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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. New Beginning 1028

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school. She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.

Nothing’s more important than an education.

The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother's new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before. Her father brought it home for her to play in.

The nicest thing he's ever done.

Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off. She lived in the next house up the hollow. Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities. Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.

All she needs is a little motivation.

Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, "The place of all things possible -- especially you passing the fifth grade so we'll be together in the sixth."

Please concentrate, Faith. Try this one.


"A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O," Faith demonstrated her intellect.

"That's weak. This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points. Come on."

Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.

I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can't turn into another punch line.

But something had changed.

Faith began rattling off the vocabulary words: "pianist," "Uranus," "mainstream," while Lacy Dawn did her best to make them funny: P, E, N, I, S . . . . Y, O, U, R,   A, N, U, S . . .  W, A, N, K, C, H, E, E, S, E.

They stopped.

"We've switched bodies," said Faith. "Hey! Now I can pass math!"

Lacy Dawn nodded. She suddenly saw her future. Now she was dumb enough for the boys to like her.

Opening: Robert Eggleton.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

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2. Feedback Request

Dear EE,

Thanks so much for the review. It’s enlightening (and unsettling) to see the assumptions I made for the reader in the name of brevity. Of course you would think Hayworth escaped with the girl that moment in the mail truck. Of course you would wonder why the girl didn’t just grab the money and jump on an airplane…and on. Some things still don’t work; the eight year old daughter (and grandparents) while crucial to the story are too complicated for the query. The search for the safe combination (and discovery of sex traffickers names and numbers along with policemen and politicians)—too complicated. Already it seems too long; I’m just hoping you will be good enough to tell me if the intro still sounds like “some far-fetched events contrived by the author just to get the characters together”.

THE MAILMAN (Working title, as there’s another story by that name I’ve learned). 64, 000 words. My background is advertising, not sex trafficking. (Yes, I’ve put attractive women in ads and commercials but they were always clothed.) I’ve researched sex trafficking quite thoroughly, with particular interest in the psychology that invades the girls’ minds—most of the time, but not always.

Ex-Marine MP Trevor Hayworth is subbing as a postal carrier in San Diego and struggling to make ends meet. While he’s delivering the mail, a pretty young woman begs him to come into the house, where she reveals massive bruises up and down her back. She says she was taken from her family in San Salvador seven years previously and sold to sex traffickers. Now she’s being kept in the house by a sex trafficking boss, who makes her wear an ankle monitor so he can watch her when he steps out. She noticed Hayworth’s Marine tattoo previously and hopes he is the one to help her escape and drive her to Tucson, where she’s learned her parents now live. [I'm getting the impression the mail is regularly delivered to the front door of this house. Are we in the 1950s? Isn't there a mailbox out by the street?]  Hayworth wants to call the police. Alarmed, she says she is illegal and they will send her back to San Salvador where she will die and, besides, her captor is friends with a top policeman and provides him with young girls. Then the girl’s captor walks in. 

The man orders Hayworth out of his house, insisting things are not what they seem. Hayworth finishes his route, all the while thinking about the girl’s back and her palpable fear and asking himself the question: “When are you going to learn you can’t fix things?” [It seems like he'd be asking himself, "How can you do nothing when this girl begged you for help?"]

Instead of going home after work, Hayworth drives to the girl’s house. Under the cover of darkness, he scrapes paint off a basement window and sees the girl naked and chained to a wall. [Which looks bad until he remembers that the captor said things are not what they seem.] He stops reminding himself he gave up playing hero and goes back to his pickup for tools.

Hours later, Hayworth and the [naked] girl are on the run, leaving behind a dead man, an empty safe, and their old lives. [As far as the girl is concerned, she left behind her old life seven years ago, not hours ago.] Chasing them are sex trafficking thugs, corrupt cops, and a newspaper reporter who moonlights as a contract killer. Everyone wants the money and no one wants them alive. 


Why doesn't the captor chain the girl in the basement when he steps out? The ankle bracelet won't keep her from running out to the street when she sees a taxi approaching and getting a ride to a shelter or  . . . Tucson.

Assuming the reporter is chasing her as a contract killer, who hired him? If the sex trafficking thugs hired him, why are they chasing her? Usually when you hire a contract killer it's because you don't want to be around when the killing takes place. As the contract killer knows about the money, was he told that the money was his fee? A smart contract killer isn't going to agree to terms that state he must kill someone in return for which he gets to keep whatever money she has on her. She might have ditched the money by the time he kills her, or he'd be worried there never was any money, and the thugs tricked him into doing their dirty work for nothing.  

If everything actually is as it seems, maybe the girl should yell to the mailman from a window, asking for help. Getting him to come into the house and showing him her bruises and ankle bracelet and the captor coming in and trying to sell the vague explanation that all is not as it seems, and then apparently hoping the mailman won't alert the authorities to what he's seen . . .

The first paragraph has too much info. Something like this would suffice, even if it's not exactly what happens:

While working as a postal carrier in San Diego, Ex-Marine MP Trevor Hayworth hears a woman calling to him from a second-story window. She begs him for rescue from the sex trafficker holding her captive. Before Trevor can respond, the girl is yanked away from the window and the shade is drawn.

Hayworth finishes his route, all the while thinking about the girl’s palpable fear . . .  

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3. New Beginning 1027

My last day among the Sangi stank of trouble, even before the Acursa came. Ossilan and I downed a small dragon on the coast during our shift. Mer captains took a second one, close to Beach City. We held a joint bonfire celebration that night, attended by the gray-skinned Sangi of the wood—my adopted people—and by landwalking merfolk, who could turn tail to legs.

One of Jaire's friends added a log to our fire, raising sparks. Lord Grat Theldier cursed, brushed sparks from his tunic. Raising his head, he sniffed the wind. I sensed it too. Something in the air felt off, thicker. Like gathering magic. The celebrating throng trailed off their noise and looked north. Something was coming. I glanced at the sky and saw what looked like a hurtling, spiraling star coming our direction.

Lord Grat Theldier stood. "Move away from the fires."

The crowd broke apart; merfolk dashing for water and Sangi moving up the hill toward the trees. I joined the back of the Sangi throng. The great light swooped over our heads, making our shadows grow long, and slammed into the ground with a boom that shook the earth and echoed off the cliffs. A mer baby gave a shriek of terror that cut off with a splash.

I took a calming breath, drew Denara, and turned to face the light. There at the fire where I'd sat with Jaire stood the Acursa.

I circled warily, Denara before me in a two-handed grip. I could hear the crunch of twigs as the Sangi behind me found positions in the shadow-shrouded trees. They would not help with this, nor would the merfolk who watched from the shallows near the shore. This enemy had come for me, and me alone.

Behind the light, a portal opened and a dragon emerged, taller and uglier than those seen earlier in the day. It took two tentative steps toward me and stopped, sniffing the air and wrinkling its snout in disgust. “What the hell are you burning?” it said. “And put down that stick.”

“This is Denara!” I shouted, brandishing it menacingly. “It is a mighty weapon!”

“It’s a stick,” the dragon said. “Put it down and get over here.”

“I will draw no closer to the Acursa!” I cried.

“Acura,” the dragon said. “It’s an Acura. And seriously, did you kids build a marijuana bonfire? Where's your camp counselor?"

I looked around me. Lord Grat Theldier and the others had vanished, perhaps for good. The dragon rose taller, and its voice deepened dangerously. “Get in the car!” it roared.

Terrified in the face of its fury, I had no choice but to lower Denara and comply with the dragon’s command. “Fine,” I muttered. “But on the way home, can we stop for snacks?”

Opening: Rebecca Kellogg.....Continuation: Joe Mosher

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4. Face-Lift 1264

Guess the Plot

The Mailman

1. A zombie postman conspires with his vampire mistress to kill her washed-up Superhero husband, who now owns a lunch counter.

2. John Tremble has been handling other people's packages for too long. Now he's ready for someone to handle his package. He grabs that Magic Mike DVD and a thong. Hilarity ensues.

3. He's a serial killer who incinerates his victims and delivers the ashes to their loved ones. The police are baffled because they haven't thought up a catchy name for him. Finally they give up and settle for . . . the Mailman.

4. Every day, Maggie waits for him to come by. He always has a kind word and a smile for her while he visits with Mom. She loves him--until he brings the papers that make Mom and Dad fight and split up. Today she'll get her revenge. Today she's going to bite him.

5. Jack just delivers the mail, lost in daydreams about the tropical island he'll live on when the lottery numbers fall his way. But when he drops a package he was supposed to deliver and finds it full of white powder, he realises he has won the lottery. Thus begins a new lucrative career. Until the heavies with bolt cutters arrive, that is. Then the tropical island is about the only safe place left for him...

