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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. Practice Query #5


When, Joanas and Moses Criist, the owners of the popular S&M nightclub Dominion extend the basement, they inadvertently open a portal to Hell. The Devil, or Bezel as his friends call him, doesn't see a conflict of interest between paying customers and lost souls. That is until The Church of You Know Who comes knocking. The signal might as well be worth the Shave and a Haircut riff. Two bits.

The Devil takes Dominion viral as mortal man cries for more debauchery. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse arrive, closing their tour. Imagine a thousand years of exquisite pain. Times are good, Bezel makes money hand over fist and parlays his popularity by opening Dante's Timeshare condominiums. To hell with goodness, the end of days have arrived.

Not wanting to be on the wrong side of history the Almighty turns a new leaf and buys a lifetime membership in Dominion. Now that's a lot of money.

Moses is perturbed at his followers. S&M is his art, his love and muse. He wants to go back to when whips weren't an allegory and decides to go and live in the desert. Joanas is hung up, in denial. All Moses ever wanted was to get his rocks off the front porch and shut the front door. He wonders, will Joanas ever wake up from denial, and will Bezel ever become the friend he said he'd be? Moses isn't sure he'd bet his soul.

Irreverently yours,


0 Comments on Practice Query #5 as of 4/19/2014 10:13:00 AM
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2. Practice Query #4

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my 80,000 word YA paranormal romance, “Stronger than the Night.”

Ella Van Helsing has always slept with a light on. As a child, she sobbed at every sunset. Ella suffers from nyctophobia, an abnormal fear of the night. But Ella isn’t a child any longer -- she’s sixteen, and she wants to ask hunky Taylor Smith to the end-of-term school dance. Ella must overcome her self-imposed ‘home-before-dark’ curfew, or kiss any chance of romance with Taylor good-bye. Adding to the pressure, Ella’s dad is famous vampire-hunter Abraham Van Helsing IV, and he’s deeply ashamed of his daughter.

Ella’s first planned foray into the night, a quick trip to the grocery store, becomes a life-or-death chase through the streets of modern London when she witnesses a trio of vampires kidnap her little brother. In Hyde Park she loses sight of the vampires, but stumbles into a werewolf pack meeting — Taylor’s pack. Her school crush turns out to be the son of the pack’s alpha female, who takes pity on Ella and commands a resentful Taylor to help her.

Ella’s desperate race pushes her to the breaking point, but aided by her wits, Taylor’s supernatural senses, and the garlic marinara sauce in her shopping bag, Ella prevails. She not only rescues her brother and vanquishes her fears, she wins her father’s respect – and Taylor’s adoration.

Thank you for your consideration.


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3. Practice Query #3

Dear Agent,
I am writing you for representation of my murder mystery novel, The Burning of Issobell Key. I am writing you, because in my search for an agent I discovered that you really like spicy food.
When Amelia Pettipants's sweet elderly neighbor Issobell dies in an exploding gas cooker accident, Amelia starts to investigate the odd circumstances around her death. Firstly, the police said that a cigarette ignited the gas fire, but Issobell never smoked, and secondly, Amelia has read enough murder mystery novels to know that nothing ever happens accidentally. Although she is convinced that Issobell was murdered, she struggles to find a motive. Issobell was the kindest old lady in the village of Boring-On-End and had never upset anyone in her life. Except she did make the hottest curries that Amelia had ever eaten. Amelia’s only lead to find the culprit is that one of Issobell’s recent dinner guests must have gotten chronic stomach problems from the intense spice. To track down the killer, Amelia throws a curry-making competition in Issobell's honor. It fails miserably when only three people enter the competition and none of them use chilies in their curry. Amelia finally comes to the depressing realization that everyone in the village is a suspect.
Frustrated and worried about her inability to uncover Issobell's killer, Amelia comes up with her most nefarious plan yet. She will host the entire village for a giant feast of her signature dish, Buffalo wings. To find out who would kill over a case of chronic indigestion she adds a secret ingredient to the wings sauce, a bucket full of the world’s hottest peppers. When she doubles over 75% of the villagers with her aggressively hot Buffalo wings, she realizes that infuriating the killer might be a mistake. But that worry is short lived, because now she won't be able to work out who the killer was as the whole town is out for her blood. Can she fend them off by throwing insanely hot Buffalo wings, or will they cook her up and turn her into the bland meal they all desire?
The Burning of Issobell Key is complete at 70,000 words. I have attached the first five pages of my manuscript, and the Buffalo wings recipe that I modelled Amelia's wings off. Please write back if you would like to request the rest of the manuscript or Issobell's Yorkshire pudding recipe.


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4. Practice Query #2

Dear Evil One,

Apologies for the small handwriting but I am seeking representation for my 80,000 word thriller THE LEPRECHAUN CONNECTION and I'm not the tallest guy in the world.

See that last d? And the period? Took me half an hour to paint those. Ma said it'd be quicker to use a yard broom but that feels disrespectful given your credentials. So I'm sticking with a regular paintbrush. Horse bristles.


So. Anyway. My thriller.

I figure a hard-boiled private eye will play well in the current socio-political climate. Vampires and werewolves are so yesterday. And thanks to the British royal family, interest in princesses has blossomed worldwide, so (genre bust ahoy!) my thriller combines the two.


Back hurts a little. Will return tomorrow. I suppose I should have written 'tom' there and kept things simple to demonstrate my understanding of conciseness and editing etc but I left it in because industriousness and tenacity are bigger hitters in my book, especially when it comes to other people's books. Take Grisham. The guy's a sticker, a worker, a winner.


Apols. In hosp.


Eye rescues princesc
godam yard broom

If U want more, doc says I'm gtg for visits after 5pm.

Thx 4 tm & cons.

Rafferty O Flafferty O Lafferty


This dbls as follow-up 4 in 3 months.


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5. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1161 requests feedback on a revision, which you'll find in the comments there.

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6. Practice Query #1

It was a typical morning in Marion, Iowa, when John went out to the fields. Warm, pleasant, soft clouds on the horizon. No one ever saw the tornado that slammed him onto the corn crib. It was just a 'freak accident'.

At the hospital, they give him a choice: spend a miserable life as a quadriplegic, or permit experimental cyborg surgery. Unable to face a life without motion, John opts for the surgery.

Melded to a harrow, with small pitchforks for hands, he grows restless for his farm. But before he can return to his beloved land, one scientist makes him an offer. Join the underground Cyborg Fight Club, where he can make a small fortune that will allow him to expand his farm and truly live comfortably.

The fight club is easy money and no worries, at first. Until the day he meets Suzy Cola, a lovely vending machine cyborg. Unfortunately, her unscrupulous handler is forcing her to dispense her favors for anyone who can put in enough coins.

Determined to save her, John makes a rash vow--to meet the deadly Jean-Luc Zamboni in a fight. If he can beat the ice crusher, Suzy will be free and they can escape to his farm. If not? There's no 'if not'. He's taking down that Canuck junkmobile, or going to the scrap heap trying.

Cyborg Harrow is complete at 143,000 words. I'm a small time farmer who practices cyborg taxidermy, so this story is close to my heart. May I send you my MS?


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7. Query Writing Practice

Help us get through the current lull in query submissions.

Go to this random integer generator.

Click "again." It should give you a number between 1 and 1199.

Search this blog for the Face-Lift with that number.

Choose one of the fake plots, pretend it's the plot of your just-completed book, and write a query letter that's sure to garner requests for the book from literary agents.

As always, humor is appreciated.

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8. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Gods of Lesser Things

1. Smerach, God of Paintchips, has lost the Holy Flame, and unless he gets it back by nightfall he will be stripped of his powers. Helping him are Ula, Goddess of The Random Bits of Plastic You Find in the Junk Drawer, and Farelious, God of Smut.

2. The old gods are no longer hot, so they try to hasten the end of the world. But they fail thanks to Bruce, who has the ability to rewind time.

3. The gods of carpet stains, broken chalk, and hangnails have tormented mankind long enough. Bob resolves to destroy them all, before the Earth implodes.

4. Diarrhea and Eczema watch as Aphrodite floats down for another hot encounter with a mortal. Eczema was itching to get her hands on a mortal for some fun and games. "Gotta run," 'Rhea said.

5. Whhir, the god of eggbeaters, is trying to organize his fellow deities into the Amalgamated Brotherhood of the Gods of Lesser Things and strike for better burnt offerings and a new temple. But will Whhir's ex, the goddess of mostly healed wounds, allow it?

6. Moistmorn, god of dew, agrees to take Saturday off so Bob's new golf shoes won't get wet. In return, Bob agrees to spend eternity in Hades.

Original Version


I am seeking representation for The Gods of Lesser Things, a completed modern fantasy novel of about 100,000 words, told in the close-third point of view.

Bruce--a software engineer and general slacker--leads an ordinary life in a small southern city. He stops by the coffee shop on the way to work, he waits for Friday and dreams of unattainable women. He's like you and me, [No, he's like you. Me, I stop by the chiropractor on the way to work, I hate Fridays because that's the day the carpenter comes by to sand off my foot calluses, and let's face it, when you're Evil Editor, is any woman unattainable?] only with one difference - Bruce has the ability to rewind time. [Do people walk backward during this process? Is everyone aware time has been rewound, so they can act differently the second time around, or do they do the same thing they already did when Bruce hits "PLAY"? Does Bruce have fast-forward abilities? Does Bruce use his power to save lives or just to relive his favorite moments, like when Eloise kissed him? I feel certain you're going to tell us all about this remarkable ability.]

The old gods continue to vie with one another through their distant mortal children. [Not clear what that means; drop it.] Some seek to hasten the coming end of the world, some to delay it. [What happened to Bruce?] Led by Bernard, a mysterious and powerful figure, Bruce, Michael (a schizophrenic time-traveler), and his compatriots [Should that be "their" compatriots? Or are they just Michael's compatriots?] fight the small battles that will help save the world from Ragnarok, the end of days. [I thought Ragnarok was the god of itches that itch even more after you scratch them.]

Struggling against the dark and enigmatic Loge, [god of balcony seating, and] leader of a group known only as the Others, Bruce learns that god (and godhood) is in the details, [What does that mean?] discovers a new meaning of friendship, [What does that mean?] and summons up a courage he didn't know he had to face his greatest fears.


[Choose from among:

1. I found you on a list of agents and decided to query all of you.
2. You handle Stephen King, so I figure you can make me millions.
3. You take email queries, and I'm so out of shape from sitting in front of the computer all day, I'd probably have a heart attack if I had to walk to the mailbox.

Fans of Neil Gaiman, Kage Baker, and Charles de Lint might enjoy my mix of modern life and mythology. [Especially the hilarious scene where Bruce brings Thor to the synagogue, only to discover that that's not Thor, but Hogg, god of pork loins.]

I'm a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop with stories published by Deep Magic and The Sword Review. I’ve been a technical writer and editor professionally for seventeen years.

If you are interested, I will gladly send you either the first three chapters of this story, or the complete manuscript. Thank you in advance for your kind consideration of this proposal. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



It would be more effective to stick with Bruce and his time control and describe the small battles he fights. We don't need the names of all these characters or the cliché lessons learned.

Selected Comments

HawkOwl said...Ha. I'm putting all the fake plots in my Idea pile. As for the query, naturally, I stopped caring as soon as point of view was mentioned, but I do like surreal things about gods, so if I saw it on the shelf rather than in query form, I'd probably give it a try.

braun said...I have to say, I like the premise, quite intriguing. This was a rare instance of a Guess the Plot where I thought "Man I hope it's #2" - and it was.

That being said, it's confusingly laid out in the query letter. I'm not sure who the players are in this drama. You refer to some gods as trying to bring about the end of the world but don't say which ones. Similarly, 'small battles'? How do you battle gods? And where? And again, which gods?

Finally, casually mentioning that someone can 'rewind time' and then not telling us how he got that ability or how he uses it is particularly hard on your audience.

I dig the basic concept here, but am totally confused as to whether this is something I would actually want to read.

December Quinn said...let's face it, when you're Evil Editor, is any woman unattainable?


I like the concept a lot, but I'm also unsure about how Bruce can rewind time. The query in general is pretty pithy, though, and I like pithy.

