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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 1303


Guess the Plot

The Iron Legacy

1. Why aren't robots allowed to submit crazy plots?What would Issac Asimov say?

2. Beautiful, fiery Lily St John is the only child of railroad tycoon David St John. Scheming, cunning, and an insatiable desire allow her to build the most powerful railroad network in the South. Then she meets Conner Reed, scion of a coal mining cartel. Will her heart allow for a union of interests, or must the mighty iron horse prevail?

3. Wolf is the son of legendary WWI ace Manfred von Pferdenthal. With WWII about to break, can he follow his father's lead in the air--or will his fear of failure doom him to the typing pool?

4. Sharlene likes keeping clothes neat and well-pressed. So she's got her trusty Rowlenta packed, her luggage full of clothes, and she's on her way to Kuala Lumpur for the International Extreme Ironing championship.

5. Gintal learns that great-grandfather Henry invented the electric iron. But Gintal's family received no royalties. He decides General Electric owes him. Gintal proceeds to murder the top executives of the company. Hot detective Marcy Clarke, winner of the women's Ironman competition, heads the homicide investigation. By coincidence the two meet and fall in love. What could ever go wrong with this romance?

6. Planet Earth has been overrun by alien beasts, all except the city of Alexandria, thanks to its iron gates. Now the city's chancellor has decided to open those gates, and it's up to teenaged Bailey to stop him from letting the nightmares in and ending the last bastion of humanity.

7. Mining was Jadder's family's livelihood until the empire burned their village, killed everyone, and sealed the mines claiming plague, black magic, and treason. Now an undead warlock spreading pestilence throughout the empire, Jadder figures he'll finish making the empire's lies real by killing the emperor. 

8. Despite their kindness to Aunt Loo Loo, the iron legacy was enacted in her will, leaving her three doting nieces, Poppa, Pippa, and Penelope with just ten thousand dollars and Aunt Loo Loo's "friend", handsome Joe Smiles with the rest, a cool 50 million. The three distraught nieces go on a retreat in California to recover and discover that they can communicate with dolphins, who want to build a fusion reactor.



Original Version

Dear Agent X,

Bailey MacKinnon’s city, Alexandria, is bursting at the seams with slum kids and drunks, so honest folks like herself are rare. [I don't think you need "so honest folks like herself are rare." It suggests that the presence of slum kids and drunks is responsible for the scarcity of honest people.] After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth, they also sent her mom to an early grave, so she’s spent years training to become a soldier. Once she travels beyond the city gates with the military, she’ll give the Tuads hell. However, the day she joins the ranks, she overhears a conversation that would sentence [destroy] her city—their Chancellor’s plan to open the gates and let the nightmares inside. [Hard to believe beasts capable of overrunning the entire planet can't get into this one city because the gates are closed. Has every place that has a gate been spared? Are the gates opened to let delivery trucks bring in food for the slum kids and alcoholic beverages for the drunks? Probably not, as there probably aren't any farms or distilleries that haven't been overrun. Why haven't the military killed all the slum kids and drunks so there'd be more food for the military, as would happen in real life?] [What does the Chancellor think is the upside to opening the gates?]

No one buys the tale, not from a green recruit like her, so she gets proof by breaking into the Chancellor’s office. [I'm pretty sure she couldn't possibly do that.] Or at least, she tries.

The military catches her and kicks her out, [Out of the Chancellor's office or out of the military?] and once that roundhouse kick is delivered, her friends ditch her too. [Her friends probably tried to talk her out of joining the military in the first place, but now they ditch her when she gets thrown out? Nice.] No one believes her, until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies [With the Earth overrun by beasts and the city bursting at the seams, are there actually carnivals in operation? Or are these carnies actually ex-carnies who prefer the moniker "carnie" to "street trash"?] who trump themselves up as druids. ["Trump up" is accurate only if they aren't really druids. "Claim to be" is better if it's not clear whether  they are or not.] She might be honest, but she’s no idiot. Bailey doesn’t believe their claims of magic [Despite how terrible it felt when no one would believe her story, now, when she finally finds someone who does believe her, she doesn't believe their story? Nice.] until they reveal the fate of Alexandria they divined—the same plot she overheard. With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their [her] corner, [I love (out of context, anyway) the descriptions we get on this blog of those who help the main characters in their quests, like "With only a couple of carnies, flaky magic, and a shoestring plan in their corner." Here are a few more, which took me very little time to find:


Aided by a cranky witch with authority issues and a mysterious priest who is too comfortable in combat situations, 

aided and impeded alike by many bizarre individuals, including a constantly babbling imp, a werewolf whose handsome looks hide inner turmoil, a talking stallion who prefers a good debate to a good fight, and a dwarf who would rather invent magical potions than mine gold,

Aided by her newfound friends, the advice of a monk, and only a moderate dose of sarcasm, 

helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything.

with the help of a pet-shop owner who seems to know too much and is close to the leader and a doctor on a quest for a mythical recipe for Twinkies.

...will be helped by others in her quest: Saska, who also wishes to be trained as a summoner; the priest Denson, who knows much about Nerea's past; the angel Seth, and his summoner companion Arentil; Melody, Arentil's book-wise granddaughter, and even the goddess Yethde, who directly opposes Onago's plans for Nerea.

With the help of an ancient Oak, 

Accompanied by his annoying little brother, Caden; his skull-collecting neighbor, Alex; and Idona, a teenaged girl with purple hair and a temper, 

With the help of a bawdy, female dwarf, a delusional peasant who believes herself the banished heiress of a long-decrepit estate, a small potatoes thief, and a mediocre wizard who has a serious shapeshifting problem,

Aided by Gordie, an obsessive bagpiper with a penchant for Shakespeare and mischief,

...he somehow winds up with a ragtag group of companions: The stubborn mule of a centaur constantly complaining about his age and grumbling about how magic is always the first to go; the timid princess with unrequited feelings for Lim who runs away from home to escape an abusive father; the young rebel maid, rescued from a dungeon, whose general brashness and idealism disarm the boy's good sense faster than he can say "infatuation"; and the young dragonling who, after a near-fatal misunderstanding in the forest between his mother and Limorek, joins the quest as a sort of "studies abroad" outing.] Bailey’s ill-equipped to expose the Chancellor. [That depends on which carnies she has with her. For instance, the carnies who run the tilt-a-whirl and man the ring-toss game would be useless on this mission, but the ones who are good at guessing people's weight or hammering in tent stakes might come in handy.] However, if she can’t get her broken city to listen to the truth in time, the gates will open, and like the other husks razed by the Tuads, Alexandria will fall. [A "husk" is the outer covering of something. I'm guessing it was the cities that were razed and their husks are what was left when the razing was all over.]

"The Iron Legacy" is an 87,000 word YA fantasy.

Regards,



Notes


The word "iron" is common in steampunk titles. Not that you shouldn't use it in your title if it conveys something about the plot. Where did the title come from?

I would condense the first paragraph to something like:

After the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overran Earth and sent Bailey MacKinnon’s mom to an early grave, Bailey vowed revenge. Now that she's old enough, she's joined the military. But her first day in the ranks, she overhears talk of their Chancellor’s plan to open Alexandria's gates and let the nightmares inside.

Or, as the main plot seems to be stopping the chancellor, maybe we don't need Bailey's motivation for joining the military. We could open: Military recruit Bailey MacKinnon overhears a plot to open the gates of Alexandria, letting the beasts known as the Tuatha De Danann overrun the city. She tries to warn the populace, but no one will listen--until she meets an underground band of street trash and carnies
.  That leaves a lot of room to talk about their plan and what goes wrong and what will happen if they can't come up with something better. Devote less space to the situation and more to how Bailey and company handle it.

Years ago we had a query for a book titled The Theft of the Daidanna Dankenka Maru. If you could combine this book with that one, the query could begin: "When the Daidanna Dankenka Maru is stolen by the Tuatha De Danann," thus getting rejected before the end of the first sentence.

When she's eavesdropping on the conversation about letting the beasts into the city, does Bailey know it's not a couple soldiers joking around, or discussing a rumor? Is it the chancellor himself she overhears? If not, why haven't the people she overheard backed up her story? If so, does she hear him explaining that opening the gates will be a good thing because it's preferable to everyone starving to death? Or because it will clear the streets of all these damn carnies? Is he just an insane megalomaniac, and no one else has realized this and tried to warn the people until Bailey came along?


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2. Face-Lift 1302


Guess the Plot

Heartless Joe

1. Joe Hartman fell in love, had a happy marriage, and an unfortunate, but friendly, divorce. Eighteen times. His exes have another name for him. These are their stories.

2. Joe is a zombie and proud of it. Now if only these well-meaning folk would stop trying to "cure" him and just let him eat their brains.

3. Jenna is so upset when she discovers her husband Joe has a mistress (and bought his mistress a goat farm), she dumps Joe and marries one of the many lawyers who've been comforting her. Also, a giant man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat. 

4. The Iron Age has left much to be remembered, and it is coming back with a vengeance. Follow the story of a boy named Joe as he attempts to change the past to save the future.

5. The doctors at St Mary's thought the derelict was just another junkie, but when they take his vitals, they find --no pulse. Horrified, they run a CAT scan, and find that the confused man literally has no heart. Have they found an angel, a demon, or something else?

6. You all know the story of the Tin Woodsman and the lengths he went to to feel love again. Well, this is the tale of his twin brother Joe who didn't mind being... heartless.





Original Version

Title: Heartless Joe

Joe is a smug, 40 year old, happily married successful executive in San Francisco with a taste for remote mountain trips. His most recent trip to Timbuktoo [Remote, yes. But if it's a mountain he wants, he should have stayed home, as Mt. Davidson in San Francisco is higher than Timbuktu.] ends in disaster and his Guardian Angel Michael is forced to exchange Joe's heart for his life. [Literally? He stays alive despite the removal of his heart?] The purchaser is Gretta, fairy godmother to Joe's long-forgotten high school flame Alyssa. Gretta gives Alyssa Joe's heart as a present, which makes Joe fall in love with Alyssa. Alyssa has always been in love with Joe and is now a disheveled, middle-aged, single mother of two young children living near poverty in Baltimore. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her fairy godmother more than a human heart. Did the FG at least wrap it in a tasteful Valentines Day gift bag?]

Joe recovers from hypothermia in hospital in San Francisco [Hypothermia caused by exposure to the cold temperatures in Timbuktu, on the edge of the Sahara Desert?] with his lovely tall, blonde, lawyer wife, Jenna, sitting next to him stroking his hand, and finds that he can only think of Alyssa. Puzzled, he contacts Alyssa, who he hasn't thought of for two decades, flies to Baltimore, meets her, and despite Alyssa's reservations they become lovers. Joe buys them a farm and visits every month. [There's nothing an impoverished single mother needs from her successful executive lover more than a farm to run.] Alyssa establishes a wildlife refuge on their property, taking in stray horses, goats, cats, dogs, and sheep. [Finally someone's doing something about all the stray horses, goats and sheep wandering around Baltimore.] They spend many hours with the animals and set up a donation center. [Is it for donations of money or unwanted goats?]

Five years later, Jenna finds out about Joe's other life when [she realizes that Baltimore, where her husband's been flying every month for five years, is neither remote nor mountainous.] her friend from Maryland tells her about the "Joe and Alyssa Wildlife Fund". [Does she tell her that the Joe in "Joe and Alyssa" is her husband, or does she just tell her there's a wildlife fund called Joe and Alyssa's, and she better make sure it's not "her" Joe? That would be like phoning her to say, I just passed a restaurant in Gaithersburg, Maryland called Joe's Crab Shack, so you better get your ass over here.]  She hires a private detective known to her law firm and discovers Joe's double life. [I've got bad news: your husband's been leading a secret life as a shepherd.] Jenna is very upset, but gets comforted by all of the men in her law firm. [They're lining up to comfort her.] She dumps Joe and remarries very quickly.

Meanwhile Gretta and Michael make peace with one another, despite the fact that Gretta confesses to having hired the giant pan-dimensional Space Goat, Gorem, [Thanks. Guess how many people are gonna guess which plot was real now.] to devour Joe's comrades on the trip to Timbuktoo. [Why?] [Wait, you can just hire the Space Goat? How much does it charge?] Michael invites Gretta to join his card-playing group of angels, but she politely declines.

Joe and Alyssa live happily ever after and adopt three hundred cats. [Okay, NOW you've gone too far.]

Heartless Joe is a 70,000 word novel, fantasy romance.


Notes

I've said it before and I'll say it again: if there's a giant, man-eating, pan-dimensional space goat in your book, it must be mentioned up front. 

Why is Alyssa's fairy godmother hiring anyone to devour Joe's comrades?   

I don't see why Joe's guardian angel has to pay Gretta anything for Joe's life. What does Gretta have to do with Joe? Was she in Timbuktu? If so, why? I expect my guardian angel to protect me, not to wait till I'm dying and then pay someone else to save me. And if he's gonna give up one of my body parts to save me, my heart is the last next to last one I'd want to do without. 

Why does Alyssa's fairy godmother wait until now to bring her together with Joe? Can't she cast a spell to make Joe love Alyssa instead of hiring a hitgoat to kill a bunch of innocent people so she can save Joe and demand his heart in return? 

