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A blog about why you don't get published. You can also order Evil Editor's books, Why You Don't Get Published, which collects many of the funniest Q & A's along with hilarious excerpts from the Face-Lifts, and Novel Deviations, which collects the best of the New Beginnings.
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1. Face-Lift 1231

Guess the Plot

Forgotten Rage

1. Xandra doesn't remember anything when she wakes up in an unfamiliar hospital, except that the guy at her bedside, who was supposed to marry her best friend, ended up killing her. So why is he calling Xandra "Sweetheart"?

2. Flowers and group hugs, and butterflies and meditation, and aromatherapy and happy places… Also, puppies… Lots and lots of puppies.

3. The new school librarian, Ann Gray, has a dastardly superpower: she telepathically dredges up long-dead emotional wounds. Cutting words, petty slights, unkept promises--her victims get angrier and angrier the longer they dwell, until they go insane! Can our lovable gang of sixth-grade superheroes take Ann down, or will the team break up as they succumb to their...Forgotten Rage?

4. Awaking from a 2-year-long coma, Martin meets his mother, his wife, and his children. He strains for some memory of any of them, but finds none. When his best friend Steve visits him in the hospital, Martin again has no memory, but he does have an inexplicable and uncontrollable rage. It takes two orderlies, a doctor, and a hypodermic needle to keep Martin from choking his friend to death.

5. They’d played me for a sap once too often. Left me out on a limb. If they thought I’d fall for the same old trick, they were barking up the wrong tree. I was gonna fix their wagon, if it was the last thing I ever did. I’ve forgotten more about the revenge business than they’ll ever know. If only I could remember who ‘they’ were…

6. Archaeologist Ben Hutton is both amused and intrigued by the Medieval 'vampire' burial his team found at a crossroads near Warsaw. Once back in the lab, you know the vampire will come back and start biting everyone while looking for his lost love, so why am I bothering to tell you this?

Original Version

Synopsis: Xandra Donato doesn't remember anything when she wakes up in an unfamiliar hospital, especially not the fact that she was born in France over 600 years ago. [If you don't remember anything, I don't see how there can be an "especially."] So when an oddly familiar boy shows up asking for her help to stop the upcoming war she has to rely on what she does have. An ancient locket, a list of rules written in Latin, and an adventurous and haunted past. Might as well throw in a southern soldier and paranormal abilities, right?

Excerpt - " Took me 600 years to find you Xandra Donato and I don't plan on letting you go now. " The guard removes his helmet with a grim smile. Cold chills run down my back, it's a face all too familiar. " Remember me sweetheart? " " I'm not sure, weren't you that guy who never amounted to anything? The guy who was supposed to marry my best friend and ended up killing her? " " Ahh yes, that I remember. " [So, it's a comedy.]

The title is Forgotten Rage because she had forgotten all of her past grudges and experiences when her memory was erased. [I'm assuming this is not a Nanowrimo book, as there's already an excerpt.]


Don't put a space after opening quotation marks or before closing quotation marks.

P1: Change period after "have" to a colon. P2: Change commas after "back" and "sure" to periods (or semicolons). You can get away with sentence structure errors occasionally, but at this stage of your relationship with the recipient of the query letter, you don't want to give the impression you don't know what a sentence is.

Excerpts are rarely welcome in a query. What information we glean from the excerpt can easily be conveyed in an expository paragraph.

This is supposed to be a business letter in which you provide the title, word count, genre, and a brief summary of what happens in the book, focusing on the main character's situation, goals, plans, obstacles, and what's at stake.  Check out some of the hundreds of other "Face-Lifts" on this blog for samples.

The situation is intriguing, though if it's set in modern times it's hard to see how this girl can help stop an upcoming war. Who is she? Is she immortal? A vampire? Rightful heir to the throne of England? What war are we talking about? We need information.

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2. Face-Lift 1230

Guess the Plot


1. There was trouble in the Security checkpoint line at Terminal 1. But then, there was always some kinda trouble. And that was when eccentric inventor Cornelius Crankpot had his epiphany. It was only a matter of time before fingerprints could be circumvented. But since people had their shoes off anyway, why not surreptitiously verify their identity, by their . . . FOOTPRINTS.

2. Leroy has the job of his dreams: dressing up as a Jesus at The Holy Land Experience (he gets to carry people across sand!) When another Jesus shows Leroy how easy it is to get big tips from older women, will Leroy open his robe for them, or resist temptation? 

3. The MO is always the same. Bloody swim-fin footprints led to a victim completely devoid of blood. A deranged, bloodthirsty surfer/killer was on the loose. The local police, the state police, and even the FBI came up empty. Then the 11th bloody trail led down the pier, and two-headed, squid-like creatures with webbed feet emerged on the beach, leaving a trail of bloodless victims in their wake.

4. There are only a few sets of footprints on the Moon, all left over from NASA's glory days. So when 12-year-old Scott Welpern spots a different, new set of prints, he's ready to call NASA--until he realizes that they aren't human.

5. Knowing she is not long for this world, Ella vows to reduce her carbon footprint. But what can she do about the carbon that returns to the Earth when her body decomposes? Also, a bizarre tarot reading.

6. Ryan Carver analyzes footprint molds for the FBI. He's also a foot fetishist. And Washington DC's latest serial killer has the most heart-stopping size 7s he has ever seen. 

7. On every park sign is the signature phrase: Take only pictures and leave only footprints. "Screw That!" says Smokey the Bear. After fifty-plus-years of "Shoot yourself in the Foot" National Park administration, Smokey's going postal. In a tell-all memoir for the ages, he describes riotous bonfires, by-the-ton littering and free sex with rangers. "Only you can stop...Smokey from baring it all.

Original Version

[Just the plot summary from a possible query for a projected NaNoWriMo novel.]

Ella Rosbury's empty nest is almost unbearable, and while comtemplating ending it all, she finds a lump that might do the job for her. 

Upon discovering the lump is cancer, she chooses to fight to live instead, and to live as ethically as possible in the time she has left. She gives most of her possessions away, turns her yard into an organic haven, reduces her carbon footprint and offers her spare rooms free of rent to people in need. 

She chooses three very different women to share her home with her, each of whom is fighting their [her] own internal battles. Clara, a 25 year-old alcoholic, who reminds Ella of her own estranged daughter. [Because her daughter is an alcoholic?] Mickie, whose obsession with cleaning rituals and routines is so overwhelming she has been out of work for 10 years and only left her own home because she was evicted. And Kyra,
 [a 40-year-old serial killer/heroin addict. Because when you're dying you want to be surrounded by those you care for the most.] a herbalist hippy who occasionally forgets that it's no longer the '60s. [I just realized, it's now closer to the 2060s than the 1960s.]

Kyra's bizarre tarot readings strike a chord with the housemates and act as the catalyst for their own journeys of healing as they face their past traumas. 

Ella in particular realises she has to forgive herself for not seeing the abuse of her own daughter happening under her [own] nose for years at the hands of her [own] late husband. As her illness progresses, time is running out for Ella to find her lost daughter and to heal the fractured relationship. [If you name her daughter in paragraph 2 when you first mention her, you can use the name from then on, instead of calling her her daughter.]


Seems like the story is mainly set in Ella's house, which has me wondering what she's doing to find her lost daughter. Googling her?

You could throw in a mention of the hopefulness or joy experienced together by these women so that it doesn't sound like a total downer.

Presumably this will be one of those character-driven litfic novels without much of a plot. Otherwise you'd have told us more about what happens. Of course, maybe you don't yet know what happens.

0 Comments on Face-Lift 1230 as of 10/28/2014 11:47:00 AM
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3. Feedback Request

The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1161 has posted a new revision in the comments there and requests your feedback

0 Comments on Feedback Request as of 10/27/2014 10:37:00 AM
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4. Feedback Request

A revision of the query featured in Face-Lift 1227 is waiting for your reaction in the comments there.

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5. Synopsis 42

On her sixteenth-birthday, Junie’s best friend Joe warns her of her gangster-leaning, hip-hop singing, driving habits, but Junie won’t listen. She ends up crashing her birthday car into a ditch, almost killing herself. [Joe was right. The accident was caused by Junie's poor taste in music.] On top of her accident, Junie is attacked by a cello-toting homeless guy named Hagi who leaves her a cryptic note. When Junie gets to school the next day, [She has a car wreck so horrendous she almost dies, yet she's back in school the next day? I'd expect at least a two-week hospital stay.] she narrowly avoids a hair-pulling, nail-scratching catfight with her school’s bully, Rebecca Umpteenth, [Umpteenth? Really?] because Viscount appears in the school office. [Was she about to engage in this "cat fight" in the school office?] [And who is Viscount?] Viscount is one of the 25 immortals, [You're assuming I know who you mean by the 25 immortals, which I do, having read the query, but I think the synopsis should work independently.] and he tells her that she is in danger and she must leave the school now and go with him. [A stranger telling a 16-year-old to leave school is like a stranger telling a 4-year-old to come with him and he'll give her candy. Irresistible.]

Junie finds out from Viscount that because of her accident and almost-death the other day, the men become aware of her presence. She is the reincarnation of a witch named Riveya, who poisoned 25 men with her love potion in order to gain control of Crown Realm. [Whoa. And she buys this? Does he offer any evidence that this isn't just a wild fantasy story he made up to get her to follow him?] Viscount tells her that some men want to kill Riveya, and since she is her reincarnation, she is in danger. When Viscount leaves to protect Junie’s parents, [From what?] Junie searches through his base and finds evidence that she cannot trust his words. [This is backwards. If someone tells you you're the incarnation of a witch, you don't look for evidence that he's lying; you demand evidence that he isn't lying.] She finds evidence Viscount stalked her far earlier than her past birthday.

Eventually, Junie decides she can no longer be normal and teams up with Viscount, transporting herself to Crown Realm [Transporting herself? What does that mean?] to discover how to end the curse. Junie has to lie to her best friend Joe, who knows something is wrong and calls her trying to find out. [Apparently Crown Realm has excellent cell phone service. I was thinking it was in another dimension or something. Where is it?] She also has to lie to Rebecca, who has become suspicious and more aggressive following her kidnapping from Tev. [Tev? What's Tev?] Plus, Junie has no idea what to tell her parents about her sudden behavior. [I thought Junie was in Crown Realm. Where are her parents?] The police tail her [The Crown Realm police?] because of her connection with Tev's actions in kidnapping Rebecca. [You said Rebecca was kidnapped from Tev. Now it sounds like she was kidnapped by Tev.] [Why was Rebecca kidnapped?]

Junie’s efforts to uncover the cure for the love potion are thwarted by another boyfriend, Aren, who has is the reigning King of Crown Realm. Aren does not want to be cured of the love potion, because he likes being immortal. Aren wants to use Junie to kill the other immortals- or rather, immobilize them by decapitation. [The king should have an army at his disposal, which would be more efficient at decapitating 25 guys than one 16-year-old girl would.]

Finally, Junie comes head-to-head with Tev, saving police officers from his destruction. She wins with no help from anyone else. Her victory is cut short when she finds out her best friend Joe has been transformed into an immortal boyfriend himself by a witch from Riveya’s plan. [A witch from Riveya's plan? What does that mean?]


The synopsis seems highly disorganized. This will convince the reader that the book has the same problem. If you're convinced this book is ready to be published, I recommend going through an agent or publisher that doesn't require a synopsis.

A better idea might be to set the book aside while you work on another project or two and then read it and decide if it's salvageable. If the synopsis is an accurate summary of Junie's story, the plot may need an overhaul.

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6. Feedback Request

The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1118 has posted what I assume is a new version in the comments there. Check it out.

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7. New Beginning 1032

After my sixteenth birthday, I learned three life lessons: 1.) Buckle your seatbelt. 2.) Karma sucks. 3.) I am NOT adopted.

Don’t get me wrong: my parents did an outstanding job raising a stubborn, aggravating, whimsical little girl from teeny to teens. I had a happy life with my family, and by ‘happy’, I mean no one was trying to kill me. Especially not my boyfriends.

My Dad left my sixteenth-birthday gift parked on the street outside of my apartment, its copper sheen glistening in the sun and causing our neighbors to scrunch their noses in jealousy. My car was the best new thing in our apartment complex. My parents must have been planning this for months, because I’m not sure how they could afford it.

“I can’t believe he’s agreed,” Joe said when he saw my car parked along the street outside of the apartment complex. Joe was my nerdy next-door neighbor; he had been my best friend since middle-school. He was exceptionally smart, wore glasses, sweaters, and his eyes shined like diamonds in a tunnel, and I liked him but since we were friends I would never tell him.

"Let's go for a ride!" I said, and me and Joe jumped into the car.

Moments after I turned the ignition on, the ground shook like the world was ending. I glanced in the side mirror and saw what looked like a giant squid barreling toward us, using four of its tentacles as legs.

