

She badgers him for details but he’s killed before they can meet. [If I happen to mention a place my girlfriend never heard of and she starts badgering me, I start looking for a girlfriend who's less passionate about geography.] In her parents’ bedroom she discovers a stuffed animal with a tag labeled Made in China [tag]. Tucked inside is a photo bringing back dreams [memories?] of a twin sister no one else remembers. Convinced her sister is held outside town, she tries to escape only to find impregnable forest and maze-like trails. Every call outside Castor’s area code leads to a recorded message. And none of the kids who’ve left for college are ever heard from again. 

Suddenly, those police cars patrolling her street don’t seem so comforting. [I never find police cars patrolling my street comforting. And I'm white.] College is approaching, but Trina’s final exam is escaping a town that’s monitoring her every move and her graduation party a quest for [finding] a sister no one believes in. A reunion that will either save a world Trina has never known—or tear it to pieces. [There's no evidence in your plot summary that the world needs to be saved, or that Trina is the one for the job. She can't even find her way out of town.]

 The Counterfeit Girl’s inspiration reaches back to Twin Peaks and The X-files. [To me, it sounds like The Prisoner meets The Truman Show.] It would appeal to fans of Blake Crouch, Peter Clines, and Patrick Lee. 

My title comes from a young woman who discovers her entire life has been a fake and she’s been raised in China, not small town America. [The fact that she grew up surrounded by 1.4 billion Chinese people should've been a dead giveaway.]


Twenty years ago, China constructed a town that could pass as a remote Oregon town, then kidnapped people to populate the town, and took great pains to convince these people that the country China doesn't even exist. As the children in this town reach college age, they are put to use in a plot to destroy the world, a plot that will fail if one of these children, Trina Radu, ever meets her twin sister.

That wouldn't be a great way to start the query. But it's probably not a great impression to give as a pitch for the book, either.

Some questions I have that you might be able to keep me from having, either by answering them or by getting rid of the parts of the query that inspired them:

1. Why shouldn't Trina be alive?
2. What's gained by keeping China's existence secret from people who can't travel anywhere? 
3. Was the twin also kidnapped? How old were they when kidnapped? Was everyone in town kidnapped, or are most of them in on the plot?
4. Is there something special about Trina that makes her the only one whose actions will save or tear apart the world? Like does she have super powers?

The information in your note about the title belongs in the query, possibly up front:

When 18-year-old Trina Radu discovers that she has grown up not in remote Castor Oregon, but in China, she has a lot of questions, starting with WTF?

No wait, starting with, Who built a replica of a small Oregon town in China, and then populated it with people who would never complain that they couldn't leave? And why?

Starting the query after Trina becomes suspicious saves a lot of space that's being spent on Nyquest and the boyfriend and the scholarship and geography class. Space that can be used to talk about what's at stake and what Trina can do about it.