If the space goat is mentioned up front, we might think this is a farcical fantasy comedy. As it is, we think it's a disorganized kitchen sink story until we get to the space goat, and then we assume it's a hoax. Whatever it is, I wouldn't call it a romance when Joe was happily married to begin with and is together with Alyssa only because of a magic spell. 

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3. Synopsis 48


This is a story of a young, seemingly perfect, but often turbulent love. Told in first person from the female heroine’s perspective, it takes you deep inside a young girl’s heart, into her challenging quest to be with the boy she loves so desperately. The story begins in the present and goes back in time from 1977 to 1990, concluding with a dramatic turn. [A synopsis tells the story. You're not telling the story, you're describing the book. Dump that and get to the plot.]

In 1977 Cassidy is an awkward teen who meets Danny when her family moves to a new house. Infatuated from the first moment she lays eyes on him, her whole world changes in what feels like a minute. Cassidy tries to understand a moody, young Danny, who seems to love her deeply, wildly and passionately. Yet, at times, his feelings seemed [seem] to change to an almost crushing indifference. Still she believes in her heart that they both love each other because somehow, they continually return to needing each other desperately.

When they are older they decide to try again, even planning for marriage and a future together. Cassidy finally believes they will get their “happily ever after” and that their troublesome journey to be together will end. Then Danny shatters her world when he admits that he has gotten another girl pregnant. Cassidy also thinks she might be pregnant and deep down, she hopes that maybe it will be a way to hold on to him. When she finds out she is not pregnant, she must face a harsh reality as Danny decides to do the honorable thing and marry this new girl. [He was getting someone else pregnant while discussing marriage with Cassidy, shattering her world, and she wants to hold onto him? Does he have any redeeming qualities?]

Cassidy finally moves on, yet deep down she still hangs on to her only true love, her destiny, her dream. Even while married, Danny calls her off and on, tells her how much he still loves her, and misses her. [He's the psychological equivalent of the dungeon master in a medieval torture chamber.] This tears her apart and leaves her deliriously happy at the same time; her conscience tells her this is wrong but she finds she cannot refuse Danny or resist her own desires. Her deep and all consuming love for him motivates her decisions and actions, despite the eventual repercussions. [What decisions and actions are you talking about? What are the repercussions?]

I invite you to come along on this journey of tumultuous, irresistible love and the heartbreaking struggles that come with it. The story of Cassidy and Danny will have you experiencing the entire gambit of emotions. Even some that will make you shout at the heroine to leave it be and forget Danny once and for all. You will feel hope and frustration for her, along with admiration and even sympathy, as she tenaciously hangs on and fights for her dream of achieving true love.

By the end, you may feel changed by this story. You may stop and wonder if Cassidy is truly naïve and entirely too submissive. Or, is it that she is stronger and smarter than you realized? What could happen in your life, if you never gave up, fought the odds, and faced all the hardships head on? Would you finally achieve the happiness you deserved? Maybe even win the battle for that first love that all of us most likely lost at one time in our lives, when we were too young and just didn’t know any better. [These last two paragraphs don't belong in a synopsis. Or anywhere. Just tell the story. Your three plot paragraphs at least have some specific information, unlike the plot summary in the query letter (previous post), but you could provide the same info in half the words, leaving room for a lot more about what happens. Tell the story.]

Thank you for your help!


Notes

If she kills him, say so. If she doesn't kill him, why not? It's fiction. Even if it's based on a true story, you can change it in fiction and have her kill him. Do you want readers to throw the book against the wall or burn it and vow not to buy your next book, or do you want them to set the book down after finishing it and sigh with satisfaction, looking forward to your next book? Kill him.

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4. Face-Lift 1301


Guess the Plot

Destiny

1. Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Follow their journey as they do pretty much nothing, knowing their love is either destined to endure or destined to end.

2. Destiny and Precious live in an abandoned house near the strip mall. Follow their journey as they change and grow while foraging in the dumpsters.

3. Terry and Sarah lose their parents when they're twelve years old. Follow their journey as they brave the wilderness of eighteenth-century Colorado to avoid being taken in by their abusive Aunt Sophie.

4. In an effort to dam the flood of doorstopper fantasy novels featuring prophecies and chosen ones, a literary agent valiantly takes on the mantle of Fate's Guardian, forbidding the use of destiny-based plot devices.

5. As the Destiny Star approaches, assuring complete annihilation of life on Earth within 100 years, one scientist figures out how to use micro-black holes to tunnel out of the Milky Way to a planet that can sustain life.

6. The Johnsons wanted one thing for their daughter: to be the best stripper at the Dallas airport. Now all grown up, Destiny is about to embark on the job interview of a lifetime.

7. "You may be a winner!" screams the envelope. So 89-year-old Marge Doherty decides to try and win. Trouble is, there are so many confusing rules and codes and fees, she has no chance. Heartbroken, penniless, she dies alone. And somewhere in a building in New York, another demon gets its horns for tricking someone out of money and time.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Based on a true story…A heartfelt account of a lifelong love. [Get rid of this. It doesn't tell us anything you don't say later on.]

Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Their tumultuous relationship brings misery and happiness to Cassidy. The story is told from her perspective and brings the reader into her emotions and trials. Determined and loyal, the once shy girl fights for a love that she cannot let go of. Her belief that Danny is her destiny perpetuates her longtime fight to bring them together. [This is all vague. In what way is their relationship tumultuous? What happens that brings misery and happiness to Cassidy? What emotions and trials is the reader brought into? Why does she have to fight for her love, when Danny is in love with her?]

Tragedy befalls her in her twenties [What tragedy?] and she has to face the fact that she has lost Danny. [Did he move away? Marry someone else? Die?] Still, their love seems to live on[You just said she had to face the fact that she had lost him. One sentence ago.] and she meets the obstacles head on. [What obstacles?] The story walks the reader through her difficult life. At times, you may want to scream at her….to just give up. [I do want to scream or just give up. You got that part right.] Her journey will pull at you [It will pull at me? What does that mean?] and make you feel many emotions: love, betrayal, rage and a desperate heartbreak. [The query alone is making me feel at least one of those.]

Can they learn to let go of a love that always seemed to prevail, [Why should they learn to let go of it?] or has destiny set a path for them that’s beyond their control?

A unique raw love story [Don't claim it's unique; tell us what's unique about it.] based on true events [What true events?] that will take you back to your own teen years, [I don't want to be taken back to my teen years.] DESTINY is a 58,000 word Chick-Lit, which will have you reliving all those [humiliating, misery-inducing] first love experiences. [I think of Chick Lit as predominately lighthearted. The Devil Wears Prada. Shopaholic. Bridget Jones Returns Yet Again. This book sounds like Literary Fiction. Tragedy, misery, heartbreak. If it's not a downer, show us the funny side.]

In the interest of full disclosure, this book was briefly published by an indie publisher Linkville Press, but due to the publisher violating their contract, they have returned the full rights back to me. [If your cover was as unappealing as the other ones on their site, they did you a favor.] The book has since been completely revised with the assistance of a professional editor. [Is that how the publisher violated the contract . . . . by not completely revising the book?]


Notes

You don't tell us anything that happens in your book. I'm not sure anything does happen. Millions of people fall in love as teens and move on (or don't) in their twenties. What makes this story different from all the others? Start over and provide some of the specific events that drive the plot toward its remarkable conclusion.

Not that it should be in the query, but what was it your publisher did to violate your contract?

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5. Face-Lift 1301


Guess the Plot

Destiny

1. Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Follow their journey as they do pretty much nothing, knowing their love is either destined to endure or destined to end.

2. Destiny and Precious live in an abandoned house near the strip mall. Follow their journey as they change and grow while foraging in the dumpsters.

3. Terry and Sarah lose their parents when they're twelve years old. Follow their journey as they brave the wilderness of eighteenth-century Colorado to avoid being taken in by their abusive Aunt Sophie.

4. In an effort to dam the flood of doorstopper fantasy novels featuring prophecies and chosen ones, a literary agent valiantly takes on the mantle of Fate's Guardian, forbidding the use of destiny-based plot devices.


5. As the Destiny Star approaches, assuring complete annihilation of life on Earth within 100 years, one scientist figures out how to use micro-black holes to tunnel out of the Milky Way to a planet that can sustain life. 

6. The Johnsons wanted one thing for their daughter: to be the best stripper at the Dallas airport. Now all grown up, Destiny is about to embark on the job interview of a lifetime.


7. "You may be a winner!" screams the envelope. So 89-year-old Marge Doherty decides to try and win. Trouble is, there are so many confusing rules and codes and fees, she has no chance. Heartbroken, penniless, she dies alone. And somewhere in a building in New York, another demon gets its horns for tricking someone out of money and time.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Based on a true story…A heartfelt account of a lifelong love. [Get rid of this. It doesn't tell us anything you don't say later on.]

Danny and Cassidy meet as teens and fall in love. Their tumultuous relationship brings misery and happiness to Cassidy. The story is told from her perspective and brings the reader into her emotions and trials. Determined and loyal, the once shy girl fights for a love that she cannot let go of. Her belief that Danny is her destiny perpetuates her longtime fight to bring them together. [This is all vague. In what way is their relationship tumultuous? What happens that brings misery and happiness to Cassidy? What emotions and trials is the reader brought into? Why does she have to fight for her love, when Danny is in love with her?]

Tragedy befalls her in her twenties [What tragedy?] and she has to face the fact that she has lost Danny. [Did he move away? Marry someone else? Die?] Still, their love seems to live on [You just said she had to face the fact that she had lost him. One sentence ago.] and she meets the obstacles head on. [What obstacles?] The story walks the reader through her difficult life. At times, you may want to scream at her….to just give up. [I do want to scream or just give up. You got that part right.] Her journey will pull at you [It will pull at me? What does that mean?] and make you feel many emotions: love, betrayal, rage and a desperate heartbreak. [The query alone is making me feel at least one of those.]

Can they learn to let go of a love that always seemed to prevail, [Why should they learn to let go of it?] or has destiny set a path for them that’s beyond their control?

A unique raw love story [Don't claim it's unique; tell us what's unique about it.] based on true events [What true events?] that will take you back to your own teen years, [I don't want to be taken back to my teen years.] DESTINY is a 58,000 word Chick-Lit, which will have you reliving all those [humiliating, misery-inducing] first love experiences. [I think of Chick Lit as predominately lighthearted. The Devil Wears Prada. Shopaholic. Bridget Jones Returns Yet Again. This book sounds like Literary Fiction. Tragedy, misery, heartbreak. If it's not a downer, show us the funny side.]

In the interest of full disclosure, this book was briefly published by an indie publisher Linkville Press, but due to the publisher violating their contract, they have returned the full rights back to me. [If your cover was as unappealing as the other ones on their site, they did you a favor.] The book has since been completely revised with the assistance of a professional editor. [Is that how the publisher violated the contract . . . . by not completely revising the book?]


Notes

You don't tell us anything that happens in your book. I'm not sure anything does happen. Millions of people fall in love as teens and move on (or don't) in their twenties. What makes this story different from all the others? Start over and provide some of the specific events that drive the plot toward its remarkable conclusion.

Not that it should be in the query, but what was it your publisher did to violate your contract?

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6. Face-Lift 1300!


Guess the Plot

A War Bride

1. A collection of poems written in half-awake prose with themes of nature and images as diverse as wolves and jerky. Also, includes the poem "A War Bride."

2. Six years ago, Nora married handsome American soldier Jerry and moved to New York. After enduring Jerry's crude manners, filthy socks, and creepy friends, she's starting to think that maybe she should take her chances with an American jury.

3. It's 1919, and David Smithers is returning to the little French town where he met gorgeous Marie. Entranced by the daring pilot, she quickly agreed to become his wife. But when David gets there, he runs into a few problem, namely her three brothers--and all the other daring pilots she agreed to marry.

4. Daisy O'Hara plans to marry her lifelong friend, Joe Birmingham, before he is shipped out after the bombing at Pearl Harbor. Unfortunately, Queen Boudica who shares Daisy's body is not willing to wait at home for her man, or even join the WACs. She's got a war-ax to grind.

5. Marcella was married to the king of the neighboring kingdom to seal a peace treaty. However, she knows the incompetence of her homeland armies. She plans on poisoning her husband and leading his armies against her homeland to join the kingdoms and ensure peace. Too bad her husband's a cutie.

6. Ares, god of war, has found a spouse for each of his children. Now he just needs to find a bride for his seventh child, a son. When he finds the perfect candidate, he's torn. He may just take her for himself.



Original Version

Thirty-five poems reflect on nature as a cycle of death and life, a master who tempts subject after subject into a life of devotion; a beautiful place to wake up, and a rocky catalyst for love. [I can't tell if that list includes two items, separated by the semicolon, or four items, separated by commas and a semicolon, or if it's one lengthy description of nature.] Pictures of the woods flit in the book's half-awake rhythmic prose, trapping the reader at the same moment that they free him.  [I don't like "flit in." Maybe "flit through" or "dart throughout."] [Wait, "enshroud." Yes, it has that feeling of poetic language you're going for, the kind that inspires the reader to think, WTF?] The facet of the outdoors beams first vicious then softly caring as the reader dares himself further into the book. [WTF?]

