Sunday, January 31, 2021

Face-Lift 1411

Guess the Plot

Byzantine Purple

1. Turkish bare knuckle boxer Muhmat “The Byzantine” Balkan is easy on the eyes, but his new uppercut is not.

2. Competitive ballroom dancer Viorel is entranced by the moves of a street woman in a purple dress. He’s desperate to make her his partner, but first he’ll need to convince his club to accept her. And before that . . . he’ll need to find her again.

3. When strange corpses appear with purple goo in their veins, Leudora realizes that the prophesies of her family's enemy, the notorious Dalmatian Serpent, are coming true, and if she doesn't act fast, all Byzantines will be exterminated. 

4. When fashion student Cassi Folter is transported back to ancient times she's more horrified by the clothes than the sanitation. Can she revolutionize the textile industry or will wearing the wrong color land her in prison? (And can she convince the jailers that style is always possible?)

5. The Byzantine Empire was once the Roman Empire just as Istanbul was once Constantinople. So Byzantine Purple must be about the dye from snails, right? Wait, what? The modern color? Robin's history report is about to get a creative spin when her time traveling adventure was about the wrong thing.

6. Fortune hunters from all over the world have long sought "Byzantine Purple," a fabled gemstone believed to have been owned by Constantine the Great. John Niedenaker is the latest. Intrigue ensues when his team crosses paths with seekers of the Maltese Falcon and the Ark of the Covenant and they all have to sort out their quirky native interpreters, intrepid girl-reporters, arch-villains, and other stock characters. As for John, he swaps away his brunette femme fatale for a ginger and goes off to find the Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

7. Kelly Mercado, chemist for struggling paint company Adore, is sent to Istanbul by new corporate consultant Leo Ione to join an archaeological dig to find inspiration for a color that can beat rival Heritage’s “Lost Atlantis”. Corporate espionage, a game of cat and mouse in the Grand Bazaar, romance, a prince and more!

Original Version 

Dear Evil Editor, 

The blood on her hands no longer troubles Leudora. What keeps her awake at night is the chilling suspicion that her crimes might have been in vain. 

The massacre she committed a decade ago was necessary. The death of her brilliant enemy, the Dalmatian Serpent, was unfortunate but inevitable. [I know nothing about the Dalmatian Serpent, but I feel confident there was nothing unfortunate about his death. Did he die in the massacre? Because when you stage a massacre, you have no right to complain that the death of your victims was unfortunate.] [I would call the Dalmatian Serpent's death necessary, rather than inevitable. Pretty much everyone's death is inevitable. Of course you've already called the massacre necessary, but I'm not convinced that it was. For instance, if she massacred everyone in some village because she knew the Dalmatian Serpent was there, she could have avoided the massacre by asking the villagers which house the Dalmatian Serpent was holed up in. I think you'll find that history books rarely (if ever) refer to massacres as necessary.] Only through violence could Leudora save the Veil. She will live with her guilty conscience for as long as the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness remains intact. [Shouldn't that sentence be "She lived with her guilty conscience for as long as the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness remained intact."? She "will live" implies that she currently lives with her guilty conscience, but you said the blood on her hands no longer troubles her.] Only it is no longer so. [Aha! Reinforcing my argument.]

Whenever parts of the Veil fade, strange corpses appear with purple goo in their veins. ["Goo" sounds somewhat childish. More mature synonyms include guck, goop, and gunk.] [Also, if the Veil is an invisible barrier, how can you tell if parts of it have faded? In other words, how do you know whether the fading caused the goo or the goo caused the fading? It's like a chicken/egg thing, except it's a Veil/goo thing.] Determined to stop the Veil’s decay and justify her past actions, [You mean justify massacring that entire village? Unjustifiable.] Leudora follows the bloody trail. [Is it a bloody trail or a gooey trail?] All the evidence that she uncovers confirms her worst fears: The Serpent was right in his theories. It is Leudora’s Byzantine kin that stands [who are] behind the Veil’s degradation. [That was his theory? That his enemy was to blame? You don't have to be brilliant to blame your enemy for everything that goes wrong. ] But Leudora knows one more truth. It will not take long for her family’s political opponents to connect the same dots. When they do, they will have a perfect excuse to exterminate not only her, but all Byzantines. [Do you really need an excuse to exterminate Byzantines?] Before that happens, Leudora will [must] find a way to restore the Veil, eliminate the murderers [That one's easy: massacre them.] and bury the Serpent’s research. [You keep calling him the Serpent. It's the Dalmatian Serpent.]