Bernita said...Yes. Basic good idea, but...
(1) which set of gods.
Please. There are many pantheons and we need to know to both be comfortable and to connect.
Ragnarok is a more generic term than you may realize.
(2)We need to know how he has this skill and what he does with it.
He's a genetic descendant?

And if he re-winds time, the gods were stronger then?

acd said...I don't know, it just seems like mentioning Neil Gaiman is a straight-up admission that you ripped off American Gods. Others might disagree.

Jenna Black said...I want to thank the authors of the Guess the Plots for this one--you made me laugh and groan in equal measures. Great fun!

pacatrue said...I like the idea of the book as well but got lost in the query. Bruce is our main character, right? So when introducing everyone else, I'd want to hear about them in relation to Bruce.
Good luck. I hope you do a great job, because this sort of thing is right up my alley.

Zombie Deathfish said...I liked all the fake plots and thought the real one sounded intolerably dull. Sorry. The query letter didn't intrigue me, and whilst I'm usually all about gods battling and poor mortals being stuck in the middle, I just think this has been done elsewhere.
I also can't think of a convincing reason why a god would want the world to end. Who would worship them then?

whitemouse said...There is already a book - a very, very excellent book - called The God of Small Things. The subject matter is completely different from this, mind you.

I also thought this premise sounded like a bit of a rip-off of American Gods. I thought that even before I saw the reference to Neil Gaiman in the query letter.

Also, according to Wikipedia, Richard Wagner invented the Germanisised name Loge for the trickster-god Loki. The author should probably use the correct spelling, especially since s/he also mentions Ragnarok, which is certainly part of the original Norse myth.

Anonymous said...Loge, god of balcony seating--EE, I love you. Of course no woman is unattainable to you! Cyrano in disguise.

Anonymous said...Fans of Neil Gaiman, Kage Baker, and Charles de Lint might enjoy my mix of modern life and mythology.

The association you've made among these three authors is very tenuous. They have completely different styles and approaches. You might be better off naming three authors who write urban fantasy whose styles yours more closely resembles than just grabbing three of the biggest names in that category.

Poohba said...Your book may be nothing like either of these movies, but when I saw the name "Bruce" in connection with this plot, I immediately thought of that Jim Carrey movie, Bruce Almighty - and then of that Adam Sandler movie where he can rewind time with a magical remote control.

Those may not be the connotations you were going for with this MS.

0 Comments on Evil Editor Classics as of 4/13/2014 11:45:00 AM
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9. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Emerald Bearer

1. After a gigantic emerald is magically embedded in her hand, Samantha is transported to a world of peaceful centaurs and evil minotaurs. Can she use her emerald to stop the minotaurs from polluting the sacred spring, turning the centaurs into mindless animals?

2. After a gigantic emerald is magically implanted in her forehead, Lady Marigold develops superpowers. Can she now save her planet from the evil horde in that approaching space ship? Or must she make a pact with Prince Roland, the most irksome future monarch who ever attempted to charm womankind with his bulging muscularity?

3. When Al-Tortuga is tasked with carrying the sultan's emerald on the March of Redemption, he figures it'll be a cushy three week job . . . until he discovers that the emerald is the size of a mini-refrigerator.

4. When pirates hide the Great Emerald in a swamp on an uninhabited island, they make the mistake of marking the spot on a map, a map that soon falls into the hands of Loretta, Queen of the Night, who sets off to fetch it with a daring crew of nuns and orphans.

5. Dwarf Tyrannosaurs and giant crocodiles. Desert islands. Pirates bearing treasure in need of concealment. Half the British navy. Whales. The cyclone of the century. A navigator on another drinking binge. Hungry Polynesians. Volcanic eruption. These are the challenges confronting Emily when she crashes through the time warp. Also, a humongous emerald.

6. The ancient prophecy states that the Emerald Bearer shall lead the Gaaths to their Utopia. But when Joriff sees the size of the emerald, he decides he can find his own Utopia by killing the Emerald Bearer and pawning the emerald. Can anyone convince Joriff to put his people first? His wife, for instance?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve-year-old Samantha never trained to use a magic gem. She never asked to be an Emerald Bearer—she’d never even heard of one. But none of that matters [You've used your first thirty words to tell us something that doesn't matter?] when she finds a palm-sized emerald in the foothills of Arizona. When she picks it up, the huge gem embeds itself in her hand and transports her to Centaunia; a world of peaceful centaurs, evil minotaurs, and a handful of powerful humans with magic gems of their own. [I saw someone recently with a diamond embedded in her nose. There are probably people with rubies in their rumps and sapphires in their sphincters, but how would you know?] [If the main residents of this world are centaurs, why don't they call it Centauria instead of Centaunia? Is it because then the minotaurs would be pissed that it isn't called Minotauria, and they're too stupid to notice that Centaunia is Centauria with the flag on the "r" extended downward?] [Or did you decide to call it Centaunia because you thought it would sound stupid to call it Centauria when it's the home of centaurs, not realizing that we Earthlings refer to our planet as Earth and Klingons refer to their planet as Klingon, so it's perfectly logical that Centaurs would call their planet Centauria.] [Has there ever been a science fiction book in which natives of Uranus appear, and if so, are they referred to as Uranusians? That's a mouthful; I think creatures who live on Uranus should be called Roids.] [Is it just a coincidence that all the letters in the word "Uranus" can be found in the word "centaurs"?] [I now recommend dumping "Centaunia," and setting your book not on Centauria, but on Uranus. Not only does it allow you and your characters to make numerous Uranus jokes, but if the editor says that your book stinks, you can say, Of course it stinks, idiot. It's set in Uranus.]

Samantha becomes famous overnight as news of her arrival spreads like wildfire. [See, here's an opportunity already. You can say wildfires are particularly treacherous on Uranus because of frequent methane gas explosions.] The centaurs bow before her as if she was royalty. It doesn’t take Samantha long to figure out why.

It’s been eleven years since the last Emerald Bearer appeared in Centaunia. Since then, raiding minotaurs have been polluting the sacred springs—pollution that turns the centaurs into mindless animals. The purifying powers of Samantha’s emerald are their last hope. [It doesn't take her long to figure all of this out? I don't see how she figured any of it out. Admit it: someone told her.] What’s more, they’re her only hope of getting back home. But there’s something no one will tell her; what happened to the last Emerald Bearer? [That sentence isn't needed; it's interrupting the flow of the plot. If you decide to keep it anyway, change the semicolon to a colon.] With the help of three other Gem Bearers, Samantha heads deep into enemy territory [Uranus] in search of the polluted springs [prostate]. With the dark leader of the minotaurs after her, [Dark leader? Why not just the leader? Do they also have a light leader? And why would the leader be after her? The whole point of becoming a leader is that you get to send your orcs to do the grunt work while you rest comfortably in your tower using your all-seeing eye to watch them screw up.] Samantha has no choice but to fight. That, or learn the fate of the last Emerald Bearer firsthand... [I don't see why this is an either/or choice.]

A middle grade fantasy novel, EMERALD BEARER is complete at 58,000 words. This book would appeal to fans of the UNICORN CHRONICLES by Bruce Coville [in which minotaurs pollute the sacred springs of the unicorns].

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



Have all the centaurs become mindless animals? If so, I wouldn't expect them to even realize Samantha is their savior, and bow down to her. If not, why does she have to search for the sacred springs? Can't the healthy centaurs tell her where they are? Can't they lead her there or draw her a map? If the centaurs don't even know where the springs are, how has the polluting of the springs affected them?

It's not clear what Samantha can do beyond purifying the sacred springs with her emerald. Do the centaurs expect this twelve-year-old to also lead them into battle against the minotaurs? Centaurs ought to be able to take minotaurs anyway, as shown in this graphic depiction:

Selected Comments

batgirl said...I'm going to guess that the sacred springs are way up in a mountain somewhere, and the centaurs drink from them way downstream. Still, the centaurs should have at least been there before to have judged them sacred. Also, not knowing the details, I can't help but visualise the minotaurs as polluting the springs by peeing into them. So maybe be more specific about what the pollution is? Mind-altering drugs?

This could be a gripping enough middle-grade story, but I'd like a better idea of what goes on for Samantha, and what choices she makes. Right now she doesn't seem to be making any, she's a helpless tool in the hands of the centaurs, who don't seem to be willing to fight for themselves.
The other questions, like where the other gem-handed people come from and how the emerald got to our world, and whether having a giant emerald stuck in your hand reduces your dexterity noticeably - those probably won't occur to me if I'm more intrigued by Sam and her situation. What does she want? What will she choose to do? Those are the questions that need more space, I think.

alaskaravenclaw said...The evil minotaurs have a "dark leader"? Uncool. The United States has a dark leader, and we're not evil. Or at least no more evil than we were before.

In case Arhooley doesn't stop by to say it, I'll mention also that foothills are of mountains, not of states: the foothills of the [insert mountain range here].

Real problem here, as written, though: Agency. Things happen to Samantha. What does she do? Where's her will and motivation? I think if this happened to me my first act would be to try to get the damn stone *out* of my hand. Why does she adopt the centaurs' cause as her own, instead of the minotaurs'?

150 said...Too much about what she knows or expects. Not enough about what she does.

Dave Fragments said...I remember a set of scenes in an old movie (whose name escapes me) as the explorers or treasure hunters passed through two villages in India, the villages were at war because they both exist on one river and at varying times each of the villages would stand on the banks of the river just above the other city and piss in the water. Then they would taunt the other village when they came out to wash clothing or draw water for cisterns. So a state of war existed between the cities.

It was comic relief in the movie.

Anonymous said...My immediate guess was also that they're pissing in the springs. So she must be Miss Hygiene. Lots of logical questions followed. Having an emerald stuck in your hand sounds like a damned painful handicap. What is it supposed to be good for? Sounds like some sort of Barbie-goes-to-Naxos story. Did you just pop the minotaurs and centaurs out of Classical mythology and leave the rest of the gods behind?

Third grade girls might be all over this, I don't know.

vkw said...I thought it was okay. It's a third grade book.

alaskaravenclaw said...Look, she said for the umpteenth time, there's no such thing as good enough for middle grade. Believe me, it's a @#$% competitive market, and you'd better be on top of your game with everything: story logic, character motivation, the whole nine yards.

Yes, it's possible third graders would not ask the questions we're asking. But very few editors, agents, or reviewers are third graders.

Stephen Prosapio said...I agree with alaskaravenclaw - do NOT make the mistake of thinking that weak or lazy world building, dialogue, plot development or especially queries are "good enough" for middle grade. Everything has to be at or above the quality of adult fiction.

I'd bet my rent that the "dark leader" is the former Emerald Bearer and it's a surprise twist late in the novel....which may or may not be okay. The problem is that the vague and nebulous is NEVER as interesting as the specific and impending. Hence, because we don't know what's going to happen to Samantha, we don't really care what happens if she fails. Sorry. It's just a fact.

Story sounds like it has potential but the query needs serious revision. Good luck!

Wilkins MacQueen said...A proactive mc with some decisions to deal with would put the story on better footing. Specifying the cause of pollution stops speculation. Like the mixture of the Cent's and Min's.

Xenith said...I wonder if it would work better if it started at: It's been eleven years since the last Emerald Bearer appeared in Centaunia. Since then, raiding minotaurs have been polluting the sacred springs—pollution that turns the centaurs into mindless animals.

That seems to be the point where it becomes interesting/something different.

AA said...Okay, here goes: Are the minotaurs the bad guys just because they pollute water, or is there some other reason? So the centaurs are peaceful. If they don't do anything requiring frontal lobe development, they might as well be mindless animals, right? What makes them not mindless animals now? Do they have cities? Poetry? Art?

Is the point of this pollution to enslave the centaurs, make them pull plows?

I, also, wondered how the centaurs figured out she was there to help them if they're turning into mindless animals.

If other humans in/on Centaunia have emeralds, what makes Samantha so special? Why does she need to be there at all?

Do the minotaurs have magic? Does Samantha have powers besides her purifying power?

Is there any reason the centaurs must drink from the sacred springs? There's nowhere else in Centaunia to get a drink of water? If they know the spring is polluted, why are they still drinking there?

