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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. Facer-Lift 1319

Guess the Plot

She'll Breathe Again

1. Little Katrina Halley wants the stuffed froggie so bad, she'll hold her breath till she gets it. But it turns out holding one's breath with cheeks puffed out gets old pretty fast, so . . . she'll breathe again.

2. When Nicole's boyfriend takes her to a romantic Italian restaurant for dinner, she doesn't expect that he's sold her to a human trafficking ring, and that she may have breathed her last whiff of freedom. At least he waited till after dessert.

3. In this timely polemic about the evils of pollution, Reader Child seeks Mother Nature to cure her sick dog. On the way, she meets friendly animals who all die horrifically. She eventually meets an ancient tree who tells her Mother Nature is a lie. Also, trash disguised as food.

4. Twelve years ago, grieving Tony Marston had his cancer-stricken wife Angela cryogenically frozen. There's now a cure for her type of cancer, so they plan to revive her. But what, exactly, will come out of that tube?

5. She was the love of his life, but now she is dead. However, this young doctor has found notes from his ancestor detailing ways of bringing life from death. It may take a bit of grave robbing and waiting for a lightning storm, but . . . she'll breathe again.

6. The Sheila XVIII is a symbiotic re-breather unit that unfortunately resembles the face-hugger from Alien, stomach splitting spawn included. But, it's the only way to survive the clouds of sentient fungus spores that have taken over the world. Can Phil find a way to save humanity before he dies by giving birth?

Original Version

Dear ________

When 16-year-old Nicole is sold into the [a] human trafficking ring by her first love, she is forced to face not only heart break, [heartbreak] but the fight for [of] her life. [If you've spent enough time with someone to consider him your first love, and he sells you to a human trafficking ring, a broken heart is the least of your concerns.]   

Nicole is completely caught off guard when a romantic date with her boyfriend Jonathan turns into a worst nightmare come to life. After Jonathan leaves her stranded at a random Italian restaurant, Nicole encounters a strange man [If he's just a stranger, call him that; if there's something strange about him, tell us what.] who tells her that he is Jonathan’s “surprise gift.” [It's probably not necessary to tell us Nicole was caught off guard. Getting sold into slavery by your boyfriend during a romantic date is high on the list of things no one ever expects.] 

Suddenly, Nicole is kidnapped and drugged only to wake up in a room full of girls and a persistently annoying flickering lightbulb. [Bad enough I've been sold to human traffickers, but now I have to put up with this friggin' light bulb?!] Nicole is the last to know that her body has been sold [The last what to know?] once the leader of the ring, Don, sheds light on her situation. Now she is forced to fight for her life with a shattered heart and a cynical attitude. [More effective would be a sword and a shield.] [I would expect her to feel anger, fear, betrayal. Heartbreak and cynicism can be saved for after her ordeal ends.]

Right when Nicole is ready to lose all hope, she finds her inner strength in the most unexpected place; a young girl named Jessica who was sold into the trafficking ring by her father. [Her own father? That's horrible. Wait, how much did he get for her?] Each day that passes the chance of survival seems to be getting more and more slim. They are continuously faced with the men who sealed their fate ultimately unraveling secrets that were better left unknown. [Those three sentences could be put in any order. The sentences in a paragraph need to be connected and progress logically. For instance by telling us how Jessica gives Nicole inner strength.] [Also, that last sentence is so vague I have no idea what you're talking about.]

With a turn of events, a police raid sets them free. Nicole and Jessica get separated in all of the chaos. Jessica is taken in by Child Services while Nicole just keeps running until she [is] found by an old lady with a similar pain. [I feel your pain, Nicole, for I, too, once went on a date that was a disaster.] Jonathan and the men who did this to them are sentenced to life in jail, but it is not exactly a happy ending just yet.

Nicole has another battle to fight once she discovers she has HIV and Jessica must now face an unwanted pregnancy by a man who will forever haunt her dreams, the same man who is responsible for Nicole’s kidnapping. [Is it a happy ending now?] 

Jenna is a student at Temple University pursuing a career in publicity for a publishing house. [Get rid of this. I was about to complain that her her name's Jessica, not Jenna. Turns out Jenna's you. Your bio, if you include one, should be in first person, and if it includes nothing relevant, like you wrote a bestseller or were once abducted by human traffickers, you don't need one.] 

SHE’LL BREATHE AGAIN is a complete, 50,000 word young adult thriller. I would best describe [it] as “Crank” meets “Purge.” [I don't think it's a good idea to compare your book to these books, at least not without saying what's similar about them. A book of poetry about Estonia could be described as Crank meets Purge.] [Also, the reader may not be familiar with those books, while having seen the movies Crank and The Purge, which would not be good.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


It's too long, but fortunately you can dump paragraphs 1, 4 and 7. Unfortunately, what's left is a story about a girl whose misery is ended not by her actions, but by a police raid, and who has more misery to look forward to. People prefer to read about characters who take control and do stuff, not ones to whom stuff is done, and who do nothing to help themselves. 

In my opinion, it would be highly inefficient for a human trafficking ring to acquire their victims by dating them long enough to become their boyfriends and then sending in Borgo the Disemboweler as a "surprise gift." A blind date or a first date with someone encountered on the Internet would be more reasonable, though I suspect most victims are just grabbed off the street.

An occasional missing word, misused word, vague sentence, disorganized paragraph, etc. is no big deal, but they add up, and finding so many in a query letter may lead the reader to believe the book needs a lot of work.

We like specifics, but no need to be too specific in the query about things that are unimportant. That the restaurant is Italian, the leader's name is Don (it probably isn't) . . .  Three words describing the light bulb is a bit much.   

Jessica is important in the query only as she's involved with Nicole, who is your focus. We don't care what Jessica does after the two are separated. We might care what Jessica does to help Nicole (or vice versa) while they're in captivity.

Try putting your summary into three paragraphs. 
P1: Nicole's situation. (She's been kidnapped by human traffickers. What's happening to her? Three sentences.)
P2: What's her goal and her plan to achieve it? (Escape? Survival? How does Jessica give her the hope she needs to survive/not give up. Four sentences max.) 
P3: The wrap-up, wherein she decides to lead her fellow captives in revolt or plots revenge on her so-called boyfriend. So that readers find some tiny bit of pleasure in reading her story. Three sentences.)

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2. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1318 would like your opinion of the following revised version.

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Smart-aleck seventh-grader Zach Beacon has been sent to the principal's office so often, he's on a first-name basis with the secretary. [That's not a bad line, though I don't buy that the principal would be okay with his secretary being on a first-name basis with a seventh grader. Plus, it almost sounds like the kid is being rewarded for being sent to the office so much. I would say he's been sent to the office so often he's worn a groove in the hallway. (A groove the other students refer to as Zach's tracks.] But he's the star shortstop of the baseball team, and trophy-obsessed Principal “Robot” McMott expects them to win the Mississippi private school championship. So Zach's big mouth hasn't landed him in big trouble—yet.

Things change when Zach crash-lands—literally—in the yard of August Clement, the school's elderly groundskeeper. [Not clear what you mean by that. I would think a literal crash landing would involve an aircraft, but in any case, we don't need to know how they meet. One of them befriends the other.] [Also, when you say "Things change when..." I assume you mean Zach's big mouth finally does land him in trouble. It's more his desire for justice for his friend that leads to trouble, not his big mouth.] Turns out, August was a major leaguer back in the fifties—[What?! Why isn't he coaching the baseball team? It's so much better for the story. Easier to get the whole team on board for the strike. More likely that a school could do without one baseball coach than its groundskeeper.] he even has a tip or two about hitting those nasty curveballs—but now he struggles to pay his wife's cancer treatment bills. Zach's friendship with August leads to some tough choices when Zach learns that McMott is planning to lay off the groundskeeper. McMott claims he's saving money for a new trophy case, [Are there other groundskeepers at this school? You can't replace your only groundskeeper with a trophy case or the grass will get so tall baseballs will get lost in the infield.] but Zach suspects that something worse may be at the root of McMott's decision. [Does he have a more specific suspicion? If so, I'm sorry to report that you have to tell us what it is.]

To save August's job, Zach fast-talks the baseball team into going on strike, using the best leverage they have—the team won't win till McMott gives in. But as the losses mount, McMott's threats escalate, [What are his threats?] and his team threatens mutiny, [Change "his" to "the" so readers don't think you mean McMott's team. Better yet, get rid of "McMott's threats escalate."]  Zach must decide whether seeking justice for his friend is worth risking the championship—and his reputation.

ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT is a 33,000-word middle grade novel that will appeal to fans of Andrew Clements and Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series.

I am an associate member of SCBWI and a member of the Mississippi Writers Guild. My experiences as a living wage activist at Vanderbilt University influenced ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT, my debut novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration,


Is this set in modern times? Because if August was a major leaguer in the 1950s, he must be close to 80 years old today. Is he really making more money as a groundkeeper than he would from social security and the public employee pension fund? He should want to be at home caring for his wife, not toiling in the Mississippi sun.

What grades attend this middle school? If it's 7th and 8th, I think Zach should be in 8th grade, as the 8th-graders are unlikely to follow a 7th grader. Whether it's high school and college freshmen or Major League rookies, the new arrivals have to pay their dues, earn their stripes. Only then can they hope to talk the entire team into intentionally losing their games.

You imply that Zach's big mouth eventually gets him into trouble, but I don't see that he ever receives any punishment for anything. Does he?

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3. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1315 has submitted the following revision, and would like your input.

I am seeking representation for my fantasy/adventure novel, The Missing Traveller, aimed at high school readers. 

Ages have passed since a flood turned the world into a waste [Is the world covered with water? Or has the water subsided, leaving a wasteland?] and drove survivors up the immense Mount Era, and cities of the Union federation are perched across the cliffs. [That would be better as two sentences, with "are perched" changed to "have grown up (or "have formed").] [It sounds like Mount Era is the only place in the world where people live. Are there other mountains harboring survivors?] The Stone of Dominus, responsible for the flood and destruction,  [One could get the impression the Stone of Dominus is so huge that when it rolled into the ocean it caused the whole planet to flood. If it's a normal-sized stone with magical powers maybe it should be a crystal or jewel.] [Also, if you change Dominus to Dominos, as my auto-correct keeps doing, you can make it a pizza stone.] was buried in the centre of the mountain to prevent such a cataclysm from occurring again. [They somehow know that the Stone is harmless if it's inside a mountain?] [Does the Stone have to be in the possession of a human to cause a cataclysm? If so, they should sail to the other side of the planet and toss it under the ocean instead of burying in the one place on the planet where humans live.] 

