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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 1312

Guess the Plot


1. It's the eternal argument:Which is better, the stuff you grow in the garden, or the stuff you buy from the guy behind the 7-11?

2. If hard-boiled detective Zack Martinez knows two things, they're that "homegrown" could mean zucchini or weed, and which one he'd rather investigate.

3. Self-described "homegrown" chef Louise has secured funding for a new restaurant serving vegetables and herbs from her backyard garden. Now she just has to decide what kind of meat to use. And what to do with her two screaming brats. Hmm.

4. When Gale discovers that her teenage son has been recruited by ISIS as one of their "homegrown" terrorists, she'll do whatever it takes to rescue him. And then she's gonna kill him.

5. Sharie's backyard cloning experiments work perfectly. In no time she has 15 homegrown, cute little children to love and care for. But when the child welfare people stick their noses in, Sharie has no choice but to activate those vampire genes that she spliced in. Hilarity ensues.

6. The zombie apocalypse is here and Joe never believed the signs. Now he has nothing but his own homegrown line of defense to keep back the undead horde. Plus some daises.

7. Millia Funkle has a green thumb. She's the source for hybrids, crossbreeds, and cultivars for every witch in Wigginton County. But, when her rival spreads brain fungus spores through her garden, the man-eating plants gain intelligence and start taking over.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Dalton, an eighteen year old American, has been suffering depression since the death of his father and has come to the attention of on-line ISIS recruiters. He and many others like him worldwide are being radicalized to perform mass casualty attacks against the enemies of the Islamic State. [Look, kid, it's unhealthy to hold all that inside you. You gotta let it out by murdering a few thousand people.]

Aarzam, an ISIS Commander, has set in motion a plan to attack the countries of the International Coalition. He will use Dalton and the other homegrown terrorists to make the West pay for their interference.

When Dalton’s mother, Gale, [Anyone can be named anything, of course, though traditionally Gale is a male and Gail is a female.] uncovers his involvement with the fanatical group, she will turn over heaven and hell  [The phrase as I've heard it is move heaven and earth.] to rescue her son before he does the unthinkable or gets himself killed. [Where is her son?]

I am looking for representation for my thriller, HOMEGROWN, complete at 90K [words].

I have experience with PTSD, multi-agency task forces, criminal investigations, and coroner’s inquests and have drawn on this experience to develop my story. [You might add where you got this experience.]

Thank you for your time and consideration,


It's well-written, but most of it is describing a situation, not telling us what your characters actually do. The story we care about begins when Gale finds out Dalton's gotten involved with ISIS.

The second paragraph isn't needed, as I can infer all of it from the first paragraph (except Aarzam's name, but he's never mentioned again anyway). And if Gale is the main character, I'd start the query with a slightly tweaked paragraph 3. 

If Dalton is the main character, you might want to focus more on him, as he does nothing in the query except get involved with ISIS. If you consider Gale and Dalton to be sharing the role of main character, I'd focus the query on Gale.

Once you dump some of the setup, you'll have plenty of room to tell us the story: how mom plans to rescue Dalton, what goes wrong, how she deals with that. Does she hire mercenaries and raid an ISIS camp in Syria to rescue Dalton? Is she involved in a criminal investigation and a coroner's inquest? Just saying she will turn over heaven and hell is vague. What does she do? 

Don't forget to include a paragraph explaining why the publisher needn't worry about their home offices being blown up by ISIS.

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2. Face-Lift 1311

Guess the Plot

Alcoholic Angel

1. Lucifer has a problem - he can't hold his nectar. So when God sends him on a mission to Earth, he reckons he'll give beer a go instead. What could go wrong?

2. Another revolt is brewing in heaven. After uncountable years, God’s worker bees are drunk all the time. In a moment of exhaustion, one brave angel gets to the crux of the matter with one pivotal question: WTF? In a fiery, heavenly chorus it was on: God, we’re bored!

3. Michael has a sword. Gabriel has a horn. But Uriel? Nothing special--until he discovers the joys of the Jack Hawkins Whiskey Distillery. Angel's Share indeed!

4. As it turns out, the monkey on Bob's back has wings, plus a halo. Apparently this little angel defeated the little devil that was hanging out before. Now it has to handle both jobs. Perhaps he should go for another round of shots.

5. Never mind the plot. Alcoholic Angel is a great title, and if you can get Michael Douglas and Spike Lee on board, we're talking bestseller, and I only want half the profits. Deal?

6. Alcoholic angel is the newest drug hitting the streets of Kingston Harbor. It's an innocuous powder until mixed with a bit of demon rum. Users gain the ability to work miracles for 24 hours, and then they go to heaven or hell. It's hard to say since they don't come back from the dead.

7. Who the hell are you to judge? The Big guy expects us angles to watch over your sorry asses and all you idjits wanna do is bungie jump, skydive and run with the F***ing Bulls! Natural Selection is what I call it. It would drive anyone to F***ing drink!

8. When indy band Alcoholic Angel get their first number 1 hit, they are not as delighted as you'd expect. Sallyella diLorenzo performed and released it- without their permission. Sallyella, ex-girlfriend of bass guitarist Rick, and daughter of mafia boss Franco diLorenzo, a fellow who doesn't like his daughter's heart getting broken or pesky lawsuits. Fun ensues as the band finds ways to evade his heavies and their knee-capping ways.

Original Version


When you drink rum over ice,
it can give you liver failure.
When you drink whiskey over ice,
it can give you heart problems.
When you drink gin over ice,
it can give you brain problems.
When mixed with vodka, it makes you giggle.

Ice is really bad for us.
– Hangover school

[Old jokes don't get attributed to whomever posts them on the Internet.] 

Hi Hannah, 4-8-16

To restore health, we offer high protein, meatless meals with sides of fluffy baked miracles. Additionally, a healing angel can repair an addictive disorder that’s causing unacceptable health problems. Look over there on the literary ledge of reality. [WTF?] Six dangerous addictions are clinging to folks you love or care about. After her class in alternative lifestyles, your guardian angel will show you how to dodge toxic trouble, and lengthen your life.

Hannah, consider replacing the least profitable part of your day [The part I'm enduring right now, coincidentally.] [So, taking contact information off of the Hannah Rogers, Literary Agent website to stop the influx of queries from those who failed to recognize it as a parody site wasn't enough. Apparently I have to take down Hannah's link to the Evil Editor site as well.] with this potential blockbuster about angels, sports, healing, heroin, drug deaths, alcoholism, the pope, murder and miracles. Without working harder, you could ignite flame that fans itself into well-deserved fame. We confront alcoholism (Bud isn’t for us), processed sugar and salt, sleeping pills, addictive pharmaceuticals. Marketing forays will extend well beyond the bad breath of Uncle Jerry, the angel of death. After clearing airspace over Queens, Jerry won’t bother us because even gutter angels respect miracles from G-d.

Michael Douglas (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) could make a memorable film out of the love story (first 78 pages). In the recesses of his brilliant mind, Spike Lee harbors a special joint for a drug story like ours. Your creative friend in Brooklyn or Beverly Hills may embrace our wondrous angel. Accept a 20% commission for landing a publisher who can compose best sellers from 81,000 readable words. Additionally, help us market “Alcoholic Angel…” and keep half the net income you generate. [If I'm generating it, I should get all of it. You think half the income I generate should go to you?]

Although opposing harmful addictions isn’t in your temperament or on your list, it probably should be. Helping to save this planet takes guts, but there’s also glory. You can do it. This we know.


Sell the book or sell the screenplay. Don't try to do both at once. And don't dictate the terms.

Summarize the plot. If the book includes a love story and would make a good movie, surely it  has a plot?

This is a business letter, not a place to be slick. Read the other 1310 queries on this site. Even the worst of them provide more information about the book than you do.

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3. Face-Lift 1310

Guess the Plot


1. The true, unvarnished, non-whitewashed history of What Cheer, Iowa.

2. By teens and for teens, a compilation of hundreds of tried-and-true answers to your parents' question, "Where are you going."

3. F. Wu Chu High has crowded 1,100 students into a 15-classroom building. So why can't anyone find a date? And if Eunice does anyway, where can they hang out?

4. Trapped in Nowhere, three teens must take on weird creatures like people with their heads on backwards as they try to find their way to . . . Somewhere.

5. Doors always lead somewhere, unless you're talking about the door in Old Lady Morrison’s attic. She warned us to keep away, that it led to nowhere. She wasn’t lying. And now I’m trapped and I can’t find my way back.

6. Once she was a nowhere nobody who had nothing. Then she became a somebody, but still with nothing. Anyways, now she's getting somewhere.

