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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 1226


Guess the Plot

Recoveries' Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to hearing from you, kind of.

Sincerely,


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


Notes


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

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

Start over.

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2. Face-Lift 1225


Guess the Plot

Underland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Original Version

Dear EE,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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3. Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

The Miranda Contract

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Original Version

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,


Notes

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

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

Pop sensation Miranda Brody would just go by Miranda. 

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



Selected Comments

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

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

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

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

This reminded me of two YAs I'd read:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Good luck!


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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4. Face-Lift 1224


Guess the Plot

Where Angels Weep

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

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

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

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

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

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



Original Version

Dear ________,

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

****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Damn cookie [monster].

****

WHERE ANGELS WEEP is complete at 60,000 words.

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


Notes

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

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

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

0 Comments on Face-Lift 1224 as of 9/24/2014 10:30:00 AM
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5. Face-Lift 1223


Guess the Plot

The Spirit Swindler

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

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

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

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

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

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




Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,


Notes

The tone is good, assuming it fits the book.

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

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

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6. Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Summer of the Flood

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

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

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

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

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

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




Original Version

Dear E.E.,

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

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

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

[Quotes from 6th-grade Hamlet:

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

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

Something is rotten in the refrigerator.

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

Get thee to a video arcade.

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

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

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

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

How old is Maggie?

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

You can cut the setup to something like:

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

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


Selected Comments

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

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

And then, yeah, say what happens.

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

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

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

Please rewrite your query to convince me I am right.


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

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

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

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

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7. Face-Lift 1222




Guess the Plot

Kidblog

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

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

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

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

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

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



Original Version

Dear Evilicious Editor.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

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

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

0 Comments on Face-Lift 1222 as of 9/17/2014 10:16:00 AM
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8. Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Immortal Island

1. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

2. Isla de Santa Susanna is not found on any maps. When fat, homely Isabel washes up on its beach after a plane crash, she's surprised to find a colony of people only too glad to welcome her. But are they normal . . . or vampires?

3. When a plane crash lands Marsha and her two friends on a strange island, they know they're in major trouble. But, they didn't expect that trouble to include hiding from a mad scientist intent on capturing them to use as subjects in his human immortality experiments. Are they fated to die in pursuit of eternal life?

4. 13-year-old Danny dreads the annual summer vacation on Immortal Island. But this year is going to be different, what with the rumors of buried treasure, disappearing gardeners, suspiciously smart dogs, and the help of a cute pyromaniac named Kimberly.

5. In an alternate-history 1970’s, a small island off the English coast becomes a haven for wannabe revolutionaries and small-time crooks. When an international arms incident catapults the island into the spotlight, thief Jerome and rabble-rouser David must choose between their ideals and their love for each other.

6. The network has spoken, and they've voted off survival reality show host Guy Sly. In a plot of cold revenge Guy orchestrates a mass kidnapping of network big wigs and plants them on an remote island full of immortal beings. Which fat cat will be dinner first? Will Guy redeem himself during sweeps week? Vampires, zombies and faeries galore!


Original Version

Dear Evil editor,

Please consider my mss that I have completed entitled, ‘IMMORTAL ISLAND - Spellbound/Midnight Masquerade’ first book is part one and two. [Your first sentence is a sure deal killer--and not just because it isn't a sentence. The title is three titles; choose one. We don't care about parts one and two. Ms. is the abbreviation for manuscript. My mss that I have completed would be more concise as my completed ms.] [The good news is that you've got an excellent shot at the Least Effective Opening Sentence Award (an Evil Editor coffee mug), though you're in a tight battle with Face-Lift 333.]

It is about a young woman named Sarah Daniels who discovers secrets about her friends and family that changes [change] her life forever.

Sarah begins having visions that she cannot explain. At first they appear as dreams, but when she has them while awake she realizes what they really are. [Which is?] The first vision she has is of the parents [her parents'] death, when they don't return from their vacation she goes to the town sheriff to report them missing. [The sheriff of her town or of the town where they went for vacation?] She meets a handsome yet mysterious Undersheriff
named Chase Gavenport, who she has a unique attraction to. Things slowly start to unravel every day that she spends on the island.
 [What island? Immortal Island? I had no idea they were on an island.] Then a strange man dressed in all black begins to stalk her while at her parents [parents'] place. (Zadkiel).[Zadkiel? Is that the name of her parents' place? The name of the stalker? An exclamation, like Gadzooks?]When he finally reveals himself to her he tries to kill her but Chase comes to her rescue. They become close and Chase eventually reveals to her that he is a vampire and also tells her what the man in black wants. [(Zounds).]

Sarah’s ex-boyfriend decide [decides] to complicate things even more by adding himself to the equation. He reveals that he is still in love with her and wants her back. [The word "reveals" appears more often in the last four sentences than it does in the entire book of Revelations.] Sarah is torn and can’t decide what she really wants. [No need to say the same thing twice in one sentence.] They [Who?] share a house just off campus [Campus? I had no idea they were on a campus.] with close friends and things start to really heat up. She must choose but who will it be, the vampire who brings with him a life filled with uncertainty or her best friend and ex-boyfriend who loves her for everything he thinks she is. [Which is what?]

But now preternatural beings of Sarah's new world seem to be drawn to her. Her life is in constant peril, she cannot turn to her human friends. With witches, warlocks, were-animals, shape-shifters, [zombies, sharks,] to name a few, come to claim, and the power that dwells inside her begins to grow. [That sentence made no sense to me, apparently because I'm unfamiliar with the expression "come to claim."] A power Sarah does not know how to control.

Now Chase has disappeared and no one will give her any answers as to his whereabouts. [When you ask someone where the vampire is, you seldom get a straight answer.] Who will keep her safe from the nightmare that has become her life. Wait a minute there is always a white knight…Right? Erick the strange angelic man.Who always seems to rise to the occasion mainly when she is in harm’s way? Three times he saves her but why, he is a vampire too. [Making your most compelling character a vampire is a mistake. I liked him better when he was just Erick the strange angelic man. In fact, my desire to read more about Erick the strange angelic man leads me to insert this week's writing exercise here. Write a scene involving Evil Editor and Erick the strange angelic man. Don't make Erick a vampire. 300 words max; deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern.]

Then one night after giving up all hope she receives a mysterious letter. A Midnight Masquerade ball? Being thrown by the vilest of creatures out there. He has no sympathy for human kind and would rather rid his world of them. [Naturally she accepts the invitation.] Sarah must do what she can to save her life and the life now inside her as she comes face to face with the man who will take her life…Chase? [You're asking me?]

Sarah survives the Masquerade but not before her unborn child or is it children are infected with vampire blood. Now it's a waiting game. To see whether or not her children will live and be vampires killing her in the process with their savage birth, or if they are healthy and unharmed by the blood that was so easily given to her by the same vampire who on many occasions attempted [to] take her life. Ambrose and Sarah will forever be connected from that day forward. [Ambrose? Who's Ambrose?] Now she must tell the father that his babies could be vampires. How will Jeff [Jeff? Who's Jeff?] take the news that vampires exist and that his unborn children may be one [two] of them?

Turns out that the twins are affected by the vampire virus yet in different ways. Alaina is half vampire and half human, she prefers to drink blood. Wyatt is human but has all the abilities a vampire has, [If you have all the abilities a vampire has, you're pretty much a vampire.] however he is more unique than they know... His blood is the key, the cure to vampirism.

This is four parts all together book two is complete but not ready for viewing just yet.

Please contact me if you would like to review my complete mss.

word count -> 84,328

Urban Fantasy fiction for YA or Adults. There are intimate scenes that can be altered to fit YA.

Thanks


Notes

A query letter should fit on one page. Trash the whole thing, start over, limit your plot summary to ten sentences.

It's riddled with errors. This leads the reader to assume the book is also riddled with errors. Even if cleaning up the query got a request for the manuscript, no one will read far into a manuscript full of spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Your opening hook is that this is a book about a woman who discovers secrets about her friends and family that change her life forever. Her family isn't in the query at all as they disappear while on vacation and never get mentioned again, and the only friend in the query is her ex-boyfriend, and I didn't see any secrets about him.

The hook might be something like this: Pregnant with twins, Sarah Daniels attends a masquerade ball at which she is bitten by a vampire. The pregnancy, birth and aftermath sound like they could make an interesting story. The witches and werecreatures and island and parents and campus and man in black and Zadkiel are cluttering the query. And possibly the book.




I decided you would rather view Erick the Strange Angelic Man's pitch session than read selected comments (which may be viewed by searching for immortal island on this blog).

0 Comments on Evil Editor Classics as of 9/14/2014 11:02:00 AM
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9. Feedback Request


The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1218 has posted a revision in the comments there, and awaits your feedback. 

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10. Chris Eldin Fellowship


Some former minions, and others, are running a fundraiser to set up an annual fellowship for middle grade writers in the name of the late minion, Chris Eldin (aka Takoda/Church Lady) who passed away in 2012. Chris was very active in promoting the work of new writers and we thought that setting up a fellowship in her name was a good way for us, and others, to remember her.

We’ve got some great donations to the fundraiser, including goodies from Hugh Howey, Ken Follett, Jonathan Franzen, and many other authors.

