Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Feedback Request

Dear EE,

Some months ago I sent you a query under the title of THE MAILMAN. Your feedback prompted a re-working not just of the query but of the novel itself…and the title, which is now ONE WAY TO TUCSON. I’m hoping you’ll be so kind as to cast your withering gaze on the latest effort.

Also, can you say something, please, regarding proper novel length. Some quarters suggest a minimum of seventy thousand words.

Thank you.

Former two-tour Marine MP, Trevor Hayworth, is now a substitute mailman. [I don't think it's necessary to put commas around a person's name the way you would it if it read Trevor Hayworth, former two-tour Marine MP, is now a substitute mailman. I mean, would you put commas around "John" if it were My son John is very tall? To me, the question is whether you would pause noticeably before and after the name when speaking aloud.] It doesn’t pay enough but it keeps him clear of trouble. One day, while he’s delivering, a beautiful young woman begs him to help her escape her sex trafficking captors. When he offers to call the police she says the police and the traffickers are working “together”. [I don't see the need for those quotation marks.] That’s when Hayworth knows trouble has found him again. [Not sure what "again" means. Unless it's obvious to everyone that trouble must have found him in the past because he was a Marine MP. Maybe if the earlier sentence ended " keeps him from looking for trouble." and this one ended "trouble has found him."]

Later, Hayworth and the girl are in his pickup, racing out of San Diego for Tucson, where the girl’s family is supposed to live. [Changing "is supposed to" to "supposedly" would fix some ambiguity. For that matter you can just say it's where she has family, even if it's going to turn out that her family doesn't live there, since you're telling this from the character's viewpoint.] With them are three million dollars they took from the trafficker’s [traffickers'] house. Chasing them east on Route 10 are trafficking thugs, corrupt cops, and a newspaper reporter who moon lights [moonlights] as a hitman. Everyone wants the money and no one wants them alive.

As the skirmishes increase and the margins of their escapes narrow it’s evident to Hayworth they’re increasingly dependent on something notoriously unreliable: good luck. The girl, meanwhile, presents him with surprises and problems outside his skillset. And he begins to wonder—if they make it to Tucson—what’s really waiting for them there. [If I've followed someone from San Diego to Tucson because he stole my three million dollars, I'm not turning back just because he reached the city limits. It's not like a drawbridge will be raised as they enter Tucson. 

ONE WAY TO TUCSON is complete at 65,400 words.


Most of my comments are nitpicks. It does seem rather abrupt that a woman needs help escaping her captors, and we immediately transition to: later they're racing out of San Diego with three million dollars of the captors' money. It has me wondering if the ex-marine broke down the door, killed the captors, blew open the safe, and took off with the girl and money just as the cops and the dead captors' cohorts and the hitman reporter were all showing up. Possibly that's exactly how it went down, in which case one sentence saying so would help.

Regarding "proper novel length":

There's no such thing. The minimum length of a book that can be entered in the Rita Awards (Romance Writers of America) short novel category is 40,000 words. Same for the Nebula Awards (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) novel category. The Edgar Awards for mysteries demands at least 22,000 words. For the Thriller Awards the cutoff is 35,000 words. As for maximum lengths, it's generally best to stay under 100,000 words, although fantasy books that require lots of world building are given leniency.

Your chances of getting a book published if it's close to the minimums for the awards have been slim in recent decades. Presumably this is because publishers noticed that people bought thicker books more than thinner books. It's possible this is less of a concern these days with ebooks because the thickness of the book, the size of the font, aren't visually noticeable. Also, it's cheaper to print a short book, and money's tight in the industry.

My own opinion is that the proper word length is that which you've achieved when the book has reached its conclusion. In a just world that would be the opinion of publishers and editors and agents as well, but I suspect if you don't come in between 60,000 and 100,000 you are reducing the number of publishers, editors and agents who will take a look at your book. You're not reducing it to zero, however, so check guidelines.