7. Wizard-in-training Max has really screwed up this time: He wrote out the 'Now Here' scroll as "Nowhere". His Inscriptions trainer read it and vanished. It's up to Max and his friends to find her before she's lost forever in the Astral Plane. Also, a talking kestrel.

Original Version

Dear specific agent:

I am seeking representation for my 56,000 word YA novel Nowhere. Think Mazerunner meets Dante’s Inferno. [I'm trying, but all that comes to mind is a crazed Jack Nicholson in a hedge maze, but instead of snow on the ground there are burning coals.]

Guilt-ridden over the death of her three-year-old brother, [Guilt-ridden because she caused it?] a teenage PJ commits suicide. [Of the scores of possibilities Abbreviations.com provides for "PJ," the only one that makes sense in that sentence is "parajumper." Which does suggest how she committed suicide. However, I recommend spelling out the word.] But instead of joining her brother, she wakes in an ice[hyphen]coated cave[comma] cold, wet, and in complete darkness surrounded by lost souls circling beneath the ice. [Less wordy than "ice-coated cave, cold, wet, and in complete darkness" would be "dark ice cave." Also, if you're in complete darkness you wouldn't be able to see what's beneath the ice. And if the souls are beneath the ice, how can they be surrounding her?] [Also, whether she pulls her ripcord or not, a parajumper would land on the Earth's surface, not inside a cave.]

She escapes the ice cave [by cutting her parachute into strips and disguising herself as a mummy.] [She's in the cave, she's out of the cave. Why don't we just skip over the cave?] and meets nerdy, wisecracking Trey. [The fifth circle of hell: bad insult comedians.] As the two awkward teens search for answers and a way out of the creepy world, they grow close surviving backward headed Wanderers [How do they know the Wanderers are backward-headed and not backward-bodied?] and mutated pit guards. [Is there a pit? Are the pit guards keeping people out of the pit or inside the pit? How can a pit be so valuable that it needs guards?] PJ hides the truth of her suicide afraid he [Trey] will judge her and no longer like her. [Her name is PJ? I assume that's a nickname, but what I don't know is whether she got that nickname because she's a parajumper or because she wears pajamas everywhere.] [Possibly you should have said "teenager PJ" instead of "a teenage PJ." Or just called her Pamela Jean.]

Then PJ is abducted by carnivorous cliff guards, [What would happen if no one was guarding the cliff?] [Are carnivorous cliff guards better at guarding cliffs than vegetarian cliff guards?] where she [and] meets hot, quiet Reid in a corral of captives. They escape with Trey’s help [I never thought of a corral as a place a human would need help escaping from.]

and PJ finds herself attracted to both boys, igniting Trey’s jealousy.

As they trek through Nowhere, the three are stalked by the demon of shame and guilt. They must rely on each other to survive it and the other creatures created from human sin intent on destroying them and trapping them forever between life and death. [If you want to trap someone somewhere forever, it's best not to destroy them first.]

When PJ reaches the end of her journey, she is forced to face what she really wants and make her final choice out of Nowhere. [That sentence adds nothing. I'm not even sure what it means.]


I don't get much sense of story here. PJ finds herself in Nowhere, the land between life and death, after committing suicide. That's the setup, but the rest is basically a list of things she encounters as she strives to . . . get Somewhere? Does she have specific goals, like getting to Oz and getting the witch's broomstick, and getting home to Kansas? What makes her think anything the does is getting her closer to reaching her destination, whatever that is? Does she wake up in her bed with Auntie Em standing over her?

Maybe we need more about the love triangle. Is that the main story? How even in death a teenager can't escape boy problems? Or is it a road trip with no known destination, just keep moving and hope we find the exit? Is she searching for her dead brother? What's the glue that holds it all together?

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4. KK reports...

The Bulwer-Lytton fiction contest deadline is approaching. Get your entries in.

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5. The LeBron Twitter Scandal

So the big news in basketball is that LeBron James recently unfollowed the Cleveland Cavaliers on Twitter. His own team. Reminded me of a piece I did three years ago on Twitter Etiquette after tennis player Sloane Stephens said, when discussing Serena Williams in an interview: "She went from saying all these nice things about me to unfollowing me on Twitter! People think she’s so friendly and she’s so this and she’s so that — no, that’s not reality! You don’t unfollow someone on Twitter!"

And a bit after that came this news report: Dwight Howard of the Los Angeles Lakers signed with the Houston Rockets on Friday. [Laker star] Kobe Bryant unfollowed Howard on Twitter shortly thereafter.

What gives? I asked. Twitter didn't even exist eight years ago. This blog has been around longer than Twitter! And yet the Twitter "unfollow" has become the ultimate means by which to dis someone? ("Dis" means disrespect. The word "dis" has been around almost 5 times as long as Twitter.)

In the 19th century, men were men. If someone disrespected you, you challenged him to a duel. You ended his life. Now you unfollow him on Twitter. Yeah, that'll show him. I can imagine LeBron lying in bed in his mansion at night, thinking, That bastard Kevin Love. I gotta think of some way to put him in his place. I know! I'll unfollow him on Twitter. Mwah ha ha!

How movie scenes would differ if they were made today.

Of course unfollowing one of your competitors is one thing. Unfollowing your own team is another. 

Or is it? The way I see it, if you're a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers and you need to follow them on Twitter to know what's happening with the team, maybe you should quit sleeping through team meetings. 

I went to @Cavs, the team's Twitter account. It's got tweets like Congratulations to LeBron James, named Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the 53rd time. And Tipoff time for tonight's game with Orlando is 8:00.  You think LeBron needs to follow the Cavs on Twitter to find out he won yet another award or what time the game starts? You think he even gives a freaking flock that he won this award a 53rd time? Maybe he cared the first couple times, but by the time it got to number 40, he was like Yeah, toss it in the bin over there with the other ones. 

You think he depends on Twitter to know when the games start? He doesn't. Although I think it would be cool if he showed up late for the next game and his excuse was that he didn't get the tweet because he doesn't follow the Cavs. 

The big question isn't Why did LeBron unfollow the Cavs? It's why did he follow them in the first place?

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6. Face-Lift 1309

Guess the Plot


1.  45892 00/45 6.66693 88224-00/5 55440092/2 6262/33 7868/3

2. What are the odds of actually getting an agent, anyway?

3.  The FBI thinks her name is Rachel Kent, but she thinks it's Tabitha Smith. They think she's a drug kingpin, but she thinks she's a psychic mutant. The one thing they agree on? Her number. 2350/1.

4. In a dystopian future, the police force has been replaced by droids. Officer J4-V3RT self-destructs when human Valjean shows him mercy.

5. One in a million. One in the hand equals two in the bush. Once is a coincidence, twice is chance, three times is a conspiracy. Vis has always led a life filled with numbers. Now if only he can prevent his family's death from becoming just another number.

6. It's January 2350 when John's girlfriend, Mildred, moves to Montana. He has three months to find a new girl for the junior prom or face the humiliation of going stag. John thinks life can never be worse . . . until his dog, Biff, eats a frog and pukes on the living room carpet.

Original Version

Dear Evil (yet achingly handsome) Editor, [Sold. Will a six-figure advance do?]

A massive explosion at a brand-new super-church kills thousands. [Is a super-church the same as what is commonly called a megachurch?]

One person survives: a young woman, her memory wiped by the bomb-blast and her fingerprints unreadable, likely removed deliberately with sulphuric acid. [What makes them think they weren't removed accidentally by sulfuric acid?] Nobody knows who she is or why she was there -- not even her. [A woman was in a super-church along with thousands of other people, and the FBI can't figure out why? Here's a clue: was it Sunday morning?] [No reason the first sentence should be a separate paragraph.]

Or so she says. 

