Wednesday, December 07, 2022

Feedback Request

 The author of the query featured just below this post would like feedback on this new version:

Zae Mir leads the spell-dancers ordered to magically assist the army opposing the enslaving conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz. Khatsz possesses god-like powers and commands formidable supernatural beings. To counter them, the dancers hope to recruit similar beings, unfortunately unpredictable, along their march.

One of Khatsz's closest henchmen sees in Mir a tool to further their own treacherous agenda. [Is "their" referring to the henchman with a plural pronoun, or is it referring to the Khatsz army? Technically, it would refer to Mir, the most recently mentioned character.] Masquerading as one of these beings, they help him rescue a fellow dancer, evade capture, and survive attacks. [I know it's no crime to use plural pronouns in place of singular nouns these days, but it's making this confusing. "They help him" means the henchman helps Mir (him instead of them), but why does one henchman get a plural pronoun (they instead of him) while one spell Dancer gets a singular pronoun (him instead of them)? It could just as easily be "he helps them" or "they help them." Does this henchman have a name? "Bob helps Mir" would be clearer.] [Also, I don't like "these beings" when no beings were mentioned in the previous sentence. Maybe end the first paragraph with: "But Khatsz's closest henchman, impersonating one of these supernatural beings, infiltrates Mir's troupe in order to further their/his/her/its own treacherous agenda." That pretty much eliminates the second paragraph.]

Then betrayals within the army [which army?] put Mir and the other dancers on the front line. And inadvertently reveal how close to Khatsz the henchman is. Mir is severely injured protecting his fellows, kept alive but held powerless by the henchman. Playing along with this traitor may be the army's only chance to defeat Khatsz--or lead to [could make] Mir himself complicit in their defeat.

[Ending with Mir facing the crucial decision: should he play along with Bob the traitor or risk losing the war? is good, but being alive but powerless is not. I'd remove the middle sentence of that paragraph, and replace it with something like: "Mir realizes he can't trust Bob, but wonders: can he use him?"

If all this leaves your plot summary feeling a bit short, add a few more details, maybe about spell dancing. 

I don't know how far into the book this summary goes. If the book covers an entire war, this query seems like it's covering just the first few chapters, which might be problematic.

Friday, November 18, 2022

Face-Lift 1429

Guess the Plot

To Dance with a Blade

1. Susan thought it would be a normal dance class. Little did she know she'd joined a dance troupe whose main source of income was assassinations. The tango is just the beginning.

2. When multiple countries combine armies to take on the brutal conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz, they know they'll need more than just their soldiers. They'll also need dancers.

3. There was bloodshed at the Bolshoi when the Sabre Dance in Khachaturian's Gayne ballet went terribly wrong. Who rigged the prop with a real blade and left superstar danseur Sasha Pashavich on the stage, legless and lifeless? Ace private eye Ivan Denisovich - after solving six Moscow opera and ballet stage murders in as many months, is pretty sure a pattern is emerging.

4. When the most handsome man at the ball asks Edwina to dance, she's thrilled. And that's before she knows he's the finest swordsman in the kingdom. And I'm not talking about the sword in his scabbard.

5. Charlie's mom always told him to never run with scissors. But she never told him not to waltz while holding a razor blade. So how is it his fault that his dance partner's back is gushing blood?

6. Seoun wants to join the ballet but his family has performed sword dances for the emperor for generations. With bankruptcy and a military draft waiting in the wings, can he convince his family there's more to art than a couple feet of sharp steel?

7. The complete history of fencing scenes in movies, from The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo to The Princess Bride and Star Wars. Comes with a free Zorro mask. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

Zae Mir leads the spell-dancers sent with a multi-country army fielded to oppose the enslaving conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz. [Immediately I'm wondering if the enslaving conqueror is a cat and the soldiers and dancers are mice. Then I have some other thoughts: 1. You  don't send a multi-country army to oppose someone, you send them to crush him. 2. If all armies sent dancers to accompany their soldiers, the world would be a better place. 3. Who sent the dancers? Were they ordered to go, or did they volunteer? I can't imagine any of the competitors on Dancing with the Stars volunteering to go into battle against an enslaving conqueror. Or being ordered to do so. 4. When I encounter the names Zae Mir and Thaeredn Khatsz before even reaching sentence 2, the only reason I'm not tossing the manuscript in the wastebasket is because they might be cats and mice.] The dancers expect to support the soldiers with healing, magical shields, and spells that enhance fighting abilities.  [How does that work? The armies see the enemy coming at them with swords, and the general says, "Dancers! To the front!" and then the dancers move up and start doing a foxtrot to Black Sabbath's "Johnny Blade"? And this creates shields that the enemy can't penetrate?] They hope to enlist the aid of perilous supernatural beings along their march. [I don't think "perilous" is the right word when describing beings. It goes better with actions. I'd go with "powerful" or "unpredictable" or "powerful--but unpredictable--"] [A multi-country army with healing, magical shields, and enhanced fighting abilities needs supernatural beings' aid? Does the enslaving conqueror have his own supernatural beings?]