[I've dared myself further into the query. Hope it turns out better than the time I dared myself to eat a dozen jelly doughnuts.] Until the last poem, "a war bride", the author struggles with the burden of having one foot in the civilized world and the other strapped in a snowshoe, ready to migrate. [What this book needs is a poem about an ostrich that tries to migrate while wearing one snowshoe.] From the convincing lines about fall's surreality, to the suicidal epic of "we two can't die", the poems muse through moods that meet their extreme in the wild outdoors. [You had some good alliteration going there, but you dropped the ball. How about "...they muse through moods that meet their match in Marrakesh, Morocco."?] As "A War Bride" appraises a human lover and, soon after, winks slyly at the wilderness as the true object of adoration, this book chases after images that words have yet to define until now. [I was going to say it's highly unlikely that you are the first person to describe the images in your book with words, until I realized I'm probably the first person to describe in words the image of an ostrich wearing one snowshoe.] 

The tempting and scary sense of being pursued as the sun goes down, and the urge to tear away in a hunt of one's own as spring melts the snow, plant their feet into the scenery of "A War Bride". With images of wolves, dry jerky, and affection that vows, "no matter the land / I will call to you", the poems of "A War Bride" lead the reader to the middle of the forest, where words - and the silence between them - are at their most powerful.

[Sample poem:

Ode to Dry Jerky

Whether at home or land afar,
I will call to you,
O strip of dry meat, 
Salty and lean.
Ostrich, elk or venison, 
Bacon, boar or kangaroo;
All enshroud the buds of taste
But to a poet, just one will do,
And that, of course, is turkey jerky.]



Notes

"Half-awake prose" doesn't sound like a description of poetry. Even if it is, I don't recommend being half-awake when you pen thine epistle.

If you want to impress the editor with your poetic language, include a few of the poems. This is a business letter. Start over.

Poetry books don't fly off the shelves, so few agents will bother with them. Find a poetry publisher accepting manuscripts, and not asking you to pay them. Describe your book, how the poems are connected, how long it is, previous poetry publications if any. If they haven't told you not to, include samples. It might help to submit the poems to magazines in hopes of getting some credits. Don't be surprised if you end up self-publishing.

Feel free to send us a revision of the query with a sample or two.

Also, feel free to use my sample poem in your book, but only if you mention me in the acknowledgements.

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7. Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Synopsis 47 would like feedback on the following revision.


The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelp - Synopsis [I see his name's been changed from Phelps to Phelp. Let's hope there are more constructive changes.]

Some teenagers obsess about music and boys, but all Lucy Brown cares about is getting good enough grades for a college scholarship to rescue her from her current life. Ever since her dad abandoned the family, Lucy has taken on the burden of caring for her six-year old twin brother and sister while her mom, married straight out of high school, works two menial jobs to keep the family afloat.

Pretty much the only remnants left of her happy childhood are her best friend, Nancy Martin, who still recalls Lucy’s fun-loving dad with fondness and Lucy’s home address on a safe, suburban street where nothing bad ever happens...until the night two gun shots ring out at midnight. It’s an unseasonably warm autumn evening and Lucy is at an open window, finishing up her homework.

On a street where most residents take their hearing aids out at ten o’clock, no one but Lucy heard the gunshots. When her wheelchair-bound neighbor isn’t at his usual spot in his window the next afternoon, Lucy investigates and finds Mr. Phelps dead with a single shot to the heart.

Everybody suspects the gun-obsessed, twenty-something man who lives next door to Lucy and when the police raid his home and make an arrest, things are set right again on Cottonwood Street. Neighbors breathe a sigh of relief, stop locking their doors, [No need to lock your doors, folks. The police have arrested a guy who is obviously guilty because he owns some guns, although none of his guns is a match ballistically for the bullet that killed Mr. Phelps.] ] and return to the previous topic of conversation - a developer has offered over-market values for two of the houses on their street. The first offer was made to elderly Ms. Peabody, but Mr. Phelps had received the second offer and he had refused. His estate will surely have no qualms about selling now and the neighborhood is up in arms. According to the city planning office, the Owlins Development Corporation has purchased a wide swath of land behind the two houses for luxury condos, but a protected woodland makes Cottonwood Street the only access point. With the neighborhood upset about increased traffic, Ms. Peabody agrees not sell after all. [Why isn't Phelps's land alone enough for access to the condos? All it takes for access is enough land for a connecting driveway.]

Lucy is also ready to move on, except for two tiny things. The police never found the second bullet or the gun that fired the shots. Since the only person who heard two gunshots is a fifteen year old, no one, not even her own mother, has put stock in her report. [As I suggested previously, if one person hears two shots and everyone else hears one shot, maybe you disregard the one person whose story differs. But if one person hears two shots and no one else hears any, and you know there's been a shooting, you can't disregard the only witness just because she's fifteen.] But Lucy is certain there is more to this story. With the twins trailing behind her, Lucy searches for clues and discovers a discarded window screen with a bullet-sized hole. She remembers seeing a tear in Mr. Phelps’ screen window at the crime scene. [Why aren't there two bullet-sized holes in the discarded screen?]

When Lucy fits the screen into the garage window of Mr. Phelps’ next-door neighbors, the holes make a straight line from the garage window into Mr. Phelps’ living room. [If the killer wanted to shoot through his garage window at someone in the next house, surely he would remove his screen first, as going through a window screen would alter the bullet's speed and direction.] The gun wasn’t fired from inside Mr. Phelps’ home but from inside the garage of Mr. and Mrs. Wilson, the only other non-geriatric residents on the block. The police are called back and ballistics show that Mr. Wilson, new father and all-around friendly neighbor, owns the gun that killed Mr. Phelps. [Why hasn't he disposed of the murder weapon?] 

However, Lucy’s pride in her sleuthing skills is replaced with anxiety when Mr. Wilson is released on bail. As Mr. Wilson later explains to the neighbors on Cottonwood Street, the gun accidentally went off during a cleaning. He had no idea the bullet hit anyone, as Mr. Phelps’ [Phelps's] body wasn’t found right away. [I saw no need to go over and see if my gunshot caused any damage because no one informed me that a body had been found.] In Lucy’s state, involuntary manslaughter only applies to people engaged in an unlawful act. Mr. Wilson, registered gun owner and upstanding citizen, has been charged only with accidental discharge of a firearm. As the neighbors digest this information, Lucy is left wondering why Mr. Wilson is looking at her with menace.

She figures out why the next day, when her mind wanders during Chemistry class. The key to the mysterious death of Mr. Phelps is the second gun shot. Why would a second bullet be discharged during a cleaning? Lucy thinks she knows. She also thinks Ms. Peabody is in grave danger. Since Lucy has been taking care of herself since she was eleven, asking for help never even crosses her mind. She plunges into the task of saving her neighbor, leaving nothing more than a cryptic message for best friend Nancy.

Arriving home unexpectedly in the middle of the day, Lucy walks in on Mr. Wilson trying to steal a gun from her family’s gun safe. Unable to escape, she hides and dials 911 while Mr. Wilson searches the house for her. He is inches from discovery [finding her] when they hear the distant wail of sirens. Mr. Wilson flees as the police arrive. Lucy reveals him as the developer trying to buy the two homes on Cottonwood Street. Owlins is an anagram for Wilson. When Mr. Phelps wouldn’t sell, Mr. Wilson planned his death, knowing the lax laws in his state would protect him from even a negligence charge. If he hadn’t missed with the first shot, Mr. Wilson would have never been caught. But he had to fire twice, and Lucy heard both shots. Mr. Wilson tried to steal the Brown’s gun so the weapon in Ms. Peabody’s death wouldn’t be traced to him.

The local paper writes up [publishes] a story about Lucy’s sleuthing. But Lucy’s moment of glory is shattered when Mrs. Wilson accuses Lucy of dooming the Wilson child to grow up fatherless, just like Lucy and the twins. [Most people would rather their children not live under the same roof as a murderer.]

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps is a 66,000 word novel aimed at 13-15 year olds. The story is self-contained but there is series potential with best friend Nancy Martin solving another crime after she and her family move onto Lucy’s street. 


Notes

Until someone has requested a synopsis, I recommend focusing on editing the book rather than working on a synopsis. 

Also, if you've clicked on "Submit to Evil Editor" in the sidebar, you may have noticed that we have a 400-word limit on synopses, and this one seems to be at least twice that long. 

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8. Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1295 has submitted the following revision and seeks your comments.


Dear Evil Agent,

Ever since her dad abandoned the family, Lucy has taken on the burden of caring for her six-year old twin brother and sister while her mom, married straight out of high school, works two menial jobs to keep the family afloat. At fifteen, Lucy’s world has narrowed to little more than childcare and homework. [We don't need to know that Lucy's dad abandoned the family, that her siblings are twins, when her mom got married, that mom's jobs are menial... If you must tell us about Lucy's home life, you can get by with: At fifteen, Lucy has time for little more than homework and caring for her younger siblings while their mom is at work. Though possibly you should dump even that and begin the query with the next sentence, adding Lucy's age.] When Lucy’s [Lucy] discovers her elderly neighbor shot dead, the police make a quick arrest, but they disregard Lucy’s report of multiple gun shots because Mr. Phelps has been killed in his home by a single gunshot through the heart. [Shooting twice and hitting once is probably pretty common, either because the killer misses the first time, or thinks the first shot might not be fatal, but misses the second time because he's freaked out by the loudness of the first shot. The police know this, so they aren't going to assume that because one bullet hit the victim, there aren't any other bullets.]  On a street where most residents take out their hearing aids and crank up the television volume at night, no one can corroborate Lucy’s story. [A guy was shot, and the police are disregarding the report of the only witness who heard two gunshots, because all the potential corroborating witnesses were essentially deaf? And thus heard no gunshots? That's like a murder taking place at the Braille Institute and the police ignore the UPS guy's eyewitness account because everyone else present was blind, and thus couldn't corroborate his account.] Lucy tries to move on, but she can’t shake her conviction that the wrong man has been arrested. [The fact that there were multiple shots doesn't mean the man they arrested is innocent. Maybe he shot twice. Tell us what makes her think someone else did it.] With her siblings trailing behind, Lucy begins sleuthing, but when her clues lead to the arrest of a different neighbor, and then the police decide to let him go, [Thanks to Lucy we have enough evidence to arrest you for murder, but screw it. We've decided to let you go.] Lucy fears her own life may be in danger.

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps is a 66,000 word young adult novel with series potential.

Thank you for your time,


Notes

That long paragraph should be broken into two or three paragraphs. 

But it's probably best to scrap everything about Lucy's home life and focus on how she succeeds where the police have failed. Police can be as careless and incompetent as other people, but the better detectives usually work homicide cases and go over a murder scene with a fine tooth comb, not just to find hairs left behind by the killer, but also fingerprints, fibers, bullet holes, spent shells....

Better to just say Lucy's the only one who heard the shots than to add an unlikely explanation for why she's the only one and why the police don't believe her. Get rid of the stuff I suggested, and you'll have room to tell us what clues Lucy finds that lead to the arrest. 

If the killer knows Lucy found these clues before he's been arrested, you can convince us she's worried about her own life without telling us the police simply decide to let the guy go.


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9. Face-Lift 1299



Guess the Plot

Wolf Heart

1. Julie and Paula have a very unusual ingredient in their award-winning pecan pie.

2. Wolfgang Hart blogs under his new assumed name. He names names (except his own) and isn't afraid to point the finger. Because nobody will guess his true identity.

3. Jack Deering's pawn shop hasn't done so well lately, but maybe the magic from this more-than-5000-year-old Sumerian wolf heart will change all that.

4. Princess Sukkia wears a diamond collar and has a pedigree that goes back a thousand years. When jealous King Lupin doubts her fidelity, he dresses as a traveling bard and tries to seduce her. 

5. Though born human, Fang Song was adopted by wolves and has the heart of a wolf. "I am wolf!" she cries. Then she meets Howling Wolf, the handsome human who makes her heart jump. Maybe she should be wolf just a couple days each month. 

6. By the light of the harvest moon, Lampton town brings in the crops. One by one people disappear. When a ravaged corpse is found, the villagers lynch Alan "Wolfgang" Shepherd. Yet, the numbers continue to dwindle. Who is harvesting the harvesters? 

7. By day, Peter is a quiet young chemistry major. Once a month, though, he transforms into yet another attempt to wring money out of the public via a hunky wolfman for the girls to swoon over.




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

The wolf way says she must adapt or die, but Fang Song refuses to choose either. [You can refuse to adapt, but if refusing to die worked, we'd be packed in like sardines.] [Also, it's pretty much always better to delete a one-sentence opening and start with the second paragraph.]