"Jesus," I shouted. "We've got to get out of here." But I was strapped in and in my panic, I couldn't work the catch on the seat belt. Suddenly the squid creature breathed in then blew out a blast of air that shattered the car's windows.

"What the fuck is that!" Joe shouted, totally out of character.

“I— I don’t—“ I stuttered, as a tentacle reached in and attached itself to me.

"My name is Karma!" the vile creature screeched in a harridan's voice, pulling me from the car. "I am your natural mother, and I have come to take you home."

Opening: Brittney Brown.....Continuation: Anonymous

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8. Face-Lift 1229

Guess the Plot

Love to the 25th Power

1. High school mathematics genius Tim has always been too interested in ones and zeroes to pay attention to girls. But when he tweaks a new formula he's working on it has unexpected consequences - the Binary girl of his dreams comes to life from the paper. Hilarity ensues.

2. Junie Jasmine has 25 boyfriends, and the only way to get rid of them is cannibalism. But eating the flesh of 25 guys won't be easy, not unless she has some delicious apple juice to wash them down. Also, a homeless guy with a cello.

3. After months of calculations, adjustments, and equations, ubernerd Felix Snodgrass has finally found the Holy Grail of Nerddom: The mathematical formula that, when performed, gets girls to instantly fall in love with you. Now all he has to do is leave the basement and find a girl to try it on.

4. Delbert is tired of never having a date for prom, or any other dance. This year will be different. All summer he toils creating his perfect girl. She's beautiful, and witty, and his. But when senior year begins, she falls for Jason, star quarterback. Now Delbert's on a mission to destroy them both.

5. Love Potion No. 9? The Magnificent Seven? Sixteen shells from a thirty-ought-six? Amateurs. When it came to a love of math, Music Professor Studdly McMuffintops would show them a thing or two. He would give them a Love to the 25th Power. Trouble was, he’d never been very good with differential equations… and how in the heck was he gonna work that into a hot, sexy sax solo?

6. Snerdly Butterschnokin had never been much of a people person. But when sweater-wearing Swanoula moved to town, Snerdly’s goose was cooked. He needed to up his game, and fast, before any arrogant hunters could move in on his territory. Trouble was, he’d been stuck at the first level of power ever since he could remember. Let’s see… if breathing was the 1st power, then what was second? And how was he ever to develop his Love . . . to the 25th Power?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA fantasy/suspense novel, 70k words, Love to the 25th Power.

Sixteen-year old Junie Jasmine Wilshire’s got 25 boyfriends, all at the same time. And most of them want to kill her. [What's stopping them?]

Ex-boyfriends is more like it.

But, as far as she can remember Junie's never even had a date, let alone a boyfriend. But one of her exes swears she's been with him for years. Her only clue, giving to her by a silent, cello-toting, homeless guy is a note with a single word written on it "Haven."[I think I'd rather know the explanation for this seeming contradiction than who gave her the clue.]

No girl wants to eat the flesh of her ex-boyfriend to heal her wounds, but cannibalism of past lovers is the least of Junie’s worries. [What the--? Where is this coming from? You can't bring up cannibalism of past lovers without laying some groundwork or immediately explaining yourself.] Junie Jasmine Wilshire only wants to be herself- a non-conforming, irresponsible, teenage tomboy who likes urban hip-hop and apple juice. Yet, when the reigning high school cat-fight champion crashes her sixteenth birthday car into a ditch, Junie realizes she is not immortal. [Did she think she was immortal up until then? If so, why?] [The sentences in that paragraph don't seem connected to one another.

But, the many men hunting her very well could be.

A thousand years ago, a witch poisoned 25 men with a potion that captured every romantic ideal of love in its spell: long-lasting youth, emotional intimacy, soul bindings, and last but not least, duration--forever. [This "poison" doesn't sound so bad to me. It's like your doctor tells you you've contracted an STD and, horrified, you ask what the symptoms are and she says, "Eternal youth, a much-improved sex life, and no side effects.] [Maybe you can just say she gave 25 men a potion.] [Maybe you should start the query here, as up to now everything's been sounding nuts.] Like 25 blood vessels connected to one heart, the men will survive as long as she, the heart, survives.

But there’s a problem: men hate forced commitment, and when the spell lifts after a thousand years, [What was that about "duration--forever"?] they want revenge. Now, the witch is sixteen years reincarnated, and Junie Wilshire is their new (and improved!) soul-mate. [Are you saying she's the witch? If so, she would have had to die in order to be reincarnated. If she died, why didn't the 25 "blood vessels?]

Junie’s got to figure out what's going on, who she is, and how to break up with her exes once and for all. And fast. The past has come back to haunt her. Karma is a real, and the men are out for blood. She’s got to drop the mean-girl act, [What mean-girl act? She's been described as a a non-conforming, irresponsible, teenage tomboy who's never had a date, not as a mean girl.] protect her friends and frienemies [From what?] or bring her immortal soulmates down with her. [Are her soul mates immortal despite the spell being lifted?] [I don't see why she has to drop the mean-girl act or why she has to protect her friends. What does she have to do to thwart those hunting her? Leave town and go into hiding? Can she put them under another spell? Can't her witchy powers protect her from them?]


This is all over the place, confusing, disorganized, and full of extraneous information. If you use only the last three paragraphs it'll sound decent, something like this:

A thousand years ago, a witch put a spell on 25 men, granting them eternal youth but also binding their souls to hers. Problem is, the men didn't all want to be romantically committed to the witch.

Fast-forward to modern times. The witch has taken the persona of 16-year-old high school student Junie Jasmine Wilshire. The spell, which lasts a thousand years is about to be lifted. And Junie's "soulmates" want revenge.

Junie’s got to figure out how to break up with her exes once and for all. And fast. The past has come back to haunt her, and the men are out for blood.

Build on that, especially with the stakes. What must she do and what happens if she fails to do it?

0 Comments on Face-Lift 1229 as of 10/21/2014 1:28:00 PM
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9. Feedback Request

The query featured in Face-Lift 1107 has been revised. You'll find the new version in the comments there, awaiting your feedback.

0 Comments on Feedback Request as of 10/20/2014 9:34:00 AM
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10. Feedback Request

The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1228 has posted a revision in the comments there, and requests your feedback.

0 Comments on Feedback Request as of 10/15/2014 1:44:00 PM
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11. New Book

Over the years, many have asked me why I haven't put out a book containing the funniest Face-Lifts from this blog. A big reason was that they wouldn't be the same in black and white, with no blue words or color illustrations. And color printing is expensive. However, during the lull in submissions over the past month I've put together such a book, and while color printing still costs a lot, my experience with Evil Editor Strips, Evil Editor Strips Again, and Schliegelman Saves the Universe has convinced me that it's worth it.

Who would want such a book?

Possibly only myself, but that's no deterrent, as I'll be having it printed by Blurb, a photo-book printer, and they regularly print single copies for customers.

Possibly people who've been with us for many years and like the idea of a collection of just the funniest query critiques. For nostalgic reasons. Like buying a collection of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips even though you read them all when they first appeared in the newspaper.

Possibly people who are new to the blog and would like to catch up, but find the idea of reading 6500 posts or even just 1228 queries too daunting.

And of course there are those who feel they might absorb some useful information.

Still working on a title. I'm thinking Dear Literary Agent...

With the subtitle: 50 Query Letters and Why They Fail.

I'm leaving out the fake plots so I can fit each query onto no more than two pages. I've created new artwork for those critiques that didn't already have illustrations (a few won't be illustrated because they fill the full two pages. The pages are 8 by 10, glossy photo paper. The book has 100 pages. Blurb will create such a book for about $40 (paperback) and $50 (hardcover). They offer volume discounts, but that requires ordering 20 copies, and I'm guessing there aren't even 10 of you willing to spring for a copy. If you're one of those few, let me know with an email or a comment and I'll keep you apprised.

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12. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Missing Element

1. Dmitri warned his wife about not tidying up his lab, but Mrs. Mendeleev's fanatical cleanliness knows no bounds. Now Dmitri has to start from scratch--unless he can get to the dumpster before the garbagemen do.

2. Roger Groobney's fantastic new murder mystery was rejected by every agent in the known universe, all with the same hand-written message: "It's gotta have a murder in it, Roger!"

3. Yes, we have no beryllium; we have no beryllium today.

4. With a supply of deuterium from a North Korean friend, Physicist Elmo Lurp agrees to build a nuclear device in the basement of his apartment building. But he realizes his need for a more sophisticated laboratory when he discovers his wife has used all the heavy water for the laundry.

5. In this nineteenth book in the Miss Amelia Pettipants series, the doughty spinster discovers why none of the village's electric stoves are working.

6. Teaching the Periodic Table by each day removing one element from the laboratory and letting the students discover the Missing Element was not such a good idea after all. Or perhaps the problem, Professor Eavull realizes, was starting with oxygen, thereby asphyxiating the entire class.

Original Version

Dear (Agent’s Name Spelled Correctly)

(One sentence explaining why I’m querying this particular agent … liked a book one of his or her authors wrote, recommended by a friend, met at a conference, [have already tried all the agents who aren't on the 20 worst agents list,] etc.)

In MISSING ELEMENT, an Air Force officer turned corporate trouble-shooter uncovers an illicit link between an American weapons firm and an African dictator planning to foment genocide to protect an illegal but highly profitable venture. To prevent the killings, Dr. Eleanor Swan must team with an FBI agent, despite her antipathy toward the Bureau since it investigated her father’s supposed death 20 years earlier and branded him a traitor. [Is Eleanor Swan the corporate trouble-shooter? If not, who is she? If so, I'd stick her name in the first sentence, right after the title, so it's clear.] [Why would she be involved in preventing this genocide? Wouldn't she just report the illicit link to the authorities and bow out?]

[Eleanor: I've discovered that an American weapons manufacturer is working with an African dictator on a project that will foment genocide.

FBI: Hmm, okay we'll provide one agent to eliminate this threat to the lives of millions.

Eleanor: Only one?

FBI: Plus you. Who did you say you were again?]

Four women with father issues drive the plot. The National Security Council staffer wants revenge on her father. [Who did what?] The Médecins Sans Frontières doctor has given her life to medicine since her dad’s death. The African President’s daughter must choose between loyalty to her father and her country. And Eleanor Swan must live down her father’s notorious past to derail the conspiracy that stretches from the deserts of East Africa to the highest offices of the U.S. government. [This sounds more like a job for the NSC staffer (or Superman) than the corporate trouble-shooter. Does Eleanor go to Africa? How can she hope to succeed against such powerful entities? I'm more interested in what the plot is than in who drives it.] Two will die. One will lose her career. One will save a nation.

I spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer and am published in book-length non-fiction (Title and Publisher of book, 2003). I speak to a variety of forums on military topics including women in the military, ethics, and leadership.

MISSING ELEMENT is a 90,000-word geopolitical thriller. May I send you sample chapters and a synopsis or the complete manuscript?

[My title, MISSING ELEMENT, refers both to my protagonist’s missing father and to beryllium, a strategic element necessary for making various parts of nuclear weapons. In the novel, an American weapons manufacturer is mining beryllium illegally in a fictional African country and selling it to the Iranians.]


An additional paragraph between your plot and character paragraphs would be helpful in clarifying the issues I've brought up. More facts about the bad guys' plot (the information on where you got your title is a good start) and the good guys' plan (presumably Eleanor calls in a favor from her days in the Air Force, and arranges B-52 carpet bombings of the beryllium mine, the American weapons manufacturer, and Iran) would be a major improvement.

Selected Comments

GutterBall said...Great. Now I'm gonna be humming the "no beryllium" theme all day. Juuuuust great.

jfk said...And here I thought GTP#2 was really clever thinking on someone's part. (Actually, I do think it is; I like how it relates to the title, which is why I think it's a shame that information wasn't in the query.)

I had some difficulty finding a plot in here. The characters are there, but I'm not entirely sure what they're planning to do. A few more names would help in that regard. (Alternatively, I could try to lengthen my attention span ... what was I talking about again?)

My favourite part of the query was this:

Two will die. One will lose her career. One will save a nation.

That alone makes me want to read this. I find it's quite rare for major characters to die, so that's unusual enough to attract my attention. And it tells me something about the story without ruining it, because I still don't know which characters die. (I'm betting on the President's daughter. No reason.)

This sentence though, I would cut:

Four women with father issues drive the plot.

Once these four characters are mentioned, I assume they're important to the plot. (A dangerous assumption perhaps, but there.)

Good luck!