6. In the not-so-distant future, Earth is ruled by a central government that limits communication among the newly-designated provinces it rules. Supposedly, the only person who knows what's going on everywhere is The Mailman, a Santa-Claus-like mythic figure who distributes letters and packages around the planet every night. It turns out, however, that he actually exists -- and 16-year-old Tonyah stows away on his mail truck one night to find out more.

7. When mailman Trevor Hayworth attempts a delivery, the woman who answers the door asks him to drive her to Arizona. Hours later, she and Hayworth are being chased by sex trafficking thugs, corrupt cops, and a contract killer. Looks like the people on Hayworth's route won't be getting their mail today.

8. Sally Jensen has been delivering mail for ten years. Rain, sleet.. you know the rest. But when a jerk on her route calls her a mailman instead of mail-person, she snaps and delivers a right cross to his face. Romance ensues. And there's a monkey.

9. A serial killer is loose in Bucks County. FBI agent Jane Treadwell plans to take him down. When packages with body parts of the victims start showing up on her porch, she's gotta wonder... is a McDonald's gift card enough of a tip for the mailman this year?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Ex-Marine MP Trevor Hayworth is subbing as a postal carrier in San Diego and struggling to make ends meet for his eight-year-old daughter and himself. While [he's] delivering the mail, a pretty young woman begs him to come into the house. She takes off her shirt, [Suddenly I have the urge to apply for a job carrying mail.] revealing massive [Whoa, is this one of those erotica books we never seem to get queries for?] bruises [Massive letdown.] up and down her back. She says she was taken from her family in San Salvador seven years previously and sold to sex traffickers. She asks him to help her escape and drive her to Tucson, where she has learned her parents now live. In return, she will divide with him the money in the safe. [She has access to the money in the safe? Why is she still in this house?] While Hayworth is shaping his refusal the girl’s captor walks in. [Her captor was away and the front door was open and instead of emptying the safe and running like the wind and booking a flight to Tucson after she's safe, she decides it's a better idea to invite the mailman into the house and request that he abandon his route and drive her 400+ miles?]

Hours later, Hayworth and the girl are on the run, leaving behind a dead man, [The sex trafficker surely had a gun. Lucky for the girl this was the day an ex-marine was subbing for the regular mailman.] an empty safe, and their old lives. [Including Hayworth's daughter?]  Chasing them are sex trafficking thugs, corrupt cops, and a newspaper reporter who moonlights as a contract killer. Everyone wants the money and no one wants them alive.

[We need a paragraph here with the title, word count, genre, and how you became so knowledgeable about sex trafficking.]


Where was the captor when Trevor got there? In the house somewhere (in which case the girl is nuts to invite Trevor in rather than make her appeal outside), or off buying cigarettes (in which case the girl should have emptied the safe and headed out the minute he left)?

I assume mail has been delivered here for the past seven years. Is this the first time the girl's been alone in the room when someone came to the door?

Taking off her shirt seems weird. If not in the book, at least in the query.

The reader could get the impression half the book is a thrilling chase, but that half is preceded by some far-fetched events contrived by the author just to get the characters together. I'm sure there are reasonable explanations for everything; provide some, and leave out the parts you don't want to explain.

When they're being chased, are they in Hayworth's mail delivery vehicle?

I think Trevor should be a UPS driver. I think their trucks are faster and less vulnerable to gunfire than mail trucks.

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5. Feedback Request

Dear Evilness,

You may remember a previous draft of this query, which appeared on this blog many moons ago in a more embryonic form. It's grown up more since then, and now needs its zits and strange lumps looked at with a savage editorial eye.

Wayward Collins knows the way to survive in Victorian London’s cutthroat world of ghosts and werebeasts is to stick to the shadows and not give a damn about anyone.

Wayward has no innate magic, which ranks him as a third-rate citizen in the eyes of the magickals. He lives a nomadic existence, staying neutral, and trying to teach himself magic. It’s not much, but if he can avoid trouble, Wayward will be happy. Until one night his attempts at magic backfire, killing an innocent girl. Haunted by her death and hunted by the police, Wayward becomes dogsbody to the arrogant and ruthless wizard Lord Cadogan in exchange for his protection. However, serving Cadogan involves more than folding handkerchiefs and brewing nightshade. When one of his footmen is brutally killed, Cadogan decides to solve the murder himself and drags Wayward along with him.

Instead of passing the time by spitting in Cadogan’s tea and snooping through his grimoires, Wayward becomes a reluctant accomplice in a murder investigation that stirs up nothing but trouble. The police inspector in charge badgers Wayward at every turn, certain he knows more than he’s letting on. Even if Wayward’s past crime remains a secret, he could end up accused of a murder he didn’t commit. And there are whispers of strange new magic brewing in the city, which is somehow connected to the murder—and maybe to Wayward himself.

Wayward must find a way to escape Cadogan, the police, and the magical forces at work, either by making a wild break for it and becoming a fugitive, or by staying put and seeing if he can twist his servitude to his advantage. Maybe the road to a quiet life doesn’t lead away from danger but straight towards it.

CHALK CIRCLES is a historical fantasy of 83,000 words with series potential, and will appeal to fans of Jim Butcher, Catherine Webb, and Benedict Jacka. [personalised agent blurb]. I am the Consultant Editor at Creative Authors Ltd, as well as a freelance ghostwriter.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

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6. Face-Lift 1263

Guess the Plot

Mercury Wants a Moon

1. Earth wants Mercury to be happy, but Mercury isn't happy because Jupiter teased him about not having a moon. Mother Sun can't help because she's at the peak of her cycle. It's all up to Uncle Halley, who's due for a rare visit.

2. Mercury makes an ideal vacation spot because of its year-round warm temperatures, but it's just not drawing intergalactic tourists in sufficient numbers to become a top-tier economy. The Mercurian Planetary Council decides to apply to the Solar Authority for a moon, hoping to benefit from the added eye-appeal and mystique. Once again, small-planet politics bring out the worst in everyone, while the big bureaucracy on the Sun only adds to their troubles.

3. Detective Silas Mercury is investigating a murder. Tina Moon, a local stripper, is the prime suspect. When Mercury visits the strip club for the tenth time, he's not looking for answers. He wants Moon, and she'll do anything to stay out of jail.

4. Eighteen-year-old Mercury Jones wants a moon she can control to make that hottie in school notice her. But when she makes her moon-wish during a case of the hiccups, she gets a moon pie instead. Not a bad trade off, really.

5. Mercury wants a moon, Saturn wants a ring, and people in hell want ice water. There's one man in the universe who can grant wishes as big as these. All you have to do is get him a date with Hannah Rogers and he's on it.

6. It's not fair. Mars has some, Saturn has a metric buttload, hell, even Uranus has some! Dammit, Mercury wants a moon to call its own! And that little spacecraft will make a nice start.

7.The whippet racing industry is in peril. Top dogs Mercury and Moon are making out like pandas down on the canine stud farm, and when pro breeder Kip "The Woofer" Drimpson hires the Mafia to infiltrate a Texan sperm bank, it's crimetastic DNA-fusion dogmania gone crazy. How will the world cope with the new breed of quasi-human mob pups? And who will become Top Whippet?

8.Merryn, a Gemini, totally loves her astrologer. Mercury's movements are spot-on predicting her future. So when Mercury enters Cancer, it's time for romance with a man born under the sign ruled by the moon. But placing the ad "mercury seeking a moon" in the lonely hearts section seems to attract...luna-tics.

Original Version

Dear EE

Planet Earth hunts meteors, dodges spaceships and plays with his eight brothers and sisters;  [Seven. Turned out Pluto slipped into the family minivan when they left Disney World and no one noticed until months after they got home, but as soon as they did, they sent him packing.] that is, when they're not being annoying. But he loves his family, craters and all, and wants them to be happy.

When little brother Mercury is upset because he hasn't got a moon, Earth tries to help. He's got a moon but can't give it to Mercury - his people need it. Earth dries his brother's eyes with a cloud [Drying anything with a cloud is like drying yourself after a bath by standing under a shower. Even kids know that clouds are basically water droplets.] and looks for support from the other siblings. Venus, his twin, is too busy admiring herself in the mirror, while sister Saturn is distracted by a minor planet she's dating. Big brother Jupiter's teasing caused the problem in the first place. Mother Sun wants to assist but she's at the peak of her cycle and can't stop burping. [So he turns to the only sibling with mooning experience: Uranus.] 

Luckily it's time for one of Uncle Halley's visits and he just might have a solution.