According to legend, eighteen-year-old Fang Song is destined to save Heartland, her island home, from a king set on supreme magical authority. [I wasn't sure what "supreme magical authority" meant, so I Googled it. Apparently the Count in August Strindberg's most famous play, Miss Julie, is a supreme magical authority. Unfortunately, I haven't seen the play, so I'll just assume this king wants to be the leader of a team of super wizards and mages such as Merlin, Harry Potter, Gandalf, Doctor Strange, and Penn and Teller.] Born human and adopted by wolves, [Did she adapt after she was adopted?] Fang Song tenaciously cries she is wolf, but the rest of the world disagrees. [By "the rest of the world" do you mean all the people, all the wolves, or all the people and wolves?] With two wolf siblings by her side and the lines of an ancient song ["Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?"] to guide her, Fang Song must convince everyone, including herself, that she is the champion Heartland needs. [Why must she convince everyone? Convincing ninety percent of everyone isn't good enough?] 

When she leaves her wolf pack and the wild places she calls home, and journeys to meet her familial tribe, the Wind Walkers, Fang Song is determined to remain untouched by the changes. [differences?] [If she's going there to recruit humans to help defeat the king, say so.] She soon discovers the human world is as beguiling as it is terrifying, and though she longs to be wolf, there is an undeniable spark calling her to be more fully human. Everything Fang Song thought was true now seems uncertain, [Everything?] and her greatest enemy remains to be fought. How much will she have to sacrifice to save her home? And what is she to make of Howling Wolf, the striking Wind Walker who makes her heart do unexpected things?



The people Fang Song trusts most [I'm surprised to find she knows any people well enough to trust them. Has she been interacting with humans on a regular basis?] have their own secrets--secrets that could shatter her dreams. When those secrets and the schemes of the king collide, will Fang Song find the key to Heartland's survival? Or will she find her own annihilation? [That paragraph is too vague. What are these secrets? What are her dreams? I don't know what you're talking about.]

WOLF HEART is complete at approximately 67,000 words, and is the first in a potential young adult fantasy series of the same title.

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

Sincerely,


Notes

Was Fang Song adopted after she was old enough to have learned the Wind Walkers' language? Is the ancient song whose lines guide her a human song or a wolf song?

With his striking looks, Howling Wolf can have any woman in the tribe. I don't see him being attracted to a woman who's spent most of the last eighteen years living with wolves.

We need to know what life will be like on Fang Song's island home if the king attains supreme magical authority. You haven't said how it'll be any worse. Maybe he'll be a benevolent king, bringing peace and prosperity to all. Hey, maybe the king can use magic to turn Fang Song into an actual wolf. 

"According to legend, eighteen-year-old Fang Song is destined to save Heartland..." Is everyone aware of this legend? If so, why does she have to convince them she's their champion? If the legend doesn't specify who the champion is, what makes her think she's the one?

Four of the last five plot sentences are questions. You should be providing answers, not asking us questions.

Fang Song sounds more like an Asian name than a Wind Walker name. In Chinese it means to accept relaxation. Fang Song Gong is an exercise program. Fang Song is the name of several Chinese people including an accomplished actress/director. Did she get the name from the Wind Walkers or from the wolves who adopted her? 


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10. Face-Lift 1298


Guess the Plot

The Corner of Burch and Grace

1. Akshually th coroner (mispelled thet) ov birch (misspeled tat) aand grapes (misspellt that that)- uh ghyde fer whoredikulcher docters evereehwere.

2. Here's the Google Street view of "Corner of Burch and Grace." It looks like a residential neighborhood in the middle of fucking nowhere, so I'm guessing this is a coming of age story or some shit like that.

3. Six-year-old Grace Burch is tired of being a pawn in her divorced parents custody battle, so she raises money through a Kickstarter campaign, files for emancipation, and sues both her parents for child support. Told in the alternating viewpoints of her dog, Princess, and her cat, Mephistopheles.

4. Burch and Grace are conjoined twins awaiting the surgery to finally separate them. Yet their life afterwards is not as separated as they may hope.

5.  There's a little diner at the corner of Burch & Grace, where the lonely, the lost and the loveless come for food, coffee, and maybe some pathetic attempt at human interaction. And that's the way they liked it, until the night the Glam Girls of Glendale showed up.

6. Nothing of interest has ever happened at the corner of Burch and Grace in Buffalo, New York . . . until the night they dig up the children's skeletons.

7. The haunting true story of the image found in Edward Hopper's masterpiece, "Nighthawks".


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My memoir, THE CORNER OF BURCH AND GRACE, was written about the first 14 years of my life growing up in Buffalo, New York, in the transformative 1960s. [The 1960s may have seemed to go on forever, but I'm pretty sure they didn't last 14 years.] 

While everyone will enjoy this collection of stories at face value, they are especially powerful for every adult who had a difficult childhood, and, [Commas not needed.] for every adult who ever had a relationship with someone who had a difficult childhood. Finally, these stories are for every child who became an adult and chose to never look back. [Maybe it would waste less space if you just told us who these stories aren't for.] [I'm not sure what "at face value" means in terms of enjoying a book. Is it related to judging a book by its cover?] [It sounds like what you're saying is, Everyone will enjoy this book at face value, but those who hope to enjoy it on a level other than face value must fall into one of the following three categories, which include pretty much everyone.]

From the deterioration of my mother, my family and me [If you just say "my family," we will deduce that you and your mother are included.] amidst a backdrop of shame and silence, to the heartrending testimony and rollicking humor of life lessons learned, both sweetly and harshly - in the neighborhood, at school, and at home - THE CORNER OF BURCH AND GRACE is a call for all of us to consider, both literally and metaphorically, what makes us turn out the way we do. [This is all totally vague. It's like saying, "My family: the good, the bad and the ugly, here there and everywhere." Except that would use less space, leaving more room to tell us some specific things that happen in the book.]

My wish is that these poignant and humorous tales will show every reader that it is often necessary to dig up our childhood skeletons and set them down - right alongside the happy memories. [I think the skeletons you're talking about are in the closet, so no need to bring a shovel.]

It is in the spirit of service that I offer this variety of pieces from my manuscript. [Not sure what that means. You are doing the recipient of your query a service by including pieces from the manuscript?] The book is finished and is awaiting a good literary home. I've inserted the manuscript within this email, per your guidelines. [How long is this book? Hard to believe anyone's guidelines include inserting the entire manuscript within an email.]

Sincerely,


[Not clear if this next part is part of the query or intended solely for EE, but it doesn't belong in a letter to a literary agent. Or to EE.]

Once a journalist, I now maintain a [website where I post pieces of various genres]. I invite you to visit me there. I have chosen several pieces for your perusal – simply click on “Selections for Literary Agents” under Categories.

I am available for journalistic assignments, essays, columns and features, and of course, other books - as there are even more Tales from Burch Avenue and beyond. [What happened to Grace?]


Notes

Shame and silence; heartrending testimony and rollicking humor, sweetly and harshly; literally and metaphorically; poignant and humorous; skeletons and memories. My mother, my family and me; neighborhood, school and home. These pairings and lists of nouns, adverbs and adjectives don't tell us anything about your book. Except that everyone will enjoy it, for it is all things to all people. 

Once you call it a memoir of your childhood, I expect it to consist of vignettes starring you and your family. Possibly you don't need to also refer to it as a collection of stories, poignant and humorous tales, a variety of pieces... It sounds like something along the lines of Winesburg, Ohio, halfway between a novel and short story collection, in that it consists of stories, but with the same setting and characters. 

We need the word count so we can complain about it.

Pretty much no one wants to read about the first (or any) fourteen years of anyone's life in Buffalo, New York, so if you want to sell this, you're going to have to convince us that your first fourteen years were truly remarkable. You haven't told us anything that happened to you in those years.

Of course it's hard to describe a collection of stories in a few paragraphs, but at least these stories are unified. You could give specific brief summaries of two or three of the stories, then hint that these are but a sampling of the fascinating tales in your book. For instance:

In 1960, a young girl tosses a stone at Lake Erie and watches it skip across the surface nine times before plunging to the depths. She immediately applies for inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records.

In 1965, this same girl is swimming in Lake Erie when the surface of the lake bursts into flames, an event that inspires her to invent a delicious recipe for chicken wings.

Two years later, a singer convinces this same gal to come out of her Buffalo, New York house at night and dance by the light of the moon.

These and a dozen other stories compose my memoir of growing up in a deteriorating family in a deteriorating neighborhood in a deteriorating city in the transformative 1960s.


You can make the summaries slightly longer, but make sure they're at least as interesting as my examples.

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11. Face-Lift 1297


Guess the Plot

Emily's Guide to Owning a Castle

1. Clean the dungeon once a century. Dust and polish armor daily. Feed the servants well. And above all, never feed the moat monsters before a big battle.

2. Don't build too near the waves on the beach. Don't let your pesky brother design the moat. Don't use all your prettiest shells. Make sure to get a picture, because you can't take it home after vacation.

3. Locate a castle. Identify the owner of the castle. Kill the owner of the castle. Defend your new domain from would-be heroes. Locate another castle.

4. Emily Perkin is ecstatic to learn she's inherited an English castle. Then she learns the pile of rubble is in the middle of a war between hunky government official Nate Burnstead who condemned it and gorgeous Harry Stone of Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, who has the hots for Nate.

5. Emily Lathinger might have passed away 437 years ago, and even her ghost is dementing, but there is no way she is going to let go of her castle. Not after all the lying, bloodshed, fornication and brown nosing she went through to inherit.

6. When Emily discovers a boy trapped in a well in the castle she just inherited, she considers him a pest--until he offers to cure her best friend of a life-threatening genetic disorder if Emily helps him. It sounds too good to be true. What's the catch?

7. My niece Emily tells adults how to adult [meme talk for being responsible owners] with castles - typical. [winky face, hearts]

8. A handy guide to any ghosts that have inhabited a place for a thousand years only to have some rich Amerians come in and try to renovate it for profit. Emily's own story of fighting and winning will be a source of hope and inspiration for ghosts everywhere!




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Emily Clare is not excited about inheriting a thousand-year-old castle from a great-grandmother she has never met. She is not excited about starting at a new school in England, a country she has never visited. And she is absolutely, positively not excited about being pestered by a mysterious boy trapped in a well beneath her castle. 

[Boy: Help!! Help!! I'm trapped in the well! Get me outta here! Lower a rope! Call your father!

Emily: Quit pestering me.]

That is, until the boy promises to magically grant Emily’s wish to cure her best friend’s life-threatening genetic disorder. All Emily has to do is find a particular gold coin as payment.

[Boy: I'll cure your best friend of her life-threatening genetic disorder if you'll rescue me from this well. 

Emily: Okay, it's a deal.

Boy: Not so fast. I have other demands.]

As Emily works with her new classmates to locate the coin, she starts to piece together the secret history of the castle and her family's links to the legendary King Arthur. [Intriguing, but vague. Instead of "she starts to piece together the secret history of the castle and her family's links to the legendary King Arthur," you could give us the specifics, i.e. "she learns that the castle belonged to the legendary King Arthur, who once had his way with one of Emily's ancestors on top of the round table.] The closer she gets to finding the coin, [If the coin's so well-hidden that no one's stumbled across it in a thousand years, how does Emily know how close she is to finding it?] the more Emily doubts the boy’s intentions. [Seems like what Emily should be doubting is his ability to magically grant wishes when he can't even get out of a well.] [What does he claim his intentions are?But once she finally discovers the boy’s true identity and how closely their fates are intertwined, it may be too late to save her castle, her family, or her friends. ["But" seems like the wrong word, as it suggests a reversal of her feelings, when she was already doubting him. I'd change "But once" to "And when."]

Emily’s Guide to Owning a Castle is a middle-grade light fantasy novel that will appeal to fans of Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy and Fablehaven. It is a complete stand-alone at approximately 63,000 words, but also has series potential. [Is this novel written in the form of a guide? If people see the title and assume the book is a nonfiction guide rather than a novel, they might not even give it a look.] 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Is Emily's best friend in England or in wherever she just moved from?

How does the kid in the well know about Emily's friend's genetic disorder?

Assuming the kid in the well is a magician from King Arthur's time and a magic spell turned him into a boy and is keeping him in the well and preventing him from doing any magic until a specific coin is found, seems like he'd have managed to talk someone else into helping him over the past thousand years. I guess no one else has been able to find the coin, and lowering a ladder or a rope hasn't worked for magical reasons, and whenever the castle owner tries to get the villagers to help free the boy, they show up and there's no boy and possibly no well, which makes the castle owner look like an idiot, so for centuries there's been an unwritten rule passed down to owners of this castle to ignore the kid in the well? How'm I doing?

The query isn't bad, although it's hard to buy anyone discovering a boy trapped in a well and recruiting her friends to hunt for a thousand-year-old coin while the boy remains in the well. Does even one of her friends suggest organizing a massive rescue operation to save the boy in the well, instead of looking for the coin? 

How does Emily recruit her friends? "I know how we can cure Ellie of her Gaucher's Disease. First we'll need a magic coin that's been missing a thousand years."? Or does she tell them about the boy in the well?

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12. Face-Lift 1296


Guess the Plot

Wild Dreams Torment

1. Anytime Adele has a bad day, she dreams the exact opposite in her sleep. But today she won a lottery, so she's binge-drinking coffee to stay awake.