For all the years Lark, the travelling merchant, told the sixteen-year-old Alister about the cities of the Union, he never imagined he'd be one of the few to leave home and explore them. [I feel certain he at least imagined it. Maybe he never believed it.] ["For all the years" bothers me. Maybe "Despite all the times"?But after his rash actions lead to a young girl's death, Alister sees no choice but to run away.

His guilt might have overwhelmed him if not for a message from Lark, who recently went missing. The message leads Alister to discover [reveals] that Lark's disappearance was no accident. Baudouin, the unnervingly charismatic king of the western side of the mountain, took Lark captive after the merchant learned of his plans to regain his "rightful" rule over the mountain, using the Stone of Dominus. [The Stone was buried to prevent this. If it's still accessible, my earlier warning that they should find a better hiding place is proven prophetic.]

With the rest of the Union oblivious to Baudouin's plans and fooled by the aid he's given them over the years, Alister needs to decide who to trust to free Lark, so the two of them can determine a way to stop Baudouin from destroying the Mount. [If the Mount is destroyed, what's left? I thought Baudouin wanted to regain his "rightful" rule over the mountain, not destroy it.] Along the way to Deemstun, Alister uncovers the mysteries of Lark's past, earns his funds from an illegal glider race, and finds himself wondering how far he should go to stop the ambitious king.

Thanks for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is complete at 108 000 words and is available upon request. As per your submission guidelines, attached are the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


I think we should begin with Alister killing the girl and running away. Opening with a description of the world is okay if it's crucial to what you're about to tell us, but the plot points you include could take place anywhere. 

I see you've changed Hawk to Lark, but do we really need him in the query? All he does is disappear. He seems to be important to Alister, but not so much to us. It's still not clear how a merchant can be useful, and while Alister somehow seems better equipped now that he's not known exclusively as a whittler, he still doesn't have super powers If he beats Baudouin to the Stone of Dominus, can he use it to defeat him?.

Here's the story as far as I can tell: Alister accidentally kills a young girl and chooses to run away. While on the run he learns of a plot by Baudouin to either destroy the only habitable place in the world or to become the ruler of all he surveys, which, in either case, is Mt. Era. Despite having no useful skills and no allies, Alister sets out to stop Baudouin. Turn each of those sentences into a three-sentence paragraph. 

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4. Face-Lift 1318

Guess the Plot

Zach Beacon Strikes Out

1. Zach Beacon has swung at his last pitch. The major league slugger was found lying face down at home plate in the fifth inning, clubbed to death by a baseball bat. It's up to detective Nick Barnes to solve the case, but none of the 40,000 fans in attendance saw what happened. 

2. Led by shortstop Zach Beacon, a baseball team goes on strike, purposely losing their games to protest the firing of a groundskeeper. It's so cute when little kids fight for a cause.

3. Zach Beacon is a swell feller. His grandpa even said so. So why is he always last? Time is running out before Zach must settle into a long, grinding career at the back of the bus, so he strikes out to find a better spot on the universal roster.

4. Fifteen is tough. It's even tougher when you have bad skin, wear thick glasses, can't dance, and are a colossal nerd. But that won't stop Zach Beacon from asking the baseball coach to let him play something other than bench.

5.  Zach wants to be the next world famous pickup artist, but how can he master the art of bedding women if he keeps getting rejected? Desperate, he rubs the green lamp he found in an antique shop. Out pops a genie hungry for a human soul, and maybe some cornbread.

6. Minor league catcher Zach Beacon joins the workforce after a bad knee injury. But bad pay and worse working conditions send all his co-workers out on strike on Zach's first day. Now Zach must decide which is worse: to strike for higher pay before working a minute, or to be labeled a scab by the complete strangers he'll eventually work with if the strike succeeds. 

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Seventh-grader Zach Beacon's biggest nemesis is a nasty curveball—until Principal “Robot” McMott [Is that the name he goes by? If it's just what the kids call him, I'd put his first name in front of "Robot." If he's an actual robot, my interest just went up a thousand percent.] fires August, the team's beloved groundskeeper. To save August's job, Zach puts the baseball championship and his bad-boy reputation on the line in ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT, a 34,000-word middle grade novel that will appeal to fans of Andrew Clements and Gary Paulsen's Liar, Liar series.

The star shortstop of Mayfield Prep's baseball team, Zach Beacon has been sent to the principal's office so often, he's on a first-name basis with the secretary. [If he's on a first-name basis with the secretary, it's not because he gets sent to the office a lot; it's because they're having sex, presumably after school hours.] His team is good this year—really good—and Principal “Robot” McMott [No need for quotation marks around "Robot" every time he's mentioned. No need to include both his first and last names together more than once in the query.] expects them to win the Mississippi private school championship. But when August is fired, Zach leads the team on a strike—the team won't win till McMott gives in. [Are they forfeiting or losing on purpose? If you hope to one day get an athletic scholarship, it's not a good idea to demonstrate a willingness to throw games.] Zach promises his team they can lose three games and still make the play-offs, [That's relevant if they have only three games left. If they have more than three games left, and they lose the next three, there's no guarantee they won't lose another. The better team doesn't always win.] but as the losses mount [How many losses constitute "mounting"? The dictionary doesn't come out and say that mounting means piling up as high as a mountain, but I think it's implied.] and McMott doesn't budge, [Since a robot principal would be programmed not to give in to student demands, I'm going to assume McMott is a robot, and offer you a six-figure advance.] Zach learns it's hard to keep a team together when the goal isn't a championship, but justice. [You haven't shown that the firing was unjust. If the groundskeeper sexually abused one of the players, I'm not with Zach. I'll back the principal on principle. Were the players given an explanation of the firing? Does August's right to privacy supersede the players' "right" to an explanation? If the explanation is in the book, I see no reason it shouldn't be in the query.]

In this humorous and fast-paced book, [If you get to the end of the summary and have to tell us the book is humorous and fast-paced, you haven't done your job.] [If the book is fast-paced, at least it's got that over baseball.] Zach juggles race relations, anxious teammates, and new friendships—and he does it in a wise-cracking style all his own.

I am an associate member of SCBWI and a member of the Mississippi Writers Guild. My experiences as a living wage activist at Vanderbilt University influenced ZACH BEACON STRIKES OUT, my debut novel.



I suspect most groundskeeping work gets done while the players are in classes. I assume there's a good reason you didn't make the fired person a baseball coach, who is way more likely to be beloved by the team than a groundkeeper. 

To convince us Zach has a "wise-cracking style all his own," you might want to crack wise a bit in the query. 

If the players are purposely losing, and have told McMott so, I would expect him to bar them from being on school teams. If they're just not showing up for the games, they'd surely be dismissed from the team. If they're purposely losing and haven't told McMott, he may think they're just slumping, and not connect the losses with the firing, which doesn't help August. In other words, even if McMott isn't a stubborn jerk, I don't see this strike getting the desired result.

It would be cool if the principal dismissed all the players from the team and replaced them with robots. I recommend this even if McMott isn't a robot. Although it would drive home your point about race relations more effectively if he is a robot and replaces the players with his kind.

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5. Synopsis 50

Sixteen year old PRINCESS PEGI is a misfit who prefers books to fashions and saves animals instead of hunting them. Her parents plan to marry her off to a suitable prince. Pegi wants to experience life outside the palace walls. On the day of the wedding she escapes into the woods, drawn to the cottage of evil fairy INGENIOSA.

As a baby Pegi had been cursed by Ingeniosa. [Why?] Pegi is to run away on her sixteenth birthday and spend the rest of her life searching for herself. Ingeniosa offers to remove the curse but Pegi sees it as a chance to break free of the yoke that is her royal destiny and chart her own path in life.  [Didn't she just break free from that yoke in the previous paragraph?]

As Pegi begins her quest, Ingeniosa offers her two gifts. The first is a companion – KUMO the were-dog, a mutt who can turn into a wolf at need. The second is a magical cookie which embodies the curse; if Pegi consumes it, the curse will end and she and Kumo will be back in their normal habitats. [You put a curse on someone, wait sixteen years for the curse to take effect, and immediately hand your victim the antidote?] [What is Kumo's normal habitat?]

Pegi’s new life is strange, confusing and full of misadventures. Kumo dismisses her as a silly royal; his superior attitude maddens her. But their relationship evolves as Pegi subsumes her vanity and learns from her mistakes. Mistrust and contempt change into mutual respect and affection, and they become true companions. [This was advertised as a YA book, but the magic cookie and the fact that Pegi grows close to her dog rather than a boy make it seem like a book for a younger crowd.]

When Pegi thwarts a witch hunt, she hears about the TRUTHERS.  [Not clear what that means. Were witches literally hunting, or was someone hunting witches or is this the more common figurative meaning of a witch hunt? I'm not sure we need to know what Pegi was doing when she heard about the Truthers anyway.] There are many groups of Truthers and each group believes it possesses the Sole Truth. [Do all groups of TRUTHERS refer to other groups of truthers as the LIARS?] All of them want to outlaw magic, hunt magical creatures and ban ideas they disagree with. Pegi is appalled by what she hears, but the world seems big enough and the danger remote. She realizes her mistake when she and Kumo try to help a besieged bookseller and witness the Truthists burning books and artifacts considered unacceptable. 

Forced to flee for their lives, they end up in the middle of a desert [It would have to be a pretty small desert to be chased all the way to the middle of it on foot without being overtaken. I was joking in the query when I said she needed a werecamel, but since the dog's ability to become a wolf doesn't seem to be paying off . . . ] [Or the dog could have the ability to change into any animal.] and Kumo begins to ail with a mysterious malady. The cookie is Pegi’s last hope. Eating it will return her to the gilded cage of royal life, but she will make any sacrifice to save her beloved were-dog. [The cookie sends Kumo back to his normal habitat, but I'm not sure why that would cure his mysterious malady.] When the cookie doesn’t work, Pegi is forced to make do without others’ magic. She manages to escape the desert and save Kumo by enlisting the help of a dying dragon, a pair of hungry vultures and a medicine man. [You can hardly claim the cookie is her last hope when a seemingly endless supply of potential allies happen to be in the middle of the desert.] [A living dragon would be more helpful in getting out of a desert than a dying dragon.]

The near loss of Kumo helps Pegi understand who she is and what she must do with the rest of her life. Her precious freedom is useless in a world where books are burnt and thinking is unfree. [It seems to me it's the realization that her freedom is useless that shows her what to do with her life, not the near-loss of Cujo.] She must either accept a yoke worse than her royal destiny or resist in her own way. Kumo says they can still walk away but Pegi knows that soon enough they will run out of places to run away to. Pegi and Kumo head towards a city controlled by the Truthers determined to do what they can, even if it’s just protecting one book, freeing one mind and saving one life at a time


There are so many people who don't request synopses, it hardly seems worth the trouble to write one.