If a twelve-year-old is fighting minotaurs- let me rephrase that- a twelve-year-old is NOT fighting minotaurs. I would maybe believe, Sam and her Emerald Squad - or Quad - shine the magic power beams from their emeralds together to finally defeat the evil Minotaurian overlord. Like a cross between Ghost Busters and Power Rangers. But I don't believe 4 humans vs. infinity minotaurs.

What alaskaravenclaw said x2. "Dark leader" is an unfortunate choice of words, and kids need to have BETTER quality reading material than adults.

Jodi said...alaskaravenclaw said "The evil minotaurs have a "dark leader"? Uncool. The United States has a dark leader, and we're not evil. Or at least no more evil than we were before."

I'm assuming alaskaravenclaw is using dark in a different way than what I took the author to be using it: "10. evil; iniquitous; wicked: a dark plot." This came from dictionary.com.

laskaravenclaw said...Jodi, the dictionary doesn't dictate how we use language, it merely reports it. I'm well aware that "black" and "dark" are sometimes used as synonyms for evil, though fortunately, less often now than in the past. (That's why it was definition #10.) To continue doing it simply because it's always been done seems as tone-deaf and tin-eared as saying "Man" and "mankind" to mean humanity.

It seems particularly irresponsible when writing for children, since there's a potential to do real harm.

Personally I always try to bear in mind that children of various races, sexes and ethnicities will be reading my books. You can do as you choose, of course. Good luck.

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10. Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1194 has posted a revision in the comments there, and hopes you will finally grant permission to submit to agents.

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11. Face-Lift 1199

Guess the Plot

Alpha of the Lost Clan

1. Alpha is sooo tired of chicks banging her door down. Really. Just because erotica is all the rage and every Joan, Eve and Sally thinks she needs an Alpha to get her rocks off doesn't mean a gal should have have to keep her number unpublished. Sheesh!

2. If you'll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal.
I can call you Betty,and Betty when you call me.
You can call me Al-pha of the lost clan-pets.
Well the first thing you know ol' Jed's a millionaire,
His kinfolk said, Jed, move away from there,
Said Californy is the place you oughtta be.
So, they loaded up the truck and moved to Beverly. Hills that is...

3. What happens when you're the alpha of your werewolf clan, but you're also the only member of your clan still alive? Who do you bully? You can either give up, or take your shot at becoming king of all the werewolves.

Original Version

Dear agent,

I’d like to tell you about my Urban Fantasy novel, ALPHA OF THE BLOOD CLAN (85,900 words). [What makes you think I'm interested in urban fantasy?] In my research and pursuit of an agent I’ve found that you are interested in that Genre. [I knew I shoulda put "memoirs of Saharan skiers" on that AgentQuery questionnaire.]

When Fudo Nagato, an Ex-Soldier and Alpha Werewolf,
[He became an ex-soldier when the other soldiers found out he was a werewolf. Don't ask don't tell policy wasn't keeping guys from having their throats ripped out.] returns to St. Louis after a relentless [Fruitless?] quest searching for more of his kind, ["His kind" meaning alpha werewolves, werewolves, or werewolves of his clan?] he is suddenly thrown into a war that could lead to the extinction of his race.

Hidden from the humans of St Louis is a secret civilization of Werewolves, [How come "Werewolves" is capitalized and "humans" isn't? For that matter, how come "Ex-Soldier," "Urban Fantasy" and "Genre" are all capitalized?] [You gotta feel pretty stupid to go on a quest for werewolves only to come home and find an entire civilization of them living in the place where you started.] engaged in a struggle to thwart a malevolent entity known as the Darkness, by the supernatural world, which is dedicated to destroying humanity. [I can't tell if it's the Darkness or the supernatural world that's dedicated to destroying humanity.] [I'd get rid of "by the supernatural world." I assume it modifies "known," but that's not totally clear, and dumping it may solve the previous problem.] Fudo is approached by a delegation of Alphas from the Council of the High Wolf nation and is informed not only is he the Alpha of the Blood Clan, which was thought to be extinct, [Being the alpha isn't such a big deal if you're the only one left.] but heir to the Kingship of his race. [The race of all werewolves?] [When you return home from a long quest and a bunch of strangers declare you their king, you can bet what they're really after is someone to fight their battle against some evil entity dedicated to destroying humanity.] Their vicious adversary stretches out its evil power and its most ruthless minion, the No-Name-Nomad [No ruthless minion would call himself the No-Name-Nomad. He needs a name that will strike fear into the hearts of humans. I suggest Korlach. Lord of the Dark Realm.] is able to touch our plane of existence to work his dark will. [Whose dark will? The Darkness's or Korlach, Lord of the Dark Realm's?] The Utopia Agency, a secret government group, who are aware of the Werewolves, tries to capture Fudo for experimentation purposes, leaving him no course but to fight back. Fudo, realizing the odds are growing increasingly against him, gathers his strength knowing the battle for the leadership of the High Wolf Nation is at hand. [What battle? The High Wolf Nation declared him heir to the kingship. Now he has to battle for the position? Does he even want the position?]

Can he prove to the disbelievers of his race that the Thirteen Clan has indeed arisen from the ashes? [I thought it was the Blood Clan. What's the Thirteen Clan?] Can he find courage and overcome his constant doubts about his Werewolf’s animalistic instincts to lead his people in the ongoing war before he and all he cares about is destroyed? [Is that the ongoing war for the leadership or against the Utopia Agency or against the Darkness?]

ALPHA OF THE LOST CLAN is a first novel [So now it's the Lost Clan? Either distinguish between Blood, Lost and Thirteen, or stick with one of them in the query. And especially in the title. I'd go with "Lost" as it tells us a little something.] and has twenty two chapters. [Chapters don't matter. Words do.] I’d be happy to send you a partial or complete copy of the manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you,



When the plot description begins, Fudo is suddenly thrown into a war that could lead to the extinction of his race. But later the enemy is said to be out to destroy humanity. Is Fudo's race humanity or werewolves?

Hard to believe no one knew who was heir to the kingship until Fudo happened along.

Is Fudo an ex-soldier in the US Army or the High Wolf Nation?

This is stuff you want us to keep straight while also following your plot:

Nations                             Races                        Clans             Organizations

USA                                 Humans                         Blood              Utopia Agency
High Wolf                        werewolves                    Thirteen           High Wolf Council
Supernatural World        malevolent entities        Lost                 Chapter 22

We can't be bothered.

Why are werewolves taking responsibility for defeating an entity set on destroying humanity? Why isn't humanity chipping in? They have better weapons.

Focus on Fudo and his goal. If you had to tell us his main goal, would it be finding others like him or defeating the Darkness? I can't tell if the Darkness is one obstacle blocking his path to finding others of his kind, or if fighting the Darkness is the main storyline.

Possible organization:

1. Setup: Who is the main character, what's the situation, what does MC want?
2. Plot: What's MC's plan? What keeps him from succeeding?
3. Wrapup: What happens if MC fails? Is there a Plan B? What's the new threat?

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12. Password Update

Okay, it now appears the hacking of evledtr took place on an email account I rarely use anymore (evledtr@aol.com) not my current evledtr@gmail.com account. So apparently I changed the wrong account's password, but now I've changed the other one as well.

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13. Password changed

So yesterday Google informed me that someone tried to log on to my account with my password from Barcelona. I changed passwords. Today two people informed me that my account is sending them spam. Not sure whether that's spam that took its time getting there or spam from someone who already guessed my new password. Google security says there's been no activity on my account that didn't originate from my home since the Barcelona incident, but I changed the password again anyway, this time to something no one will ever guess: rutabag#*&^a54321bla$t0ffff(rockett$cience).

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14. Face-Lift 1198

Guess the Plot


1. Farmer Hank whispers everyday, "If I'd a seen it long enough, I woulda been able to get a pitcher." His wife Carolyn keeps a picture of it--an undocumented UFO--in her lingerie drawer. Will she finally show it to her husband, or will the men in black get it first?

2. Adyseen, daughter of Archangel Gabriel, is not your typical college sophomore. She's not into vampires, werewolves, or boys in general. But when a young man with disturbingly smoldering green eyes becomes her Chem 1 lab partner, she begins to thaw. Wait till she finds out he's really Beelzebub's son.

3. Simply rub Adyseen all over your writer's block and WITHIN SECONDS you'll be transformed into an author of such prodigious proportions that only Evil Editor would dare to spurn you! Bonus! This free 750 word sample comes with full instructions for making it as a haiku enthusiast in the Afterlife!

4. Ady was a breech birth. At five she went to first grade before kindergarten. When she learned her numbers, she started at infinity and counted backwards. At sixteen she crashed her car in reverse. Ady earned her PhD before she was a freshman and quit a job before starting it.
Now, she's missing. Has anyone Adyseen?

5. Adyseen wants nothing more than to be invisible to her fellow middle-grade students. She's got braces, squinty eyes, and worst of all -- her skin is green. But the kids who taunt her with cries of "AdyGreen" will soon learn -- superpowers tend to arise at puberty.

6. The Adyseen people's pantheon of gods has been wiped out, all except Haott, the war god. And he's pissed. Now it's up to one young woman with no special powers to defeat vast tribes of fiendish creatures and Haott himself thereby leading the Adyseen to a glorious future with new and better gods.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Greetings, I am looking for an agent who will work with me to publish my epic fantasy novel, Adyseen, and two sequential novels that will complete a trilogy. The manuscript for Adyseen is complete at a traditional word count of 170,000. [When did 170,000 become the traditional word count?] I have completed an outline for the trilogy and am currently working on producing the second novel.

I am intrigued by the concept of the destruction of religions. [Unfortunately my attempts to destroy a few have failed miserably, mostly because I spend all my free time writing 170,000-word novels.] What becomes of the gods that are destroyed when a pantheon is wiped out? What if you missed one? What if the one you missed was a god of war? [What if you answered these questions instead of asking them?]  Let’s face it; an angry god is daunting whether you are an antagonist or a hero. Following an effect and cause motif, [Unlike the chicken-or-egg controversy, there's a solid answer to which comes first, the cause or effect.] Adyseen is the tale of two souls, Raizsha and Torwand, who are separated by an age [Not clear whether that means one is from the Bronze Age and the other from the Iron Age, or one is fifteen and the other is sixteen.] but bound by the vengeance of Hā′ŏtt, a powerful god of war who suffers [survives] the destruction of his pantheon [Apparently he wasn't powerful enough.] to become a solitary god. [I would say ...Hā′ŏtt, the last surviving god of his pantheon.]

Raizsha is a spirited young woman born of the Adyseen, a people that exist in a hellish realm roamed by vast tribes of fiendish creatures. [That sounded like a good sentence with which to begin the query.] She is the unwitting pawn of Haott, who created her [Is there no contradiction between saying she's born of the Adyseen and created by Haott?] for the sole purpose of rectifying [restoring?] the past that has been buried by the treachery of Haott’s own priests. [I see Hā′ŏtt decided to drop the weird diacritical marks. Historians will be eternally grateful.] [A truly evil god would instead have added an umlaut, a tilde and a cedilla.] [Also, If you have the ability to create a being to help you gain revenge on those who destryed your pantheon, can't you come up with something better than a young woman? Like Godzilla or Superman?] Driven by the fear [Fearing] that the fate of the Adyseen is to end up like the fiends they abhor, Raizsha casts herself into the embrace of a war that will break her body and test her resolve to its limits. Her trials bring her into conflict with the fiend that drives the fate of her people, and an unforgettable encounter with love, [Of the fiend?] as she draws ever closer to unraveling the will of Haott. [She doesn't sound like an unwitting pawn. Why do you call her that?] [Why haven't these vast tribes of fiendish creatures wiped out the Adyseen yet?]

Formidable, if somewhat moody, Torwand is the High Priest of Haott. Betrayed by the queen he loves, he struggles to unveil the evil that she has invited into their land. Torwand endures his culpability when his indecisiveness leads to the demise of twelve of the thirteen Gods his people worship. Torwand will set the wheel of fate in motion that will divide his people, casting his followers into a foreign land to pursue a fiend, while leaving the rest to the whim of an enemy king that seeks to destroy their religion and bring a great evil to power in its place. Torwand’s struggles construct the history that Raizsha must discover to break her people free from the bonds of their past. [The Torwand paragraph should come before the Raizsha paragraph if his role was played out first.] [The fact it's in present tense is confusing if it came ages before the Raizsha part. I read most of the paragraph thinking R and T were contemporaries.]