We’re trying to promote the fundraiser at the moment – it only runs until the end of September.https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/eldin-memorial-fellowship
And the fellowship itself is now open for entries: http://eldinfellowship.org/ 

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11. New Beginning 1031



The hospital reeked of blood. It filled Morcant’s nose even before the doors opened, pulling him from the shocked stupor he’d been in ever since he got the call from his son.

He lurched toward the reception desk, shoving people out of the way. “Where is she?” he demanded, his voice hoarse and broken.

The receptionist leaned away from him. “Sir, you can’t just—”

“My wife, damn it! Where is she?” He clenched his eyes shut, willing them not to turn silver.

“Dad.” Enid pulled at his arm. How could she be so calm?

A doctor came through a pair of doors. Mid-forties, African-American. “Morcant. Enid. I’m so sorry.”

In two steps he was in front of her, ignoring the stares of those in the waiting room. “Where is she, Helen?”

Sympathy filled her gaze. “Morcant, no. You don’t want to see her. The accident was ... It was bad. I thought Geraint told you.”

If Morcant’s heart could have beat, it would have cracked his ribs. Instead, his stomach heaved. “I need to see her.” 


The doctor sighed. "You would have seen her already if your eyes weren't clenched shut. Open them and look around."

Morcant's eyes, which had so far not changed into any precious metal, opened slowly and took in the waiting room. Now he understood why the place reeked of blood.

"She's right there in the corner," the doctor said in a gentle voice. "And on the ceiling, and a bit near the receptionist desk, and on what's left of the carpet."

Morcant's stomach heaved again. "You say this was an accident?"

"Well, drinking the gasoline was an accident. Apparently the bottle was mislabeled. Having her wait for treatment in a seat next to a dragon with hiccups was ... well, let's just blame Obamacare, shall we?" 



Opening: SB.....Continuation: JRMosher

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12. Face-Lift 1221


Guess the Plot

Boats, Boys and Other Water Hazards

1. Sarah has had the hots for Rodney Reel since they were kids, so she's thrilled to land a job on his father's fishing boat. But can she navigate the uncharted waters of a relationship or will she and Rod drift through the doldrums like ships that pass in the night?

2. Against a hostile takeover bid by a worldwide amusement conglomerate, one family attempts to keep its privately owned miniature golf course afloat. 

3. Archie Spellman asked his bored teenage niece Shelby to write a booklet about the hazards in tourist-trap Lake Anglers. Unfortunately, she spells 'buoys' as 'boys'. Hilarity ensues.

4. Charlie has seen all types at her parents' time share on Lake Arrowhead. This summer will be different, though. She's 16, has her first real bikini, and right next door is a hot piece named Jacob.

5. Noise pollution in the marine environment has become too much for Swishy to cope with, and while contemplating suicide by beaching herself, she gets rammed by a boy on a jet ski. Forget suicide, Swishy embarks on a mission to clear the waterways of all humans by raising an army of sharks.

6. Do guys want to use Kate for her body, her dad's yacht, or both? What happens after college graduation and her trust fund/birthday party? Who poured bong water in a champagne Magnum bottle again? Who still smokes from a bong? Who's the dead guy in the head?

7. Donnie, sixteen, takes Bridget, fifteen, diving off the Florida Keys. A whale attacks their boat and it sinks. Donnie and Bridget lash themselves together. They’re carried further out. They fight off sharks. A storm blows them back toward shore. They cling to a buoy for twenty-nine hours. The Coast Guard rescues them. The shared experience leaves them hating each other.


8. During a weekend at the lake, Janine tries to impress her boyfriend with her mad boat-driving skills. It works ... until he falls overboard and gets caught in the propeller. He manages not to die, but everyone at school knows what happened, and now Janine's having trouble finding a new boyfriend.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Sarah “Plain-and-Tall” Conway [That's her nickname? Kind of unwieldy. I can't see people calling someone Plain-and-Tall.] has always fit snugly in the Good Box—good student, good athlete, good liar—and she wants out. This just isn’t how she imagined it happening. [I'm not crazy about the term "Good Box," as it could mean stuff she's good at or stuff that indicates she's a good person. If it's the former, wanting out makes little sense: she doesn't want to be good at history or volleyball? If it's the latter,  being a good liar doesn't belong on the list.] [As you haven't revealed what "this" is in that last sentence, and all we know about "it" is that it stands for getting out of this Good Box, I'm thinking we can do without the paragraph.]

When a motorboat meets a summer storm and catapults her into the uncharted waters of Orphanism, [When her parents are killed in a motorboat accident] she’s going to have to navigate the foster system, the open roads of Florida, and a boy with a secret all on her own: Sink or Swim. [All orphans navigate the foster system without their parents. Whether they have to do it all on their own depends. Does she want to do it alone? Does anyone want to help her?] [Navigate, uncharted waters, sink or swim... Don't go overboard with the nautical terms. On the other hand, I may join in, it sounds like fun.]

Enter the boy: Rodney Reel Treakle. Intelligent, a bit cocky, and freaking gorgeous, he’s been the stuff of Sarah’s dreams since they were kids. [How old are they now?] When she lands a summer job aboard his dad’s fishing boat, Sarah starts to find herself—the girl she knew existed, but never entertained: confident, steady, [even keeled] and a bit rude. And Rod notices. [Basically, she's morphed from someone who's a good student, athlete and liar to someone who's confident, steady and rude. As good student/athletes are often steady and confident, the before/after comparison doesn't work. Was she unsteady, lacking confidence, polite before her transformation?] 

Armed with her notebook, [What notebook?] a pocket full of anger, and a well-hidden Jar-O-Mom, [What the--?] Sarah struggles to let anyone in. Even Rod. [Is she struggling to let people in? Or struggling to keep a wide berth?]  She can feel herself falling—but in love? Or is she just drowning?

An impromptu July road trip sends Sarah on a quest [voyage] for the truth. [The truth about what?] The truth about a certain wedding picture. The truth about Rod. [Time to deep six this bilge-sucking dog.] The truth about the Good Box.

Sarah-Plain-and-Tall may have been a lie, [She's actually only 5 foot 1.] but will Sarah be able to reconcile the girl her parents knew with the girl she may actually be? [Or will she remain trapped between the devil and the deep blue sea?] [Will she stem the tide or run aground?]

BOATS, BOYS AND OTHER WATER HAZARDS, my young adult novel, is complete at 105,000 words.

With a BA in anthropology and eight years of medical practice under my belt, I have spent my entire academic and professional careers immersed in other peoples’ stories. [Well, screw other people.] It’s refreshing to craft my own.

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

I think you can inject some voice into the query without going totally adrift. Some of the attempts to be clever are better left for the book.

This is mostly setup. Parents die, girl takes job on fishing boat, begins finding herself. That's the setup, and a three-sentence paragraph can handle it. Then, though I know nothing about it, I suspect most of the summary should focus on that road trip. It's the part where something seems to happen. What wedding picture? What truth about Rod? These seem like crucial points in Sarah's growth or coming of age, so don't toss them out just to tease us. 

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13. Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1219 has submitted a revision, and seeks your feedback. It's in the comments there.

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14. Evil Editor Classics



Guess the Plot

The Hot Season

1. When a slight shift in the Earth's axis leaves the UK closer to the sun, the race is on for a new SPF formula. Can British scientist Tony Edwards save his countrymen or is this the end of paleness as we know it?

2. Every season is the hot season in Thailand. Especially when your visiting cousin is found dead and the police don't care and you get involved with a ring of human traffickers in Cambodia. Hey, every season is the hot season in Cambodia.

3. Marine Biologist Sam Whittaker has had enough of single living. He joins Brazilhotties.com and flies Bruna over, but her Latin temper threatens the ice cap when she learns Antarctica is not America.

4. For Alaska native Will Parker, the worst thing about returning to Earth from the International Space Station is that it's August and he now lives in Houston, which is one step up from the Sahara Desert. So you can imagine how he feels when a booster rocket malfunctions, throwing the shuttle way off course and forcing Parker to crash-land on Mercury.

5. After growing up in Antarctica with her scientist parents, Alberta-Marie is ready for warmer weather. A move to tropical Ecuador means she will finally buy a swim suit. But in the hottest summer in 20 years surrounded by even hotter men, which heat will she succumb to first?

6. CeeBee knew the job at Disneyland was going to be tough. Screaming kids, crying parents, meltdowns, high humidity, and pure misery at the Happiest Place on Earth. She just didn't expect to find them all at the toll booth for the parking lot. Now it's August, and if she hears one more whining kid, that .38 is coming out.



Original Version

Dear ….,

I'm writing to ask if you would accept a submission for The Hot Season, a mystery novel of 83,000 words. It's the story of an American journalist in Thailand who confronts ancient superstitions and modern day crime, as she searches for the truth behind her cousin’s death.

I’m currently based in Bangkok, and before devoting myself to writing I spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. I’m also a published author in Australia. My first book, XXX (XX, 20XX), [For those who've forgotten their Roman numerals, allow me to translate: 30 (20, 2020).] is a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. It was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards.

[I Googled XXX Awards and it took me six hours to pry myself away and back to this blog. Fascinating stuff.] 