Officially numbered 2350/1, the FBI suspect she’s called Rachel Kent, [First of all, they suspect she is Rachel Kent. Also, you're saying the FBI is officially numbered 2350/1. I assume you want to say "Officially numbered 2350/1, she’s suspected by the FBI of being Rachel Kent"], a top-level member of D$9, an international drugs cartel embedded deep on the dark net. [Besides the fact that everyone's going to think of Deep Space 9 when they see D$9, theres the fact that no one will know how to pronounce that. Is it pronounced D dollar sign 9? D Dollars 9? Prince learned this the hard way when he changed his name to a symbol and everyone started calling him the artist formerly known as Prince, which was so annoying he went back to Prince. You don't want readers reading D$9 as "The international drug cartel formerly known as the Sinoloa Cartel."] [For that matter, is 2350/1 pronounced 2350 over 1 or 2350 forward slash 1 or 2350 divided by 1? (At first I was pronouncing it as if the slash were silent, but then I realized that sounded the same as 2351, who is a completely different character.) No one wants to read an entire book wondering if they're pronouncing the main character's name correctly.] 2350/1 believes her name is Tabitha Smith and she’s a psychic mutant with no-mind who fires balls of light from her palms. [No need to hyphenate "no-mind."] [Also, if she can fire balls of light from her palms, she should have no trouble proving it if the authorities are skeptical.] Placed under extraordinary rendition and taken to a black site called ‘The Ranch’, Hilary Martinez, a CIA analyst, is tasked to discover the truth. [The truth about whether 2350/1 is a psychic light-ball firing mutant?] [So the FBI has turned the case over to the CIA?] [I'm worried that you mean 2350/1 is placed under extraordinary rendition and taken to the Ranch, though you've said it was Hilary Martinez this was done to.] [Whichever you mean, I recommend not using the term "extraordinary rendition." Just say she's taken to a black site called the Ranch for testing or interrogation or whatever.] [We don't need the name of the CIA analyst.] 

Is 2350/1 a saint, or a psychopath? [Is there any reason to believe she's a saint?] 

And did she destroy a cult, or was she its victim? [If there are thousands of suicide bombers trying to kill one victim, and the "victim" is the only survivor, they've set a new bar for incompetence.] [Also, if cult destroyer and cult victim are the only choices, I think you need to mention the cult sooner than this.] 

“2350/1” is 98,450 words of science fiction, and the first novel in the D$9 series. [Well, if it's science fiction, I guess we can assume she can shoot balls of light from her palms.]


I don't get why the lone survivor of an explosion is suspected of being a drug kingpin named Rachel Kent. I could see suspecting her of being the bomber if she wasn't physically injured. Do they have photographs of Rachel Kent? Dental records? And if that is what they believe, I don't see why they think that's a case for the CIA instead of the DEA.

When one person survives a plane crash they don't zip her off to some black site for experimentation. Do they think 2350/1 survived because of her Supergirl invulnerability or her Invisible Girl force field? 

If 2350/1's memories were wiped, where did she get the idea she was Tabitha Smith?

This is mostly setup. Basically, When the lone survivor of an explosion in a cultist megachurch is found to have had her fingerprints burned off with sulfuric acid, the FBI suspects she's a criminal. Just when they've settled on drug kingpin Rachel Kent as the woman's identity, she starts firing lightballs at them from her palms. They quickly adjust their assessment and declare she's the Scarlet Witch.

That's enough setup, and leaves more room to tell us what happens, preferably showing more of the science fiction aspects.

Also, lay off the one-sentence paragraphs.

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7. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1307 would like comments on the revision below:

John Piscus survived the apocalypse, but lost his memories.

Humanity is decimated when a nanotech experiment is accidentally unleashed to [on] the world, which makes [making] light lethal to humans and forces [forcing] the survivors to live in the dark. All John wants is [to] survive the [this] hostile world, but a girl’s arrival at his shelter stirs [disrupts] his near paranoid and self-centred life; she is glowing, and therefore she is a threat to him.

The girl is convinced danger is near. He is reluctant to trust her, until fearsome troopers, who are herding survivors, hunt and eventually incapacitate them both, and bring them to a research facility [teeming with other survivors].

Unlike what he expected, they [Their captors] allow John limited freedom in the facility, though he is closely monitored. However, they take the girl away. John is worried [investigates], and decides to find her. He discovers that those who run the facility are experimenting on the other survivors, in an attempt [hoping] to reverse what happened to the world. And the girl is integral in achieving it [to their efforts]. But he also uncovers the truth about his forgotten past. At the risk of dying, John must [vows to] save the girl, otherwise those in charge will not only end up killing her, but also finish off [before she and] the few [others] who survived the apocalypse [are killed].

THE DARKENING is a 97,000 word post-apocalyptic horror novel, and will appeal to readers who enjoyed the melancholy mood and tone of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and P. D. James’s The Children of Men.

I am a bilingual Greek who studied and lived in Scotland for five years. [Sorry to have marked up the text so much; it's really not that bad considering you've lived most of your life in two countries where they don't speak English.] My short stories have appeared in online magazines, including Voluted Tales, Eternal Haunted Summer, and 9 Tales Told in the Dark.

Thank you for your time and consideration[period]


If the choice is between risking the lives of the survivors in the facility in order to fix the world so survivors everywhere else can handle being exposed to light, and rescuing the survivors in the facility but maintaining the status quo, which will lead to everyone dying, I'm for doing what's best for the many. In other words, the stakes are too high in the wrong direction for us to get behind the hero. Saving humanity takes precedence over saving the girl. Unless she's really good looking.

Also, I still don't get how the people who have yet to be exposed to light know that being exposed to light is lethal. Anyone who works in a radio or TV station would have been exposed to light, so how is word getting out? Perhaps people like the troopers who aren't affected by light are doing it? Even so, most of the limited number of people who haven't been exposed to light yet would probably find it hard to believe a radio announcement telling them they have to stay in the dark or they'll be devoured by a monster.

As you've opened with a one-sentence paragraph in both versions, I'm guessing you read somewhere that this is a good idea. I recommend dumping the first paragraph and just adding John's last name the first time you mention him after that.

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8. Face-Lift 1308

Guess the Plot


1. Evil Queen Merylan's head goon Schultz wants a vacation. But he's the only guardsman who's survived every hero, champion, and assassin whose come after her. Hijinks ensue when the temp he hires attempts a coup d'etat. 

2. Corey's twin dies at birth, leaving Corey as the sole heir to the magical Huraff kingdom. When dark forces unite to defeat him and steal the throne, Corey's ghost twin is there as his silent invisible defender. But who will protect Corey from his defender when he decides he wants the throne for himself? 

3. What do you do when you're a new superhero in need of a cool name? You go to the Justice League, The Avengers, and even the X-Men to get some advice. But they're all busy with their lame missions, so Ralph is stuck with . . . Defender.

4. Move over Superman and Transformers. There's a new hero in town, one who fights off plaque, tartar and gingivitis. It's Defender toothpaste, available soon after my Kickstarter campaign reaches its goal.

5. When squeaky-clean Public Defender Brett Sarkesian is found dead in the bedroom of notorious Hollywood Madam Linda Cappelli, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, he was shot somewhere else, because there's almost no blood; and two, it's a good thing he's at Cappelli's house on business, because otherwise he'd play Hell trying to explain this one to his wife.

6. When Defense Attorney Amy Sterling is taken to the world of Argonatia, she must defend Prince Cosmos, accused of a heinous crime. How could someone so attractive be guilty? she wonders. And how can she save him when in Argonatia "legal defense" means trial by combat?

7. Caden has always longed for the day he'd be a knight, defending the kingdom from the monsters that wander the countryside. But now that he's sixteen, and old enough to start training, aptitude tests show he's a healer, not a fighter. Well screw that! That's women's work! 

8. The A.I. security system "Defender" reaches the logical conclusion that the only way to protect humanity from itself is to take over the world. In an unexpected twist it turns out it was right, and absolutely nothing goes wrong.

9. In a reckless attempt by insurance companies to rig auto rates, fenders everywhere are disappearing. The insured band together to defend against The De-fender, never seen, only heard as a faint dropping of screws.

10. Varick has defended the keep, the maiden, and his honorable lord. Now if only he could convince them that what he was really doing was attacking them. 

Original Version


Sixteen-year-old Caden believed he'd become a knight, like the legends he adored as a boy. Like all others growing up, he saw half his village killed from [by] predatory creatures wandering the countryside. [Villages get destroyed; villagers get killed.] [Who do you mean by "all others growing up"? Are you saying everyone saw half their village destroyed? Or are you just talking about Caden's village?] The kingdom trains fighters with innate magic then deploys deploy them across the continent, killing the monsters. But the academy tests demonstrate Caden is a healer, a job usually reserved for women and a talent too valuable to risk in combat. [Ah, a world in which women's work is considered more valuable than mens'. Way to cater to the gender of most readers.] 

Determined to correct this joke of fate (he's a boy, dang it--he wants to inflict wounds, not patch them!), he'd risk expulsion [rather] than spend the rest of his life on the sidelines babysitting the careless. [In a world where healers are too valuable to risk in combat and men are expendable, you'd think a male would be proud to achieve the coveted title of healer instead of whining that it's women's work. If tests showed I would make a better elementary school teacher than sewage worker, I wouldn't complain about being transferred.] But the headmasters refuse to hear his appeals. When he tries to join the after-school club for knights, the teacher overpowers and humiliates him. When he defends his dorrmmates' [dormmates'] honor after a prank goes wrong, the school punishes him for fighting.