I am an aspiring fantasy novelist, however; [However?] my passion, creativity, and strength in writing has earned me monetary awards in several competitive essay contests covering a variety of subjects. [Get rid of that; it probably wouldn't be helpful even if it weren't so vague.]  I thank you for your time and effort in reviewing my submission. If you find that my story excites your interest, I would be happy to supply further materials for your consideration.



I have very little idea what happens in this book. The first plot paragraph suggests this is the story of Haott, the war god who survived the destruction of his pantheon, and who is now pissed. I wouldn't mind reading about how he takes revenge on Torwand and all the other Adyseen. Then we get Raizsha, who was created by Haott, but seems more interested in fiends than the war god. If she's Haott's pawn, she should be helping him get revenge, not battling fiends. Then we have Torwand, who is to blame for Haott's being a solitary god. Putting him at the end is like putting the tornado scene after Dorothy gets to the Emerald City.

I suggest organizing the story as follows:

Paragraph 1 (setup): In the fiend-infested kingdom of Adyseen, the high priest Torwand does ____________, destroying the pantheon of gods--all except Haott, god of war. Haott didn't like that, he said I'm gonna get that boy.

P2 (main storyline): _____ years later, Raizsha, a young woman created by Haott to help him in his plan to restore the past, does _____________, in hopes of ________________. But her plans go awry when ______________ happens.

P3 (wrapup): Raizsha comes up with Plan B: _________________. If it works, ____________________ happens, but if it fails, __________________ happens.

Once you fill in the blanks and make it sound like a professional writer wrote it, you still have room to add a few details about the war or the romance.

Do the people still worship the one god who survived? If not, what is their current religion? A religion installed by the enemy king who destroyed theirs?

How is it that one specific fiend is driving the fate of the Adyseen? And if a fiend is driving their fate what's this "wheel of fate" that Torwand set in motion?

Long sentences with big words may be the style of the book, but try to keep things simple in the query. From the "Driven by fear" sentence on, it's hard work for the reader, and too vague to reward that work.

The question What if you missed one? and the phrase "the treachery of Haott's own priests" suggest wiping out the pantheon was intentional. The claim that Torwand's indecisiveness was responsible suggests he wasn't trying to wipe them out.

Raizsha casts herself into the embrace of a war; Torwand casts his people into a foreign land. I'm not sure "casts" is the best word in either case. Is it casting like casting a fishing line? Like casting a magic spell? Like casting as in giving a role to play? I can see them all making sense, though with different meanings.

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15. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Accident

1. The inner dichotomies of modern America and the intricate knotwork of complex exigencies at the heart of small-town life are explored in a story which begins in Tatum, New Mexico, with a fender-bender between two uninsured vehicles.

2. After a UFO crashes in Washington D.C., strange things start happening: one couple makes the inexplicable decision to move into a condominium. A young man finds himself unable to describe a door. Is the alien from the UFO responsible? Will things get worse before they get better?

3. John is a four year old trapped in the body of a man seven times his age. He's getting through the day all right, with help from his helicopter mother, but can he get through the big board meeting this afternoon without having . . . the accident?

4. Little Jimmy Hines is getting mighty tired of being called "the accident" by his mom and dad, so he convinces his seventeen older siblings that life would be much more fun without parents.

5. When David Butterfield learns, at the tender age of 11, that he, meaning his very corporeal existence on earth, was 'an accident', caused by some kind of mysterious botch-up by his wanker of a father on a day when his poor mother had drunk all the ale in the village, not only is his mood altered, but his entire outlook on life spins around, leading to unforeseeable circumstances of reckless activity, crime, drug addiction, and eventually a shocking revenge on evil Mrs. Piggott, the heartless gossip who spewed the 'truth'.

6. Erica hadn't meant to dribble meat juice all over her brother Joe's Levis. Or leave the door to the family pitbull's run open. Besides, it was Joey's own fault; he should have fed Fluffy last night. He forgot. Oh, no, hang on; it had been her turn. Oh well...

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I am writing to introduce you to my science fiction/fantasy novel THE ACCIDENT, which has a plot twist that has never appeared in any other novel or movie. [Say no more. I'm putting a six-figure contract in the mail at this exact moment, and if anyone offers more, I'll double it. I must have this book.] [Just kidding. Actually, all plot twists can be traced to The Game, Ender's Game, House of Games, or The Crying Game. I guarantee you subconsciously stole your twist from one of those.] [The only reason an agent would read beyond that sentence is in hopes that the query is a hoax and will be full of laughs.] The novel is complete at 87,500 words.

Three couples cross paths with a mysterious UFO that crashes in Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park: a student, falling in love with a friend, discovers the UFO with her, but when her brother gets trapped inside the saucer, no one believes them; [Is the UFO still there? Because if someone tells me her brother's trapped in a flying saucer, once she shows me the flying saucer I'm not going to be all that skeptical about the brother part.] a bickering married couple move into a condominium with a strange neighbor; [What does that have to do with the UFO?] and a man keeps seeing a door in the sky, but doesn't know how to explain his vision to his fiancee. [I can explain it. He's watching a Twilight Zone marathon.] [Also, what does that have to do with the UFO? You were supposed to be telling how the couples crossed paths with the UFO.] While the alien adapts to the city with frightening consequences, [Apparently an alien survived the crash. I hate it when aliens pop up in the last sentence of the plot summary.] [Yes, even when, as in this case, the plot summary has only two sentences] one person stumbles upon the UFO's unique purpose. [A purpose I cannot reveal in the query because you might steal it, but which I will happily reveal if you request the manuscript.]

I have enclosed an endorsement from award-winning writer XX, who read the novel and called it "wonderful." [Have you ever noticed that the more awards an author wins, the less talkative he is when describing anyone else's writing?] [Also, I need a little context for that word "wonderful." It's the same word I used when Mrs. Evil asked my opinion of her beet casserole, which I had, only moments before, slipped into my napkin and stuffed down my pants.] As for myself, my background is in advertising. I was born in Washington, D.C. and lived in the area where the novel takes place while I worked for a newspaper. Right now I am writing a sequel.

This is a simultaneous submission to several agents, but I hope to hear from you first because of your excellent reputation. [My other queries went to agents who, frankly, are likely to defraud me.] [Is that sentence in the queries you sent to the other agents, or do those queries say " . . . but I hope to hear from them first because of your repugnant reputation."?] You represent the authors of several fine science fiction and fantasy novels set in ordinary cities on Earth, [It's worth noting that of the cities on Earth, Washington D.C. is among the least ordinary.] such as YY's [book title in italics] and ZZ[Top]'s [book title in italics]. Please let me know if I may send a partial or full manuscript. Thank you for your time.

Best regards,


Manuscript sample


Seeking an agent who represents books with a similarity to yours makes sense, but can you come up with a similarity more specific than it's set on Earth? It's a rare agent who hasn't represented a few such books.

Not only is your plot summary a mere two sentences; it's mostly just a list of characters. What's the story?

How many aliens were on that ship? One?

If a UFO crashed in D.C., there would be far more interesting goings-on than the ones you describe. Why are you focusing on these three couples?

Unless you've read all books and seen all movies, I don't see how you can claim your plot twist has never appeared anywhere. Wouldn't it be better to describe the plot twist and let the agent think, Wow, that plot twist has never been used? I mean, if you've come up with something truly unique to all literature, is that not your main selling point? Is that not the one thing that should be in your query above all else?

Start over from scratch. Tell us what happens. Leave out everything else.

Selected Comments

Eric P. said...Lemme guess....
The alien is really a ghost but doesn't realize it?

The alien sold its hair to get to earth and deliver a watch fob, only to find that the earthlings sold their watches to buy hairbrushes?

The "alien" is really from the far-distant planet earth?

The UFO was really the butler all along?

The UFO is part of a computer simulation to cover up a government mind-control conspiracy?

It was all a dream?

Anonymous said...The spaceship is named Rosebud.

Anonymous said...The alien is Keyser Soze.

Anonymous said...Wait, wait. I got it. The alien looks like Brad Pitt and goes around saying, "The first rule of alien invasion is you do not talk about alien invasion. The second rule of alien invasion is you DO NOT talk about alien invasion..."

And then he shoots himself in the face. Am I right?

Matthew said...Hmmm......Guess the twist? Sounds like fun.

The three couples are actually the aliens that crashed in the spaceship, they just don't remember who they are. That's how the brother became mysteriously trapped in the spaceship, he got stuck when they crashed.

Is that it?

Aimee States said...The plot of all plots?! It's finally been thought of? By someone other than me? I need to hit someone.

Anonymous said...What EE said. Too much about you, not enough about the story. Much of the info doesn't help [having a unique twist, sequel in progress]. Sounds like seven characters in search of a literary novel have close encounters of the 3rd kind.

Which part of the bookstore do you think this belongs in?

Anonymous said...Show don't tell. This applies to the manuscript as well as the query.

There's no plot here. Agents don't want queries telling them that you're an unsung genius. They want to know what the book is about so they can sell it. Simple as that. It's not enough to tell us it's great. Show us in the query and then in the awesome pages.

There's no accounting for taste, but when you make big claims, you shoot yourself in the foot.

Good luck

Teucer said...While I think it's usually wise to allude to (but not divulge) the masterstrokes of your plot in a query (save it for the synopsis), I think you're gonna have to deliver if you're using your unutterably unique plot twist as your selling point. So do it, or else take that part out.

Anonymous said...That's a long long long list of enclosures. You should try reading the agent's website and blog to see what she wants first, and not squander resources sending additional items until someone asks for more.

Sarah Laurenson said...No matter how many things you throw on the plate, if the first taste isn't working, they're not going to keep eating.

Author said..."That's a long long long list of enclosures. You should try reading the agent's website and blog to see what she wants first, and not squander resources sending additional items until someone asks for more."

This is not a form letter. An agency did request those items on their website.

I will tone down the first sentence (thanks for the feedback here), but I don't want to say much in the letter about the plot because I am sending this to agents who've requested a synopsis. Everyone knows there are different kinds of query letters -- this is not a stand-alone letter.

Thanks for all the comments.

blogless troll said...If that agency doesn't work out, do you have one of those other kinds of query letters?

Anonymous said…Please let me know if I may send a partial or full manuscript. 

I hate this sentence. First, it makes it sounds like you think you can trick the agent by giving him/her only those two options.

 Secondly, the word "may" is grammatically correct but it just sounds gay.

Evil Editor‬ said...Whoa.

Chances of selling manuscript if agent thinks you


bad grammar and are straight: 0.

correct grammar and are straight: 10%.
bad grammar and are gay: 27%.

correct grammar and are gay: 84%.

Sarah Laurenson‬ said...correct grammar and gay: 84%? 

Wow! I've got a good chance. Now to work on that grammar part...

BuffySquirrel‬ said...Oh, I get it. May is gay cos they rhyme, right? Which means it's also say, day, fae, and tray.


chelsea‬ said...Seriously, Anon, you don't find it the slightest bit ironic to lecture on grammar and then (derogatorily) call something gay in the same sentence? I do so hope you write that way in your manuscripts. Let them never see the light of day. 


Xiexie‬ said...Use correct grammar and are gay: 84%

 What portion of that goes to using correct grammar? To being gay? I'm only half-gay so do I get the correct grammar and straight 10% boost added to whatever lower percentage I would get from my half-gay status? We bisexuals need to know our chances here too!

‪ril‬ said... 

Use correct grammar and are gay: 84%.

 Oh, my. Something else I'm gonna have to learn how to do...

Dave F. said...From my experience with short stories and long stories, agents and editors don't read past the email to the attachments if they don't like the email. They stop and read nothing else. If the grammar and punctuation are bad or sometimes even less than formal letter quality, they stop and go on to the next query.

And If they start to read the query (yes, even short stories have some sort of query introducing them to the editor) and they don't like the story or they have no idea what you are writing about, they stop reading.