In The Hot Season, Sam Beckman, [Hang on a minute, switching my mouse to my left hand as my right is inexplicably inflamed.] [Okay, ready.] a foreign correspondent for a US radio network, is visited by a teenage cousin who’s backpacking through Thailand. She’s delighted [Readers may assume "she" is the cousin, as the cousin is the most recently mentioned character.] at the chance to mend some of her frayed family ties, but within days her cousin is found dead on the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

Worried about damage to the lucrative tourism industry, Thai police write the death off as a drug overdose. [The lucrative tourism industry isn't aided by reports that corpses of drug overdosers occasionally wash up on the river bank. Unless you're trying to attract drug addict tourists, wouldn't it be better to write it off as a boating accident?] When Sam suspects foul play, she’s warned to stop meddling. But keeping quiet and playing dumb are not in her nature. [Playing dumb is generally considered a smart strategy.] She’s quickly drawn into a web of human trafficking stretching from Bangkok’s urban jungle to the killing fields of Cambodia and beyond.

Sam’s search is 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. [Thai food will give anyone hallucinations. Travel tip: Don't order Neua Pad Prik in Phuket.]

A good dose of humor and a sassy heroine counterbalance the serious issues in The Hot Season. I hope this novel will be the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

If you would like to read more of my work or have any other questions, please email me at XXXXXXX. You can also call me in Thailand on XXXXXX [(Monday)]. [On XXXXXXX I'll be in Somalia. Then XXXXXXXXX I'm off to North Korea for a well-deserved vacation.] I look forward very much to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Notes

This might be better described as a thriller. I usually expect a mystery to have several suspects. As the cousin didn't know anyone, Sam is basically trying to get to the bottom of what happened, not whodunnit.

The plot summary is three paragraphs. The other stuff is four paragraphs. Cut those four down to two. One way to do this is to open with:

The Hot Season is a stand-alone mystery novel of 83,000 words, and the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked, including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

Then: Sam Beckman, a foreign correspondent for a US radio network . . . Run through the plot, and finish with:

I've spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. My first book, ______________, a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein, was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards. If you would like to consider The Hot Season, please email me at XXXXXXX.



Selected Comments

Faceless Minion said...
The main plot here seems to be the search for the Truth. I'd be interested in hearing either a consequence for not finding the truth or what she plans on doing once she'd found it.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...Are "the killing fields of Cambodia" still a going concern? Because I thought that all went out with the Khmer Rouge, 30-some years ago.

Don't open with your qualifications; you may give the impression that you're relying more on them than on the story you're telling.


Laurie said...What everyone else has said - there are some confusing bits (as your heroine is named "Sam," I also defaulted to the "she" referring to the visiting cousin). And yes, your qualifications go at the end.

But that being said, I'd like to read this book.


Rashad Pharaon said...Being a Thailand lover and having visited just a few months ago, I'm immediately drawn to this.

But instead of saying "a good dose of humor and a sassy heroine"-- why don't you inject some of those qualities into the query? Humor? Is there a ladyboy cop?


Anonymous said...Trivializing the Killing Fields (and the international trial that is ongoing) is offensive and insensitive.

There are very few people over the age of 45 left in Cambodia today.

Author, I like the opening, good luck. I like the suggestion of a ladyboy tossed into your mix of characters.


ozgirl said...Thanks very much for the feedback! Those points will be very useful in revising my query.

Re: the killing fields...even though Pol Pot was ousted some 30 years ago, the impact of his rule is still being felt today in terms of poverty, injuries from the millions of landmines left over from that period, damage to society and so on. This will take many more decades to overcome. The terrible legacy of the Khmer Rouge is one of the reasons why even today Cambodians are vulnerable to human trafficking. I don't see why it is insensitive or offensive to discuss serious issues like human trafficking in a novel. The humor in the book comes mostly from self-depreciating wisecracks by the protagonist - it does not contain jokes about human trafficking or genocide or trivialize these issues. I agree, that WOULD be offensive.

Thanks again for the feedback!


[The first few pages are online at
http://querytracker.net/forum/index.php?topic=9699.0;wap2

Don't know when they were posted or if the author checks there anymore, but if you want to read them . . . 

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15. Face-Lift 1220


Guess the Plot

Mechanic

1. In the sequel to the award-winning Drifter, Dustin Leahry finally settles down and gets a job.

2. HVAC technician Cinna is the only person who can fix the capital city's broken heat source. But if the heat isn't repaired, residents of the capital will freeze to death and then Cinna can make the repairs and move to the capital. Tough decision.

3. Luigi is a brilliant businessman in Providence. He owns a seven-bedroom house overlooking the marina, has an Olympic pool, and buys a new Cadillac every year. All this from a small automotive repair shop. Whenever he returns from a business trip, he brings everybody gifts. Nobody can figure out how he does it until Tommy Gambino stops to say “Hi” one afternoon.

4. They told him opening a medical practice on a space station was an idiotic idea. No one would put their life in the hands of an android doctor. But the way Clink figured it, machines had human mechanics, and weren't humans just another type of machine?

5. Don't know what to do with that MA in Modern Literary Poetry? This handy booklet is all you need to get out of that fast-food uniform and into a paying career!

6. By day he's a mechanic, rebuilding Volvo engines for fifteen dollars an hour. By night he's the Mechanic, the superhero who can fix any machine, and the mortal enemy of the villain known as Rustman.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Cinna is a mechanic. Born with dragon's blood, she's the only one in her village who can repair the dragonstone that's their sole source of heat. She has plenty of talent, but with so few resources it's a struggle keeping the deadly Ice of her frozen world in check.

Then Prince Skye comes to her village. The stones in the capital are dying and he wants Cinna to fix them. He can give her people everything she never could: food, supplies. Life. All she has to do is go with him. To save the capital that's never lifted a finger to help the villages. [But which now offers to provide food, supplies. Life. What's the problem? Have the villages done anything for the capital in the past? Did Cinna ever offer the capital a dragonstone maintenance program in return for resources for her village?]

But the massive city isn't the evil incarnate she first thought. Neither is Prince Skye. His fight to keep his people from freezing is disturbingly similar to her own. When Cinna finds a way to fix the stones, she's faced with a choice: save the capital and hundreds of lives, or turn her back on them and give the villages a chance to rise. Because in her world, heat means power, and it's all in her hands. [If heat means power, why hasn't Cinna's village already risen? Heat's the one thing they have.]

MECHANIC is my 83,000 word young adult novel. It's a standalone with series potential, and will appeal to readers of the Graceling series.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

While your story is probably nothing like The Hunger Games, you have a main character who lives in the hinterlands and who agrees to journey to a capital city that never does anything to help the villages. Thus I recommend not naming your main character Cinna, which is the name of the Hunger Games character who "fixes" Katniss so that she'll appeal to the populace. I suppose the name Prince Skye won't evoke President Snow--though if people are already thinking Hunger Games, it might. What I'm saying is, if your story opens with a tornado that knocks out the main character, you don't name her Glinda. Or The Great and Powerful Oz.

Here's how commerce works. You have something I want, like all of your oil. I have something you want, like all of my money. We make a trade and everyone's happy. Win - win. Here Cinna needs resources and Skye needs stonework. That Cinna even considers letting hundreds of people die when there's a win - win offer on the table doesn't make her a sympathetic character. I don't see that her village will rise anyway, as they still won't have resources, unless her plan is for everyone in the capital to die so her people can move there.

Are these dragonstones mechanisms? With parts that need repairing? If they're just some sort of magical stones, you'd think there'd be a better term than "mechanic." Like "thermal engineer" or "Stonemage."

I think you need to make it clear how the capital has been keeping the villages down (if they have). Canada is richer than Uruguay, but without evidence that Canada is responsible for Uruguay's poverty, you're unlikely to see Uruguayans bad-mouthing Canadians or letting them die unnecessarily. How does it help Cinna's village if a few hundred capital city people -- people she's now discovered aren't so bad after all -- freeze to death? Make that clear, or her decision is easy. It's pretty easy anyway, if she has a shred of decency.


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16. Face-Lift 1219



Guess the Plot

Drifter

1. Jacob is a Drifter, a man who is not anchored in time but instead slides, or drifts, from year to year, often centuries apart. And then one day it's 1939, and Adolph Hitler just handed him a gun.

2. Drifting scross Texas in the 1800's, Dustin spots windmills and heads toward them. He reaches the Cartwright's Ranch, where he spots a naked woman bathing, and Hoss and Little Joe nowhere to be seen. Maybe it's time to finally settle down.


3. Dewey's the big cat curator at Wildcat Safari. He loves the big cats and they love him. When the park is forced into receivership, the bankruptcy administrator sells what he can and plans to euthanize the rest. At 3 A.M. Dewey takes his favorites—two lions, a tiger, and two snow leopards—into his RV and hits the road. Hilarity ensues.

4. When hang-gliding stoner Airey Weedpipe catches the ultimate drift in the Himalayas his seemingly endless ride becomes a metaphor for the world's hopes and dreams. Will he be joined by millions of would-be gliderphobes . . . or shot down by the Russkies?

5. Selene's mother keeps telling her she needs to find a nice man, settle down, and have a family--but it's not like Selene's some irresponsible wild child. It's just that when you're literally light as a feather, settling down is easier said than done.

6. The broken hull of the boat lies at the bottom of the ocean. The leg of the water-skiing frat boy sits partially digested in the shark's stomach. Annie sits in the tiny life raft cursing the day her dead boyfriend challenged fate and named the damn boat DRIFTER. Asshole.




Original Version

Dear E.E.,

Dustin Leahry is good at three things: drifting, helping people, and using his gun. [His metaphorical gun?]