2. Warned by a man he met on a plane that just crashed that a monster is hunting him, Louis assumes it was  a dream. But later a creature crashes through Louis's dorm window, and comes at him. He thinks fast, putting the Beatles' "Get Back" on the stereo. It works, but now he's worried the monster will devour every other student at his school.

3. Fred has a boring life, a boring job, a boring wife, boring kids, and boring vacations. He likes it that way. But, his younger, much-less-boring self is using his dreams to reach across time and change all that. Also, literary fiction.

4. If all goes well, gorgeous brown poodle Wild Dreams Torment will earn enough points to take the championship at today's show. But Torment would much rather go for a romp around the park, crashing through exhibits, jumping over trophies, and leading the other dogs in a day of mayhem. Also, a nonplussed pussycat.

5. Jock Burner (that's his name) finds the last words of missing goth teen Victoria Rothea in their shared secret poetry collection. Can he find what happened to her in time for their public reading, or will he die the next victim of super villain Morphepnosis. Also, gold leaf.

6. When bisexual actor Nutzy Whelkin lands the lead roll in an erotic film about lucid dreaming, he thinks his gigolo days are through. However, the director neglected to inform him that the succubus is real, the incubus is also real, and it's a snuff film.

7. For three teenagers, a band road trip during the zombie apocalypse sounds better than sticking around Chicago with a vicious gang war raging between werewolves and vampires. But they soon learn you can't leave your problems behind . . . if you bring them with you. Also, a crystal ball.




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fifteen-year-old Louis Thorne is set for [on his way to] New York's prestigious Blackwood Academy until [when] his flight ends in a fiery wreck. But he wakes up back aboard and next to Joel, a stranger who claims to have saved the plane by bending fate. Before vanishing, Joel warns [claims] an unearthly beast is hunting Louis.

Louis figures he had a weird nightmare. Yet more intense dreams of Joel mess with his head. He can't study when his dorm room melts like a Dalí painting and black stuff oozes out his laptop. His scholarship is on the line, so he ignores the hallucinations. [The Academy has a strict rule: hallucinate, and you're outta here.] Only the eldritch creature that crashes through his window is definitely real. [Change "only" to "but."] After blasting music ["Don't Come Around Here No More"] to drive the beast back, Louis runs for help and right into Joel.

Finding Joel brutalized, Louis learns his ring isn't just a keepsake. It belongs to Joel, causing [and allows] Louis to see the beast and [while causing] the blind beast to mistake him for its enemy. With the creature immune to his [Joel's] power and both weak to iron, Joel's useless against it. Not Louis. It'll take all his wits [it's up to Louis] to trap and kill the monster [it]. Failure means the beast will devour his friends and everyone else in the academy. [Hard to believe a beast small enough to fit through a dorm room window can devour an entire school's worth of students.]

But Louis doesn't know Joel's true intentions and how inhuman he really is. [Neither do we. Tell us, or get rid of the sentence.]

Complete at 62,000 words, WILD DREAMS TORMENT is a young adult horror novel with series potential.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

A guy who can bend fate and cause hallucinations sounds cool; I'm not as crazy about an invisible monster that devours people. Monsters scare little kids. A monster that scares young adults needs a name. Like Predator, Kraken, Godzilla, Slimer... This Monster Name Generator might help.

So the reason the monster is hunting Louis is because it thinks Louis is Joel because Louis is wearing Joel's ring. How and when did Louis get the ring? If Joel arranged for Louis to have the ring, why did he choose Louis instead of Rambo? Does Louis have any powers other than his wits?

The title doesn't grab me. Other possibilities: Nightmare on Elm Street 8, The Ring 3, Louis and Joel's Big Adventure, The Last Fatebender.


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13. Synopsis 47


The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps: Synopsis

Fifteen-year old Lucy Brown had a happy life until age eleven when her dad walked out on her, her mother, and her two-year old twin siblings. Now, four years later, Lucy is stretched thin covering for her mom’s flaky absences, fighting off panic attacks, and desperately trying to get the grades for a college scholarship when her quiet street is rocked by a murder. Puzzling out the mystery is Lucy’s only escape from her demanding life. Lucy is also searching for her dad, but when he finally reappears, he’s a disappointment. When the police rule the death accidental, Lucy isn’t convinced. A history lecture in school makes Lucy realize not only who the killer is, [John Wilkes Booth.] but that another neighbor is about to be murdered, as well. [I would have found history more interesting if my teachers had spent less time on the Crimean War and more time predicting my neighborhood murders.] Lucy must warn her, but unless she keeps her wits about her, they may both end up dead...and her own father framed for their murders. [This paragraph is a synopsis of the synopsis. You don't need it.]

Some teenagers obsess about music and boys, but all Lucy Brown cares about is getting good enough grades for a college scholarship to rescue her from her current life. Ever since her dad abandoned the family, Lucy has taken on the burden of caring for her six-year old twin brother and sister while her mom, married straight out of high school, works two menial jobs to keep the family afloat. [If she's working two jobs and occasionally sleeping, when does she have time for "flaky" absences?]

Pretty much the only remnants left of her [Lucy's] happy childhood are her best friend, Nancy Martin, who still recalls Lucy’s fun-loving dad with fondness and Lucy’s home address on a safe, suburban street where nothing bad ever happens...until the night two gun shots ring out.

Lucy’s wheelchair-bound neighbor, Mr. Phelps, has been shot dead with a single bullet, and although Lucy is swamped by her life, she can’t help but try to puzzle out the mystery. Besides, she has an advantage over the police because she knows there were two gun shots. She told the police, but they didn’t believe her.

Unfortunately, Lucy’s crazy life doesn’t stop just because she’s solving a murder. Her guidance counselor told her that full scholarships don’t always include books or room and board, but she can’t find a job because she’s always watching the twins. Instead, she’s been skimming from her mom’s grocery money for a secret college fund. She promises herself the transgression is only temporary. She’s searching for her father online and believes his return will fix everything that’s wrong. She wants her siblings to have the same happy childhood she had; she wants her mom to only work one job; she wants to send the twins to an afterschool program so she can hang out with her friends again; and she wants her dad to be more than a fading memory.

When her father finally does appear, Lucy realizes her well-meaning dad is not as reliable as she had hoped. In fact, at fifteen she is a world [worlds] more responsible than he. As her plans for a better life fall apart, she finds another clue, a bullet hole in Mr. Phelps’ siding that seems to [have] come from Mr. Wilson’s garage next door. Lucy’s sleuthing results in Mr. Wilson’s arrest, so she is frightened when he is charged only with accidental death and released. As he explains to Lucy and her father, the gun discharged during a cleaning. [Killing someone through recklessness (negligent homicide/involuntary manslaughter) isn't taken a lightly as this suggests. Involuntary manslaughter at both the federal and state level is treated as a felony and usually carries a jail or prison sentence of at least 12 months, plus fines and probation.--http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/involuntary-manslaughter-penalties-and-sentencing.htmlThere can be mitigating circumstances. If a drunk jumps in front of your car and gets killed, you might get no jail time. However, cleaning a gun while it's loaded and pointed at someone else is, I suspect, reckless enough to warrant way more than a slap on the wrist.] When Lucy mentions she heard two shots, Mr. Wilson, new father and all-around friendly neighbor, suddenly seems menacing to Lucy. But why?

She figures out why the next day, when her history teacher gives a lecture on eminent domain and land developers. The Owlins Corporation has been trying to buy homes on Lucy’s block for a development. Mr. Phelps wouldn’t sell and now he’s dead. [It's much cheaper and easier to buy land for your development than to buy all the houses on an entire block. People aren't going to sell unless you overpay wildly for houses you're just going to tear down to build new ones. (It's unlikely zoning laws would allow a quiet residential street to be gutted for a hotel or office complex.)] In the middle of the lecture, Lucy realizes who the killer is going to murder next. [The neighbor on the other side of Wilson's house. His gun needs another cleaning.] Since she’s been taking care of herself since she was eleven, asking for help never even crosses her mind. She plunges into the task of saving her neighbor, leaving nothing more than a cryptic message for best friend Nancy. [Sorry Nancy, can't study w U 2nite, busy preventing redrum.]

Sneaking out of school, Lucy arrives home but in a harrowing sequence of events, walks in on an intruder who is trying to steal a gun from her family’s gun safe. Lucy uses the techniques of her twin siblings, who are masters of hide and seek, to conceal herself from the intruder while she calls 911. [When you're so good at hide and seek that other people study your techniques, you deserve your own reality show.] The intruder flees as the police arrive. Even though Lucy never saw his face, she fingers Mr. Wilson and also reveals him as the developer trying to buy homes on her street. Owlins is an anagram for Wilson. When Mr. Phelps wouldn’t sell, Mr. Wilson killed him for his land and tried to make it look like an accident. [When you kill a person, you don't automatically get his land. That rule was responsible for the biggest decline in the murder rate in US history.] Ikf he hadn’t missed with the first shot, Mr. Wilson would have never been caught. But he had to fire twice, and Lucy heard both shots. The next neighbor to die would be Ms. Peabody, who had recently changed her mind about selling. Mr. Wilson broke into Lucy’s house to steal the Brown’s gun so that he could frame Lucy’s dad for the second murder. [Wouldn't it be easier to buy a gun at Walmart than to steal one that's locked in a safe?]

The local paper writes up a story about Lucy’s sleuthing. But Lucy’s moment of fame is shattered when Mrs. Wilson says her infant son will grow up fatherless because of Lucy. [On the other hand, if Wilson had to murder a dozen people for their land, there would have been a lot of kids without parents or grandparents.] Lucy’s own father has decided to stay in town. Lucy confesses to her mom about the money she’s been stealing. [Buying Kroger Cola instead of Coke and pocketing the difference isn't stealing; it's smart shopping.] With several homes for sale on her street, [And the owners of those that aren't for sale all marked for death,] Lucy and Nancy convince the Nancy’s parents to consider moving out of their high crime area and into suburbia. [Move out of your high-crime area and into our neighborhood where there's been a murder, a house break-in, theft...and that's just this week.]

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps is a 66,000 word novel aimed at 13-16 year olds. The story is self-contained but there is series potential with best friend Nancy Martin solving another crime after she and her family move onto Lucy’s street.


Notes

This answers many of the questions the query raised, but raises plenty of its own. 

A key element of eminent domain is that the landowner is justly compensated by the government. And since your land doesn't go to the guy who shot you when you're killed, I'm not sure why a lecture on eminent domain would convince Lucy that Wilson was the killer. It's the location of the bullet hole, on Wilson's side of Phelps's house, that points to Wilson as the killer, and the fact that it's pretty much impossible to accidentally discharge a gun twice while cleaning it that convinces her he's a liar. I'd get rid of eminent domain. 

And what about the bullet that actually killed Phelps? Did that go through a window or the siding, or was Phelps outdoors? Either way, they ought to be able to determine what direction that bullet came from, whether they believe there was a second shot or not.

This could stand to be a lot shorter. For that matter, you should be able to find an agent who doesn't want a synopsis.

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14. Face-Lift 1295




Guess the Plot

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps

1. I have no idea why Mr. Phelps is dead, why there's blood all over the room, or why the axe has my fingerprints all over it. It's a complete mystery.

2. A smoldering tape recorder is the only clue to Jim's mysterious demise, and all the usual suspects - Rollin, Cinnamon, Barney and Willy - have iron-clad alibis. Could the murderer be Lalo? Impossible!

3. It isn't too strange for a body to be found on the docks of 1870s New York City. But it's not everyday that the body is a merman.

4. Actually, his death isn't that mysterious;  you often die when someone shoots you. The mysterious part is how Lucy, Mr. Phelps's 15-year-old neighbor, is going to solve the crime before the police do. 

5. The rumors of Mr. Phelps's death are greatly exaggerated: true, his body is cold in a mortuary, but he is, after all, an immortal zombie, so despite head-injury-related amnesia, he should be fine. Now, with a friendly coroner, Mr. Phelps must find who wants him dead for good.

6. When Mr. Phelps dies under mysterious circumstances, ace homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: one, the over 5,000 members of the American pawn brokers association all hated Phelps; and two, the leg-work on just the first week of questioning all of them will fill the requirements for his health insurance discount.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

High school sophomore Lucy Brown needs a new life. She remembers her happy childhood, but those days are long gone. Since her dad left when she was eleven, her mom has been treading water with low paying jobs. Lucy picks up the slack taking care of her twin brother and sister. [I took this to mean the brother was Lucy's twin. If you move the word "twin" in front of the word "siblings" below, it'll clear things up for idiots like me. Or you could just leave the kids' twin-ness out of the query.] ["Kids twin" is a great tongue twister. Say it five times fast.] Through her best friend’s eyes, Lucy sees the life she was supposed to have: two doting parents, a dinner table full of laughter, a college fund. But at Lucy’s house, her mom is never home for dinner and her six-year old siblings don’t even remember their dad. [If you're contrasting Lucy's life with her best friend's, I expect to hear what Lucy's college fund consists of, rather than that her siblings are too young to remember dad.] [Your entire summary should be about ten sentences long. You've spent six sentences telling us who your main character is, and nothing about the plot, which I assume has to do with how this Phelps guy died. You could get by with: 

Ever since Lucy Brown's dad left when she was eleven, her mom has been treading water with low paying jobs. Lucy's been picking up the slack taking care of her younger siblings, but now that she's fifteen, she's decided to become a coroner's assistant. Her first case: The mysterious death of Mr. Phelps.