Anonymous said...Usually the biggest problem with books involving the Air Force (or any military branch) is the author knows nothing about the military and end up making them (us) look like inept idiots instead of the top notch professionals we are. If this author can lend credibility to the military side of the story it may be worth reading. Although having worked with intel folks for the last 2.5 years I'm still not sure the author would know anything about the real AF (Just kidding. heh, heh.) -JTC

Anonymous said...I thought the whole appeal of the dictator gig was so you could make everything you want to do legal with no need to get the lame approval of some wimpy congress. So why would any enterprise or genocide the dictator wants to engage in be "illegal"? He's the creep in charge, he's writing the rules, he just kills the opposition, doesn't he? Or else he's not villianous enough to make it as a Hollywood dictator. Go read about 20th century Uganda again. The crimes of Enron are trivial in comparison. Your description of the "profitable enterprise" needs to be more visceral in order for it to be more repungent than genocide, which sounds here like some sort of secondary concern.

Dave said...The book "centers on 4 women with father issues" and missing element serves both the missing beryllium and missing fathers in their lives.

Where is the focus? On the geopolitical thriller or on the tragedies in the four women's lives. That is quite a chunk to handle in a novel. Think of it, four major characters with lives, a villain and several minor characters. What do you focus on?

Malia said...Is it a good thing to be killing off two of your main characters? I could be wrong, but I thought that it's a no-no to kill characters the reader has become invested in...unless they're the bad guys. ;)

GutterBall said...Malia, if that were the case, Shakespeare would have never been read. It's only taboo to kill a main character in romance, and that's only because the current definition of romance must end Happily Ever After.

Author said...
Dear :

Dr. Eleanor Swan, an Air Force cop who fled the military for corporate life after her actions in a shoot-out cost a sergeant her leg, receives a package from her cousin Robert two days after his murder. It contains schematics for a faulty microwave weapon and a map only she can decipher. Reluctantly accepting the mission Robert handed her from the grave, Eleanor must team with an FBI agent, despite her antipathy toward the Bureau since it investigated her father’s supposed death 20 years earlier and branded him a traitor. Eleanor and Special Agent Guy Archer travel to the Horn of Africa to uncover the link between the CEO of an American weapons firm and a dictator planning to foment genocide to protect an illegal venture. The men are mining beryllium, a strategic mineral necessary for the manufacture of nuclear weapons, and selling it to the Iranians. They’ll do anything--including assassinate a key political figure to incite genocide--to maintain control of the mine.

Eleanor’s friendship with three women (all of whom have complicated father-daughter relationships) underlies the plot. The National Security Council staffer (who arranged for the export of the microwave weapons to Africa) wants revenge on her father for causing her mother’s death. The Médecins Sans Frontières doctor (who uncovered evidence of beryllium poisoning in African workers) has given her life to medicine since her dad contracted Lou Gehrig’s disease. The African President’s daughter (who stumbles on the assassination plot) must choose between loyalty to her father and her country. And Eleanor Swan must live down her father’s notorious past and her own failure in a crisis to derail the conspiracy that stretches from the deserts of East Africa to the highest offices of the U.S. government. Two will die. One will lose her career. One will save a nation.

I spent twenty years as an Air Force intelligence officer and am published in book-length non-fiction (Winning the Retention Wars, Air University Press, 2003). I speak to a variety of forums on military topics including women in the military, ethics, and leadership.

May I send you sample chapters or the completed, 95,000-word manuscript of MISSING ELEMENT?

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13. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Rain Coming

1. In the ancient land of Krjaksja, there is a myth of a thing called Rain – when water comes from the sky, instead of the big river across the desert. An intrepid explorer sets out to debunk the myth.

2. Not a drop of rain has fallen at Stony Grange in 10,000 years. When Brad and Diane take each other's virginity in the middle of the rock, they release a curse that could destroy the world.

3. When Cathleen takes a job at a desert bar called Centerfolds, she has a premonition that something big is about to happen - but her expectations don’t include meeting Bubba Mac.

4. Any one of Rain Penumbra's used-up lovers could have told you that she was a passionate woman, and that she needed her own space--or an apartment with soundproofed walls.

5. Waiting out the monsoons in a run-down tropical resort, a motley group of travelers decide not to tell each other their stories, but to listen to their ipods and do crossword puzzles instead.

6. When down-and-out flower-child Rain washed up in the desert town of Scapegoat, she was surprised by how friendly the locals were. She didn't know that her arrival portended the end of Scapegoat's drought and the beginning of prosperity--after her heart's blood was sprinkled on the withered fields, of course.

Original Version

Dear Agent of My Dreams (that would be Ms. Snark, at her office, the proper way):

Into each life some rain must fall. [Interesting. Apparently Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is querying Evil Editor from beyond the grave.] United by destiny, torn apart by tragedy, a group of former friends resists the reunion hoped for by one of their own who comes looking for answers, and finds unexpected miracles. [You lost me already. Let's start over.] Truth is stranger than fiction [Now a Mark Twain quote? Clearly this is from a literature major.] in Rain Coming, a story of love, loss and the unbreakable bonds of friendship, played out against a backdrop of sex, drugs and rock and roll. [Ian Dury and the Blockheads. If this is a game of Identify that Quote, you'll have to do better than this to stump Evil Editor.]

Cathleen Carrington is a refugee from a dysfunctional family. When she’s offered a job at a bar called Centerfolds, she has a premonition that something big is about to happen - but her expectations don’t include meeting Bubba Mac. [No one in history ever had expectations of meeting someone named Bubba Mac.] Brutally handsome, charming to a fault, he’s the Pied Piper of the group: [The one who leads the rats out of town? The one who steals all the children?] the one all the women want to sleep with, and all the men claim as their best friend [while secretly also wanting to sleep with him.] [Different Pied Piper, obviously.]
As Cat is drawn in by the near-magical group of friends who frequent Centerfolds, she plunges into a steamy relationship with Bubba – until a devious trick played by a rival for his attention forces her to leave Memphis and cut herself off from the friends who have become her family. [Something that forces a woman to leave her home and abandon her family of friends sounds a lot worse than a "devious trick."] When she realizes she must return home to win Bubba’s heart, she calls to announce her decision – only to find out there’s been a fatal accident that has driven the friends apart and scattered them to the winds. [Bubba Mac's pickup truck blew up when it ran into Billy Bob's still.]

With her world shattered, Cat picks up the pieces and moves on, eventually settling in Colorado; but the past refuses to be laid to rest. Twenty years later, [in my sequel, Rain Gone,] [The past was happy to be laid to rest for twenty years; now, like a zombie, it's back.] she must return to Memphis, where she receives messages that are unmistakably from beyond the grave; [Maybe they're from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.] [Wait, they're from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's zombie!] [I hope Longfellow liked the name Henry, because going by his middle name was not an option.] and one by one, long-buried secrets, betrayals and esoteric mysteries are revealed as she struggles to reunite the friends in this paranormal tale of love and redemption that will leave you wondering what is real[Evil Editor has received entire query letters that were shorter than that one sentence.] I have been a daily columnist for the Vail Daily and Summit Daily newspapers in Colorado, recently sold two ghost stories to Firefox News, and have been both student and tutor of metaphysics for more than twenty-five years.

Selected Comments

BuffySquirrel said...That's Miss Snark, unless your evil dream is to be stilettoed by a tam-wearing poodle.

busywriter said...I bet if the author started at '20 years later' and wove the rest in as backstory, she/he could cut a significant number of words. According to the query, that's where the real story begins anyway, right?

Then again, maybe the author's already done this....

Rei said...A 155,000 word paranormal romance is like a 54,000 word SF/F novel ;) Sure, it's possible, but if this is your first novel, I wouldn't bet on it.

One issue, however:

"Twenty years later, back in Memphis, she receives messages that are unmistakably from beyond the grave; and one by one, long-buried secrets, bitter betrayals and arcane mysteries are brought to light."

EE: Please correct me if I'm wrong on this, but while semicolons are allowed when there's ambiguity due to commas, it is still awkward to begin the clause after a semicolon with a conjunction. Furthermore, semicolons suggest a strong degree of correlation between the clauses -- stronger than that of a period. Certainly the two clauses here are related, but not as much as say:

"I am in Washington; I had to travel for business."
"Bob programs computers for a living; he uses the printer all the time."
"Microsoft stock was a good buy in the early '90s; it's value rose significantly every year."

I don't see that degree of correlation here -- do you?

I'm just curious as to your take on this. I'm a grammar nazi at heart, although I still have much to learn. :) I also used to have a problem with using semicolons too often, so I might just be oversensitive.

Evil Editor said...I rarely micro-edit down to the punctuation level here; but since you asked, a comma would be fine; although I felt there was a strong correlation, namely that the messages from beyond the grave were messages revealing secrets, betrayals and mysteries. Of course it may be that the secrets etc. are coming to light through some other means; and the messages from beyond the grave are things like, "My God, it's hot down here!"

Umbrella Girl said...Ouch! Thank you, Evil Editor. I'm grateful to have you trash my query letter and I've got my little snipping scissors right here, ready to cut some more. You'd personally give birth to a cow if you had any idea how long it was before I cut it. Somehow, I thought if I got it down to 155K it would be all right because that's the same size as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and I don't think of it as being a very long book at all.

Rei - where does it say this is a romance novel? While it does have a romantic element, it's mainstream. Think The Mercy of Thin Air, The Problem with Murmer Lee, or The Lovely Bones. However, you are so right about the semicolons. One of my crit partners is a punctuation nazi, too (thank dog), and she's always getting onto me about it. I'm surprised she didn't point them out to me first.

Thanks again, Evil Editor. I remain your faithful minion.

Pat Brown said...I'd like to know how anyone thinks you could take a lover called Bubba Mac seriously. I can just imagine her in the throws of passion calling his name "Oh, Bubba, Bubba darling..."

Amra Pajalic said...Pat-I don't think it would be "Bubba darling." It would be "Do me, Bubba." The name just conjures up images of a good ole boy with a mullett. The only other Bubba I've come across in fiction is in Charlaine Harris' Southern Vampire series. He's Elvis brought back to life as a vampire and so a bit dim so I guess that's where that connotation comes for me. At least it's a pretty memorable name for a character.

kis said...For me, the name Bubba will always conjure an image of two cowboys on a dusty main street, tumble-weeds blowing in the distance. They chaw frantically, then blow. Bigger, bigger, bigger--POP! The loser's gum explodes all over his face and sticks. And the victor--well, HE chews Hubba Bubba.

Lauren said...Oh, good god. Cliche City. Or is it Quote City. Or both? It's hard to believe this writer is a columnist, though I do love the Bubba Mac part.

Umbrella Girl said...At the risk of inviting every ignorant incest joke you know, and for the purpose of educating you, Bubba is a very common name in the South, which means “brother,” particularly “little brother.” Not everyone in the South is a redneck. We happen to have turned out some fine writers like William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, John Grisham, Fannie Flagg, Larry Brown, Willie Morris, Barry Hannah, Robert Harling, and Beth Henley.

Lauren – “Good God,” and “Cliché City” are cliché. Duh.

And Pat, it’s the throes of passion, not the throws of passion. And for a man named Pat, you don’t have much room to be talking.

And finally, for those of you who make rude comments and don’t leave a link back to anything you’ve written so that others can learn from your Royal Hindass, we can only surmise that you either haven’t written anything, or you’re ashamed of what you have written. I’m torn between two more clichés – one with a moral; people who live in glass houses … and one that simply states how I feel – f**k off.

Anonymous said...You go, umbrellagirl (is that a cliche?).

Anonymous said...Umbrellagirl, lighten up a little. You gotta admit the name Bubba has a certain, special something. As for cliches, everyone uses them, that's why they're cliche. That doesn't mean I don't cringe every time one comes out of my mouth. (Or my keyboard.)

Cliches are like that third glass of wine--I know I shouldn't, but for some reason, I just can't help myself.

Now personally, I haven't submitted my query to EE. That's because it's currently circulating among agents, and I don't want them to see it picked apart and ridiculed here until they've found some other reason to reject me. I did use EE's wisdom to tweak it, and think I have something decent.

What you need to do is close your eyes, count backwards from twenty, and realize that we're laughing at ourselves too. And maybe Bubba, just a little.

S. W. Vaughn said...Can't we all just get along? :-)

I think Umbrella Girl has a point. The problem with this; with query letters in general, actually; is that it's so hard to get a sense of the actual writing when you have to condense everything to a few paragraphs...

And, of course, separating the personal issues from the professional ones is gut-wrenching. We're all writers here, and we're all struggling toward the same goal. Let's be supportive.

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14. Face-Lift 1228

Guess the Plot


1. Whisked by a natural phenomenon to a place where it rains poison, Azran realizes there's no place like home. But to get home, he'll need to find a machine that can create a natural phenomenon that will whisk him there. Also, a wyvern.

2. Halloween always sucked for Chuck. It's that time of the year, the kids are whining for new costumes for themselves and the goddamned dog, and his wife is bitching in the kitchen. He's getting the treats this year, and it's time for...revenge.