Craving the adventure of his childhood heroes, Wyatt Earp and Wild Bill Hickok, Leahry set out for the untamed land west of the Mississippi;[,] taking with him his gun and his best friend – his horse Baker.

Years later the thrill is tempered by the reality of trudging through the dusty cactus[-] and yucca[-]filled plains of Texas after Baker loses a shoe. The Drifter would rather have a cool drink and a black smith’s [blacksmith's] forge than excitement as he plods toward distant windmills that hint at relief. [Blacksmith, shmacksmith. What self-respecting drifter would ride through the old west without spare horseshoes and nails in his saddlebag?]

Trouble finds Leahry when he arrives at the Cartwright Ranch [It's called the Ponderosa.] and catches sight of Shelly Cartwright taking an outdoor bath. He knows he’s in deep trouble when Shelly uses his distraction to center a rifle’s sights on his chest. Something about a woman wrapped in a towel holding a gun on him convinces Leahry to stay instead of continuing to drift. [Wait, what about the trouble he was in one sentence ago? What happened?]

His trouble escalates when he goes to work for Shelly. [What is this trouble that escalates? He can get a new shoe for Baker at the ranch; Shelly didn't shoot him; he finally has a job... He's got less trouble than ever, far as I can tell.] His penchant for helping people soon puts him in the middle of her struggle to keep the ranch from being taken over by August Benson. Benson is determined to own the city of San Angelo and the surrounding countryside. Naturally the Cartwright Ranch is the last obstacle.

Leahry finds himself in confrontations with Benson’s men, on a horse drive to earn ranch-saving money, and in a war between the ranches. After the deaths of several of Shelly’s men, he resorts to the thing [what] he’s best at as he heads to San Angelo and a showdown with Benson.

Drifter: San Angelo Showdown is set in 1898 Texas and is approximately 119,000 words. Drifter pays homage to classic TV Westerns while adding new characters to the fold. [Shouldn't you pay homage to classic western novels and let TV pay homage to TV westerns?]

Thank you very much for your time.

Regards,


Notes

This horse drive to earn ranch-saving money suggests that the ranch will be saved if Shelly can pay her bills. The confrontations/war/showdown suggest that ownership of the ranch is more than a financial/legal matter. How has Benson come to own everything except this ranch? By taking it at gunpoint or buying it? Was this San Angelo area totally lawless as late as 1898? My guess is 1885 would be better, but I've been wrong before, or so I'm told.

The word count is kinda high for a western novel.

Instead of spending three paragraphs on Dustin's arrival at the ranch, try compressing that into one paragraph and devoting more space to what happens after he gets there.






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17. Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 954 has posted a new version in the comments there. See what you think.

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18. New Beginning 1030


It promised to be a beautiful day on Dirtyrock Farm. The sun rose at dawn, as was its wont, and would stayed up until just before dusk. But not Billie Jane.

She awoke just before noon and in no sunny disposition. Her tongue was swollen and dry. Her breath stank and she smelled like a sweat-hog. She stumbled into the bathroom wishing to shower herself down the drain.

“Billie, how was the senior prom?” Her cheerful mom called from the kitchen below Billie's bedroom.

She turned on the shower to drown out her mother's morning joy. While disrobing, she tried to remember last night. She remembered dancing with Eddie Fitzmore, her date, and a couple of other boys. She also remembered drinking with Eddie in his dad's 150 pickup. They drank Southern Comfort mixed with Gordon's Gin and Diet Dr. Pepper--Billie thought Eddie obsessed over his weight which was insufficient to make the varsity six-man football squad.

That's it. She couldn't remember what happened next or how she got home. Billie sat on the edge of the tub and tried. Nothing came to her. Maybe someone put a date-rape drug in her drink. Did she had sex with Eddie? Or with anyone? Maybe she'd been raped. She wondered if urgent care could test for date-rape drugs.

* * *

The sun came bright through the pickup window, but somehow didn't reach Eddie Fitzmore's white knuckles gripping the wheel. Eddie just sat there, unmoving, like what he'd been for the past six hours, staring right ahead, eyes watering from the burning in his crotch. He tried not to think about the two broken bodies in the flatbed, and what had happened to them. And worse, to him.

So that's what the old woman had meant, when she looked at Billie Jane and touched his arm and hissed in his ear. It wasn't nothing to do with her cankles at all. And buying diet didn't help nothin. "Mark my words, boy, whatever you do, don't be giving Dr. Pepper to that there were-hog."


Opening: Mister Furkles.....Continuation: Anonymous


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19. Evil Editor Classics



Query Letters I've Received that Focused on the Wrong Aspects of the Books


Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my novel, complete at 107,832 words, according to the word counter on Microsoft Word. However, I've checked it with two other online word counters, and they've given different values, of 108,011 words and 107,943 words.

I thought the inconsistency could be down to the way the different counters deal with hyphenated words - I have one character who stutters, saying things like "p-p-plastering", so that might be the problem. However, replacing that character's dialogue with complete words yielded different results: 107,534, 107,945 and 107,841.

Another character mutters, which I've rendered by running words into each other, like "notbloodylikely". Changing that character's dialogue to normal word spacing upped the word count to 109,307, 109,788 and 109,411. Changing the mutterer's and the stutterer's dialogue gave me word counts of 109,023, 109,624, and 109,307.

This gives a mean word count, across all four variations and three counters, of 108,630.67. However, I notice we also have a modal word count of 109,307. Since this is within one standard deviation (805.9653115) of the mean value, I intend to accept this as the definitive word count, subject to further statistical sampling.

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

Steve Wright


Dear Evil Editor,

I have spent five years writing a novel but spent a lifetime preparing for it.

I am a Dartmouth graduate with a B.A. in Electrical Engineering with a Robotics emphasis. As you are undoubtedly aware, Dartmouth is renowned for its scholars. To name only a few: Chris Miller, writer for National Lampoon and co-writer of Animal House; Jean Passanante, Head Writer for As the World Turns and recipient of Writer Guilds of America Award in 2007; David Benioff, screenwriter Troy, Stephen Geller, screenwriter Slaughterhouse-Five, and Fred Rogers, creator of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, (he dropped out before graduating, however). Although, Dartmouth has many other famous graduates, I only named the few you would be familiar with.

I am unsure how many students at Dartmouth are the offspring of the rich and famous; I assure you that I am not one of them, having acquired a huge debt, (approximately $50,000 per quarter). I am, therefore, ‘in touch’ with your readership even though I graduated from an IVY LEAGUE UNIVERSITY.

Founded in 1767 and located in New Hampshire, Dartmouth has a flexible, unique calendar, (a quarter system), which gave me time to write and thoroughly edit my novel, while other students, (60%), used this flexibility to study abroad.

May I submit a partial or complete manuscript?

Vivian Whetham


Dear Evil Editor

Please consider representing my novel, The Choice to Change. You may wonder why this novel is set in a casino in Reno, rather than in one of the many worthwhile and often shiny casinos run by Native Americans, or even in Las Vegas or Atlantic City. There are so many potential settings for a casino novel that I vacillated for a long time before finally settling on Reno, which offers many advantages to the novelist, not least that it hasn't appeared in nearly so many films and tv shows as its competitors. If you ever watched CSI, you would know that it's got Las Vegas all over it, and who can compete with that? If I even tried to put my fictional Galloping Ghost Slots casino in Las Vegas, lots of readers might point out that there's no room for it. And while my mother always said that she was one-fifty-first Cherokee, I have reservations about whether that gives me sufficient insight into Native American culture to venture, even fictitiously, into one of their casinos. So Reno it is--insufficiently famous to trip me up and white enough for me to write about!

Thank you and have a game of blackjack on me.

BuffySquirrel


Dear Evil Editor,

My novel makes Henry Miller’s work look like a sexual wannabe out on a new angle hunt. Makes the Kama Sutra look like the daydreams of a bunch of newbies with pretzely ideas about how to do, you know…IT. My novel makes D. H. Lawrence read like the underlying prude he undoubtedly was, and as for this genre called erotica that people are talking about now, I mean, COME ON, you gotta be kidding. Most of the people writing that schlock read like the only sex they’ve ever had was in their own beds, lights out, covers tucked up to their chins, and they were in bed all alone, know what I mean?

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Robin S.


Dear Evil Editor:

Let's cut to the chase. I'm considered a good-looking guy. Very good looking. And if you know anything about publicity and the entertainment world, you know that looks is everything. Attractive people have an advantage in this world. How else do you explain the crowds who watch Anna Kournikova play tennis? Or that Keanu Reeves is a movie star? Why do the highest-paying modeling jobs always seem to go to good-looking people?

This phenomenon applies as well to the writing world. Good-looking authors draw bigger crowds at book signings. They get more invitations to speak at conventions. They have an angelic aura about them that makes people want to read their books. That's how it always has been and always will be. People love to bask in the beauty of beautiful people.

I remember one time I read a great review of a book and ordered it from Amazon.com. When it came I discovered that the back-cover flap had a photograph of the author, who looked, to put it kindly, like Thurston Howell III from Gilligan's Island. I couldn't read it. Just knowing that photograph was there soured it for me. If I'd picked it up in a bookstore I never would have bought it.

Think about the handsomest men you've ever seen. George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Fabio... I make them all look like the Elephant Man. Women will buy my book, Crossing Broad, just so they can gaze at my photograph on the back cover. Men will buy it to cut off the back cover and paste it over their own faces.