If you're asking because you want to know whether to increase your word count from 65,400 to 70,000, I doubt that's necessary unless the additional 4600 words would be filling glaring plot holes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Face-Lift 1288

Guess the Plot

The Feast of Masks

1. As the kingdom of Galailia prepares for the sumptuous Feast of Masks, at which every maiden of age is matched with whatever noble chooses her, one feisty, raven-haired countess thinks she's beat the system by sending a shape-shifting goblin in her place . . . until her secret crush picks the goblin.

2. Only one woman can prevent a dragon from augmenting its power and laying waste to the city during the Feast of Masks festival. But in doing so, will she become an even greater threat than the dragon? Also, in the broad scheme of things, does it really matter?

3. When the Queen of Al Laheria dies, a Feast of Masks is held to choose her successor. All women between the ages of 13 and 30 are required to attend. Rabinah desperately hopes to be chosen. But with 5000 other girls attending, how can she increase her chances of being chosen and escaping poverty? Also, why should readers care?

4. Nothing is what it seems, there's an elusive secret, and a young serving boy must make a terrifying choice that will change the course of the armistice banquet: red wine? or white?

5. A new fad diet has taken the world by storm. It turns out plastic Halloween masks have half the carbs of a slice of bread. Little does the public know that this is the dastardly new scheme of mad scientist Dr Petar Vlodstolk, whose wife has recently opened a costume shop. He doesn't want to see her become depressed after yet another failed business.

6. Everyone who's anyone was invited, but when the guests remove their masks at the end of the Feast of Masks, they find their faces have changed. They all look exactly like their masks. It's a total disaster . . . Although you don't hear the woman who wore the Kate Middleton mask complaining.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Years ago, Tali Adilrein abandoned the practices of the dragon path and sealed away the destructive magic they gave her.

When Tali rescues the Commissioner of Customs’ niece from smugglers, she's hired as the girl’s bodyguard. Her none-too-happy client is a dragon treasure: Her gifts can catalyze spells for those on the dragon path. Her life can augment the power of a dragon. [Meaning the dragon must kill her or just use her?] [Is the girl "none-to-happy" because she's a dragon treasure or because she's stuck with a bodyguard?]

The smugglers awoke an imprisoned dragon. It's influencing them to bring it treasure to fuel its magic. When it acquires sufficient power, it will lay waste to the city. [
Not clear whether the smugglers woke the dragon while trying to abduct the girl, or had awakened the dragon previously, and were trying to abduct the girl for the dragon.]

The dragon spreads its influence to one of Tali's allies. [Unlike Tali's alleys, Tali's allies is a good tongue twister.] [Also, what do mean by Tali's allies? Allies against what enemy?] It hunts her client with magical flames. Tali returns to the dragon path to protect the girl. In doing so, she may become as great a threat as the dragon. 

The Feast of Masks is a stand-alone fantasy adventure with series potential, complete at 111K words. I’m currently working on another book set in the same world.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Was Tali in the bodyguard business before she rescued the girl?

The last two plot paragraphs need more sentence variety. Those short sentences read like an outline. 

 Maybe it would be better to start with the dragon:

When smugglers inadvertently awaken an imprisoned dragon, the creature compels them to bring it treasures to fuel its magic. If it acquires sufficient power, it will lay waste to the city. 

One powerful "dragon treasure" is Jane Doe. The smugglers abduct her, but Jane is rescued by Tali Adilrein, a woman who years ago abandoned the practices of the dragon path and sealed away the destructive magic they gave her. Tali is immediately hired by Jane's uncle as her bodyguard.

As the dragon hunts her new client with magical flames, Tali reluctantly returns to the dragon path to protect the girl. But in doing so, she may become as great a threat as the dragon. 

That introduces your main character in the second paragraph, which isn't ideal, but it also gets the setup into paragraph 1 instead of P3. And it leaves room to add a bit more information, perhaps showing more about the new threat the dragon brings besides "magical flames." 

Not sure we need to know Jane is the niece of the Commissioner of Customs, as we don't know whether that's an important position like adviser to the king, or a minor position like  supervisor of mail carriers. Just knowing the dragon needs her is enough.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Feedback Request

Hello again.