After a genius dancer doesn't return from negotiating with one of these beings, [Can a dancer who approaches powerful--but unpredictable--supernatural beings alone really be called a genius?]  Mir stages a rescue.  He risks creating a powerful enemy at the army's back.  However, he's both reluctant to lose his colleague's skills and determined to bring all the dancers home from the war. ["Reluctant" doesn't sound strong enough. Dump the red words, or at least replace them with something like he needs his colleague's unique skills. Of course if he couldn't afford to lose this specific dancer, maybe he should have sent a more expendable negotiator.]

Meanwhile, one of Khatsz's closest henchmen sees in Mir the potential to further their own treacherous agenda. [Is "meanwhile" the right word? Is this happening at the same time as the rescue operation?]  Incognito, they help him evade capture and survive attacks.  Their continuing assistance will be the army's best chance to defeat Khatsz.  Even if it is a setup. [In view of the book's title, I would argue that the dancers are the army's best chance to defeat Khatsz.]

To Dance with a Blade is a stand-alone fantasy adventure with series potential complete at 97K words.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Assuming the book progresses to the encounter with Khatsz, I don't see the need to include the paragraph about the missing negotiator and the rescue attempt. If you tried to condense the history of World War II into three paragraphs, you wouldn't devote one of the three to the saving of Private Ryan.

Is Khatsz pronounced like cats or cots?

Do the dancers use music? I mean, I know they don't have a band, but do the soldiers sing a cappella numbers to help the dancers stay in unison?

Do the dancers have swords while they dance, as the title suggests? That would lead to cool choreography, but it could get messy if they actually have to use the swords and get them bloody or stuck in peoples' guts.

Here's what I'd put in each of three paragraphs. Expand these with additional sentences as needed.

Paragraph 1: Zae Mir, leader of the "spell dancers," whose movements can mystically enhance fighting abilities, agrees/is ordered/volunteers to bring his squad/troupe/company to [place name] to assist the soldiers attempting to crush the enslaving conqueror Thaeredn Khatsz.

P2: When Khatsz's forces begin to gain the upper hand, Khatsz's closest henchman sees in Mir a tool to further his own treacherous agenda, and helps Mir evade capture and survive attacks.  

P3: Mir must decide how far to trust this traitor, knowing that doing so may be the army's only chance to defeat Khatsz--or may lead to a quicker and more devastating defeat. 

Monday, October 31, 2022

Face-Lift 1428

Guess the Plot

The Devouring Dark

1. The Halloween episode of a foodie competition goes horribly wrong when the lights go out. Can an epicurean vampire expose a vengeful murderer or will they both be blamed when hysteria descends into cannibalism?

2. It's dark. It eats people. But what's an elder cosmic horror supposed to do to get a hot date and pay the rent? Also, ancient kudzu-ravaged temples.

3. When Jarv received a "Wish you were here" postcard from Hell, he thought it was a joke. Now he smells brimstone, hears howls and screams from dark and gaping maws, and sees rotting, blood-dripping teeth. As a dentist, it's all pretty normal.

4. The planet Rojan rotates so slowly that night lasts fourteen Earth-years. Also, it devours all life, forcing inhabitants to constantly move with the rotation or die. Can one teenaged girl slow down the planet's rotation enough to celebrate her sweet-sixteen birthday party?

5. When shadow creatures battle soul eaters, the balance of power will be determined by which side one young woman fights on. Will she fight against the side that murdered her family, or will she lead them to victory so she can then have the satisfaction of murdering them all by herself?

6. No one knows where this entity comes from or why it exists. It descends upon the land once every year without fail, devouring sunlight, bringing darkness upon humanity, and lasting months. All cringe in horror at the fearsome entity known as . . . the end of daylight savings time.

Original Version

Dear  Evil Editor,

A secretive order of assassins, twelve initiates, eight magical houses, three deadly trials and one quest for revenge that will tear it all down... [If you can add 7 other items to this list, you'll have a song called "The Twelve Days of Darkness." Which is probably a better title for the book.] [I don't think that sentence is needed.]

20-year-old Briar Gem has been hiding among mortals for over a decade since her family was killed, waiting for her chance to get revenge. And so, when the Soul Eaters, the order of assassins that killed them, holds trials for new initiates she decides to enter, [Can anyone "enter"? They must vet the applicants.] [Also, maybe the order of assassins wouldn't have to keep looking for new initiates if they had a less-intimidating moniker. The Republican party was once known as the Soul Eaters, but they had the good sense to change their name (though sadly, not their platform).]with the goal of destroying them from the inside. [No eight-year-old kid would have the patience to wait more than a decade for anything. Plus, the turnover rate in the Soul Eaters would be so high that the ones who killed her family are already dead, in prison, or have gone into witness protection and settled down in the suburbs to raise families of their own.] But before she can get her revenge, she must first survive a deadly series of trials, competing against initiates who will stop at nothing to earn their spot. [Here's a tip for the initiates willing to do anything to become Soul Eaters: If you just want to assassinate people, you don't need to survive deadly trials and join an order of assassins. You just need a sniper rifle. Unless . . . are there perks to joining the Soul Eaters, like health insurance and a 401-K?]