May I send some head-shots?

Harper Scott

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20. Evil Editor Classics


Guess the Plot

Sea Urchin

1. Despite her adoption by a loving family of bee keepers, young Queenie has always dreamed of transformation and an enchanted life beneath the sea. She regrets this wish when she wakes on her 16th birthday covered in poisonous spines.

2. A convict is released from prison so that he can work in the garden of a young widow. It's part of a new enlightened corrections policy. But will he risk losing this soft gig when he meets a girl who can change into a seal?

3. When her mother is drowned by a drift net, Alyissya the dolphin is left an orphan. Alone, scared, she must swim her way through the reef of sharks and hostile pods to her aunt Shaaya and safety.

4. At age seven, merkid Oliver Nemo's shark-brained merparents swam off into the sunset, never to return. A lucky break on “Mariana Trench's Got Talent” kept him off the streets. Now, puberty--and poverty, if his voice breaks--loom. What to do? Fagan-Fish has an idea, but Oliver doesn't like it at all.

5. When an oil drilling operation threatens the reef, plucky Sammy Sea Urchin organizes a flotilla of sharks, jelly fish and sting rays to send the invaders packing.

6. Lily, A young homeless child, lives by the sea and is referred to as "sea urchin" because she has no family and doesn't bathe. One day a mermaid jumps out of the sea and informs Lily that her father owns a prosperous water treatment facility. Lily finds her dad and ends up inheriting the business.



Original Version

Dear Mr Editor,

"Sea Urchin" is a YA historical fantasy, complete at 57,000 words.

Sixteen-year-old Davie is transported to Australia as punishment for pickpocketing, [Suddenly I'm thinking of becoming a pickpocket.] but in the remote boys' prison he finds opportunities he never thought he'd have. [Like interacting with a kangaroo.]



He works hard in school and leaning [learning] a trade in the workshops, convinced this is the key to becoming a respectable citizen. But when he befriends fellow-prisoner Jimmy, Davie loses his focus. He skips school, [When you're in a prison you can skip school? Suddenly I'm thinking of applying for the position of truant officer in an Australian boys' prison.] and makes mistakes in the workshop. Yet he also saves himself from drowning despite being unable to swim. [You add this as if it's evidence that he hasn't gone totally bad, when even a punk hoodlum would try hard to save himself from drowning.] [Don't they have lifeguards at Australian prison swimming pools?] Jimmy's a bad influence, but he [Davie] can't help being drawn to him. For, unknown to Davie, Jimmy is a selkie, a seal boy trapped on land far from his skin, and his magic is causing all Davie's woes. [His magic can't get him out of the prison? What can it do?] [What woes are we talking about?]

When Jimmy kills another boy to protect Davie, the seal boy goes into hiding. [What kind of prison is this? Prisoners can hide and not be found?] Davie sneaks him food, but Jimmy has been away from the sea for too long, and fades while Davie looks on, helpless. Then Davie is sent away, to work as a gardener for a young widow who wants to mother him. [A prison that sends a prisoner away to work for a young widow? If that happened in America, the woman would get butchered, the story would lead off every news program for a week, and everyone from the warden to Barack Obama would lose his job.] Convinced there is nothing more he can do for Jimmy, he applies himself to his new work. But then a chance meeting with a seal girl forces Davie to make a choice: stay with the widow who'll give him the new start he desires [Gardening for a woman who wants to mother him is the new start he desires? I thought he was learning a trade in a prison workshop.] [Then again, perhaps he enjoys plowing her furrows.] or throw away his new life for a slight chance he might yet save Jimmy's life? [That was a question?]

(Cool stuff about me [, which I'm hoping will happen so I don't have to make it up.])

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

It wouldn't hurt to mention when the story is set.

Not clear how Davie's chance meeting with a seal girl helps Jimmy. And what are the odds that one kid meets a seal boy and then a few weeks later has a chance meeting with a seal girl? Unless there are millions of these wereseals. Also, I thought wereseals were native to the North Atlantic. Yet Davie meets two of them in Australia?

If they're called selkies, why are you calling them seal boys and seal girls and wereseals?

Jimmy faded away weeks ago. How's Davie gonna find him?

If I had an arrangement to send criminals to Australia as punishment, I think I'd want assurances that they'd receive some punishment, not spend three weeks in Club Med and then get live-in gardening positions with young widows. I'd save the transportation costs and have them tend my garden.

If selkies fade away when they're away from the sea, you wouldn't think they'd risk getting thrown into a prison they can't get out of.

If I had the option of being in human form or seal form, I'd be a seal all the time. All you have to do is swim, eat and balance balls on your nose.


Selected Comments

AlaskaRavenclaw said...I don't wish to offend, but there has been a lot coming out lately about a certain nation's habit of sending children off to Australia where they were punished severely for, basically, being born poor.

This went on for aeons, so yeah, a date would be nice. Was this during the 19th century, when Australia was a penal colony, or during the 20th century, when the importation of British waifs was a form of demographic warfare?

That aside, this is another of those queries that goes all over the place, and it's hard to tell if the issue is with the novel or the query. The events listed in the query don't seem to follow logically from one another.

The same ol' advice: Sum your novel up in a single sentence, less than 20 words long. Build your query upward from there.

EE, the lot of a seal in Alaska is not a happy one. There are (despite what you hear about Alaskan Men) few balls, and lots of bullets.



Evil Editor said...Alaska? I would be a seal in Sea World.


Anonymous said...I think this story could be good if the query just explained some of the things EE mentioned. How is the seal girl connected with Jimmy? Why does Jimmy's magic draw Davie? Is Jimmy doing it, or is it just that everyone is drawn to seal boys. What time frame is this or is it like an alternate reality Earth?

Just clear some of those up, and I think it could be a cute story.


Dave said...When I read this: Sixteen-year-old Davie is transported to Australia as punishment for pickpocketing I knew that the story was set in the past when Australia was a prison colony.
I've known a few Australians in my time, a couple with two kids, a guy and his girlfriend, and Bruce the anarchist. They all were descendants of "POME" which is so say, they all had DREAD FAMILY SECRET... My problem with the query is that I get no sense of the character of Davie, Jimmy or Mrs Widow. That Davie goes from would-be thief to productive member of society is a tried and true story. The selkies add a bit of uniqueness but not beyond other stories out there.

I presume this is a coming of age novel about Jimmie. That should be the focus of your story. How Jimmie's interactions with Australia, selkies and Mrs Widow help him grow up.


Anonymous said...You don't get to the fantasy "seal boy" parts until the bottom of the second paragraph--that's a pretty important piece of information. Surprises and slow build-ups are for the novel itself; I wouldn't rely on delayed big reveals in a query. If the agent/editor isn't interested in the setup of boys being shipped to Australian prisons to apprentice in workshops, they might not even get to the central conflict.


R.T. said...I like the feel of the query. It sounds like an enjoyable tale.

There's a few loose ends in the query, which may be answered in the book. 0. How old is Davy? 1. Why does it matter that Davy almost drowns. Is this an example of one of his mishaps, or relevant to the plot? 2. Jimmy sounded dead, then may not be: it's confusing. 3. EE's point about Davy learning a trade, then dumping it to be a gardener: it doesn't make sense, unless he is really young and needs to have a family life.


Jo-Ann said...

1. Many convicts were not sentenced for the term of their natural lives - but as the British crown failed to provide for their return passage once they'd served out the sentence, (or gained a pardon), then they had to find a job somewhere (although the cost of the return fare was so huge that they might as well have been trying to fly to the moon). Perhaps D had been released by the time he became a gardener?
2. Alternately, many convicts worked in servitude in the wealthy settlers' home and lands. D might have been assigned the gardening post on the understanding that it involved ploughing a field by hand or something, and our sympathetic widow let him tend her roses instead.
Overall, I think it's an interesting premise. In my youth in Aust, kids had a wide choice of worthy novels set during the convict era (and goldrush days, too), and the genre became terribly passe by the 80's. It might well be time for a resurgence! One with a fantasy theme sounds fresh, to me.


Ink and Pixel Club said...I don't see the connection between Davie becoming less focused on his quest to become an upstanding citizen and Jimmy and his magic. If Jimmy is a bad influence on Davie, say so. The only thing you mention that happens to Davie that could be attributed to Jimmy's magic is Davie being able to save himself from drowning, which strikes me as a good thing.

A little more background on the threat posed by the kid Jimmy kills would help me decide if I still sympathize with Jimmy and want Davie to save his life.

Why does Davie have to choose between his new life with the widow and getting the selkie girl to help Jimmy? Can't he just bring the selkie girl to Jimmy, have her do whatever she has to in order to save him, and then go back to the widow? Usually these end of query "either/or" scenarios present two mutually exclusive options: the hero can join the resistance or side with her tyrant father, the soldier can go home to his old life and his dependable sweetheart or try to make a life for himself in a war zone with the woman he's madly in love with, the weredingo can roam free and accept all the risks of life in the wild or stay with EE and give up freedom for regular meals and plenty of furniture to destroy. What you have now sounds more like "Davie can either eat pancakes or drink orange juice."

Focus more on the friendship between Davie and Jimmy, so we can see why they care about each other enough to kill and potentially give up a lucrative gardening career.