A quick bit on the revision. After some thought and other reading, I decided to try simply focusing on what happens in Act I for the query. As such, the morphine stays (sort of, she doesn't hook up with the doctor plot wise, but steals it in Act II, but the ramp to that is definitely Act I), and another plot that was in an earlier draft (not seen here) made it back in. Nadya's conflict with the commissar spans most of the book, but its not the main plot. So, here's where I'm at:

Nadezdah Buzina, a pilot serving in the Red Army’s all-female 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment during WWII, is a natural flyer. Sadly, her inborn talent is no match for veterans of the Luftwaffe. While she patrols war-torn Stalingrad, Gerhard Rademacher, a German ace, blasts her out of the sky, leaving her severely burned and the sole survivor of her flight.

Nadya vows revenge, but when Commissar Petrov, an NKVD political officer, thinks she survived the dogfight due to cowardice rather than luck, her life is jeopardized by his ensuing investigation. Her family has ties to the White Army, and she could be summarily executed if that’s discovered proven--or Unfortunately, if she doesn’t cooperate with the Petrov’s interrogations, he can shoot her just the same.

Worse, winter approaches and the cold exacerbates Nadya’s injuries. Nadya She manages to find relief from the crippling pain with morphine, but her CO refuses to let her fly while using it. However, there’s still a way Nadya can get some. [That would make more sense if you said her CO cut off her access to the drug, rather than he refused to let her fly.] The regiment’s doctor has offered to exchange undocumented syrettes for nighttime encounters, and since Rademacher is still out there killing her friends, Nadya is about to find out what she’s willing to do to stop him.

Thanks in advance!


The White Army is as obscure to us as the 586th; we can do without it in the query. The last sentence may be enough to suggest what the rest of the book is about, so even though the previous versions were in good shape, so is this one.

This is just your plot summary; I assume you'll mention at the beginning or end that the all-female regiment was real. Or is there no risk that we'll think you created it as part of your "fictional world"?

It's time to send out a few queries and see what happens, assuming you've put as much effort into the book as the query.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Face-Lift 1287

Guess the Plot

Under the Rainbow

1. A fantastical adventure based loosely on The Wizard of Oz, but instead of meeting hundreds of Munchkins when she gets to Oz, Dorothy meets the over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association.

2. Dorothy, the world's first vampire, must travel to Greed City and convince Satan to release her from the contract she signed hundreds of years ago. Only then can she escape hell and find out once and for all if there's anyplace like home.

3. Mere days after returning to Kansas and professing her wish to never leave again, Dorothy longs for a world with color and the adrenalin rush of fighting witches and flying monkeys. But can she get back to Oz by clicking together the heels of her leather walking shoes?

4. At Area 52, an illegal rave in the Nevada desert, someone spikes the drinks with “Rainbow, a drug that makes speed look like slo-mo. When Marcia learns that Rainbow can only be synthesized in the atomizer her scientist parents designed, she realizes there's more to her nerdy parents than meets the eye. Can she uncover the true source of the drug before she and her friends wind up six feet . . . Under the Rainbow?

5. When Theodore brings his wolfhound Otto along to retrieve his grandmother's silver slippers from an estate sale, he's whisked away in a whirlwind of red tape to a land of drug-dealing imps, bricked music, and witchy strippers.

6. We can be pretty sure that if Dorothy had successfully boarded that hot-air balloon, it wouldn't have ended up in Kansas. Fly with her as the winds carry her to another wondrous land filled with danger and excitement. Also, a wizard who's not a fraud.

7. When gay rights activist and prominent drag queen Tuply Paper Mates is found strangled on a yacht belonging to prominent conservative talk show host Ross Bigelow, the media rushes in to crucify Bigelow. But homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, Mates was shot in the Hollywood Hills, not strangled; and two, having a boat in Marina del Rey probably isn't worth the hassle.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

Dorothy doesn’t remember anything after she’s staked and lands in Hell.

She doesn’t remember the contract she signed with the Devil hundreds of years ago, nor the thousands of people she murdered since then. [Once you've said she doesn't remember anything, no need to list a few individual things she doesn't remember. But since we prefer specifics to generalities, we's rather you get rid of the "doesn't remember anything."] But when an angel breaks into Hell, she tells Dorothy that, at the mere age of seventeen, she sold her soul to Satan for eternal youth, turning her into the world’s first vampire. [So Satan benevolently lets Dorothy exist oblivious to all the horrors she's caused, while this so-called angel spills the beans, sending her on the mother of all guilt trips?]

