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. 

Sunday, February 13, 2022

Face-Lift 1423

Guess the Plot

The Jerks

1. Some people are just so annoying--needy and clingy and snippy all the time. Everyone thinks so. But that's hardly a motive to murder them. Besides, I certainly wasn't the last person to have seen them, and if I was, I'm pretty sure they were already dead. 

2. What if dogs and birds and other animals could talk? That would be cute, right? Wrong, as Henry finds out when animals trash talk at him and tell him to f*@k off as he's walking through the park. Turns out animals are jerks. Also, a murder investigation conducted by fish.

3. A history of how we came to be who we are, including Neanderthals who let their saber-tooth tigers poop in front of neighboring caves, Romans who parked their chariots across two spaces at the market, and Elizabethans who talked too loudly in the audience during Shakespeare plays.

4. Willie "Spiceman" Wilde has the best jerk chicken this side of a Kingston barbecue pit--a lock to take home the Kentucky State Fair prize. But newcomer Nancy "Honey" Louis is rumored to have a certain knack with the chilis and coals. Will this year's competition result in a hot and steamy romance . . . or murder? Includes recipes.

5. When J.V.B.Z.G. "Electro-pecs" Hoolihan's Total Body Excitation device explodes, he fears his circus career as an accidental acrobat is over. Only Sally McGoodyGoody's Home Soup Kitchen can save him. But will Sally’s past as a frenzied hooker serve Hoolihan well as she spoons him the succor he desires? Or will she have his eyeballs out by chapter 3 because she can barely control her fingers?

6. Newly elected to Congress, Ellen James finds herself surrounded by sexual predators, sexist assholes, racists, morons, and corrupt thieves. Can she do anything to save America from all of . . . The Jerks?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

THE JERKS (70,000 words) is a magical realist romantic comedy, in which a wise dog helps a lonely human find his voice.

It starts with a bird, a pretty little warbler in Central Park who tells Henry Parsons to f*** off.  Soon he hears dogs mocking their owners, and pigeons trashtalking, and police horses profiling.  Henry is a gentle soul who finds it all hard to bear.  [Especially when he gets insulted by a talking bear! Ba dum ching!] But he doesn’t tell anyone because it’s crazy, right?  Until he overhears three rats discussing a corpse in the New York subway. 
[I can't tell if the corpse is in the subway, or the rats are discussing it in the subway. Or both.] [Either way, that would also be crazy. Possibly you could say: But he doesn’t tell anyone because no one would believe him. Besides, it's kind of funny . . .  until he overhears three rats discussing a corpse in the New York subway.] 

Henry’s new friend Molly Bent — impulsive, optimistic, cavorting through life — decides to investigate.  [So he tells Molly he heard three rats discussing a corpse, and instead of slowly backing out of the room, she decides to investigate?] He’s desperate for another date with her.  So the usually cautious Henry plays along, following her into an abandoned tunnel under the West Fourth Street station. [She was going to go by herself? She sounds a little . . . bent!] There they find a body, sure enough... and the presumed murderers find them. [If they're the murderers, don't call them "presumed." If they aren't the murderers, why are they hunting Henry in the next paragraph?] [Why are the murderers still hanging around the scene of their crime? Is it certain the corpse is a murder victim?] 

Now Henry is being hunted, and for the first time in his careful life there’s no way to duck confrontation. [With ducks! Spoiler alert: The murderers are talking ducks!] He must find the courage to face his stalkers. [Why? Facing murderers who know that he knows that they're murderers sounds like a bad idea.] Of course, that same assertiveness might transform his chances with Molly too. Wisdom arrives, unexpectedly, from two erudite betta fish and a neighbor’s yapping Pomeranian. [If this is the wise dog that helps him find his voice, i
t should be a philosophizing Pomeranian, not a yapping one.] [Also, if the dog just yaps, I have no choice but to assume it's the two erudite fish who solve the case.]

This offbeat novel may appeal to fans of Carl Hiaasen’s Squeeze Me, Eileen Garvin’s The Music of Bees, or Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill. [Do those books feature talking animals too? Or just jerks?] [Another way to go would be to say it would appeal to fans of Heckle and Jeckle, the wisecracking magpies, who were definitely jerks, at least in the opinion of their rival, Dimwit the dog.]

My writing has appeared {etc, etc.}.  Many thanks for your time and consideration.

With respect,


I really enjoyed Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children. I easily bought into kids with special powers. So I purchased the sequel, Hollow City, which had a lot of the same kids, but also, it turned out, a talking dog. This ruined it for me, because hello: dogs can't talk. And even though there've been numerous other books in the series, I didn't buy them, because they might have a talking dog. (A talking parrot would be okay, as evidenced by this scene from my graphic novel about a bird named Hercule Parrot:)

Not sure if any of that was relevant.