As she struggles to navigate the trials and hide her true identity, [I don't see how hiding her true identity is a struggle. Just don't tell anyone. If they didn't find out when they vetted you, you're probably safe.] [Although, now that I think about it, anyone who applies to be in the Soul Eaters would be wise to use a fake identity. That's probably the first deadly trial. They ask you if you're using a fake name, and if you say no, they kill you because they don't want morons in their order.] Briar meets Wraith, one of the Soul Eaters’ most deadly assassins. [That's three "deadly"s in five sentences. Maybe use a "dangerous" or "lethal" now and then.] When Wraith begins to suspect Briar is hiding something, she must figure out the unexpected connection between them before he uncovers her secret. [That's pretty vague. What is the connection, and how does she even know there's a connection, and how does she know it's important to "figure out" this connection?] Briar’s plans are put to the test when she begins to develop strange new powers [What are her plans and what are her powers?] as mysterious shadow creatures attack the order. Briar and Wraith are forced to work together to unmask the true evil lurking within the Soul Eaters [This deadly assassin wants to help unmask the evil in the Soul Eaters"? Isn't he a major part of the true evil?] before Briar suffers the same fate as her family. 

THE DEVOURING DARK is a dual perspective adult fantasy novel approximately 106,000 words in length. It will appeal to fans of CITY OF DUSK by Tara Sim, as well as NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff.

I have been a book blogger and influencer for the past six years, working with publishers for the promotion of books on many occasions. [Anything you can do to influence people to buy Evil Editor's books would be appreciated.] My content focuses on fantasy novels, which has given me extensive experience with the genre. This would be my first published work.

Thank you for your consideration.



As Briar wants to take down the Soul Eaters, why doesn't she just disappear and hope the shadow creatures do the job for her, instead of helping her sworn enemy defeat them

Is Wraith one of the Soul Eaters who killed Briar's family? If so, I think in her place I'd kill Wraith and worry about the shadow creatures later. Unless she's a groundhog, shadow creatures are no big threat.

Briar's secret is that she's on a quest to destroy the Soul Eaters from the inside. Briar must "figure out" the connection between herself and Wraith before he uncovers this secret. I don't see how Wraith will be any less pissed at her if she's already figured out the connection when he uncovers her secret than he'll be if she hasn't yet figured it out.

Possible opening paragraph:

20-year-old Briar Gem wants to take down the Soul Eaters, the order of assassins who killed her family a decade ago. Her plan: join their ranks and destroy them from the inside. But first she'll have to deal with Wraith, the deadliest of the Soul Eaters, who suspects Briar is not who she claims to be.

Any specific information you can work in after that will help, even if it means leaving out a few things. Her plan has to be more concrete than finding out an unexpected connection between her and Wraith. For instance if she's about to kill Wraith with her super powers, and he says, "Wait, Briar, I am your father," it's okay to reveal that in the query.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Friday, October 28, 2022

Halloween Film # 9

                         The Letter

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Halloween Film # 8

                              The Clown

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Halloween Film #7

                                     The Thing that Came in My Window

Monday, October 24, 2022

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Halloween Film # 4

                                                            Trick or Treat

Friday, October 21, 2022

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Friday, July 08, 2022

Face-Lift 1427

Guess the Plot

Reign of Jaeger

1. With John and George dead, and Paul and Ringo diminished, the time has come at last for the . . . Reign of Jaeger.

2. Jaeger's kingdom was taken over before he ascended the throne. He's been living in exile in a small village ever since. He does plan on ousting the invaders. After the harvest, the barn raising, the baking tournament, the . . .

3. Jaeger backstabbed, assassinated, and bribed his way to the throne. War on the border? Starving citizens? Revolt? He's got his hands full making sure he looks his best for audiences and no one else is trying his methods. Oh, and the local rat catcher.

4. When humanity left the planet Volnura, they left behind their robots. Now Jaeger, the robots' head honcho, is on a quest to lead his fellow mechanical people to the spirit world, where all knowledge is stored. For knowledge is power.

5. May 25 to June 7, 1981, French Open. Mixed Doubles. That was it.

6. Jaeger dies without an heir the night before he's supposed to ascend to the throne. Rather than admit the fact and plunge the already war-ravaged country back into chaos, several upper level ministers decide to fake his life and reign. They've got the trickster god on their side, sort of. But if any of the others find out, another civil war will be the least of their problems.