D Jason Cooper said...You have to put a year. An orphaned child who pick pocketed (which, btw, is a skilled crime, not for an amateur)would be put in a home and from there sent to Australia. Thus, this story could be anywhere from the 19th century up to the 1960's. If it is the earlier period, then he would not be sent to a 'young widow,' to work. She would have a marriage semi-arranged for her by her church, probably Anglican/C of E which was most closely associated with such bureaucratic largess at least until the great Irish Catholic influx into the Public Service (bureaucracy) and all the accusations of Catholic infiltration that that involved.
The selkie is a North Atlantic mythical figure whose stories are normally romantic tragedies. Are these boys gay and you forgot to mention it? Seriously.
And why does a selkie wind up in Australia and Aboriginal mythical figures don't show up or even ask WTF? Certainly there was segregation in Australia, but did it apply to mythical figures as well?
If Thor goes to Greece, he will meet Hercules. If he goes to Egypt, he will meet an Egyptian god. Why doesn't the selkie meet Aboriginal mythical figures?
For that matter, when you've got Jimmie (why are their names all diminutive?) as the only selkie, you might have something. When you add a second one I think that degrades the idea. Suddenly, how many are there? Do they know each other? How do the selkies feel about their own number being sent off like this? Suddenly Davie becomes peripheral to his own story, at least in the query.
Speaking of which, is this a YA novel? I just get the impression you are aiming at an audience who is Davie's (16yo?) age rather than older audience thinking back to when they were that age.


Evil Editor said...Speaking of which, is this a YA novel? See the first sentence. Or the label at the end.


D Jason Cooper said...1) The fact the character is 16 does not mean it is YA. Taxi has a very young protagonist, I wouldn't let my YA child read or watch that story. 2) Evil Editor said it was YA as categorization, I don't see where it was said in the query.


Evil Editor said...As I said, it's in the first sentence: "Sea Urchin" is a YA historical fantasy . . .


Anonymous said...I think that the first thing that you need to do is do a bit more research into Australian history. Even if your story is set in relatively modern times, describing something as a "remote boys' prison" and then telling me that there is a selkie there makes me stop and go, what? Remote in Australia means REMOTE. It means, generally, no where at all near the sea. How did he get there? (And where did he find enough water to nearly drown in?)

Secondly, if this is historical, then I find it very difficult to believe that he would have been treated as well as he seems to be in this synopsis. Prisoners were used in work gangs and hired out as domestic servants, but learning a trade..? I'm not entirely convinced that that would be normal. Also, if this is particularly early in the period, there just aren't going to be that many widows wandering around, because there weren't that many women in Australia at that point. If her husband died when she was there, if she was rich she would probably have packed up and gone back to England; if she wasn't, well, she'd be having some problems, because there was no such thing as gender equality back then.

Someone else already mentioned this, but it might be nice to see at least some reference to aboriginals.


BuffySquirrel said...I assumed the selkie got there by transportation, same as Davie. As for the sea, I believe there's quite a lot round Tasmania.

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21. Feedback Request


The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1208 has posted a new version in the comments there, and requests your feedback.

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22. Face-Lift 1216


Guess the Plot

Audrey Maeng and the Chinese New Year

1. Audrey's life changes forever when she goes on a blind date with a handsome dragon dancer. A multicultural literary fantasy novel that will make you reexamine your view of scales!

2. The latest in a series of mildly racist children's books about holidays around the world. Preceded by 'Timmy Karim and the Ramadan,' 'Kelly Shabat and the Hanukkah,' and 'Sammy McShivers and the Canada Day.'

3. Asked by the principal of her school to host the Chinese New Year Festival, Audrey Maeng wants to scream. She isn't even Chinese. So she ruins the festival by printing signs whose translations are insults and putting doom predictions in the fortune cookies. Nothing makes 3rd grade bearable like a little revenge.

4. Audrey Maeng's Tiger Mom has always made sure she was first at everything. Valedictorian, All American in Taekwondo, and now she was headed to the Olympic trials. When she suffers a meniscus tear her dreams are shattered--until Mike, her hot physical therapist, starts treating her. Should she bring Mike to Chinese New Year so he can meet her family? She doubts they will approve of her new boy toy.

5. It’s a little known fact that Breakfast at Tiffany’s almost didn’t get made. They couldn’t find a female lead. That is, until Blake Edwards went on an all-night binge at General Tso’s 24-hour Mu Goo Gai Pan Palace, and spotted a terribly thin but quite confused waitress, with a penchant for overly-long cigarette holders and cheap fireworks. Also, dumplings. Lots and lots of dumplings.

6. In a bizarre series of unlikely plot twists, a giant man-eating plant swims across the Pacific and lands in a distant country. Changing her last name to reflect her new surroundings, she emerges into society just in time for the biggest celebration on their yearly calendar. Feeeeed me, Xi Moah.

7. Audrey's 88th New Year is approaching, and as double-eight is particularly auspicious in China, she wants to make it a spectacular event. Bring on the firecrackers, lanterns, red envelopes and interminable tales about her previous New Years.

8. When gorgeous Australian ranch hand Han Audrey and fifth generation Chinese immigrant Pamela Maeng discover that their dream of running a sheep farm is threatened by mysteriously cheap Chinese wool they realize that something just isn't right: the anti-democratic Chinese totalitariat has discovered a way to squeeze two year's worth of time into a single year!

9. Twelve year old, Audrey Maeng has waited a long time, for this night, to rid herself of that gnat of a ghost. Grandma said that it came twelve years ago, during the year of the horse, and could only be cleansed under that sign. Looking at the open drawers of the dresser, with her recently folded clothing hanging out, she is more determined than ever. But Audrey will learn that some horses have a mind of their own as--do some ghosts.

10. Audrey Maeng used to love Chinese New Year. But now that she's an executive for a global corporation that does its manufacturing in China, she just sees it as an annoying week of no work getting done. Can three spirits help Audrey remember the true meaning of Chinese New Year? Also: an amnesiac parrot.

11. When Audrey Maeng's DRAGON ONE ship malfunctioned somewhere over Saturn, she knew she was in for an adventure. Now she's in some crazy city where people are chasing after her, trying to set her tails on fire. How will she get out of this with her virtue intact? Also, singing crawdads.

12. Audrey has been trapped inside the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas for three weeks. Everyday is Chinese New Year. Has her aunt been practicing black magic to win at blackjack again, or is her aunt's ex-husband, the washed up "magician" back in town?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

There are three Chinese students at Calla Lily Elementary, [so it's decided that the school play will be The Mikado, a decision that sparks the 3rd Sino-Japanese War.] but Audrey Maeng isn't one of them. A Korean-American girl, Audrey is extremely frustrated that her classmates (and teachers!) can't seem to understand that Asia is made up of different countries. [Of course it is. There's China, and . . . some other Asian countries.] The last straw comes when the principal asks Audrey to be the host of the school's Chinese New Year Festival... and her costume, of all things, is a kimono. [Seems like the kimono would be more annoying if Audrey were Chinese.] [How does Audrey know the three Chinese students and several other kids haven't already declined the request to host the festival?]

As much as Audrey would like to refuse and write an angry letter to the school board, [You did say she was in elementary school, right?] she doesn't want to get in trouble for refusing. [Not clear why she'd get in trouble.] And, okay, she could use the extra credit. With the approval and assistance of Yahong Li, the [Vietnamese] student in charge of coordinating everything, Audrey plants a few small "mistakes": changed lettering on the signs, some misplaced firecrackers, ["Misplaced" means temporarily lost. Is that what you mean? Or do you mean strategically placed?] fortune cookies. Nothing too big. Just a few jokes for anyone paying attention.

But when the Festival arrives, everything falls apart in the worst way. The lettering translates to insults Audrey didn't realize beforehand. The firecrackers go off too early, and nearly burn down the stage. Even the fortune cookies are predicting doom and disaster for the people who open them. [Just to up the stakes a bit, change that last sentence to: And the explosive charges in the fortune cookies maim all the students in Mrs. Patrick's 1st grade class.] [I don't see how the doom-predicting fortunes can be an example of things falling apart; Audrey did know what the fortunes said, right?]

Audrey wanted to make a point, but she didn't mean to ruin Chinese New Year. [Actually, the three jokes you list do seem more likely to make a mess than to make a point. If her point is that not everyone who looks Asian is Chinese, the time to make it was when she was asked to be host, by telling the principal, "No thanks, but I'll be happy to host the Hangeul Proclamation Day Festival, you bigoted jerk."] Now, with the principal furious and Yahong refusing to speak to her, [She did have Yahong's approval and assistance for her jokes.] Audrey has to fix what she's done -- and fast. [None of what was done sounds fixable. The best she can do is hire a political damage-control team.]

AUDREY MAENG AND THE CHINESE NEW YEAR [FESTIVAL] is a middle grade contemporary novel complete at 50,000 words. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Audrey Maeng Ruins the Chinese New Year Festival? 
How Audrey Maeng Ruined the Chinese New Year Festival? 
I'm Not Chinese, You Idiots!?

Hard to believe Audrey didn't know what the lettering translated to. Did she just make random symbols? Seems more likely she'd decide what she wanted the signs to say and ask Yahong to translate into Chinese.

If it's a middle grade book, why set it at an elementary school? Especially as wanting to write an angry letter to the school board and pulling pranks like changing the signs and the fortunes strike me as middle or even high school. Can you include Audrey's age/grade?

Wouldn't the student "in charge of coordinating everything," and not the principal, be the person who recruits a host?

