Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in
Face-Lift 1182 has submitted a new version:

Okay, so I've done a pretty major revision of this story. I've also written a totally different query, coming at it from another angle. So please let me know what you guys think of this one:

Dear (agent),

Eighteen-year-old Enid Apcarne is going insane. Literally. It started a couple days ago, about the time her younger brother got kidnapped by vampires. She’s trying to find a way to save him, but the invisible bugs crawling under her skin just won’t let her focus.

Turns out, the madness is a symptom of a genetic condition known as ‘being a Seer.’ When her sanity returns, it comes with uncontrollable new powers. With one touch, she can see a person’s past. Cool in theory, not so much in practice.

Question is: will her new powers help her find the vampires and rescue her brother—or will they only get in the way? With both their lives on the line, all she can do is find out.

BASICALLY HUMAN is a 100,000-word urban fantasy about family, sacrifice, and the realization that loved ones are only human—even when they’re not.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Beginning 1041

They say that space is dark and endless, that it will kill you if you make a single mistake. They’re not wrong, really, but they miss the thing that is most likely to get you killed: your own smart-ass mouth.

When you’re hanging out in a rescue pod, giving up on hope as your water and oxygen dwindle, a person tends to reflect on their life. What you did wrong to come to be in such dire straits, etc. I know what I did wrong.

Let’s rewind. A month ago, I took working passage on a ship headed for Sol. Working because I couldn’t pay, going to Sol because why not? The old vids had a name for people like me: drifter. I have always preferred to think of myself as a child of the stars, bound to no place, a wide-eyed explorer conquering worlds old and new.

Anyway, like I said, I couldn't keep my smart-ass mouth shut.

We're heading for the sun, and I mention to my CO that only Polacks would go to the sun hoping to get there at night.

That's when Lieutenants Kaminski, Lewanski, Sapkowski and Kosti drag me over to the pod, shove me in, and lock the door. Captain Jaromyr Konstantin says something about God, and they launch my pod.

So now I'm hurtling toward the chromosphere and a fiery doom. Who woulda thought a ship called Aina Polka would be based out of Poland?

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Khazarkhum

Monday, February 23, 2015

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Dear Literary Agent... !

Ask about our 2-session discount.

Apply now - Spaces are limited.

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Evil Editor not liable for any medical, psychiatric, rescue or funeral expenses incurred by campers.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Friday, February 20, 2015

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Evil Editor's New Board Game

The game that prepares you 
for your career in publishing.

Click box to enlarge.

Whether you're an editor or a literary agent, an aspiring author or a best-seller, a publisher or an indy bookstore owner, sooner or later you're gonna want to kill someone. So play the game that lets you do just that.

That's all I've got so far, the box and the concept. What I need from you is the text that'll go on the cards (think Chance in Monopoly) 

or the board spaces (think the game of Life).

Those are just examples. Yours should be funnier. Submit as comments.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Feedback Request

Revision of query featured in Face-Lift 1248

Dear Evil Vortex of Evil:

Wayward Collins has worked hard to stay a nobody. But that’s about to change.

Victorian London is a city of ghosts and demons, where unmagickals like Wayward are expendable. Wayward’s built his life around staying well away from everyone’s troubles except his own, but that all changes when [You've just said almost exactly what you said in the first two sentences. Which means you can dump the first two sentences.] a mistake one night leaves him blackmailed into the service of the wizard Lord Cadogan. ["A mistake leaves him blackmailed" is an awkward phrasing. I'm not sure we need the blackmail in the query anyway; if a wizard wants your services, you don't argue, even if he has nothing on you.] Aristocratic and powerful, Cadogan is everything Wayward despises, and he immediately plans to escape. But then one of Cadogan’s footmen is murdered by magical means, and Cadogan takes it upon himself to seek out the culprit. [Why? Would Sauron drop everything to seek the person who murdered one of his orcs? I tried a Darth Vader analogy earlier, but it didn't take.] Wayward might not have magic, but he has plenty of useful arcane knowledge, so Cadogan forces Wayward to assist him. [Useful arcane knowledge that Cadogan doesn't have?]

Wayward is determined to remain uncooperative. But being at Cadogan’s side marks him as a player, and his being involved in the murder investigation draws even more attention. Plenty of people are interested in whether Wayward can be bought or coerced into using his position to their advantage, [His position as a lowly non-magical servant? Hey Wayward, how about getting your wizard boss to make me some gold and jewels and kill my enemies.] and the anonymity that’s always kept him safe begins to crumble. Wayward’s default has always been flight not fight, but with Cadogan breathing down his neck and a non-magical police inspector sure that both Cadogan and Wayward know more than they’re letting on, escape is looking less and less likely. The only option is to do what he’s spent his life avoiding, and get involved—help Cadogan solve the case, try to outfox the police, and figure out how to use his new situation for his own gain. 