Lucy has just begun to track down her father, when her neighbor, Mr. Phelps, is murdered. [Somehow the term "mysterious death" in the title led me to believe there was some question about how he died. He was murdered. Question answered.] On a quiet street inhabited by retirees, Lucy is the only one who hears the gun shots. [No need to mention it's a quiet street, since that would make it easier to hear the gunshots. A noisy street with jackhammers banging and sirens blaring would be worth mentioning if you want us to believe no one heard the shots. Also, are you suggesting that retirees are less likely to hear gunshots than people who still work? At least the retirees would be at home. And if their hearing is so bad they can't even hear gunshots, they'd have hearing aids.] The police think she heard firecrackers. [Of course they do. Retirees living on a quiet street are always setting off firecrackers.] [I don't get it. I assume Mr. Phelps's body has been found, as you've reported his murder. If the body had bullet holes in it, why are the police doubting that Lucy heard gunshots?] If Lucy just left things alone, the killer wouldn’t realize she had a clue that was key to the crime. [What clue does she have besides knowing when the shots were fired? And how does the killer know she has this clue?] But Lucy’s inquisitive mind can’t help puzzling out the circumstances of Mr. Phelps’ [Phelps's] death [The circumstances of his death are that he was somewhere within earshot of Lucy when someone shot him. The only thing that needs puzzling out is the identity of the killer.] as she searches for her dad. [He could be anywhere in the world. Is she searching the Internet or actually going out looking for him?] When her father resurfaces, [You can probably just say surfaces.] he is not quite like she remembered. [Either tell us what's different, or don't tell us he's different.] And there’s that murderer on the loose. As Lucy gets closer to unraveling what happened to Mr. Phelps, [How many times do I have to say it? Someone shot him.] the killer becomes desperate. If Lucy isn’t careful, he will strike again, this time killing Lucy and framing her disappointing dad for the murder. [How can anyone possibly know he'll do that?]

The Mysterious Death of Mr. Phelps is 66,000 words and directed at 13-15 year olds. It's the first book in a mystery series. The second book stars Lucy's best friend and her struggles as she moves into Lucy's all-white neighborhood and discovers a 60 year old secret. [We don't need to know what happens in your next book. Though I would assume it stars Lucy unless she got murdered in this book.]

Thank you for your time.


Notes

If the mystery isn't Who killed Mr. Phelps?, tell us what is it, and what Lucy is doing to get closer to unraveling it.

If the mystery is Who killed Mr. Phelps?, who had a motive? If Lucy doesn't know who the suspects are, the police are going to be way ahead of her, checking on which suspects owned weapons, which had alibis, which had secret grudges against Mr. Phelps from way back in the day. A murder mystery needs suspects so the detective can reach a brilliant conclusion. Your query needs suspects so we know there's a murder mystery.

If there's a connection between the Phelps plot and the father plot, what is it? If it's nothing stronger than the incredible theory that the killer might kill Lucy and frame her father for it (Does dad have any motive for killing Lucy that would make such a frame believable?), or the fact that Lucy is investigating both at the same time, then you probably should leave the father plot out of the query. 

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15. Face-Lift 1294


Guess the Plot

Failure to Communicate

1. It's about stuff. And a thing. And she does this after he takes her last object. Before forever.

2. Well, er, um, you know, it's a story.

3. Dear Evil Editor: Hello? Hello? Hellllllooooo??? Aw, crap.

4. When the xenophobic Anmerilli discover that the diplomat we've sent on a first-contact mission is autistic, well, let's just say they aren't gushing with optimism for a successful negotiation.

5. This handy pocket book will have you spreken sie gente just in time to lead the rebellion against the G87^Zjio from Alpha Centauri Prime III who are invading mid-July. Includes a How To appendix on building and stocking your own bomb shelter.

6. While running a string-can phone project for her kindergarten class, teacher Mary Hale meets gorgeous widower Ali Ali who, unfortunately, doesn't speak English, hates Americans, and works for Interpol. Will winning over his daughter get her a place in his heart, or merely get her kidnapped by an organized crime syndicate?

7. The official reason for starlet Holly Wether being lost in the wild Santa Monica Mountains was that she wasn't following directions when her car plunged off of Mulholland Drive. But homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, her Porsche lost its right front wheel before she went over the cliff, and two, he really should take the kids to the Griffith Park Observatory.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Despite being human, Xandri Corelel is one of the stranger crew members aboard the first contact ship Carpathia. In a time when illness and disability no longer exist, she is autistic. [I don't like "Despite being human." It suggests that autistic humans are strange. I also don't think "strange" is the word you want. Maybe "unlikely."] [I'd combine those sentences into something like: Xandri Corelel is the only autistic crew member aboard the first-contact ship Carpathia.] She's also head of Xeno-liaisons aboard the Carpathia [ship], a position she earned with her unusual and hard-won [extraordinary] skill at understanding alien species.

She and the rest of the crew are on a routine first contact mission when the Alliance First Contact Division calls them in for [they are given] a special assignment. The highly xenophobic—and oddly humanoid—Anmerilli are developing a graser, a powerful weapon that would change the face of war forever. [I assume "Graser" is a combination of the words gravy and laser. Not clear how it would change the face of war, but if it keeps my gravy from getting cold, I want one.] They're considering selling it to the imperialistic and genocidal Zechak when it’s complete. [Selling super-weapons to imperialistic beings always comes back to haunt you. When you think about it, it's just common sense.] Years of diplomacy haven't persuaded the Anmerilli to join the Starsystems Alliance, but now it’s join or die, for the Alliance will stop at nothing to keep the graser out of Zechak hands. Even if it means annihilating the Anmerilli. [Maybe we should just annihilate the Zechak.] [No need for that last sentence, as "join or die" implies the same thing.]

Xandri must persuade the Anmerilli to join while keeping the Alliance’s plans a secret, [Which plans? The plans to annihilate them if they refuse to join? I would think that would be her most persuasive point.] [Although she could find a more diplomatic way to put it.] but from the moment she makes planetfall, she faces one challenge after another. The Anmerilli are stubborn, belligerent, and they know about her autism; they believe her incapable of doing her job. [We don't think this autistic person is capable of talking us into doing something we don't want to do; send us someone else to talk us into it.] Even worse is the sabotage, most likely perpetrated by one of her human allies. She’s determined to make the alliance work, but she knows she can’t succeed as long as the saboteur runs free. [We need to know what form this sabotage has taken.] As time ticks away, Xandri puts her unique perspective towards swaying the Anmerilli, and desperately tries to fathom the motives of the one species she’s never really understood: her own. [Nice finish.]

FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE is a science fiction novel of 112,000 words.

I’m autistic myself. I was diagnosed at a young age, and have years of experience to lend to creating an authentic autistic voice for Xandri.

(Note: Any other necessary material will go here.)

Thank you very much for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

Seems like talking the Anmerilli out of selling the weapon to the Zechak could be accomplished more easily without insisting they join the Alliance. Apparently the Alliance also want the weapon for themselves. Can't the Alliance buy the weapon themselves?

Some things that some people with autism can do seem almost like super powers. If Xandri's skills are shown to be that remarkable, I could see this working as soft science fiction. Plus, the millions whose lives have been touched by autism are likely to be supportive. Surely there's a publisher who'll realize this.

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16. Face-Lift 1293


Guess the Plot

Rachel and her Demon

1. When Rachel's mother-in-law develops Alzheimer's, Rachel discovers the woman who's made her married life a living hell is really a demon sent to kick-off the End of Days who instead fell in love and adopted a son. Unfortunately, now that the woman's senile, she remembers her original mission.

2. Rachel is sick of seeing bullies at her school get away with harassing students. So she contacts a demon she knows, and he gives her the power to summon fire. Should she wait till the next time the bullies attack, or should she just incinerate them now?

3. Five-year-old Rachel is the only kid in kindergarten who doesn't have a cute pet - Rachel's pet is uncute, vicious and evil. When she brings him to show and tell, all the class learns an important lesson about metaphysics.

4. When Rachel inherits the family vineyard she also inherits her grandmother's devil-infested dybbuk box. Oi vey. What's a Jew to do?

5. Little Rachel finally convinced her parents to let her have a pet--whichever stray she brings home next. Fluffy may have scales and wings and horns and a penchant for setting things on fire, but at least s/he/it is house broken.

6. I have a little Demon
She followed me one day
And in the late night evenings
My Demon and I play

Oh Demon Demon Demon
Your eyes so lovely red
Oh Demon Demon Demon
You sleep up on my bed.

We play with fire and water
And other things besides
But Brother saw us playing
So now we both must hide

Oh Demon Demon Demon
Listen to Mother yell
Oh Demon Demon Demon
Let's take them all to Hell!



Original Version

Dear [agent]:

My novel RACHEL AND HER DEMON is a completed 77,000-word YA fantasy novel with series potential.

Rachel Sasson, a 16-year old Jewish girl, is appalled to learn that a group of sadistic bullies in her school will face no punishment after driving another student to drop out rather than endure their abuse. Feeling a moral obligation to stand up to the bullies but aware that she cannot beat them in a fight, Rachel meets with Merihaim, a demon whom she befriended in a chance encounter as a child and whom she still talks to despite her religious beliefs. [Specifically, the belief that there's no such thing as a demon.] She finally accepts his longstanding offer of magical power, telling him the commandment of tikkun olam ('performing acts which improve the world') justifies her using his power to help people. Merihaim grants Rachel the power of summoning fire and she smashes the bullies, [I won't assault you if I can't beat you, but I'll happily assault you if you can't beat me.] taking them down before they can hurt anyone else. [Wait, by "smashes and takes down," do you mean she summons fire and burns them alive? If so, does she do this while they're tormenting their latest victim, or while they're just hanging out at the kosher deli? I mean, I'm guessing that while most bullies deserve severe punishment, even death, a few eventually turn over a new leaf, make amends, and even perform acts that improve the world, assuming they haven't been reduced to ashes.]

Rachel's use of magic, however, attracts other demons and demon-backed humans to her, most of whom are all too eager to use their powers to hurt others. As Rachel battles her newfound enemies [Wouldn't it be easier for these new demons to hurt people who can't summon fire than to take on Rachel? Or to team up with Rachel and burn some more bullies? Why are they targeting her?] she realizes she is increasingly neglecting her obligations to her friends and family, [There's a time to worry about whether you're neglecting family obligations, and when you're under attack by demons isn't it.] causing her to question if she really accepted Merihaim's power to follow a commandment and help others or if she just wanted an excuse to hurt 'deserving' people. [Merihaim's power isn't an excuse to hurt 'deserving' people; it's a means to hurt them.] She investigates those attacking her [There's a time to launch an investigation of demons, and while they're attacking you isn't it.] and discovers they are in the process of summoning an unstoppable horde of demonic allies with which they will conquer the world, but she also grows to understand that her willingness to sacrifice her other relationships has left her loved ones vulnerable, [I think they'd be vulnerable even if she hadn't been neglecting them lately.] and the demons are acutely aware of this weakness. [Those last two sentences total more than 100 words. And I don't mean short words. You'd probably need three tweets to compose either sentence, especially if you included #Sesquipedalian in each tweet.] Rachel must recover her conscience, then use all her strength to protect her closest friends, battle a legion of powerful monsters--and simultaneously deal with increasing evidence that Merihaim's motives for befriending her may have been less kindly than she thought. [You seem to suggest that this girl whose original goal was to teach a few bullies a lesson, has a chance in hell of defeating a legion of monsters and demons. If that's true, I could argue that if Merihaim's motives were unkindly, he wouldn't have given her a power so . . . powerful.]

I am a Jewish writer who has sold short fantasy stories to [pro venue] and [other pro venue] under the pen name of [pen name]. Thank you for your consideration. [Your pen name sucks. I suggest a visit to this pen name generator  for more creative suggestions.]

Sincerely,


Notes

When you are all that stands between life as we know it and an unstoppable horde of demons, your familial relationships and obligations are put on the back burner. They may cross Rachel's mind briefly in the book, but I'd leave them out of the query. When the army of orcs was attacking Frodo, he wasn't thinking, Dammit, I forgot to thank Bilbo for the pie last week. It seems like the inner conflict of deciding whether and how to use her new power, along with the feelings of guilt over neglecting friends and family are good problems for a YA character. When her goal escalates into saving the world from a demon takeover, readers may lose interest in Rachel's other relatively insignificant problems.

This is awfully wordy. By which I mean you can say most of it with a lot fewer words. For instance:

When 16-year old Jewish girl Rachel Sasson learns that a gang of bullies in her school will face no punishment for tormenting other students, she's appalled. Feeling morally obligated to stand up to the bullies, Rachel summons Merihaim, a demon she befriended as a child. She accepts his "fire-wielding" gift, telling herself the commandment of tikkun olam ('performing acts which improve the world') justifies using any means to help people . . . and incinerates the bullies.