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6. Face-Lift 1317

Guess the Plot

After the Last Dawn

1. Dawn Dimarconi hates her name. really hates it. And she's going to kill every other Dawn on the planet to prove it.

2. When Jo-Jo finds an ancient book with expositions of black sky spattered with shiny dots, he quests for an answer to the still ball of fire overhead. With a photo of a pink horizon he begins a quest to set the world spinning again.

3. Dawn McBally is terrified - a serial killer in her small town has been targeting only women named Dawn. A quick head count reveals the is the last one. Her dilemma: leave town or legally change her name.

4. Eerie Filmore always seems to fall in love with girls named Dawn. After his fifth heartbreaking break-up, he decides to become a Tibetan Monk.... Just in time for the End of Days.

5. After he journeys to the end of the world where he finds giant crabs and little else, H.G. Wells' nameless time traveler returns to England, and discovers that Weena is alive, but wounded, somewhere in the future wasteland. Now he must search for her . . . beyond the last dawn.

6. On a cold foggy dawn, Gustav Bouilliard wakes up to newspaper headlines, "The End is Nigh!" When night falls, the Earth stands still. One cannot say whether robots were involved.

7. 2012: Martin has bet all his money on the Mayan Prophecy. The odds against the world ending are 1000:2. But being a pessimist, he’s sure he'll win. When an asteroid as big as Europe hits the world and doomsday arrives, Martin is thrilled. Problem is: where is he supposed to collect his bet … After The Last Dawn ?

8. To avoid her royal destiny (marriage at sixteen), Princess Pegi leaves the palace and travels the world with her were-mutt. Which goes well until they encounter the Truthists, who claim to have the Sole Truth, but that's a lie. If she can't escape these idiots, she's seen her last dawn.

9. After the last dawn, the demons will be provoked.
After the last noon, the dragons awaken.
After the last dusk, the dead begin to rise.
Now if only Sue can figure out how to put them back to bed.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

Once upon a time, a princess escaped a fairytale marriage and roamed as free as a bird - until she encountered a world where minds are caged. [Dump this. It says nothing that isn't said again later, it's in past tense while the rest of the query is in present, and the fairytale opening gives the impression your book is for young children.]

Pegi prefers books to jewels, saves animals instead of hunting or eating them and dreams of experiencing life outside the palace walls. [How many animals need saving inside the palace walls?] She doesn’t want to marry at sixteen, become a crowned-head and spend her time entertaining other crowned-heads. To escape her royal destiny, she does a deal with an evil fairy.

That entails embracing a puzzling curse [Is embracing a curse the same as being cursed?]– she must roam the world looking for herself and she cannot find herself without losing herself. [She was born at the wrong time. In the 60's people willingly roamed the world trying to find themselves. Without even being cursed.] [A deal usually involves both parties getting something. I don't see what the evil fairy gets from this deal.] 

Life on the road is not quite the adventurous romp of Pegi’s imaginings, what with her tendency to tumble into messes and scrapes; and the infuriating company of Kumo the were-dog, a mutt who can turn into a wolf at need. [I don't think were-dog is the right term. It would have to have "wolf" as part of its name to distinguish it from dogs that can turn into bears or lions. And it needs "dog" as part of its name to distinguish it from humans who turn into wolves. And it needs "were" to distinguish it from anything that doesn't turn into anything. By anagramming were-dog-wolf, I've come up with the perfect term: gwelderwoof.] Still Pegi revels in her newfound-freedom [Hyphen not needed.]  – until she witnesses the Truthists in action. Truthists believe they possess the Sole Truth. [So, her wanderings have either taken her to the Middle East or the Republican convention.] [How long did it take the Truthists to come up with their name?] They want to outlaw magic and hunt magical creatures. [Including gwelderwoofs?] [Or should that be Gwelderwooves?  Hoof becomes hooves, but roof becomes roofs, so it's not cut and dried. This shows how important it is when making up words to settle early on how you'll handle the plural form.] In lands under their control, ‘unacceptable’ books are burnt and ‘incorrect’ ideas are criminalized. [This sounds like Fahrenheit 451, which, coincidentally, happens to be the optimal temperature for roasting gwelderwoof.] 

A failed attempt to save a bookseller turns Pegi and Kumo into fugitives. [In this world it's against the law to fail to save a bookseller.] [Weren't they already fugitives? From the royal court or whatever?] They get stranded in a desert and Kumo begins to succumb to a mysterious illness. Pegi needs to save her beloved were-dog, escape the desert [If only she had a were-camel.]  and fathom how to remain free in a world where thinking is unfree. [Can the Truthists tell what people are thinking?] Unraveling the curse might help, but time is scarcer than water and vultures are hovering in expectation of a rare feast. [To a vulture, fresh gwelderwoof is a delicacy.]

After the Last Dawn is a 96,000 words fantasy novel for young adults.


So the lesson Pegi learns is Be careful what you wish for? Staying home, marrying at sixteen, becoming a crowned-head and spending her time entertaining other crowned-heads would have been better than being stranded in a desert, though I doubt that's your point. Does she do anything to change the world she's found outside the palace? Simply fathoming how to remain free in this world isn't the most impressive of goals. What does she want after she gets out of the desert?

As Pegi was reveling in her freedom until she encountered the Truthists, maybe she should limit her roaming to places where the Truthists aren't. Is Truthism a worldwide religion or a local cult?

What are the terms of the curse? First she must lose herself, and then she must find herself, but what happens if she figures out what that means and succeeds? The curse is ended? It's not clear what ending the curse means, since she was basically cursed to do what she wanted to do.

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7. Face-Lift 1316

Guess the Plot

Some Kind of Eternal

1. Mira is an immortal. She will live forever, as long as she doesn't get killed, contract an illness, or grow old. She travels to the Eternal City in order to escape an age-old curse; otherwise she will die. 

2. A 450-year-old vampire longs to leave Earth and become a god, but to do so he needs a bottle of special blood that is also being sought by Freemasons, Russian billionaires, and a Mayan king's ghost, at least one of whom wants the blood . . . to destroy humanity!

3. When Ninet promised Ramses her eternal love, she didn't mean being mummified alive after he died of the plague. He, unfortunately, did. Now she must escape across the eternally shifting sands with a camel and a cute waterboy (girl). Also, scarabs.

4. New nurse Javad Shah can't understand why Mr. "Bats" Linstall and Mr. "Superman" Chen are tampering with each other's wheelchair brakes and tossing nutrisweet packs at breakfast. As Javad talks to the other residents, he uncovers an old baseball feud that has the entire town in its grip.

5. It's a story as old as the hills, but instead of summarizing the plot I'm just gonna list the characters and their occupations. If you want to know what happens, let me know.

6. Lost in the Okefenokee Swamp, Trent stumbles upon the legendary Fountain of Youth. Now that he has an eternity to do so, he's sure to find his way back to civilization eventually. But can he do so before the alligators get him?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Oliver, a 450-year-old vampire, longs to leave Earth and become a god with no need for human blood, while Hugh wishes he could remember his hedonistic past. [You toss out the name Hugh as if we already know who he is. You need to add "Oliver's fellow vampire" or "Oliver's immortal servant," or "really old amnesiac."] Who was the beautiful woman who gave him his ruby necklace over two centuries ago? [If only I could remember who she was so I could finally send her a thank-you card.] [Usually when there are two main characters who are allies, they're working toward the same goal. Becoming a god and remembering who gave him his necklace aren't of the same order of magnitude. It would be like Superman and Batman teaming up because one of them wants to save humanity and the other wants to find his missing sock.]

Together Oliver and Hugh journey deep underground to fight the ghost of a Mayan king, Russian billionaires, ancient vampires, and 33rd degree Freemasons looking for the same bottle of powerful blood. [Putting all that together in a list makes it feel like the book is a comedy. I'd drop the ghost, even if the ghost is the one who wants to destroy humanity. And we don't need to know the freemasons' degree.] [I suspect Oliver and Hugh didn't go underground to fight all these people, as you claim, but because the bottle of blood is there. If so, you can say "racing against" instead of "to fight."]  Each wants the blood for a unique and evil purpose, the worst being the destruction of humanity. [You're only calling that the worst because you're a human.]

Oliver and Hugh vow to find the blood to spare humanity, and transform into gods, [So, Hugh wants to be a god too. Perhaps that should be mentioned earlier instead of telling us he wants to know where he got his necklace.] but saving the lives of the women they love could get in the way. [Who are the women they love? Are they human? If Hugh's necklace woman was  human, it's too late to send her that thank-you card. Why are the women's lives in danger? Are the guys planning to take the women with them when they leave Earth?]

SOME KIND OF ETERNAL is a 73,000-word paranormal novel. The glamorous life of a real German prince I knew a few years ago, [As opposed to a fictional German prince you knew.] Oliver von Anhalt, inspired this book. [Was he a vampire?] The poetry of Lord Byron, Edgar Allan Poe, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as works of gothic literature from Ann Radcliffe to Elizabeth Kostova have greatly influenced me.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

--The title was inspired by a Sisters of Mercy song, Some Kind of Stranger, which makes me imagine a lonely vampire trying to make friends. I am not that attached to the title and don't mind changing it if asked to do so by a future editor (hopefully).-- [Ninety-nine percent of those told your title was inspired by a song will assume the song is "Some Kind of Wonderful," by Grand Funk Railroad.]


We can do without the necklace, as it's importance to Hugh isn't made clear. 

There's space enough in a query to provide more than five sentences of plot. And if you're low on space, feel free to cut the list of your favorite poets. 

Vampires Oliver and Hugh long to leave Earth and transform into gods; to do so they must drink the blood of Lilith, hidden deep underground centuries ago. But they aren't the only ones after the legendary phial of blood. Other vampires, Freemasons and Russian billionaires are racing to find the powerful elixir, all for their own evil purposes.

That's your setup, and leaves plenty of room to tell us what the plan is, what goes wrong, what will happen if the guys fail, how their girlfriends figure in...

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8. Face-Lift 1316

Guess the Plot

Winter's Queen

1. This years Gay Pride march has a Four Seasons theme...and the competition for the title of Winter's Queen is really heating up.

2. Young, virile King Winter III wants nothing more than to play the field, sampling girls without marrying until he's in his 40's. But he needs an heir. When his friends take him to a drag show in the capital, he suddenly finds himself longing for a very different kind of Queen.