A disgraced scholar with an unsavory reputation, Leudora  [Whew, for a second I thought the plot summary was done and you were starting your bio.] seeks allies and knowledge. Potential allies want her to bring them to power and overthrow the unstable government. And knowledge remains hidden in the works of her defeated enemy. The deeper she delves into the Serpent’s secrets, the more Leudora finds herself drawn to his fascinating mind and dark science. If Leudora follows in his footsteps, her own people will turn against her. If she does not, the Veil will not endure, and her own demise will become the least of her problems. [I'm more interested in what will be the worst of her problems.]

Byzantine Purple is an adult fantasy set in an alternative version of Eastern Europe, told in multiple POVs, complete at 103,000 words. The novel stands alone but is envisioned as the first book in a trilogy. It combines the conflicted protagonist of The Masquerade Series and the political intrigue of A Memory called Empire. 

Thank you for your time and consideration, 

[ The title alludes to the purple mantle traditionally worn by the Byzantine Emperors. ] [And here I thought it was the purple goo.] 


The plot summary is too long. And I find it difficult to follow, especially with all those blue words interrupting it. The connections between sentences don't seem obvious enough. I have to work to come up with guesses at how they're connected.

What are Leudora's kin doing that's causing the Veil to decay? Why don't they quit doing it? Is the solution to this threat somewhere in the Dalmatian Serpent's notes?

If I'm looking for someone to help bring me to power and overthrow the government, a disgraced scholar with an unsavory reputation won't be my first choice. I assumed Leudora was a political or military or rebel leader. Who is she?

Try the often-effective three-paragraph plot summary:

P1. Who's the main character, what's her goal, and what's her plan to achieve it.?

P2. What obstacles might prevent her from doing so, and what decision must she make to hopefully overcome the obstacles?

P3. What's at stake? What happens if she fails? What happens if she succeeds?

Limit the plot summary to ten sentences. We'll let you know if that improves it or not.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Q & A 196

What are your thoughts on writer’s retreats, workshops, and bootcamps? Commercial gimmick preying on the hopeful? Or legitimate programs?

The language on some of the websites sound like these workshops are on par with ivy league schools.  You have to pay just for the privilege of applying and then the programs run approx $4000-$5000 for 6 weeks.

Would an editor / agent be impressed that a writer was “accepted” to such a program? In your experience, do you see an elevation in quality from those who’ve attended? For example, can you always spot a ‘Clarion man’?

Do some programs carry more legitimacy than others? 

Also, can I get Evil Editor’s (and minions) thoughts on the highlighted portion below, taken from one workshop’s website?

Commercial gimmick preying on the hopeful? Or legitimate programs? As with everything from book publishers to snake oil salesmen to literary agencies to politicians, there are some of each.

$4000 a week for 6 weeks? Including room and board? I'd pay that much, skip all the classwork, and enjoy a 6-week vacation at about $100 a day. Beats staying at a luxury resort at $500 a night including only one meal, a breakfast bar with eggs that have been sitting there three hours.

Would an editor / agent be impressed that a writer was “accepted” to such a program? Only if it's an editor / agent who taught at the retreat you attended and was paid well. In your experience, do you see an elevation in quality from those who’ve attended? For example, can you always spot a ‘Clarion man’? If we're talking specifically about Clarion, that is not a commercial gimmick. It's intense and useful; I have that first-hand from a few people who attended, and the names of authors who've been on the faculty is impressive: Also, while I can't always spot a Clarion man, I can always spot a Clarion woman.

Yes some are better than others, and it makes sense to do some research.

As for what an adverb is and why you shouldn't use one, I know you've read Evil Editor's Why You Don't Get Published, vol. 2, article #4, but for those who haven't, here's a link to the original article on the EE blog:

Thursday, January 21, 2021

New Beginning 1091

Warm sunbeams touched open fields and wood fences in the village of Lambahvras. The river Pehm, sleepy in this stretch of its journey, flowed west along the southern edge of the village, sparkling in the morning rays. Spring ice; thin, clear, and delicate hugged the edges of the riverbank. In a rapid sequence of cracks, one piece broke free from the mainland and floated with the current for a few yards before becoming one with the river again. 