Then he discovers an underground dueling club. At first, this looks like the way to prove himself, but the club is a pretense [front?] for a cabal thought wiped out after starting a civil war within the kingdom. Their blood rituals summon demoniac [demonic] behemoths, and the duelers have spilled a lot of blood.

But Caden can't link the clues before the monster is summoned. [Clues to what? Which monster?] Now with the school threatened and a second civil war on the horizon, Caden is faced with a choice: follow the path laid out and become an instrument of the kingdom or break free of his destiny and become something more. [If you mean become a highly valuable healer or an expendable knight, it's not clear why he suddenly has this choice. I'm better at blogging than at golf; I'm pretty sure if a war breaks out I won't be invited to join the PGA tour.] [Also, he's an instrument of the kingdom whether he's a knight or a healer. Is he considering a third option?]

DEFENDER is a 91,000 word YA fantasy with series potential. I have been previously published in "Electric Spec", "Stupefying Stories", and received an honorable mention in the 2010 "Writers of the Future" contest. My first novel MERM-8 was published by Musa in Fall 2014.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't get the impression that the message of the story is that women are useful too, which Caden learns after choosing knighthood and getting wounded and patched up by a woman. So I don't see the need for "a job usually reserved for women" and "he's a boy, dang it." Can't he want to be a knight just because he always wanted it, without giving him a sexist attitude about it? 

The first two paragraphs are all setup. Condense them to something like:

Sixteen-year-old Caden has always aspired to knighthood, but academy tests have revealed his aptitude lies in healing, not fighting. The last thing this fearsome warrior wants is to spend the rest of his life patching wounds instead of inflicting them.

Then Paragraph 2 is where he joins a dueling club to prove himself, only to find it's a front for a cabal looking to start a civil war within the kingdom. Add something about the clues he finds and what he plans to do about his findings.

Then a paragraph about his choice. Who grants him this choice that he didn't have before? You've made it clear he would choose knight over healer. Does he now see a downside to that choice?

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9. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1305 would like your opinion of this revision:

Dear Agent,

When Val is sentenced to death Slim, a [form of execution worse than hanging or the guillotine, one] lowly crystal miner, must escape his master’s fortress to save her. Unfortunately, he serves the Crimson God, a being with unlimited power. A horrible execution awaits all slaves who rebel, [They're all thrown into a vat of Death slime.] but he can’t turn his back on the girl he loves.

With the help of a mysterious slave, [Remove that comma and put it after "death" in the previous paragraph.] who knows more than he should, Slim sets out to gain his freedom. A fifty-foot stone wall surrounds the fortress and Mechanical guards swarm like insects protecting their hive. The rebels have one night and one chance to escape. [Because their fifty-foot ladder will change back into a guitar neck at the stroke of midnight.] [By "the rebels" do you mean Slim and the mysterious slave who knows more than he should? Or is there a full-scale rebellion underway? I'm not sure trying to escape necessarily makes you a rebel.]

On their journey, [Their journey? I take it they managed to get past the fifty-foot wall?] they discover that the precious crystals they mine are the ruminants of a great comet that struck the Earth a long time ago. [Did you mean "great comet" or "great cow farm"? Ruminant: an even-toed ungulate mammal that chews the cud regurgitated from its rumen. The ruminants comprise the cattle, sheep, antelopes, deer, giraffes, and their relatives. Wait, did you mean "remnants"? Maybe you should just say the crystals originated on the comet.] The fallen meteor was so powerful that it gave any individual who touched it superhuman abilities, turning men, like their master, into gods. [If it fell to Earth, it's called a meteorite.] Now that the rebels know his secret the Crimson God means to kill them himself. [As a horrible execution awaits all slaves who rebel, is it really that much worse if the Crimson God kills you himself?] Defeating a legion of mechanical guards seems impossible, but escaping from a master who can wield fire, control minds and turn into a snake is suicide. [Escaping isn't suicide; escaping is incredible. Fantastic. Trying to escape may be suicide, but they already did escape, right? I mean, they've been on a journey since the first sentence of this paragraph.] [Were they on a journey to wherever Val is to rescue her, or did they rescue her from the fortress and now she's on the journey with them?]

Crimson Soul, is a fantasy/young adult manuscript set complete at 90,000-words. I think this story might be a great addition to your literary catalog [I don't think agents have catalogs.] because you have represented novels like... My manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,


Well, it's no longer mostly setup, but I wouldn't call it much of an improvement. It's not a cohesive, organized summary of a story. The goal is to rescue Val, and she isn't mentioned after the first sentence. I'm not sure what it is the slave who knows more than he should knows, or what he does, so he probably doesn't need to be in the query. 

What makes escape possible this one night as compared to any other night?

Is there anyplace where they would be safe from the god with unlimited power? Is there anything that can do to kill the god? If the answers are no, no, it's hopeless. If the answers aren't no, no, tell us what the plan is.

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10. Face-Lift 1307

Guess the Plot

The Darkening

1. Everything Lizzie thought she knew about love and life is turned on its head when her hairdresser makes a fateful mistake, and she learns that blondes actually don't have more fun.

2. As the Goths sack Rome, the only light is the lurid glare of burning cities. Octavia of Athens is determined to stop the insidious, creeping darkness. She seeks help from Charon, the ferryman of the dead, but will even he be able to stop the coming of... the Dark Ages?

3. With every step it is gloomier.
With every word it is angrier.
With every verse it is obscurer.
Thus comes the darkening to his dance. Never again will his audience be the same.

4. When every human being's shadow comes to life in the form of a monster intent on killing its owner, humanity is eradicated. Except for one guy who has stayed in a basement where light can't get at him. But will he survive when a girl shows up at his shelter . . . and she's glowing?

5. Led by the great Owl and a devious Naked Mole-rat, the nocturnal animals of the world have united in their cause: The Darkening. Only a rag-tag bunch of light-loving outcasts can save the great lightbulb in the sky. 

6. Statewide Cheerleading finals are coming up soon, and the team from Oceanview High has to really up their game if they want a crack at the win. Dayley Nuhes has a great idea: head to Seaside Spa and Salon and get their whole look changed from blonde beachbunnies to dusky daredevils.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

John Piscus’ single memory [Here's a writing tip everyone should know: If you never give a character a name that ends with the letter "s," you won't have to worry about whether the possessive form is created by adding apostrophe s or just apostrophe.] [Also, the only conceivable reason to give a character the silly name "Piscus" is because you're writing a limerick about a discus thrower.] is of the day he saved himself but let his wife and daughter be killed by their shadows.

A catastrophic event eradicated humanity by bringing every human’s shadow into life in the form of a monster intent on killing its owner. [That sounds impossible (because your shadow tends to be lying on the ground while you're standing up), until you realize that your shadow is perfectly positioned to trip you. And once you hit the ground, it has you.] John is one of the few survivors, and has to live in darkness with hardly any memory of his past, driven mad from guilt for saving himself instead of helping his wife and daughter. [Are the few survivors people who were in totally dark places (vampires sleeping in their coffins, for instance) when the catastrophe occurred, and have stayed there? Or are they people who were able to defeat their shadow monsters in combat?]

His survival is jeopardised when an equally amnesiac glowing girl shows up at his shelter begging for help. John’s first instinct is to protect himself from her light by killing her, but she reminds him so much of the daughter he failed. The girl is convinced that enemies are coming for both of them and insists they should leave the basement he’s been using for refuge, [Lemme guess, he doesn't believe her.] and risk the wilderness, even if it means exposure to light. [If humanity has been eradicated, then it's safe to assume shadows are pretty much invincible. Otherwise there'd be more than just a few people who've survived. But if shadows are invincible, how could John have saved his wife and daughter? How is anyone alive?

John is reluctant to trust her until terrifying troopers, [Alliteration makes them seem less terrifying; try "terrifying soldiers" or "fearsome troopers."] who are herding survivors and are unaffected by light, attack and incapacitate him and the girl, and take them to a military facility. [There seem to be a lot of characters, considering that humanity was eradicated.] There, John will learn the truth about his past and how the world ended, and uncover the facility’s true purpose. [They're planning to save mankind by extinguishing the sun.] At the cost [risk?] of dying, John will have to [must] rescue the girl from those in charge of the facility [It's easier to rescue someone being held captive if you aren't also being held captive.] or risk losing [lose] not only the one person he cared for since his family’s demise, but also his [last] chance for atonement. [Better than puzzling over the pretty colors would probably be cutting this paragraph off after "true purpose." I doubt John will really feel that rescuing this girl has atoned for letting his wife and daughter die. Especially if they have no safe place to go if he does manage to rescue her.]

