Saturday, January 15, 2022

Face-Lift 1421

Guess the Plot

The Township

1. When Earth's atmosphere becomes toxic, only one settlement remains: the Township. Can the last humans work together to avoid extinction, or will they split into warring factions leading to civil war? They're humans, so that question was rhetorical.

2. When a Venus-sized ice meteor combines with global warming to raise the sea levels higher than they've ever been in history, Mac "Noah" Knicker and his neighbors decide to build a boat under their entire town. It's home flipping at it's finest ... and worst.

3Susan has been living on the Sweet Delilah all her life. The township was sailing the seas even before her grandmother was born. But now there is a new smell in the air, mixed in with the sea salt breeze: Blood.

4. When the good folks of Midsomeplace Kansas sail free into the climate changed canals of New USA, nothing can prepare them for redneck cries of WHERE'S MY FRICKIN' PANTS? and THIS THURSDAY YET? resounding from the underhollow of their discomfort. This too-close-to-the-knuckle apocalyptic abomination of a book may slay every family pet you hold dear. EVEN BEFORE THEY READ IT!

5. How three women living in a township outside Johannesburg sparked a movement to end apartheid. And how two decades later their dreams were finally realized . . . with all the credit going to men. 

6. On its surface, Barton Township is Small Town, America. Mayberry, incarnate. Until you look under the covers, behind closed doors at the seedy underbelly of this seemingly idyllic community. This book blows the lid off the shrouded secret lives of the sleazy residents of one squalid township.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

The Township is the last surviving human settlement, and it is falling to pieces. The airtight structures are crumbling, the machinery used for repairs is wearing out, and the economy is dependent on technology that it cannot reproduce. [Barcode scanners. I don't see how this place even has an economy if the barcode scanners aren't working.] Worst of all, the population is divided into two radicalized factions [The faction that still has working barcode scanners, and the faction that doesn't.] on the brink of civil war. [Civil war? Everyone still alive lives in this one township, and because there's no other settlement to go to war with, they're going to war with each other? Why am I surprised? They're humans.]

As a young engineering technician, Jacob Watz volunteers to work outside in an inhospitably hot atmosphere filled with toxic hydrogen sulfide. [Doing what? I hope this isn't your main character, because he's kind of a moron.] After a run of terrible luck, he [I'm not sure I'd blame his heat stroke and chemical pneumonia on bad luck.] is blamed for a welding accident and forced to choose between a decade of forced labor or join[ing] a nearly suicidal expedition into the surrounding ruins to scavenge fabrication equipment. [That's a pretty stiff punishment for a welding accident. What did he accidentally weld?] The expedition is undermanned and under-resourced, but Jacob becomes [is] determined to return alive with enough equipment to give the engineers a fighting chance to save the decaying Township. [Basically, he's hoping to find one of those 3D printers which they can use to make a barcode scanner.]

Sandra Evans, Chair of the Council and the highest-ranking authority in the Township, tries desperately to keep the peace. She conceives of the expedition as a way to unite the population behind their shared cause of survival, but the project sparks the very civil war that she had been trying to avoid. [Obviously the first faction to find a 3D printer used it to fabricate assault rifles instead of barcode scanners. Humans are so predictable.] With the violence spiraling out of control, she attempts to assert what authority she has left to prevent the final extinction of humanity. [Do both factions consider her an authority figure?]

The Township is my 105,000 word climate fiction novel. [Is climate fiction a genre now? "Dystopian" might be a better descriptor.] The setting is based on the Permian Extinction, which was the largest of Earth’s 5 mass extinctions and is believed to be the result of rapid global warming. [
The Permian global warming, I believe, was caused by volcanoes. Yours, I assume, was caused by humans, who, typically, are now blaming it on the climate, hence "climate fiction."]  My readers have compared it to [Fans of] Wool by Hugh Howey and Colony Mars by Gerald Kilby [will enjoy this book].

Thank you for [taking] the time to consider my novel. The first X pages are below. I hope you enjoy them.


How does the last settlement on the planet have an economy dependent on technology? I'd expect the economy to consist of people trading the zucchini they grew for repairs to their thatched roofs. Do they have an electrical grid, delivery trucks, cell phones, remote controls for their televisions?

Is the main plot of this book the mission to find 3D printers, or the civil war involving the last of humanity? If it's the latter, I'd drop the paragraph about Jacob. His mission seems like small potatoes in the big picture. If the book is mostly about this one mission, I'd rather hear about the plan, the obstacles, what goes wrong, and what's at stake than about Sandra. In other words, I would focus the query on one main character, even if the book has two.