It’s a dangerous game for a nobody. It will cost him the secrecy he’s worked so hard to protect, [His anonymity crumbled in the previous paragraph, so it's a little late to worry about it now.] and the security that came with it. Even if Wayward does make it through all in one piece, his old life might not be waiting for him when he gets back. [Is that what he wants? His old life as a nobody? We want to read about someone with higher aspirations.]

Complete at 80,000 words, CHALK CIRCLES is the first of a planned series, but will also work as a standalone. It will appeal to fans of Catherine Webb, Benedict Jacka and Charlie Fletcher. [Never heard of any of them. But then I don't get out much.] I am a remote reader for Creative Authors Ltd, as well as a freelance editor and ghostwriter.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


With Cadogan breathing down Wayward's neck, how can all these other people try to buy or coerce him into assisting them in anything?

The noun Unmagickal has a "k" while the adjective non-magical doesn't. Just another reason the English language is unfathomable to the French. Actually, the word "Unmagickal" makes me think of the word "jackal."

All of that said, it's an improvement. Take out stuff that isn't essential and give Wayward a decent goal.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Feedback Request

Dear Evil Editor,

Please post this new attempt at Face-Lift 1219 for you and your minions. I have taken your comments to heart and continue struggling to improve this query. Hopefully, this latest attempt is closer to the right path.

Dustin Leahry watched the four men on horseback, knowing they’d reach for their guns. His knack for finding trouble that wasn't his own had him facing death again. Usually it took more than twenty-four hours for the stakes to raise this high. But he knew Shelly Cartwright was trouble of the special kind when he first laid eyes on her. [As I recall, the trouble is of the special kind because her land is the last that Benson doesn't own,  not because of what she looks like.] [Change "raise" to "rise" or "get."] [This is reading like an excerpt from the book, possibly the opening lines of the book. We want a summary of the story, not just one scene.]

Shelly hired Dustin the night before, bringing the number of men working her ranch to ten. Ten men working a thirty-thousand acre spread was hard enough. [So each of the men has to work 3000 acres?It takes my four lawn guys about an hour to work my one-acre spread. Which means they could work forty acres in a forty-hour week. That works out to ten acres per man. Either mowing and weed-eating my lawn is a lot more time-consuming than rounding up stray cattle and repairing fences on 3000 acres, or I'm not working my lawn guys hard enough.] [For those who've forgotten their land conversion rates, 30,000 acres is larger than the Bronx, which has a population of 1.3 million. On the other hand, the Cartwright ranch on Bonanza was over 600,000 acres, and worked by only four guys (unless you include Hop Sing). When you added a greedy land baron like August Benson into the mix it became downright dangerous.

Shelly grew up watching her dad’s former friend take control of the ranches of Tom Greene County. Now he had his sights on the Cartwright spread.

Shelly stood tall after her dad died and her mom ran off to the big cities back East. She tightened her belt when she couldn't afford the over-priced goods in Benson’s stores. She worked side-by-side with her men to repair the damage done by his desperadoes. Determined, she’d managed to survive longer than other West Texas ranchers against the scheming of August Benson.

Despite what she’d accomplished, Dustin knew Shelly wasn’t ready to see her men killed by August Benson’s hired guns. So he drew his gun before the men on horseback reached for theirs.

Drifter: San Angelo Showdown, is set in 1885 Texas and approximately 118,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Basically, you've taken part of one brief scene from the book and inserted some backstory.

Here's a tried and true format for a query:

Paragraph 1: The setup. Introduce the main character and tell us what his situation is when things start happening. For instance...

When drifter Dustin Leahry takes a job working on Shelly Cartwright's West-Texas ranch, he has no idea that twenty-four hours later he'll be facing down four gunman. The year is 1885, and Shelly is the county's last holdout against August Benson's land-grabbing scheme. Benson's gunslingers are there to intimidate Shelly into selling . . . or to drive her out by force.

Paragraph 2: The plot. How do the Cartwrights plan to hold out? Why is Dustin still hanging around? Where does their plan go awry? What's plan B? Are they in love already? What happens next?

Paragraph 3: The climax. Everything comes to a head. What happens if Dustin and Shelly fail? Succeed? What crucial difficult choice will make or break the ranch? Are you planning Drifter: Oklahoma City Showdown, or do Leahry and Shelly settle down?

Then the usual wrap-up, with the title, word count, genre.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Hot Babes Holding Evil Editor's Books on Trains

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Valentine Gift

Click strip to enlarge.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Face-Lift 1250 (Already 1/4 of the way to 5000!)

