Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Face-Lift 1459

Guess the Plot

Christophina's Wings

1. Fallen angel Christophina joins the air force for the opportunity to fly once more ... just in time for Armageddon. Christophina must pick a side before her past catches up with her. But she really only wants to fly. Also kiwis. 

2. Christophina gets a full back tattoo of a beautiful pair of wings covering the entirety of her back. She's sure her boyfriend will love it . . . until she finds the feathers under her shirt.

3. Thanks to Christophina's prize-winning barbecue sauce recipe, Christophina's Wings is the hottest restaurant in town . . . until Bud Wilkins opens his hot wings and drumsticks joint right across the street. Now Christy must decide: add thighs to her menu, sabotage Bud's sauce . . . or murder him.

4. Invited to a swank party, Christophina, a working-class woman, creates a pair of wings to wear. Maybe the wings will get her noticed by a rich, famous guy, who'll sweep her off her feet. It works! But what will happen when the guy returns to his home on planet Earth?

5. Angel Christophina is tasked by God to lead the three kings to Bethlehem. Along the way she gets lost and separated from the kings, leaving them to navigate by looking at a star, which is obviously impossible, but luckily Christophina finds them just in time to complete their journey. 

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Christophina lives on Celestia, a luxurious playground for the spacefaring wealthy, miles above the surface of the Earth. For people like her who work the menial jobs to support that luxury, it’s not so glamorous. In her tiny apartment in the heaviest of gravities, she escapes her service worker life by immersing herself in StarCity, a virtual world where she can create and explore without limits.

Through her creations on StarCity, Christophina earns a ticket to a swank party on Celestia where the elite mingle. There she meets Ethan—rich, famous, gorgeous, and with a British accent she can’t resist. One stolen kiss later, she’s swept off her feet into a world of sumptuous pleasures beyond her wildest imaginings. [Wait, exactly what kind of "service worker" is she?] [Also, I don't think the menial job workers at fancy resorts have any trouble imagining the sumptuous opulence enjoyed by those whose dining tables and bathrooms they clean. They're surrounded by it.] Ethan inspires and encourages her to take her creativity out of StarCity and into places she hadn’t dared to try. [That suggests she could have tried them if she had dared. Which seems unlikely. I'd call them places she never dreamed she'd experience.] [I doubt a maid (or whatever) could get away with skipping her work shift to partake of the paying customers' luxuries. I mean, if I spent $200,000 for a vacation on Celestia, I'd be pretty pissed if I couldn't get into the orgasmatron because all the janitors were lined up to use it.]

It would be easy to fall in love with Ethan, but Christophina knows she mustn’t. He won’t be on Celestia for long, and when he goes back to Earth, she won’t be able to follow. [Why not? Does he want her to?] But how will she go back to her modest life just as she’s learning to spread her wings? [That's not the dilemma she should be having. She and Ethan have bonded, and they need to find a way to be together on Earth or Celestia. Which may mean she needs to find a way to make him realize this.]  

CHRISTOPHINA’S WINGS is a 63,000-word science fiction romance for your consideration. Thank you for your time.

Note: The title comes from the wings that Christophina creates both virtually for her StarCity shop and physically for her to wear to the party


I'm sure it's explained in the book how something done in a virtual world earns you a ticket to a party with the rich and famous, but in the query it feels like a gimmick to get Cinderella to the ball. Maybe if we leave StarCity out of the query there'll be more room for the romance aspect, which seems more important than the science fiction aspect. (Maybe call it a futuristic romance, rather than a science fiction romance.) Here's a shorter version of the first two paragraphs, leaving you room for building up the romantic angle.

Christophina lives on Celestia, a luxurious playground for the spacefaring wealthy, miles above the surface of the Earth. For people like her who work the menial jobs to support that luxury, it’s not so glamorous. So she's thrilled to receive an unexpected invitation to a swank party where the elite mingle. There she meets Ethan—rich, famous, and gorgeous, with a British accent she can’t resist. One stolen kiss later, she’s swept off her feet into a world of sumptuous pleasures. 