3. In a world without adjectives, without adverbs or articles; there can be only one result when murder comes to dinner. Administer, and stand back.

4. According to the latest statistical analysis, more people disappear in October than any other month. Looking at these disturbing trends, Detective Zack Martinez knew two things for certain. Somebody had a pumpkin fetish to die for. And he wouldn’t have any trouble finding a good Halloween costume this year.

5. Gilthoniel, Elven Queen of the Golden Forest, has kept her lands in a perpetual state of the autumnal weather she loves for millenia. But when human housing developers begin bulldozing the edges of her forest, she has no choice but to make those beautiful, fluttering leaves deadly. With the workers dying en masse on site, will the humans finally leave her beloved land alone?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Eighteen-year-old Azlan lives in Dunia—a [combination of Dune and Narnia.] [I would rather read the Narnia stories set in a world with giant sand worms than the Dune plot set in a fantasy world of talking animals, but they both have appeal.] world at peace, untainted by wars or the poisonfall. He yearns to escape his troublesome family and plans for a heedless adventure to travel the world. When he visits a restricted beach in spite of warnings from his friends, a natural phenomenon sends him on a one-way trip to another world—Tragaska. [What do you mean by "sends him"? Is it like a tornado picks him up and drops him in Oz? Or like he enters a portal that instantly takes him to Narnia? Is he warned away from this beach because the phenomenon is there (in which case I would expect the phenomenon to have a nearby sign saying CAUTION! STAY BACK UNLESS YOU WANT TO GO TO TRAGASKA!)?]

Tragaska is a world plagued by the poisonfall. The meadows are red and docile creatures have been deformed into mutants. [Sounds like a pretty cool place. How do I find the phenomenon?] Much of the population has dwindled, and the remaining survivors seek refuge in underground bunkers to escape the poisonous rain.

Having witnessed the realities the Tragaskans face day by day, Azlan sets out on a journey to find a way back to Dunia—a journey which requires him to cross the mutant-abundant lands and avoid nations fighting over resources made scarce by the poisonfall. Suddenly, the idea of an adventure no longer seems fun.

He enlists the help of Raqnas, an obnoxious wyvern capable of speaking human-tongue. Raqnas is a mercenary working for one of the warring nations, though is dissatisfied living his life around humans who only seem to think of him as a mutant, despite his intelligence. He agrees to help Azlan, enticed by the promise of peace and safety Dunia offers him.

However, Raqnas is controlling and Azlan loathes authority. They hate each other, though cannot make the journey to Dunia without the [each] other; Raqnas knows the way to the forbidden machine capable of recreating the phenomenon, which can only be operated with human fingers. [Why recreate the phenomenon if it sends the user to Tragaska? They just left Tragaska. Or does the machine-made phenomenon send the user anywhere he wants to go? You'd think a world where they've developed a machine that can send you anywhere would also have invented a Siri-like interface allowing Raqnas to just say Send me to Dunia, instead of needing fingers. Then he could eat Azlan and still go to Dunia.] [How far are they from Dunia, as the wyvern flies?] [How far are they from the forbidden machine, as the wyvern flies? Can't they just fly over the mutants and warring nations?]

And with the war within Tragaska coming to a close—where both sides would lose to the poisonfall—the two are forced to work together, to escape a world destined for destruction. Azlan hopes to reach Dunia before Raqnas eats him out of temper. [As I understand it, they need each other, so there's no danger of being eaten until after the machine transports them to Dunia.]

POISONFALL is a 92,000-word adventure fantasy novel with series potential.

Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



So the trip from Dunia to Tragaska happens via a natural phenomenon, while the return trip requires the same phenomenon, but created by a machine? Does this phenomenon have a name? The word seems vague, like calling a character "the entity."

So the plot basically is Azlan, who wants out of Dunia, gets whisked to a place that's much worse than Dunia, and decides Dunia is bearable after all? He doesn't even stick around awhile and save a few doomed Tragaskans? At least Dorothy made a few friends and helped them out before going home to Kansas.

Are Tragaska and Dunia on the same planet or in the same universe or dimension? Just because Tragaska sucks doesn't mean there aren't hundreds of places better than Dunia, so I'm not sure what's been accomplished in the end. Someone needs to do something. Or learn something of value besides that poisonfall is bad.

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15. Face-Lift 1227

Guess the Plot

The Layer

1. She was the most prolific worker in this horror house of reproduction, which was quite the feather in her cap. But can she escape before her brains become scrambled? With the help of a handsome stranger, she’ll win her freedom, or die trying. Yet there was something sinister in his over-easy manner, which didn’t quite jibe with her sunny-side-up disposition…

2. Henrietta consistently produces double yolkers. She's the pride of White's Egg Farm. But when newcomer Chicka starts pushing out triple yolkers, sometimes twice daily, watch the feathers fly as these two battle it out for the title of . . . The Layer.

3. When one of Farmer Brown's hens starts laying golden eggs, a custody battle breaks out between Farmer Brown, his ex-wife, and the farm supply store that sold them a dozen chicks.

4. Since she was hatched, Eulabelle has been groomed to be a champion. Calamity strikes when she is infested with lice. With the state fair just around the corner, can she get clean in time to win the coveted grand prize?

5. Sticks and stones may break his bones… but bricks are his trade. Drifting from town to town, looking for trouble; and usually finding it… Bond’s the name. Flemish Bond. He is… The Layer.

6. There is a layer of matter separating the world of the dead from that of the living. When Dr Fran Borden accidentally pierces it during an experiment, the two worlds meet in a violent cataclysm of lust, anger and...no, wait, that's not this book. This book is about the lives and loves of Wisconsin bricklayer Eddy Elliot, Esq.

7. John is a bricklayer with a troubled past. It wasn't until a demolition crew imploded one of John's buildings that Detective Lewis learned just how troubled. How many bodies had John entombed in concrete in his lifetime?

8. Pat makes beautiful cakes for the aging rich in Tampa, FL. Despite the hundred dollar tips, he wants a new life. Will his five-foot-tall cake with the "magic" hidden layer get him on a national cooking show?

9. After flying from Rome to London, Aria is abducted at the airport and forced through a portal to another dimension known as the Layer. But do they want her because of her ability to breathe underwater or because of her uncanny resemblance to the princess? She doesn't know, and they're not talking.

10. Gilthoniel, Elven Queen of the Golden Forest, has kept her lands in a perpetual state of the autumnal weather she loves for millenia. But when human housing developers begin bulldozing the edges of her forest, she has no choice but to make those beautiful, fluttering leaves deadly. With the workers dying en masse on site, will the humans finally leave her beloved land alone?

11. Everyone in the little town of Big Knob loves using good old George McFee for their odd jobs. But as the number of red-headed children increases, some are beginning to wonder if the dear old Irishman isn't a bit too loved.

Original Version

Dear [Mr./Ms. Name of Agent],

[Refer to agent's representation of specific YA fantasy novels, depending on agent] I am submitting for your consideration THE LAYER, an 89,000 word YA fantasy that will resonate with fans of Obert Skye's Leven Thumps and Michael Scott's The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series. [I would either put this whole thing after the plot summary, or cut it to: I am submitting for your consideration THE LAYER, an 89,000-word YA fantasy.]

Aria visualizes her Roman-sun-soaked life as a near-perfect watercolor that is drowned by the chance to meet her biological parents. [I can't tell from that sentence whether she wants to meet them or doesn't.] Aria tells herself that the scenario is simple. She will travel to England, say, “Hey, what’s up, bio-parents?” and return home. Landing at Heathrow Airport, you can only picture her torrent of rage  [Wait, what am I doing at Heathrow airport?] when she discovers that her supposedly “simple” trip—is a fraud.

Forced through a portal, Aria finds herself on the Layer, a dimension where the Mylaurdian species thrives. [My Lord!] [Hang on. We were in the middle of a YA book about a teen meeting her biological parents. If it's gonna turn out she was lured to London by someone who knows she's never met her biological parents and who has a vested interest in forcing her through a portal, you need to prepare us for this. Instead of opening with the watercolor life, open with something like: When Aria receives a plane ticket in the mail, along with an invitation to visit the biological parents she's never met, she never dreams she's being lured to London by an alien species known as the Mylaurdians. Then tell us what the Mylaurdians want with her.] [Is this portal in the airport? Can anyone go through it or do you have to be forced through?] While their aquatic counterparts have dried up, the human-like Mylaurdians develop only land animal abilities. [Are we talking about their dried-up aquatic counterparts on the Layer or on our side of the portal?] To them, riding elephants, talking to koalas, and monkey librarians are mainstream. [Actually, riding elephants is mainstream in our dimension. So is talking to koalas, although here they don't talk back. As for the librarians, are they, themselves, monkeys, or are their patrons monkeys, or do they work in monkey libraries (libraries that house monkeys instead of books)?] [I'm not sure, even after reading your examples, what you mean by "develop only land-animal abilities."] At first, all Aria craves is a ticket home—it's not her fault that the Mylaurdian king's daughter is missing—and it's definitely not Aria's fault that she looks exactly like her. [No, it's your fault.]

But as much as she resists, Aria cannot avert her mind from the Layer due to a secret that whets her thirst for her heritage—She can breathe underwater. [She's Aquawoman. Or a mermaid? I prefer Aquawoman. It's about time two superheroes hooked up. I mean, celebrities are always getting romantically involved with other celebrities, and superheroes would be major celebrities, so it's totally unrealistic that Superman digs Lois Lane instead of Wonder Woman. A comic in which Aquaman and Aquawoman fight super villains together and also argue over whose turn it is to do the laundry would sell big.] [Can you do laundry in salt water? Probably, as long as your detergent is Tide.] [Could she breathe underwater in our dimension?] [Breathing underwater is useful if someone is trying to drown you, but since it's hard to speak, hear, see, read, walk, or out-swim sharks, it's not that big a deal.]

I have studied under Eileen G'Sell, winner of the American Literary Review's 2012 prize for poetry. Like Aria, I have lived in Rome my whole life.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.



Aria is abducted, forced through a portal to another dimension, and we never find out why? Do they think she's the king's daughter? Do they want her to impersonate the king's daughter for political reasons? Do they need someone who can breathe underwater? Surely they tell her what they want from her.

We want the story. You've provided a few random facts about this other dimension, but nothing about what happens after Aria goes through the portal. That's your story.

Who calls this dimension the Layer? If it had a cooler name, your book would have a cooler name, and people wouldn't think it's about a hen.

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16. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Liift 1225 has posted a revision in the comments there and awaits your feedback.

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17. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. When retired chemist Roger Gusty begins converting his farts into ghosts, his love affair with octagenarian heiress Madeleine Crinkly takes a disturbing new turn. Set in a crumbling mansion, this hair-raising tale literally stinks.

2. Dolores knows she's going to die. That's because she's a Mysta, or "Mystic Sista," one of a sisterhood of urban psychics. Her daughter Rosalie is having trouble accepting the inevitable, so the Mystas take her on a road trip. Psychic revelations ensue.

3. Supermodel Mysta is having memories of a past life as a Valkyrie warrior goddess. Then her friend Kieran declares that he's actually an ancient warrior. Kieran's brother, a Navy SEAL shows up, and both brothers want Mysta. But can she figure out which one of them is possessed by a demon who wants to wreak havoc on mankind?

4. Mystie, a Bostonian with a secret, finally achieves her lifelong dream of becoming a parochial school teacher. But her new career is in jeopardy when her nosy students figure out that Mystie is actually a Mysta.

5. In a nearly empty strip mall, the only occupied storefront is for a laser-tag arena, Mysta. Not much happens there, until smoldering corpses drilled with neat, cauterized holes start piling up in the parking lot.

6. Mysta is the fad of the moment only no one can agree what exactly it is: A drink? A drug? A celebrity? Only Pansy knows it's an invasion from another dimension where mind control satellites, death rays, and fate controlled by astrology are real.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

An attack by a jilted rock star-turned-stalker nearly kills Supermodel Mysta. After surgery to repair her crushed larynx, she’s sure the drugs [The drugs? "Her painkillers" or whatever would be more specific.] are causing memories of a past life as Myst, Valkyrie warrior goddess.

Until she displays paranormal powers related to this previous existence. ["Until" suggests that she stops believing the drugs are causing memories of a past life as a Valkyrie warrior goddess when she displays paranormal powers. I would expect these powers to confirm that she has goddess DNA.] [Also, what are her powers?]

The assault reunites her with old friend, Kieran Sigard,[Change his name to Koren Sierkegaard.] who assures [her]he is her prior love, the warrior Sigvarðr. [Did he just find this out, or has he been keeping it from her? Did she tell him about her memories before he told her this?

How that conversation went if she told him first:

Mysta: I've been having these strange visions or dreams or memories of myself as a Valkyrie warrior goddess named Myst.