Guess the Plot

Oliver and the Underlings

1. Oliver has been trapped inside a query for months now. Will the creatures who live inside the book help him find a way out before EE rips the query to shreds? 

2. Puberty is a trying time for any teenage boy, but when Oliver finds his balls have learnt to talk life becomes intolerable. Not only do the sentient Underlings chime in at the most inopportune moments, especially when girls are present, but the hot and sweaty atmosphere is making them increasingly irritable. Can Oliver make peace with his testy testes in time to get a date for the junior prom?

3. Fifteen-year-old Ollie is an awkward genius. He invents tiny micro photo-robots, the Underlings, and plants them in cheerleaders' underwear. As girls disrobe, face-blocked photos are posted to a porno website. When three of them are abducted. Ollie knows all about it while the cops clueless. If he gives the data to the police, he goes to prison for teen porn. Somehow he must free the girls and capture the criminals himself.

4. Oliver Wendell Livingston wants to start a ska-steampunk band, like Springheel Jack or Steam Powered Giraffe. His financial adviser father decides to buy him a band that already exists--the struggling Underlings. But can they make beautiful music together, or will Oliver have to retreat to the family basement?

5. Bad enough that the creepy old man who's been after Oliver's mother for years turns out to be Oliver's grandfather; now monsters are coming out of the closet all over town. Oliver puts together a team to deal with the chaos in this middle grade story filled with adult sexual innuendo.

6. Oliver the poodle is highly protective of his family. So when he discovers a group of little goblins living behind the fireplace, he tries to warn the humans. But will they listen before it's too late?

7. Oliver has grand dreams of starting his own Mafia family. Unfortunately, he’s an orphan, his entire family wiped out by an unfortunate accident with a cheese grater and five peaches. If only he could find some underlings willing to crown him their godfather.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

All eleven-year-old Oliver Bradshaw wants is a normal life. A safe place he can call home. [A lavish wardrobe.] Some friends. That's hard to have when his [friends mock him for having a name that's an anagram of "lavish wardrobe" and his] mom is running from a creepy old man, his dad is missing, and monsters are coming out of closets all over his new town. [It's about time wolfmen and vampires and monsters came out of the closet.]

When the monsters kidnap Oliver's classmates, Oliver must enter their world to get them back. [Why is this Oliver's responsibility?] [Grammatically, "their" refers to Oliver's classmates.] [Where is the monsters' world and how does Oliver enter it? Can anyone enter it? By walking into a closet?] He needs an army for this rescue mission. What he has is his quick-to-scare best friend, a devil-may-care bully, and a friendly monster that looks like a wad of chewing gum.

Oliver quickly finds the monsters' world to be a complicated one, full of fighting monster clans and weird technology powered by magic instead of electricity. While there, he runs into his grandfather, a traveler between the two worlds. His grandfather is searching for Oliver's missing dad, kidnapped when Oliver was just a year old, and has recruited the ugliest, meanest-looking monsters in the entire underworld to help him. If that weren't bad enough, [Why is that bad? If you're on a mission in monster land, don't you want the best monsters on your team?] his grandfather is the creepy old man his mom has been running from for years. [Not clear why mom didn't recognize the creepy old man in all those years.]

If Oliver can't sort out his true allies from his enemies, not only will he fail in rescuing his dad and his classmates, but the monster war will spill into his own world, and nowhere will ever be safe again. [He needs a better goal than "sorting out" his allies and enemies. He needs to shut down access to his world by the monsters. How's he plan to do that?]

OLIVER AND THE UNDERLINGS is a 50,000 word middle grade fantasy novel.

By day, I work at a university, writing software to transfer electronic student records from one computer to another. By night, I write fiction to transfer stories from my imagination to the imaginations of others. I view both professions as a kind of magic. [Cute paragraph. Get rid of it.]

I have published short fiction in markets such as Spider, Stories for Children, knowonder! magazine, and Kids'Magination. I am also a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature and the Gotham Writers' Workshop, and I am a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

Thank you for the opportunity to present my work to you. My novel is complete should you desire to see more.



You say nowhere will ever be safe again if the monster war spills into our world, but as the monsters are already coming out of closets all over town and kidnapping people, is anywhere safe even now?

It's kind of listy. A list of stuff Oliver wants, of stuff that's going on, of characters who are his underlings and of stuff he finds in the monsters' world. Try to limit yourself to one list, and tell us the story rather than listing elements of the story . . .

. . . Which will be easier to do if you focus on one plot line. When monsters cross into our world and kidnap all of Oliver Bradshaw's classmates, it's up to Oliver to recruit a hostage rescue team. Unfortunately, the only allies he can find are his quick-to-scare best friend, a devil-may-care bully, and a friendly monster that looks like a wad of chewing gum.