That's about 50 words shorter than the original paragraph, and would be shorter still without the references to Judaism, which I left in because I assume it's a major theme of the book. Although . . . since hordes of demons would be unsettling to non-Jewish readers, and performing acts which improve the world is a noble pursuit of any religion or even atheism, maybe the book would be marketable to any young adults, and the references to Judaism in the query are suggesting to the agent a narrower audience. Are you targeting a publisher of Jewish YA? 

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17. Face-Lift 1292


Guess the Plot

Bottled

1. Kia not only bottles up her emotions, she sells the bottles on the black market. But selling emotions is as illegal as selling heroin. The government nabs her and agrees to pardon her if she'll become a spy for them. Also, wicked creatures.


2. How the bottling industry managed to stay relevant through the 20th century by transitioning from ceramic to glass to plastic. Also, drink boxes.

3. Escaped convicts and eighth-grade boys on a field trip collide in a hostile bottle rocket stand-off. Plus, ships in bottles.

4. A non-fiction guide to canning everything--from cherries, to pickles, to whole chicken, to Aunt Midge's fruit cake--in artistic landscape scenes that will make your pantry worthy of Pinterest. Includes an appendix of mixes for baked goods.

5. Vin shouldn't have gotten drunk at the frat party, opened the bottle he found on the beach, or made a bet with a djiin, but he did. Now he must sober up in time to escape the harem of Ghaddar before he becomes a eunuch.

6. One man, one goat, one convoluted metaphor involving the blood of saints and diaphanous interstellar nebulae, or perhaps the bloody rivers of Earth and a heavenly saint. And rum. 

7. A genie tricks Mary-Lou into swapping places, so she gets stuck in that damned bottle for about 150 years. As it happens, this provides excellent shelter from nuclear war and fallout. She escapes as nuclear winter is ending. Now it's up to her to restart humanity. Luckily, she has one wish left! 




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Kia [Sorento] is one of the Gifted: she can create emotions out of thin air. And with people desperate to feel something strong and real, she’s providing for herself by bottling the feelings she creates and selling them on the black market. [I'll take one bottle of lust and a bottle of . . . lust. In fact, make it a case.]

But when one of her dealers, [Customers? Okay, it could be a huge operation, and she has lots of underling dealers, but she's a 17-year-old providing for herself, not a corporation with shareholders. One billionaire customer like Mr. Burns would be plenty to finance her mall shopping sprees.] Tamas, turns out to be a government spy in disguise[Just because you're not wearing a suit and sunglasses doesn't mean you're in disguise. It's not like emotion dealers have a specific uniform.] and also totally unaffected by her Gift [She offered him a bottle of guilt, but he wasn't thirsty.] —everything Kia worked for is destroyed. [By "everything Kia worked for" you mean her business dealing illegal drugs?] To avoid rotting in a cold cell, Kia is forced to accept the government’s offer: her crimes will be pardoned [Is her crime selling love potions, or not collecting sales tax for the government?] [Is it a crime to feel emotions, or just to help others feel emotions?] if she agrees to use her abilities to travel to the Kingdom of Driend, [She needs to use her ability to create emotions to travel to another kingdom? Can't she just use a horse?] joining Tamas as an undercover spy, [as opposed to a spy who wears a spy costume and announces his presence and mission to the enemy.] and find the source of its king’s black magic. [Apparently the ability to create emotions out of thin air is useful in finding someone's source of black magic? Otherwise, I don't see why the govt. would entrust this mission to a 17-year-old drug dealer.] [You'd think the government would have a few Gifted on their payroll instead of having to recruit a teenage criminal for this job. ] And for a girl who’s used her gift to manipulate her way through life, working with someone immune is torture. [Her Gift may not work on him, but no seventeen-year-old needs a Gift to arouse emotions in an adult. Just by acting normal she should have no trouble making him feel confused, horrified, shocked, uncomfortable, exasperated, confused, frustrated . . . ]

With wicked creatures following their every move, [Are we talking witches and vampires or alien and predator or lions and tigers and bears?] Kia soon realizes that this mission might be more than what she bargained for. Failing is not an option if she wants to be free, but once Kia walks through the palace doors she discovers that her Gift is mere child’s play compared to the black magic that threatens their lives with every step they take. [It sounded like child's play to begin with. What made the government think her Gift was up to defeating powerful black magic?]

Complete at 80,000 words, BOTTLED is a standalone novel with series potential that will appeal to readers of Leigh Bardugo and Sarah J. Maas.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Notes

Is there more at stake than whether Kia ends up in a cold cell? For instance, is the king using black magic as a weapon against Kia's country? Are we supposed to be rooting against the king or against the government? 

How come we know the king's kingdom is called Driend but we don't know what country's government Kia lives under? 

What percentage of the population are Gifted, and what percentage are immune? If the answers are close to zero, rather than three, I can see why the government settles for Kia. But it still seems like invisibility or mind reading would be more useful than creating emotions for this task. 

If a guy with no magical powers can be immune to Kia's Gift, why can't this king with powerful black magic make all his subjects immune? 

Why do people need help to feel something strong and real? Was that ability removed from everyone, or did they never have it? Even Vulcans are able to feel emotions; they simply choose to bottle them up. Is this set on planet Earth?

If you condense this plot summary into three or four sentences, including one that reveals what the bad guy is doing that's so bad, you'll have room to tell us how Kia plans to use her Gift to overcome the obstacles in her way, and what goes wrong. 


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18. New Year Resolution

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19. Cartoons for Nerds


In an effort to get a book nominated in the best humor publication category of the Eisner Awards, and thereby have an excuse to attend next year's ComicCon in San Diego, I've created a book titled Cartoons for Nerds (and Geeks), which includes the funniest of the cartoons from this blog that have a fantasy, science fiction, horror, superhero, science/technology theme. Here's the cover:



I had them convert it to an ebook formatted for an iPad, but it can also be viewed on your computer, though you may have to click "view" and zoom out to get it the right size for your screen. If you buy it at Evil Editor's bookstore ($1.99, link in sidebar), I'll not only send you the code that allows you to read it, but I'll also send you the code for Evil Editor's History of the World in Tweets.

I also had a few copies printed. Like the EE comic strip collections, it's printed in color, but unlike the EE comic strip collections, which are printed on coated photo paper and are 8 by 10, this book is trade paperback size (6 by 9) on uncoated paper, and thus more affordable. By which I mean $12.99 including shipping to US addresses. Supplies are limited.


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20. Feedback Request


Hello, I wrote to you a little while ago about the query for eradicated. I was wondering if the version below is better and if you like the ending or the alternate ending more. If you have time please take a look.


Warrior in training, Maya Richardson has a secret: she can time travel. It’s not as exciting as it sounds. In fact, it sucks. She can’t control it, she always returns to when and where she started, it’s proceeded [preceded] by debilitating vomiting and followed by a migraine from hell. To make matters worse, the commune she lives in believes that anyone with powers is Gliesian, a crime punishable by death. And Gliesians—the alien race that has conquered the earth—believe that a human with powers is a threat that must be eradicated.

To stay alive, Maya knows she must learn to control and hide her power. But before she can, her mother is abducted. Maya knows the answers to her mother’s disappearance lies within the glittering walls of the Gliesian city, Tajel, but the commune elders refuse to let Maya leave the compound to rescue her mom. [The answer lies or the answers lie, but not the answers lies. Although I don't think of a disappearance as something that has an answer. Why not just say her mother is abducted and taken to Tajel?] With the help of an unlikely ally, Maya escapes from the commune only to be taken hostage by the Gliesian government. Imprisoned with other humans, she discovers that her mom isn’t the only person to end up missing; humans have been disappearing in droves from cities all over the planet. The lucky ones are killed and the unlucky ones are used as human batteries to power the cities-- a fate worse than death. [If humans are needed to power the cities, why do the Gliesians kill the "lucky ones"?]

Maya has to control her powers to save her mom and herself. But she’s going to need help. Her only option is to travel back in time and convince the commune to fight the Gliesian government, but time traveling will land her back on commune grounds and expose her secret. If the commune elders know her secret, saving her mom will be the least of her worries. [When you say she's going to need help, I assume you mean help learning to control her powers. Instead you gloss over the fact that she can't control them and move on to getting help in the past from the commune.]

Alternate ending
To save her mom and herself, Maya is going to need help. She has to travel back in time and convince the commune elders that it’s time for what they’ve been preparing her for: war. But to do so Maya must use her powers, which have been temperamental at best. Will Maya master her powers in time to save her mom? And if she does can she convince the elders that it’s time to fight and she isn’t the enemy?


Notes

I'm not clear on this "always ends up when and where she started" aspect of time travel. If she time travels from her prison in Tajel, I would expect her to return to Tajel, not to the commune. It's not clear whether she always time travels to the commune or always ends up there after her time travel trip is over.

Is her plan to time travel back to a time before she was born, or a time when she is alive in the commune, in which case there would be two of her?

The Gliesians control cities all over the planet, and Maya needs to convince her puny commune to fight the Gliesian government? That's like the single town of Bedwas, Wales taking on the Axis powers in WWII. Maybe we should focus on saving mom and let someone else worry about the Gliesian threat.

I'm not sure why she needs to suck at controlling her powers in the book, but I don't see that as an important point to bring up in the query. It just makes me wonder, if she can't control the time and place she ends up when she time travels, how can she accomplish anything unless she gets lucky? If she needs to go back a year and instead goes back 2000 years, what's she gonna do? What exactly do you mean by she can't control her power? Can she control the date to which she travels? Can she control the place to which she travels? Can she control when she travels, or does it just happen randomly? You don't want me wondering all this, and you don't have room to answer it all, so maybe you should just let us think she can control her time travel.

I'm not thrilled with either ending. Perhaps:

To save her mom and herself, Maya will have to travel back in time and convince the commune elders that they must go to war . . . and that she isn’t the enemy.


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21. Feedback Request


The author of the book most recently featured here would like your feedback on this revision:


Indy Ramsay has studied and trained her entire teenage life for the day she would be recruited to the Reverend Council-the elite corps that runs the Aet-El Empire, the Ever Empire.

Instead, it is her grandfather, Eldritch Ramsay, who is chosen and then promptly sent away on a mission of the utmost importance, leaving behind a shattered and dejected Indy.

The very next day, the Council is under siege from an unknown enemy; the annual market has been burnt to cinders, the Parliament stands destroyed in an earthquake, and Eldritch returns home to find his entire family murdered, all except his grandson. [And his granddaughter.] [Apparently when they sent Eldritch away on an important mission they didn't send him far. He's back already. What form of transportation did he use?] [Not sure why I'm bothering to suggest deleting certain phrases when my  same suggestions on an earlier version have been ignored.]

He will get his grandson back, he is told, [By whom?] if he betrays the Empire. [We just murdered your entire family except your grandson, but we won't murder him if you betray millions. You can trust us.] A simple act. All he has to do is use his newfound power and status to find a man, the greatest man the Empire has ever known-someone who hasn't been seen in the Empire for two centuries. [I got some bad news: the guy's been dead for 150 years.] [Was that sarcasm, calling this "a simple act"?] Eldritch knows that finding this man will bring ruin to the Empire; an omniscient god told him so only yesterday. [Being omniscient means knowing all; it doesn't mean always telling the truth.]

He wants to not care. Millions of lives weighed against his grandson's . . . He is not going to let his grandson die. [Millions of other people's grandchildren or my grandchild . . . Hmm, not as difficult a decision as I would have thought.] The Empire has heroes and patriots and deities enough. Let them save whoever they can.

Unbeknownst to him, Indy is still alive. Targeted for assassination as the last of Eldritch's bloodline, [Isn't his grandson also part of his bloodline?] she manages to learn the truth of the enemy's plan for the Empire and Eldritch.

Now, as riots rage throughout the city and the enemy brings its true might to bear upon the Empire, Indy will prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation she was denied. She will find and stop Eldritch-[Finding Eldritch will be the hard part. Where do you look for a man who's off looking for a man who hasn't been seen for two centuries?] she will save the Empire at any cost.

Then what if the cost be Eldritch himself? [All the better, since there'll be a new opening on the Council.]


Notes

Hard to believe there's an enemy powerful enough to threaten the Empire, and they don't even know who the enemy is. Why isn't the identity of the enemy known?

You'd think with the enemy bringing their true might to bear upon you, you'd either be fighting or fleeing, not rioting.

Finding a man who hasn't been seen for two centuries seems like a nutty demand for your enemy to make. It's like an unknown person kidnaps the U.S. Secretary of State's grandchild and tells the Secretary, "You'll never see the kid again unless you find James Madison." Which would be bad enough, but yesterday God told you the U.S. would come to ruin and millions would die if you ever found James Madison.

I think the query should focus on Indy. How she steps up when the enemy attacks and Eldritch is off searching Australia for the 250-year-old great man. 

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22. Feedback Request



I hope I am not overstaying my welcome, but I sent out my first batch of queries (about 25) and got back... one partial request, 24 silence/rejections. I know it's not that many sent, but I read on a few sites that if you dont get a 25% request rate, the query is not good. I found this website so helpful in getting me to where my query is now, so I am hoping you can take a look one more time to see where I might be going wrong? Thanks!