The third paragraph starts off okay, but the last sentence could be something more like: Unless . . . dare she hope Ethan wants/feels/will . . . whatever.

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Your Manuscript Edited by Evil Editor!!!

Some of you may remember the Brenda Novak Auction for Juvenile Diabetes, wherein people could bid on lots of cool stuff, much of it of particular interest to writers. Evil Editor annually donated the editing of someone's book, and over the years brought in more than $20,000 for a very good cause.

Another organization (Literary Agents of Change) is holding a similar type auction in June. Their goal is to make becoming a literary agent more accessible to under-represented people. You can read about them here. These links aren't working the normal way for me. You may have to return to this page the long way.

Here's the auction page.

And Evil Editor's item:


The starting bid on my item is rather high (Donors did not set the price), but this same offering brought in well above that in the Brenda Novak Auction every year, one time going over $4000. There are lots of other critiques available from literary agents, authors, and editors. I'll remind you when bidding opens. (6/10)

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Face-Lift 1458


Guess the Plot

Moonlight Disco

1. This comprehensive biography of Elon Musk includes a stunning interview where the zillionaire lays out his grand plan for humanity: use SpaceX to cover the moon with mirrors, then live-stream on X  as millions of Neuralink-implanted partiers are driven by their autonomous Teslas to a midnight dance in the desert. Because only one of his many companies is Boring, and, well ... because he can.

2. When her plan to fund her college education by selling stars fails, Rhode comes up with a better idea: posing as a deity to scam people out of money. She calls herself Moon Goddess. Her popularity skyrockets, her face gets plastered over the Internet, and who cares about college? Also: Disco.

3. Disco is dead, but having an undead revival. It's safer for the Weres and the Vamps to have a dance-off than the usual bloodletting boiling over into the daylight world. So, sequins, bell bottoms, and chest hair, with a side order of Romeo/Juliet romance. And there's still plenty of bloodshed.

4. Former dance king Freddy "Phantom" Lichten overhears what he thinks is the code phrase to get him into a new underground club. Further misunderstandings leave him as a courier on the run from hostile government agents, the mob, and an ex-girlfriend The fate of a few countries rides on a  successful delivery. He was told there might be dancing along the way.

5. Some werewolves celebrate the full moon by gathering in stadiums and dancing to disco versions of "Werewolves of London," "Hungry Like the Wolf," and "Mama Werewolf." But people would rather read about my werewolves, the ones that go on killing sprees in nursing homes.

Original Version

Dear [First Name Last Name], [More common: Dear Title (Ms., Mr.) Last Name]

I am seeking representation for MOONLIGHT DISCO, an 80000 word sapphic young adult contemporary fantasy novel inspired by the Japanese folklore [folk tale] The Tale of Princess Kaguya. It combines the ambitious heroine of If You Could See The Sun by Ann Liang and the [reason] of [title] by [author]. [Princess Kaguya is an ambitious heroine, so I see no reason to add a comp title based solely on its having that same feature.] [That many adjectives in a row should be separated by commas. Better yet, get rid of some of them: ...an 80,000-word, young adult retelling of the Japanese folk tale...  [Putting this paragraph after the plot summary would be better.]

Sixteen-year-old Rhode Ouyang catches stars to sell each summer to fund her future college expenses. However, this summer’s star sales is [are?] a total failure as her middle-aged buyers no longer want a star from a no name teen. [They want a star from a star.] Rhode also gets chastised by Sei, her childhood friend and fellow star catcher, for attempting to sell hand painted stars to drive up the price tag. The greatest source of her stress comes when she’s forced to pay back Sei’s dad for freeing the rabbits he captured.  [Okay, I've tried to be patient but you're losing me. Whattaya mean, she catches stars? The stars up in the sky, the ones that are giant balls of fire bigger than 300,000 Earths? Even if a star were a mile away instead of 20 trillion miles away, and the size of a bird, I don't see how Rhode catches them. Can she fly? If she can catch them, and she can sell them for enough to pay for a college education, wouldn't everybody be catching them? If hand-painting the stars drives up the price, wouldn't everyone hand-paint them? Or is she hand-painting rocks to look like stars?Easier than that would be to buy some cat's-eye marbles, which are pretty cheap and look kind of like stars and wouldn't need to be painted if she just used the yellow ones.]