3. The untold story of Snow White's mother, once a foundling child lost in the snow, who rose in power and ruled a kingdom with an icy fist. Also, blue dwarves.

4. Queen Fione hates being depicted as a crone just because winter is considered the end of the year. So she starts a decades-long sulk that results in global warming. The queens of spring, summer, and fall don't care--but it's a good excuse for a tourney.

5. The Winter Prince wants to marry Ariel and then kill his father so he and Ariel can rule for eternity. Ariel, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with this homicidal maniac. Also, enchanted fruit.

6. On a world where the four continents are known as Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring,  Winter's queen is tired of ruling a land that's always so freaking cold. Especially now that most of her subjects have moved to one of the other lands. Can she get to Spring when her only form of transportation is a snowmobile?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Sixteen-year-old Ariel Hawk has always known Fae exist; her dad made sure of that, no matter how often the neighbors called him crazy. [Did he make sure of that by proving it, or just by telling her? Parents tell kids Santa Claus exists, but that doesn't ensure they will always believe it. If your father insists zombies exist, you don't believe it until you see one eating brains.] So while being kidnapped comes as a shock, knowing she’s captive to Fae royalty just makes her angry. [Is your point that she wasn't angry about being kidnapped until she realized her kidnapper was Fae royalty?] 

Ariel’s abductor—His Royal Smugness, the Winter Prince Fiachra—embodies everything she fears and hates about the Fae. Eerily handsome and insufferably proud, he sees humans only as objects to use for his desires: in this case, marriage. Ariel is exactly the young, fertile bride Fiachra wants. Her uncommon knowledge of his kind intrigues him, and her instinct to fight him offers a worthy challenge.

Though Fiachra’s courtship grows increasingly abusive, Ariel refuses to be bribed or beaten down. He feeds her enchanted fruit, and she spits it in his face; he proposes with a priceless silver ring, and she drops it in her chamberpot. She even uses the pain of a whipping to fight enchantment. [Not clear what that means.]

Unknown to Ariel, the wedding is only the first stage of a deadly plot. Fiachra’s scheming to murder his father after the ceremony, and seize the throne of the Winter Court with Ariel as his queen. If Ariel can’t escape, she’ll be trapped in Faerie with a patri-regicidal maniac for eternity. But if her attempts push Fiachra’s patience to the breaking point, he just might kill her too. [Does Fuchsia have to marry someone before killing his father? Does he have to seize the throne? Who would have claim to the throne if he doesn't seize it?]

WINTER'S QUEEN is a YA fantasy of 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Note from author: With regards to the phrase "bribed or beaten down", it was originally "wooed or subdued". I'm trying to get across the point that abusers like Fiachra can and do display outwardly-nice behavior (eg. Fiachra giving Ariel a ring) as a means of trying to win over or guilt-trip their victims between bouts of more blatantly harmful behavior. Most of the people who have looked over this query so far haven't understood this. If there's a clearer way I can get this across, please advise.  [Starting that "bribed or beaten down" sentence with the word "though" creates a connection I don't see. It suggests that normally the more you abuse someone, the more likely she'll accept bribes. What you probably want to say in the query is that when first his wooing and then his bribery (specifically, if she'll marry him he'll do X) don't work, Fiachra shows his true colors, becoming abusive . . . but still Ariel refuses to give in. In the book he may alternate abuse with kindness and bribes, but we don't want the query getting too complicated. The standard way to win a woman is to be nice, and if she sees through that, bribe her, and if that doesn't work, resort to threatening to kill her.]


What is he bribing her with? Not if you marry me I'll make you queen; she'd get that automatically, right? If you marry me I'll stop abusing you? Or I won't kill your parents? 
I'm not sure I like bribery being part of the equation. Bribery is usually treasure.  I can be abusive or kind, take your pick, seems like the option he would give her.

This is mostly the situation your main character finds herself in. We want to know what she does about it. You could condense this into something like:

Sixteen-year-old Ariel Hawk has been abducted by His Royal Smugness, the Winter Prince Fiachra, who embodies everything she fears and hates about the Fae. Fiachra seeks a young, fertile bride to be his queen--after he murders his father and assumes the throne. But Ariel wants no part of this patri-regicidal maniac, tossing his engagement ring into her chamberpot. 

That leaves plenty of room to tell us what Fiachra does to try to win Ariel (fake kindness, threats, enchantment), how Ariel manages to ward him off, how Ariel plans to make her escape, and what goes wrong. She's your heroine, she has to take action, not just hold out.

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9. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured here would like your opinion of this revision of the opening.

Through cracks in the stone, it [What is "it"?] shines like a full moon drenched in blood. [That would take a lot of blood.] [If something is glowing behind cracks, it's more likely to remind you of lightning bolts than a full moon. In fact, if all you see is the light coming through the cracks, it could be a half moon or a sun or a light bulb.] Another strike from my pickaxe exposes the precious crystal. When I pry it loose, it pops out and bounces near the chasm beside the mineshaft.

I dive for the crystal and catch it. I look down. A shiver jolts up my spine, numbing my body with a frozen wave of fear. I’m on the edge of a bottomless pit. [Not crazy about a mineshaft, a chasm and a bottomless pit. Presumably the mineshaft is above, and you came down it to get here, and the chasm is below. And the pit is . . . the chasm?] Helplessly I watch as a chunk of dirt falls until the darkness below consumes it. ["Helplessly" would make more sense if the crystal were falling. He may be helpless to prevent the dirt from falling, but I doubt he cares.]  Regaining control of my body, I squirm back, inch by inch, before sinking into the sand and taking a deep sigh. I hate heights. [I would expect a mine to be mostly rock, not sand, especially not in enough quantity to sink into.] 

I open my hand and find the crystal cradled in my palm. Unlike diamonds that sparkle in the sunlight, it glows with an unnatural brilliance even here in the darkness. [If this guy's experience with diamonds is from mining them, the ones he's seen probably didn't sparkle much more than a standard rock.] We slaves don’t know why our master wants us to collect them, but these crystals are as precious to us as water. 

A forceful tug on my back pulls me up to my feet. It’s my mining partner, RN107. With thick eyebrows and a rigid jaw, he’s got an intimidating face. Like the feathers that fall from a vulture, his hair and beard have faded to a dark gray. [A simile should make something more clear. Hair faded to gray is already clear enough, and even if it weren't, your readers probably haven't seen fallen vulture feathers.]


I'm not sure how much light there is in this mine; you don't want to be describing things you wouldn't see in the darkness. Do they have a light source?

Here's what I would do with this, just to tighten it up:

A blood-red crystal shines through cracks in the mine wall. One more strike from my pickaxe, and it pops out. I dive and grab it . . . and find myself looking into a bottomless chasm. A few pebbles fall, the darkness below consuming them. I squirm back from the edge, inch by inch, then sigh deeply. I hate heights.

I open my hand. The crystal glows with an unnatural brilliance even here in the darkness. We slaves don’t know why our master wants us to collect them, but these crystals are as precious to us as water. 

A forceful tug on my back pulls me to my feet. It’s my partner, RN107. With thick eyebrows and a rigid jaw, he’s got an intimidating face, even now that his hair and beard have faded to gray.

I took out about 70 words; if I took some you need, put them back.

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10. Feedback Request

You critiqued my query here with Facelift 1304 and then did a feedback request here. I've taken some time away from querying this book to come back with fresh eyes, so hopefully that's improved the query.

Also, as I'm sure some of your commentors will be happy to hear, I have changed the working title of my book.


Eric Ortega doesn't know it yet, but hybrid creatures with magical powers live hidden in his world. The winged Sentinels police the hybrids, keeping them from discovery and protecting the vulnerable. [From the hybrids? Who are the vulnerable, and what do the hybrids want with them?] The Sentinels are after Nikias, a human-wind hybrid who can control the winds and weather and only has a body when he steals one.

When Nikias takes over [possesses? hijacks?] Eric's body, the Sentinels snatch him. Eric wakes up in the Sentinel's [Sentinels'] tower, missing half his memories. The Sentinels failed to trap Nikias. Instead they've got a human who knows too much about their world.

Eric's had enough of this. He wants out, he wants home, and he wants all his memories back, thank you very much. The problem: Nikias imprinted his powers on Eric's mind and body. [Not clear why that's a problem. I wouldn't mind suddenly having the power to control the weather.] The Sentinels tried to erase them and aren't sure if it worked.

It didn't, but Eric's keeping that under wraps. He's less than impressed by these Sentinels. He told them Nikias threatened his family. Just because he doesn't actually remember his family doesn't mean the threat isn't real. [A more effective ending would be telling us what Eric plans to do now that he has Nikias's power. Using it to hunt down Nikias? To destroy all hybrids? To expose the Sentinels? To save the family he doesn't remember? What's his goal?] 

Complete at 66,000 words, THE STORM SUMMONER is an upper middle grade contemporary fantasy that features diverse characters. [Until you say this is a middle grade book, a reader could easily assume Eric's an adult. Tell us his age when you introduce him.] I hope it will appeal to fans of The Underland ChroniclesMuseum of Thieves, and Savvy.



It's an improvement, but I'm not sure your story doesn't start where your query ends. If you had to summarize the book in one sentence, would it be: When a demon [accidentally?] gives fourteen-year-old Eric Ortega the power to control the weather, he decides to use this gift to . . . ? Finish the sentence. You spend most of the query telling us how Eric got the power he will use to accomplish his goal, but what's his goal? What's at stake? What's his plan?

You don't make it clear that the hybrid creatures are all evil (are they?). Does anyone know the hybrid creatures exist? Do humans know the winged Sentinels exist? Seems like if they fly and have a tower, we'd know about them. What would happen if the Sentinels weren't policing the hybrids? In other words, what is the goal of the hybrids? To take over the world, destroying humanity? To have a country where they can live in peace? To kill random people because it's fun?

I don't think you lose anything by leaving out the Sentinels' wings and leaving out the term "hybrid." The hybrids can just be creatures with magical powers, and Nikias can be a creature who can control the weather. Calling him a human-wind hybrid isn't helping. Maybe you should call them demons if they have the power to possess humans. Then you have a wind demon, a fire demon, a water demon, etc.

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11. Success Stories

The May 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly has a full-page interview with Maggie Stiefvater, which you can read without buying the magazine by going to their website. Stiefvater's YA novel The Raven King, the fourth and final book of her Raven Cycle series, came out two weeks ago.

Kirsten White's YA epic novel And I Darken, the first of a series, comes out next month and is available for preorder now.

Jenna Black's YA horror novel Nightstruck, the first of a series, came out last month.

Each of these authors was a contributor to this blog before being published, and each now has ten or more books in print from major publishers.