Let me tell you, as someone who had to schedule 150 audits at a time, when you see 100 emails waiting for you, you don't take long thoughtful interludes with each email.

The query is IT. That's your chance. If your query interests the agent or editor, then they go to the synopsis and the chapters.

If that sounds cruel, then I'll throw a pity party for you. whoop. whoop. hooray. That's as much pity as you get. I give myself less than that.

This draft query didn't work. Start over using EE's and the minions suggestions. Remember, they want you to get published. They are on your side.

Aimee States said..."I don't want to say much in the letter about the plot because I am sending this to agents who've requested a synopsis."

Which they most likely won't read if they don't like the query letter. *sigh*

Anonymous said...Wow, if you're this resistant to revising a query letter, I'd hate to see what happens when an editor asks you to revise the manuscript. And if you didn't think you needed critique, why in the world did you post?

I'll echo what others have said. Just because an agency/editor requests a synopsis doesn't mean they'll read it. The query has to sell the package. It also shows your writing skills - that you know what to enhance and what to leave out when telling a story. Your "query" doesn't do any of that.

Eric P. said...Another thing: Do you say the part about "I hope to hear from you first because of your excellent reputation" to every agent to whom you're sending this simultaneous submission? ("This exact letter is going out to lots of people, but you're special!")

If so, you're a weasel (no offense, but...). If not, aren't the agents still going to think you are? How do they know you didn't just call 9 other agents special too?

Either you have one special agent in mind-- in which case, start with them-- or you don't, in which case, don't try to make them feel like the special recipient of a simultaneous submission.

vkw said...I'll wade in here - from what I read in your query - your book sounds interesting - vaguely.

I didn't like the first sentence but you know whatever.

This is how I look at it. If I see a book with an interesting title and an interesting cover in a genre I like or have heard cool things about a book or is written by an author I like - I pick it up and read the back. If I like that I read the flaps and maybe the first couple of pages. Then if I still like - I buy the book.

I look at query letters the same way. Its like a cover letter sent with a resume. The cover letter should make me (your potential employer) interested in reading your resume.

If your query letter is only vaguely interesting, I may read your synopsis if I don't have fifty others to look at or am trying to avoid doing something at work I don't want to do.

So - you can revise your query, make it fantastic so I have no choice but to read on . . . or not.

I guess my only question to you is this, (you stated: "but I don't want to say much in the letter about the plot because I am sending this to agents who've requested a synopsis.")

Should not your great resume be reflected in your great cover letter? Why not be a bit repetitive to make sure the busy editor/agent gets it? No harm mentioning you graduated from Harvard twice - but maybe not 10 times.

Get my meaning?

Xiexie said...This barebones query reminds me of a DC-based Close Encounters of the Third Kind .
You've got me in your corner cos 1) I'm a DC-tonian -- it's cool to read books set in the area that don't involve political stuffs; 2) I love alien-based SF/F; and 3)as the GTPs showed, there's a plethora of things you can do with your title, The Accident.

Now tell me what happens in this book so that I can champion for you even more.

Xiexie said...Author, you need the plot here in your query.

The synopses, partials, fulls, etc. will only expand on what the query has intrigued the agent/editor with.

Anonymous said...That door in the clip is what the inarticulate guy was looking at? Cool animation. I'm guessing the twist = it all takes place in the world portrayed on the show, which actually exists somewhere beyond Jupiter.

ril said...Whoa. Chances of selling manuscript if agent thinks you

use bad grammar and are straight: 0.

use correct grammar and are straight: 10%.

Use bad grammar and are gay: 27%.

Use correct grammar and are gay: 84%.

Oh, my. Something else I'm gonna have to learn how to do...

Author said...My thanks to everybody who left feedback, both the snarky and the unsnarky. I appreciate the time you took and will give all the suggestions serious thought. EE, thanks to you, too, for your comments on the front page... and also, in your evilness, please don't cut this thank-you again.
Here's a draft letter with more plot details if anybody wants to look at it. The draft does fit into one page, but it's too long in general, and some of the sentences need to be trimmed. Again, this is not a form letter.

My concern: I've read that the plot should be one paragraph only (AgentQuery(dot)com and agent Noah Lukeman's How to Write a Great Query Letter, a free download on Amazon). I've also read that in the query letter you should not name the characters, that it is not necessary, and it bogs down the agent. If I put in a lot of plot details, I have to name the characters; otherwise, it is too hard to keep track of what's happening. It also bothers me to repeat things that are in the snyopsis.

Dear Agent:

Your comments about your love of books and the craft of writing in your online interview for _______ really resonated with me. I hope you will enjoy my science fiction/fantasy novel, THE ACCIDENT, complete at 87,430 words. I have enclosed an endorsement from award-winning writer _______, who called it a finely wrought page-turner.

After an attorney dies at Buchanan House, a Washington, D.C. condominium, student Toby Beckett chases his dog into the woods behind the building and discovers a broken Nikon. When he takes the Nikon to the camera store where he works and looks inside it with night clerk Monroe Broussard, they discover digital photos of a giant woman and a UFO crash in Rock Creek Park. Toby heads to a Union Station coffee bar to show the photos to Burke Kerrigan, a former AP photographer, who just laughs at them, and he falls for Burke’s beautiful sister Kate when she joins their table. Suddenly they spot the giant. Racing into the Metro, they trail her across the city until she reveals herself to be inhuman and disappears inside Buchanan House.

Burke argues that the giant is a carnival freak who faked the photos, but when they hike into Rock Creek Park, they find the UFO behind a damaged camouflage force field. After Burke gets trapped inside the saucer, Toby and Kate go for help, but the police don’t believe them. The alien roams the city at night and murders a mugger, a cop and a government worker. Meanwhile, Toby’s sister Lisa Mitchell and her husband Ian, just back from London, are moving into Buchanan House, and Toby, who’s never put himself on the line before, has to warn them, no matter what they'll think. Finally, Monroe Broussard keeps seeing a door in the sky, but doesn’t know how to explain his vision to his fiancée Annie Robinson. She tells him he’s seeing a symbol of the afterlife because he lost his family in a hurricane, but the vision turns out to be a foreshadowing of his fate. While the alien adapts to the city, shape-shifting from a giant woman to a terrifying bird and a pillar in an underground garage, one person solves the mystery of the Nikon in the woods and then stumbles upon the UFO’s purpose: another alien, from intergalactic animal control, is searching for the creature it lost in the crash.

As for myself, my background is in advertising. I was born in Washington, D.C. and lived in the area where the novel takes place while I worked for a newspaper. Right now I’m writing a sequel. Thank you for your time, and I hope to hear from you soon.



Evil Editor said...That's twice this article by Noah Lukeman has been cited in recent weeks. My advice remains: Consult the article when submitting to Noah Lukeman and ignore it otherwise. And since, according to Agentquery.com, Noah Lukeman doesn't accept queries...

Aimee States said...Now your playing with me...did your writer friend call it wonderful or a finely wrought page turner? Or both? Or neither?

You need to do more research. What you're doing now is shooting yourself in the foot.

Anonymous said...Intergalactic animal control! Of course! **smacks forehead** How fortunate Toby works at a camera shop and has a sister moving into the same place where the alien lives.

Jodi said...This reads more like a one page synopsis than a query letter. A query's main purpose is to get the agent to look at the other materials (sample pages, synopses, manuscript), whether or not they are included. What is needed in the query regarding plot is more like what a tv guide gives as plot info on an episode. Also, regarding names--use names or whatever works best to make the query clearer.

Hope that helps.

Evil Editor said...There's too much information in this version. Try telling the story in nine sentences, and focusing on one set of characters. Leave out stuff that makes sense in the book but sounds ridiculous in the query. There are problems with clarity, but perhaps they can be attributed to rushing this version back to the blog.

Anonymous said..."Your comments about your love of books and the craft of writing in your online interview for _______ really resonated with me."

Stop this now. Stop it.

You're digging yourself a grave. For this to work you have to be very specific. Here you've tried to painted a broad ambiguous statement and tried to personalize it with fill in the blank format.

Agents aren't this stupid. They're really not, but make you them think you believe them to be idiots.

I have enclosed an endorsement from award-winning writer _______, who called it a finely wrought page-turner."

When you say enclosed it means you intend to attach a letter from the famous author with those exact words. Quotes don't count.

Before author xx said it was wonderful, now it's "Finely wrought page tuner." My BS meter want's to know which is it? It also thinks you're being extremely liberal with your interpretation of a compliment.

I repeat. Agents are not this stupid. They're really not.

Anonymous said...Your new version still doesn't have a plot.

BuffySquirrel said...Eh, my first question would be, if famous writer thinks it's so wonderful, why didn't they refer it to their agent?

*Rachel*_ said..."I've also read that in the query letter you should not name the characters, that it is not necessary, and it bogs down the agent. If I put in a lot of plot details, I have to name the characters; otherwise, it is too hard to keep track of what's happening. It also bothers me to repeat things that are in the snyopsis."

Bad advice. Seriously. Would you read a book with that sort of description to recommend it?

87,000 words. Round to the nearest thousand.

Still unsure about the letter of recommendation.

You don't need the phrase about the attourney; it isn't attached to the rest of the paragraph. That paragraph was doing fine until you added the sister in; then the sentence structure got weird. After that, you have too many characters doing too many things. Cut it to only Toby, Burke, Kate, and the giant, and try to make it make sense.

Buffy's right. If this author wants to do you a favor, ask for a referral.

Xiexie said...Hi author, there still isn't a clear plot here and this does read like a bland synopsis.

I think your query should focus on Toby, Burke, Monroe, and the UFO crash where in which their lives are changed by a galactic fumble.

Those are your main characters. The rest you mentioned are all in relation to them. Mentioning Lisa and her husband by name didn't really add to whatever struggle Toby goes through.

The query doesn't need to contain a lot of plot details , just the main ones. The GTP is closer to an accurate plot outlining than your draft letter and query.

Anonymous said...You seem to be missing the protagonist's quest and goal. The two ingredients that actually make your story a story. So without hinting at them in some way, you have what appears to be a bunch of stuff happening without a cohesive plot. This might not be the case with your novel, but no one would know that from reading what you've posted.
All writers go through this when they're first starting out - getting what's in the head down on the page in a way that makes other people understand what they mean. You've written several things into your synopsis that indicate to me you haven't quite mastered this. For example, "Giant" can mean anywhere from seven feet tall to twenty feet or more. Your story will read differently depending on that piece of information. This may seem to you like a simple oversight, and perhaps it is. But to your reader, it is glaring. And when the glaring oversights add up...well, you get it.

Also, I'd leave out the part about being in advertising. I actually chuckled at that as it was so incongruent with what had come in previous paragraphs. Plus it has no bearing on your work.

Author said...You're digging yourself a grave. For this to work you have to be very specific. Here you've tried to painted a broad ambiguous statement and tried to personalize it with fill in the blank format."

This is not fill in the blank. I left the specifics out for privacy. I said somewhere here that I am not sending form letters.

Thanks again to everybody for the feedback, especially EE's comment to try nine sentences for the plot, how giant is the giant, and look at the summaries in a TV Guide, which is a great suggestion. I'll spend this week reworking the letter.

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16. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Demon Prey

1. Laci is living a normal life with a normal job. Then one day someone comes into her office, insists that she's a demon hunter, and gives her her first assignment: to single-handedly capture Zathspar, the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth.

2. Thanks to Vincent's experiment with advanced genetic manipulation, aphids the size of Volkswagens emerge from the chicken shack and go in search of religion, only to confront demonic beetles the size of Hummers. Can Vincent quash the ensuing chaos with the power of prayer?

3. Sam and Laura's Yucatan Peninsula vacation is pure bliss--until a trail of dead goats leads right to their tent flap. Can Laura prove Sam isn't the Chupacabra before the locals roast him? More important, can Laura run faster than Sam?

4. Jerrold has been amusing himself by having affairs with girls from the local university's clubs. When he meets Ginny, a dedicated environmentalist, he thinks he can use her like the others. But Ginny's father is a demon, and daddy can't stand to see his little girl cry.

5. Bon Linte is a retired demon hunter who bought an island with the bounties he brought in. Now he owes his girlfriend a peaceful night together, but the children of his victims are looking for revenge and the volcano on his island is set to erupt.