 [All my comments could be avoided if you change "stars" to "starfish."]

When Rhode wakes up with her hair turned white, she has an idea: instead of worrying about finding a summer job, she’ll pose as the Moon Princess, the village deity. With help from other villagers, Rhode begins selling self-dubbed “moon blessed” stars to tourists for hundreds of dollars. [This is almost as bad as Trump selling Bibles.] [How many stars would I have to buy to get a degree from Rhode University?] For a price tag of thirty dollars per person, she’ll include fortune telling and photo opportunities. Even malformed stars can sell for one hundred dollars if they come from her hand. Not everyone is enthused about Rhode’s fame, one of whom is Sei. Rhode agrees to compete with her for who’ll earn the most money from selling stars. [Not a fair fight: Rhode's stars are moon-blessed.] The loser must pay the winner and do whatever they are told to do. [That's vague. What do they want each other to do? Is this where the "sapphic" part comes in?]

Except, it’s easier to fantasize about wealth and success than it is to achieve it. As Rhode’s popularity skyrockets, her face gets plastered over the Internet, gaining clout but also recognition. [You make it sound like recognition is a bad thing. It would lead to more sales. Plus, she'd be like Sybil the Soothsayer in the movie Network, with her own segment on the number one rated TV show.] Rhode must make sure she doesn’t get outed as a fraud or she’ll end up paying back the money and even be sent to juvie. [Any tourist trap worth its salt is gonna be crawling with hucksters selling overpriced souvenirs. When the tourists get home, they either display their junk, or they toss it. They don't take the huckster to court, because admitting they fell for the sales pitch would be humiliating.]

[bio here]

Thank you for your consideration.


It sounds like Rhode's moon-blessed stars brought in enough to pay for the rabbits, which, for some reason, was her greatest source of stress. Main problem solved.

Somehow, a contemporary novel involving college expenses and summer jobs and the Internet doesn't jibe with a village deity known as the Moon Princess.

Such details as the rabbits, the white hair, the malformed stars, the fortune telling and photo opportunities aren't moving the plot forward. In a description of an 80,000-word book, the price Rhode can get for a malformed star is trivial.

I'm not sure who's going to out Rhode as a fraud. The villagers helped her sell her moon-blessed stars to tourists. That makes them co-conspirators in the fraud, if there is a fraud, which I've already pointed out there isn't. When I went to New Orleans, there was a guy on the street who had painted himself gray, and he would stand still pretending he was a statue. Tourists would walk up to him and then suddenly he'd move. It was pretty cool, and the tourists would throw money in his bucket. I doubt he was taken to court because he wasn't really a statue. Tourists would consider the Moon Goddess part of the experience, and buying a moon-blessed star would be like paying admission to an amusement. No one was forced to buy one.

Anyway, even if we accept the catching and selling stars part, which we must because it's something that happens in this fantastical world, I still don't find the stakes believable. She's not going to juvi, she's becoming a celebrity who doesn't even need college because she's rich, rich rich!

Start over. Possibly focus more on how Rhode learns (too late?) that her friendship with Sei is more important than money and rabbits. If that's what happens.

Saturday, May 11, 2024

Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1456 would like feedback on the following version of the query.