Now Dorothy’s regained her soul -- along with her guilt -- as part of her punishment. [How did she regain her soul, and why is that considered punishment?] But she learns if she wants a shot at redemption, she must travel to the City of Greed and somehow convince Satan to release her, something never before attempted. [If it turns out all you have to do is ask Satan to release you, a lot of people who've been in hell for centuries are gonna be kicking themselves.]

If Dorothy travels to the distant City, she faces a powerful demon that will stop at nothing to keep her from reaching it, claiming Dorothy is not out to seek redemption but instead to steal her title. [The demon's title? What is her title? Is this title in Greed City?] But if Dorothy stays where she is, [the book will end prematurely.] she faces her ultimate punishment – monster children with razor teeth tearing her apart as she tore others apart on Earth. [Hmm, an obsessed demon or monster children. Tough decision. . . . How many monster children?]

And as her memories start slowly coming back to her, Dorothy begins to realize this powerful demon has some connection to the night she sold her soul. [Why is that important?]

UNDER THE RAINBOW is a YA dark fantasy novel with series potential inspired by The Wizard of Oz, complete at approximately 78,000 words. It is written as a morbid and unusual fairy tale retelling for the audiences who enjoyed A.G. Howard's Splintered series and Danielle Paige's Dorothy Must Die series.

I saw on your website that your represent fantasy, literary horror and young adult. UNDER THE RAINBOW contains elements of each of these, so it seemed like a good match for you.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


If we condense what you've written into something like:

Hundreds of years ago, when she was seventeen, Dorothy signed a contract with the Devil, trading away her soul for eternal life--and becoming the first vampire. Now that she's been staked and sent to hell, she seeks redemption. But to get it she must travel to the City of Greed and convince Satan to release her.

As Dorothy travels to the distant City, she faces a powerful demon that will stop at nothing to keep her from reaching it.

. . . you'll have room to tell us some of what happens. Insofar as you call this a "retelling," I assume Dorothy encounters allies who join her on the journey. Tell us the story, preferably without resorting to simply listing Dorothy's friends and the obstacles they overcome.

Was there small print in the contract that specified her life would be eternal only if she didn't get staked?

Monday, November 09, 2015

Feedback Request

A new version of Synopsis 46 has been posted in the comments there. Your feedback is welcome.

Feedback Request

A new version of the query featured in Face-Lift 1282 has been posted in the comments there, and awaits your feedback.

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Feedback Request

The latest version of the query featured in Face-Lift 1281 is now posted in the comments there.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Face-Lift 1286

Guess the Plot

The Burnt State

1. The Empire is the greatest endeavor in the history of man. Now someone wants to burn down the whole thing. Eldritch was preventing this, but he's given up so it's up to his granddaughter. But what can one six-year-old do?

2. Someone is setting forest fires in Idaho then harvesting the burnt wood to sell as charcoal. The governor enlists the over five thousand members of the American Pawnbrokers Association to investigate and apprehend the perpetrator. But they refuse because they are getting charcoal at a huge discount.

3. Lia is immortal thanks to her phoenix blood giving her the chance to rise from her ashes every 80 years or so. Problem is, her ashes are always transported to a different country and it's a bummer to have to learn new languages and fit in to some weird culture when she has no money or identity there. At the moment she's really loving access to indoor plumbing and smart technology in beautiful Tuscany and so frankly is doing anything to avoid...the burnt state.

4. A pyrokinetic vampire must team up with an asthmatic djinn to save the state barbecue competition after a freak tornado rips through the largest firework show in Oklahoma history. Can ya'll say "firenado"?

5. No longer able to stand the overpriced world of Los Angeles, firefighteer Jessica Maclain moves to Abilene, Texas. But when the drought triggers a massive firestorm, her old captain begs her to return to...the Burnt State.