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12. New Beginning 1057

I dreamt of earth again. The ground smelled of fresh rain, spring flowers, damp earth, green sprouts, and cool breezes. I could read Shakespeare's sonnets and diplomatic cables, before entertaining foreign ambassadors, and spend my nights in love or at least infatuation with the ones that might be. That life is gone, gone a millennium, countless light years ago. For I am alone and Earth’s ambassador to the stars.

A shadow appeared over my shoulder as I waited for the signal the Aldebaran ambassador would receive me.

“Another report? I can just hear the Secretary of State for Interplanetary Affairs screaming: ‘Who does think he is, Shakespeare? Tell him knock off the hearts and flowers,’ ” Gordon Parvathy the Deputy Associate Director for First Contacts swished his hands in circular motions.

“She’s a Philistine. Her staff assistant can summarize it.” I answered, slamming the cover on my tablet.

“She hates her staff assistant worse than in her words your florid prose.”

“Gillian Twickersham-Bostwick is a hack.” Even to my ears my voice was sharp, cutting, laced with anger. “Karma’s a bitch. She had balls getting appointed Earth’s representative to our interplanetary neighbors when she hates aliens and the Aldebaran alien knows it.” I never let Parvathy see my anger. He raised his hands, indicating he didn’t really care. A stupid, careless gesture.

The diplomatic cable arrowed through the room, a three-inch thick steel snake festooned with Aldebaran prayer flags. I swear they shot those things from harpoon guns.

"!@#$%!" Parvathy reeled back, blood spurting from the place where there used to be a hand. There was a reason I never raised my hands out here in the stars. I like my body parts where they belong. Mainly, with the hemoglobin inside. 

"Karma's a bitch," I repeated, wondering if that in his ears constituted florid prose.

We didn't have any earth to bury him in. But I sent hearts, flowers, and what the heck, a few green sprouts. It's just me and the sonnets now. 

Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: Anon

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13. It's National Limerick Day . . .

and since no one submits anything anymore, I may as well repeat this query critique from about nine years ago.

Guess the Plot

Limorek Ironwood and the Sacred Crown

1. When Lim saw Jesus's thorny crown,
On a museum shelf he took it down.
He mistook it for grass,
Tried to smoke it, alas,
He burned the whole place to the ground.

2. King Ben felt his crown was too dim.
So he called in a young squire named Lim.
Then Lim and his team
Found a crown that did gleam.
Sir Lancelot had nothing on him.

3. A young man named Limorek Ironwood
Tried to roar just as loud as a lion could.
But the king of beasts roars,
While Lim sounded more
Like a porpoise or dolphin that's dying would.

4. Limorek was always impressed
With his dentist, who he thought was the best.
But when the oral surgeon
Sacrificed a virgin
Before Lim's root canal, he reassessed.

5. At Toadflax Magic School, London town,
It takes two years to earn cap and gown.
While his classmates took tests,
Lim embarked on a quest:
The seduction of sexy Ms. Crown.

6. "Ironwood," said she, "you're a prat.
To bed me, you must wear this 'hat.'"
"But it keeps falling off!"
"Ah," the damsel did scoff,
"Viagra will take care of that!"

Original Version


What's an aspiring knight without a quest? Squire Limorek,[Limorek? Isn't that what happened to Princess Di?]between squirees at the moment, couldn't be happier when his king sends him to help find the Sacred Crown. That King Ben only wants the Crown for profit, and to prove to that meddlesome King Arthur that his knights are just as good as those upstarts Galahad and Lancelot, doesn't much phase 14-year-old Limorek. [Unusual for a king to confide his motives to a 14-year-old squire.] It's a real quest, after all! And quests themselves always seem to be magnets for other adventures.

Lim, though, is more than a mite miffed that he somehow winds up with a ragtag group of companions: The stubborn mule of a centaur constantly complaining about his age and grumbling about how magic is always the first to go. The timid princess with unrequited feelings for Lim who runs away from home to escape an abusive father. The young rebel maid, rescued from a dungeon, whose general brashness and idealism disarm the boy's good sense faster than he can say "infatuation." [It's like Lord of the Rings, but with some babes along.] And the young dragonling who, after a near-fatal misunderstanding in the forest between his mother and Limorek, joins the quest as a sort of "studies abroad" outing. [Somehow he ends up with this ragtag group? I assume they didn't emerge from a dimensional warp. Is it like Dorothy coming across the scarecrow and then the tin man, etc.?]
But what quest comes without peril? This one, this one, and this one.

Tracking the group are two relentless knights, sent by the princess' father to bring her back to court -- at any cost.

To put the jewel on the tiara, when the Sacred Crown is found, it isn't quite as advertised. [Too clever for your own good. Makes the reader think there's a jewel that needs to be put on the sacred crown, thus authenticating its . . . authenticity. Stick with the more mundane: To make matters worse; As fate would have it; Alas; To top it all off; To put the icing on the cake . . . Occasionally a cliché is . . . just what the doctor ordered.] And the consequences of that discovery, of the princess' actions and of the rebel maid's earlier escape from her prison must all be faced before this quest can truly be counted done.

LIMOREK IRONWOOD AND THE SACRED CROWN, complete at 53,000 words, is the first in an older-middle-grade limited series that combines action, humor, fantasy and old-fashioned chivalry to tell the adventures of a young squire working his way toward knighthood in the days of King Arthur.

Thank you for considering LIMOREK IRONWOOD AND THE SACRED CROWN for review.

Kind regards,

This isn't bad, but it raises some questions you might briefly clear up. Did King Ben send Limorek out with some knights? Or by himself? If the former, why isn't he with them? If the latter, how will Lim finding the crown prove that Ben's knights are in a league with Arthur's?

In order to be a princess, as I understand it, you must be the daughter of the king/queen, or marry the son of the king/queen. Your princess--is she the daughter of King Ben, or the wife of the king's son? If the former, I assume you would have said so. If the latter, why is she living with her abusive father, rather than with the prince? Is she the daughter of some other king? If so, just how many kings arethere, and what are they the kings of?

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14. Face-Lift 1315

Guess the Plot

The King and the Mount

1. King Robert loves his horses. Some of them he loves a little too much.

2. The King of the Horses is an important and regal king. Yet he is lacking in one important thing, a mount. Follow this stallion in his quest to find a mount worthy of his royal equine nature. 

3. Mt. Mik-Mak-Malady has been the choosing grounds for the dwarves of Granicrag for over three millennia. But, when Prince Salmi tries to take the throne, there are three problems: 1) he's not a dwarf, 2) the old king's only mostly dead, 3) the spirit of the mountain wants its minerals back. 

4. The king wanted a horse and traded his kingdom away for it. Now his new mount will take him on an extraordinary journey that will make him rue the day he uttered the words "my kingdom for a horse."

5. An evil king out to destroy the world. A boy who's never been away from his home on the side of a mountain, and whose only talent is whittling. Can the boy whittle a weapon capable of bringing down the king and his army in time to save us all?

6. Elvis enters his horse Blue Suede in the Kentucky Derby, planning to watch the race from Colonel Parker's box. When Blue Suede's jockey comes down with measles, can the King take the reins and ride his mount to victory in the run for the roses?

Original Version

Attn. Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation of my fantasy/adventure novel, The King and the Mount: The Missing Traveller.

Alister never thought his name would be significant enough to earn a place in the histories, but now it looks like the fate of the Union rests in his hands.

In the Union, a civilisation perched on the side of a mountain, [I tend to think of a civilization as encompassing a wider expanse of land than the side of a mountain.]  a travelling merchant has gone missing. His cryptic message to Alister, a young whittler, leads the boy [How old is this boy? Knowing whether he's seven or fourteen would be more helpful than knowing he whittles.] on a journey across the Union to find him. Along the way, he realises the merchant's disappearance is far from the most important matter at hand, because the message tells of a world-ending plot. [If I'm sending a message warning that the world is in danger of ending, I'm 1. not making it cryptic, and 2. sending it to someone with a better chance of saving us than a boy whose chief claim to fame is that he whittles. Just saying.]

For all the years Hawk, the travelling merchant, told Alister about the cities around the Union, he never imagined he'd have the courage to leave his home and explore them. [If these cities are all on the same mountainside, Alister could probably walk to the closest one in an hour. Does that really take great courage?] But when he commits a horrible deed, [He whittles an image of Mohammed.] Alister has no choice but to run away. [First you said Alister embarked on his journey to search for Hawk. Now you say he's on the run because he has no choice.]

His guilt and grief might have overwhelmed him [Guilt and grief over the horrible deed? What, specifically, did he do?] if not for Hawk's message, which instead stacks [places] the burden of the Union's future on his shoulders. He finds himself up against Baudouin, the unnervingly charismatic king responsible for Hawk's disappearance. The king has a history of great evils, and plans to regain his "rightful" reign over the Union, at any cost. [What is he the king of, currently?]

Any hope of ending Baudouin's plot lies with Hawk. On his way to find the missing merchant, Alister uncovers the mysteries of the Hawk's past, ["The" Hawk makes him sound like a superhero.] participates in an illegal glider race, accepts the help of people throughout the Union with questionable backgrounds, and finds himself wondering how far he should be willing to go to stop the ambitious king.

With a level of fantasy and adventure akin to The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, The King and the Mount is aimed at teenage fantasy readers, but could also be enjoyed by young adults. [Young adults are teenagers.]

Thanks for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is complete at 119500 words and is available upon request. As per your submission guidelines, attached are the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


When I saw the title I assumed the mount was a horse. Apparently others did too. Maybe you should call it a mountain, as you do in the query. Actually, the title sucks either way. I suggest one of the following:
Alister Crowley and the Scelerate King
Enter the Whittler
Saving Proprietor Hawk
Return of the Ranger's Apprentice

Most of these fantasies have one teenager with no skills who has to save the world by himself, which is hard to swallow, so I'm pleased to see that your teenager can whittle and has the assistance of a traveling salesman, if he can find him.

You say the fate of the Union rests in his Alister's hands, but all Alister is doing is looking for Hawk. You also say "Any hope of ending Baudouin's plot lies with Hawk," but Hawk puts the burden of the Union's future on Alister's shoulders. It's not clear from the query what the merchant or the whittler can do to save the world. If I had to guess, I'd say Alister plans to swoop in on the glider he whittled out of a pine tree and rescue Hawk, who will then transform into the superhero known as The Hawk, and defeat the king's army with his iron beak.