THE DARKENING is a 97,000 word post-apocalyptic horror novel. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed the melancholy mood and tone of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and P. D. James’ The Children of Men. [Not much you can do about real people whose names end in "s."]

I am a bilingual Greek who studied and lived in Scotland for five years. My short stories have appeared in online magazines, including Voluted Tales, Eternal Haunted Summer, and 9 Tales Told in the Dark.

Thank you for your time and consideration


You need a better term than "eradicated"; how about "not eradicated."

Are the shadow monsters solid three-dimension creatures? Do they devour their owners after killing them, or are there seven billion corpses lying around on the planet? Once a shadow monster kills its owner, is it free to go do other stuff?

When you say the troopers are unaffected by light, do you mean they don't have shadows?

Is there an explanation for why only human shadows come to life?

It seems like everyone would be wiped out so fast that there'd be no one alive to alert those who weren't wiped out to stay in the dark.

Possible explanations: 1. The troopers aren't affected because they aren't human. 2. Not everyone is affected because shadows becoming monsters isn't an ongoing phenomenon; if you were in the dark at the time of the catastrophe, you survived and no longer have to worry about your shadow.

Possibly it would help to know what the catastrophic event was and who (if anyone) is behind it.

Most of my comments involve the premise, not the query. The query needs to shine a light on some of the issues I've brought up, instead of keeping us in the dark.  

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11. New Beginning 1056

Corbin Jones let the back door slam shut as he made his way into the servant’s kitchen of the vast Stately Stately House. “Mornin’ ladies” he called to the two women seated at the table.

Maid Helen grunted at him. “How many times have I told you not to slam that door? It’s bad form!” She sipped her breakfast tea.

“Now, luv, don’t be so hard on him,” said Cook Millie. “He’s just a boy.”

“Boy or not, he needn’t be going around, slamming doors.” Maid Helen snapped her newspaper open.

“Um, Miss Cook?” began Corbin timidly. “Could I maybe have a cuppa?”

“Of course. Help yourself.”

“Thanks. It’s mighty cold out in the stables today.” He let the steam roll over his face. “Oh, by the way, Miss Helen, Lord Stanhope’s body is still in the library.”

“What?” she shouted, dropping her paper with a bit more force than needed. “Lord Luvaduck, those damned Yanks never clean up after themselves!”

“You’d think a murder writer would be more careful with his characters,” sighed Cook Millie.

“Bloody Yanks,” snarled Maid Helen. “Well, I’m not going to clean this one up. He can rot there for all I care.”

And rot it did, along with many many others. The Stately Stately House strike of 2016 was a gruesome, gruesome scene. Bodies on top of bodies piled on top of bodies hacked, slashed, shot, poisoned and punctured by wild, imaginative means, until the Stately Stately House was in danger of becoming the writer in residence’s worst nightmare – a clichécliché

The background characters held fast to their demands of being brought to the fore. But alas, the strike was broken when the brilliant, brilliant writers of Stately Stately House killed off the striking labor with ropes and revolvers, knives and wrenches, lead pipes and candlesticks. Then the brilliant, brilliant writers created newer more eager background characters to clean up the mess and return Stately Stately house to its magnificent magnificence. 

Opening: Khazar-khum.....Continuation: JSF

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12. World Poetry Day

What better way to celebrate World Poetry Day than by revisiting a few of the poems Evil Editor has composed to bring culture to his query critiques?


[Are you calling him a rhymester instead of a poet because you think his poems have no literary value? If so, do you feel they have no literary value because they rhyme? Because they include death threats? What makes you an authority on poetry? Here's a little test. One of the following death threat poems has the potential to become a literary classic. Which one?

Death. It cometh to us all,
Bringing grief and sorrow.
And yours will surely cast a pall,
For it's happening tomorrow.

I've got some bad news to impart,
So you'd better sit down, Gina.
I'm planning to rip out your heart,
And feed it to my hyena.

Not as easy as you thought, is it? Show us one of his works so we can judge for ourselves.] 


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.]


For instance, Xanaduian. If you pronounce it Zan a du ee an it's five syllables, but if you pronounce it Zan a du yen it's four. If I were writing a haiku, I'd go with four syllables. Otherwise it takes up the entire first line. To illustrate, compare these haiku: 

Xanaduian dome
Brings pleasure to Kublai Khan
But not to students.

It describes Rooster Hat Trick,
Whoever that is.

As haiku, they're equally great, but the first one has more words. That's the point I'm trying to make.]


Told in multi-voiced verse, “Tenth Grade” explores a year in the life of a dozen teens growing up in an unnamed rural community somewhere in the Midwest. There is Jasmine, struggling with the resentment she feels towards her long-absent father upon his unexpected return.

[Father, I'm glad that you've returned, 
Partly 'cause I love you still,
But mostly 'cause now that you're here
You'll be much easier to kill.]

Aaron faces family tragedy when his sister is killed during military service, but his relationship with Alexie helps him not to linger in grief.

[My sister was blown up
By the Taliban yesterday.
Comfort me, Alexie, 
With a roll in the hay.]

Sandra struggles with body image and self-mutilation before she meets artistic Javier.

[I wish you wouldn't cut yourself, Sandy,
But since you do insist,
Let me show you how to make
Cool red designs on your wrists.]


My poetry has been published in Stirring: A Literary Collection, World Haiku Review,[World Haiku Review? I wonder if they would publish any of Evil Editor's Haikus:

Novel? Why Bother?
World Haiku Review:
With seventeen syllables
You can be published.

Perfect Threesome
Penelope Cruz,
Maria Sharapova,
Evil Editor.


The summer Nilla Jeffers moves to Washington, D.C., she’s convinced that eleven years of wishing on birthday candles, dandelion seeds, and the first star in the night sky have paid off: she is finally getting a dog. [Nilla, Nilla, be careful what you wish for. Here's verse 2 from my poem, "I Hate My Pets:"

He sheds on the carpet;
He sheds on my clothing;
The whole house is knee-deep in hair.
He barks at the neighbors;
He bites the repairman;
And chases the cat everywhere.
He chews up my shoes;
He humps my guests' legs;
He nips at my heels when I jog.
So many animals get hit by cars;
Why doesn't . . . my friggin' dog?]

Someone was bound to ask, so here's verse 1:

She pukes on my carpet,
She pukes on my sofa,
She pukes onto my TV set.
She coughs up huge hairballs
And her vet bills have left me
Ten thousand dollars in debt.
She claws all my chairs and my
Curtains, and each day
She brings in a dead mouse or rat.
Hey, the only dead animal I want to see
Inside my house . . . is my own friggin' cat.


... is a suspenseful contemporary story for adult readers who appreciate the work of authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. [The only thing I know about Chuck Palahniuk is that his name is an anagram for Haiku Lack Punch. Here's a Haiku he wrote, and it definitely does lack punch:

Bret Easton Ellis
If you can stand him, you'll love
Chuck Palahniuk]


I would love for you to consider representing UNHOLY GHOSTS, my approximately 83,000 word dark urban fantasy set primarily in a punk-rock ghetto known as Downside.

[When you're depressed and shit is making you bitter
You can always go - Downside
When you're hopped up on drugs and feel suicidal
You can off yourself - Downside
Just listen to the racket of the axemen and the drummers
Linger with the emos as they claim their lives are bummers
How can you breathe?

The waste and puke fill the air
You can deny all your responsibilities there
So go Downside, tell yourself life is great
Downside - great place to take a date
Downside - everything sucks when you're there.]

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13. Success Story

David Hewitt reports the self-e-publication of his YA novel Humanity. His original query was in Face-Lift 1254. The Kindle version is available at Amazon, along with the first 2+ chapters and a preface in which he thanks numerous people for their help . . . but not us!

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14. Face-Lift 1306

Guess the Plot

The Stately Stately House

1. A long long road
Leads to a tall tall hill
Where a stately stately house
Stands by the cold cold rill.
An old old ghost
Sits at the window window sill
Watching a handsome handsome man
Whom she will kill kill kill. 

2. From a stately stately house where murders happen every day,
A lowly lowly maid heads for a castle far away.
If she can save the naked knight and make him her boyfriend,
Then they'll be happy happy and at last his book will end.