Are the talking animals the jerks of the title? They don't seem to play much of a role in your plot description. Plus the Pomeranian and the fish don't seem to be jerks. In fact, they seem to be the heroes. Which is fine if you plan to write sequels starring your crime-fighting fish, but your main characters are Henry and Molly. Is Molly also being hunted by the murderers? She seems to disappear after they find the corpse, except as Henry's motivation to demonstrate his courage. 

Wait, there's a fish called a molly. Is Molly a fish? Henry does seem just crazy enough to fall for a fish. Is this one of those "fish out of water" stories? Or does he carry her around in a fishbowl?

The animals don't seem to play enough of a role to title the book after them. Note that the animals in this video titled Animals Can Be Jerks are the stars, not supporting actors: animaljerks

Your one-sentence description was: "a wise dog helps a lonely man find his voice." It should be: two wise fish help a loony guy solve a murder to impress his crush.

You have three stories, the romcom starring Henry and Molly, the crime novel, and the magical realism story starring fish and a wise dog and jerk animals. Combining them in a book can work, but combining them in a query leaves each of them getting short shrift. I'm not sure which of them you should focus on. Perhaps start out:

In a world where animals can talk and are wiser than humans, Henry Parsons wants nothing more than to find true love with his crush, Molly Bent. But when, on their second date, the couple discover a corpse in an abandoned tunnel under the Fourth Street subway station, Henry puts his romantic aspirations on hold, knowing if he can bring the murderers to justice, Molly may be impressed enough to go out with him a third time.

Of course I realize that may not be exactly how your book goes . . . but it should be.

Friday, February 04, 2022

Face-Lift 1422

The Two Ravens

No one submitted a fake plot for this title, so no Guess the Plot

Dear Evil Editor.

Some dead people don’t know they’re dead. [Spoiler alert: For instance, Bruce Willis.]

Most people won’t notice these miserable, lost souls as they wander through dimensions. [If the ones who weren't miserable to begin with don't know they're dead, why are they now miserable?] But for sixteen-year-old psychopomp Raven, they can be a downright nuisance. Who [Nobody] wants to be ogled by an audience of impatient spirits as you [they] make out with your [their] boyfriend on the settee? [Having looked up "psychopomp," and discovered it's a "creature, spirit, angel, or deity in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife," I'm wondering if psychopomps would have time for boyfriends. It doesn't sound like a job for a teenager.] [I mean, when I die, I don't think I want my escort to wherever to be some teenager who starts every sentence with like or so or I mean.] [Do you mind if I just shorten that word to "psycho" from now on? "Psychopomp" sounds like a new genre of loud bad music.] [So, when did Raven discover she was a psycho? How did she know how to guide dead people to the afterlife?]

When Raven’s parents die in an accident, she is packed off to live with her grandfather in an enormous old manor house, Dunham Hall.  [Like, did she pomp her parents to the afterlife?] [Did her parents know she was a psycho?] But old manor houses come with their own share of ghosts.

Raven finds herself drawn to Saul, the strangely familiar son of the hostile housekeeper. As their relationship grows, Raven begins to have disturbing flashes when she touches him. In her visions, they are both adults. Saul knows more about these memories than he’s letting on, [These sound more like precursors or premonitions than memories. Are they memories of when they knew each other in a past life?] and Raven is determined to find out what he’s not telling her. [Kind of like we're determined to find out what you're not telling us.] 

But to win their freedom, Raven must learn more about their problems, [Coming after a paragraph about Raven and Saul, it's not immediately clear that "their" doesn't refer to Raven & Saul.] and what help they need before they’ll rest in peace. [Maybe all they need is a psycho to get up off the settee and guide them to the hereafter.] It won't be easy. Someone is trying to steal the souls that she’s trying to help, ["Steal" meaning "kidnap"? What do you do with a soul once you've stolen it?] and she certainly didn’t expect to come face-to-face with herself in the afterlife.

THE TWO RAVENS is a Young Adult Paranormal Romance complete at 89,000 words with series potential. It will appeal to readers of Mary Lindsey’s Souls series and The Haunted by Danielle Vega.

I thank you for your consideration.


Is Raven the only psychopomp in the book? Is she human? Do you have to train to become a psycho?

If Raven died in a past life and was chosen to be a psycho, wouldn't they just train her and send her back instead of making her spend sixteen years of hell growing up?

Maybe start with paragraph 3: When sixteen-year-old psychopomp Raven loses her parents in a tractor accident . . .  That doesn't explain what a psychopomp is, but maybe I'm the only one who needed to be told. I'm not sure we even need the Saul paragraph. He can be worked into the 1st paragraph: When sixteen-year-old psychopomp Raven loses her parents in a tractor accident, she is packed off to live with her grandfather in an enormous old manor house, Dunham Hall. Not the worst possible fate, especially when she meets the housekeeper's hunky son, Saul. But old manor houses also come with ghosts. 

The manor has ghosts, the ghosts need help, Raven wants to help them, someone else is keeping Raven from helping them. What's her plan? What's the danger?