Friday, July 21, 2023

Face-Lift 1436

Guess the Plot

 Dark Lord's Daughter

1. She doesn't want to be known as a conquest, a rival, a bitter ex, and especially not as her father's daughter. Journey with Eliza as she finds her own path, even one as a hero.

2In a country where a dead king is succeeded by whichever heir gets to the throne first, the race is on. Princess Tia would make the best monarch, but can she outwit her evil sisters' saboteurs and reach the capital before either of them?

3. What became of Dracula's daughter? She had the castle in Transylvania remodeled, started her own real estate company, and sold cosmetics on the side. Blood red lipstick was her biggest seller.

4. Evila is tired of smuggling would-be heroes into the castle only to have to mop up their remains a few minutes later. It's time to set up a tourney and a series of tasks to prove they've got a chance. And well past time to hire a cleaning staff.

5. Think Romeo and Juliet--if Romeo were a tantrum-throwing narcissist and rebellious Juliet were a monster hunter from a clan of pharmaceutically-inclined hippies--until the end which is more The Road to Bob Hope meets Lord of the Flies.

6. Everyone cheered when the Dark Lord was killed. They'd been under his thumb for decades. What they didn't know was that the Dark Lord was a pussycat compared to the . . . Dark Lord's Daughter.

7. When Lucy's mother remarried someone tall, dark, and handsome, Lucy thought she'd only need to deal with racism, not a parallel world with people declaring war after she wears the wrong colors to a party. After a crash course in etiquette leads to another declaration of war, she suspects step-daddy may be using her. But, hey, whatever the price to bring peace to a unified world.

Original Version

 Dear [agent]:

The princess was abandoned as a child at the Dark Lord's dungeon. Ten years later, someone has finally come looking for her. 

Twenty-year-old princess Tiamat just wants to teach and learn magic, but when the king is dying, Tia has no choice but to begin traveling to the capital to take the throne. If she doesn't take it before her older sisters, the country will descend into war. 
[I don't see why the only way to keep the country from descending into war is if a twenty-year-old woman who's been in a dungeon since she was ten takes the throne. How does anyone on either side of this potential war know what any of the daughters' reign would be like?] [If the king and the Dark Lord are not the same person how can Tia be called a princess if she isn't the king's daughter? If they are the same person, wouldn't his dungeon be under his castle, rather than a long way away? Has Tia been a prisoner in the dungeon for ten years? Or just living there to learn from the Dark Lord? Could she have traveled to the capital any time she wanted? Or did someone have to break her out of the dungeon when the king was dying? Very kind of them, though even kinder would have been to break her out years ago, even if the king was in good health.] 

As Tia travels the country with a paladin, a huntress, and a criminal, she gets a better look at the world outside the dungeon. Her magic and leadership are both put to the test when every town seems to have [has] 
its own problem she needs to solve. 
["It has or has not. There is no seems."--Yoda] With one of her sisters already in the country, [If the king has even a mild cold, I would expect the evil sisters to be hanging around the throne 24/7, not off in another country.] fighting against her, she has to defeat her sister's spies and saboteurs, or watch everything fall to pieces around her. [I get the impression if she doesn't defeat the spies and saboteurs, she won't won't be watching anything.]

Complete at 109,000 words, DARK LORD'S DAUGHTER is an adult fantasy set in The Kingdom of the Valley, a magical version of Mesopotamia reaching the Industrial Revolution. [
If this is the Industrial Revolution, I think Tia would hop a train to the capital instead of wandering from town to town solving people's trivial problems. Time is of the essence, and you can bet her sister is on her way to the nearest train station as we speak.] It will appeal to readers of the Cradle Series and Fullmetal Alchemist. Dark Lord’s Daughter has potential for a sequel following Tia's story as she continues to deal with her other two sisters.

[reason why submitting to this agent]

I have been reading for as long as I can remember, and started writing when I was nine years old, when I wrote a story with an entirely too-competent main character who looked suspiciously like me. Thankfully, I have improved as a writer since then. [Let the agent decide for herself whether you've improved since then.]

Per your submission guidelines, I have included [requested amount of the manuscript]. Thank you for your consideration.


The king's daughter was abandoned at the Dark Lord's dungeon. This suggests you're talking about two different guys. The title of the book convinces me they're the same guy, because how can the Dark Lord's daughter be a princess and become the monarch when the king dies? But you don't mention the title until after the plot summary. So when your reader finally gets to the title, they think, Who's this Dark Lord guy and why doesn't he do anything in the query? Then the reader thinks, The queen must have had an affair with the Dark Lord twenty years ago, resulting in the birth of Tia, and the queen confessed this to the king ten years ago, and that's why the king murdered the queen and ordered Tia dropped off at the Dark Lord's dungeon. Wait, have I stumbled onto the actual plot of your book? Because my version sounds a lot better than what I thought was the plot.