MERCURY WANTS A MOON is a 1,600 word [1600 words isn't a book; it's an Eminem song.] easy reader for 6-9 year olds. [A nine-year-old is reading Harry Potter, not easy readers.]  

Thank you for your consideration.


Your female characters are useless to Mercury because one is too busy admiring herself in the mirror, one is too busy with her current crush and one is at the peak of her cycle. Is this how you want the impressionable girls who read your book to see the world? And then the male family member, who hasn't been seen for 75 years, drops in to save the day?

The good news is they can print the whole thing on four sheets of paper. Very economical.

Does this come with illustrations? If so, are the characters people with planets for heads or are they giant spheres with facial features?

Maybe some children's magazine or webzine would publish this.

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7. New Beginning 1045

Allie pushed through the dense woods with the sun dipping low in the sky. She puffed out white mist with every breath in the chilly air. Dead leaves crunched under her feet and bare tree branches swiped at her sweatshirt like bony fingers.

She pushed her straight blonde hair behind her ears and glanced around for the boulder where she’d left her bike. The huge rock sat off to her left. “Finally.” Allie raced over and grabbed the dented handlebars of her rusty yellow bike.

A light flickered in the distance and she glanced that way. The streetlight on the old road next to the woods blinked a few times then zapped to life.

“Oh man. I’m late again.” Allie sat on her bike and put her feet on the pedals, ready to push off. A car engine roared, getting louder by the second. She glanced back at the road. Hardly anyone used Skelley Road anymore and Allie wondered who it was.

A dark colored car pulled over and jerked to a stop. A man got out and strolled to the back. His figure glowed like a ghostly silhouette under the streetlight. She couldn’t see his face, but something about him seemed familiar.

He popped open the trunk and stared inside. Then he rested his hands on his hips, as if admiring whatever was in there—maybe his first deer kill of the season.

Allie grimaced at the thought. But why would he bring a dead animal out here? It had to be something else.

The man dragged a body from the trunk, a male body, his face slack in death. The driver dragged the body to the side of the road and poured something over it before throwing a lit match. Allie caught a brief glimpse of the driver's muttonchops in the bright flame. Laughing, the man climbed back into his car and drove off.

Allie approached the body. She recognized him--that famous thriller author whose picture had been in the paper. Grabbing her phone, she quickly fluffed her hair into place. No way was she going to miss this selfie! 

Opening: Dottie D. .....Continuation: khazar-khum

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8. Face-Lift 1262

Guess the Plot


1. A shadow escapes his human host and searches London for a way to gain a soul of his own. A sorcerer, Mr. Marrow, promises to help him, but the spell involves bloody sacrifices. Can Peter Pan find his shadow before the silhouette, whom the public is calling Jack the Ripper, strikes again?

2. France, 1745. Mme Antoinette Girard is the finest silhouette cutter on all of Provence. When the Royal Court passes through, she is summoned by the king himself. But when she gets there, she realizes that the king is none other than her own long-lost father.

3. 13-year-old Allie sees someone with a familiar-looking silhouette dump a body in the woods. The next day she sees another body, and when she later sees someone in the bushes outside her window she realizes the killer has hunted her down. Is it time to tell her dad or call 911? Not a chance. It's time for this girl to solve a few crimes on her own.

4. The Invisible man was once free to steal from the bank, peek into the ladies dressing room, and anything else he damn well pleased. But hey, aging sucks. Now his flabby silhouette has been seen all over town and it ain't pretty.

5. When Amy discovers a broach with a silhouette of her late Grandma Steele on it, she thinks it might be worth something on ebay. But when Amy tries to sell it, her old dead granny comes knocking, and boy is she pissed.

6. Sasha keeps seeing the silhouette of her ex-boyfriend behind her whenever she looks in mirrors, which is a total drag when she's at the gym. Wasn't killing him enough? Now she's got to exercise him, too? Geez.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Thirteen-year-old Allie is the queen of imaginary adventures. So when she tells her best friend, Brandon, she saw a killer dumping a body in the woods, he figures no way. Especially when Allie says the killer’s silhouette seemed oddly familiar. [Was it this one?]

If not, I don't see why her claim that the silhouette was oddly familiar makes him "especially" skeptical.] 

The next day, near that same spot in the woods, Allie and Brandon see a body at the bottom of a cliff. [If I'm so close to the edge of a cliff that I can see what's at the bottom, I'm way too close, and I'm sure not standing there if there's someone else anywhere near me, as depicted in this dramatic enactment.] Allie is determined to figure out who the killer is, but before they find a way down to investigate the body, it disappears. [Maybe the body was some guy taking a nap.] Then Allie sees a figure in the bushes outside her window [Having moved to a different time and place, I'd replace "then" with "later" or "that night," or "the next day."] and someone breaks into her room. She’s convinced the killer knows she was spying that night and he has hunted her down. [It sounded like she was in her room, saw someone in the bushes, and he broke in, which means she was a goner. But based on my further reading I'm guessing she saw someone in the bushes one time and at some later time when she wasn't there someone broke into her room. Clear it up.]

Now she can’t give up. [This is precisely when she should give up.] No one has reported a missing person, [according to her sources in the police department,] so the police aren’t investigating. With her dad and her brother both acting strangely lately, [Maybe it was her brother who broke into her room. To read her diary.] Brandon is the only one she can trust to help her. [Her dad is acting strangely if he's taking no action after she told him someone broke into her room. She did tell him, right?] But a school dance brings out Allie’s jealousy over Brandon—a surprise to them both—and Allie storms off. With their friendship in trouble, Allie may end up alone trying to figure out who the killer is and what happened to the body before the killer makes her disappear.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

My info here


She sees someone dump a body in the woods but doesn't investigate or tell anyone. She and Brandon see a body and tell no one. Allie sees someone in the bushes outside her room and tells no one. She tells no one when someone breaks into her room. And she's convinced a killer has hunted her down but tells no one. She seems too stupid to live.

If the killer wanted to make her disappear, he could have done so the time he was outside her window instead of leaving and coming back when she wasn't there. Obviously someone is playing an elaborate prank on Allie, someone so stupid he hasn't considered the possibility that she might call 911.

The jealousy over a school dance subplot seems like small potatoes if she believes a killer is after her.  I don't see her even going to a dance under the circumstances. If Brandon does end up helping her, we don't need to know about their little spat, and if he doesn't end up helping her, we don't need him in the query.

Your letter needs to include your title and genre and word count. Or is that what you mean by "my info here"? I assumed that meant your contact info and/or credits.

Whether it's a prank or there's a killer, you're better off if her dad took her brother fishing somewhere with no cell phone service for the weekend than having her keep him in the dark when her life is being threatened.

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9. Face-Lift 1261

Guess the Plot

Walls of Sakaret

1. Alsed's home city of Sakaret has been walled off from the rest of the world for thousands of years. Then a mysterious woman shows up and asks Al to help save her people from a psychotic demigod bent on destroying the entire world. And he agrees!

2. Tom is diabetic, going deaf, and getting a little crazy. When he hears the doll house his wife bought for their daughter has walls of Sakaret, he thought she said saccharine and he dives in. Well, at least it had fiber.

3. Every year the Fae people build a wall made of sakaret, their famous cheese made from deer milk. And every year, they join with the dwarves in a battle to see who can eat it first. It's all fun and games, until some local teenagers show up, demanding paternity tests.

4. What lies beyond the ancient walls surrounding the city-fort of Sakaret? No one knows. It is the Sakaret City secret. With plague ravaging Sakaret's citizens, one rogue warrior is determined to find the legendary tunnels beneath the Walls and lead his family to safety. What he finds is conspiracy and corruption. And . . . parakeets.

5. Judy Beckwith is the best interior decorator in town. Just ask the mob. When they hired her to get rid of Johnny Sakaret's body, she stuffed him in the kitchen wall and found the perfect daisy wallpaper to cover it up.

6. Joe Wolf has had enough from those three pigs he works for. Sure, his emphysema is acting up, but when they take credit for building that new high rise out of his experimental Sakaret material, he's gonna blow them away.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Walls of Sakaret is a story of the creation and corruption of a world ruled by the seven children of Adeloste, the Eternal King. These demigods, called Ferloren, [You've lost me already.] are ageless and powerful and like the humans they created, they are deeply flawed. A great war that consumes both men and Ferloren alike comes to a fiery and bloody end when the Eternal King sacrifices himself while sealing off the city of Sakaret with a powerful and mysterious enchantment. ["Eternal" doesn't seem like the best adjective for a king who's dead in your first paragraph.]

The world outside has been silent for more than two thousand years. [You've spent 40% of your query talking about stuff that happened 2000 years before your story begins? That's like the query for The da Vinci Code starting with a lengthy paragraph about the life of Mary Magdalene.]