Monday, January 10, 2022

Face-Lift 1420


Guess the Plot

The Lesser Evil

1. Harvey Weinstein or Ghislaine Maxwell?

2. Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell?

3. The demon who's offering you eternal life in hell, or the priest who made your childhood a hell on Earth?

4. The judge who refused to grant you a restraining order against your abusive husband, or your abusive husband who would've ignored the order anyway?

5. The unshaven guy who just broke in the door, or the clean shaven, guy who kidnapped you and is holding you captive?

6. The serial killer who has you duct taped to an operating table in his dungeon, or the guy who gave you a date rape drug and then sold you to the serial killer?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Hazel thought she was street smart. This illusion came crashing down with a billy club to the back of her head. 

Her captor thinks no one can find them in the wilds of the Virginia mountains, least of all by someone that isn’t looking for either of them. Turns out they are both idiots today [he's wrong too].

Trapped in a cabin with the unexpected, they have the same goal - - escape.

The unexpected looks like Hazel’s usual clientele - -  tattooed, unshaven, slightly greasy unkept [unkempt] hair, wild eyes, [orange jumpsuit with "Department of Corrections"] printed on the back, and the scent of angry hopelessness. Maybe that’s cheap whiskey, but the two are easily confused. [I wouldn't say the scent of angry hopelessness is easily confused with the scent of cheap whiskey. I might say they go hand in hand.] Her captor seems to be the polar opposite; clean shaven, not a hair out of place and new clothes that release a pleasant scent as he moved [moves]. [I gotta get some of those clothes. Does J.C. Penney carry them?] One thing these two have in common, they’re equally dangerous. At least the unexpected wore clothes that branded him as dangerous, [Could you be more specific? Any of these?]

unlike her captor who’s a wolf in sleek clothing. 

[If Hazel thinks a guy who looks like her usual clientele is as dangerous as a guy who knocked her unconscious and transported her to a secluded cabin, she needs to start serving a classier clientele. Maybe instead of focusing on the unexpected's looks, tell us what makes him as big a threat as her captor. Does he have a weapon? Has he said anything threatening? I think if someone knocked me out and I woke up in a cabin in the wilds of the mountains, I'd welcome the intervention of a third party, even one with tattoos and greasy hair.]                   

Hazel’s sure neither has the intention of letting the other leave the cabin alive [Why not? Neither one of them is gonna go to the police] and her odds for survival, which weren’t good to start with, are getting lower by the minute. What was supposed to be a light dusting of snow is turning into a full on blizzard and none of them are [no one is] leaving anytime soon. [How does she know what the weather report called for in the mountains?]

She has to pick a side in order to survive. If it weren’t for the splitting headache, she could almost mistake her captor’s protective stance as chivalry. [If she has to pick a side, choosing the one who's almost chivalric is not the best criteria. I recommend going with the guy who's most likely to win a fight to the death between the two of them. When the fight is over, and one guy has emerged victorious, you don't want to be the person who was cheering on the other guy. Does she place her trust with her captor or take a chance on the convict with blood on his sleeve? [Wait, the convict? So he's wearing one of those striped prison uniforms or an orange jumpsuit? If you told us that up front you could have referred to him as the convict instead of the unexpected. Plus, prison garb is far more suggestive of danger than greasy hair and tattoos.]

THE LESSER EVIL is a suspense novel. [Include the word count so agents can reject your book for being too short or too long. If you don't include the word count, they'll assume it's too short or too long and reject it.]

Thank you,


Does the convict have a gun? If so, choose him over the guy with the billy club. 

The convict could be a wrongly convicted good guy who got framed. The other guy clubbed you over the head and had no possible reason for bringing you to this cabin other than to torture you before he kills you. Choose the convict.

The blizzard seems irrelevant. If neither guy is gonna let the other leave alive, it doesn't matter if it's snowing . . . Unless the snow is gonna trap them there long enough that they run out of food and have to resort to cannibalism, in which case they'd be better off not killing each other now, because they'll want the meat to be fresh.

Telling yourself, If it weren’t for the splitting headache, I could almost mistake my captor’s protective stance as chivalry, is like thinking, If it weren't for the dagger he just thrust into my gut, I might be sizing this guy up as possible husband material.

A few minor errors in a one-page query could convince the reader that there'll be a few on every page of your manuscript.