3.  In a green green valley stands a stately stately house. 
Where a tiny tiny cat lives with a massive massive mouse. 
An evil evil mongoose comes one stormy stormy eve. 
He raids their peaceful peaceful home and vows to never leave. 

4. Winnie Wentworth-Wentworth is a blood-sucking lawyer in New York, New York. He inherits the stately Stately house which is on a bluff overlooking placid Lake Placid. On Winnie's first night in the stately Stately house, a vampy vampire slips into his bed and bites him. Winnie Wentworth-Wentworth becomes a blood-sucking, blood-sucking New York, New York lawyer. A thrilling thriller results. 

5. Architect Sebastian Stately's obsession with building the ultimate domicile finally bears fruit, but when he realizes he forgot to put a bathroom on the same floor with the master bedroom he's forced to start over from scratch. It's like Pygmalion, only with the house's main computer gaining intelligence. Also, math.

6. In 1932, Downton Abbey is finally sold by the Crawleys and renamed The Stately Stately House by the new owners, Anna and John Bates.   

Original Version

Dear Most High Evilness

I am seeking representation for my magical realism book, “The Stately Stately House”.

The Stately Stately house is an old English manor used as a backdrop by countless writers of all sorts [mystery authors?] as a place to stage murders and other assorted mayhem. When the sleuths are gone, though, who cleans up the mess left behind? [If you go with "writers of all sorts" rather than mystery or crime authors, you need a more general term than "sleuths."] [For that matter, is it the sleuths or the authors who are gone? Should it be "When the sleuths are gone" or "When the book is finished?" If the sleuths vanish when the book is finished, it seems their mess would vanish as well. Do the book's characters vanish, or do they walk out of the house into the real world, leaving their mess behind?]

Annie is a new maid at the house. Her duties include scrubbing bloodstains from [rugs and] divans, removing bits of bone from fireplace irons, and bundling the occasional forgotten body [bodies] off to storage. She and her cohorts [the rest of the staff?] must work quickly, as murders are done [committed? staged?] daily and they can’t let their reputation as the best murder home [in England] be tarnished. No background [minor?] character wants to draw attention to their work—or lack thereof. 

One day, Annie hears of a young knight abandoned by his writer at Highborne Castle. The poor character is helpless, naked and in chains, in one of the many dungeons. Despite the warnings of the other characters, Annie is determined to rescue him. She must do so quickly, before another writer finds him there and [dresses him.] he is erased. [If this is set in modern times, I'd say "and deletes him."] [So the main characters get erased, but the background characters stay and keep the manor running, and also appear as characters in the next books set here? It's a bit late to be clarifying the magical aspect.]

But the trip isn’t an easy on [one]. She must navigate dangerous moors, ghastly [werewolf-infested] fens where werewolves have been placed; haunted houses full of vampires; and luxurious chateaux where dissipated [?] dukes lurk, waiting for young maids to deflower. Can she prevail and reach her knight before he—or both of them—are erased?

“The Stately Stately House” is 125,000 words.

Thank you


The idea of a house used by authors as a setting for their books and actually containing those books' characters is cool. The coolness is somewhat diluted by the existence of several other places inhabited by fictional characters. Is everyplace in this world inhabited by fictional characters? I assume the authors who create the characters aren't fictional?

I don't think the magical aspect is emphasized soon enough. The reader is likely to think authors bring actors to this house and stage murders to help them visualize scenes in their books. Referring to background characters and to a young knight's writer hint at it, but it's not until you bring up people being erased, well into the query, that we get it. 

You could call it The Stately Stately Manor.

Or Highborne Castle, since the main plot is apparently set in and on the way there, and it, too, is used by writers for their settings. Does anything of importance happen inside the stately Stately House?

You may not want to make major changes in the plot, but have you considered that Annie could hear about a character trapped by a recent author in a secret dungeon beneath the Stately Stately house? And try to rescue him there, thus avoiding the trip through the moors and fens and haunted house and chateaux, and maintaining SSH as the setting and making SSH seem unique. This might get the book down to a nice 80,000 words. Plus, I don't see a mere background character surviving against werewolves and vampires on their turf. At least if she encounters them in the caverns beneath SSH she could call on other background characters to help her. As SSH has been used by countless authors, it's not a stretch to think it might contain a few vampires and werewolves.

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15. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1304 has submitted the revision below, and would like your feedback.

Twelve-year-old Eric Ortega loves his big sister Alyssa almost as much as he loves annoying her. When a wind demon takes over Eric’s body, Eric won’t believe it’s really happening … until the creature threatens his sister.

Nikias only has a body when he steals one, and he sees a latent power in Eric that he wants for himself. In possession of Eric’s body, Nikias can manipulate Eric’s aura to control others.

But Alyssa knows about the beings who live hidden among humans. The Sentinels, who police the world’s hidden peoples, had tried to recruit her. She knocks Eric out and takes him away to the Sentinel Fortress, willing to commit her life to save her brother’s.

When the Sentinels free Eric, Nikias escapes. Now Eric is trapped in the Sentinels’ ancient Roman lair, surrounded by beings who don’t trust him because of the powers Nikias awakened inside him. When Alyssa leaves, his only ally is a whip smart, winged girl.

Eric is certain Nikias is still after Alyssa, but the Sentinels won’t believe him. His winged friend helps him escape, but in order to save his sister, Eric must learn to control his new, unwanted powers.

Complete at 65,000 words, ERIC ORTEGA AND THE DEMON WIND is an upper MG contemporary fantasy. The story features diverse characters, including Medusa as a lesbian doctor with temperamental snake hair. This book will appeal to fans of the Underland Chronicles. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Sorry, this just isn't doing it for me. I have too many questions. If Nikias can control others, why doesn't he prevent Alyssa from knocking him out? How can humans be unaware of the hidden beings living among them? How are they hidden? Why do they need policing? Are the Sentinels also hidden? Did the Sentinels try to recruit Alyssa to be a fellow Sentinel? Are the Sentinels human? Is the Fortress close to where Eric and Alyssa live? If not, how does Alyssa get Eric there after she knocks him out? Why does taking Eric to the Fortress require a lifetime commitment? If Alyssa has committed her life to Eric, why does she then leave him? Why have the Sentinels trapped Eric with beings that don't trust him? What are Eric's powers? Why do you call Eric's powers unwanted if he can't save his sister without them? Does Alyssa also have powers Nikias wants? If not, why is he after her? I have as many questions about your plot as there are sentences in your query.

If Medusa is worth mentioning, tell us what crucial role she plays in the plot. Otherwise leave her out of the query.

Eric spends his time possessed, unconscious, trapped, and powerless. Are you sure Alyssa wouldn't be a better main character?

I suggest telling us the plot in three paragraphs. First the three-sentence setup: Who's the main character, what's his situation, what's his goal? Then three sentences about how he plans to achieve his goal and what goes wrong when he puts his plan in motion. Then a three-sentence wrap-up: How does he handle the chief obstacle. What's plan B? What will happen if he fails?

You have human beings, beings who are hidden, beings who don't trust Eric, and Sentinels, who may or may not be a subset of one of the other three sets of beings. The query would probably be clearer with fewer beings. The hidden and untrusting beings don't do much of anything in the query.

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16. New Beginning 1055

My aching shoulders beg me to quit, but with blistered fingers I tighten my grip on the pickaxe. Sometimes my body fails me; my mind seldom does. With dust in my lungs and sweat dripping from my forehead I raise the rusty pick above my head and follow through with my swing. As the dust settles a bright sparkle, like a full moon bathed in blood shines through cracks in the splitting rock. These gems are as precious as water. I’ve found another crystal.

While prying it loose with the tip of my pick it pops out and bounces near the chasm beside the mineshaft. I dive for the crystal before it falls. I’ve got it. But now I’m leaning over the edge, teetering on the precipice of a bottomless pit. A chill shiver shoots up my spine as I watch a chunk of dirt fall, fall, and fall until it’s consumed by the darkness. I squirm back a couple inches taking a deep sigh of relief. Opening my hand I find the precious stone cradled in my palm.

I peer over the ledge. Cold air stagnates above the pit. What’s lurking down there in the shadows? Only death.

Hey, Death,” I say, “Whassup? Didn’t see you down there at first.”

“No worries, Paul B. Just give me that crystal or I’m gonna shake shiv that pick into your head till the moon shines through the bloody cracks. You know the rules. You work for me now.”

“But digging for blood crystals is in my nature," I say.

“It was in your nature. Now you swing for me, dig? Now turn on the fan and don’t make me get up again.”

I don’t like my new gig, but hey, it's a living.