Alsed led a sheltered life completely isolated behind the walls of Sakaret [This is like the TV show Under the Dome. Except with demigods.] until a mysterious woman appeared from a world long thought dead. [What world? The world outside the walls?] Now the manipulations of an unseen hand force Alsed into a desperate fight for survival against man and monster alike while he seeks to help the enigmatic woman save her people. [Who and where are her people, and what makes anyone think Alsed can save them?] What he believed was ancient myth comes roaring to life as Alsed is thrust from the safety of his homeland into a world, [No need for that comma.] rich with a history of war and betrayal, and [Get rid of either the comma or the "and."] teetering on the brink of destruction. [You're stringing together a bunch of phrases that would probably sound good in a movie trailer, but are pretty vague when we don't have any pictures to look at.]

Ill equipped, outmatched, and assaulted at every turn, Alsed and his friends must discover the means to oppose [take on] a psychotic demigod who has held a festering grudge for two millennia, coming forth from exile to set in motion a complex game with one singular ambition: burn the world. [No demigod with the means to burn the world is going to be stopped by a few people who've spent two thousand years trying and failing to figure out how to get out from behind a wall.]

Walls of Sakaret, an 87,000 word epic fantasy novel that is the first of a trilogy titled Legacy of Sakaret. [The second book is tentatively titled Ceilings of Sakaret, to be followed by Sakaret 3: Bribing the Inspectors.] I welcome your feedback and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Warmest Regards,


Too many adjectives. The Ferloren are ageless and powerful and flawed, the enchantment is powerful and mysterious, the woman is mysterious and enigmatic . . . No need to tell us a two-millennia-old grudge is festering or that a myth is ancient or that a war is great and bloody.

Let's get to the main character ASAP, not in paragraph 3: 

Alsed has led a sheltered life in the city of Sakaret, which was sealed off from the outside by enchantment 2000 years ago. He and his fellow Secretions know nothing of the lands beyond their walls--until a woman appears asking for help saving her people from a psychotic demigod. The woman leads Alsed and his friends out of Sakaret and into a world teetering on the brink of destruction.

That leaves plenty of room to tell us how these people plan to take down a demigod with the means to burn the world, what obstacles they encounter besides the fact that they're weaponless farmers fighting an ageless, powerful demigod, and what will happen if they ultimately fail.

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10. Man of Many Centuries

Admiral Komack, Admiral Westerviliet

Those who are more into science fiction than whodunits may have recognized Byron Morrow, the judge at the top of the gallery below, as the actor who played two different admirals on the original Star Trek series.

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11. The Judges of Perry Mason

After painstaking hours of research, I've created a gallery of the 11 actors who appeared most often as judges on the Perry Mason TV show, which ran from 1957 to 1966. I've been watching the show on a local classic TV channel, and decided the judges deserved more credit than they got in their day. There were several other judges on the show, but these are the 11 with the most appearances. If anyone wants me to create similar galleries of recurring-role TV performers, let me know.

Byron Morrow, 7 Episodes

Frank Wilcox, 8 Episodes

Nelson Leigh, 9 Episodes

Charles Irving, 11 Episodes

Richard Gaines, 14 Episodes

Grandon Rhodes, 16 Episodes

John Gallaudet, 20 Episodes

Morris Ankrum, 22 Episodes

Willis Bouchet, 23 Episodes

Kenneth R.MacDonald, 32 Episodes

S. John Launer, 33 Episodes

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12. Face-Lift 1260

Guess the Plot

When You Wish

1. ...upon a star, your dreams come true. But if you wish for the death of the emperor, is the star obligated to grant your wish? It's the philosophical quandary at the heart of this book.

2. Bing Crosby has been gone awhile, but when fifteen-year-old Allie listens to his old vinyl records, he comes to life in her room. And for a few romps in the hay, he's willing to do what she wants—like murder that nosey bitch at school. After all, ghosts can't get the death penalty. 

3. It's the year 2062 and genies are a dime a dozen. Alan Blakeman needs a get out of jail free card so he can bust the nuts of the man who put him there. But when Alan happens upon the genie.com website, he may be in over his head.

4. If wishes were fishes, twelve-year-old Lilly would have a whole lot of smelly on her hands. Sure, she can wish for more wishes, but since her wish-granting genie is twelve-year-old boy with a fart-joke sense of humor, she never knows what she'll actually get.

5. Jack is pretty sure the make-a-wish-and-blow-out-the-candles-on-your-cake deal is a scam just like Santa and the tooth fairy--until he looks around and sees that his parents and friends have all turned into dogs. Now he's glad he didn't wish for a new tricycle.

Original Version

Dear [Agent],

I am seeking consideration for my YA fantasy novel, When You Wish.  [If you ask an agent to consider your novel when she wishes, you may have a long wait.] At 100,000 words the story takes the reader on a multi-point-of-view fantasy adventure. [Easy enough to cram this info into one sentence: I am seeking representation for When You Wish, a 100,000-word YA fantasy adventure.] [Also, as you have a paragraph describing the book toward the end of the query, it's a waste of valuable space to put this up front. Start with the next paragraph.]

Stars are born to grant wishes, never to question their duty. [Tell that to Penelope Cruz. She refuses to do anything I ask of her.] [I would change "never to question their duty" to "without argument."] This is the truth that fallen-star-turned-human-girl Pisces has long since come to terms with. [If you're gonna name her Pisces, I think instead of a human girl she should be a mermaid. Wait, make her Aquawoman!] When her first wish lands her with the task of [charges her with] ending a war, she approaches her mission with a healthy measure of pragmatism. ["Her first wish" sounds like she's doing the wishing rather than the granting. Something like "When the first wish she's a charged with granting is stopping a war... might be more clear.] [Now that she's a human girl rather than a star, how can she grant wishes? Does she have magical super powers, or does she just have to stop the war with her wiles and her charm? This is why she should be Aquawoman.]

General Brise would like her to remove the evil emperor standing in the way of his king's unchallenged reign. [It sounds like his reign is challenged--by the evil emperor.] As the man who wished on her star, he has every right to demand she knock off whatever warlord he please [pleases]. Nevermind [Never mind] that Brise treats her like a slave and doesn't consider ruthless invasions to be off the table. To secure his self-righteous king's rule, no means are too far [any means are justified].

Emperor Aisel Fei Shiang has no right to ask anything of Pisces, save a quick demise. That doesn't stop him from trying to steal a kiss from his would-be assassin. Bent on avenging the death of his father and keeping a firm hold on the imperial throne, Aisel isn't about to go down without a fight. [Is stealing a kiss supposed to be an example of how he's not going down without a fight?] [Is Brise asking her to knock off a warlord or the emperor? If the latter, I would change "whatever warlord" in the previous paragraph to "anyone" or "whomever."]

Although Aisel hasn’t been shy in declaring his intentions to become a first rate villain, Pisces isn’t sure that a fight is what she wants. [When you're already being described as an evil emperor, you don't go around bragging that you aspire to become a first-rate villain. You put to death anyone who dares refer to you as a second-rate villain.] Despite their obvious differences of opinion, Aisel and his minions come to befriend her. [These differing opinions . . . are you talking about their opinions on whether she should assassinate him?] [If Pisces has any freedom of choice at all, she's not gonna go back to the place where she's treated like a slave, whether Aisel befriends her or not.]


Especially when her wish depends on knocking off the vegetarian villain.

Especially when said villain decides to get a couples tattoo without asking her. [Is it a tattoo of the Pisces symbol? Because I don't think a vegetarian would want a picture of a fish on him. I suppose she could have the fish tattoo and he could have the chips tattoo.]

And most especially when her own people may be the greater evil. [Those people don't know her from Adam. Suddenly they're her people?]

Now Pisces must choose between granting her [Brise's?] wish and betraying the kingdom she’s sworn service to. Happy endings just got a whole lot more complicated. [All she's sworn to do is remove Aisel. Has she also sworn service to Brise's kingdom evermore?]

When You Wish is set in a high fantasy world complete with political intrigue, fierce battles, and magical mishaps. Although it is a self-contained novel, I have written and completed two sequel books which ultimately conclude the saga. My novel is similar in spirit to Megan Whalen Turner's The Thief quartet, with a Mongolian/Chinese influence along the lines of Romance of the Three Kingdoms.

I live in Bozeman, MT, where I work as a writer for an environmental consulting firm. I have been published through Montana State University’s journals, Confluence (2009) and Read This (2010). I served as president of the university’s creative writing club and vice-president of the English club. In addition, I co-authored a North American wildlife field guide, published through the USDA Extension Branch. From 2011-2012, I worked as a freelance writer for Keystone Conservation under [Editor]. I continue to be involved in a speculative fiction writing/critique group.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


I'm not clear on the political situation. There's a kingdom and an empire? Separate from each other? Are they enemies, or have they been coexisting peacefully up till now? Is one of them threatening the other? Which one?