Kieran: I . . . see . . . Hey, guess what, I'm an ancient Icelandic warrior myself. So you have nothing to worry about. Excuse me, I just remembered there's something I need to tell your doctor before I disappear forever.

How that conversation went if she didn't tell him first:

Kieran: I'm glad you've recovered form the attack on your voice box. By the way, I'm the warrior Sigvarðr, your love from a past life.

Mysta: Welcome to Earth. I have just one question. What's that little thing over the "o" in your warrior name?]

She longs for the passion they share–[Who are "they"?] that is until his Navy SEAL brother arrives. Lieutenant Commander Kaelan Sigard [Giving your children two such similar names may not be uncommon, especially if they're twins, but giving two key characters in the same book such similar names is going to cause confusion.] is temptation incarnate, and offers protection when assassination and kidnapping attempts are made. [It's always nice to have a Navy SEAL visiting you when assassins attack. Especially if, in a past life, the Navy SEAL was Thor.] That isn’t the only thing he offers, but his indifference regarding a lasting relationship compels her to keep her distance. He thrives on a challenge, refusing to give up. This sparks a dormant[awakens a latent] rivalry between brothers, mixing a recipe for disaster as [and] they begin a deadly competition to win her. [Define "deadly."]

Unbeknownst to Mysta, a demon is using one of the brothers for its own centuries-old nefarious scheme. [This just keeps getting better.] [Amazingly, this demon with a centuries-old nefarious scheme somehow doesn't seem as out of place as the Navy SEAL.] It blames her for being cast into the underworld, intends to steal her powers, and wreak havoc on mankind. [Can you really steal someone's powers? Powers aren't like false teeth, that you leave in a cup on the bedside table overnight. Ah, research reveals that a supervillain known as The Parasite stole Superman's powers once. And a mythical staff on exhibit in Metropolis had the ability to steal Superman’s powers and transfer them to some evil character. It was up to Batman to locate and rescue Superman. How humiliating for the Man of Steel to have to be rescued by Batman, with his silly toys like his batarangs and bat pellets.]

As the young woman deciphers [investigates] her past, a twist of events causes her present love to [Kieran/Kaelin]become[s] possessed by the very demon she must destroy.[Which brother is her present love?] This heartbreaking challenge [dilemma] could be her unraveling.

MYSTA, my completed paranormal romantic suspense of approximately 92,500 words, is the first in a series where the couple [What couple?] becomes a paranormal investigative team. In book two, while investigating the homicide of a friend’s relative, ties to the underworld are discovered, luring the couple [Mysta and Kieran or Mysta and Kaelan?] into a devastating trap. In book three, Mysta is a month away from delivering their first baby when she is abducted by those who wish to use herand her child, for evil purposes. [Never mind books 2 and 3 for now. It has series potential is enough.]

My short story, MURDER IN MIDTOWN, has been accepted for an anthology to be published later this year.

Thank you for your creative criticism. I look forward to being publicly ridiculed soon.



At first reading, one could think, Why does this demon think this supermodel is responsible for casting him into the underworld? If you refer to the demon as a Norse demon, and perhaps give it a Norse demon name, it won't sound like an anachronism to those who consider demons a Christian idea. Did she cause the demon to be cast into the underworld? If so, say so instead of saying it blames her. You can say it wants revenge on her for sending it to the underworld.

It's a romance, but I'm not sure who the romantic couple is. It sounds like Mysta wants a lasting relationship with Kaelin and only stays away because he's indifferent. So when the brothers enter into a rivalry for her, Kieran might not want to be involved with her, knowing she has the hots for his brother. Which is why I can't be sure which brother she ends up with. And for some reason you're not telling.

I wasn't thinking Kieran had any interest in Mysta. Is he an old boyfriend or just an old friend?

We can do without the stalker/larynx bit. She doesn't understand why she's experiencing strange visions, but when she develops X-ray vision and super strength there can be only one explanation: she's the reincarnation of a Valkyrie warrior goddess.

Selected Comments

BuffySquirrel said...When supermodel Mysta starts recovering memories of a past life as a Valkyrie, she's convinced it's due to medication prescribed following emergency surgery.

Her conviction wavers when she starts to demonstrate paranormal powers, and when old flame Kieran Sigard reveals they were lovers in that former life, she's forced to the realisation that she is the warrior goddess Myst reincarnated.

The arrival of Kieran's Navy SEAL brother plunges Mysta into a deadly love triangle. For the brothers are being used by a demon seeking revenge on Mysta for casting him into the underworld centuries before.

In order to steal Mysta's powers and use them to wreak havoc, the demon possesses one of the brothers. Now destroying the demon risks the life of the man she loves, yet her own eternal soul is in danger if she fails to recover the memories that will enable her to cast the demon out once again.

Got a bit wavery on the dilemma there, because I'm not really sure what it is :). But eh.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Dear writer, there are two problems here as I see it.

The first, and I say this with love: reading your sentences is like trying to load the back of a van with enormous catatonic boa constrictors. They're awkward. They're very awkward. I think you need to work on them.

The second is your storyline. It really does help to sum your story up in a single sentence, under 20 words in length. But I don't know if it can be done with this story. At least not as you've described it. It seems to be headed off in too many directions at once, much like the poor snakes in my second paragraph.

150 said...Well, shoot, Buffy's version doesn't sound NEARLY as ridiculous. The power of a good edit!

If the anthology is well-paying, include the title and publisher. If not, it's not a credit that will help you, so don't bring it up.

arhooley said...Wow, what is it with these complicated Norse mythology plots? I expect to see Mysta with metal cups on her breasts and one of those horn-helmets.

Author, here's an example of an awkward expression you need to fix: "She longs for the passion they share." You can only "long for" something that you don't have. The sentence is jarring because of this contradiction. Maybe "she's reveling in her romance with Brother #1, until Brother #2 shows up." You need to look at each and every word you've written and consider whether it's the right one.

khazar-khum said...I admit I'm jealous of anyone who has a keyboard that permits the use of the medieval letters.

Anonymous said...Yes, well, impressive use of accented letters, but mostly your readers of the English language version won't make use of them. We dunno what it means/is for.

What they said about delete the sequel plots but do tell who = demon and who = Romeo.

This has some great ideas, but the query sounds like maybe your plotline is a bit convoluted and the book might benefit from trimming a few subplots and episodes that you wrote early on and then sort of eliminated the need for, but didn't have the heart to cut.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Anonymous, the "accented letter" is an eth, once a respected component of the English alphabet, but, like thorn, it got fired in the Middle Ages, though it still finds work in Scandinavia. Both represent "th" sounds, hard and soft respectively.

BuffySquirrel said...Ah, yes, and the next edition of the dictionary will be 'this thick'.

kbradley67 said...Dear EE:

Okay, WOW. I guess I wasn't as ready to query as I thought. Some fine points made all around.

EE, I chose those names for their meaning, not thinking that the similarities could confuse readers. I will change them at a later time.

Now that my wounds have healed, I'm actually willing to submit myself for more abuse.

So, is this an improvement or am I spinning my wheels?

Supermodel Mysta is in deep trouble.

An attack by a stalker sparks not only memories of a past life as Mist, Valkyrie warrior goddess, but the ability to shift into fog. The assault reunites her with high school friend, Kieran, who carries his own secret.

He is her prior love.

Mysta is ready to reignite the passion they once shared–that is until his Navy SEAL brother arrives, plunging her into a bizarre love triangle.

Lieutenant Commander Kaelan Sigard is temptation incarnate, and offers protection when assassination and kidnapping attempts are made. That isn’t the only thing he offers, but Mysta wants to remain true to Kieran, with whom she shared a past.

Kaelan thrives on a challenge, refusing to give up.

Unbeknownst to Mysta, a demi-god is using one of the brothers for its own centuries-old, nefarious scheme. It blames her, and seeks revenge for being cast into the underworld. The plan is to bind her with an ancient ritual that will share her powers, allowing it to escape, and wreak havoc on mankind.

As the young woman investigates, she discovers her past love is actually Kaelan, only to have him befall possession by the very fiend she must destroy.

This heartbreaking dilemma could be her unraveling.

Rachel6 said...Hey, kbradley, nice rewrite! Your sentences are much sleeker, the plot is more coherently told...all in all, much improved!

I have two tiny nits to pick. The first is this clause: "only to have him befall possession by the very fiend she must destroy." May I suggest something briefer like, "see him possessed by..."?

The other was your final sentence, about her heartbreaking dilemma. IMHO, I think you can lose that sentence altogether. It's a little melodramatic, and it tells me what I've already figured out.

But hey, now I want to read your book!

AA said...I'm not sure you should say "He is her prior love" if it turns out he isn't. Maybe he tells her he is?

"The plan is to bind her with an ancient ritual that will share her powers, allowing it to escape, and wreak havoc on mankind." Allowing what to escape? The plan? The ritual?

Also, too much passivity in the writing. (No, I did NOT mean passive voice, especially.) For instance:

An attack by

but the ability to

Mysta is ready to

brother arrives

attempts are made

allowing it to

only to have him befall

and so forth. It makes it seem like your story is full of attempts being made, things befalling people, people wanting to do things or being ready to do things, people arriving, things being allowed to happen, etc. What it doesn't show is whether or not anyone actually DOES anything.

This is not necessarily "bad" writing, but it does create emotional distance, and you don't want that.

AlaskaRavenclaw said...Yes, the sentences are better, as Rachel says. I noticed the same thing AA did about the passivity. There are only a couple sentences of which your protagonist is actually the subject.

Rewrite each sentence with your protagonist as the subject. See where that takes you. It won't give you a finished query, but it will help you see how to focus the query on your protagonist.

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18. Feedback Request

The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1226 (which is just below this post) has posted a new version, which you'll find in the comments there. Any comments will be appreciated.

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19. Face-Lift 1222

Guess the Plot


1. A mommy blogger tries to parody Lewis Carroll's the Jabberwocky and can't think of a rhyme for "blog".

2. The secret son of Evil Editor and Julia Roberts is starting his own blog…and he’s going to reveal lot of shocking news about his parents.

3. Piper and Chad are assigned to work together on a blog, but they both refuse. Will their teacher make good on her threat to fail them both? Or will she decide her job security is more important?

4. Private Investigator Amanda Socci sets up Kidblog, a decoy kiddie-porn site with enough spyware to positively identify any creep who tries to download from it. Then she figures that blackmailing high-profile creeps is far more lucrative than handing them in to the authorities. But she didn't figure that mega-creep Senator Giles could trace the technology straight back to her.

5. First we had PBSKids, then NBCKids and National Geographic kids, and any number of shows pandering to the younger set. Then a plucky, comic-relief kind of character suddenly gets his big break, and squanders it all tackling the most vile evil of all: Wordpress! Hilarity and grammatical errors ensue…

6. Eight-year-old Ricky starts a blog dealing with life at Fontana Elementary school. Tough tests, tough teachers, Tough-Luck Bobby (Maria likes Finn). Meanwhile, mommyblogger Cindy Sharon starts a blog about raising her home-schooled genderneutral child Moon as a vaccine free, gluten free, and religion free vegan. Everything's fine until Ricky and Moon email each other.

Original Version

Dear Evilicious Editor.

I am seeking representation for my realistic fiction Middle Grade manuscript, Kidblog, complete at 21,100 words. The story is told through a dual-voiced narrative, blog entries and comments, online chats, and text messages. [What, no tweets?] [When it comes to fiction, kids have always been ahead of adults in the technology fields. Back in the 1870s it seemed like every other middle-grade query was told through telegraph messages, smoke signals, and hand-written letters, none of which today's kids have ever heard of.] [Am I showing my age?] [If archaeologists ever find a middle-grade query from prehistoric times it'll probably claim the story is told through cave paintings, cuneiform, and signs from the gods.] [Also, "dual-voiced narrative" sounds pretentious. Just say much of it is told through...and list the other stuff.]

Play-it-cool Chad has big plans for seventh grade: smooth talking his way to decent grades and acing the basketball team tryouts. Play-by-the-rules Piper has big plans, too: keeping up her straight-A streak and crafting a surprise birthday gift [for?]. Neither plans on being partners for a clutch English assignment. But their kazoo-tooting [Play-the-kazoo] teacher insists they must work on the class Kidblog together – or fail! [Does she tell them this with the kazoo in her mouth? Because that would seem a bit disrespectful.] [And yet I'm not sure why the teacher's only trait worthy of mention is her kazoo tooting if she does it only in a respectful manner.]

A Slurpee versus m & m-fueled battle of wills ensues when first Chad then Piper decides collaboration WILL NOT HAPPEN. [There'd be more conflict if only one of them refused to collaborate. If they both refuse, it's a win-win situation. Or lose-lose, if the teacher makes good on her threats to fail them both, though that's unlikely, as it would cost her her job when the parents sue the school system.] With the clock ticking, conflicts pile up at school and problems bubble up at home. Then, with their plans unraveling fast, Chad and Piper face twin family emergencies that force them to find common ground – and even friendship – in the unlikeliest of places. [This would be much more interesting if you were specific about the conflicts, problems, plans, emergencies and places.]