7. Historians call him the worst king of Bohemia, but I've written a book about him because who wants to read a book about a good king? Unfortunately, I don't know much about him, but you can assume there was corruption and torture and starvation. Those are the only specifics I have for the query. More in the book.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,


JAEGER is steel. [Cool. Is he a Battlebot? I used to love that show. My favorite battle was the one where a guy attached a rake to his battlebot so . . . well you can watch it here.] A remnant of Mann, the ancients who once gripped Volnura, bending even nature to their will. But city-sized craters and poisoned lands speak of their brutal exodus, and Jaeger's mechanized people litter their ruins. Oblivious and abandoned, Jaeger unites with another droyde, [Short for androyde.] NOVA, and the two vow to discover the truth behind their existence, by way of the scholar or the sword. [This sounds like the plot of the next Star Wars movie, in which the rebels and the Empire have wiped each other out and R2D2 and C3PO are the only characters left, so they change their names and seek their origin story. If you tell me they eventually reign over the universe, I'm on board.] [I'm not that clear on what Mann is. Some ancient race or civilization on the planet Volnura? And you call it Mann? Did you think putting an extra "n" on Man would fool us? I mean, it's still pronounced the same as Man. People who buy the audio book will think it's Man. Change it. Or get rid of it and just go with Volnura. Is Volnura a planet? A country on future Earth?] [Did the ancients give all their robots names, or did the robots come from the factory already named?]


After losing a convoy to the benyne marauders, [who are, apparently, anything but benign,] Jaeger reunites with his seaside gang after fighting for his freedom in the 'Pit'. [It's called the Battlebox.] [Are the marauders and the gang all mechanized? Are there humans in this book?] He convinces the ringleaders with false tales of a spell that will lead the [them] [Or him or her, depending on which pronouns you favor.] to the 'Atlas', the map to Mannic riches they seek in the mountains. After they free Nova in a breakout, [Free Nova from what?/whom?] the two turn from expendable hired swords to magical wayfinders. But the Atlas, a derelict Mannic spire, will not lead to riches. It will give them the answers to humanity's catastrophe. [Aha! Humanity! So there are or used to be humans in this place.] And Jaeger has to hide that for as long as possible. 

[Jaeger: You know that thing I said was a map leading to riches? It's actually a derelict spire, not leading to riches. 
Ringleader: Before we destroy you, what the hell is a derelict spire?]

[Who started this new trend of titling each paragraph in a query?]

But the expedition takes on an unwelcome guest. To death and decay, Kyatt has pledged his worship. Tasked with bringing riches to Jord, Daughter of the Night, he partners with IAJINN to usurp the gang. [Kyatt, Jord, and Iajinn are all unwelcome guests . . .  in the query.] When Kyatt's prying ears hear of an imminent expedition to Mannic riches, plans quickly change. Jaeger and Nova are given a warning: When the mutiny happens, make sure you're on the right side.


Mann has left dark footprints within Volnuran history, and time has kept them secret. A spirit world awaits, where all of humanity's knowledge has been stored. [You don't need a spirit world to store all of humanity's knowledge. You can store it in one iPhone.] And its creator is keen to tell Jaeger who is returning. [If only the creator of this book were keen to tell us who is returning.]

REIGN OF JAEGER is a genre-bending science fantasy novel sitting at 83,000 words. It has a story similar to ETERNITY ROAD by Jack McDevitt, and HORIZON ZERO DAWN. I am fully committed to making a career out of storytelling, and I've made great efforts to fulfil this dream. I work part-time as a freelance editor, working on other manuscripts for a fee on Fiverr. I also did ghost-writing for some time at The Urban Writers.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration, and I hope to hear back from you soon.

Kind regards,


Would Data and C3PO win a doubles tennis match against Nova and Jaeger?

It's not clear why someone says no mother could spawn such a curse. Jaeger's your hero. Plenty of mothers have spawned curses worse than Jaeger.

The tone and vocabulary seem a bit heavy. Is the whole book written in this tone? It might be better to lighten up.

Is this your plot? 

Humanity reached the stars, set up shop on Volnura, and proceeded to ruin the place. They then took off, leaving behind all their mechanical people, and some marauders and gangs, who may be human or mechanical. Two of these mechanical droydes, Jaeger and Nova, go on a quest to learn about their origins and the history of Volnura. Even though they know nothing about their history, they somehow know that the answers they seek are contained in something called a derelict Mannic spire. They trick some gang members into helping them find the derelict spire by telling them it contains a treasure map. Even though treasure is of no use on this dead planet, the gang members go along, planning to kill Jaeger and Nova once the spire is found. What they don't know is that humanity is on their way back to rescue their beloved robots. 

You need something about halfway between your version and mine.