Getting there is the easy part--every bedroom in town is a portal to monsterland. But . . .

Now you can tell us their plan and what goes wrong and why failure is not an option. 

Monday, February 09, 2015

Face-Lift 1249

Guess the Plot

The Water Still Rules

1. That old maritime saying, "Ships might sail on the surface, but the water still rules" (which I made up) inspired this story about a 17-year-old female Spartacus (even though the book has no ships or water; it does, however, have a magic tree).

2. Joy and Rock want their daughter Sylvia to take over the family drug smuggling business, but all she wants is to read pulp fiction. They hire a former teen idle to seduce her … but the plan backfires when his decapitated body washes up on the shore of their beach bungalow.

3. When Olaf Ardnolfson wakes up on an island, he has nothing but his sword, his clothes, and a vague recollection of the longship going under. He's not alone; there's a beautiful woman with a black dress and a belt of sealskin with him. But is she real--or a selkie?

4. Chloe loves the wet climate she lives in, but realizes the water has a mind of its own when her dates start disappearing on rainy nights. Are they really not that into her, or is the water a jealous and evil lover?

5. Apocalyptic Venice is overrun by masked goblins. Pierro’s sister is determined to join the goblins as their pet assassin, and his mother is too busy with her cheese business to pay attention to the goblin threat. Pierro must defeat the goblins and save Venice – but Venice has its own ideas about that.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

My YA Fantasy at 75,000 words, THE WATER STILL RULES, [My YA fantasy THE WATER STILL RULES, complete at 75,000 words] is the story of a teenage girl with magical abilities who is forced to fight as a gladiator. Spartacus meets the rich world building of Rae Carson’s A Girl of Fire and Thorns and a fierce female lead like Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. [When you say "a fierce female lead like..." you need to follow with the name of a fierce female lead, not the title of a series. You can then add the series title as in: . . . a fierce female lead like Celaena Sardothien from Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series.] [Personally, I'd rather you talk about your story than liken it to Spartacus but with the Kirk Douglas role being played by Miley Cyrus.] [There's not enough to like about that paragraph to justify starting the query with it. Put the title, word count and genre toward the end. And resist mentioning Spartacus.]

For seventeen-year-old Aelia, life is a play [game] of hide-and-seek to protect the last Soultree on Earth - and the magic inside it - in the hopes that one day it will grow strong enough to aid her in freeing her people. Not like [that] she minds; hiding is better than being a slave to the Marasans – the people who took over their kingdom, enslaving or killing anyone with the ability to draw magic from the tree. [How is she protecting the tree if she's hiding? Is she the only one who knows where the tree is?] [In any case, I don't like the hide and seek analogy. 

But when she gets captured by the owner of a famous gladiator school, Saro, being a slave becomes the least of her worries. [The least? I would put it pretty close to the top of her list, right below the fact that her first match is against Borgo the Disemboweler.] Saro intends to make [back] every last [piece of] gold he spent on capturing her back by making her fight in the arena. [Why is he spending his gold capturing seventeen-year-old girl slaves who probably won't last two minutes in the arena? He should be capturing linebackers and lumberjacks.] With her family dead, her tree far away, she cannot rely on anybody but herself. To her surprise, though, she finds friends at the house. [The house? You haven't mentioned a house. I assume you mean the school?] People who make the endless days of work and training endurable. Especially Zenon, who trains Aelia for her first fight, and who - with his mischievous smile and honesty - starts to feel more than just a friend. But with that first fight coming up, she has to decide - they say escaping is impossible, but staying means hurting the very people she swore to protect. [Or getting killed without hurting anyone. Do they fight to the death?] [Escaping won't help the people she swore to protect. Even if she could get to her tree, the tree isn't strong enough yet to aid in freeing her people. Plus, how will she know the Marasans didn't let her escape so they could follow her to the last Soultree on Earth and destroy it?

Thank you for your time and consideration.


P.S.: My title comes from a saying "Ships might sail on the surface, but the water still rules." There's a revolution at the end of my book. The saying refers to the slaves as the water and the masters as the ships. [In other words, the masters sail on the surface but the slaves still rule? That doesn't hold water. I think it means that we may think we've conquered Mother Nature with our titanic ships, but one big storm at sea will show us that she still rules.]


While I realize that some men get off on watching girls fight, if you want to fill an entire arena, you need athletic gladiators who are juicing. Not teenage girls. A T-ball game isn't gonna fill Yankee Stadium.