I recommend you focus on one character and his goal, and provide more specifics. For instance, what's the name of the mountain, what's the horrible deed, what is Baudouin's plot, how did the king become not the king in the first place, what does the cryptic message say, what's the biggest mystery of Hawk's past, how is the burden of the Union's future on Alister, why is glider racing illegal, what is the plan, and what is Alister's super power that will allow him to defeat the evil king? (If it's whittling, change his name to The Whittler.)

That reminds me of The Whistler, an old radio mystery series which was adapted into several movies. Which reminds me of an old Smothers Brothers bit. I can't find the full song online, but here's a link to a place where you can listen to the part of the song where Tommy Smothers (as usual) interrupts the song to go off on a tangent. "Lonesome Traveler" is the track.

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15. X

A post from every year of this blog.


The 1st Serial Killers Guess the Plot Quiz

Serial killers pop up frequently in fake plots. And in real plots too, apparently. Six of the following plots were the actual plots of minions' novels. Which ones?

1. When Joe inherits a house from his Aunt Magnolia, he thinks it's his lucky day. But it turns out Aunt Magnolia was a mad serial killer, and the house burns down, so Joe is out of luck--until he's lucky enough to run into attorney Lancelot Fimby.

2. Patricia falls in love with the Earl of Hawksworth. There’s just one problem… he doesn’t know that she is merely a gardener. When he discovers the truth, cruel words fly--until an obsessed serial killer begins stalking Patricia.

3. By day, Guido is the town butcher. By night, he's the serial killer police have dubbed . . . "The Butcher."

4. The Crucifix Killer is back, killing only pale-skinned women. As his victims accrue, business booms in tanning salons across Manhattan.

5. A former police detective comes out of retirement to hunt down the 700-pound serial killer known as "The Brachiosaurus."

6. Five female adult movie director's have been murdered in Tennessee already. Can the Tennessee Serial Killer Unit get the killer before he gets his next victim?

7. A serial killer threads fishing line through the limbs of his victims and makes them "dance." They call him . . . "The Puppeteer."

8. When serial killer "Angel of Death" terrorizes a city, only one superhero has a prayer of stopping the carnage: Sister of Mercy, with her bullet-proof wimple and her Rosary of Doom.

9. When a serial killer nicknamed "The Minotaur" slips up and allows a single syllable of laughter to be recorded on a victim's answering machine, will detective Dan Malone recognize the voice--and overcome his heroin addiction--in time to save the next victim?

10. Serial killer Herbert Hawkins takes his victims on golfing holidays and bludgeons them to death, each with a different club. Can Detective Paris stop him before he goes through his entire bag?

11.The Big Chill meets Friday the 13th, as Josh and his friends gather at the funeral of the latest victim of the sledgehammer serial killer, who always kills the firstborn child of his previous victim.

12. To escape the serial killer who's after her, Annie flees Connecticut for the safest place she can think of: Dead Woman's Pass, the highest point on the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in the Peruvian Andes (approx.13,650 feet). But the killer is one step ahead of her.

Answers below:

Actual plots: 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12


Bad Analogies

He couldn't seem to get her out of his system, like a three-cheese pizza during the prune factory strike. --truthteller

It was an old man's kiss, like slabs of wet liver clapped across her lips. --writtenwyrdd

She felt somehow incomplete, like a Rubik's Cube with only the top level solved. --EE

They laughed uncontrollably, like someone had just lit a fart with the Thanksgiving dinner candles. --truthteller

You know how when you're taping up a package to mail it with wide clear packing tape, and the thing that's supposed to keep the end of the roll of tape free fails and now you have to find where the end of the tape is, and you finally do, but then you try to pull it up, and instead of the whole thing coming up, just a little piece comes, so you have to keep pulling little strips up? That's what it was like living with Ernie Greeb. --EE

She was thrilled but it was short lived, like a bride who catches the groom with the maid-of-honor in a bathroom stall at the reception. --stick and move

The streaks of mayonaise around her shriveled lips resembled maggots, eager to assist the process of decay. --ME

Even though it was months since she left, her memory lingered, tantalizing at the edge of his perception, familiar yet vaguely discomforting, like when you sniff your fingers and you can't quite remember where you put them last. --ril

Being 30 pounds overweight and dripping chocolate ice-cream on your yellow blouse then running into a hottie someone you haven't seen in 20 years and pretending you don't remember him and you also pretend to not speak English because it's the only way to save face and later get another chocolate ice-cream because by then it's just what you have to do is like my life. --takoda

Professer Mullen was ecstatic: it was as if he'd been sexually propositioned by Jenni Partick who always sat at the front in his Renaissance Art lectures, only this time he didn't need to break into the Dean's office and hack into the ORBIS system to alter anybody's transcript. --ril

The blood-spattered, purple surgical gloves looked like a character in a Dr. Suess book. --ME

His kiss was so bad that it reminded her of the big, red rubber plunger her father used to use to unplug the toilets--cleaned, sterilized and peppermint-scented, of course. --Dave

He was gone, gone for good, and Lainie's heart was as empty as a gin bottle in a literary agent's bottom drawer. --EE


Improving the Olympics

I've been watching the Olympics, and have come up with a few ways they can be improved.

1. In volleyball, the tall players have an advantage. Thus, I recommend that springboards be installed in the area of the net to aid the shorter players in spiking and blocking.

2. In the men's high bar, the athletes are lifted to the bar by a guy. This is humiliating. It would be more spectacular if they had to pole vault over the high bar and then grab it on the way down, smoothly beginning their routine as they do.

3. No one ever sticks the landing on the gymnastics vault, as they have too much horizontal momentum. Thus, instead of landing on mats they should land on one of those small trampolines--the kind mascots use to dunk basketballs at halftime. This would allow them to spring upward, creating vertical momentum and allowing them to dunk a basketball and land without stepping or hopping.

4. The men's pommel horse tends to be extremely dull, despite the great skill involved, because they just go around and around. I propose that the routine be performed on an actual horse as it gallops around the arena.

5. The swimsuits of the synchronized divers are identical; they should be mirror images, with the design of one on the opposite side as the design of the other, so it looks like one diver is a mirror image of the other. Also, the divers should have to be twins. Actually, it's too easy to synchronize with one other diver. The event should involve eight divers going simultaneously, preferably octuplets.

6. No one actually swims the butterfly, so why is it an event? It should be replaced with the dog paddle. That may sound ridiculous, but it's no more ridiculous than race walking. I mean really, walking? In real life, if you're in a hurry, no matter how fast you can walk you'll be left in the dust of people who have enough sense to run.

7. There's no way of knowing who wins a point in fencing unless you just watch the electronic light come on. Thus the only way the fencing will ever be worth watching is if they use real swords and fight to the death.

8. There should be a coxswain in every scull, even the singles, and the coxswains should all be equipped with those huge drums like in Ben Hur, to help the rowers get the rhythm.

9. Water polo would be much more exciting if the participants were in those bumper boats, like they have at the state fair. I can't believe no one else has thought of that one.

10. Shot put, discus, hammer, javelin . . . they're all the same event, with a different thing to throw. It's like if you went bowling and you had to alternate among a bowling ball, a basketball, a time bomb and a cantaloupe. Just focus on one.


The Zack Martinez Chronicles

In recent months, homicide detective Zack Martinez (created by Khazar-khum) has made dozens of appearances in the Guess the Plot feature. I've chosen a few for your enjoyment.

Ace Homicide Detective Zack Martinez

The letter pinned to the starlet's bikini said only "N." For Zack Martinez, homicide detective, this meant two things: those first thirteen murders were related, and he'd better stop off for take-home BBQ at Nairobi Bob's.

When the letters U and I turn up missing from alphabet soup cans at crime scenes, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's on the trail of a kleptomaniac serial killer who was traumatized by a childhood word guessing game; and he'd better remember to pick up his wife's Andy Warhol comforter from Hang's Dry Cleaning.

When the partially eaten body of celebrity photographer Marc Austin is discovered in Griffith Park, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the cougars who stalked the handsome Austin aren't the type with fangs and claws; and he'd better not forget his son's birthday at the zoo on Wednesday.

When homicide Detective Zack Martinez is summoned to the Gem City, a huge wholesale jewelry building, he knows two things: he'll run into his ex-wife at her boutique, and he'd better bring his new wife some earrings.

When Carl Saperstein, owner of top 3-year-old Fortune's Fool, is shot dead outside his store in LA's Garment District, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: finding the perp is a long shot, and he'd better bring his new wife some of that silk dupioni.

When the body of fashion guru Roberto Garibaldi is discovered in his plush Beverly Hills home, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Garibaldi didn't sever his own carotid artery with pinking shears, and he'd better get his wife a new pair of scissors to replace the ones he wrecked gutting fish last weekend.

When the plush velvet curtains of the Pantages part to reveal the corpse of actress Dame Catherine Holt lying in a gory heap, LA homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's going to be pulling serious overtime, and he'd better get his new wife orchestra seating to "Wicked" to make up for this fiasco.


The 1st Annual Evil Editor Charity Auction

After seeing how successful the Brenda Novak Auction is, I've decided to have my own auction. I'm starting small, but if this takes off, I'll have more items next year.

EE in Oil.

Self-portrait. As good as the crap you see in places like the Louvre. By the time your kids inherit it, it'll be worth twenty million.Current Bid: $220,000
Minimum Bid: $230,000
Reserve not met.

An Evaluation of your First Paragraph

by Agent Hannah Rogers. Does not guarantee representation.

Current Bid: $950
Minimum Bid: $1,000
Reserve met.

The Lindbergh Baby

I've had this fellow in my cellar since 1932. He's really become a drain on me, so maybe someone else can take on the responsibility.

Current Bid: $48,000
Minimum Bid: $50,000
Reserve not met.

Evil Editor's "Throne"

It's like giving up an old friend. I've spent so much time sitting here my ass has worn an impression into the seat. Autographed.
Current Bid: $1140
Minimum Bid: $1240
Reserve not met.

The Gulf of Mexico

I shoulda dumped this a while back. It's a fixer-upper, so you can probably get it dirt cheap.Current Bid: $8,000
Minimum Bid: $9,000
Reserve met.

Frozen Foot of a Hobo

Right foot.Current Bid: $20
Minimum Bid: $25
Reserve met.

Everything in Evil Editor's Attic Storage Room

Winning bidder will need to bring a truck, boxes and a few workers. Contents of room includes half ton of unopened slush.

Current Bid: $209
Minimum Bid: $219
Reserve met.

An Evaluation of Your First Sentence

by Evil Editor. More manuscripts get rejected after the first sentence than any other sentence. Find out why no one has ever seen your second sentence.

Current Bid: $800
Minimum Bid: $850
Reserve met.