Pisces's first wish-mission is to end a war. This implies that she will be granting more wishes. Were these other wishes made by other people who wished on Pisces when she was a star, or does Brise get to make unlimited wishes?

Why didn't Pisces assassinate the emperor at her first opportunity, before getting to know him? Can she just wish him away, or does she have to physically kill him?

How can you say Pisces has "long since come to terms with" the truth that a star never questions her duty to grant a wisher's request, and then have her question the very first wish that comes her way? She obviously hadn't come to terms with it.

Does anyone who wishes on a star in this world get his wish granted? Seems like everyone would be out staring at the sky all night every night if that's the case. And if they all get unlimited wishes it would be chaos.

There are too many paragraphs. Give us one paragraph in which you introduce your main character, her situation, and her goal.

Then a paragraph telling us about her plan to achieve her goal and about the main obstacles she faces, i.e. who is trying to stop her, what goes wrong.

Finally a wrap-up paragraph explaining her dilemma. What will happen if she fails? If she succeeds?

Keep each of those paragraphs about three sentences long. Once you have them, go back and polish them, giving them a voice appropriate to the book, whether that be light and snarky or filled with gravitas.

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13. Synopsis 44

Guess the Plot


1. Ice cream. Sweet puppy kisses. A glorious trail ride on a good horse. Knowing they'll never find that cheating bastard's body.

2. A big piece of warm gingerbread with lots of whipped cream on top. Having a second helping, this time with vanilla ice cream. Weighing yourself the next morning and finding you lost a pound.

3. Forget about ecstasy and cocaine. JJ and his classmate George have developed Bliss, a super drug that's going to make them rich . . . if they can steer clear of the drug kingpin known as Smurf.

4. Connor falls for Annie and Annie falls for Connor and they live happily ever after with neither one getting a fatal disease, no fights, no problems with their kids, and no bad people making their lives miserable.  

5. Mary and Mike are on vacation for their 30th wedding anniversary. Mary hates everything about the hotel they're staying in: the "farm" food, the confusing coffee maker, and the just okay spa experience. Michael will file for a divorce Thursday, as soon as they get home.

6. 14-year-old Carley has to hide in the shadows, away from the sun. Even a single ray will burn her skin causing mounds of blisters. But if she pops the blisters, she releases a gooey slime that becomes a genie named Bliss who grants her wishes. And since Carley has her eye on the hot new guy in school, blisters are about to become . . . Bliss.

Original Version


Welcome to a world that everyone desires, many pursue, and only few succeed. [...a world that "only few succeed" doesn't make sense.] Where sex is typical, [Find a better word than "typical." Not even sure what that means.] loyalty is tested, bonds are broken, money flows like water and pain is inflicted. [Why would everyone desire a world where bonds are broken and pain is inflicted? I'd drop the whole paragraph. Besides its other problems, it's vague ]

JJ is a college student who comes up with an idea to become famous and powerful by creating a new designer drug. [Have a lot of designer drug creators become famous? Seems to me that if you're creating illegal drugs, the last thing you want is fame.] [Is JJ a chemistry wiz or is he just the idea man in this project?]

Smurf is a gangster from South Chicago. He hates school, but loves money and is always up for making it. [Is "gangster" what they call students who are in gangs these days? In my day, guys we called "gangsters" didn't attend school.] 

JJ after finding out he won’t be able to pursue his dream. Turns his ambition towards the development of the new super drug. [Development of the drug is his dream.] [Also, neither of those sentences was a sentence, but if you combine them you might have something.]

Smurf while facing a triple homicide and beating it on a count of a technicality, gets out of jail and goes back into the drug game, this time with the intent of becoming the biggest kingpin in Chicago. [I assume the technicality is that technically the three people aren't dead.]

JJ and his classmate George, pair up to create the super drug with funds they raise by making and selling a high grade Ecstasy powder. [The money is rolling in, but the fame isn't.]

Smurf once re-establishing himself in the Cocaine game, sets out to settle the score against the people involved in the triple homicide and accidental death of a close friend. [He was involved in the triple homicide. And he got off scot free. And boy is he pissed.]

Once finding out the drugs JJ left with his roommate to sell was [were] fronted to a friend and never paid for, JJ decides to take [takes] his roommate to the buyer’s house and proceeds to beat and rob the man, further embracing the drug dealer mentality. [Actually, beating and robbing people who screw you was a mentality long before drug dealing came along.]

As money starts to roll in from their Ecstasy racket. JJ and George establish money laundering and shell company schemes. As they continue to work on their super drug, JJ comes up with the street name for their product “Bliss”.

With the new found sense of confidence, JJ now starts to believe that the world is theirs for the taking and no one will be able to stop them! [But he didn't reckon on . . . Smurf!] [Was it beating and robbing the guy or coming up with the name "Bliss" that gave JJ the new-found sense of confidence?]


Reading synopses is even worse than writing them, but they are samples of your writing, and this one is not a sample you want a prospective agent or editor to see. 

A synopsis needs to summarize the whole book. In this one, JJ hasn't yet developed the drug or encountered Smurf, which are the two main plot drivers. This is all setup. 

Ten paragraphs, and all you've said is College students JJ and George start dealing drugs to finance creating a new drug that will make them famous. And there's a cocaine kingpin named Smurf who presumably won't want competition from these upstarts.

Too many comma problems. Too many one-sentence paragraphs. 

I don't see a guy named Smurf lasting two days in prison. Did he tell the other inmates his name was Borgo?

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14. Face-Lift 1259

Guess the Plot

A Fearful Brew

1. Was it a heart attack that killed that dinner party guest? Or was it poison in his soup? Inspector Snow is on the case, but can his scientific investigation reveal the truth before the society ladies' gossip destroys lives? Also, women's suffrage.

2. When amateur microbrewer Joe Bona creates what may well be the best beer in the world he's ecstatic - until he realizes that his creation is sentient . . . and it's got stage fright. 

3. John Longstein has had a good run as a serial killer. Now it's time to toss back a few brewskies. Just one last step. His last victim-to-be watches him prepare a batch of home-made brew with those "special" ingredients still to come. 

4. Celebrity, actress, chef, writer, model and lifestyle guru Gwen Patronal has a new beverage for the health-happy Hamptons set: a gluten-free, GMO-free, sodium-free, cruelty-free, fat-free, calorie-free, cholestoral-free, free range, organic, vegan beer she calls "Good". Will she clean up at the Sag Harbor Brew Fest, or will she fall to a *gasp* traditional ale? Also, hipsters.

5. High school student Taylor inherits her late grandmother's recipe collection and it includes a recipe for witch's brew. Is this the secret to getting that new boy Josh to finally notice her? Or will the concoction kill everyone who drinks it? Only one way to find out.

Original Version

A Fearful Brew

Inspector Snow thinks there is more to the death of Sir Atwood than the hasty verdict of heart attack. ["Hasty" because Atwood was a young man, and an athlete, and his head is missing.] [Assuming Atwood isn't the guy's first name, that should be Sir John or Sir John Atwood, but not Sir Atwood. I know this because on golf telecasts they always refer to Nick Faldo as Sir Nick.] ["Heart attack" sounds more like a diagnosis than a verdict. Has there been an inquest or was Atwood merely examined at the scene by a doctor?]

The hostess of the fatal dinner party fears the gossip will damage her social position. [Already there are whisperings that Sir Atwood's heart attack was caused by the Clams Casino.] Her guests, obligate [obligated] to attend, find their secrets at risk. 

[Guests: He had a heart attack. What do you want from us?

Inspector Snow: I want to know all of your secrets.]

Charlotte Magnolia, observes sagely from her husband's side, [Observes what?] with a flask of bourbon to keep her warm. [Is Charlotte Magnolia the hostess? A randomly chosen guest? I was convinced we were in London; now I'm thinking Mississippi.]

Jane Bradford, [no comma needed there.] fights her fear. She convinces her widowed sister, Lady Harrington, to help her start a suffrage group, [What is this "fear" Jane is fighting? I can't think of any fears that can be overcome by starting a suffrage group.] despite Aunt Edith's warning that it will ruin their chances of marriage. [Wait, are we in the same book?]

With only three recruits, her sister wavering, and Aunt Edith's smug reaction to their lack of members, Jane makes the radical decision to include the household servants in their group. The only one to object [decline?] is the cook, to everyone's surprise. [The surprise isn't that the cook didn't want in; it's that the butler did.] 