Your fierce female lead spends her youth hiding, then gets captured. We want to know something she does that's useful. Get beyond the setup of her hopeless situation and tell us what her plan is, what goes wrong, what will happen if she fails to overcome the odds stacked against her.

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Liift 1248 has posted a new version of the query in the comments there, and awaits your feedback.

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Evil Editor Comics

EE's First Meeting with Grisham

Click strip to enlarge.

EE's Latest Meeting with Grisham

Click strip to enlarge.

Saturday, February 07, 2015

The Grisham Interview

It's John Grisham's birthday weekend, so what better time to revisit this rarely seen interview which was unearthed by ril back in 2009:

Friday, February 06, 2015

New Beginning 1040

The car was red and shiny-bright against the dusty road. The desert stretched away on every side; pale beige dust and darker dirt, little scrubby washed-out green stumps of plants, and occasionally a saguaro cactus, tall and faded, stretching its spiked arms up towards the bright blue sky.

The car, a Mustang convertible of indeterminable age and heritage, sped northwards, billowing white dust, a shining red dragon speeding onwards through its own smoke. The driver was a slim man, tall when standing, with a young, pleasant, handsome face. His hair was dark, ruffling in the wind, and his hands were long and elegant, pianist’s fingers that gripped the steering wheel. His eyes were dark, dark, dark blue; almost black in some lights, almost turquoise in others. He gazed steadily at the empty road ahead, occasionally glancing at the girl in the passenger seat next to him.

The girl was younger than him by perhaps ten years; also slim, also tall, with the same dark, dark, dark eyes. She sat very low in the seat in a position that should have looked ungainly, but which she somehow managed to imbue with a kind of languid grace that Cleopatra would have envied. Her hair was long and straight and dark, and the wind lifted it and played with it caressingly.

‘India,’ said the driver, her uncle Matthew.

She looked across at him.

He smiled. ‘Do you want the roof down?’

She shook her head. ‘No. Just keep driving.’

‘As you wish,’ he said.

India tried to concentrate on what lay ahead. Before too long, they would leave the freeway in her mother's red Ford Mustang convertible GT/CS with dark dark leather bucket seats, passing through little dusty towns until they reached the dark dusty place where her grandfather had died in a fiery crash all those years ago. She and Matthew, the last of his descendants, would perform the ritual and honor the memory of one who died so far from home.

"Here we are," said Uncle Matthew.

So soon? Sighing, India looked up at the sign.


Opening:.Alice Smales....Continuation: Khazarkhum

Monday, February 02, 2015

Face-Lift 1248

Guess the Plot

Chalk Circles

1. Wayward Collins has no magical abilities, which means he has to stay hidden from all the magicians and wizards and sorcerers vying for control of London. Will a wizard trap Wayward and enlist him to investigate a murder, or will Wayward escape by standing in a chalk circle?

2, Three years ago, before the bad witch pulled a Rip Van Winkle, she bound Eloise's sister in black circles underground. Eloise must find her grimoire in the tangles of the witch's hair, and rescue her sister before the witch wakes up and releases her legions of bat demons.

3. Pappy Chalk founds Chalk's Ocean Airways in 1917 and it operates until it's eventual obsolescence in 2007. Ninety years of adventures with sea plane passenger service between south Florida and the Bahamas are detailed in this true life saga. Chalk's was the oldest continuously operating airline in the world. The passengers included the rich and the famous from the roaring twenties to the high tech twenty-first century.

4. Demons are ready to invade your world and there is only one thing stopping them: Chalk Circles. Every time a teacher drew an "O" on their chalk board, a demon lost his portal. But with the advent of digital technology, fewer chalk "O's" have been obliterating the demon portals. Now a coalition of hipster teachers, led by Dexter Kale Haven (Dexter to his students), is all that stands between Earth and a demon invasion.

5. Every day after school, 14 year old Paisley Plottz takes Grandpa's strange old book into the yard and tries to make magic come alive. She burns her fingers, knocks over the fence, and makes the cat go bald, but nothing exciting really happens--until the day she draws the chalk circle.

6. It started with simple chalk squiggles. Then, they became drawings of children. Who were playing in fields--fields of corn. Circles started to appear. Was it ... aliens? 

Original Version

Dear Evilness,

London, 1867. The city is full of magical communities, all with their own agendas, [each with its own agenda?] all determined to own the streets. Those without magic are expendable, and for Wayward Collins, a man with no magic, no money, and no power, remaining hidden is the only way to be safe. [What about moving to Liverpool? Can't he move to Liverpool?] Magical politics are cutthroat even for magic users—Wayward getting involved would be suicide. He stays hidden, he stays neutral, and he stays alive. [I would drop those last two sentences; they either repeat what's been said or state the obvious.] But a miscalculation one night has tragic consequences, and he is trapped into the service of the wizard Lord Cadogan.