Evil Editor in Art

Back before they invented photography, one could preserve one's likeness for posterity only by hiring da Vinci or some other artist to paint one's portrait.

Today, when every Tom Dick and Harry is suddenly a member of the paparazzi, and thus at least tangentially a murderer of Princess Diana, an artist's rendering is once again the classiest means of showing the world what they long to see, namely celebrities such as Evil Editor.

Evil Editor has been the subject of numerous artists' works in the past, including, but not limited to the following:

Self portrait in oils, now hanging in EE's gallery

Evil Dad, by Evil Jr., created for the Ocuritz pince-nez advertising campaign

Evil Editor, by Anthony B, created for the 2nd Blogiversary celebration, 2008

And the latest additions to this pantheon of pulchritude (and I say this hoping it makes sense, as I have no idea what "pulchritude" means, having used it only for its alliterative qualities):

EE at Work, by James Catlett

EE at Play, also by James Catlett

Evil Editor Teaches School cover art by Olga Stomatiou)

Clicking on individual paintings may result in enlargement. Contact the artists for prices on originals or prints. Evil Editor not responsible for marital discord resulting from the hanging of his portrait anywhere in your home, especially on the bedroom ceiling.


Th 4th Annual Evie Awards

The Academy Award show has barely gotten the best gaffer in a foreign film award out of the way, and the Evies are already complete. This despite the fact that the Oscars shows twenty-second snippets of their films, while the Evies shows the entire films. No wonder more people have watched the Evies than the Oscars three years running.

Best Musical Score
Kevin MacLeod for Bodywash

Best Actor

Evil Editor for Publishing Piracy

Best Actress: 

Hannah Rogers for Agent Query

Best Picture
Right Place, Wrong Time


Wait Staff


The Historian

I'm thinking of starting a new Twitter account. I'll call it The Historian.This is my avatar:

The feed would look like this (click to enlarge):

Ultimately it would be a way to promote my book The History of the World in Tweets. But would anyone buy it? Maybe it's all just a pipe dream, my getting rich by selling a copy to everyone on Twitter.


Hot Babes Holding Evil Editor's Books on Trains

This young woman obviously realizes that the best way to attract a man 
on a train is to flaunt her literary chops. Muttonchops, to be precise.

Never thought the subway was the best place to meet a doctor, 
but this MD wants everyone to know laughter is the best medicine.
Not the best medicine for all diseases. Consult your own physician.
Not recommended for spewers.

Decisions, decisions. EE or a delicious slice of chocolate 
mousse cake. Hey, why not have your cake and eat it too?

Coat casually tossed over her shoulder, favorite reading material on
display to any guy who leans into the aisle to check out her gams. She
boarded alone, but something tells me she won't be getting off alone.


World Poetry Day

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


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

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

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

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


With images of wolves, dry jerky, and affection that vows, "no matter the land / I will call to you", the poems of "A War Bride" lead the reader to the middle of the forest, where words - and the silence between them - are at their most powerful.

[Sample poem:

Ode to Dry Jerky

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


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

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

It describes Rooster Hat Trick,
Whoever that is.

As haiku, they're equally great, but the first one h

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16. Face-Lift 1314

Guess the Plot

A Relic for Roland

1. Roland tries to find the real Holy Grail without getting his face melted. Hilarity ensues.

2. Roland tries to find the magical Scissors of Endor, to cut the Conquistador's Cord.

3. Roland tries to find the Dragon's eye, an ancient ruby that shoots red lightning bolts. 

4. Roland tries to find the Coronet of Arthax, a trumpet made from a unicorn's horn.

5. Roland tries to find the stolen casket containing the relics of Pinedjem II, High Priest of Amun at Thebes.

6. Roland tries to find the astrolabe of Christoff Schissler the Elder, looted from a German museum after WWII.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for A Relic for Roland, a complete middle Grade high fantasy of 109,000 words which can also work as three books of around 35k. [Also possible are two books of around 55k, five books of around 22k, and one third of a 327k trilogy.] [I'd put this paragraph at the end. It's kind of boring with all the numbers.] [Apropos of nothing, it's interesting that the three numbers are presented three ways, one with digits, one spelled out, and one abbreviated. An obsessively consistent writer would have chosen to write 109,000 words which can also work as 3 books of around 35,000; or one hundred and nine thousand words which can also work as three books of around thirty-five thousand; or 109k words  which can also work as .003k books of around 35k.]  

An entire settlement has been changed into woodland animals by the curse of a powerful sorcerer. [I'm guessing you mean the people who live in the settlement have been changed, and not the place where the people live, which is what I would refer to as the settlement.] Roland Hobbs, now a raccoon, undertakes the quest to find answers at the sorcerer’s tower with the help of his two squirrel friends, Marcus and Sarah. [Trivia Q: What do squirrels and raccoons have in common? A: The most famous example of each is named Rocky.] [Also, little-known fact: the script for the movie Rocky originally called for Rocky Balboa to fight a giant raccoon.]

At the tower, the companions discover their enemy trapped in a magical pool and learn from him that when they cleared the land for their settlement, the spirit of an ancient evil trapped by the roots of the trees was unleashed [Or, more accurately, it was uprooted.]; the dragon Golthag. [I would put "the dragon Golthag" after "the spirit of."] The sorcerer, a good man named Belasur who transformed them all to save their lives, [Perhaps we should call what Belasur did a spell rather than a curse, as his intentions and the result were favorable.] reveals the existence of the Coronet of Arthax, the horn of the famous unicorn of the same name who vanquished Golthag long ago at the cost of his own life. The horn was fashioned by Belasur into a trumpet [Are you sure it shouldn't be called the Cornet of Arthax?] which has the power to reshape reality itself. It is the key to restoring them all to human form. [Them all? What if some of them don't want to change back?] [Once reality has been reshaped, is it still considered reality?] 

Heading south, Roland and friends seek the tribe of the half-giants, [If you Google "How tall is a giant?" the first answer is 84 inches. Which would make a half-giant 42 inches, or 11 inches shorter than Tyrion Lannister.] who removed the relic from the tower to keep it safe. They also join forces with two Sylvians from the undersea country, and journey to the kingdom of Seldavin to prevent the coronet from falling into the hands of evil clerics called the Teterari who have usurped power. [No need to tell us clerics are evil. Fictional clerics are always evil.]

Along the way, Roland learns the ways of magic from the magical mate of the Coronet, a tuning fork named Selatine. [Anagram: Saltine.] The fork reveals to Roland the songs of all natural creation, [Is it a talking tuning fork?]
to teach him how to use the coronet safely, and gift him with magical abilities. He discovers that the half-giants narrowly escaped the clutches of the Teterari and made their way to the ancient crossroads, a fortified battleground of antiquity. Joining the half-giants, he and his friends make their stand against the Teterari armies. [In a battle that historians will call the Tet Offensive.]

With the aid of the Sylvians and war machines of the famous Emrian inventor called the Clockmaker, [His best-known invention: the time bomb.] they are victorious. The companions then return home with the coronet and win the last battle against Golthag’s spirit. With the power to restore themselves available, Roland and the good people of the settlement give it up in order to bring Belasur back to life, [When did he die?] and protect the forest. [We don't need the ending. Stop when the MC is confronted by the decision that will determine the outcome.]


Words that sound similar: Selatine, Sylvians, Seldavin, Belasur. Must have something to do with the third letter being "L". Like in Roland, Relic, and Golthag.

Apparently when you call Roland a raccoon, you mean he's a raccoon with Roland's brain and ability to communicate? Can the forest animals speak?

This is more synopsis than query. We don't need this much information. Here's what we need:

1. Who's the main character, what's his situation when stuff starts happening, what's his goal, what's his plan to achieve the goal? Roland Hobbs, been turned into a raccoon, wants his humanity and settlement back, needs to get the relic that can reshape reality).

2. What's keeping him from his goal, what does he do about it, what goes wrong? The relic's been taken away by dwarfs, he follows them to Seldavin, but the Tetrazzinis are waiting, and they want the relic too. And they have armies.

3. What's at stake? What happens if he succeeds, and what if he fails?

Can't the powerful sorcerer change the animals back to people now that they've left the settlement?

Work all that into about ten sentences. Keep the number of names low. 

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17. Face-Lift 1313

Guess the Plot

The Empire

1. It was a Darth and stormy Knight.... BB-8 reveals little known secrets in his tell-all about the early days of the Empire.

2. There's an Empire. So of course there are Rebels. And there's an asexual main character. But this is totally different from Star Wars, because it has star soldiers instead of storm troopers and instead of Yoda it's Pablo.

3. Business guru Sam Daster works in the mail room of the biggest financial empire in the world. Watch as he works his way up the ladder to the top rung before finding out that there is more to life than ruling an empire. 

4. They're big! They're mean! Tremble before them and don't be late on your taxes! See head goon Schultz for a good paying job with lots of room for advancement! Don't mind the dissidents attacking you, send them to your boss so you can be promoted. 

5. She was the duchess of a duchy in the empire, and he was a prince attending Princeton. If they ever meet, we might actually get some real names.

6. Village idiot Joe Bob trips over a rock, eats some moldy cheese, makes friends with three very strange women . . . and rises up to build the greatest empire the world has ever seen.

7. If he calls you out, you'd best not argue. If he doesn't, stay where you are or advance at your own risk. Later buy him a beer and a dog and maybe, just maybe, he'll treat you right next time. He's called the Empire, and he's blind as a bat. 

8. A funny, soul-stirring look at the trials and travails of being a foot soldier in service with the Byzantine Empire through the ages until its demise in 1453.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Wolf, a teenage soldier of Māori descent, struggles with his asexual identity as he fights to protect the Empire from the Rebels. Their forces are growing stronger, fuelled by every wrongful death at the hands of the Emperor. They have to be stopped, before everything Wolf has ever known is destroyed.

Once a scamp on the streets, and now a star soldier in the Army, Wolf is still as alone as ever. [Meaning he has no friends?] Loyalty to the Empire is crucial, and so he must stand by as all troublemakers are executed, [I'd go with dissidents or agitators or rabble-rousers. The death penalty seems a bit harsh for troublemaking. They'd be executing ten-year-olds.] [Wait, are they executing ten-year-olds?] despite his growing misgivings about the Empire's methods. Questioning orders is not an option.

After discovering a traitor amongst his fellow soldiers, and watching his friend die in a Rebel ambush, [Now he has no friends.] Wolf can't tell who to trust. [The Rebels ambushed and killed my only friend; I can't tell if I should trust them.] One by one, lies, secrets, and betrayals are unveiled. He starts to suspect Pablo, a Training Instructor, of working with the Rebels, but when Wolf reports his suspicions, attention is drawn to him and his sympathy for the scamps. [It never pays to be the whistleblower.] As even his own mind turns against him, Wolf struggles to cope with the responsibility the Emperor has given him. [Teenage soldiers aren't given responsibility by emperors; they're used as cannon fodder.]