When news of the death of Sir Atwood reaches the group, the servants prove to be more than mere prop . The cook's knowledge of herbs, Maisy's determination to help a sacked maid, [Who is Maisy?] and tidbits of gossip from the society ladies, spark a transformation in an era that demand [demands] social correctness. 


What does Sir Atwood's death have to do with the servants in Jane Bradford's home?

Characters named in query: Inspector Snow, Sir Atwood, Charlotte Magnolia, Jane Bradford, Lady Harrington, Aunt Edith, Maisy. Add to that the hostess, the guests, Charlotte's husband, the cook, Jane's other household servants, and the society ladies, and we have a cast bigger than Downton Abbey. Which is okay for a novel, but way too many for a query letter.

Stating the title at the top isn't enough. We want a couple sentences in which you give the title, genre, word count, and anything else that might convince the reader to request your manuscript.

The first name mentioned is Inspector Snow, but he's never mentioned again. If Jane's cook solves the murder, we don't need the inspector in the query. 

You need to decide whether the main plot is Inspector Snow's murder investigation or Jane Bradford's quest for suffrage. The latter seems to get more attention, but as the suffrage group comprises only Jane and her sister (maybe) and her household staff, maybe the suffrage group is a subplot.

If the investigation is the main plot, tell us why Snow thinks there's more to Atwood's death than a heart attack, and name some suspects and their possible motives.

If women's suffrage is the main plot, open the query with Jane, tell us about her struggles to interest others in the cause, and mention Atwood's death only if you can explain how it's connected to the cause.

Don't name characters without also telling us who they are.

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15. Feedback Requests

Below are revised versions of the query and opening of Ratman's Revenge. The author would like any feedback you can provide.


Twelve-year-old Cody is sick of his too-busy-to-care divorced parents. When he meets two kids in the woods who can read minds and claim to live in a secret underground city, Cody decides he’s ready for a change. The kids take him underground where he discovers crystal caves, slugs-and-bugs soup, and new friends with awesome paranormal abilities.

Best. Home. Ever.

Then the people who warn the city of natural disasters and invading beasts start disappearing. Cody sees his chance at fitting in and tries to find them. Instead, he finds Ratman—a deadly man-sized rat with creepy mind control abilities and an annoying habit of turning invisible. And since Cody is the only one who sees the freaky fur-face, his friends don’t believe it even exists. What’s worse, Ratman seems determined to exterminate Cody. Dang it.

But Cody can’t quit. His friends warned him that once he comes [came] down to the underground world, he could never go to the surface again. [How come his friends were able to come to the surface?] So, Cody decides to hunt down Ratman in time to save his new home from whatever disaster that whiskered weirdo is plotting—or at least before Ratman’s next attack actually kills him. [I don't see much connection between the two sentences in that paragraph. Is he hunting down Ratman because he can never return to the surface? Maybe it would be better to drop this paragraph and change the end of the previous paragraph to: 

And since Cody is the only one who sees the freaky fur-face, he decides it's up to him to hunt down Ratman and save his new home from whatever disaster that whiskered weirdo is plotting.

That would give you room to add a paragraph in which you tell us how Cody plans to defeat Ratman, what goes wrong, what will happen if he fails.]

RATMAN’S REVENGE is my upper middle grade magical realism novel complete at 69,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I dropped to my knees in the middle of the dog park, panting hard. Sandy, my golden retriever, ran up with a tennis ball clamped in her mouth. I grabbed the slimy ball and threw it. “Go get it.” She raced off with her tongue flapping.

Sweat dripped down my face and I wiped it with my t-shirt. Oh man, this sticky heat sucks. I glanced at the shady woods along the back of the park. The trees huddled together like giant green aliens—watching me. The leaves flickered in the breeze as if a million green fingers were reaching out, begging me to come inside.

Mom’s warning blared in my head. I mean it, Cody, she’d said a bazillion times. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. You’re never to go in there. Understand? Never. Promise me, Cody.

Okay, yeah, I’d promised, but that was ages ago. I’m almost a teenager now. That’s different. Besides, my friends would be stinking jealous if I went in the woods without them. Sure, they were probably swimming in that freeze-your-toes-off lake at camp right now—lucky turds. The only water I’d get to swim in this summer was in the bathtub. But maybe this time, I’d have the best story to tell when they got back.

I shaded my eyes with my hands and stared at the creepy-cool woods. A green and brown blur darted between the trees then disappeared.


It's an improvement. I wonder if this would be even more engaging if it were told in present tense?

I drop to my knees in the middle of the dog park, panting hard. Sandy, my golden retriever, runs up with a tennis ball clamped in her mouth. I grab the slimy ball and throw it. “Go get it.” She races off with her tongue flapping.

Sweat drips down my face and I wipe it with my t-shirt. Oh man, this sticky heat sucks. I glance at the shady woods along the back of the park. The trees huddle together like giant green aliens—watching me. The leaves flicker in the breeze as if a million green fingers are reaching out, begging me to come inside.

Mom’s warning blares in my head. I mean it, Cody, she’s said a bazillion times. It’s too dangerous. Gangs and drug addicts hang out in those woods. You’re never to go in there. Understand? Never. Promise me, Cody.

Okay, yeah, I’d promised, but that was ages ago. I’m almost a teenager now. That’s different. Besides, my friends will be stinking jealous if I go in the woods without them. They're probably swimming in that freeze-your-toes-off lake at camp right now—lucky turds — and the only water I’ll swim in this summer is in the bathtub, but maybe this time I’ll have the best story to tell when they get back.

I shade my eyes with my hands and stare at the creepy-cool woods. A green and brown blur darts between the trees, then disappears.


You could convert the first chapter and see if you think it's worth the trouble to continue.

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16. Face-Lift 1258

Guess the Plot

The Witch of Albright

1. Zinia lives near a haunted forest where Locals buy her herbal cures and psychic services. When the king is poisoned, the bishop declares it a work of witchcraft and many old ladies are prosecuted as witches. But she knows they aren't guilty because she's the kingdom's only witch. Now Zinia cannot hide but must use her powers to capture the assassin and free the innocents. 

2. Gwendolyn is tired of cleaning up after her and her sister's messy love spells . . . and their broken hearts. A mysterious love curse has troubled them for years. Maybe the solitary witch who only practices black magic will help them, but at what price? Who cares? Gwen is desperate!

3. One witch, one college, 2.5K students all wanting a little (non-literal) magic in their lives. When interacting spells open a portal for the elder gods, a love/party potion witch will need to crack open books that have been collecting dust for decades. Also, tunnels. 

4. All the kids at Madeleine Albright Elementary School know that there's something off about Principal Smith. One, she has a bunch of cats that hang around her office. Two, she has a skull on her desk. And three, no kid sent to see her ever returns. It's up to Rosa Garcia and the kids from the Drama Club to find out what's really going on.

5. Emily is studying to be a witch at  Albright Magic Academy. But she's a total klutz and they're so afraid she'll kill herself they won't let her do anything even mildly dangerous. So she sneaks away and enrolls at a rival school where she becomes a force to be reckoned with. But will she return to Albright now? And if so will it be for love or revenge?

6. When Mertil O Halloran's online Christmas illumination bazaar is faced with liquidation, the dogged entrepreneur enlists the aid of sorcery. It's broomsticks and 28W 2D GR10Q 4 pin Energy Saving Light Bulbs all the way in this Harry Potter meets Sage Accounts For Dummies rollercoaster ride of thrills.

Original Version

Dear [Agent]

I am seeking representation for THE WITCH OF ALBRIGHT, a completed 79,000 word YA fantasy novel with series potential. In a statement in [venue], you said that [personalized details], and so I believe you may be interested in this work. [In other words, either request my novel or admit that everything you say in [venues] is bullshit.] 

Emily Holland is a witch studying at Albright Magic Academy whose greatest desire is to fight monsters and evil mages alongside her friends. [Once I finish the sentence I know that "whose" goes with Emily rather than the Academy, but I can create a sentence in which it goes with the Academy: Emily Holland is a witch studying at Albright Magic Academy, whose claim to fame is being ten stories tall. We expect "whose" to go with the closest noun. Try two sentences: Emily Holland is a witch studying at Albright Magic Academy. Her greatest desire is to fight monsters and evil mages alongside her friends.] However, as the weakest person on her team, she finds herself relegated to unimportant positions in the field while her teammates shoulder all the danger. After a catastrophic failure of hers [Why not tell us specifically what she does wrong?] allows witches from the evil Shadow Institute to steal many powerful magic charms and artifacts, [I don't see how her duties can be described as unimportant if failing at them can also be described as catastrophic. In fact, protecting those charms and artifacts from the Shadow Institute may well be the single most important task of any Albright student.] she is removed from field missions entirely and is even forbidden [banned] from combat training out of concern that she will injure herself. Her goal of becoming strong enough to rejoin her teammates and battle evil seems forever out of reach. [No need to state the obvious.]