I don't think you need that first paragraph. You don't ever say who abandoned the princess or why, or who came looking for her or if they found her. You do mention that there's a character who goes by "Dark Lord" and he has a dungeon, but that's the only time you mention Dark Lord except when you reveal the title. 

As the king apparently has three daughters, maybe the title should be The Dark Lord's Daughters. Was Chekhov's play Three Sisters titled Sister? Was the sitcom My Three Sons titled My Son? Did you leave the other two sisters out of the title because they weren't nice people? That would be like Dracula being titled Jonathan HarkerKramer vs. Kramer would be KramerSnow White and the Seven Dwarfs would be Snow White and the Six Dwarfs, because Grumpy was . . . grumpy.

You can't answer all my questions in this query, but if we assume there are a few facts that you've kept from us that would miraculously clear everything up, and that do clear it all up in the book, you need to write a query that doesn't inspire all these questions. A fairly general example:

Twenty-year-old princess Tiamat wants nothing more than to teach and learn magic, but when she hears that the king is dying, she abandons her studies and heads for the capital. She knows if she can reach the capital before either of her malicious sisters, she can take the throne and avert a disastrous war for the country. But getting there won't be easy, as her sisters' spies and saboteurs are out to stop her at any cost. 

Luckily, Tia has three companions traveling with her: a scarecrow, a tin man and a  paladin, a huntress, and a criminal. Together, thanks in no small part to Tia's leadership and magic, the foursome are able to thwart their enemies as they make their way toward the Emerald City. Little do they know their problems are just beginning.

 [Final obstacle/decision/plan]

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Face-Lift 1435

Guess the Plot 

Vitality Discovered

1. You, yes YOU can sprightly JUMP out of bed in the mornings, keep those bright eyes OPEN, and get UP every other part of you that needs getting UP. Buy this book and everything but your bank account will be REVITALIZED!!!!!!!!!!

2. In a world where people can steal the vitality of others, siphoning their lives from them, is it immoral for Lucy Fellows, a woman whose body is riddled with leukemia, to steal the vitality . . . of her own children?! This and other questions of ethics.

3. Failed software-pirate-cum-barista Lon Zebos reaps billions through pinpoint targeting of a susceptible demographic: people who still use email. Yes, old people. Thanks to his uncanny ability to devise irresistible email subject lines, the over-70 set respond by the millions with the numbers of their bank accounts and credit cards.

4. The planet Fertile was colonized to let the Children of the Plenty do what comes naturally. When a virus attacks the ability to create the Seed, women exile the infected to a remote island, and kill any men who attempt to escape the island. But the joke's on them, because a plant found only on the island is making the infected virile again.

5. Olivia is suffering. Call it apathy, inertia, melancholy, sluggishness. She mopes all day every day, the weight of the world on her shoulders. But that all changes the day her secret crush, 15-year-old Bradley, while passing her in the hallway between classes, nods at her.

6. When Lauren complains that she's lost her "get up and go," her doctor prescribes the same remedy doctors prescribed a century ago: cocaine. It works, and if it begins Lauren's long plummet into the depths of addiction, homelessness, crime, and an early death, so be it. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Eighteen-year-old Emily Fellows has lived with debilitating lethargy throughout high school. [That describes every high school girl.] [Or boy.] [Or teacher.] Tracking her healthy times leads to a disturbing link: she only has energy when her mother, Lucy, is away. [What teenaged girl doesn't have her energy drained by her mother? On the bright side, she's 18; time to move out and go to college or get a job. Problem solved.] [Does she mention this link to her mother?] And worse, her precocious thirteen-year-old sister Kayla is starting to experience the same symptoms. 

[Dr. Cuddy: House, I have a case for you. Two teenaged sisters who are lethargic whenever their mother is around.

Dr. House: This sounds serious. Lock down the hospital. I'll drop all my other cases and get my team right on it. Are the girls in quarantine? 

Dr. Cuddy: That's sarcasm, right?]

For sixteen-year-old Justin Fellows, breaking his leg at soccer is amazing. [That would be amazing. Make him a parkour racer] inner sight blossoms and he sees sparkling energy coursing along his blood, as well as in an overarching pool

[Now I'm lost. Does "inner sight" mean he sees his blood coursing through his veins?] [Or did he break his leg so badly that his femoral artery is spewing blood all over the place?] [I don't think "overarching" is a good adjective for any kind of pool.] [If you break your leg, you would be screaming in pain, the game would stop, other players would gather around you, and someone would call for an ambulance. Instead, everyone ignores Justin while he gazes at his blood and thinks, Wow, pretty sparkles! Maybe he should just skin his knee. That's at least as likely to draw blood as a broken leg.] [I hope the kid who broke Justin's leg at least got a yellow card.] And he can influence this network of vitality to heal himself. [Just in time to get back in the game and score the winning goal! This is just like The Karate Kid!] Seeing the same vitality configuration within his sisters, he is delighted-- until he realizes that he's stealing from them. Self-blame spikes: Emily doesn't have an energy problem; she has a Justin problem. [Every teen girl with a younger brother has a Justin problem.]