A standard plan of attack is to address these questions:

1. Who's your main character, what does he want, and what's his plan to get it?

2. What obstacles does he face in his quest to reach his goal (choose the main one)? What's his plan to overcome this obstacle?

3. What will happen if he fails? What will happen if he succeeds? What big decision must he make that will determine whether he succeeds?

#3 is a problem here. You haven't convinced me to care whether a robot finds out where he came from. Is Jaeger the leader of all the mechanized people? Is he hoping to lead his droydes into a new age of sentience and human-like civilization? Is he trying to reach the spirit world where all robots become human?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Face-Lift 1426

Guess the Plot

The Two Kinds of Magic

1. "Magic Carpet Ride," by Steppenwolf, and "Magic Man," by Heart. They're different.

2. Crazed sorcerers battle over the relevance of the definitive article before blasting themselves to shit with the exotic pyromantic devilry only the 17,276,187 have the expertise to muster.

3. There's the magic that's all unicorns and rainbows and pixie dust. Then there's the magic that's blood, bones, and dead-flesh-eating maggots--much more useful for a surgeon. Unfortunately for Nevern, the Inquisition doesn't see it that way, but fortunately, the neighboring warlord is a more understanding sort, even if he does indulge in necromancy and keep malicious dragons as pets.

4. Magician Antonio Sciarra can only attain the unlimited power he covets by killing Delany Riordan. And her only hope of thwarting him is to become a magician herself, before he succeeds. Will bad guy magic triumph over good girl magic?

5. There's the kind Samantha did on Bewitched. And there's the kind Lord Voldemort did in Harry Potter. Personally, I'd rather watch Bewitched, but only the ones with the original Darren.

6. Miles Estamini is an up-and-coming cynical stage magician who knows all the tricks. Martha Smith believes in true love. When these two non-compatible belief systems are thrust into a fantasy world where words, gestures, and beliefs have very tangible physical results, will they end up allies or squabble over who's the real evil overlord?

Original Version

After years of believing that magic is mere delusion, Delany Riordan finds out that magic is real—and dangerous [when she reads about Roy of Siegfried and Roy getting mauled by his tiger]. [I have seen magic shows on stage and TV, and in most cases I have no idea how they do that stuff. It has to be real magic. People like David Copperfield and Shin Lim would've been burned at the stake if they did their acts centuries ago. And rightly so. So, did Delany witness real magic, and assume it was all done with mirrors and sleight of hand? Or does she assume magic isn't real because she's never witnessed real or fake magic?] 

When Delany’s mother turns up drowned in a hotel swimming pool, Delany assumes that’s the last she’ll hear about magicians and secret societies. [Why? Was her mother the only one who ever talked about magicians?] Then Sebastian James arrives to protect her from Antonio Sciarra, the magician who killed her mother. [No way would Antonio Sciarra have drowned Delany's mom in a pool. He'd have drowned her in one of those tanks that magicians get lowered into upside down while wearing a straitjacket.] 

There’s no more room for doubt after Sebastian performs the impossible right in front of her. [He saws a woman in half, and restores her, then pulls a rabbit out of a hat.] Delany agrees to become his apprentice and learn all she never knew about the hidden world of magic, [No magician would reveal how they do it. Except . . . is Sebastian the Masked Magician?] where a mirror can become a passageway and a piece of paper can become a weapon. [Seriously, is anything worse than a paper cut?] 

She’ll need to learn quickly.  Sciarra needs Delany’s death in order to gain unlimited power, and is prepared to muster all his forces to obtain it. [What's so special about Delany that it's her death Sciarra needs? And what are these forces he's prepared to muster?] And with each strike, he’s getting closer... [How many times has he struck already, and why didn't he muster his forces those times?]

THE TWO KINDS OF MAGIC is a 70,000 word urban fantasy with romantic elements. [Sciarra casts a spell that makes Delany fall in love with him.]  I have a Creative Writing degree from Emory University and my short story, “Home”, will be in the upcoming anthology The Forever Inn.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


So are the two kinds of magic real magic like Penn & Teller do vs. fictional magic like Doctor Strange does? Or good magic that saves lives vs. evil magic that brings unlimited power?

We need to know who Delany is. Obviously she isn't some random person who inexplicably happens to be the key to Sciarra taking over the world. Is she the daughter of Glenda, the good witch of the north? How old is she?

It seems like a magician who's on the verge of becoming all-powerful wouldn't keep failing when he attempts to kill this girl or woman before she has developed her powers. He didn't have any trouble killing her mother. Does Sebastian keep saving her, or does she use her wits? You don't want your main character, a female, to depend on a man to keep rescuing her. 

Is it a coincidence that Delany Riordan is an anagram of "ornery Aladdin"? Consider calling the villain Aladdin instead of Sciarra, which is the name of a Bond villain, though not as well-known a Bond villain as Blofeld or Goldfinger (and his first name was Marco instead of Antonio). Anyway, you wouldn't do a superhero comic book and name the main villain Rex Luthor.