But rather than give up, a desperate Emily sneaks away from Albright and infiltrates the Shadow Institute by enrolling as a student. [That was easy. Wonder why no one else ever tried it.] Her goals are twofold: to recover the stolen equipment, and to take advantage of Shadow’s intense training to become capable of holding her own in a fight. She initially struggles just to survive her new lessons, [What exactly is she learning that's so hard to survive? Is she training in magic or as a ninja?] but as the months go by [She sneaks away for months? Has Albright reported to her family or the police that she's missing?] and her abilities improve, she starts to question whether she should really leave a school which is enabling her to grow far stronger than would otherwise be possible. Ultimately, she must decided whether she now supports Shadow… or whether she is, at heart, a witch of Albright. [I don't think Albright wants her back. Have they gone looking for her?]

I have sold short stories to [regional genre magazine] and [upcoming anthology]. Additionally, I have published several technical articles in peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, including [IEEE journal] and [international conference]. Thank you for your time and consideration.



I assumed the Shadow Institute were the bad guys. If it's just another school, if staying at Shadow is like changing high schools, she should stay at Shadow. If you want us to see her choice as a dilemma, you have to show some advantages of returning to Albright. Like Albright trains good witches and Shadow trains evil witches. 

There has to be more at stake than whether she's an Albright girl at heart. What terrible thing will happen if she makes the wrong decision?

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17. Auction Winners

Among the auction winners are AA and RH, but I have no contact information for you. If you'll email me at evledtr@gmail.com, we'll arrange your donation and get you your winnings.

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18. What happens when you accidentally shut your dog in the pantry and leave the house for a few hours.

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19. Big News!

I've sold the film rights to The Evil Editor Story.

I have no control over who's cast, but if you guys will make suggestions (in the comments) for who should play Evil Editor, Mrs. Varmighan, John Grisham, and Erick, the strange angelic man, I'll pass them along to the producer.

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20. Face-Lift 1256

Guess the Plot

These Wicked Waters

1. When Annie takes a summer job scrubbing toilets, she never dreams she'll soon be fighting for her life against cannibalistic sea-women. Also, a lifeguard with no fashion sense.

2. Ralph owns an independent toilet store that's losing business to the new Sears across the street.Thursday night, as he's shining his showroom, a genie pops out of a toilet. Will Ralph say the right thing to save his store, or will the clever genie just confuse him?

3. When toilets all over Los Angeles start backing up, ace detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, yet another murderer has tried to get rid of a dead body by flushing it; and two, he'd better get around to installing that bidet he bought his wife for their anniversary.

4. Hired to prove or debunk the legends of the Loch Ness monster, Jake Matthews puts together a team of scientists and heads for Scotland. He's expecting the "mission" to become a relaxing vacation . . . until three members of his team vanish.

5. The pellet with the poison is in the vessel with the pestle, the chalice from the palace has the brew that is true…or is it the flagon with the dragon? But which witch ordered which? Bartending for the Association of Wicked Witches can be a curse. 

6. Six people have drowned in Rainbow River this year. Some say it's the unpredictable current, but detective Carrie Barnes thinks it's the work of a serial killer, a serial killer she has dubbed . . . the Plunger.

Original Version

Dear EE:

A summer scrubbing toilets at an island resort wasn’t part of seventeen-year-old Annie Mayfield’s plan. [But it had to be better than her other option, counselor at a middle-grade girls' camp.] [I'm pretty sure a summer scrubbing toilets isn't part of anyone's plan. Maybe you should mention why she ends up doing it. Is it a punishment? Did she lose all her money? Is she performing a modern-day reenactment of the 12 labors of Hercules?] Then again, neither was sneaking out for a rock climb and tripping over the weathered remains of a human skeleton. Only, tagging the bones “human” is a whale-sized fib.

Humans don’t have tails. [Could it be the skeleton of a small giant sloth? Does anyone suggest it's a small giant sloth? Not sure why the authorities would claim that a small giant sloth skeleton was human, unless they're afraid that revealing it's a small giant sloth skeleton will kill the tourism industry. Or start a panic among the locals.] [Also, you don't gain anything by making this sentence a separate paragraph.]

Days after Annie’s discovery, a guest’s bloated body washes up on shore. Evidence points to an accidental drowning—except for a too-wide grin splitting the man’s face. Death by suffocation isn’t exactly “say cheese!” territory. [You're saying that it's murder because it's unlikely the dead man was having his photograph taken when he drowned? Or are you saying that he was having his photograph taken, and that this somehow proves the drowning wasn't accidental?]

The Greek Intelligence Service invades. [Is "invades" the right word? I'd go with "steps in."] [Also, isn't "Greek Intelligence Service" an oxymoron? Ba Dum Ching!] Annie knows the agency’s suspect pool is only ankle deep—make-believe sea-women left uninvestigated [I can't tell if you're saying that their suspect pool consists entirely of uninvestigated make-believe sea-women, or that they foolishly aren't investigating make-believe sea-women.] [Neither interpretation makes a lot of sense.] [We could save a lot of space by calling them mermaids instead of make-believe sea-women.]—but she keeps her lips zipped and pursues leads of her own. [Is she trying to solve the murder or identify the skeletal remains? Is there a connection between the two? Why is she pursuing leads?] 

While scavenging the island for mythological clues,

[Examples of mythological clues:

1. Minotaur hoofprints.

2. Poseidon's trident.
3. Blood containing the DNA of a goat boy.
4. Centaur hairs.
5. Ichor spatter.
6. Aphrodite's Magic Girdle.]

Annie rescues a siren tangled in construction netting. The sea-woman’s “thank you” translates as a warning: the others are coming. And they’re hungry. [The other make-believe sea-women? Are they make-believe cannibal sea-women?] [This sounds more like a job for Aquaman.]

No way will Annie surrender as a siren’s appetizer. [When you're on something's menu, it doesn't care whether you surrender.] With the help of her veteran amputee sister, a fashion-backward lifeguard, [Is this a comedy?] and lots of gun-slinging luck, [Not clear why the adjective "gun-slinging" has been inserted.] Annie might survive the summer—with one heck of a back-to-school story. 

[Outline of Annie's essay "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" 

I. Scrubbed about 10,000 toilets.
    A. Ouzo kills germs better than Lysol & tastes better.
    B. Greek men are soooo disgusting.
II. Pushed my sister's friggin wheelchair all over creation.
    A. Carrying all her crap.
    B. How about getting some Oscar Pistorius blades, Erica.
III. Fabulously wicked affair with Eros makes up for 
       otherwise miserable summer.]

Complete at 63,000 words, THESE WICKED WATERS is a young adult novel with a sprinkling of light thriller thrown in. [When you find a mutated human's remains, investigate a murder, and escape being eaten by cannibalistic mermaids, I wouldn't call it a sprinkling of light thriller. Either call it a YA thriller, or cut back on the thrills and build up the romance with the lifeguard.] Fans of STARCROSSED by Josephine Angelini and DEADLY COOL by Gemma Halliday will enjoy the Grecian [Greek] myths entwined with sassy sleuthing. Thank you for your time.


Possibly dining on a human being doesn't make you a cannibal if you aren't technically a human being yourself. Although a mermaid dining on Aquaman probably is cannibalism.

The voice is good for a YA novel, especially if it's similar to the voice in the book. However, you can't afford to sacrifice clarity. There are two or three places where it's not clear what you mean.

Also, try to limit yourself to three sentences of setup. The plot starts when Annie decides to investigate. More about what happens after that. Is the siren the only mythological creature in the book? If there are lots of others, that's worth mentioning in the query.

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21. What?! No Auction?

It's May, the month the Brenda Novak Charity Auction always runs, except that Ms. Novak is taking this year off. As I normally spend my May and June editing stuff for auction winners, it looks like I have to auction off my own services and products.

I've noticed that most of the bidding in the Brenda Novak Auction takes place in the first few days and the last few days, so I figure one week is plenty of time.

I could run the auction on ebay or use fancy auction software, but there won't be enough items to make that worth the trouble. Besides, there are no queries or openings in the queues, so running the auction right here on my blog will give me something to post this week.

I've chosen Farm Sanctuary as the recipient of the auction proceeds. They work to prevent cruelty to farm animals and rescue abused farm animals, providing them with happy lives on three sanctuaries totaling 500 acres.