6. Kristy is a vindictive, manipulative college sophomore. One day the devil appears and gives her a choice -- she can live, die, and probably end up in Hell. Or she can become a demon and gain all sorts of cool powers like eternal youth--but only if she tempts her only friend into going to Hell instead. Did I mention the demon powers are really awesome?

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for my first novel, a paranormal romance titled Demon Prey. The novel, including a prologue, is complete at 76,500 words. [When I finished writing the book and realized it was only 36,500 words, I had two choices: Toss it or tack on a 40,000-word prologue.]

I have always been fascinated by the thought that all around us an unseen war rages over souls. [If it must be included at all, always put evidence that you are mentally unstable at the end of the query.] In my novel Demon Prey I give readers a glimpse of the warriors involved in those battles. The war in this realm is fought between the Amolites, a race of demon hunters and Demons. The Amolites live and work among us, but keep their existence hidden. [If they live and work among us, we know they exist. It's just their hobby they're keeping hidden.] This is why my heroine Laci Scott, [At last. A character.] is more than skeptical when an angel in training appears in her office insisting she is an Amolite. [No I'm not, I'm a Presbyterian.] If that were not disturbing enough, Laci has been charged with ensnaring Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth. [If this novel doesn't sell, would you mind if we incorporated Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth as our next recurring blog character?]

In a political move Laci does not understand, the ruling body of the Amolites strip her guardian away from her, condemning her to certain death at Zathspar [the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth] 's hands. Terrified beyond all imaginings, Laci tries to return to her normal life.

It is on a routine business trip to Chicago to meet with a client, Dorian Burton, that Laci’s life is forever changed. [Okay, think. Which one really forever changed her life: the routine business trip to Chicago or finding out she was condemned to certain death at the hands of Zathspar the deadliest etc. etc.?] It is more than the desire Dorian stirs in Laci, but his ability to manipulate the flow of time that gives Laci her first glimmer of hope. [Most women have a list of qualities they want in a man, but rarely does that list include the ability to manipulate the flow of time.] In his arms Laci finds the courage and the strength she needs to stand and fight.

[Laci: With you by my side I finally have the courage to fight.

Dorian: Fight who?

Laci: Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth.

Dorian: How about instead we start by taking on Zamfir, master of the Pan flute, and work our way up to Zathspar?]

Zathspar must not be allowed to unleash his powers on the world again. [Again? What happened the last time Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth unleashed his powers on the world?] If ZathsparthedeadliestdemonevertoplaguetheEarth is successful, the forces of good and evil will stand against each other one final time and decide once and for all who has the right to rule over heaven. Laci must win, not just for the world, but for the life of a man she can not live without. [Why is Dorian's life at stake?]

For further samples of this work, please contact me. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Can Dorian make time stop temporarily and kill Rathbone while he's frozen like a statue? Can he go back in time and kill Rathbone's mother before he's born? What about Hitler's mother?

Why don't the demon hunters assign the task of capturing Z-Spar to one of their more experienced people instead of someone who didn't even know she was a demon hunter yesterday?

How do they expect her to defeat Zoltan? Doesn't she need some training? It's hard enough to defeat one of the least deadly demons on your first mission, let alone the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth.

We don't need to know about the Amolites. After all, Laci didn't know about them. Start with: Literary agent Laci Scott is more than skeptical when an angel in training appears in her office, insists she is a demon hunter, and charges her with ensnaring Zamboni, the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth. Of course Laci laughs the whole thing off . . . until [insert event that convinces Laci she really does have to ensnare Zimbabwe.] Fill us in on what manipulating the flow of time means, and make it good, because right now I don't feel that good about the chances of an office temp defeating the deadliest anything ever.

Also, consider changing Zathspar's name to Rathbone.

Selected Comments

Matthew said...The MC looks like a serious Mary Sue so far. You might want to flesh out her character more in the revision.

vkw said...My plot problems:

1. What makes Laci special so that she can hunt the demons and be successful? Other than being a Amolyte or whatever. Did she know she was somehow different?
2. Why is she then chosen to hunt the most powerful demon?
3. The good guys, (who hunt demons) strip away her guardian and condemn her essentially to death. Are we sure we are talking about the good guys because that seems like a demonic move to me. At least they could have given her another guardian. If I was Lacy, I would be questioning about now if I shouldn't switch sides.
4. How do Dorian and Lacy meet? Accident? Purposeful? I mean it seems this should have been a planned thing and, if so, how?
5. Lacy is given the task to save the world - which includes her, I would imagine - I hope that a recent love interest is way down the line as a motivation to do the right thing.

Just my few coppers. I am sure you have worked out all this in the book but it needs to be fleshed out a bit. I do empathize - I know its hard.

Steve said...In a political move Laci does not understand ... I don't understand it either. If I was on the ruling body of the Amolites, I'd want whoever was fighting "Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth" to have all the resources they need to get the job done. Laci might not understand the political move, but I think whoever's reading the query needs to.
I can't help feeling the query, at the moment, starts in paragraph two, and then starts again in paragraph four ... I'd pick one, and eliminate the other, and use the space you save to explain these political machinations of yours.

"Zathspar" is not going to be a popular name with readers who've got dentures ... heck, I find it awkward, and I've still got my own teeth.

Anonymous said...Ditto on: Why would the Amolites send an amateur to defeat the top gun demon?
Also, why would they take away her guardian? I'm guessing this is the person who is supposed to show her the ropes and teach her what she's doing. I think it would be more interesting if they left her with her guardian, especially when she meets Dorian. Talk about conflicts.

Dave F. said...The BBC-America channel on my TV just started a new series titled "Being Human." It's about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost living in an apartment together. Most of the story deals with their personal struggles -- the werewolf trying not to eat his friends, the vampire trying not to drink live blood anymore, and the ghost just trying to live vicariously while getting over her still living lover. They are all trying to be what they are not, human.

Notice it's all about personal struggles and interactions. That's what is missing from your query. Your story is about Laci Scott who is trying to cope with discovering that she can fight demons and fall in love. I don't write romance but I am guessing that most of the book involves Laci's falling in love with Dorian. In a romance novel, the romance takes center stage. If the demon fighting takes center stage, then it's something else. Regardless, you have to make the agent or editor love Laci Scott and her adventures to sell the book.

Anonymous said...Yeah, I agree -- with good guys like this, who needs demons? And if she's the only great superpower who can destroy Zarthrusta what does her guardian do all day? Seems to me the Ammonites would be better off to give the guardian a promotion and let it star in a fantasy epic while your protagonist works on getting laid in a vampire romance.

I'm sort of burnt out on all forms of "the chosen one" plot formula, so what I have to say may not be relevant for people who are excited about chosen ones. Reading this I just think well, why her? Couldn't the Ammonites find anyone who was even a little more engaged and competent? Give me a superhero who is focused on the mission. Making the protagonist of your Cosmic Good vs Cosmic Evil epic seem to be some random chick who needs a "guardian" to avoid certain death and is mainly focused on running away and making out with some love interest doesn't work for me. She is called upon to do superhero stuff in the role of a diety, so I wish you'd make her a superhero.

Zathspar said...This query pleases me. I am impressed that mere mortals have the ability to string words together and form cohesive thoughts. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to find this Laci Scott and kill her.

Eric P. said...These Amolites are interesting. Laci has zero demon-fighting experience, so they give her the responsibility to singlehandedly stop the deadliest demon etc. If she fails, the earth will be destroyed and plunged into Armageddon. And they prepare her for the fight by "strip[ping] her guardian away from her, condemning her to certain death."

So in a sentence: "If you die, the world will be destroyed and all will be lost, and we've made it certain that you will die."

My guess is they've been placing secret bets in the back room and, while they may be officially on the side of Good, they really need her to take a fall on this one. (Since all the readers are of course expecting the protagonist to win in the end, the odds are heavily against Zathspar the deadliest etc.)

Does Dorian send her back in time to before she lost her guardian? That could work.

You'll also probably get some feminists upset at you for featuring an independent female protagonist who can't succeed in her task until she's safe in the arms of a strong man. But hey, not my funeral.

BuffySquirrel said...What happened the last time Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth unleashed his powers on the world?

At a guess, Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan....

pacatrue said...My advice is simply to put your heroine in charge of your query. As EE says, start with her and then talk about what she does. Right now, she's caught unawares, likes a guy, and may have to do something interesting one day.

caitmorgan said...I agree with others regarding the MC; she needs some beefing up as so far she isn't piquing my interest much as a reader. While I'm generally intrigued by the idea of purported good guys acting like bad guys, what makes Suzie-Q so special that she has the ability to take out Zathsparthedeadliestdemontoeverplaguetheearth (sorry, couldn't resist) without training. Even Buffy (who, admittedly, I don't care for much) has continuing issues with Angelus (who I adore) and never permanently vanquished him.

chelsea said...I kept expecting Dorian to be a bad guy. I mean, she meets him on a routine trip, he has secret powers, she becomes dependent on him. His name is Dorian. Dunno, just the way I thought the plot would go. No?

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17. Feedback Request

The author of the query featured in Face-Lift 1194 has posted a new version in the comments there, and awaits your reaction.

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18. Success Story

I've already posted about Jennifer Buhl's book Shooting Stars (queried in Face-Lift 1028, officially released yesterday). Jennifer appeared yesterday on Entertainment Tonight to promote the book. You can watch the full episode here.   Or fast-forward to her interview, which is about 16 minutes in.

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19. Face-Lift 1196

Guess the Plot

Get to Know You

1. Alex can't stop thinking about Clara, the hot girl in his creative writing class, and how cool her short stories are. Will he blow off his special lady friends for her, or keep imagining what kissing Clara might be like as he kisses them?

2. Annika's biological father has decided he wants to get to know her. So he forces her to come to New York City and work in his bar. If this isn't the way to start a loving relationship, what is?

3. A psychopath stalks and murders attractive young women in Loudoun County, Virginia. His victims’ bodies are found dressed in high fashion and staged in provocative poses with notes: “Got to know you.” FBI profiler Sally MacRae takes the case. She leaves notes for him: “Getting to know you.” Sally gets closer to him as he gets closer to her. Then she discovers she has DID and she is him.

4. Albert has all the time in the world to get to know his new friends. His perfect, pretty friends who never contradict him and are always pleasantly silent. It takes a while to find these friends and bring them to his home. But taxidermy makes it all worthwhile in the end.

5. When my father strayed from his wife, I was the result. Around town in polite society I was the unholy bastard. In the bars, I was my pa's get. After twenty years of isolation, I'm the recipient of my father's estate. His children invited me to a party. They call the event a Get to Know You soiree. Hilarity ensues.

6. He's pleased to meet you. He hopes you guessed his name. He's Lucifer, and in this epic retelling of the Rolling Stones song, this fallen angel would like to get to know you. Yes, YOU!

7. Cara had no idea what would happen when she had too much Purple Drank at the unsupervised party with the varsity football players, but she never expected to learn Parcheesi. Or, the finer strategy necessary to win at Risk. Also, campfire songs and mugs of cocoa.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Annika Fitzpatrick gets an email [from Danica Patrick, threatening a lawsuit] in the middle of her graduation from high school and finds her worst nightmare has come true: her father wants to spend more time with her.

In my completed 80,000 word YA contemporary manuscript, Get to Know You, Annika a self professed musical theater nerd, is forced to spend the summer after graduation with her absent biological father in New York City working at the music venue he owns and, much to Annika’s embarrassment, named after her. [She's forced to do this? Was that a threatening email? I'm surprised it wasn't a tweet:


Hey, Babe. Pack your crap and move to NYC and work for me in my nightclub or I'll ruin you. Love, Dad (Biological).

She insists on being called Annie, in an attempt to hide her ties to her father, the boss, and hopefully make friends with her co-workers, especially Theo. The gorgeous and talented musician who’s [is] a fixture at the bar with his family band that’s on the verge of making it big. [The bar? The "venue" dad named after Annika is a bar? Coulda been worse; he coulda named a whorehouse after her.] [Or are you saying it's a club that has a bar in it? In which case aren't Annika and Theo a bit young to be hanging out at the bar?] But Theo has things he’s hiding too, like his plans to leave the band and his feelings for Annika. When Theo surprises Annika by kissing her shortly after her arrival, [Not sure how he has feelings for her already if she just got there, but it doesn't sound like he's hiding them.] then quickly changing his tune, Annika must decide if being Theo’s friend is worth risking her heart. This novel is one part Anna and the French Kiss with a dash of Pitch Perfect, mixed with sexy rock bands instead of acapella.