6. Five medical students at a small New England university do experimental laser neurosurgery on themselves to see if they can make themselves smarter. The laser treatments turn them into geniuses, but the effects are temporary. They persist with the experiment, amaze their professors, and go around town claiming they're a coven of vampires. Their brains are starting to fry.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Eldritch Ramsay is not going to let his grandson die.

He's going to give in and let the Empire, the greatest and most unselfish endeavour in the history of man, burn.

Let the heroes and patriots save it if they can. [Why is that three paragraphs instead of one?] [It's vague. I'd be more interested if I knew specifically what's going on. Apparently someone has told Eldritch, I will kill your grandson unless you let us burn the Empire. Which leads me to ask, How is this one guy preventing those with the power to burn the entire Empire from doing so? It's like the Death Star shows up to destroy her planet, and Princess Leia tells Darth Vader, Don't do it, and he, instead of laughing and just doing it, says, Either you allow me to do it, or I kill Luke.]

On the other side stands Indy Ramsay, his granddaughter. The best of the aforementioned patriots, in heart if not in proven ability.

Many over few. Always. The greater good. Always. This is what her grandfather has taught her. [If I'd known her grandfather was Spock I would have gone with a Star Trek example instead of Star Wars.] ALWAYS.

She will live by it. She will fight, and prove herself worthy of the Empire and the validation that was denied her.

She will ensure the survival of the Empire, Ever Eternal, at any cost. [Who is she, Supergirl? Unless this is a world where disputes between empires are settled by champions in cage matches, I don't see how this one girl/woman fighting can ensure anything.]

Then what if the cost be Eldritch? [The greater good. ALWAYS. She will live by it. Eldritch is screwed.]

THE BURNT STATE is a fantasy novel, complete at 112,000 words. I am an anonymous voice speaking to you from the ether. [I'll do the jokes, if you don't mind.] This is my first novel (If voices can be said to have novels)

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The whole thing is vague. What makes the Empire so great? Who wants to burn the Empire, and why? What's stopping them? It sounds like grandpa has been stopping them, but how? How old is Indy?

It sounds like Indy is the main character. Start with her. Tell us about this validation she was denied. List her super powers. Then tell us how she plans to accomplish her main goal, and what goes wrong. What's her big decision when the moment of truth arrives?

We're more interested in your story than your theme. If you describe the plot well, we'll figure out what the theme is. 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Q & A 190

Should italicized internal dialogue be given a separate paragraph or placed at the end of a paragraph? I'm providing an excerpt from my book [Previously seen here in New Beginning 1047] done both ways.

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school.  She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language.  
            Nothing’s more important than an education. 
The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother's new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before.  Her father brought it home for her to play in.  
The nicest thing he's ever done.  
Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off.  She lived in the next house up the hollow.  Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities.  Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail.  
All she needs is a little motivation.  
Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, "The place of all things possible -- especially you passing the fifth grade so we'll be together in the sixth."
Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one. 
            "A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O," Faith demonstrated her intellect.
            "That's weak.  This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points.  Come on."
            Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word.  
I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can't turn into another punch line.  
“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away.  Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said.  
            My mommy don't like sex.  It's just her job and she told me so.

Inside her first clubhouse, Lacy Dawn glanced over fifth grade spelling words for tomorrow’s quiz at school.  She already knew all the words in the textbook and most others in any human language. Nothing’s more important than an education. 
The clubhouse was a cardboard box in the front yard that her grandmother's new refrigerator had occupied until an hour before.  Her father brought it home for her to play in. The nicest thing he's ever done.  
Faith lay beside her with a hand over the words and split fingers to cheat as they were called off.  She lived in the next house up the hollow.  Every other Wednesday for the last two months, the supervised child psychologist came to their school, pulled her out of class, and evaluated suspected learning disabilities.  Lacy Dawn underlined a word with a fingernail. All she needs is a little motivation.  
Before they had crawled in, Lacy Dawn tapped the upper corner of the box with a flashlight and proclaimed, "The place of all things possible -- especially you passing the fifth grade so we'll be together in the sixth." Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one. 
            "A, R, M, … A … D, I, L, D, O," Faith demonstrated her intellect.
            "That's weak.  This is a bonus word so you’ll get extra points.  Come on."
            Lacy Dawn nodded and looked for a new word. I’ll trick her by going out of order – a word she can't turn into another punch line.  
“Don’t talk about it and the image will go away.  Let’s get back to studying,” Lacy Dawn said. My mommy don't like sex.  It's just her job and she told me so.

