Thursday, July 02, 2015

New Beginning 1028


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

Nothing’s more important than an education.

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

The nicest thing he's ever done.

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

All she needs is a little motivation.

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

Please concentrate, Faith. Try this one.

"Armadillo."

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

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

Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.

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

But something had changed.

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

They stopped.

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

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


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


Monday, June 29, 2015

Feedback Request


Dear EE,

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

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



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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

New Beginning 1027


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Face-Lift 1264


Guess the Plot

The Mailman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Original Version

Dear EE,

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

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

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



Notes

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

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

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

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

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



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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Feedback Request



Dear Evilness,

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


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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Face-Lift 1263


Guess the Plot

Mercury Wants a Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Original Version

Dear EE

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

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

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

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

Thank you for your consideration.


Notes

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

New Beginning 1045


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Face-Lift 1262


Guess the Plot

Silhouette

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

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

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

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

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

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

7. Ebony and Liss, hairdressers at Silhouette Spa, hate that their brother Dewayne keeps seeing Oolala the braider, and Oolala hates that he can't trust those cheating bitches for one second before they try to steal his man. Manicurists Racey and Kandye both have eyes for Denise's fiance, Dontrel, but Denise isn't letting him stray out of fear that Oolala will try for him too. Shampoo isn't the only thing that's white and frothy at the Silhouette Spa.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

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


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

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

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

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best wishes,

My info here


Notes

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 15, 2015

Face-Lift 1261


Guess the Plot

Walls of Sakaret

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

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

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

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

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

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


Original Version

Dear Agent,

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

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

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

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

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

Warmest Regards,


Notes

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Man of Many Centuries

Admiral Komack, Admiral Westerviliet


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

The Judges of Perry Mason

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



11
Byron Morrow, 7 Episodes



10
Frank Wilcox, 8 Episodes


9
Nelson Leigh, 9 Episodes



8
Charles Irving, 11 Episodes

7
Richard Gaines, 14 Episodes

6
Grandon Rhodes, 16 Episodes

5
John Gallaudet, 20 Episodes


4
Morris Ankrum, 22 Episodes

3
Willis Bouchet, 23 Episodes

2
Kenneth R.MacDonald, 32 Episodes


1
S. John Launer, 33 Episodes




Thursday, June 11, 2015

Face-Lift 1260


Guess the Plot

When You Wish

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

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

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


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

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



Original Version

Dear [Agent],

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

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




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

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

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

Awkward.

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


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


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

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

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

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

Thank you for your time and consideration,



Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Synopsis 44


Guess the Plot

Bliss

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

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

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

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

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

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


Original Version

BLISS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Notes

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

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

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

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

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