The Emperor has a plan to defeat the Rebels. Wolf is forced to make a decision [decide] between listening to his conscience and losing everything he's worked for, or agreeing to set [setting] a trap for the Rebels, using his own people as bait. [He's always been alone, but he has people? Are his people the Māori? The scamps? His fellow soldiers?] This could be their one chance to win the war. [The Empire's one chance or the Rebels' one chance?] But Wolf is no longer sure about what he's fighting for.

Set in a post-apocalyptic New Zealand, [Maybe this should be made clear earlier. I spent the whole query thinking it was set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away.] [You can argue that someone of Māori descent wouldn't have been in another galaxy long ago, but can you be sure the Māori didn't come to Earth from another galaxy, eons ago? No, you can't.] THE EMPIRE is a young adult dystopian novel of 85,000 words featuring a diverse LGBT+ cast. It's a stand-alone book with series potential.

Thanks for your consideration.

Yours sincerely,


This would be better if Wolf were an actual wolf. 

As war rages between the rebels and the Empire, one asexual soldier named Wolf is torn between his conscience and his loyalty to the ruthless emperor. That's about all I'm taking from this because there's a lot of vagueness. Specificity would make it more interesting. What is the emperor's plan to win the war? What lies and secrets and betrayals are unveiled?  What do you mean by his mind turns against him? Did the emperor himself single Wolf out for some crucial responsibility? If so, what is it, and why Wolf? 

Wolf's sexuality obviously plays a part in the book, but unless you show us how, it's not worth mentioning in the query.

Tell us the story with interesting details. Phrases like "before everything Wolf has ever known is destroyed," don't tell us anything, as we don't know what he's known. "Losing everything he's worked for?" I guess that means losing his job, though considering his age, I can't imagine he's had it long.

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18. Synopsis 49

This synopsis came with the query for Alcoholic Angel (Face-Lift 1311). The author may have been under the mistaken impression that including a synopsis eliminated the need to summarize the plot in the query letter. Unfortunately, this also does't summarize the plot, and doesn't meet the definition of a synopsis.


Once or twice upon a time, a book offers sane  solutions for life-threatening ailments.  “Alcoholic Angel and how to find your very own miracle”  draws  from  Asian  wisdom, common sense,   western science,  and miracles to produce  healing outcomes.   Funny quotes are in the m/s because   humor   helps healing.  However the world is seriously  sick, and it’s no laughing matter that  millions of us   are dying  too soon.    Even  presidents and prime ministers don’t   confront   the  horrifying consequences  of  over-eating, alcoholism,  drug addictions.   In terms of  leadership, Pope Francis stands above all.  Broken folks  get  hope from this Pope.
   Tia Crowe, half  an American Indian and  my  “Alcoholic Angel”,   died  at a Portland  OR teaching hospital on 8-30-12   of cirrhosis of the  liver. Death visited  on her  32nd birthday.  Happy birthday, baby.
                            PICK-UP GAMES AT PIRATE CITY       12   
                                                            SEIZURE                 39
                                                      BALL GAME BLUES     44
                                              FOREVER TOGETHER        51
                                                                     Butt Out           57
                                                           Flight of an Angel      61
                                                                  The TEACHER    69
                                                         LIFE AFTER  LIFE      75
                                                         I’M AN ALCOHOLIC     77
                                                   “Evil” Drugs – the Pope     93   
                                                               Mork from Ork       100       
                                             POT HEADS  PREVAIL       113 
                                                HEROIN EPIDEMIC    122
                                            INTIMATE ENEMIES         124
                                                 Alcohol related rape     133
                                           WHY COUPLES  FIGHT     139
                                                               EXERCISE     144
                                                  SITTING DISEASE      154
                                                   Body by Hannah         159
                                                        Dancing Queen        165
                                      SEX QUESTIONS ANSWERED   171
                                                   GIFT OF Balance         1
                                                      ART OF EATING        191
                                                   KEFIR – Gutsy Food     205
                        SUGAR & ARTIFICIAL  sweeteners           210
                                                                SPLENDA           212
                                                 WHY HEARTS ATTACK   228
                                      CANCER Alfredo       231
                                      COFFEE &  TEA       236
                              SALT  &  STROKES         240                                      
                    HEALING A PRESIDENT          258
                                  LOSE WEIGHT          266          
                                             MEDITATION     304                                                                                                                 
                                       DENTAL GONE MENTAL   310
                                      THE  POWER OF CHI      323
                                                   Tai Chi                  333
                                                    Chakras               337            
                                             DRUG STORY           340 
                 DEATH  DOWN MEXICO WAY             350
                MIRACLE GIRLS FROM G-D                 364                           
                            THESE DOCTORS ARE IN        367
                 FINDING  YOUR very Own MIRACLE   379 

The Girlfriend:    “Shane, I am grieving with you. I should have called and talked to her, or been around more. I can spend all day regretting things I shouldn't have done and things I should have.   I will  always have her in my memories. She exuded an energy that was beautiful and contagious. It is a sad thing to see, but with death sometimes your card just comes up when you think it wouldn't,  and sometimes your card doesn't come up when you wish it would.   But there is a reason for everything. I don't understand it;  no one does. I don't want to understand. That's the mystery of life.  Death is a continuation of  the mystery.    – Casey Pitt, Bradenton\

 THE TEACHER: “This caught me by terrible surprise. With the karate, the care and concern for her kids, and reading about her problem, Tia  seemed to be on a healthy road to recovery and healing.  I am heartbroken. My old boss and  friend  from years ago and another life, told me the wisest (and most helpful) words when dealing with my own loss:  "Let no one dictate to you how or how long  you grieve.    Your story is a  loving tribute to the life of a wonderful and beautiful friend and partner;  someone of  tremendously kind, generous, and uplifting energy who departed much too soon.  Words are not worthy when it comes to grief, but two quotes have always stood out to me  as wise and helpful.”
 “Though lovers be lost, love shall not; and death shall have no dominion.”  - Dylan 
  “Death leaves a heartache no one can heal.  Love leaves a memory no one can steal.”   - tombstone in Ireland.

            Only a sick society would continue to allow the most  destructive drug of them all to remain legal.     Not just legal but pushed on society at all levels to essentially all ages  via  sponsoring  sports events everywhere.  And this government and this society  sit  back and  do nothing as the carnage of destroyed lives is everywhere.         
                                                     --  Wes Bagby,  Morgantown WV
 THE THERAPIST:    “When I heard about Tia, I felt sad. Alcoholism is alcoholism is alcoholism.   Insidious. Was more help available? Of course, but Shane, alcoholics know what help is available and they know what they're ready to accept or reject. Tia apparently needed your love before she needed to be free of alcohol. Sorry about that,  but for all I know she may have been the wisest of the wise.  For isn't love the greatest gift?   That you loved her the way SHE needed  to be loved was the only Rx that made sense to her.  Apparently, in giving her that, you gave her life.   Tia’s drinking was horrifying, but her life also was wonderful and complex, challenging and joyful.”


I am standing upon the seashore.
A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning
breeze and starts for the blue ocean.
She is an object of beauty and strength,
and I stand and watch until at last she hangs
like a speck of white cloud
just where the sea and sky come down to mingle
with each other. Then someone at my side says,
"There, she is gone."
Gone where?
Gone from my sight . . . that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull
as she was when she left my side
and just as able to bear her load of living freight
to the place of destination.
Her   diminished size is in me, not in her.
And just at the moment
when someone at my side says,
 ‘there she is gone!’
There are other eyes  watching her coming . . .
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout . . .
"Here she comes!"        
And that is dying.           -Henry Van Dyke


A synopsis summarizes the plot. How long it should be depends on the guidelines of whoever has been foolish enough to request it. 

If the book is straight nonfiction, the contents might be included, though the chapter titles would have to be more informative than most of these are to make that useful. In any case, as the query states that this book includes a love story and would make a great movie, it apparently isn't the type of book whose table of contents we need to see.

No idea why you include a poem, especially one by someone other than yourself.

If those quotations are from actual people who wrote to you, rather than fictional characters, they aren't telling us anything about your writing ability.

In fact, pretty much none of this belongs in a synopsis. It's a lot of writing (of which very little may be by the book's author) from which I take away only that your book was inspired by the death of a woman due to alcoholism. You need to tell the story. In your own words.

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19. Face-Lift 1309

Guess the Plot


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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Version

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

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

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

Or so she says. 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Also, lay off the one-sentence paragraphs.

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20. The LeBron Twitter Scandal

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

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

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

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

How movie scenes would differ if they were made today.

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

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

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

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

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

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21. KK reports...

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

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22. Face-Lift 1310

Guess the Plot


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Version

Dear specific agent:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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23. Face-Lift 1311

Guess the Plot

Alcoholic Angel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Version


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

Ice is really bad for us.
– Hangover school

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

Hi Hannah, 4-8-16

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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24. Face-Lift 1312

Guess the Plot


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original Version

Dear Agent,

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time and consideration,


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

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

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

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

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

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25. Editing Country Names

Finally some news from Europe that's neither tragic nor scandalous: The Czech Republic is planning to change their name. Apparently they were annoyed that the Boston Marathon bombers were mistakenly thought by some to be from The Czech Republic, when they were actually from Chechnya, so to avoid future confusion they've decided to call themselves Czechia. Another advantage: changing their name means all their sports fans will have to toss their Czech Republic jerseys and buy new garb.

A name change is certainly warranted, but they seem to have missed the main reason it's warranted, namely: Your country's name starts with the letters Cz. Hello? It's almost as bad as starting it with Vq. (Note: the Cz is pronounced like ch, and the ch is pronounced like k.) If you want us to pronounce your name right, spell it Checkia. If you spell it Czechia we're gonna pronounce it Kizzeecheea. Also, do they have to put accent marks on all their vowels? It takes forever to write a single sentence, which is why their greatest literary work, Metamorphosis, is a novella.

Also, is it really that important to have Check as part of the name? When Burma and Rhodesia and British Honduras changed names, they went with Myanmar, Zimbabwe and Belize. Not Bzurmia Rzodia, and Bzshhndrs.

Here, of the top of my head, are a few better possibilities for the new name:

East Germany
New Chechnya
West Slovakia

I'm sure you can come up with even better names. Which is why I'm starting the Twitter hashtag #SuggestedNewNamesForCzechRepublic. 

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