Rich, powerful and well bred, Cadogan is everything Wayward despises, and he immediately starts planning his escape. [Moving to Liverpool would have been easier than escaping from Cadogan will be. Plus once he escapes from Cadogan, he's still gonna have to move to Liverpool because he's right back in the same boat.] [Now that you've dropped a couple sentences from Paragraph 1, you can tack that sentences onto the end. It makes more sense there than here with the following sentence.] For his part, Cadogan sees Wayward as a coward without moral code or good manners—but even cowards can be useful, and when one of Cadogan’s footmen is murdered by magical means, Cadogan drags Wayward along with him into the ensuing investigation. [My footman's been murdered and I need someone to work the investigation with me. Should I use one of my trusted apprentices or . . . this coward with no moral code who slurps his soup?]

Although determined to drag his heels [while being dragged,] out of pure principle, Wayward’s attitude of studied isolation is shaken by unexpected events in the household, and suddenly everything becomes more complicated. [That was all pretty vague. If you don't have room to be specific about the "unexpected events" and "everything," just drop the sentence. ] The dead footman had his own secrets, certain magical factions are suddenly interested in the whole affair, and one particular police inspector [named Lestrade] just won’t leave the matter alone. Dogged by forces magical and mundane, Wayward is unwillingly entangled in the magic and power brewing in the heart of the city. Even if he manages to escape Cadogan, he must play very carefully to ensure he doesn’t end up as a pawn in the magical plots he’s spent his whole life trying to avoid. [Exactly. He's in the same boat. Explain what he's got against Liverpool.] [Also, why is it Liverpudlian instead of Liverpoolian? They do that with Blackpudlian too, but my question is, if they made a movie about a monster who rises from a toxic cesspool, would it be a cesspoolian monster or a cesspudlian monster?]

CHALK CIRCLES is a historical fantasy novel complete at 75,000 words. It is the first of a planned series, but will also work as a standalone novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Not badly written, but I'm sure your main character must have a more intriguing goal than to fade back into anonymity. Escaping from Lord Cadogan and going back into hiding is nothing. Maybe the unexpected events in the household that you fail to tell us about should be the crux of the query. Maybe Wayward wants to save London from its current chaotic state. What's he got going for him? Can Cadogan grant him magical powers? If he doesn't get involved in the magical plots he’s spent his whole life trying to avoid, wouldn't we rather read about someone who does?

Lord Cadogan caring about a dead footman is like Darth Vader caring about a dead storm trooper. Explain why he and other factions and Lestrade are so interested in this case.

Enjoy the first film in this double feature; it involves a chalk circle:


New Beginning 1039

My desires, before becoming one of the undead, were simple: party every night, and violate a goddess for hours. I achieved the former easily in my house in the English countryside, but was not naked with a goddess until my summer solstice orgy of seventeen sixty-three.

I was carefree and aroused on that hot, breezy night. Nothing was going to stop me from bedding every woman I pleased. But all I wanted was one of the thirteen naked women—referred to as goddesses, and hired to manage my biggest party of the year—to choose me as her pet. They were prostitutes with a mysterious pimp whose face I never saw without a mask. He went by Vlad. A friend of a friend had recommended him. I would mail a letter requesting his services, and a crow would return the next day with his obliging reply on crisp paper. A trained crow was a strange and wonderful creature to have.

The party began in my massive, oval shaped gilded ballroom used mostly for drunken, dirty dancing. Nearly one thousand people wearing Venetian masks stood under crystal chandeliers ablaze with lit white candles. Curious cherubs, virile gods, and sensuous goddesses watched us from the fresco on the ceiling. Whenever I looked up, I scowled. What did they care? Why wouldn’t they join us.

That's when I broke out my hunting rifle.

I had it tucked down the leg of my modestly Satanic trousers in the hope of attracting goddess after goddess, but if I was going to be ignored I was left with no alternative. When I put on my costume it was an easy matter to slip the rifle down past my hip; not so the unusually acrobatic feat of taking it out again while surrounded by hundreds of cavorting harlots. The best I could do was to unzip my flies to reach for the trigger and aim the gun by raising a leg. When it went off, I nearly lost a shoe, but those first few shots did the trick.

Goddesses and wrinkled bankers scattered in a reverse tsunami of panic and entrails. I could barely contain my excitement, hopping beneath the chandeliers with the devil-may-care pluck of a mongrel pissing on the door of a church.

Then a voice cried out — a pained voice.

"Stop Sir, please stop right away."

From the squirt of blood, the shrieks of horror, a tiny girl appeared, teddy bear clutched to her Marilyn Manson T Shirt.

