Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Feedback Request

 The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1411 would like feedback on the following revision:

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. 


A decade ago, Leudora had her major enemies eliminated - the scientist known as the Dalmatian Serpent, and his followers, who sought her people’s blood. A ruthless guardian of her kin and an unscrupulous politician, Leudora lived with her guilty conscience for as long as the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness remained intact. Only [But] it is no longer so. When the Veil starts to fade, slowly poisoning the air and endangering those, [no comma] whom she once sought to protect, Leudora wants answers.


She does not expect her answers to confirm the Dalmatian Serpent’s theories: those are Leudora’s own people, who conduct bloody experiments to protect themselves from their powerful neighbors, causing the Veil’s degradation. Once rumors about their affairs spread, not only the culprits, but all her people will become scapegoats. Trying to prevent a war and stop the Veil’s decay, Leudora turns to her enemy’s works and searches for the culprits. [I don't like "culprits" twice in two sentences. In fact I don't like it either time. I'd shorten this paragraph to: 

She does not expect it when the answers confirm the Dalmatian Serpent’s theories: Leudora’s own people, conducting bloody experiments to protect themselves from their powerful neighbors, are causing the Veil’s degradation. If this gets out, not only the guilty, but all her people will be blamed. Trying to prevent a war and stop the Veil’s decay, Leudora turns to her enemy’s works. 


Is it odd to refer to "her enemy" when talking about a guy she eliminated a decade ago? Maybe She turns to the Serpent's spellbook (or research or whatever it is, more specific than "works."] 

The deeper she delves into the Dalmatian Serpent’s secrets, the more Leudora finds herself drawn to his fascinating mind and dark science. If she follows in his footsteps, her kin will turn against her. [All of them, or just the "culprits"?] If Leudora stays loyal to her people, she will have to side with those, [no comma] who may bring them all to the verge of extinction, betraying the legacy of a man,[no comma] whom she knows to be right. 

Byzantine Purple is an adult fantasy set in an alternative version of Eastern Europe[comma] 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, 


Much better. I mostly nit-picked.

If she knows what's causing the veil problem, seems like she should know who's causing it. If it's just a few of Leudora's people who are causing it, and they refuse to stop, eliminating them seems like an easier solution for this ruthless unscrupulous character than hoping to find some magical way to save the veil.


Do the people causing the degradation of the veil know they're causing it? They can't want their air poisoned, so why don't they stop? Don't they care?


Mandakinz said...

I thought it was much clearer, especially Para 2 establishing the DS. I liked that you gave the DS a job title in the query to help me understand who he was, especially since his work is relevant to the plot. I also thought your opening statement in Para 3, was a stronger connection of ideas. This was easier to follow.

The part I still think is a little vague are the references to her people. I wish you would name them as Byzantines and give me some delineations from others. For example, are these noble houses? (House Byzantine vs House Harkonnen) or are they different races/ cultures? I was a little hung up on phrases like 'her people' (again: family? race? culture?) and didn't understand what you meant by neighbors.

The way I read it, the 'culprits' are conducting terrible experiments that affect the stability of the Veil. The purpose of these experiments is to protect themselves from their powerful neighbors. The part about the experiments sounds pretty juicy (sounds like you have a lot of juicy stuff in this book) but I'm not clear on the motive. What neighbors? Are they actually being threatened? Or are they trying to gain power for themselves? Maybe this information doesn't need to be in the query, but those are some questions that came to me.

I liked Para 4 and that you cut the part about seeking allies and bringing them to power, etc. I thought this paragraph made the choices more personal to her than the previous version. In fact, I thought the new query toned down the political stuff, which to me is an improvement.

Sorry it took me so long to post. I'm glad you tried it again. I hope you'll send something as a New Beginning!

Congrats on surviving an EE Face-lift!

Anonymous said...

This is still a bit melodramatic for my tastes, but I agree that it's an improvement.

With all the comma corrections, you might want to have someone who's good with punctuation review your manuscript for similar problems. An agent may overlook a handful for the entire 103K. Two or three errors a page is Too Much Work.

"those she once sought to protect" makes me wonder if she's no longer trying to protect them.

You have her finding answers--that her own people are involved--before she's searching for culprits, which sounds like the effect is happening before the cause. If it's searching for more specific culprits, you might want to state that.

I'm not buying the choice at the end.
- global madness/near extinction vs betraying a legacy.... This is a hard choice?
- You keep bringing up the DS research. Is it assuming too much that he has an alternative answer to the problem and not just a way to find who's responsible for causing it? (this reason is a bit meta, ymmv)
- I'm not getting a reasonable feel for the kin/house/clan situation--as in why would she *have* to side with those involved with the bloody experiments? What would happen if those not involved found out about them? All would see the need and agree with them? Would it start an intraclan war at a time when they're already in danger from their enemies? It might help to state whichever it is.

Obviously, you need to go with what happens in the book, but what might work better
is if she's considering whether to use the DS research to temper her people's experiments in secret, risking them all turning against her/starting an intraclan war at a vulnerable time/whatever, vs using his research in some other way making enemies of everyone who hated him including her own people

Hope this helps

Anonymous said...