Up the northern slope of the riverbank, at the highest point, sat a weathered stone cottage, its windows set alight by the sun’s glow. Every sunrise, no matter the time, no matter the weather, no matter her health, Maska Rue Knottswood stepped outside her cottage’s red front door as she had done for the past seventy three years to take note of who failed to appear for Sungreet. 

 Sunlight may have brightened the scenery, but Rue still felt the spring chill in her thin-skinned hands and in the stone beneath her thin soled slippers. Her shrewd eyes noted with glee that Meadow struggled to coax her young son Thaw through the door of their house. 

It was a different story with Sky and her four boys. The oldest, Volcano, erupted from the house on a dead run, trampling the brittle grasses that had struggled to survive in the frozen yard. Thunderhead moved more slowly, brooding with his dark eyes downcast and his hands in the pockets of his worn trousers. The youngest, Whirlwind, zoomed in random circles while making odd humming noises that unsettled their two skinny goats. There was something wrong with that boy, thought Rue, although for all his oddness he seemed happy enough. But where was Downpour? It wasn't like him to be late for Sungreet. Oh, wait, there he was, stepping out from behind a newly dampened tree, hitching up his britches.

Opening: Amanda Barrett.....Continuation: JRMosher

Friday, January 08, 2021

Feedback Request

Guess the Plot 


1. Domino!—Is it a pizza? A board game? A bag of sugar? Super-sleuth Van Morrison claims he's solved the mystery. But will anyone listen? 

2. During a worldwide pandemic, aging superhero Carnival Cavalry tries to popularize stylish two-piece masks. 

3. Five year old Timmy Topple receives a hand-carved ebony domino for his birthday. He loves to stand it up, tip it slightly, and hear the solitary satisfying click when it falls. Next year and every year, his father promises, he will get another. So begins his quest for immortality in a story spanning centuries of (set them) ups and (knock them) downs. 

4. The fields, homes, and shops of Omendios are being destroyed by monolithic obelisks guarded by screaming apes with clubs! The people fear there are more obelisks than they can hope to defeat, but pizza deliveryman Dom Donovan knows if he can topple just one of them, the rest will follow. 

5. When a set of diamond encrusted ivory dominoes goes missing, Detective Zack Martinez knows two things. He needs to solve the case in time to get to his anniversary dinner; and if he doesn't, his marriage will collapse like a . . .  house of cards. 

 6. At the pizza chain’s masquerade ball, Alex's flirtations with Jael blossom into an office romance. She dismisses his enthusiasm for the new organic red sauce as career ambition. At their wedding, when Jael hisses and burns beneath the priest’s blessings, Alex questions how well she really knows him.

7. Sent to a military boarding school by a mother who thinks he's too fickle, Bali experiences one unfortunate event after another, leading to another, until he decides he must run away. Or maybe he should stay. If only he could make up his mind.

[The following is a revision of the query that appeared in Face-Lift 1381. As the book now has a different title, I figured a new Guess the Plot was in order.]

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor, 

At the military boarding school in Haldwani, India, clandestine corporal punishments from the Senior Cadets is accepted as a rite of passage by the juniors. The tall ideals of the old boys have fallen. The seniors rule with an iron-fist with strange codes that either broken or followed, [, enforcing barbaric rules designed to] destroy the juniors. ["Destroy" seems like too strong a word, considering that the seniors were presumably juniors last year, and survived to become seniors. Perhaps "break" or "humiliate"?] while the juniors have no free will. 

When fractious thirteen-year-old Bali Zutshi arrives with the new batch, no one thinks he will survive his first term. Not his House Captain, who makes him endure rigorous training for the coveted Boxing Cup he wants no part of. Not his belligerent cadet guardian, who makes him his errand mule and keeps him on a leash. Not his House Master, who passively watches him suffer from a distance. Maybe not even his single mother, who sent him here to make him a man. [She sent him here thinking he might not survive?] 

Then one day an anonymous letter blows the lid on [off] the culture of corporal punishments handed down from senior to junior under the garb [guise] of tradition. As the administration leads the investigation - [,] the Senior Cadets begin their search for the whistle-blower. Their suspicion? Bali Zutshi. Unsettled, erratic, and homesick. 