Dear ......,

Sixteen-year-old Theia Bryar knows she’s being kidnapped. What she doesn’t realize is that her abductor is taking her home. On an island inhabited by the Naturae, people who can control earth, air, fire or water, Theia learns why the sun always shines when she’s happy, while thunder answers her cries of anger. She is the daughter of Mother Nature, and has power over all four elements.

With humans desecrating the Earth, the Naturae have been deprived of seen their health and powers diminish. But Theia remains strong, thanks to her father’s human blood keeping the illness that grips the pure Naturae at bay. She’s the only one who can stop the devastation of nature, and has been brought back to the island to do just that.

Immersed in a new world, Theia’s thrilled to get to know her birth mother and learn how to harness the elements, from controlling the tides to conducting lightning. She’s quick to develop new friendships, while exploring a budding romance with Holt, a fascinating yet enigmatic islander.

Although she makes new friends on the island, But soon Theia discovers that life on the island is not as perfect as it seems. Not all of her friends can be trusted, Mother Nature forbids the distraction of a romance with Holt, and Theia misses the father and half-sister she left behind. And then she stumbles onto a terrible secret. Mother Nature doesn’t just want to heal the Earth— she wants to eliminate the threat of humanity completely. And she intends to steal Theia’s powers to do so.

EARTH EYES is a paranormal YA novel which puts a dark twist on the usual perceptions of Mother Nature. It is a standalone novel with series potential complete at 52,000 words.


Notes

I don't think the query is necessarily the problem. Dumping the red and using the blue might be an improvement. And might leave you room for a few sentences about how Theia plans to thwart Mother Nature. But the main problem may be the agents' belief that young adults won't consider a book in which Mother Nature is a main character all that alluring. Maybe if she were a goddess such as Themis or Pomona. Of course you wouldn't want Themis unless you changed Theia to Annie, which I recommend.

Or maybe this is more suited for younger readers. What makes this book too mature for a 12-year-old? Would everything be changed if Theia were 14? 

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23. Merry Christmas


Below are some of the funnier Christmas-related fake plots that have appeared in the Guess the Plot feature over the years. Mixed in are seven that turned out to be actual plots of minions' novels. Can you remember/guess which ones?


1. When “undocumented worker” Carlos Cruz shows up at the day labor pool on Christmas Eve, the only guy offering work is a pequeno duende with bells on his shoes. Driving the sleigh is no problem, but will Christmas be ruined when Carlos has to take a leak at 30,000 feet? The kid who asked for the jar of marbles will probably think so.

2. While following yonder star, the three wise men find themselves in Rome. Lost and confused, they must depend on a senile mapmaker to get them back on their path to destiny.

3. Charlotte has a thing for holidays. She poisoned the marshmallow chicks in her first husband's Easter basket, strangled her second husband with the ribbon from the Valentine's Day chocolate box, and suffocated her third with the helium balloons at his own birthday party. Now, as Christmas approaches, hubby #4 wonders why that package under the tree is ticking.

4. Every year, Carrie's creepy boss has groped and French-kissed her at the office holiday party. With the antidote in her hip pocket, she waits near the mistletoe and keeps her tongue away from her poisoned lipstick. By this time next year, she'll be the VP doing the groping.

5. Christmas at the estate of Lord Ajax was supposed to be the climax of this year's social season-- and the moment Lord Ajax proposes to her. But Clarissa discovers she is not to be the recipient of a marriage proposal, when she discovers her Ajax under the mistletoe, locked in the embrace of . . . her brother.

6. It's Christmas, and Christine has no one to spend it with--until she gets drawn into an international drug conspiracy by hunky doctor David McLeod. Now that she's found true love, can she stay alive long enough to enjoy it? Also, Johnny Cash.

7. What started as an innocent kiss at the Devorson’s posh Christmas party turns into an obsession that leaves a trail of bodies from New York to Nevada. Beautiful detective Mary Sky must find the X-mas Killer, following the clues he leaves her, before Christmas rolls around again and his knife finds her under the Mistletoe.

8. Kelly Coosman volunteered to work the kissing booth for the parish Christmas Gala…it was the least she could do after Father McElroy rescued her from the streets of Chicago. But she’s been on her feet for fourteen hours straight, smooching hundreds of nicotine-fouled old men with rotten yellow teeth, and she's thinking prostitution wasn't so bad after all.

9. Confident his parents won't be getting him a Christmas present, Nate runs away from home and moves into Wal-Mart. When a night security guard finds him and realizes he's the missing boy she read about in the newspaper, she sets up a tent, gets Nate a sleeping bag, and helps him set up a household. Hey, the place gets lonely at night.

10. Nerdish Ferdinand Turnbull postpones his search for his father in order to pimp for all the hos in Bethlehem.

11. Time traveler Giovanni intercepts the Magi outside of Bethlehem and replaces the frankincense with sensimilla, dooming Jesus to be forever pictured as a long-haired hippie.

12. A guy who pees on her boots. A porn-obsessed crybaby. A cheese thief. Sofia always seems to end up with losers. Her latest boyfriend has just given her her Christmas present: a crummy loaf of bread! Is this the final straw? Or is this what she gets for moving to LA? 

13. Something sinister is afoot when the insurance office does its Secret Santa drawing and everyone draws Lucretia's name. Lucretia gets 35 gifts -- and a bullet in the head. Only mailroom boy Clark Cooper can both solve the mystery and deal with the Returns office at Macy's.

14. Sunol, California, 1998. Jeff Dunley and Mark Morris are engaged in an all-out, take-no-prisoners, no-holds-barred war between their rival Christmas Tree farms.

15. The true story of what happened that fateful night when three rich, swarthy, lost travelers asked for directions to the stable, but could not speak Italian.

16. Papa regrets telling the Santa Claus at Macy's what he REALLY wants for Christmas . . . when he discovers Santa is really an undercover vice squad cop.

17. Christmastime, gentle snow falls, merry Santas, bludgeoned girls whose hair falls over their crushed skulls like strands of silver . . . it's just another day for Rudolph.

18. Secret Santa is all fun and games, until Hayley opens her package and finds a human hand. Should she report it to the cops or investigate herself? How hard can it be to spot someone who's missing a hand?

19. At Christmas, Mandi and Daniel each make great sacrifices in hopes of providing the other with happiness. Will their sacrifices tragically render their gifts useless? Or will a robot MAGIcally save the day with his Deus ex Machina appearance?

20. When the scarves Aya is knitting for Christmas presents start to fray, so does her mind - convincing her doctor that knitting and mental illness are linked. Can he prove it in time to save his wife, a knittaholic?

21. Abandoning his family on Christmas day is the only decent thing Jeffrey's done for them in years. At least he didn't take all the presents with him.

22. When Mark messes up his solo in the Christmas musical, his dad is so upset with him he crashes the family car into a gasoline tanker truck on a foggy bridge while driving home.

23. Bob's trip to the toy store to get little Timmy something for Christmas turns into an epic battle of good vs evil when the evil elf running the cash register slips him the magic kaleidoscope he stole from Wizard Ferkle, who is desperate to retrieve it before the Dark Threesome can get their grubby hands on it.

24. As a nonogenarian wraps Christmas gifts for each of her relatives, she reflects on things they and others have done to annoy her over the course of her long life.

25. Sick of his stressful job guarding a labyrinth, the Minotaur applies for a position pulling a sleigh. Can the taurine recluse learn to be jolly and get the job before Theseus finds him?


Answers below.



The actual plots are:

6, 9, 10, 12, 19, 21,  22

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24. The Evil Editor Film Noir Marathon


Having noticed that many TV networks are running marathons of such shows as Doctor Who, The Twilight Zone, etc. this week, I'm jumping on the bandwagon with a marathon of some of the Film Noirs that appeared here over the years. This isn't all of them, but it may be more than you can stomach.





















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25. Face-Lift 1291


Guess the Plot

Trinity

1. On a near-future Earth, one man must locate the three coins that fit into an ancient amulet, thereby acquiring the power needed to prevent the demon Ezerkial from stripping him of his title. Also, a cranky witch.

2. Sixteen-year-old Trinity is the daughter of the Queen of the Faeries, the Emperor of the Elves and the kitchen boy of the Tuatha de Danann. (Magic was involved.) Thanks to that same spell, only she can save the world when the 2,500-year-old Irish planetary shield develops a hole and aliens land in Nairobi.

3. Set at White Sands during the Manhattan Project, "Trinity" tells the forbidden love story of Dr Bill Overton and his assistant, Josef Makelshmidt.

4. Deter Brule gets a full ride music/dance/theater scholarship to Trinity College. When his impersonation of a celebrity for the ceremonial first pitch brings a record turnout for the season, the college starts using him for other events. College football will never be the same. 

5. Triplets Lee, Lei, and Lae hate being referred to as the unholy trinity--arson, blackmail, and counterfeiting are normal for kids their age. Then Lei is bitten by a vampire, Lae is bitten by a werewolf, and Lee is abducted by cultists thinking he's Bruce Lee incarnate. Poor cultists.

6. Fifteen-year-old Silvia is invited to the Mardi Gras masquerade party at the mansion on Basquem Hill, but she has measles. She goes anyway, with only a pillowcase on her head and a white sheet over her scanty pink nightie. But three of the partiers aren't disguised--the new owners: Dracula, Frankenstein, and the Wolfman. Ever seen a vampire with measles?

7. This groundbreaking mashup of Roman Catholic theology and classic humor opens with the Supreme Being, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit walking into a bar. Hilarity and epiphanies ensue.

8. Trinity is the last of a hermaphroditic race that were male, female, and the rare bemale. When a genetic-cleaansing robotic horde target him/her/gim, Trinity must find the tri-gem to restore order to the galaxy.




Original Version

Dear The Agent to Be Named Later

Dragons have emerged from seemingly nowhere. Witchcraft has become mainstream. [Those two sentences aren't needed. Having looked ahead and seen that you have two characters who are dragonslayers and one who's a witch, I can infer that dragons and witches exist in this time and place.]  Louden Ellery, Dragonslayer, rushes to help out a fellow slayer only to find he’s too late. Instead, he stumbles across an ancient amulet created to balance Light and Dark energies on Earth. [We don't need to know what he was doing when he found the amulet. Possibly we don't need to be told he's a Dragonslayer either, as this gives the impression we're in King Arthur's time, when dragons existed, rather than (having looked ahead) the near future.] Suddenly, a man of little faith finds himself the terrestrial Guardian of Yahweh’s and Satan’s power. [I note that we're capitalizing a lot of words that normally don't need it (light, dark, dragonslayer--but not slayer--, guardian. If this is just the Tip of the Iceberg, it'll get Annoying.]

The amulet’s power, however, is fractured. Three coins, [one] each provided by Yahweh, Satan and the Garden of Eden, respectively are missing. The amulet’s power and thus Louden’s will only be complete when all three coins have been returned to the amulet. Aided by a mysterious priest and a cranky witch, Louden begins a quest to find the coins before a group of murdering satanists and a demon, Ezerkial, with aspirations of world domination strip him of his title, a lifelong obligation. [I assume by "his title" you mean Guardian of Yahweh's and Satan's Power? Why isn't it Guardian of Yahweh's and Satan's and the Garden of Eden's Power? Not that I was crazy about the Garden being one of the providers of coins, but it was, so it should be given credit.] [Not clear what you mean by "strip him of his title." How come satanists have the power to strip the Guardian of his title? As they're "murdering" satanists, why don't they just murder Louden and take the amulet?]

Trinity is a hero’s journey set in the near future, chronicling Louden as he learns to control his new powers [His powers aren't complete without the coins, so what are these new powers he has right now?] and stop Ezerkial. It is my first novel. I have previously published a bi-monthly column and feature articles for a craft beverage periodical. [No need to tell us this, but since you did, I accept payment for services rendered in Samuel Adams Winter Lager.] [Also, lay off the suds when composing your revised version.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

Somewhere on Earth there are three coins that fit into this amulet, and he's supposed to find them? I'm worried that whoever had them accidentally used them in a vending machine.

I take it whoever previously had the lifelong obligation of guarding Satan's and Yahweh's power died? You'd think there'd be a system in place for that situation instead of the job going to whichever person stumbles across the amulet. Were the coins missing from the amulet when the previous Guardian had it? If so, why didn't Ezerkial make his move then? If not, how did they go missing?

If dragons emerged in the near future, and they needed slaying, I doubt the job would go to individual dragonslayers. We have more effective weapons that Sir Lancelot had. Or did you fail to mention that witches made all the weapons except lances and swords disappear?

I think we need to know what will happen if Ellery returns the coins to the amulet, and what will happen if he doesn't. We know his powers will be complete if he does and his title will be stripped if he doesn't, but that's pretty vague. If the coins aren't returned, does Satan have an advantage over Yahweh? Seems like it should affect both of them the same.

No need to answer all my questions, but perhaps you can clear up a few points so I don't ask as many questions.

Ezerkial sounds like you misspelled Ezekiel. As you use the real names Satan and Yahweh, why not Google a list of real demon names and choose one?

Out of curiosity, is the title "trinity" Yahweh/Satan/Garden or Ellery/priest/witch or the three coins?

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