Tell us what happens in the book, not just who's in it and what the situation is. What's the Delany/Sebastian plan to defeat Sciarra? What goes wrong? What will happen if they fail (besides Delany dying). Like what is Sciarra's goal after he has unlimited power? 

Friday, March 18, 2022

Feedback Request

 The author of the opening featured in New Beginning 1072 and 1074 would like feedback on the following alternative opening.

The salt that gave the Blood Flats their color made them near-impossible to farm. They also flooded with seawater on occasion, and the small collective of which I was a part would need to migrate to the forest. However, the Blood Flats did have their uses; the barrenness of the land provided excellent visibility, the priests had to walk for several days to bring us supplies, [Why is that an advantage?] and there were a few caves and unpolluted springs. Best of all, some of the rock could be poisonous. [Almost everything on that list could be seen as disadvantages of the Blood Flats.] Unfortunately, we were having difficulty getting small enough pieces to make into weapons.

We had rope, woven from the few tough grasses that grew in the less toxic parts of the Blood Flats. It was great for mundane use, but would not stand up long to the Dragon Warlord. Wood had a similar problem. Our only hope of defeating the Dragon Warlord lay in stone, and our combined talents. [Basically, straw didn't work, sticks didn't work, so they went with stone. This is the plot of The Three Little Pigs.] [Which, I now discover, I pointed out in my notes about New Beginning 1074.]

Soon, the Dragon Warlord would need to eat. We were running out of time. [Wait, the Dragon Warlord is an actual dragon? That would be clearer if you referred to it as "the dragon."] [Also, I now have less respect for their intelligence if they thought rope could defeat a fire-breathing dragon.] Han, trying to pick up a boulder, collapsed. [If I can't tell by looking at it that I won't be able to lift a boulder, I know within one second of trying. I don't grunt and sweat and throw out my back.] He had been using Hope to work harder than anyone else, not quite believing that the glowing blue leaves could be deadly. [He was told Hope was deadly, but didn't believe it? So he decided to test the theory by lifting boulders? They're all morons, but Han is the king of the morons.]

Vole, the half-priest, took over the watch at the end of the day. [Vole? Wait, are these talking animals? And the Dragon Warlord is a Komodo Dragon? Suddenly I love this. If they're people, change them to animals.] Many people didn’t quite trust him, but he was the only one who could tell when the priests were sending out the Dragon Warlord. [So the priests are villains? And the half-priest might not be?] He would be on night watch until the Dragon Warlord had eaten. I fell into an uneasy sleep wondering who would be next. We would not be ready in time to save them. 

I woke up suddenly, lying completely still and straining my senses for any hint of what had woken me. Another tap came at the entrance. Jumping up, I sprinted over to yank at the spot in the pulley system that would quickly pull the entrance-stone away. [
If they all get into the cave that has an entrance stone that can only be moved by the pulley system, they should be safe.] Vole was standing outside, looking guilty. His strange eye mirrored that of the Dragon Warlord and the scar that went through it twisted half his face into a permanent grin.


I'm afraid I don't see that significant changes have been made since you submitted the version in New Beginning 1074. You added part of what was in 1072, but didn't address the biggest problems.

One vole would not be a meal for a Komodo Dragon. It would be like an amuse bouche. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2022

Face-Lift 1425

Guess the Plot

Two Truths and a Lie

1. I love you. I love you. I love you.

2. Against all odds, you have managed to submit your query to Evil Editor. Your work will receive the same treatment that would be afforded an author like John Grisham. Evil Editor and his minions truly value your work and care about you personally.

3. My father is a homophobe. He would disown me and disinherit me if he thought I was gay. Luckily, I'm not.

4. You completed your novel. Your family and all your friends tell you it's brilliant. It's sure to be published.

5. The weather report calls for possible tornadoes. Douglas wants to watch the big game on his new TV. That noise he hears is probably just a train going by.

6. Conman John "Dough" Montgomery needs to repay loan shark "No-miss" Natasha before she puts a bullet in his heart. Or did he already lose his heart to her and that's why he signed to begin with? And is her real interest in the loan interest or in him? It's cutthroat three card monty crossed with swoony Russian roulette, gangster style.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

People say the truth will set you free, but how free will your truth get you if it’s half a lie? [The truth only sets you free if you're innocent and can prove it. If you're guilty, and admit it, you're done for.] [Also, I don't like opening with a vague question.]