Bali has two choices. Run away from school but confirm her [his] mother’s deepest fears about his fickle nature. [Did she send him here to make him a man, or because he was too fickle? I suppose she could believe no fickle child could ever become a real man unless he spent years at a military boarding school.] Or stand up for himself, clear his name and prove that he belongs. [Belongs to what? The seniors? If he clears his name, he's still a junior and subject to being "punished."]  [If seniors doling out corporal punishment to juniors is a bad thing, then the whistleblower is on the right side of this issue. If Bali wants to prove he belongs with those who want the tradition to continue, I'd rather read your book about the whistleblower.] 

When he finds support from unexpected quarters, he begins to see the unraveling of the lost virtues of the culture that once made the school great. Greater forces are at play and Bali must connect the dots to survive the churn. Justice awaits, but the price is heavy. [This whole paragraph is vague. With a lot more specificity it might suggest Bali is finally coming around.] 

DOMINO (~89,000 words) is a coming-of-age story grounded in the harsh realities of a military boarding school in India. I survived five years in one to write this story. 

I am a Marketing Professional. This is my debut novel. I took a sabbatical to complete it. I also have a popular Instagram Page with more than 10,000 followers and growing where I post my own original short stories once a month. 

Would you like to see more of the book? 

Thank you for your time and consideration. 


[Regarding the Title: The title derives its name from how a trifling catalytic incident snowballs into a series of unfortunate events in the story.] [It snowballs like a line of dominoes.]  [The incident and it's aftermath might make for a more interesting plot summary, replacing the list of people who don't think Bali will make it.]


I don't see how this tradition could have lasted so long without the administration knowing about it, if only because some members of the administration probably attended the school.

Making the juniors train for a boxing match and run errands for you don't strike me as the extreme hazing described as "corporal punishment." It's more like the rookies on a football team being made to carry the veterans' equipment bags. Are the juniors being brutalized?

Bali is a junior at the age of 13? Does that mean they graduate at age 14? Or are there levels higher than senior? You said you went to one for five years. Was that ages 10 - 14? If Bali isn't a junior, why are the seniors bullying him? 

There are some improvements over the first version (That Bali was suspected of being the whistleblower seems important, though there was no mention of a whistleblower in Face-Lift 1381), but overall, I don't think it's better. Perhaps third time will be the charm.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Q & A 195

Are comparison titles really necessary? I understand the point of listing comparison titles in a query, but not how to identify a good one correctly. If I list a title that anyone's ever heard of the agent/ editor will roll their eyes at the audacity of comparing my work to something successful. Or they'll roll their eyes because the titles don't qualify as true comparisons -- out of date, different genre, wrong medium etc. Or their eyes will roll because the comparison title is so obscure as to be meaningless. 

And I know you're going to tell me to toddle off to a bookstore and see what all the other new, exciting, published authors in my genre are doing. 

But if I have to pull books off of the shelf and look at all the smiling faces of new authors who got published (and probably at a younger age than me), my rampant insecurity will flare up. I'll seethe with jealousy and become so discouraged that I'll scrap the project for another ten years. I'll never get a query letter sent in at this rate. 

Do I really have to include comps? And if so, how do I identify the right ones?

You've caught on admirably to the beauty of the literary agent's game plan. Asking for comps is nothing more than creating another reason to reject you. For example:

You: My book will remind you of The da Vinci Code.

Agent: I hated The da Vinci Code.

There's no need to include comps if an agent hasn't requested them. But let's assume you've decided the perfect agent for you is one who has requested comps. (This is probably an agent who demands you query using Query Manager, because they know if they send you to Query Manager you'll start filling out the form and give up halfway through and they won't have to deal with you. An agent who uses Query Manager has lots of free time for long lunches. I would use Query Manager if I were an agent.)

I don't recommend toddling to the bookstore if your purpose is to find, as comps, titles of books you haven't read. It would be embarrassing to meet your prospective agent for lunch and she says, "How did you feel when the train crashed in The Girl on the Train?" and:

You: It was so unexpected. And sad. I almost cried. 

Agent: Aha! There was no train crash in The Girl on the Train. My offer to represent you is rescinded.

When an agent asks you what titles compare with your book, they're really saying that if you've written something so original and groundbreaking that nothing like it has ever been seen before, they want nothing to do with it.