Writing credits include x, y, and z. I’m an active lurker, if not poster, on FB, Twitter and Instagram. [Lurking is not a credit.] My website, currently being updated, is abc.com. [If you hurry up and finish updating it you won't have to admit it's being updated.] [Also, I went there, and it's all about TV shows and nothing about your book.]

Attached are the first x pages/y chapters of my manuscript.

Thank you for your consideration.



The setup is okay, but  once you get into the story it becomes vague. We can sympathize with specific problems and emergencies, but we don't know what they are. We need something besides the format that hooks our interest.

Not sure what Slurpees and m & ms have to do with the battle of wills.

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20. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Summer of the Flood

1. When a hurricane leaves Galveston Island flooded, residents are forced to wade to school and work. The wet clothes and shoes are bad enough, but the worst part? Sharks.

2. Sixth-grader Annie wants to stage a production of Hamlet with local children, while her cousin Maggie wants to jump in the rising river and drown herself. Either way, there's gonna be a tragedy.

3. Abby and Jake may be only 14 years old, but they know they're in love. Can Abby get her dad, Noah, to give Jake a place on his precious ark?

4. That was the year. The year we all despaired. The year red heels were found washed up on the beach. The year glue-on mutton chops sold on e-bay. The year NaNoWriMo happened in June.

5. Everyone in the valley is making fun of that crazy old religious man, for building that giant boat. When storm clouds roll in, however, and a parade of paired animals begins making its way through town, folks start getting nervous.

6. Stranded on the roof when the river breaks its banks, Elsa bludgeons her abusive husband and casts him into the deluge below. But her actions are witnessed by a ghostly child who taunts and goads Elsa the entire summer.

Original Version

Dear E.E.,

The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie goes crazy. The kind of crazy where she runs away from home and tries to commit suicide.

Maggie’s parents don’t know what to do with her. They think a summer in Northern England with her recluse grandparents – former Shakespearean actors who sing to their sheep [Baa baa baa, baa baa baa ram.] and haven’t left their house in six years – will [inspire her to get it right this time.] clear her head and get her out of their hair. [Nice. Their kid tries to kill herself and they want her out of their hair.] 

Annie – she’s coming too, with a grand plan for their English summer that includes finding clues about the mother she never knew, getting Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river, and convincing her grandmother to stage Hamlet in their backyard, cast with children from the local village.

[Quotes from 6th-grade Hamlet:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be
You may not borrow nor shall I lend my iPod.

Give every man thy ear, but few thy comic books.

Something is rotten in the refrigerator.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than football cards, Barbie dolls and Xboxes.

Get thee to a video arcade.

Bieber or the Biebs -- that is the question.]

Maggie – she’s not having any of it. Her heart’s still set on running.

SUMMER OF THE FLOOD is a middle grade novel of 51,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


How old is Maggie?

You've given us the characters: Maggie, Annie, reclusive grandparents. You've set up the situation: the two girls are spending the summer in England. Now . . . What happens?

You can cut the setup to something like:

The summer before Annie starts sixth grade, her cousin Maggie runs away from home and tries to commit suicide. Maggie’s parents decide a summer in Northern England with her reclusive grandparents will set her on the right track, and Annie goes along, hoping to find clues about the mother she never knew--and to keep Maggie’s mind off jumping in another river.

Now give us two more paragraphs in which you relate the plot.

Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...See if you can tweak the phrasing slightly to acknowledge that 
you know Maggie's parents are totally lame.

I know and you know that parents really do things like send a seriously troubled kid to stay with whacko relatives in a foreign country instead of getting help for 'em, but the neutral "don't know what to do" makes it sound like you consider their choice an acceptable one.

And then, yeah, say what happens.

And why Hamlet? I mean I get that its discussion of suicide works for your story, but most sixth graders haven't even read the play. Why is this kid so interested in it?
Anonymous AlaskaRavenclaw said...
ps-- nothing against the UK, and not meaning to imply that it contains relatives any more whacko than those we enjoy here in the US. But the point is the parents are getting the kid to a place where, when the @#$# hits the fan, they won't be the ones dealing with it.
Anonymous vkw said...Yeah, about the parents. I know of parents who have done exactly this. 
However, I don't think they did it to get the kid out of their hair. They did it because 
after months and months, perhaps even years, of dealing with a trouble child that 
climaxes with a serious suicide attempt they are exhausted and overwhelmed and at 
their wit's end. And, a change of scenery has falsely been thought of a cure for 
problems of every kind. And, grandparents are notoriously nice, most of the time, 
wanting to save/help their children and grandchildren. All that love and not giving up 
on family members gets in the way of their thinking.

Of course, maybe that's not the case with Maggie's parents or grandparents but I get it. I wouldn't be flippant about it, though. Either glance at it the way EE did or explain it better if it is part of the story or understanding your characters' motivation.

This is a good setup. I am notoriously bad about not liking middle grade queries because I think they sound shallow. But, this doesn't sound shallow, this sounds interesting and deep and even fun.

Please rewrite your query to convince me I am right.

Blogger BuffySquirrel said...Once upon a time, when depression was known as melancholia, a common cure was the sea change. You go on a nice long cruise and by the time you get back home you're better.
I can't imagine an intercontinental flight having *quite* the same effect.

Boy is Annie going to be disappointed when she finds out what the North's idea of 'summer' is. Hope her theatre isn't outdoors.
Blogger BuffySquirrel said...
Oh, wait, just noticed the title. Guess that answers the question about the author's familiarity with Northern summers.
Blogger AA said...
I agree with AlaskaRavenclaw- I only read Romeo and Juliet in high school (and didn't like it). Hamlet is much better, but most kids have no experience with it. I hadn't been exposed to Shakespeare before high school except for pop culture references like tv shows.

A line about how grandpa recites some of it to Annie, or whatever, would be good. For believability, I want to know why this has to be THE play.

I do think it sounds interesting. I'd also like a hint if Annie finds anything surprising about her mother, or maybe something she didn't want to know.

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21. Face-Lift 1223

Guess the Plot

The Spirit Swindler

1. Hey! Hey you! Cubicle meat sack. That soul thing? You're not using it, right? So I'll give you a million bucks now, and another million later. Come on. What have you got to lose?

2. A unicorn promises the late Brobro a new life in a new body. Naturally he jumps at the opportunity, but be careful what you wish for: his new body turns out to be Adolph Hitler's! And the SWAT team is at the door!

3. It was a classic tale of fame and fortune. He had it, but it could also be yours – for a price. All you need do is take care of the Nigerian Prince. But be careful what you wish for – because he's . . . The Spirit Swindler.

4. The ghost of Al Capone returns to 1960s Chicago and wreaks havoc on the city's hippy counterculture. Ultimately prohibited from committing any worldly sin, Capone is consumed by a hatred of Bohemianism bordering on the fanatical. Only Shaggy and Scooby can stop his nefarious plans to exorcise the desire for pleasure from the human spirit.

5. Jake has realized that spirits are not souls. No one in Hell wants to buy any, and Jesus just chuckles at Jake's ambition. But why do so many useless specters keep appearing at Jake's door? Is Jake a Specter Whisperer or an unpublished writer with a too-big imagination?

6. When little Bobby Bacardi came over from the old country, one step ahead of the prohibitionists, he thought he might have at last found a refuge. But that was in 1919, and things went down the hatch quickly. When a drunk-with-power Sammy Seagram catches up with him, Bobby knows he's in for the bar fight of his life. Wearing a mask, and working mostly in the dimly lit back rooms of speakeasies, Bobby becomes the vigilante known as… The Spirit Swindler.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Brobro was tired of being dead. The service was bad, the rent was too high, and the frequency of teenage girls trying to summon him at sleepovers was just exhausting. When a unicorn named Swagfast promised him new life in another body, how could he refuse? [No reason that paragraph can't be in present tense.]

Now Brobro's alive, exactly where he died. Everything's just as he remembered [remembers] it, right down to the time on the clock. The only difference is his wife's terrified expression. Oh, and the fact that his "new" body is Adolf Hitler's. 

It doesn't take long for the SWAT team to arrive. [Why are they arriving?] Brobro's alone against the law, and his narrow escape just means they'll crack down harder. His retreat leads him into the NYC sewers, where he finds a fellow misfit named Jazzhands. The winged clown claims to have been a beautiful pegasus, before Swagfast cheated her out of her body.

Together they decide to search a world that hates them to find Swagfast and the lives that he stole from them. [Swagfast didn't steal Brobro's life; Brobro was already dead when they met.]

THE SPIRIT SWINDLER is a 128,000 word historical romance. [Really? Whether the romance is between Brobro and his wife or Hitler and the winged clown (or Brobro and Hitler, in which case it would be a Brobromance), you need to have something about the romance in the query. And if it's historical romance, reveal the historical period in which it's set. Even now that I know the romance is the main focus of the book, I'm inclined to think romantic comedy or paranormal romance or farcical fantasy.] If you are interested, please email me at ___________. Thank you for your time and consideration.



The tone is good, assuming it fits the book.

Not clear if Brobro has possessed the body of the real Adolph Hitler or just has a body that looks like Hitler's. As there were no SWAT teams when Hitler was alive, I assume the latter, but as dead people can be given new lives, perhaps it's the former. Perhaps Hitler, too, got tired of being dead and Swagfast gave him a new life, except he was being as big an asshole in his new life as he was in his old one so Swagfast let Brobro have the body, figuring he couldn't be any worse in it than Hitler. Then again, Swagfast is apparently the villain, so he'd probably be happy if Brobro were worse than Hitler. New title suggestion: The Man Who Was Worse Than Hitler.

I always thought Pegasus was one specific creature, rather than a species or race. Or that if there were lots of them, that Pegasus was the name of one winged horse and the other winged horses had their own names. 

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22. Face-Lift 1224

Guess the Plot

Where Angels Weep

1. In God's gilded commode! He has way too many Grooms of the Throne. Any angel who gets the job knows why Lucifer quit, and Lucifer welcomes those who need a new position that doesn't involve holy sh*t. Gabriel is tempted. 

2. Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Comerica Park, Camden Yards, Dodger Stadium.

3. Someone killed Vi's father, and she needs to find the killer before he sends someone else she loves to the angels. But will anyone believe her when she reveals that all the evidence points to Cookie Monster as the killer?

4. When the body of softcore porn queen Cherie Sweet is found dragging behind a Los Angeles bus, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, she didn't tie herself to the bus by her hair; and two, the Angels are in the playoff hunt and now might be a good time to take the kids to a game.

5. Angels must be perfect. In everything. But young Marielle is fat, her hair is a mess and her legs are hairy. Every day she tortures herself in “Heaven Sent”, a beauty centre. She runs on the treadmill, eats only ambrosia light and a beautician waxes her legs. But with a group of other overweight, not-so-perfect angels Marielle plans to take over Heaven Sent. And screw the divine standards.

6. Amy thought working in heaven would be awesome. Divine offices, fun coworkers, free donuts in the lounge. Like Google, only with harps. But it turns out God's a lousy administrator, and the Archangel Michael is an overbearing, self-righteous jerk. Can Amy survive Michael's micromanaging and climb up heaven’s ladder, or will she end up huddling in the stairwell...Where Angels Weep?

Original Version

Dear ________,

I'm currently seeking representation for my YA novel (with a bit of mystery) WHERE ANGELS WEEP. I thought it might be the perfect addition to your list since you were [are] interested in young adult fiction.


Vi Thorne has a confession to make. [If you open with the confession instead of the announcement of the confession you'll save space.]

She may or may not be in love with her best friend. [Was that the confession? As that's true of everyone who has a best friend, it's pretty lame as confessions go. If a detective is grilling a suspect and says, "You killed her. Confess and we'll take the death penalty off the table," he's not gonna be satisfied with a confession that goes, "I may or may not have killed her."] I mean, he should have known that giving a sugar-obsessed monster a cookie would seal his fate. [Seal whose fate? The friend's or Cookie Monster's?]

She even made a pact with herself: She'd confess her undying love to Lincoln, [So is that the confession? Does it count as a confession if it may not be true?] [Is Lincoln the best friend, or did the best friend get murdered?] they'd get married, have three kids and a dog named Speckles, live on [in] a beach house where she'd paint endless scenes of blue -- because red just reminds her of blood now -- and Linc could not have girls throw themselves at him every five minutes during his self-defense classes. [Not clearly worded. Also, if girls want to throw themselves at Linc, it's out of his control. Though in a self-defense class they're more likely to throw each other.] Clearly, she'd thought this through. [Wait, what happened to Cookie Monster?] [Is that the "bit of mystery"? Who killed Cookie Monster? I'm not sure Sesame Street will let you use Cookie Monster as a character, especially if he gets killed or turns out to be a murderer. But it can't hurt to ask. I for one would love to read a murder mystery in which the detective calls the suspects together at the end and they're all sitting in the detective's office wondering which one of them is guilty and wondering what Cookie Monster is doing there, as he hasn't even been in the book up until then, and the detective reveals that Cookie Monster did it, and Cookie Monster confesses that yes, he did it, but the victim had it coming because he put out a Pepperidge Farm cookie assortment at a party, but had first eaten all the Brussels cookies.] [Now that's a confession.]