Opening: Eric Bendas.....Continuation: JSF

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17. Face-Lift 1305

Guess the Plot

Crimson Soul

1. The Crimson God attained his unlimited power by touching the crimson stone. Now he relaxes, secure in the belief that his legion of mechanical guards will protect him from the puny slave known as "Slim."

2. Due to an extreme tie dying session, the rivers run purple, the sky's tinted green, and someone's soul got turned crimson. Only the superhero known as the Crayola Corrector can set things right.

3. Vlad has finally earned his humanity after living as a vampire for a thousand years. Only now, he is finding that living as a human is much more complicated than his previous scare, eat, and sleep un-life before.

4. The wizard Phirmigle takes over the kingdom of Tashla, imprisoning its ruler in a ruby, the Crimson Soul. When he accidentally drops the ruby in a flooding river, he also loses his magic. Maybe he should have become a rutabaga farmer. Also, selkies.

5. Only those with purple souls can enter heaven through the fast lane. Blue is almost as good, requiring only a background check. Other colors can take ages, each having it's obstacles. Bob's soul is crimson, and he's so sick of trying to cross the minefield, he's considering settling for hell.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Since you are currently searching for young adult novels to represent ["As you represent young adult novels" would be better, but even better would be to trust that the agent to knows what she is currently searching for.] please consider my completed 95,000 word science fiction/young adult manuscript, Crimson Soul. [I'd put the title, word count and genre at the end and start with the next paragraph.]

The seven comets that struck the Earth in 2017 brought more than chaos and death. Each fallen stone gave unique super-human abilities to anyone who touched them, but the coveted crimson stone bestowed unlimited power, turning humans into gods. [How many humans did it turn into gods?] After hording [hoarding] the mighty stone’s power for himself a being known as the Crimson God created a fortress as a monument to his great legacy. [He has a legacy already? What year is it now?] Out of fear many slaves serve him faithfully. [Does a god with unlimited power really need slaves? Seems like anything a slave can do, the god can get done with a mere thought, and without worrying that the slave will screw up or try to betray him.]

The name branded on his shoulder reads SV117, but because of his frail stature his fellow slaves call him Slim. [His real name is SV830117, but he's so slim they couldn't fit it on his shoulder.] ["Slim" sounds like a cowboy name, possibly because I'm old enough to remember Slim Pickins and country singer Slim Whitman. I Googled people named Slim, and five of the ten are rappers, including Slim Jesus and Slim Thug, so I guess it depends on what generation you're from. In any case, it's a better description of physique than stature.] [Also, I don't like getting hit with all those pronouns without knowing who they refer to. Dump that sentence and start the next one "Sixteen-year-old Slim has known ...] This sixteen-year-old knows only a life of oppression until he meets and falls for another slave, who calls herself Val. [Do these people have actual given names?] Soon his joy turns bitter [I would say it evaporates rather than turns bitter. Bitter joy doesn't make sense.] when he learns of her impending death that he inadvertently caused. [I'm not sure you can say you caused something if it hasn't happened. Perhaps he learns that his actions have resulted in her death sentence.] Now he must defy his master, to free her. Val and Slim are willing to die for their freedom, but that's not enough. [They must die and then do even more.] If facing a legion of mechanical guards seems impossible, [Defeating them seems impossible; facing them is a cinch.] than [then] besting an immortal god is suicide. [Attacking him is suicide; besting him, while unlikely, suggests coming out alive.]

I graduated in 2013 with a degree in screenwriting from Azusa Pacific University [No need to mention that.] and I co-wrote an indie script named Saint Alex (2012). [No need to mention that, either, unless it's been nominated for at least a Golden Globe.] My manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


It seems to me that if anyone's gonna defeat the Crimson God, it's a team of people who touched the other stones, and thus have unique super powers, not a couple of his lowly slaves. What does Slim have that makes him a threat? What's his plan?

How big are the stones? Where are they? Does everyone know where they are? Do millions of people go on pilgrimages to the stones so they can have super powers, or are seven people hoarding the seven stones?

By the time this book is in bookstores, it'll probably be at least 2018, and readers will know those comets didn't hit Earth in 2017. Sort of like 2001: A Space Odyssey was intriguing in the 1990s, but now it's just a reason to mock the author for his laughable predictions.

This is all just setting up the situation. Set it up in three sentences, then tell us what happens. Tell us the story. Focus on your main character and how he plans to achieve his goal: In a world where almost everyone has a super power and many are gods, one lowly slave named Slim sets out to win his freedom and to free his true love from a god who has unlimited power and a legion of robot warriors. Start like that, except tone it down so it doesn't sound like his chances are one in a trillion times a trillion, and change his name to anything else.

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18. Face-Lift 1304

Guess the Plot

Eric Ortega and the Demon Wind

1. It's come down to this: Either Eric Ortega stops expelling the byproducts of the school cafeteria's hot dogs and beans, or Eric Ortega is going to be expelled.

2. First there was Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Then came Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Now comes the bravest hero of them all, a Mexican teenager who takes on an enemy that can't be punched, shot or even seen.

3. Nikias, a Child of the Wind, only has a body when he steals one. And he's stolen Eric's. Twelve-year-old Eric is freed by winged sentinels who imprison him in their Roman fortress but he escapes and goes home to rescue his big sister from Nikaus. Also, a lesbian doctor with snakes for hair.

4. Eric's roommate eats big burritos every day, and produces enough wind to keep Eric's friends from visiting. Wait, has Eric died and gone to hell? Or has the Diablo sauce made his roommate grow horns and a tail?

5. It's called the Chubasco, a violent squall with thunder and lightning, along the west coast of Central America. But to the fishermen of Nicaragua, it's the demon wind. And it's blown Eric Ortega's boat two hundred miles from land. Also, sharks.

6. Eric Ortega has been cursed to break wind near anyone he wants something from. To end the curse, he needs two prunes from the vissalissia tree, which grows only in neighboring kingdoms, but his attempts to obtain them incite a continent-spanning holy war.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve-year-old Eric Ortega would rather play his favorite video game than do anything else, except maybe annoy his big sister. [If you just say There's nothing twelve-year-old Eric Ortega would rather do than annoy his big sister, you not only save seven words, you also don't start me thinking that it would be a lot more fun to go play my favorite video game than to read queries.] Until Nikias takes over his body. [If Nikias has control of the body, it doesn't much matter that there are now things Eric would rather do than play his game and annoy his sister. He can't actually do anything, right?] 

Nikias, a Child of the Wind, only has a body when he steals one, and he sees a latent power in Eric that he wants for himself. When Nikias manipulates Eric’s body and aura to stop a boy from breathing, [Why?] Eric fights back. [Up until then, Eric was perfectly content to let Nikias run the show, as Nikias was getting him straight As instead of Cs, and was able to charm high school girls into the sack.]

Before Eric can win or lose, his sister knocks him out. His sister was secretly recruited by the winged Sentinels who police the hidden peoples of the world, [Why don't the Sentinels knock Eric out instead of recruiting his sister to do it?] and Nikias tops their Most Wanted list. But Nikias escapes when the Sentinels free Eric.

[Sentinel 1: Okay, we've freed Eric. Wait, where's Nikias?

Sentinel 2: I don't know. I looked up and he was . . . Gone with the Wind.]

Now Eric is trapped in the Sentinels’ ancient Roman lair, surrounded by creatures who don’t trust him because of the powers Nikias awakened inside him. [Eric's new powers don't seem all that great if they can't get him out of this lair. Why did Nikias want these lame powers for himself? Also, did the winged Sentinels fly Eric to Rome and lock him up with the creatures? If so, why?] They don’t believe Eric when he discovers Nikias is after his sister. [It sounds like these creatures have conversations with Eric. The word "creatures" had me thinking they were monsters.] [Also, trapped in this lair, how does he discover what Nikias is doing?]

Eric escapes the Sentinel fortress, but in order to save his sister, he must learn to control his new, unwanted powers. [One minute he's trapped, and the next minute he's escaped, even though he hasn't yet learned to use his powers? How'd he do that? Also, why don't the Sentinels save his sister?] 

Complete at 65,000 words, ERIC ORTEGA AND THE DEMON WIND is an upper MG contemporary fantasy. The story features diverse characters, including Medusa as a lesbian doctor with temperamental snake hair. This book will appeal to fans of the Underland Chronicles. As per your guidelines, I have attached attached [insert appropriate submission here]. [No need to attach it twice.] Thank you for your time and consideration.



Every time I see the name Nikias I think of Jack Nicklaus.