The query's okay, and the point being made is worthwhile, but what could possibly make Audrey think that when people go to this Chinese New Year Festival and see her joke signs and read their joke fortunes and hear the ill-timed firecrackers, they're gonna think, Hmm, I now realize there are many unique cultures in Asia. Does Audrey do anything that might help the uninformed to realize that?

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23. Face-Lift 1217


Guess the Plot

City of Djinn

1. Never the sharpest knife in the drawer, Harry Bumm buys a postcard while on vacation in the City of Djinn and sarcastically writes 'Wish you were here' and sends it to his ex-wife. Seconds later, she appears in his hotel room. Can he get rid of her before she fulfills her wishes to reconcile, have ten kids and move in with her witch of a mother?
 

2. By day Gilbert York is a prosecutor for the city of San Francisco, by night a video game creator. Pocket Djinn is Gilbert’s new monster collection game. Gilbert brings a copy to work where a freak power surge releases the djinn onto the city mainframe. Now Gilbert must use his coding skill to fight every pocket djinn and bring them home before it’s too late!

3. Everyone knows never to make a wish in the city of Djinn. No stranger to the rules, Alexander has always resisted the temptation until he sees beautiful Eleeza, and in one unguarded moment does the unthinkable.  Now a djinn holds Eleeza's future in his hands unless Alexander can perform the dangerous ritual of un-whishing.

4. Worst wedding day ever: Meron's friends and family are all killed by raiders, she's left alone in the desert still wearing her wedding clothes, and then she captured by djinn, shapeshifting monsters who plan to take her to their city and have her for dinner, and I don't mean as a guest.

5. A disgruntled teenager heads to the big city, where people go to forget all their troubles, where it seems everyone is willing to fulfill his every wish. Life is fantastic, until he hits rock bottom and realizes this isn't a city of djinn... It's a city of gin.

6. Archaeologist Ahmed Rais returns to his homeland Iraq, hoping to rebuild the great museum. While cleaning some ancient silver, he is whisked away to a magic land where everything is strange and few speak his language. Just how did he end up in Dearborn, anyway?

7. When Jean Djinn comes of age, and into her powers, she thinks life can’t get any better. Pulling chairs out from under people, making the pavement over sewer lines disappear as people stroll along, materializing pies for people to walk into face first . . . Then they catch her, and send her to genie juvie to learn some respect. Now, she’s out for revenge, badda-bing-badda-boom style. And no jail in creation can hold her – especially not one located in the . . . City of Djinn.

8. Donnie dreams of becoming a star, the number one requested condiment on the planet, the name that’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue. But when he can’t even cut the mustard enough to make the top ten… well, what’s a self-respecting plant like him to do? Wait… what? City of what? Ohhh, Djinn. Never mind.

9. Slave trader Hamsi is an unpopular man in an unpopular profession. Just when it seems he may have to earn a respectable living as a shoe salesman, he stumbles upon the wondrous City of Djinn. So many potential slaves, so few oil lamps to trap them in.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,


I’m seeking representation for City of Djinn, a 95,000 word YA fantasy set in a desert world with elements of Persian mythology. [I'd put this at the end.]


Blighted babies should be given to the desert. To do otherwise is to invite the wrath of the gods. [Get rid of this.]


Because of Meron’s birth defect, she’s been ostracized by her tribe: blamed for every lost camel and sick child [Why haven't the tribe given her to the desert?] and betrothed to an old man who already has two wives. And he only agreed to marry her because he owes her father a favor. [When someone owes you a favor  for, say, feeding his camel while he was on vacation, it's considered bad form to demand he repay you by marrying your daughter. Especially if he's already married. Twice. Is the reason he has two wives because he owed two other guys favors?]


On the night of her wedding ceremony, raiders attack, slaughtering Meron’s tribe and leaving her alone in the middle of the desert, still wearing her wedding clothes. [At least there's no one left to blame her for this.] Her survival depends on crossing a land riddled with dangers: giant crabs that suck their victims dry, and immortal beings she thought were myths. When she’s captured by djinn – shapeshifting monsters that prey on humans – Meron is given a choice: die with the other captives [Who are these other captives?] or discover who’s been enslaving the djinn and why. [How do they know the djinn are being enslaved if they don't know who's enslaving them?] If she succeeds, she and the other captives will be freed. [Or so the Djinn claim, but can you really trust shapeshifting monsters that prey on humans?] If she fails, they’ll be dinner.


As the trail leads her closer to the dark kingdom next door and the beasts that guard it, Meron learns why the djinn selected herfor this task and discovers a secret that could propel her to the upper echelons of society, blighted or not. [When you're in danger of becoming someone's dinner, you tend to put your place in the societal order on the back burner.]


This is my first novel. I hope it will appeal to fans of Rae Carson’s Girl of Fire and Thorns and Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series. [I'd replace this with the first sentence, or combine them.]


Sincerely,


Notes

I think you should tell us why Meron was selected for this task and what secret she learned that will make her the toast of the ton.

Enslaving a shapeshifter seems impossible. He can turn into a snake to slip out of his shackles. He can become a cheetah and run away, or a bird and fly away or he can turn into the Hulk and pound you into a pulp. If this world has sorcerers capable of preventing shapeshifting, then the djinn should be smart enough to figure out that it's the sorcerers who are enslaving them, instead of sending Meron to find out who's doing it.

If the birth defect is the reason Meron was chosen, start with the 3rd paragraph, but add the first two sentences of the 4th paragraph to that one. If it wasn't the reason, you can dump the entire 3rd paragraph and start with the 4th.

 

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24. Evil Editor Classics



Guess the Plot

Soul Birds

1. Dulled by midlife failures, Homer and Bernice Byrd change their name and become a singing duo. They achieve unexpected fame and fortune, but in the end realize that they were happier when they were nobodies.

2. Each of us is accompanied, from birth to death, by a soul bird that sits on our shoulder, makes sarcastic cracks about us to all the other soul birds, and occasionally takes a crap on our Sunday best. That's about it, really.

3. Often seen as a bad racist joke, the crows from Dumbo have decided to make a comeback, and this time they're out for revenge. Known as the dreaded Soul Birds, this band of buddies will live up to the name murder of crows, as they regain their honor.

4. Okay, they aren't really birds, they're more like butterflies. People use them to send prayers to the gods. It's a pretty cool idea, but lately the system isn't working like it's supposed to, so as usual it's up to one unqualified female to step in and prevent an apocalyptic war.

5. When the dismembered body of former Laker Jeremiah Smitts is discovered in the speakers of his jazz club Soul Birds, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, cutting up a body that big had to leave a mess somewhere, and two, he'd better wear his Dwight Howard jersey if he wants them to beat the Trailblazers tomorrow night.

6. When people die, their souls enter the bodies of birds, where they can soar to the heavens. Except for people who've been bad; their souls enter flightless birds, like ostriches and penguins. That's the belief system that has evolved on Earth by the twenty-fourth century. The plot is basically the war between flightless birds and the humans who want to eradicate them.



Original Version

Dear EE,

When Adwen attempts to permeate the home of a waiting girl she is forced away and lands on the sidewalk, momentarily powerless. [For starters, it's not clear whether "she" is Adwen or the waiting girl. By which I mean it's clear you mean Adwen (unless Adwen in a man's name), but "she" should refer to the most recently mentioned female singular entity.] [Also, "waiting girl"? Is that a waitress? Or a lady-in-waiting? Or just a girl who's waiting for something? If the latter, is she waiting for Adwen? If not, what is she waiting for, and if that's irrelevant, why call her a waiting girl?]

Adwen is the Corpreal of physical love and fertility. [The what? I, like Google, assume you misspelled "corporeal." If you made up the word, I recommend not using it in the query. Even if it's inaccurate, use "embodiment" or "goddess" or capitalize a known word like Minister, Custodian, Big Enchilada.] It is her duty to enter the rooms and fantasies of Thea's youth to awaken their sexual desires. [Ah, to have lived in a land where, as a teenage boy, I could look forward to the night Adwen permeated my house and awakened my sexual desires. One question: is she more like Betty or Veronica?] [Also, What is Thea? A planet? A woman? Heaven? A place on Earth?] These humans buying the powerful force: [Who said anything about humans buying a force?] are they from Earth?The God of All Things made it so when first man looked at first woman with lust in his eyes and first woman responded with a blush and a smile [and a can of mace].

Confused and scared she rushes to the home of her keeper, Brula, a woman whose magical knowledge is centuries old. [Her keeper? Wait, is Thea a zoo?]

Brula discovered a force that can compete with the God of All Things and someone is selling it to the humans. Brula thinks this new power is coming from The Fringe and Adwen should investigate. [Since when do Corpreals investigate anything? That's like if a powerful force were disrupting life as we know it on Earth, and we assigned the investigation to Kim Kardashian. Why doesn't the God of All Things send in a diplomat or a SEAL team or just make The Fringe evaporate?

The Fringe is a desolate place, devoid of magic. [Think Manitoba.] The people live there to escape the rule of the God of All Things and they don't welcome intruders, especially divine ones. Adwen's magic won't work and she won't be able to protect herself from their wrath. [So she has magical powers besides that of awakening sexual desires in youth?]
  
If Adwen chooses to go, she will be stripped of her powers but if she chooses not to, a war between humans and gods could erupt. [Are you declaring that if she chooses to go, the war won't erupt? Why is war any less likely to erupt if a powerless, unwelcome Corpreal enters The Fringe?] The God of All Things won't turn a blind eye to other forms of magic for long. 