The winners of auction items will have the option of donating directly to Farm Sanctuary (possibly best if you need a receipt for tax purposes) or, if you don't trust them not to sell your info to other animal rescue organizations, paying me, in which case I will make the donation and back you up with my receipt if you get audited.

So far, the items up for bid are those I would have been offering in the BN Auction. Possibly the list will grow if any agents, editors or authors see this and decide to join in.

Donor of auction item (EE in all cases so far) will be responsible for shipping charges.

To bid, go to comments, give the item number, your maximum bid, and the name you which to be identified by on the blog. Also, tell me who you really are. No matter what your maximum bid is, your actual bid will be $5.00 more than the previous high bidder's maximum bid. So if the high bid is $100.00 and you bid $120.00, your actual bid will be $105.00. If someone else bids $115.00, that becomes your actual bid because you got there first. Someone would have to bid more than $120.00 to oust you from the high bidder position. If no one ousts you, you pay your actual bid, not your maximum bid.

Your comments and real name won't be posted. Only the current high bid and the fake name of the high bidder.

Officially this will begin in the next day or two, though if you want to bid now, I won't stop you.

Items up for bid:

Item # 1. Your complete book (up to 70,000 words) edited by Evil Editor, the world's most famous editor, and back to you by the end of May.

Because I would rather donate $300 to the cause than edit your novel for less than that, I'm starting the bidding at $200.  This item has never gone for less than $700 in the other auction, so basically I'm just saving us a lot of time.

Item # 2. Your complete book (up to 100,000 words) edited by Evil Editor, the world's most famous editor, and back to you by the end of June.

Again, I'm starting the bidding at $300.  This item has never gone for less than $1100 in the other auction, and twice went for more than 10 times $300.

Item # 3. Your book's first 10,000 words edited by Evil Editor, the world's most famous editor, and back to you by the end of June.

Bidding starts at $10.00.

Item # 4. Signed ARCs of both Evil Editor color comic strip collections. Bidding starts at $10.00.

Item # 5. Dear Literary Agent...   A collection of the funniest query critiques from nine years of the Evil Evil Editor blog. Illustrated, color, 8 by 10. Bidding starts at $5.00.

Item # 6. Signed ARC of Schliegelman Saves the Universe

Evil Editor's prize winning story now a graphic novel starring Evil Editor!

Bidding starts at $5.00.

Item # 7. Both volumes of Why You Don't Get Published, the only writing books anyone has ever read from start to finish. Autographed.

Bidding starts at $5.00.

Item # 8. All 3 Novel Deviations books, signed. Hundreds of novel openings and hilarious continuations provided by EE and his minions.

Bidding starts at $5.00.

Item # 9. Evil Editor Teaches School: The funniest of the writing exercises we used to do on this blog. Most of them by EE. Autographed.

Bidding starts at $5.00.

Item # 10. My autographed copy of Immodest Proposals, collected short stories by the late science fiction author/satirist William Tenn (1920 - 2010).

600+ pages. Hardcover.

Bidding starts at $5.00.

Item # 11. My signed copies of Katherine Neville's novels The Eight (trade paperback) and The Fire (hardcover).

Bidding starts at $5.00

Item # 12. Box of four trade paperback books that I edited, cover prices total over $60.00. Two story collections, two novels. Contemporary fantasy.

Bidding starts at $5.00.

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22. Okay, Bidding is Officially Open

. . . . on the items listed in the post below. Even if you don't want any of the items, this is your chance to annoy the people who do want them by making them pay more. Bidding closes next Monday, the 11th at 6 PM eastern on any item that hasn't been bid on in the previous 15 minutes. If an item has been bid on in the previous 15 minutes, auction on that item closes at 6:15. Unless there's again been a bid in the previous 15 minutes. Etc, etc.

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23. New Items Donated to Auction by Evil Minion Success Stories

Kiersten White is donating a signed hardcover copy of her recently published YA historical novel, Illusions of Fate.

Jenna Black is donating all four books in her Guardians of the Night paranormal romance series.

To bid, see the post below.

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24. Early Bidding Incentive

Place a bid on anything in the auction (see below) before Friday, and receive a PDF version of Evil Editor's History of the World in Tweets, the only history book that provides both hundreds of historical facts and explains what's so funny about them. Perfect for reading on your Kindle or iPad or monitor.

If you've already bid, or if you place a bid before Friday (win or lose), and you want this bonus prize, I will, of course, need your email address.

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25. Face-Lift 1257

Guess the Plot

The Burnt State

1. It's Mother's Day, and yet another ham-fisted attempt at romcom behavior sends Christine over the edge.

2. Billy was careless when trying to fry a few ants with a magnifying glass, and now California is going up in flames. Will Billy's father, a firefighter, save LA? And should he?

3. The nuclear holocaust hit Florida particularly hard. What used to be 'sunshine' is now 'gamma rays,' and Trevor Connors doesn't like it one bit. Join him as he battles radioactive alligators, glowing armadillos, and irate senior citizens for control of the state senate.

4. Oswald Pettigrew couldn't look away from his friggin toaster oven for two seconds without whatever he was trying to toast reaching . . . The Burnt State. Now he's fighting mad, and someone at Wal-Mart's gonna pay.

5. A centuries-in-the-making plot to incinerate an area the size of Texas is about to be put into action. Preventing it would be a challenge even for Indiana Jones, but it isn't Indy Jones who's been recruited to save everyone. It's Indy Ramsay's useless grandfather, Eldritch. We're all gonna burn.

6. A malfunction in the Hubble telescope turns it 180 degrees as it's hovering over Hawaii at noon. The magnified rays of the sun leave behind nothing but ash in what scientists dub "The Mother of All Luaus."

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Indy Ramsay has studied and trained and striven her entire life. Because she is a patriot.

All she has ever wanted is to serve her Empire. [How old is she?]

All she has ever wanted is for the Brothers to show up on her doorstep and induct her into the elite corps of the Empire-the Reverend Council. [I'd start the query with this paragraph. The rest was vague.] [Also, the elite corps of the Empire needs a more awesome name than the Reverend Council. The elite corps would be like the Marines or at least SEAL team 6. The Reverend Council is a bunch of old guys who sit around acting like they know it all.] [Maybe the Brothers need a cooler name, too.]

They do, show up, that is, and promptly whisk away her grandfather-Eldritch Ramsay, [I'd change the commas around "show up, that is" to parentheses. Better yet, change to: They do show up, but it's not Indy they want, it's her grandfather Eldritch...] a man of bemused amiability and little else-on a mission of the tightest, whitest importance, ["Tightest, whitest" sounds more like a description of underwear than an adjective that describes "importance."] leaving behind a shattered and rejected Indy. [There has to be a good reason they've rejected the highly qualified Indy and chosen the totally unqualified Eldritch Ramsay for this mission. They didn't get to be the elite corps by being idiots. Also, if the mission is so damn important, why aren't they recruiting Gordon Ramsay? 

Drawn into the upper echelons of the Reverend Council that runs the Aet-El Empire, a world Eldritch can scarcely imagine and barely understands comes into being in front of his eyes. [It just materializes out of nowhere?] Encounters with bibliothecal deities and soul-vampires notwithstanding, [Not sure what that means.] he realizes he is embroiled in events far beyond his ken. [This is all vague or unclear. And as it doesn't involve Indy anyway, we don't need it.]

As events of the malevolent kind begin to transpire, [Such as?] Indy, too, is determined to have her say in history. She will fight, and prove herself worthy of the Council and the Empire. [Whom will she fight?]

Her hero-worship of the embattled Brothers [In what way are they embattled?] leads her down a dangerous path, where she finds that morals and idealism are not the steel of which empires are forged. [She could have learned that by reading any history book. Or watching Game of Thrones.] 

And as a centuries-in-the-making plan to incinerate the Empire is revealed, [Who has been planning to incinerate the Empire for centuries, and why is it taking them so long to get around to it? For instance, is this a planet where it's always raining, so they've been waiting centuries for a dry spell?] Eldritch and Indy find themselves asking whether they are willing to sacrifice all, including their family, including each other, to ensure the Empire's survival.

THE BURNT STATE is a work of speculative fiction, complete at 112,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



You need to tell us the story. With specific information. The setup: Indy has long wanted to be inducted into the Reverend Council that runs the Aet-El Empire, but when the Brothers come calling, they reject Indy and recruit her incompetent grandfather. The plot: Tell us what she does to prove herself worthy. Does she fight soul vampires? Join the army and fight in a war? Who is trying to stop her? What goes wrong with her plan? The wrap-up: What big decision must she make? What will happen if she fails to get it right? 

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