I would place internal dialogue in the same paragraph, not a separate one. If it's in a separate paragraph we have no way of knowing which character is thinking it, unless you add an unitalicized tag like "Lacy Dawn thought" or "Faith wondered." Even when the internal dialogue is in the same paragraph, an occasional "she thought" isn't a bad idea, especially if it's not a lengthy thought.

I don't see why Please concentrate, Faith.  Try this one. is internal. Why wouldn't she say it aloud?

It's common for a scene to be described from one character's point of view, and since no one knows what another character is thinking, you wouldn't be able to provide internal dialogue from two different characters in the same scene, as you do here. An omniscient narrator would know everyone's thoughts, but if we have an omniscient narrator, that's one more person to which the italicized words could be attributed if they're in a separate paragraph.

Also, as I said in New Beginning 1047, these particular snippets of internal dialogue aren't especially useful to the narrative. Use it sparingly. If a story is told well, the reader can usually figure out what the characters are thinking. It's when the characters aren't thinking what we'd expect that internal dialogue is most helpful. As in this scene from Annie Hall:

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Face-Lift 1285

Guess the Plot


1. Todd is 16 and he's always wanted to be a girl. He runs away from home and takes a new street identity, "Lily." After a few years of hooking and doing meth, he finds new self-respect and becomes an inspirational speaker at high schools. In the triumphant finale, he wins a $70 million lawsuit against Jodi Picoult for writing his life story as fiction with only slight name changes.

2. In a world where time is currency, the heir is kidnapped as a bargaining chip for a slave's freedom. But does the leader have time to spare? Will the slave run out of time? And would either be good or bad? It's all kind of . . . recondite.

3. Quint invents an AI called "Recondite" that operates on obscurities and abstractions. He loads it into a droid modeled after Robert Pattinson and turns it loose at San Diego State, where it wreaks havoc on the ladies of the French Literature department.

4. An apocalyptic cult named cryptically 'Recondite' hides in the mountains of Montana as a lone FBI agent tries to crack their secrets, hoping for a promotion. Instead, he will get a taste of the end of days.

5. When an agent receives a manuscript with an obscure one-word title, it's up to the more than five thousand member National Pawnbrokers Association to decipher the clues and bring the book to publication.

Original Version

Dear (Agent),

I am sending my query to you in hopes that you will consider representing RECONDITE, a NA contemporary sci-fi novel, complete at 92,000 words. I have included a synopsis and the first 10 pages of my manuscript for your consideration. If you would like a larger sample, or the entire manuscript, you may contact me using the information below my signature. [Zzzzzzzz. Snort. What? Oh, right, queries. Recondite. Wait, that's the title? A word that's obscure, abstruse, and that few people understand? What does it even mean? I'm not interested in a book that makes me feel stupid before I even open it.]

New York City is breeding a terrifying secret. In an underground Compound, [No need to capitalize that.] an ancient community births a hidden society [Are you sure that shouldn't be "an ancient society births a hidden community"?] of people called Recondites. ["Recondite" is a noun?] Enslaved to a debt system where time is currency, Recondite lives are signed away to the Compounds’ [Apostrophe in wrong place.] leader, the Generational. [Since when is "generational" a noun? It sounds like a combination of "general" and "irrational."] With their every move monitored by internal tracking technology, the only way to gain their freedom is to run out of time. [You've run out of time, by which I mean the agent has moved on to the next query. But Evil Editor will forge onward.] ["Running out of time" is considered a bad thing. Gaining freedom is good. Maybe there's a clearer way to state what they must do to gain their freedom.] 

Twenty-year-old Recondite Liam wants out of his servitude, but the disappearance of his sister is the crux in his escape plan. [The crux? That makes it sound like he needs her to disappear. Do you mean the snag/crimp/hitch/stumbling block ?] Riddled with guilt over wanting to leave her behind, Liam decides a trade is the only way to get her back: the Generational’s heir for his sister. [Just one problem, he has absolutely no conceivable way of acquiring the Generational's heir.]