SOUL BIRDS is 80,000 words and is my first novel to see more then just the hard drive on my old laptop. [This one has seen the hard drive on my new laptop.] Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


[Note from author to EE: The title comes from butterfly like creatures the gods and goddesses of Thea use to send messages to one another. When they land on someone the person is filled with a vision of the messenger. The soul birds are also used by humans to send prayers to the gods.]


Notes

Is this Fringe the same place as on the TV show, The Fringe?

Why would anyone suspect that the power great enough to compete with the God of All Things is coming from Manitoba?

You spend so much time explaining what stuff like Corpreals and The Fringe are, there's not enough room to tell the story.

Your setup seems to be: When humans acquire power that can compete with the God of All Things, war seems inevitable. It's up to Adwen, the goddess of fertility, to find out how the humans are getting their power, and to prevent the war. But to do so, she'll have to enter the bleakest place on the planet, Manitoba, where no fertility goddess has ever been welcome.  That leaves plenty of room to tell us what she discovers in Manitoba and what she plans to do about it, and who wants to stop her.


Selected Comments

Blogger BuffySquirrel said...So both girls and boys have their sexual desires awoken by a female embodiment of desire? And that seems reasonable to you?


Evil Editor said...Quite reasonable. No one wants their sexual desires awakened by a guy. Unless Brad Pitt is available.


TwiggyBUMPkins said...It almost seems to me like you are trying to write an excerpt (or several) from your book and cram as much information about the world as you can into it in the process. A query is not an excerpt, it is a description of the basics of the plot. The world itself is not necessarily important, though it does need to be clear whether this takes place in a fantasy land, on earth, or in the past/future. What a query needs to have is the plot laid out simply and in a way that makes the reader want to read more.


AlaskaRavenclaw said...In the penultimate sentence you want "than", not "then", but really you don't want that detail at all. Leave out anything not to your advantage.

The first sentence seems detached from the rest of the story and just adds to the confusion. And I'm feeling quite a bit of confusion. It wasn't till the third read-through that I realized Thea was a place, not a person. And is the God of All Things just plain God?

You're spending most of your time in this query trying to explain the rules of your world to us. I'd give that a sentence at most --if it can't be explained in a sentence leave it out-- and focus instead on your protagonist, what she wants to accomplish, and what obstacle prevents her from accomplishing it.


Kelsey said...As someone from Manitoba, touche! Just remember, we claim Neil Young.


khazar-khum said...Your author's note to EE sounds fascinating, a story I'd like to read. The confusing series of actions presented as a query are nowhere near as intriguing as that little blurb.


Jo Antareau said...The embodiment of desire sounds like she would have a pretty full diary, and possibly grateful for stumbling across one person whom she could not permeate. And I'm not quite sure what permeate means..

Start over. Read the query aloud. A few times.

BTW, all the GTPs featuring Zack Martinez make me smile. Does anybody have plans to give this guy his own book or series?


Evil Editor said...Some of the better Zack Martinez GTPs were collected in a post here: http://evileditor.blogspot.com/2009/08/zack-martinez-chronicles.html.

For longer Zack Martinez material, find your way in the archives to August 23, 2009 for 11 ZM stories, the result of a writing exercise.

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25. Face-Lift 1218


Guess the Plot,

Awaken

1. A panel of octogenarians debate as to whether a famous American novelist should begin his new book with I awoke; I woke up; Awakened, I; Awake, I; Woken, I...or something else entirely! Complicating the matter: the main character is a Wiccan.

2. Audrey's fiance has been in a coma for ten months, and she's scared they'll lose the non-refundable deposit on the reception venue if he sleeps through their wedding. Just what will it take for him to . . . awaken?

3. Ogzhal is an Awakener, one of a special caste of elite warlocks whose task it is to select new corpses for life among the undead. When his wife leaves him for a vampire, he turns to formaldehyde to drown his sorrows. Can sweet ghoul Loretta help turn his life around before it's too late?

4. Seventeen-year-old Emsley finds the new kid at her school intriguing. She knows junior year can be intense, but would it be so bad to have a boyfriend? No, not when the forces of Hades have somehow gotten the idea that Emsley possesses the Key, a mysterious object that can kill a god, and they'll do whatever they have to to get it so they can destroy the Olympians and all of humanity, and the new kid just might be Emsley's--and our--only hope.

5. When the body of actor Jason Mitchell is found hanging in the restaurant of the airport Hilton at six A.M., homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, the star didn't carve that pentagram into his own back, and two, the Hilton puts out a pretty decent breakfast buffet.

6. The morning after the senior prom, Laura wakes at noon with a hangover. The police are downstairs asking about her date. They found his headless body in a drainage ditch and Laura can't remember a thing after her first sip of Southern Comfort. Because of her sword- juggling talent she's a “person of interest” and two of her swords are missing.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Emsley didn’t plan on falling for Henry, the new guy in school. She didn’t plan on discovering that her past is intertwined with a war between Gods, and she didn’t plan on holding the key to their destruction. [So it will come as no surprise when I tell you that none of these things happened. Except the falling for Henry part, but that didn't matter because Henry was cute so Emsley didn't have a chance with him.] [My point being, there's no need for this paragraph. Nobody plans on stuff like that. It just happens.]

Seventeen-year-old Emsley is, well, ordinary. She is expecting her junior year to be academically intense, but what she isn’t expecting [More about what Emsley isn't expecting? You'll save a lot of space if you don't preface everything that happens with the stipulation that Emsley didn't expect it to happen.] is Henry, the new, seemingly unordinary, perfect boy in her quaint, mid-west island town. [He's seemingly unordinary? "Seemingly unordinary" without the italics would suggest that he only seems unordinary, i.e. that he actually is ordinary. If that's not what you mean, and you thought italicizing "seemingly" would suggest that he doesn't seem unordinary but actually is, I don't think it's working. Why don't you just tell us what it is about him that seems unordinary?] [Also, is "unordinary" even a word?] Since losing her parents at the age of seven, Emsley had [has] kept her heart closed with the exception of [to all but] her two best friends. But the further Henry seeks her out, the further she is intrigued.  [Is "further" the best word there? I was thinking "more" would be better, but I bow to any high school English teachers in the audience.] And the closer she comes to letting him in, the closer she comes to discovering Henry’s true identity. [Is it a secret identity? Or is he simply not telling her because she'd never believe he's Robin, the boy wonder, anyway?]

When Emsley’s life is put in danger, twice, Henry is forced to confess [reveal] that not everything she learned in 9th grade Mythology was a myth. [For instance, that movie, Thor? A documentary.] ["You know those myths where Zeus comes to Earth and has sex with mortal women, Emsley? Well, I'm back."] The Underworld is waging war against the Olympians for control over the human world, and according to the three Fates, whichever side possesses the Key, a mysterious object that can weaken or even kill a God, is the side that will prevail. [That's all well and good, but you haven't explained why anyone would want control over the human world.]

After centuries of searching, Hades believes the Key to be in Emsley’s possession. [For centuries they couldn't find it, but now suddenly they have reason to believe this high school kid has it? Why? Is Emsley a newly awakened goddess?] When Emsley is attacked by a creature from the Underworld demanding that she hand it over, the secrets begin to unravel. [This is season 5 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Especially if it turns out that Emsley is the Key.] She discovers that not only was Henry sent to protect her, but that he and his family have a secret - a secret that could destroy her relationship with Henry and force Emsley into a world with an ancient grudge and imminent battle in order to stop Hades from controlling and ultimately destroying humanity.

I am submitting for your consideration a 67,200-word YA urban fantasy. Awaken is a stand-alone novel with the potential to be the first novel in what I entitled my Spark series. It will appeal to fans of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instrument series and Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed.

I am a high school English teacher with a BA in English, Language and Literature and a [an] MA in Reading. [Reading? I haven't taken a Reading class since 4th grade, and now you can get a Masters in it? Do they also have Masters programs in Arithmetic and Spelling?] [Required courses for an MA in Reading: Reading 401: The Poetry of Suess; Reading 560: Deciphering Physician Penmanship; Reading 587: How to Correctly Guess What the Bottom Line of an Optician's Eye Chart Says. And of course for your Masters thesis you have to muddle your way through the Cliff Notes for Finnegans Wake.]

Thank you for taking the time to become part of my new fantasy world. [Not crazy about that line.] Upon your request, I am prepared to send the complete manuscript. I'd be honored if you would consider Awaken for representation.

Sincerely,


Notes

Is humanity better off if the Olympians have the Key? Because if I'm Emsley, I'm thinking the Olympians have a better chance of protecting it from the forces of Hades than I do. On the other hand, apparently the Olympians also want control of the human world, so I'm worried that Henry is actually Hedylogos, the Greek god of sweet talk and flattery, and he wants the Key so the Olympians can regain the power they had before humanity decided it was less work to believe in only one god.

Questions that occur to me, and that you probably answer in the book and could answer in the query if you wanted to: If Emsley has an object that can weaken or kill a god, why don't the gods just take it from her? What is the secret Henry and his family have? What happens if the Olympians win the war for control of the human world?

It's not as bad as all the blue words make it look. Just get rid of the 1st paragraph and answer a couple of the questions. Young adults who've studied mythology will probably dig it.



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