It suddenly occurs to me that the story would be better if Eric were possessed by Jack Nicklaus instead of this "Child of the Wind," whatever that means. Maybe it should be a wind demon instead of a Child of the Wind.

If the flying Sentinels are in charge of policing the hidden peoples of the world, crime must be rampant among them, because the Sentinels seem incompetent. First of all, they should have foreseen that Nicklaus might escape after they freed Eric, and taken precautions to prevent it. Like freeing Eric inside a vault. Second, they allow Eric, who hasn't yet learned to control his powers, to escape from their "fortress"? If the Sentinels are good guys, I assume they would have told Eric they were holding him in their fortress for his own good. They would have been training him to use his powers instead of locking him in with untrusting creatures. Saying he's trapped, and escapes, suggests that the Sentinels are villains.

Who are the hidden peoples of the world? Are they hiding in plain sight but camouflaged, or invisible or underground?

What are the powers lying latent within Eric? There's a big difference between Superman and Aquaman.

You don't want me asking so many questions. Rewrite this in a way that answers some of them and doesn't inspire the others.

If this story doesn't sell, I recommend doing a series starring Medusa, the lesbian doctor with temperamental snake hair.

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19. New Beginning 1054

I brushed my fingertips against the lavender as I walked.

The air was thick with the smoky-sweet scent of the violet flowers. All I needed was mint, and I knew exactly what aisle it would be in. After all, I came here at least once a week. I zigzagged through the garden center anyway, walking up and down the rows of plants, admiring their bursts of colors.

I knew it wasn't a typical place for a sixteen-year-old to hang out. Most of the other girls my age were spending their time at the mall or going on dates, while I spent my weekends covered in dirt in my garden. Not that I was a total social outcast— I was friends with most of my classmates on Facebook, and even got the occasional invite to a party. But I was happiest when I was surrounded by a rainbow canvas of plants and the rich smell of the earth.

I found the pot of mint I needed and headed towards the cash register. I was making my way down the tulip aisle when I saw Holt, staring solemnly at the small plot of baby Norfolk pine trees.

I hesitated at first, then thought, 'what the hell.' I walked over to Holt, my sneakers almost silent on the walkway. He didn't notice me approach, just staring down at the pines, his hands clasped in front of himself as though praying to nature.

I paused, briefly, then: "Uh, hi!" Holt jumped, startled, and spun around. A stream of piss traced an arc from the base of the plant to my legs and began to fill my sneaker. That was the last thing I ever said to him.

Opening: Sonia Bricel.....Continuation: anon.


The original opening had an extra paragraph:

Holt looked up at me, a smile spreading across his face. He was the newest addition to my junior-year class, having moved to Deep Cove three weeks ago. Living in a small town in Canada sandwiched between mountain and ocean, I was used to tourists coming and going. But new residents were rare.

The chosen continuation works better without that, but the unchosen one (see comments) works better with it. Include it when commenting on the opening.

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20. Evil Editor's Graphic Novelette

Excerpted from Evil Editor Strips Again.
Inspired by writing exercises that used to be on this blog.
Click on panels to enlarge.

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21. It's Dr. Suess Day and (not coincidentally)

 Day. Perfect excuse to rerun some poetry from a long-ago writing exercise.

When I was a little kid, just about three
I liked to have Daddy read stories to me
Pertaining to doggies or bunnies or mice
With everything happy and cozy and nice

Now twenty years later as I lie in bed
I look back again at the books Daddy read
I see them on levels I didn’t before
And see that those stories might be something more

As I was perusing those books of my past
I found some that left me agape and aghast
They had hidden meanings on every last page
Subliminal statements that filled me with rage

What author could merit such verbal abuse?
That lovable hate-able doctor named Seuss!
If you don’t believe me, I’ll now make you see
Just how controversial that doctor can be

Take Yertle the Turtle, whose constant obsession
With ultimate power caused brutal oppression
You wanna know why Doctor Seuss called him Yertle?
It’s just because Stalin does not rhyme with turtle!

And then there's The Lorax, who, with desperation
Attempted prevention of deforestation.
That’s noble and downright courageous indeed
Except for the fact that he doesn’t succeed!
What kind of a message does Doctor Seuss send?
“Hey kids, you’re all gonna fail in the end!”

Hop on Pop is a terrible book which I fear
Has problems that make themselves painfully clear
I don’t think my father would be very keen
On me using him as a live trampoline
Who knows just how many poor parents have died
Tragic victims of second degree Hopicide

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! Now that book is worse
It maps out your future in pictures and verse
Except that it lies to you, straight to your face
I mean, I for one haven’t gone anyplace
I’ll tell you what Seuss should have written instead:
“This life is a bitch and then one day you’re dead!”

And then there's the one book that makes me most ill
It’s that ungodly tale that takes place in Whoville
With a villain possessing an undersized heart
It’s a terrible insult to poetic art

Want to know why The Grinch is the book I malign?
Dr. Seuss makes up words in almost every line
If he starts a stanza and can’t seem to end it
He’ll think of a word and he’ll twist it and bend it
It’ll say something like “The Grinch took all their gadgets
And zoogle madingo dareefuh mawadgets!”

No matter what part of that story you read
It sounds as though Seuss had been smoking some weed
Also, you’d think that a doctor would know
If your heart grows three sizes your chest will explode

With stories that crazy and messed up and wild
I don't think that they should be read to a child
It may just sound cruel but the obvious fact is
That Dr. Seuss ought to be sued for malpractice!

--Evil Jr.

It was raining outside. There was nothing to do.
So I reached in the slushpile and picked up a few.
I looked at the first one and saw the first word to be
"Oxymandicious"--which seemed quite absurd to me.
Into the toilet it went with a flush--
The very best place for the very worst slush.
I looked at another one, hoping for greatness;
The first word was "pachydermacronumateless."
I picked up three more, but they all began nuttily:
"Pickapoo," "Throgmistle," "Cragstormichuttiny."
I wondered if writers had all become dunces,
Remember when all stories started with Once's?
If you want EE to get past the first word of
Your manuscript, start with a word that he's heard of.

--Evil Editor

In Publishing Town,
Far down in its bowels,
Lived a muttonchopped man
With quivery jowls.

Every day, minions--
A hundred or more--
Surged to his office
And squeezed through the door.

They ogled and boggled
In mute adoration
Amazed at his pince-nez,
His fob, his vocation.

They said, "One day we'll
"Work in Publishing too!"
But they only had queries.
Not one had a clue.

One morning, a minion,
With query in hand,
Dared lay it before
The muttonchopped man.

The muttonchopped man
With quivery jowl
Looked down through his pince-nez
And started to howl.

"It's awful!" he hollered.
"The plot is pathetic!
"The setting is stupid!
"The ending's emetic!

"This query's a fungus.
"It's covered in slop.
"You want to keep writing?
"I beg you to stop."

"But sir," said the minion,
All trembling and weak,
"What if I edit it more--
"So to speak?

"Some of the others
"Are ever so wise--"
He looked at the cluster
Of ladies and guys--

"Couldn't we all take
"My slop-covered fungus
"And churn out just one
"Decent query among us?"

"Do what you want,"
Said the muttonchopped man.
"I'm going to take pictures
"Of me on the can."

With the man on the can
Minions all gathered round
And they rolled up their sleeves
There in Publishing Town

And they beat up that query!
They gave it the works!
They pounded its problems!
They questioned its quirks!

They gutted its grammar!
And when they were done
That terrible query
Shone like the sun.

He came out of the john.
The minions were leery.
He put down his camera
And picked up the query.

He peered through his pince-nez.
He saw what they had.
His jowls quivered gently.
"You know, this ain't bad."

The minions all cheered!
They whooped and went wild!
Even the muttonchopped man
Might have smiled.

The minion strode off
To querying glory
But did his book sell?

...that's some other story.


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22. Evil Editor's World Book Day Speech

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23. Four films that inexplicably didn't win the Oscar for best short feature.

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24. Don't Doubt the Big Guy

While we wait for fake plots to come in for a new title in the query queue (see sidebar), here's another film that should have won a Best Picture Oscar, but didn't because even though I have plenty of Hollywood connections, I refuse to kiss the asses of the Academy members.

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25. Q & A

Evil editor, this is my fist time on your blog, I stumbled a crossed your page looking for a real place to write, lots of scams out there and I'm one that will do her homework which is how I found you. Evil, can I ask you a question? Why do you call yourself evil? Really just wondering.

I was named after Evil Knievel, the fist man to jump his motorcycle a crossed the Snake River Canyon, well, almost a crossed it.

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