17-year-old Dulani is stuck in hell, and it’s his own fault. Desperate to escape a broken home, he flees into an alternate world that manifests humanity’s myths—from dazzling El Dorado to gorgeous Elysium. Greatness and power he’s coveted, now his to claim. But he overlooked that there's always a catch. Everything, mainly demons, wants him dead. He must now think as fast as he can run from death, alone—until he meets Milliana, a girl with a chip on her shoulder. 


16-year-old Milliana’s brain is too big a target for the bullets flying around her neighborhood. It’s not the sort of excitement she craves, so she escapes into a realm only “Visitors” like her can enter. She finally feels safe—until her soul starts attracting hyper-persistent demons that want it. While hiding, she encounters a young man as dog-tired as she is. Dulani’s reticent, but a good listener and (almost) as smart. Since they can’t run or hide forever, she suggests a daring idea: use the enhanced abilities and mysterious powers that come with being Visitors and fight back.  


They trap and kill a demon leader, whose death purifies some of the realm so it’s slightly less hostile. At last, a breakthrough. But the demons won’t rest until they have a Visitor soul so they can cross over to Earth and devour humanity. Dulani appreciates getting to control his fate for once, while Milliana relishes a challenge for her intellect. But as they learn more about the realm, and each other, fighting back could mean playing into the hands of gods more sinister than mere demons.   

MEMORANDUM (90,000 words) is a YA fantasy standalone with series potential. It combines the otherworldly danger in L.L. McKinney’s Nightmare-Verse trilogy, the grief-processing in Jessica Kara’s DON’T ASK IF I’M OKAY, and the tense adventure of Marc J. Gregson's SKY'S END.  

Like Dulani, I’m Black, and I channel my experiences with “othering” into his and the cast’s stories. As a Research Assistant with a MS in Engineering, I find new solutions to strange problems while shouldering a lot of responsibility—just like the heroes of this story. 


Thank you for your time and consideration. 


One question: How should I position this story/concept less as a “portal fantasy” and more “beleaguered young adults fighting against treacherous powers that be?”


You reduced the portal factor (in the query) somewhat by leaving out the part about flipping a magical coin to cross over. Based on your statement "she escapes into a realm only “Visitors” like her can enter," you don't need a portal to reach the realm, you just need the "it" factor. What have these kids got that allows them to . . . Visit?

If that doesn't address your concern, you could say MEMORANDUM (90,000 words) is a fantasy standalone with series potential, in which two beleaguered young adults fight against treacherous powers with the fate of humanity on the line. That seems a bit over the top.

Here's a shorter version of your plot summary:

Desperate to escape a broken home, 17-year-old Dulani enters an alternate world that manifests humanity’s myths—from dazzling El Dorado to gorgeous Elysium. Dulani appreciates controlling his fate for a change--but there's more to mythology than just beauty, love, and honor, as he discovers when he finds himself fleeing demons that want him dead. 


The bullets flying around her neighborhood aren't the sort of excitement 16-year-old Milliana craves, so she escapes into a realm only “Visitors” like her can enter. Here, she finally feels safe—until her soul starts attracting hyper-persistent demons that need it in order to cross to Earth and devour humanityWhile hiding from the demons, Melliana encounters a young man as dog-tired as she is: Dulani. 

The two teens can’t run or hide forever, but they can use the enhanced abilities and mysterious powers that come with being Visitors to fight back. They trap and kill a demon leader, whose death slightly purifies the realm. At last, a hopeful breakthrough. But as they learn more about the realm, and each other, they realize fighting back could be playing into the hands of gods more sinister than mere demons.

If you want to focus more on the fight against treacherous powers, you could combine the first two paragraphs something like this:

Desperate to escape broken homes, 17-year-old Dulani and 16-year-old Milliana escape to an alternate world that manifests humanity’s myths—from dazzling El Dorado to gorgeous Elysium. But there's more to mythology than beauty, love, and honor, as the teens discover when they find themselves fleeing demons that need their souls in order to cross to Earth and devour humanity

That gives you two paragraphs instead of one to talk about their plan and what's at stake.