"Those Satanic trousers of yours would fetch a mint on Ebay, but if you keep bouncing around like that you'll split the crotch. What say you take them off and we post a bid right now? I'll take the first hundred quid and you can keep the rest. You can even borrow a spare pair of my Daddy's trousers for a tenner if you like, unless it's your preference to continue romping around this Bacchinalian revel in your underwear like the people dressed as Satyrs."

My leg de-cocked, my hip clicked, and my eyebrow shot up. At that moment I must have looked like I was selectively epileptic.

"Fine," I said, "all we need now is a monkey wrench."

Opening: CavalierdeNuit.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Friday, January 30, 2015

Face-Lift 1247

Guess the Plot

Dragon Bait

1. Sluggish creatures! How can we get human women to hump us again? We must lose weight and offer ourselves as exotic dancers in bowties. We'll rule as the world's sexiest monsters!

2. In this hard-hitting expose of Chinese restaurant menus, journalist Kaley Higgenbothams unravels the secret of General Tsao's chicken. Also, fried rice.

3. With his hypnotic eyes (transplanted from a dragon), and his velvet top hat, Uncle Joe hunts down and kills Red "traitors" in 1950s America. The daughter of one of his innocent victims seeks revenge, but first she'll have to get past the dragons protecting Uncle Joe's TV station.

4. Lorelei kept pestering her older brother and his friends to let her join their knight-in-shining-armor game, but when the young girl finds herself tied to a stake and sees an actual dragon swooping toward her, she wonders if she shouldn't have stuck with playing house.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

It’s a 1950s where dragons rule the skies and the nearly-human Dragonlord rules the Americas. [Also, a 1950s where America doesn't have an air force of lethal fighter jets.] The Dragonlord’s carefully chosen Draconem hunt down and eliminate Red traitors. The Draconem used to be human until their eyes were cut out and replaced with the mesmerizing eyes of young dragons. [I heard they've experimented with transplanting pig hearts into people, but I didn't realize those people would then be described as "used to be human."] [Is "used to be human" (draconem) the same as "nearly human" (Dragonlord)?] Leading the charge is the Dragonlord’s favored Draconem, Uncle Joe.
With his hypnotic eyes, his crushed velvet top hat, and his pointy white beard, Uncle Joe has the nation’s devotion. And its fear.

Catherine Pearce is stunned when Uncle Joe announces her dad is a traitor on national television. She sprints home, only to pull her dad’s lifeless body from their burning home. Cat knows her dad was innocent. It was his unsanctioned science experiments that made him a danger to the Dragonlord’s power, not his loyalties. [The Dragonlord was being paranoid. Dad's experiments transplanting dragon mouths onto dogs would never have led to an army of fire-breathing poodles.]

Cat’s mother leaves Cat with her wealthy yet aloof Great-Aunt Ro in a misguided effort to protect Cat. Bullying and loneliness fuel Cat’s desire for revenge against Uncle Joe, and his television station is right in her hometown. Sure, it’s surrounded by dragons, and whenever Uncle Joe looks into your eyes, you have to obey him, but Cat’s pretty sure she can figure out some way around that. [X-Ray specs.] She’s got her Dad’s old notes, her own burning hatred, and her Aunt Ro’s influence at her disposal.

DRAGON BAIT is an upper MG Fantasy complete at 63,000 words. As per your guidelines, I have included [whatever the guidelines say] below. Thank you for your time and consideration.



If, as seems likely, this is meant to be analogous to 1950s US history, I'm not sure middle graders will get that.

Examining the analogy (for our foreign readers), the 1950s was the period of "McCarthyism," when Senator Joe McCarthy led a movement of "red baiting" (which consists of accusing people of being communist, socialist, anarchist... ). In your book, it's the 1950s, and Uncle Joe is out to get Red traitors. The title suggests that maybe dragons are replacing communists, but it turns out the "enemy" is still "Reds," while the dragons are on Joe's side.

So here's how to change the book:

Instead of 1950s USA, set it someplace innocuous, like maybe a farm. Dragons fly around minding their own business. Some of them help the farmers (like Superman does, except with fire breath instead of heat vision). Jo-rah (a giant hog who resembles Godzilla) wants to shoot down all the red dragons because he thinks they're all menaces (actually, they're no worse than the purple and green dragons), just because there are lots of red dragons in the faraway land called Stollen.

My point being that in Animal Farm, the setting and all the characters represent some entity.

Of course, I could be way off. Maybe what you're going for is not allegory, but alternate history. A novel that explores what McCarthyism would have been like if dragons really existed.