Despite Justin's doubts and self-recriminations, the youths investigate their abilities. Vitality networks seem unique to them, and Justin learns how to heal minor injuries in others [and immediately opens a highly profitable orthopedic clinic.], while Emily and Kayla gain some control over how they share vitality. It's a wonderful secret adventure until they learn that healing can go wrong, and sharing can be deadly. They see a special spider quite literally sucking the life out of a special butterfly. [Spiders suck the life out of butterflies all the time. It's called lunch.] And during a campus tour, a creepy boy calls Emily his Chosen and starts draining vitality from her. [Can you tell when someone's draining your vitality? If so, does Emily say, Whoa, whoa, GTF away from me? Does she call the campus police?] Childhood stories from their great aunt spring to mind... Stories in which they have powers, and the dangerous Chosen suck the life out of special people just like them. [If the bad guys call the people they suck the life out of their Chosen, and the good guys call the bad guys the Chosen, all of your characters are Chosen.] [And if everyone's Chosen, suddenly being Chosen isn't such a big deal. It's like if everyone could talk to fish, Aquaman would be just another guy.]

Lucy returns from a long trip exhausted and horribly gaunt. Her system desperately needs energy, and she unknowingly siphons vitality from her daughters. [I've been wondering about the mechanics of the transfer of vitality from one person to another. So it's a siphon? Presumably a metaphorical siphon, as it would be impossible to unknowingly siphon anything out of anyone using a hose.] The Chosen may be a scary reality, but a more immediate and terrifying danger confronts them.

Leukemia is killing their mother. [Finally, the genre is revealed: literary fiction.]

Vitality Discovered is my debut novel and is complete at 99,000 words. It shares difficult discoveries and the mystery of hidden powers found in The Light Through The Leaves by Glendy Vanderah, and the exploration of rare genes and the importance of relationships in Alice Sabo's Children of a Change World series.

Fifteen years abroad, mostly in Asia, help me set the scene for several important chapters in this book. Now permanently resettled in Toronto, my wife and I enjoy travel and the theatre, and I try to stay young by playing old-guy recreational sports.

Thank you for your consideration.


I don't see why Emily's and Kayla's lethargy would abate when their mom is away, if Justin also unknowingly steals their vitality.

If Emily is two years older than Justin, why hasn't she noticed sparkling energy in her blood? Pretty much every 18-year-old girl has seen her blood. With regularity. 

When does unknowingly siphoning someone's vitality happen? Anytime you're near someone with more vitality than you? That wouldn't explain why Justin was unknowingly stealing from Emily. Or why lethargic Emily wasn't unknowingly stealing from Justin.

I think it would be better to focus on one person as your main character. I was gonna say drop Justin from the query, but now I'm thinking, drop him from the book, and make Kayla the 16-year-old soccer player. This is America, where girls are better at soccer than boys anyway. Not only would you have one fewer character to manage, but you'd cut a lot of words, which is a good thing.

Your characters are teenagers. You should declare the book YA.

Can Emily heal minor injuries? Or is everyone affected differently by their network of vitality? Speaking of which, the terms "network of vitality" and "vitality configuration" may be clearly explained in the book, but leave them out of the query. 

It seems unknowingly siphoning vitality is a genetic trait that runs in the family (apparently the great aunt is familiar with it), yet it seems Lucy knows nothing about it, as she would have told her children it was coming. And taken steps to avoid stealing their vitality.

There was a Star Trek episode called The Empath, in which the empath could absorb other characters injuries and pain. She was handy to have around if you'd been tortured, but she could take only so much. Is Justin an empath?

Start over. Paragraph 1: Pick a main character. Tell us who they are, including any super powers they have. Tell us what their overarching situation is, including whatever goal they hope to accomplish. Possibly that's saving their mother. If so, don't wait until the last sentence to mention it.

Paragraph 2: What obstacle must they overcome to succeed? Possibly that's the fact that to provide vitality to their mother requires losing so much of their own vitality they'll die. Or maybe it's these annoying Chosen people. What's their plan to deal with this obstacle?

Paragraph 3: Presumably their plan fails. What went wrong? Do they have a plan B? Is there a crucial make-or-break decision they must now make that will determine the outcome?

Possibly that organization will need some tweaking. You don't want the query raising lots of questions that you don't have room to answer.