Instead, she's trying not to run away screaming like a deranged monkey as her best friend tells her he's a killer and, apparently, so was her murdered father. [I believe the word for the father is "killee."] [Also, if her best friend is gonna be in the query twice, use his name. I assume this is the same best friend she may or may not be in love with? Lincoln? Once we know his name is Lincoln, call him that. Or is this her other best friend?] Of corrupt people, he says. But she should think not. [Not clear whether that awkward sentence means. She doesn't buy that her father was a killer? Or doesn't buy that he only killed corrupt people? Or something else entirely?] And, through a series of unexpected discoveries that not only include a kidnapping, but also a noose, she finds out her father was not the person she thought she knew.

She was once told [by a raving lunatic] that sanity is best judged by those who lack it. Completely valid statement. Not valid for a person who dreams she is another person at night, a Tori Sommers, badass runaway. And it can't possibly be a coincidence that Vi started dreaming of the girl the night of her father's murder. Of course not.

Teaming up with her former best friend, [Is this "former" best friend the same best friend we've been talking about, except they're no longer best friends, or was this best friend her best friend before she moved on to her current best friend? I can't tell if she has one, two or three best friends.] Vi is on a mission to find this killer before someone else she loves gets hurt. In [From] a letter addressed to her father, Vi pieces together the evidence that led to his murder, realizing much too late that the murderer is closer than she thinks. [He's the postman.]

But, let this be a lesson to everyone: Life never happens the way you want it to.

Damn cookie [monster].


WHERE ANGELS WEEP is complete at 60,000 words.

Thanks for your time and consideration! [No exclamation point.] Should you choose to finish WHERE ANGELS WEEP in its entirety, I would be thrilled to discuss the (shocking) ending with you! [No exclamation points!!] [And no offers to discuss the ending.]


This is all over the place. You're trying way to hard to put voice into the query. Start over. Summarize the plot in clear simple sentences that a middle grader would understand. Let each sentence and paragraph follow logically from the last, with smooth transitions. Leave out Tori Sommers. Once you've done that, you can go back and add a few clever touches that show your voice/tone/style.

I'm more interested in what this YA novel has a lot of than what it has a bit of. It sounds like a YA thriller. Or YA mystery. Or YA romantic suspense.

If Cookie Monster isn't in the book, change the cookie to a candy bar. And get rid of all other references to cookies. Then remove the candy bar.

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23. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Miranda Contract

1. Carmen has ditched the hat and the song-and-dance routine, but Fosse's not ready to let her go yet. Can she get out of her contract to marry John Jakes, the hobo of her dreams, or will she be forced to pretend to be a vivacious Latina till the day she dies? 

2. When Arda Arnhem is arrested for a murder she didn't commit, she is offered the right to remain silent. But this contract has a catch-- if she chooses to waive the right to remain silent, anything she says can and will be used against her in a court of law! Fortunately, she has the right to an attorney, public defender and amateur sleuth Wilma Wilkins.

3. When the dead gigolos start piling up at the city morgue, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Guns don't kill people, bullets do; and some gal named Miranda sure had a lot of boy friends.

4. Miranda the Hooker was always getting cheated, beat up, and abused. Taking control of her life, she goes back to school and earns a law degree and an MBA. Now she gets the respect she deserves, because all her johns have to sign...The Miranda Contract.
5. Dan Galkin's grandfather, an evil psychopath known as the Mad Russian, wants Dan to kill pop sensation Miranda. It'll be good publicity for the "family" business. But Dan feels a certain electricity between himself and Miranda, which he thinks may be true love, rather than his electricity-manipulation super power.

6. An exploration of the very different viewpoints in the two original versions of the "Miranda" rights contract, which were eventually merged into the warnings we all know and love. Includes point-counterpoint between 'You have the right to speak, but only in a polite and respectful tone' and 'You have the right -- nay, the responsibility -- to shut the fuck up.' 

7. Miranda is a fairy with only 24 hours to live, and though fairies aren't supposed to live as long as mortals, she really is attached to the life she has. She makes a deal with an amateur warlock to extend her life but at the cost of transforming into an imp. After losing her beauty, Miranda realises how shallow the fairy world is and becomes hell-bent on usurping the Fairy Queen to bring in a new regime. 

8. Miranda has spent too much time on the Internet, reading about the goofy things people do to make money. When she convinces a local rich family that paying her to pretend to be their cat will be quirky and entertaining to guests, she'll get free housing and food for a year. But can she get out of the contract when she finds out they've also rented her ex-boyfriend as the family dog?

9. It's 1940. “Lucky” Luciano sends Lenny “Wolf” Lupo to kill Gina Miranda – a jewel thief who burgled the wrong mansion. He watches her and falls in love. When they meet, she tries to kill him while he tries not to kill her. They wed, leave the life, and hide in a sleepy southwestern town. But after the war, change comes to Las Vegas. 

10. When the body of crime author extraordinaire Jim Trisham is found dangling from the mast of his yacht "Miranda Contract", Homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, Trisham didn't hang himself by the testicles and two, since keeping a 100 foot yacht at Marina del Rey means you have more money than God, he probably shouldn't have contributed to the boat by buying Trisham's books.

11. Actress Miranda Gabriel, fresh from her Iowa community college drama department, is discovered and slated to lead in the edgiest new drama of the season. Her agent tells her she first must sign a contract -- in blood. Welcome to the West Coast, he says, it's all part of the biz. 

Original Version

Dan Galkin is seventeen and desperately trying to keep his life unremarkable, but when you were a teenage super-villain for two weeks at the start of high school and your grandfather is an evil psychopath hell-bent on making you his successor at any cost, it’s not going to be easy. [No need to say "at any cost," as it was implied by "hell-bent."]

Dan is an uberhuman, [
"Überhuman should have an umlaut, shouldn't it? Wait, should "umlaut" have an umlaut? Even if it shouldn't, it should. And we should spell apostrophe apostr'phe. And hyphen hy-phen. Etc.] [How to pronounce Über:  ˈyːbɐ. Thanks, Wikipedia.] born with the ability to sense and manipulate electricity, [For instance, when he gets out of the shower and wants to dry his hair, he senses that there is electricity on the other side of the bathroom outlet. He manages to access this electricity through the use of the metal prongs dangling off of his hair dryer. He then manipulates the electricity into a steady rush of warm air through the use of the on-off switch on his device. Other controls allow him to regulate both the air flow and temperature from low to medium to high. He feels it's only a matter of time before he's starring in his own comic book.] [An appendix in the back of the book details how Dan is able to manipulate electricity to recreate the sound of Mick Jagger singing "Brown Sugar in a recording studio in 1969 and to create a grilled cheese sandwich.] and when he accidentally rescues pop sensation Miranda Brody from a mob of fans, he is strongarmed into becoming her bodyguard. [When you're desperately trying to keep your life unremarkable, and you become Britney Spears's bodyguard, you weren't trying desperately enough.] Unfortunately, his grandfather, The Mad Russian, has orchestrated the whole thing and wants Dan to kill Miranda and use the resulting publicity to take over the family business. [Usually in a family business the heir to the throne is the most powerful or the most qualified or the first-born, and whether you've killed a pop star doesn't figure into the equation. What kind of business is the psychopathic Mad Russian's family in?Dan has no interest in becoming a killer so he and Miranda end up running for their lives, dodging a string of Dan’s childhood teammates and developing a love-hate relationship along the way. [He loves her; she hates him.]

As the villains close in, Dan’s powers are acting wildly, but he manages to turn the tables on the Russian and he and Miranda escape the city in a stolen car. [Can you imagine Britney or Gaga abandoning their careers to flee in a stolen car with a seventeen-year old?] They end up at Dan's deranged mother's house where he realises he has gone as far as he can. He stops running - from his grandfather and from his past. Using clues from the previous attacks, [There've been attacks?] his grandfather's contacts, and his ability to tap into the mobile phone network, he tracks the Mad Russian's location to a shopping centre. [Überhumans don't go to shopping centers. They have minions, flunkies and underlings for that. Although I did see Spiderman at a mall on Halloween once. He was in line at a Cinnabon.]

It’s here at the endgame that Dan is pushed to his limits keeping the people safe and taking down his grandfather, eventually scrambling the electrical impulses of the Mad Russian's brain, although it nearly kills them both. In the aftermath Dan is labelled a hero. But it’s bittersweet for Dan, as Miranda walks away from their growing attraction, leaving him to find a way to live his own life instead of in the shadow of his past crimes and family. [What?! He saves the world but doesn't get the girl? What was the point?]

The Miranda Contract is a 70,000 word Young Adult superhuman [Überhuman] fiction novel, exploring issues of family pressure, overcoming negative reputation and labels, as well as a healthy dose of redemption, adventure and heroism. [If "fiction" is describing "novel," it's redundant. Or is "superhuman fiction" a single term, like "science fiction"? If so, is "superhuman fiction" your genre, or your opinion of your book?] [I'd go with "superhero novel."] 

I have had several short stories published in print and online publications, as well as editing the superhuman fiction ‘zineThis Mutant Life for two years. One of my stories, The Scoundrel’s Wife, was short listed for the Chronos Awards in 2011 (Australian science fiction awards).

The Miranda Contract was long-listed for the 2012 Hachette Manuscript Program. [A shrewd but transparent way of saying The Miranda Contract couldn't even get short-listed for the 2012 Hachette Manuscript Program.]

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,


I would drop the paragraph with the deranged mother and move directly to: In the endgame... 

It's better to let the issues explored in your book be obvious from the plot description, rather than to point them out.

Pop sensation Miranda Brody would just go by Miranda. 

Not sure the term "Miranda rights" is familiar in Australia, but in the US that title will probably give readers expectations of a police procedural.

Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...I was definitely with you through the first paragraph. After that, I'm afraid my relationship with your query deteriorated.

Question: who strongarms Dan into becoming Miranda's bodyguard, and do they do it with or without the knowledge that Dan's grandpa wants him to kill her? I found this very confusing and it felt contrived.

What i mean by "contrived" is that it seems like something dropped on the characters by their Author rather than something that evolves naturally from events and personalities. That may not be the case in the ms; it may just be the query.

With regard to the fourth paragraph, I don't think queries generally include the novel's ending.

This reminded me of two YAs I'd read:

1. Markus Zusak's also-Australian _I Am The Messenger_, which is a terrific book until the last chapter, when I'm sorry to say I had to throw it across the room. Talk about contrived.

2. Louis Sachar's _Small Steps_, in which a teenage boy who's done time in juvie hooks up with (wait for it) a teen pop star. This couple, too, are the objects of a devious scheme: the singer's stepdad/manager tries to kill her and frame the boy. This doesn't feel contrived because the boy's been set up throughout the book as the perfect patsy.

Anyway, on the rewrite here I'd try not to tell the whole plot, just enough to get us interested. Try to keep the focus on Dan... if he doesn't know something, don't tell us.

Kelsey said...Hi author, At the beginning of the query you mention that Dan was a villain for two weeks, but then it isn't mentioned again. If it's not relevant to the central conflict, cut it.

While I think it's a good idea that the grandfather has manipulated Dan into his close contact with Miranda (the fewer coincidences, the better) I hit a snag with the bodyguard issue. I'm unclear about whether, in your novel's world, uberhumans are known or hidden. From your intro about Dan trying to keep his life normal, I assumed no one knew about his powers (generally the default in superhero fiction). But then, how does he save Miranda? If he saves her without powers, he's just a 17-yr-old kid, unremarkable, who maybe was in the right place to Miranda out of the way of a gunshot (or something), which makes me extremely skeptical that this kid would then be 'requested' as a bodyguard; on the other hand, if he uses his powers to save her and that's why they want him as a bodyguard, then these powers must be societally normal because otherwise there would be all sorts of awkward questions raised. You don't have to give the play-by-play of this scene in the query, but do work in if uberhumans live openly so it's more believable.

I'd think about changing the Grandfather's villainy to something other than Mad Russian--the Russians get picked on as villains a lot. Your story may play on cliches purposefully to be campy, but if that's not what you mean to do, look for a fresh villainy.

I do, though, think it's cool that the Dan doesn't get the girl. (Apparently every guy plus girl that are thrown together fall in love forever.) But in the actual novel I'd suggest working in small clues that this romance isn't going to be rosy early on, just so readers don't feel their break-up comes completely out of left field.