Clueless to her inheritance, twenty-year-old heiress Sahar Ihsan awakes terrified in Liam’s home [The enslaved have their own homes?] with no recollection of how she got there. [Well, that turned out to be easier than I expected.] [Why refer to her as the heir and as the heiress? We might think they're two different people.] Desperate to return home, Sahar tries to figure out their connection. [She has to figure it out? Can't she just ask Liam?] [Also, when you've been kidnapped by a stranger it's often for ransom, and there's no "connection."] [In a world where time is currency, you'd assume a kidnapper would demand time as ransom, but because running out of time is a good thing here, the kidnapper would say, you can have your heir back, but first you have to also take all my time. It makes for a confusing negotiation, akin to a kidnapper in a money-based society paying you to take back his hostage. Which is what happens in "The Ransom of Red Chief." I haven't thought of that in decades.] When Liam is forced to unveil the horrifying secret Sahar’s community has kept hidden from her, Sahar is faced with an impossible decision: take her rightful place as heiress or help free the man she was never meant to meet. [Help free Liam? I thought she was Liam's prisoner, and had to decide whether to help him free his sister.]

RECONDITE is my debut novel. I currently reside in Philadelphia.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Put the first paragraph at the end, and shorten it to one sentence. 

Is everything underground? 

What do you mean by Sahar is "clueless to her inheritance"? Does she not know she's the heir, or just not know exactly what she'll inherit? 

The horrifying secret Sahar's community has hidden from her is that her community has birthed a hidden society of people enslaved to a debt system where time is currency? I doubt she'd find that horrifying. I doubt she'd have any idea what it means.

Dump the whole thing. It's too recondite. Start with something like:

Twenty-year-old Liam wants out of his servitude, but his escape plan hits a snag when his sister goes missing. He decides a trade is the only way to get her back, but first he'll have to kidnap the Generalissimo's heiress. 

Possibly even that leads to too many questions. Maybe start with Sahar waking in Liam's home, where he tells her in clear language what's been going on under her nose.

The important thing is to get to a main character up front. We want to read about people, not communities and societies. And get rid of "Generational" and "Recondite." They're killing you. You know a title sucks when only three people submit fake plots--and I'm not sure whether the first fake plot was supposed to be for this title or another one.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Face-Lift 1284

Guess the Plot


1. The Crucifija, an ancient relic found on a shipwrecked galleon, goes missing while on display in Dallas. Police are stymied. It's up to Herbie Quinn and the more than 5000 strong members of the American Pawnbrokers Associaten to locate the Crucifija before it unleashes its curse.

2. A small Middle Eastern town claims to be the REAL place of Jesus's crucifixion to drum up some controversy (aka tourist dollars). Like The Da Vinci Code but with more sociopolitical conflict.

3. A sixteen-year-old girl has the Cricifija, a medallion that will open the gates of hell and release Satan's army. Her best friend has been kidnapped by a man who wants to use the medallion to start Armageddon. Will she give it to him in time for her and her BFF to go to the spring dance?

4. St. Peter's Crucifija is stolen from the Zurich International Museum. ZIMROS hires the more than 5000 members of the American Pawnbrokers Association to recover it. But the thief escapes to Prague where the APA can't follow because there are only 1314 vacant 3-star hotel rooms.

5. Christ was a woman, Judas knew it and was threatening to out her, Pontius Pilate left a scroll in his tomb revealing the whole thing in Aramaic riddles, and a pair of scholars in the 21st century is putting it all together while evading Vatican assassins.

6. This is the story of the life and death of the Mexican Jesus (Heyjus), set in modern day as he brings his message to the corrupt police and drug gangs of Mexico. Will he risk a repeat of the Crucifija or make for the U.S. border to challenge Trump’s immigration policies?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Sixteen-year-old Ciri is in one Hell of a predicament...