Sixteen-year-old Ashton Sinclair-Yang is caught in a crossfire of two truths and a lie. Despite knowing his parents’ rocky relationship will end in someone leaving, he’s still heartbroken over the fact that it’s his dad. It leaves him defenseless against his overbearing mom, making things especially hard since his home support system—twin sister Mallory—seems to never be around anymore. [If his dad's absence leaves him defenseless, it sounds like his dad was his support system. Also, as Yoda would say, Mallory around is or is not. There is no 'seems'.] [Also, twins in fiction are always the same gender, allowing you to write scenes where they trade places with each other. It's an unwritten rule, just like whenever a body is burned in a fire, it's never the body of who they think it is.] But at least, with his dad gone, he doesn’t have to lie about being straight anymore, right? [Did he frequently have to say, Dad, I'm straight? or did the subject never come up?]

Turns out, it’s not that easy. It gets harder [It's not that easy, it gets harder . . . what exactly is "it." Not lying about being straight?] when Ashton falls head over heels for Mason Castillo, a boy just like himself, having one foot in his true self and another one living a lie. He figured [figures] that if they stick together, their lying karmas will balance out. [Wrong. k + k = 2k, not 0] The more time he spends with Mason, the more he’s able to pull himself out of his lies, enabling him to smoothen the relationship with his mother and rebuild the bridge to reach Mallory. [Just because a 16-year-old girl stops hanging out with her brother doesn't mean a bridge has collapsed. Did something happen?] Everything is set and ready for him to let go of the half-lies he’s been holding on to [He pulled himself out of his lies, but held onto his half-lies. I'm getting confused. The title says there are two truths and one lie.] . . . until his dad comes back.

Just like that, Ashton falls back into the pit he’s been trying so hard to dig himself out of. His father’s return shines a light on many other holes the people around him have dug, filled to the brim with lies of their own. He realizes he isn’t the only one in the family playing an unwinnable game of two truths and a lie against the universe, and now all the lies are catching up to them. [I'm starting to think the title should be One Truth and Hundreds of Lies. You could throw in a couple specific examples of what you're talking about.] If he doesn’t find a way to end the lies, especially his own, he’ll have to watch his family crumble and lose a truthful love he desperately wants to have. [Good to tell us what's at stake, but the rest of the paragraph is vague.]

Complete at 89,400 words, TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE is a standalone coming-of-age YA novel. It’s an honest and provoking tale of sexuality, family, and finding legitimacy in one’s own identity through living as their own true self that would appeal to fans of FIFTEEN HUNDRED MILES FROM THE SUN by Johnny Garza Villa, MORE HAPPY THAN NOT by Adam Silvera, and LOVEBOAT TAIPEI by Abigail Hing Wen.


I could assume the book's theme has to do with truth and lies from the title. By my count, forms of the words "truth" and "lies" appear at least 16 times in the body of the query. That's where I'm expecting to find the plot summary. 

Fewer metaphors, please. (caught in a crossfire of two truths and a lie, another foot living a lie, rebuilding the bridge, digging holes filled to the brim with lies, playing an unwinnable game of two truths and a lie against the universe)

Unless Mallory is more crucial than you've let on, we don't need her in the query.

You've basically provided us with your main character's situation. Which can be done in one paragraph:

Sixteen-year-old Ashton knew his parents were going to split up, but he didn't want his dad to be the one who left. Although with his dad gone, at least he doesn't have to pretend to be straight anymore. When he falls for Mason, another kid who's been hiding his sexual orientation, Ashton finds that even his crappy home life is reinvigorated. Then his dad comes back. 

Now that we know his situation, what's his goal? How does he plan to achieve this goal? What obstacles could stop him? Does he have allies? Does he have a plan B?
What will happen if he fails? Is there a point at which he must make a difficult decision that will make or break his plan? What are the pros and cons of his possible actions?

If you can answer most of these questions with specific information, especially information about what happens (the plot), your query will be much more compelling.

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Face-Lift 1424

Guess the Plot

The Reanimates

1. Louisa wants to bring her long-dead mother back to life but her state has outlawed the reanimation procedure. When Louisa tries to go to another state she's captured and thrown in a prison bunker. Can she escape, get to an out-of-state reanimation clinic, & revive her mom before anti-reanimation fanatics hunt her down?

2. Sean Tompsy thinks the job offer is to re-boot some cartoon series so old he's never heard of it. But the location for his job is an old graveyard and involves more decaying flesh than film. At least there's good health care, and great death benefits.

3. If the enemy of your enemy hates you and their enemies are also your enemies and the enemies of those enemies are simply more enemies, you may be doing something wrong. Of course, you only need corpses to make a few hundred thousand friends.

4. Vintage cartoon characters Mikey, Dunwald, Goopy and Plato finally make their return to the screen, but this time as the undead, thanks to the machinations of their original creator, Dalt Winzey, newly unfrozen from cryogenic storage. A roman à clef with fictional characterizations cleverly designed to avoid potential litigation. 

5. From Frankenstein to Re-Animator, fictional characters have long been fascinated by the idea of reanimating the dead. But Virgil Weeds knows something those idiots didn't, and he's gonna build an army of reanimates to take over the world. You'll see, just as soon as he's released from the psych ward. 