I’ve always been a storyteller, first through theater and preforming [performing] arts, but I also know how to spread the word when I’m passionate about something from years of working in fashion PR in New York. I am a member of SCBWI and this is my first novel.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my manuscript. I look forward to hearing from you.


It doesn't seem like a "family band" would be a fixture at a club that features sexy rock bands.

It does seem like a musical theater nerd would relish the opportunity to spend a summer in NYC.

Also, wouldn't it be better for the story if dad owned an off-Broadway theater instead of a bar, or if Annika were a self-professed rock music nerd?

I'm not reading 80,000 words to find out if Annika decides it's worth being friends with a guy who kissed her once and then changed his tune. It sounds like a trivial matter. Less trivial would be if she falls in love with him and he wants her to come with him on tour, but dad forbids it. Or she auditions for a part in a Broadway musical, gets it, but dad insists she wait tables and Theo wants her to be his roadie.

Possibly the decision to be friends with Theo happens early, and you decided that was enough. It wasn't. We want to know what's preventing Annika from getting what she wants (be that a career in theater, an escape from dad or a torrid affair with Theo) and what she plans to do about it.

Things it wouldn't be hard to work in: what Annika does at dad's place; what Theo plans to do after leaving the band (Quit music? Go solo?).

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20. Evil Editor Classics

Author/publisher-related terms that aren't in the dictionary, but should be.

Adulagency--the act of informing an agent that you chose her because you love her clients' books, even though you never heard of the agent or her clients--Evil Editor

Bioverload--the irresistible compulsion to tell one's life story in a business letter to a complete stranger--Evil Editor

Blogtrophy: A decline in an author's writing skills proportional to the amount of time spent reading blogs--blogless_troll

Ejacugiggle: Orally, or nasally, spewing a beverage on to computer hardware in a fit of uncontrollable laughter.--blogless_troll

Fraudspew: Falsely claiming to have ejacugiggled in order to gain the acceptance of one's peers--blogless_troll

Hara-Query: The act of writing a query so bad that it kills your chances of getting a request for a partial.--Bunnygirl

Laxnix: a rejection stamped or written on your original query--Anonymous

Micropubglow: The pride felt upon discovering that one of your continuations made it into Novel Deviations--Evil Editor

Optimisappointment: The disconnect between the initial enthusiasm a writer feels upon submitting a work for critique and the soul shredding contempt the work receives once people read it--blogless_troll

Plotvomit: A query writing technique in which an author spews a multitude of random, irrelevant, and often pointless plot lines into a query, in the hopes an agent or editor will welcome the author’s artistic brilliance in lieu of a story--blogless_troll

Pomposify: To make a work of fiction more literary by adding “: A Novel” to its title--blogless_troll

Pseudohook: An engaging, attention-grabbing first sentence having no apparent connection to the remainder of the query or story--blogless_troll

Spagtacular: Describing a manuscript which, whatever else is wrong with it, the spelling, punctuation, and grammar are just fine. Can also be used ironically to mean the complete opposite--150

Uniqueryism: The belief that the person to whom you're sending your query has not seen ten identical queries in the past 24 hours--Evil Editor

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21. Feedback Requests

New versions of the queries featured in Face-Lift 1191 and Face-Lift 1188 are now posted in the comments there.

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22. Buy This Book; Cure a Disease

As usual, Evil Editor will soon be donating his services to the Brenda Novak Auction, which begins May 1. 

Auction site link.

Among my offerings is the following:

Your Book (up to 100,000 words) Edited by EVIL EDITOR

Last year's winner of this item had the good fortune to quickly land an agent who quickly sold the book to Sourcebooks, and despite the publishing industry's reputation for dragging their feet, the book comes out tomorrow.

Of course declaring that last year's auction winner has had the book published should increase the final take this year, but think how much more it would increase if Ms. Novak could declare that the book made the bestseller lists! Dare I think we could be talking six figures?

Sure, you can help cure Diabetes by bidding on Evil Editor this year, but that would make a significant dent in your bank account if you somehow won. And only one person can win an item. But thousands of people can buy the book, making it a huge success and driving this year's bids into the stratosphere.

Here's a link to the book's Amazon page.

You can also get it at your favorite bookstore. You can request it at your library if you prefer not to buy it. You can buy gift copies for your friends and relatives. I foresee not only Diabetes, but all diseases being cured as a result of the minions' generosity. Also, you'll probably like the book.

Also, it should be pointed out that the book's query came through here before being sent to agents, and we have no queries in the queue at present, so what are you waiting for?

Disclaimer: Evil Editor has no stake, financially or otherwise, in the success of Shooting Stars.

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23. Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Gift of the Phoenix

1. Another tie -- and it's not even his color. Mike Cranston's ingratitude, and rash decision to regift, unleashes the fiery wrath of a mythological creature with frightening powers.

2. Three men--a warrior, a wizard and a peasant--are thrown together on a mission that could save the world. They must work together to protect the magical Phoenix from the cunning one out to steal its immortality: the evil and fearsome mastermind known as . . . the Cunning One.

3. Jeff's mom celebrates his 10th birthday by throwing a costume party with her rowdy friends and relatives. It is a riot: broken furniture, live garage band, drunken parade, and spontaneous combustion of an old Volvo. Next morning as Jeff eats Cheerios on the back porch, a magnificent bird emerges from the blackened car. Adventure ensues.

4. Samantha always wanted to own an exotic bird. When a mysterious admirer sends a live phoenix to Sam’s office, she’s torn between delight and concern. She sends a text message immediately to the number on the card. But when the bird spontaneously bursts into flame and a holographic image of the pizza delivery kid appears, she immediately clicks the unsend button on her cell phone. After that she spends a year in therapy . . . and that’s what this book is really about.

5. As the strange giant egg Mink Xappa found under the mango tree incubates in a basket of feathers, Wizard Suavo Parker fears his broom might not make it across the entire ocean. He's using the ancient map, but will he actually reach the fabled island where phoenixes breed? Or will he soon be fish food? Plus, pirates!

6. Temporarily broke and without transportation, Fred accepts the gift of a 1976 Ford Phoenix. Over the following weeks a pattern emerges: the car runs beautifully in the morning but it breaks down every night, successively stranding Fred at the homes of customers, relatives, and his high school sweetheart. Hilarity ensues, until Fred wonders why he ever accepted the . . . Gift of the Phoenix.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Agent:

In a place where magic is rare and often lies hidden in the deep recesses of the earth, a great power will threaten the world - and few will know of it.

Three strangers are thrust together by a common enemy - the Cunning One - who seeks to steal the immortality and magic of the Phoenix. [Heroes would laugh at a villain called the Cunning One:

Cunning One: Step aside or die, subcreatures.
Heroes: Who the hell are you?
Cunning One: I am known as . . . the Cunning One!
Heroes (rolling on floor): Ha! Ha ha! Hahahahahha!

So would readers. Call her the Archimage.]
But uniting will not be easy for these men. Nicolai, a peasant with a powerful secret, seeks only to protect the woman he loves from danger. [Is she in danger from the Cunning One? If so, why? If not, why is Nicky even involved?] Marcellus, warrior prince, rebels against magic and insists only military strength will defeat their enemy. [Wrong. Cunning almost always trumps military might. Rankings of conflict tactics, from least effective to most:

10. Donning colorful uniforms, assembling in a phalanx, and marching directly toward the enemy.

9. Handing over the Sudetenland in return for a promise of peace.

8. Getting involved in a land war in Asia.

7. Recruiting ruthless criminals to fight for you.

6. Cheating.

5. Overwhelming military strength.

4. Cunning.

3. Blowing up enemy's planet with Death Star.

2. Recruiting army of unkillable ghosts and offering them closure.

1. Attacking the enemy's solitary, trivial, inaccessible weak spot.]

Corren, the true heir, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

Their quest leads them deep into hidden worlds of magic [Are you sure this is "a place where magic is rare"? We've already encountered the magic of the Phoenix, a powerful wizard, and now hidden worlds of magic.] as they seek to find out what they must do to protect the Phoenix. Once they learn the Cunning One is Corren's powerful sage Aradia, [Presumably Aradia doesn't want it known that she's the villain, so she uses the alias, the Cunning One. Yet the heroes learn she's Aradia almost immediately. Maybe she should have worn a disguise, too.] they fear they are destined to fight a battle they cannot win. But fight they will. They learn the key lies in protecting the Gateway leading to the Phoenix and draw on every magical and military resource to defend it. Meanwhile, Corren understands the thirst for power that drives Aradia, [(the Cunning One)] and fears the same corruptive desires lurk in his own heart.

Struggling to overcome Aradia's betrayal and the strife that still exists between them, they suffer an astouding failure. Aradia shatters through the Gateway [That was easy. What, exactly, did "every magical and military resource" consist of?] and the Three hastily pursue her into the hidden Realm of the Phoenix. There they must unite, or be destroyed. [They weren't united when they were defending the Gateway? What were they doing, arguing about whether to kill the Cunning One with a sword, a pitchfork or a magic wand? ]

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy, which takes us deep into the heart of a wondrous world and the three men destined to defend it. I wrote this novel as a stand-alone, but left plenty of room for a sequel which is already loosely planned. [I don't think "already" goes well with "loosely planned." It's not like it normally takes years to loosely plan something. In fact, in the time it took me to type that last sentence I loosely planned a novel about undersea creatures taking over Jamaica. Yes, already.] I have a Bachelor's Degree in Writing from X College, where I also served as Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning literary magazine, X.

I would love to send you part or all of the completed manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.



It would be easier to protect the Phoenix if the warrior prince called on his army of soldiers and the wizard called on his army of lions and wolves. Instead, they have a peasant. What can one peasant do when faced with . . . the Cunning One?

Isn't the Phoenix's magic powerful enough to protect itself? If not, why does the Cunning One want it? Doesn't the Cunning One have powerful magic of her own? She must, or the wizard wouldn't have thought his team was destined to fight a battle they couldn't win.

Selected Comments

pjd said...I can not comment on the query at this moment because I am sitting in amused awe at the blue text. Well done, EE.

One thing you missed though:

"Corren, the true heir, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all."

True heir of what? And if he's the true heir then what is Marcellus prince of?

OK, one comment on the query: This seems to suffer a malady similar to my recent face lift fodder. You talk about this happening and then that happening and then the other happening, but take a long look at EE's GTP and start over from that. Too bogged down in names and details such that the actual story gets a bit lost. I get the sense there's a reasonably simple plot with some reasonably complex characters and a lot of conflict both external and internal, but I got lost in all the details.

I think it might have been Dave F that told me to step back and look at the forest for a bit and ignore all those trees getting in the way. Seems like you might benefit from a similar exercise.

Again I say well done, EE. Especially the top 10 list. Though I'm not sure "archimage" is the right word for The Cunning One... makes me think of photos of landmarks in Paris. Can't wait to read your Jamaica book.

Anonymous said...This is so generic. Have you actually written the book?

December/Stacia said...The Archimage made me wonder if the Bettimage and the Veronicamage would be along at some point too.

Xenith said...Someone somewhere, possibly one of the agents blogs, said a query should show how your novel is different to all the other novels that deal with similar topics.

I'm not getting that here.

A group of characters trying to save the world from a great power that few know about is a common storyline in epic fantasy. I've read enough of them, and I'm sure far more never get published.

So why is this one different?

DragonChick said...Thanks for the critique EE and pjd. I'm definitely having a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. I have one version - one of about a hundred, it feels like - which lays out the basic premise, but I was told I needed more details. It's hard to know what to do. Anyway, I really appreciate the advice! I'll keep plugging away. (And yes, the book is written.)