She wants to honor her father's dying wish by keeping the medallion that opens the gates of Hell away from her new stepfather, especially when she realizes her stepfather intends to use the medallion to start Armageddon. [Apparently her father realized the same thing. Otherwise it seems weird to make such a specific dying wish as Don't let your mother's new husband get my medallion.] [When you want to start Armageddon, it's always convenient to be married to the mother of a girl who has a medallion that will open the gates of hell.] But her stepfather has kidnapped her best friend, and will release her once [only when] the medallion is in his possession. Now, Ciri must rescue her best friend without breaking her vow to her father...or unleashing Satan's army. [Breaking her vow and unleashing the army are pretty much the same thing. Unless you're suggesting she might use the medallion to open the gates. You could just change "or" to "and."]

CRUCIFIJA is a 75,000 word YA urban fantasy novel [Wait, that's it for the plot? That's just the situation Ciri finds herself in, possibly in chapter one. We want to know what she does about it, what goes wrong, why her mother married this loser, why her father entrusted the medallion to her instead of tossing it into Mount Doom or the Pacific Ocean or melting it down or giving it to the pope.] that's a hybrid of Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series and Jacqueline Carey's Agent of Hel trilogy, [You should change the title to Hel Kitty.] only with a teenage audience in mind. [Possibly if I'd read these series I'd have some idea what you're talking about, but I haven't, so I looked them up. It seems the Kitty Norville series is about a werewolf named Kitty who hosts a talk radio advice show for the supernaturally disadvantaged; and the Agent of Hel series stars a file clerk whose dad was a demon, and is set (according to Tasmanian author Tansy Rayner Roberts) in a town full of "angry ladies in leather trousers, having lots of sex with monstrous men, and kicking butt." I don't see the resemblance to your book. In any case, I'd rather you used the space to talk about your book than to compare it to other books.] I have been coached by Chuck Sambuchino and Jane Friedman of Writer's Digest. [You have coaches? Is this the next big thing? Although I recommend leaving this out of the query, if you do include it you now have my permission to include Evil Editor on your list of coaches. Specifically, refer to me as "Evil Editor, the most famous editor in the world."] Also, I have participated in the Algonkian Novel Writing Program and the Michigan Writing Workshop. [Not important in your query. Unless you're writing to someone you met when she was a speaker/instructor there.]

Thank you for your time. I look forward to working with you soon.



Whose idea was it to have a medallion floating around that can unleash Satan's army?

God: Okay, I've managed to imprison Satan in the depths of hell where he won't bother anyone.

Angel: Nice work, Dude. But what if the humans need Satan some day, like to help fight off the Borg?

God: Hmm, good point. I know! I'll create a medallion that will open the gates of hell. And I'll entrust it to some random guy who can pass it down through his family for eternity, even if that means it may one day end up in the hands of a sixteen-year-old girl who believes freeing her best friend from a kidnapper is more important than saving the entire human race.

Three sentences is enough to set up the situation. Then add five to seven sentences in which you convince us that you have a compelling story with a main character we'll want to spend hours reading about. Or say nothing about the book, but declare you've been coached by Evil Editor. That's usually enough to close the deal.

Does the medallion depict a crucifix? Why the Spanish title? Are we targeting the Hispanic audience?

Monday, November 02, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured most recently here would like feedback on the query revision below.

Ana is a monster. She was born human like everyone else but one by one everyone else took on physical traits of the animal they were meant to be. Abandoned by her family and feared by everyone around her she has raised herself in the woods for eight years.

One day, her home is set on fire. Before the forest is destroyed, Ana manages to rescue a coyote girl named Arella and her dog brother Rae. Rather than fear her Rae and Arella sympathize, and even offer to let her travel with them. They are going to see a king who might be able to help Ana become like everyone else. She isn’t sure she can trust them but she doesn’t have any other options.

As they travel however, many obstacles arise on their journey. Rae and Arella turn out to be criminals working against the king, guards in every town are after them, and Ana finds herself suddenly displaying uncontrollable powers. Worst of all, the king has secret plans for Ana and her powers. In the end, Ana must decide who to trust in order to understand her powers and finally find peace.

Keeper of the Woods is a 56,000 word middle grade fantasy novel written as a trilogy. I look forward to hearing from you.

Saturday, October 31, 2015