6. When the dead start coming to life, it's not clear if they're gonna be zombies like in The Walking Dead, or good people who just smell bad. Either way, we can't have them walking among us, so it's open season on anyone you think might be one of them. 

7. A love triangle gone wrong leaves a beaten corpse lying next to a pile of empty spinach cans. A shotgun-wielding psycho with a speech impediment screams "Wabbit season!" before opening fire in a pet store. Savage attacks on campers by something smarter -- and deadlier -- than the average bear. Homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: 1) animated characters from the 70's are back with a vengeance, and 2) he could have avoided it all if he had just taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fifteen-year-old Louisa Fern won’t have to grieve her mother’s suicide for much longer. Or wonder why her mother would leave her at just seven years old. If she can only make it through another three years, she will finally get her answers and a second chance to prove she is worth staying alive for. That is until her state’s authoritarian government [So this is Florida?] suddenly outlaws the reanimation procedure that brings the dead back to life. [Does the procedure take 3 years, or do have to be 18 to request the procedure?]

Giving up on reanimating her mother will never be an option for Louisa. When she discovers the procedure is still permitted in the next state over, she makes a run for it despite the fact that crossing state lines is illegal. She should have known she would get caught [because pushing her mother's corpse down the Interstate in a wheelbarrow is kind of conspicuous.] but that doesn’t prevent her from putting up a fight—one that lands her in a government-run bunker resembling a prison. Except, it’s not a prison and she’s apparently [supposedly] there for her own protection. But if that’s the case, then why are there armed soldiers everywhere she looks? And why will no one tell her how long she has to stay or let her contact anyone on the outside? Most importantly, why in the world [And what] does she need protection [from]?

Louisa’s questions only multiply but she can’t lose focus now. The solution seems simple: Do whatever it takes to get the hell out of the bunker and find a better way to cross state lines. But it won’t be that easy, [That easy? It sounds impossible to me. I assume they didn't put her in an underground prison bunker, and then give her free rein to wander around the grounds above the bunker.] especially after she learns she’s not the person she thought she was her entire life. [She's actually the reanimated Princess Diana.] [Not clear why it would be "especially" hard to escape and cross state lines now that she knows who she really is.] [Also, who is she?] To make matters worse, each obstacle Louisa comes up against only makes it more apparent that she’s not in the bunker for protection. With her life now in danger, [Why is her life now in danger?] Louisa begins to rethink everything she thought she knew about reanimation, herself, and her mother’s suicide. [It wasn't suicide. It was . . . murder!]

One thing is certain. If she has any hopes of getting her mother back, she must make it out before it’s too late. [When will it be too late? When they kill her? If they want her dead, why haven't they killed her already?]

THE REANIMATES is a work of YA speculative fiction, complete at 90,000 words. It combines the raw and honest look at love and loss of Emily X.R. Pan’s THE ASTONISHING COLOR OF AFTER with the speculative sci-fi elements found in Stefanie Gaither’s FALLS THE SHADOW. I look forward to writing further books in the series [including one set twenty years in the future where Donald Trump's followers reanimate his corpse and he gets elected president again and destroys America again.]

I have had two personal essays related to my own experiences with mother loss and suicide published in the literary journals HEAL (Humans Evolving through Art and Literature) and Halfway Down the Stairs. When I’m not working as a freelance news and content writer, I can be found on the beach with my wife and dog.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Even if she makes it across the state line, won't she still have to wait three years? 

What does she need to bring to the reanimation center? The body? (Has it been cryogenically frozen?) Some DNA? (Would the person created from the mother's DNA have the mother's memories of why she committed suicide?)

Here's a shorter version of your plot description, one that might not inspire the reader to ask a lot of questions you don't have room to answer in the query:  

Louisa Fern has long wondered why her mother committed suicide when Louisa was just seven years old. She thinks she'll soon have a chance to ask her--until her state’s authoritarian government suddenly outlaws the reanimation procedure that brings the dead back to life.

When she discovers the procedure is still permitted in the next state over, Louisa makes an unsuccessful run for it, and ends up imprisoned in a state-run bunker, supposedly for her own protection. But why will no one tell her how long she has to stay? Or what she needs protection from?

As her questions multiply, Louisa begins to rethink everything she thought she knew about reanimation, herself, and her mother’s suicide. One thing is certain. If she has any hope of getting her mother back, she must escape from the bunker before [something more specific than "it's too late."]

That's short enough that you can add a little something I left out that you mistakenly think is vital.

Not sure I like the title. Are "the reanimates" characters in the book who've been reanimated? Perhaps The [adjective: troublesome? desperate?] Reanimation of Louisa Fern's Mother.

As you call this a look at love and loss, I assume it's not intended as a satirical look at abortion rights, but the "procedure" being recently outlawed in some states is bound to give the reader that idea. If you don't want that, calling it a process instead of a procedure might help. Or not.