Good luck!

Author, I quite enjoyed this. I do think it's a bit synopsis-y toward the end, and I think you could delve more into the Dan-as-a-two-week-villain stuff, but you're off to a very good start. Would you consider writing a version with more lead-up and less ending? Just so we could kind of compare and point out what we think should stay in the final query?

Again, I think this is good stuff. But I'd love some more set-up (and trust me, you don't hear that a lot around here) so I can know what the bones of the story are.

AA said...This is more of a synopsis than a query letter. That is, it's a list of things that happen in the story. The main thing that seems to be wrong with it is that I don't care. I don't care about some kid with a vague superpower that is difficult to visualize working. I don't care about some pampered pop star who isn't even described. I think the grandfather is pretty interesting, but that may be because I'm curious about him. Anyway, I'm not supposed to feel like siding with the villain.

I think part of the problem is that by trying to cram too much info into the query, you may be diluting the main thrust of the story.

"Dan is an uberhuman, born with the ability to sense and manipulate electricity."
I'm not feeling this. As EE showed in his blue text, this could mean almost anything. Try being as specific as possible here.

Also, I'm confused as to why Dan should be required to kill Miranda. Seems to me this will only get him prison time. What good does it do the "family business?" I think the best killers would be quiet, stay in the background, and be difficult to pick out in a crowd. Certainly publicity is the last thing they want. Maybe I'm missing something obvious here.

"Dan has no interest in becoming a killer so he and Miranda end up running for their lives, dodging a string of Dan’s childhood team-mates and developing a love-hate relationship along the way. " Okay, but if one of the team-mates (What does that mean? Teamsters?) kills Miranda, does Dan still get the family business? What if one of them kills Dan? Then who gets it? It's confusing.

"As the villains close in, Dan’s powers are acting wildly..." Just wanted to point out- "teen superhero protag who doesn't quite know how to use powers properly yet" may be THE most common cliche' on this blog so far. With the possible exception of "teen turns out to be half-magical race and also royalty."

I'm skeptical of the whole premise, actually, but if you can re-write this so that the pressures in the story seem more immediate and the characters are more like real people, I might be persuaded to believe that a hardened, crafty boss is going to hand over the "family business" to some wet-behind-the ears teenage kid.

Mister Furkles said...You need to rework this. Aside from what EE and the other minions said, your typical sentence is too long. Your first sentence is 50 words. One agent wrote that when she see this, she assumes the manuscript is loaded with run-on sentences.

I don't get any feel for Miranda. She would seem crucial to the story because her name is in the title. We need to know something about the family business. Is it Celebrity Murder Inc.? Can you make Dan a more appealing person?

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24. Face-Lift 1225

Guess the Plot


1. Slogging through the sewer, Jenny plummets into a land of talking animals, height-altering tarts, a red queen, a white rabbit . . . and a hunky Hatter. It's like Wonderland, but topsy-turvy.

2. Chasing his pet rabbit, eleven-year-old Gregor falls through a vent in his basement and lands in a grim world called Underland, where he ends various wars, fulfills various prophecies, and falls in love with a princess.

3. Billy has developed a new type of pig that grows in the ground like potatoes. The other farmers laugh and sneer, but how will their Cumberland sausages stand up against his Underlands?

4. Just as the trophies are handed out at the 2033 World Bacon Eating Championships, randomly ethereal underworld wizard lord Voorg the Majestic's thumb manifests inside a discarded pig's skull. Can Mage Hunter Hoolihan dismantle the Five Portals of Doom with only a single digit to aid him? And who is the fat woman from Boston who demanded "more Porky"?

5. Bobby gets into the secret club under the lunchroom one Tuesday because the bullies made him wear his underwear on his head for an hour. Young outcasts gamble here and girls dance in their underwear, and they make Bobby the Boss. It's revenge of the Underland Club.

6. Welcome to Underland, where the Vampires are arrogant bastards, the Zombies do all the dirty jobs, and the Skeletons dominate the music and art scene. But when a human teenager enrolls at Underland High, will everything go to Hell?

7. The Underlanders live on moss and have learnt to echolocate, but nothing can prepare them for the deep mine that will cause their caverns to collapse. It's up to 8-year-old Eddie to save the day.

Original Version

Dear EE,

Chasing that creep was a terrible idea. And following him into the sewers? Even worse. But seventeen-year-old Jennifer Pilgrim refused [refuses] to let him steal her chess piece necklace, a gift from her deceased mother.

Then, mid-pursuit, the ground disappears under Jenny’s feet.

A terrifying tumble ends in an urbanized Wonderland—now coined Underland by its inhabitants. Talking animals, height-altering tarts, and the outlaw of the color blue. [A reader could interpret that as an outlaw who always wears blue. You could use "outlawing" or "banning." Or "where blue is taboo."] Nothing makes sense [here] and showing up with blue eyes and a blue dress? Jenny is in constant danger.

Desperate to escape the topsy turvy world, Jenny turns to Cornelius Hatter, finder extraordinaire. He reveals that the thief was actually a White Rabbit, the Red Queen’s bounty hunter. Terrified the Alice-look-alike will somehow retrieve the necklace, the Queen unleashes [has unleashed] her guard to capture Jenny. Or more specifically, her head. [The first two sentences of that paragraph don't seem connected to the last two because the last two have nothing to do with the Hatter. You can connect them by specifying that the Hatter tells her that the queen is out for her head.]

No way is that happening. Jenny formulates a plan: get her mom’s necklace and get home. [That's her goal, not her plan.] [Perhaps replace the paragraph with: All Jenny wants is to get back her necklace and get back home.]

Except Jenny’s strategy pushes her [keeps falling] deeper into Underland. With their memories taken by the Red Queen, Underland’s inhabitants teeter between revolution and submission. Through the Oyster Rebellion’s intel, Jenny discovers that her necklace originally belonged to Alice. And holds the key to returning everyone’s memories.

Jenny finds herself torn between a world—and a man—she has come to care for and the family and home she has always known.

Complete at 80,000 words, UNDERLAND is a steampunk/urban twist on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Thank you for your time and consideration.



If the inhabitants don't have their memories, why do they teeter toward revolution? I would expect them to consider revolution after their memories are returned, and to be submissive before.

You could put the 2nd paragraph at the end of P1 and the 5th paragraph at the beginning of P6.

You didn't happen to see the 2010 Tim Burton movie Alice in Wonderland, did you? In it, nineteen-year-old Alice falls down a hole in the ground and ends up back in Wonderland, which is now called Underland. (Actually, it was always called Underland; Alice misheard it when she was there as a child.) It's a place filled with talking animals, etc. She learns her true destiny is to end the Red Queen's reign of terror. (The movie was not the first use of the name Underland;  it's the name of all the land under Narnia, and Henry Payson Dowst long ago wrote a short story called "Alice in Underland."). 

Focus the query on the necklace and the urbanized/ steampunk aspects of the world, as you haven't made it sound much different from Wonderland or Burton's Underland.

I'd get the significance of the necklace in earlier, even if you have to claim she finds out from the Hatter instead of the Blue Oyster Cult. (Which, of course, is what you should call the Oyster Rebellion.)

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25. Face-Lift 1226

Guess the Plot

Recoveries' Fall

1. When the Library of Zesty Gravy plummets into the Abyss, carrying with it every recipe for boat-filled succulence ever invented, only Doug "The Gazelle" Mooperton and his squadron of uniformed acrobats can hope to salvage mankind's wisdom from the depths. But will the UNIFORMS be ready IN TIME?

2. When aliens attack Sam and Ben, the two recovery operators (tow truck drivers) escape in undetectable stasis pods. 600 years later they wake up and must adapt to a world in which recovery operators work the entire galaxy.

3. When the body of rock star David McGurdy is found dangling from the fence at superselective detox center Recoveries, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, McGurdy didn't tie his own intestines into a noose; and two, his daughter will be heartbreaken to learn her guitar hero is dead.

4. Three small words, splashed across the front page of the International Vegan Decorator, and his business was in shambles… Paisley Is Out! read the headline. His life was over. Now he’d never be able to afford the GI Joe with the Tofu grip for his wife’s birthday.

5. It was the biggest ding-dang couch he’d ever seen; bigger than most people’s living rooms. Bigger than some people’s houses. He was gonna need a taller ladder. As he went into his little shop to check on his insurance deductible, Jack Slayer wondered if it was too late to get into farming. Perhaps beans…

6. Each time he got the cast removed, he fell coming out of the Doctor’s office. Each and every time. It had happened six times in a row, now. But as ace detective Zack Martinez sat on the steps of the clinic, looking at his latest cast and listening to the animal noises from the zoo next door, he knew two thing for certain. Somebody was out to get him him. And that big sloppy ape had a banana fetish as well.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I’ve written a science fiction novel, the first of a projected series, which I’d like to submit for your consideration. The accompanying synopsis of Recoveries’ Fall will outline the basics. [Not sure what "the basics" are, or why they need to be presented in outline form, but a synopsis, by definition, summarizes the novel, so there's no need to inform us what it will do.]

1). The book is nuts [That's true of most books that get queried here; it doesn't bother us.] and bolts military science fiction involving space battles, androids, cybernetics, alien blood suckers, blasters, a little alien hanky panky, strong but flawed characters, and humor. [Lists are more interesting with three items than with eight. I recommend going with aliens, alien blood suckers and alien hanky panky.]

2). [No need to number your paragraphs.] The protagonists, Sam Garrett and Ben Corbin, are two disgruntled former soldiers turned interplanetary recovery operators (space tow truck drivers) and salvagers working the shipping lanes between Earth and a partially terraformed post war Mars. [Post which war?] Until fate or bad luck kicks them in the ass as they are attacked by aliens (as far as humans knew didn’t exist). After a pitched battle they are forced to take refuge in stasis pods to avoid detection. [If we didn't even know aliens existed, why did we go to the trouble of making our stasis pods undetectable by them?]

3). I believe I’ve painted an imaginative picture of a human world much changed for Sam and Ben after spending over 600 years in stasis [It would have been six months in stasis, but the stasis pods were undetectable so no one could find them.] as well as a detailed and interesting backstory and environment for both humans and the aliens. [I assume the 600 years in stasis pods is the backstory. And the main plot is what happens afterward, which you have forgotten to summarize.] The aliens turned humanities allies that attacked them to begin with but also for the mysterious aliens they are now at war with. [I don't understand what that sentence means. Possibly I need a universal translator.]

4). Whether the market likes action, pure science fiction and technology, what I believe to be strong, smart male and female characters or even vampires and monsters this story should appeal to them. [The market likes beef stew, mint chocolate chip ice cream and guacamole, but not mixed together in a blender.]

Though this is my first book I’m willing to work hard and I understand this is not only an art but a business as well. I want to work with those that know what they are doing and that I can be successful with. [Apparently you think I know what I'm doing, so I'm confident you'll take my advice to get rid of this paragraph.]

I hope that you will agree to read the manuscript of Recoveries’ Fall. Your site was recommended to me by a literary agent I met on Twitter while I was researching agents. [If it was @AgentVader or @FakeLitAgent, you've been had.] As soon as I saw the death ray vision cartoon burning through a manuscript I knew I had [to] submit my query letter. [After eight and a half years someone finally compliments my self-portrait. Makes the twenty minutes I spent creating it seem worthwhile.] I will of course be sending queries to other agents and publishers but I will send the entire manuscript to only one agency or publisher at a time. As I understand it that is the way it is done and I do not want to waste your time or anyone else’s. [You are wasting your time and someone else's. The reader knows the way it is done, and doesn't care about your understanding thereof. The reader wants to know what happens in your book.] 

I look forward to hearing from you, kind of.


[The title came from the term "Recovery" which in the protagonists time refers to a lost, damaged, salvaged or distressed space ship or the job of recovering them from whatever mess they've gotten into as the equivalent of space tow truck drivers. It means the same thing in modern terms in regard to towing and salvaging cars. 600 years later recovery or recoveries, since there are two of them, refers to not only derelict space craft but people who were stranded in them in stasis for abnormally long periods of time as humankind has reached out further in space and colonized other worlds. "Fall" is in reference to their seeming downfall.]


The title is going to make people think it's about rehab. Even if that weren't the case, it sucks. You need something catchy like Galaxy Salvage Crew or Alien Bloodsuckers from Mars.

Apparently you're planning to send this to someone who inexplicably wants to read a synopsis, and you figure since you're including a synopsis you don't need to summarize the book's plot in the query letter. But the query has to convince the reader to slog through the synopsis, and the way to do that is with a short synopsis (maybe ten sentences) that tells the story. All you've provided is a list of stuff that's in the book, a bit of backstory from 600 years before your story begins, and a few tidbits about your main characters. 

Start over.

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