What do the Dalmatian Serpent and his followers want? Leudora's people's blood, you say, which they can obtain by destroying the Veil. The Veil "shields civilization from madness" and protects the air. I get that the Dalmatian Serpent and his gang are enemies of Leudora's, but you could be clearer. Do the DS and followers actually want Leudora + people's blood -- or does he want their territory? Their riches? Does he just want to watch them go mad and die?

I much prefer EE's rewrite of paragraph 3 to yours.

Then this: "If Leudora stays loyal to her people, she will have to side with those who may bring them all to the verge of extinction"...okay that's huge, in fact you can stop right there...

..."betraying the legacy of a man whom she knows to be right." Wait, when did it become important for her to be faithful to the DS's legacy? She just needs to utilize his secrets and save [species]kind. What's this about betrayal? She never made a promise to him, did she?

But I agree, it's much better than before.

Teo said...

Dear Everyone, thank you very much for your input. And sorry for not replying immediately. I needed time to process the comments effectively.

Dear Evil Editor, thank you for your comments and corrections. I apologize for taking your time twice and I hope that other minions may learn something from my query.

Dear Mandakinz, thanks for your comment (again). I am not certain if I should add more complex names to the query. I tried to keep it short and, therefore, skipped a lot of worldbuilding. But I may return the 'Byzantines' just for the sake of flavor. There are several 'nations' involved (but not in our modern sense), yet, I would like to avoid adding too much information about them.

Dear Anonymus 1,
Thanks for your comment. I have all my texts professionally edited (both academic stuff and fiction). Unfortunately, I am multilingual and cannot transfer proper punctuation from one language to another. It's a weird issue that I am aware of. Copyediting usually helps.

About the choice: there is no definite solution to the Veil crisis that Leudora can see. In the first case, Leudora replaces the Dalmatian Serpent, becoming her people's enemy and harming them in the process. Even if she stops the crisis (which she may or may not do), she will, most certainly, orchestrate her people's demise. There is simply no way around it. In the second case, she sides with her people and tries to find another way for them to defend themselves without destroying the Veil. Then she must somehow hide the fact that she is still using the Serpent's research. And that's almost impossible. Even if there is a way to fix the Veil and help her people, they don't have much time to waste since they are universally disliked by almost everyone.

Leudora's loyalty is not to 'the world', but to 'her people', thus she does not really wish to create a future, where they are exterminated or marginalized. On the other hand, her lingering guilt and her growing obsession with the Dalmatian Serpent change her perspective.

About the kin/house situation: yes, most Byzantines would support the experiments (that's what Leudora assumes) and wouldn't want to back down. Leudora, on the other hand, understands that they can't win any war at the moment.

Your last suggestion is very much what happens in the book, but I am not certain how to integrate it properly into the query. Again, I am trying not to overload it.

Anonymus II, thanks for dropping by. I think you may be right about cutting the last part of the last sentence. It may be confusing.

And, yes, there may be a deal/promise involved, but, perhaps, that does not need to be in the query.

Also, the funny thing is that the DS actually did want Leudora's people's blood. Literally. It's a resource.:)

Anonymous said...

Teo, thanks for dropping back.

Now that is interesting about the Serpent wanting the Byzantines' blood. Usually it's just an expression -- "I'll have your blood," "I'll have your guts for garters" etc, meaning simply I'll kill you if you don't get out of my way.

It's so interesting, in fact, that I'd add a few words to that effect ("...who sought her people's blood as a [scientific/nutritional/energy/agricultural/whatever] resource").

It's evident that there's a huge amount of complexity and intrigue in your story and it's difficult to select the bits to reveal in your query and how to structure sentences to convey as much info as possible -- WHILE pacing your prose so as to build suspense. Hence, I find this sentence overpacked and possibly confusing: "A ruthless guardian of her kin and an unscrupulous politician, Leudora lived with her guilty conscience for as long as the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness remained intact." It's after the "as long as." You have introduced a LOT of info in a subordinate clause:
- there's a barrier
- it's invisible
- it shields civilization
- civilization's sanity depends on an external structure

PHEW. Congratulations on your imagination, but maybe take a breath? "...Leudora lived with her guilty conscience for as long as her people were safe. But now, the invisible barrier that shields civilization from madness has begun to fade, slowly poisoning" etc.

I'm still picking at that opening because it's not clear what the Number One threat is to Leudora and her people. Another civilization that still craves their blood (is the blood-harvesting campaign over?), or the degradation of the Veil? Or were (are?) the Dalmatian Serpent and friends intending to destroy the Veil in order to drive the Byzantines mad, at which point it would be easy to obtain their blood? If the Veil has some complex linkage to healthy Byzantine blood, it will be difficult to convey succinctly. You *might* want to sacrifice one of those elements -- the blood harvesting, or exactly what the Veil does beyond simply preserving civilization.

Whatever the answers, I sense you've done some amazing world building and you've developed a marvelous web of conflicts and cast of characters -- and you've set it in a time/place that's underutilized in fiction. Take my suggestions as those of a person who is not an agent who reps high fantasy. No doubt those people understand the challenges of boiling it all down to a page and they might easily read past the things I've raised as problems.