In any case, I think we need to get to Catherine a lot sooner. Obviously you don't want to end the query by saying: Also, dragons. But if you start by introducing your world, drop the Dragonlord and draconems and just let us know dragons exist and a mesmerizing TV personality named Uncle Joe rules the country through fear. Then on to Catherine.

Or start with paragraph 2, slipping in important facts about the world (like that there are dragons) whenever you get the chance.

You might want to include what dad's unsanctioned experiments were all about so we know he wasn't a mad scientist experimenting on human children, and thus even worse than Uncle Joe.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Success Stories

Success as a writer can be measured in many ways. Money: You rake in the big bucks. Reviews: You win awards and the critics adore you. History: People still read your books though you died two centuries ago. Popularity: You just gained thousands of followers on social media. Volume: You churn out 5 books a year, and most of them sell to major publishing houses. Fame: You're invited to be on Celebrity Apprentice and Dancing with the Stars.

On this blog we consider any accomplishment a success story, but for this post I decided to check in on the authors whose success consisted of getting their first book published after seeking help from EE and his minions, to see if they went on to further success. Some writers sell one novel and that's it (which is fine - it puts them in company with Harper Lee). But it turns out a lot of authors, after informing us of their first sale, vanish into the world of book tours and deadlines, leaving us in the dark regarding their later successes.

Below are updates on ten authors. None of these authors had had books published before they posted here. Presumably none of them had literary agents. It happened to them. It could happen to you.

The names of the authors are links to their Amazon pages, in case you want to see their other book covers.  I've also provided links to some of their query "Face-Lifts."

10. Mara Purnhagen

Both the query and opening of Tagged, Mara's 1st published YA novel, appeared here. She went on to publish 5 more books for Harlequin Teen.

9.  Suzanne van Rooyen

After her query appeared here, this South African author (now living in Finland) went on to land a NY agent. Besides the three pictured novels, her novel I Heart Robot will be out later this year. The book she queried here apparently hasn't sold . . . yet.

8. Marissa Doyle

Bewitching Season, 1st book of a YA trilogy, received a starred review in Booklist. Marissa, frequent contributor of continuations and cartoon captions, has two other books out besides the three pictured here. We had the opening of Bewitching Season on the blog, though research suggests we talked her into a different opening.

7. Jack D. Ferraiolo

After the query for The Big Splash, a middle-grade noir detective novel, appears here, the book not only goes on to publication, it garners a glowing NY Times review and a 2009 Edgar Award nomination. The Quick Fix is a sequel, and Sidekicks is a stand-alone superhero novel.

6. Beth Revis

Across the Universe (an Amazon best book of the month) Shades of Earth (Kirkus starred review) and A Million Suns made up a successful YA series. We did the query for Across the Universe under the title A Long Way Home. Beth also has short stories in some impressive anthologies.

5. Rachel Aaron

We had the query for The Spirit Thief; the book got a starred Booklist review. There are now 5 Eli Monpress books out (Legend of... compiles the 1st three). Rachel's most recent book is Nice Dragons Finish Last and she also has four science fiction books out under the name Rachel Bach.

4. Stacia Kane

Besides her urban fantasy demon and ghost series, Stacia has several books out under the name December Quinn.

We had the query for her 1st "Downside Ghosts" book as well as the query for Personal Demons. And she contributed numerous openings and continuations under both names

3. Kiersten White

Author of numerous cartoon captions, openings, and writing exercises on this blog, Kiersten credited our help with her query for Flash with helping her land the agent who has sold her many YA novels. Kiersten has a new 3-book series beginning in 2016, which should get her into double figures if she isn't already.

Her last contribution to the Evil Editor blog was this parody of "The Raven" in our annual Write like Poe exercise. It seems to suggest she'll be back, but six years later we're still waiting.

2. Maggie Stiefvater

The minions' comments on Maggie's
query for The Horses of Roan, though that book didn't sell, were undoubtedly responsible for her future success as a YA author. The starred reviews her books have received in Publishers Weekly, Booklist, School Library Journal and Kirkus Reviews are way too many to count. A couple of these books were #1 NY Times bestsellers.

A search for her name on the blog turned up no other queries or openings, but did turn up two queries in which other authors declare that their books should appeal to fans of Maggie Stiefvater. You know you've made it when people think dropping your name will help them make it.

1. Jenna Black

The six pictured books include one each from each of Jenna's series, which add up to 20 books in urban fantasy, YA fantasy,  YA science fiction, and paranormal romance. She also has a new horror series coming, with the 1st book scheduled for a 2016 release.

Jenna posted two openings on the EE blog before landing her agent. Also, she's the only person to have both commented on the first Evil Editor blog post and attended the first Evil Editor book chat, which helped push her into the top spot.