Phoenix said...Brilliant title. I wouldn't change a word of it. :o)

Xenith said it exactly. What's different about this story? I did a rewrite to see if I could think of a way to make the story sound different and more exciting. I'm afraid, based on what you've given us here, I didn't succeed. The climax, especially, falls really flat. If you have some unique hook (other than that fabulous Phoenix!), put it out there, front and center.

Hidden in the deep recesses of the world, the magic of the Phoenix -- long a foundation of the empire -- bides. Tempted by the legend's power, the sage Aradia devises a cunning scheme to steal its magic and claim its immortality.

Her pawns: A peasant who knows the Phoenix's one weakness, and may trade that knowledge to protect the woman he loves. A warrior prince who scoffs at magic and gambles his reputation on military might. And a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

Under Aradia's influence, the men set out in uneasy truce to stop the one they know only as "the Cunning One" from finding and violating the magic that holds their empire together. But [obstacle one] and [obstacle two], as well as their own animosity toward one another, threaten their success.

Then, at the Gateway, where the mundane world and the magical realm collide, Aradia's true nature outs and the men discover they've been betrayed. Their only chance to save the empire now is to protect the way leading to the Phoenix. But when the men clash over whether to use magic or military strength to stop her, Aradia takes advantage of that moment of indecision. Shattering the Gateway, she charges into the Realm of the Phoenix with the men in hasty pursuit. In their race to save the empire, the men must find a way to unite -- or be destroyed.

GIFT OF THE PHOENIX is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy. Complete at 120,000 words, it's a stand-alone with series potential. I have a Bachelor's Degree in Writing from X College, where I also served as Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning literary magazine, X.

I would love to send you part or all of the manuscript. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Try posting one the other 99 versions and see what the minions think of it. Maybe between the two, we can all come up with something that really grabs!

OMG. EE. I do love your top 10 lists. And you even snuck in an allusion to LOTR *heart flutters*. This title, your list. My night is complete.

DragonChick said...Glad you like the title Phoenix, ;) and thanks for the generous offer. It was hard to pick another version cuz I still can't see the forest for the trees, but I settled on this one. It's pretty rough but it should give you a little more information about the story. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Three strangers are thrust together by three mysterious stones, the knowledge that they’re actually brothers, and a common enemy who seeks to steal the immortality and magic of the Phoenix. But uniting will not be easy for these men. Nicolai had lived as a peasant, but his hidden friendship with earth faeries imbues him with a knowledge of the earth’s secrets. Marcellus, the warrior prince who is no longer heir to the throne, rebels against magic and insists only military strength will defeat their enemy. Corren, the eldest brother, is a powerful wizard whose ambitions threaten to ruin them all.

As the Phoenix’s regeneration and only time of vulnerability nears, their quest to find out what they must do to protect it, what role their elusive stones play, and who their enemy truly is leads them deep into worlds of hidden magic. Once they learn their enemy is Corren’s powerful sage, Aradia, they fear they are destined to fight a battle they cannot win. But fight they will. They decide they must prevent Aradia from breaking through the magical Gateway leading to the Realm of the Phoenix, and draw on every military and magical resource available to defend it.

Meanwhile, Corren understands the thirst for power which drives Aradia, and fears the same corruptive desires lurk in his own heart. Struggling to release his ambitions (which include the crown meant for Marcellus), Corren realizes his stone may grant them victory but claim his life in the process.

Struggling to overcome Aradia’s betrayal, her horrific evil, and the strife which still exists between them, they suffer an astounding failure. Aradia shatters through the Gateway and the Three ultimately confront her in the Realm of the Phoenix where they must unite, or perish.

DragonChick said...LOL! Evileditress is DEFINITELY her new name! Actually, she doesn't call herself the Cunning One - it's just how she is referred to in a warning delivered by the Phoenix. I can see how that was confusing though, so I'm just taking "the Cunning One" out of the query. The Phoenix is only vulnerable as it is dying, before it regenerates, so that is why it needs defenders. I don't know if that comes across in the other version I posted - of if that's even enough information.

Am I even speaking in complete sentences? My brain is so fried, LOL.

Phoenix said...Hey Dragonchick, maybe think cause and effect as you do revision 101. When A happens, B results. Here are some things I think are missing from both versions:

We know the Phoenix's vulnerability and that it possesses magic and immortality. But why must it be protected? What happens if it isn't protected? What are the stakes for the land or the world, which is what epic fantasy is all about? Why are the men willing to risk themselves to protect it?

Aradia feels like a very stock villain. She wants to claim the Phoenix's powers to what end? Does she want to be a ruler? Are Mar and Cor's inheritances threatened by her? What makes her a villain I want to read about? Telling me she's a horrific evil isn't good enough. What horrific evil will she do once she has Phoenix Power?

What happens in the middle of the story? Notice the [Obstacle 1] and [Obstacle 2] in my rewrite? What happens on the way to find the Phoenix? We go from the Phoenix somehow being in danger for vague reasons to the men materializing at the Gateway

If Corren is such a powerful wizard, why do they think they can't win the battle against a powerful sage? Are sages more powerful than wizards?

Good call in ditching the stones in query 1. In the second query, they're just annoying.

If you aren't going to explain something in the query, don't bring it up. For ex, Nic's lady love in the first version (who is she and why is her life endangered?) or that he's had a hidden friendship with earth faeries (why hidden?).

In both versions, Gateway and Realm of the Phoenix (some trees you're seeing) don't carry much meaning for the reader. You want to give a peek into the world you've created, but you need to be a bit more concrete in your descriptions. Both queries use the term "hidden magic" but I'm clueless what that means. What happens in the hidden magic worlds and in the Realm of the Phoenix? Does the magic in these realms start doing funny things to people with magic?

It seems like a LOT to cram into a query letter when the questions are laid out like this, but with careful word choice, careful editing, and a bit of sentence rearranging, you can get a lot of these concepts in without increasing your word count.

The biggest takeaway here is that if this is epic fantasy, the overall stakes must be bigger than the lives of the brothers, though they must play out the drama in microcosm. Tell us what those stakes are in the query.

Good luck!

Pater said......is a multiple-viewpoint epic fantasy...

My question is, is it necessary to state this in a query with multiple main characters? I would think that if the PoV delivery style was really unique then it would be something to mention (or convey in the actual story description), but otherwise just wastes words.

I ask because my current work essentially alternates between two characters chapter by chapter and this query has me wondering if this is something that I need to convey to the agent ahead of time. Thanks.

Evil Editor said...Unless the story is told in first person, there's nothing noteworthy about having more than one POV character, and no mention is necessary.

Whirlochre said...Forgive me, but unless the final outcome of this epic fantasy turns on the subtlest of million-to-one anomalies in the Dwarven Cheese Cycle or the lapsed amnesia of an unfamiliar familiar (and these are crub, crub examples, I know) then I remain interested, yet unbeguiled.

Perhaps it's in the nature of synopses about world-girdling tales of myriad armies and empires, with all their their nefarious subterfuge - particularly if magic is involved - that the ironing restrictions of a brief summary must necessarily flatten out more of the interesting wrinkles than
would be the case with the (say) eagerly flashed harlot's knickers of a Whodunnit.

So - I concur with others - Xenith in particular - that this all sounds a little too familiar, and I
would hope that, in being a synopsis, it hath but an unfortunate exchange a-madeth twixt the tickling of the general fancy and the lopping off of very specific bollocks.

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24. Feedback Request

The author of New Beginning 1019 would like to know if you prefer the revised version, which is now in the comments there.

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25. Face-Lift 1197

Guess the Plot


1. His name is Mallet. Duke Mallet. Follow the adventures of the baddest parking inspector along the mean streets of Hicksville.

2. He's  tough, a loner, a PI who doesn't play by the rules. Criminals and other bad guys fear him. Men admire him. Women desire him. He's not just an action hero, he's...Mallet.

3. Parolee John Mallet sets out for Manitoba to hunt down his ex-wife and reconnect with his daughter. Of course, Sandy's remarried, and her new husband, Mark Hammer, has convinced Shelly that her dad is a tool. Can he find redemption, and a place in Shelly's life?

4. Johnny fishes all day, everyday, in the brackish waters of Florida'a estuaries. Oh, sure, he's caught Chinook and Tarpon, but Johnny just throws them back. He's after the elusive Mallet. He's tried worms, shrimp, minnows and every jig ever made, but no Mallets. Until one day, when a weathered old man walks up and whispers the secret word to catch Mallet. "Mullet." Confusion ensues.

5. Murder by polo mallet is all too common among the British upper crust. So when billionaire polo fanatic John Rouge gets a craving for fish and chips and flies his plane into town for take-out, and disappears, the worst is feared. But if he was bludgeoned to death with a polo mallet, where's the body?

6. When Josh shows up with an ironic mullet at his company's annual party, the CEO shows up with one too, and instantly gives Josh the promotion he deserves. But will the mallet-wielding intern Josh just fired ruin his chances with Kate, the hot executive assistant?

7. It’s 1923 and Hank Mallet is a private investigator in San Francisco. He’s hired by a Chinese lady, Madame Mu Chu, to find her missing daughter. But she isn’t. Hank digs deeper and discovers a sex slavery ring and an opium smuggling rival gang. Several attempts are made on Hank’s life as he unravels each layer of these criminal organizations.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When Amanda’s best friend Dionne and her millionaire boyfriend John Rouge disappear while taking a float plane to get fish and chips, Amanda wants to be concerned. But she’s more worried about staying alive.

Dionne invites Amanda to a charity polo match, where she meets John’s dysfunctional family. His brother Adrian is a money pit, losing John’s loan money in bad bets and investments. Daughter Lilian won’t get a job, but has no trouble spending her daddy’s money. Old army buddy Barry Morgan hangs onto his past as a British rock star, and won’t accept the fact he’s a dried up has-been [and not even British]. [In my neck of the woods, it's "washed-up"; "dried-up" refers to a face so wrinkled it looks like a prune. Except when it refers to a source of money that is no longer gushing forth.] [In any case, if you call him a has-been, we will assume he's washed-up.] This doesn’t stop him from vying for Lilian’s affections.

Amanda also meets Connor West. At first, she takes him for a groom, but he is a polo star, and John’s protégé.

When a real groom turns up dead at the polo tournament, the police immediately suspect Connor, since he was found unconscious on the scene. [The most likely suspect is a guy who wasn't conscious? That's like someone asking who won the swim meet, and you say, "I'm not sure, but if I had to guess, it was the guy who drowned."] As the investigation drags on, Amanda is invited to accompany the group to John’s remote lake island. A series of strange events [Such as?] result in accidental – or possibly deliberate – deaths. 

[Detective 1: The victim was bludgeoned to death with a polo mallet.

Detective 2: Deliberately?]

By the end of the weekend, Amanda is forced to match wits with two members of the group who will do anything to grab John Rouge’s fortune. [Which two? Are the two collaborating? You can't just grab someone's fortune. Explain how they can get the fortune. And why is Amanda matching wits with them? She has nothing to do with John's fortune.]

MALLET is complete at 65,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best Regards,


If you want to call it Mallet, but want it to be accessible to more people, change it from the cutthroat world of high-level polo to the cutthroat world of high-level croquet.

We have a list of suspects, which is good for a murder mystery, but what they're suspected of is a bit nebulous. Did the death of the groom bring anyone closer to John Rouge's fortune? Who is dying on the island, and who is closer to the fortune because of it? To grab the fortune, do you have to be mentioned in John's will? Were the victims in the will? Why is Amanda worried about staying alive? She's not standing between anyone and the fortune.

When do John and Dionne disappear? Before or after the group go to the island? You'd think a billionaire would have a kitchen staff on call and ready to whip up some fish and chips at a moment's notice, and wouldn't have to fly into town for some take-out fish and chips. If he wanted to disappear, taking Dionne sightseeing in the plane is a better excuse than picking up some fish and chips. Unless . . . was he flying to this place, winner of the best fish and chips award three years running? (Of course they won; their fish cakes are always 50% fish.)

This needs to focus more on Amanda. Why is she involved? Why is she in danger? What's her plan? Have any authorities been summoned to deal with the numerous deaths and disappearances?

Your best friend invites you to join her and her boyfriend and his dysfunctional family on a remote island, and then leaves the island with the boyfriend, leaving you alone with his family who are complete strangers to you? Shouldn't that be former best friend?

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