Friday, July 29, 2011

New Beginning 872

She did not feel the knife cut. She did not notice herself bleeding. But she did see the look on his face as he thrust at her again and again. It was twisted. Maniacal. She still had a coffee in her hand. She was still in a commute mindset, trying to avoid offending others.

Suddenly another man who was not in commute mode. He picked up her attacker and threw him to the ground. The attacker backed up saying he was sorry, saying he wouldn't do it again, swearing he had rights. Linda was already on her knees.

The man kicked her attacker, then grabbed his wrist. He was ready for the knife thrust and her attacker screamed. It was a high-pitched wail, followed by cries of 'I've got rights, I've got rights.' But Linda Gurman was already lying down in a pool of her own blood.

“You can't have this one, brother. I will make her sleep and dream healing dreams.”

“I never take what's yours. It is always you who cheat me of whatever you can. It's one of your most endearing traits. But I am not after her. I am here for that man.”

Morpheus looked where his brother indicated. An overweight man sat dozing in the corner, drool forming at the edge of his open mouth, his hair slicked down like a wet otter. And those muttonchops . . . like the contents of the lint catcher on a clothes dryer had finally been cleaned out after six months and glued onto his jowls.

Morpheus was about to say, He's all yours, brother, when his iPhone dinged. He listened awhile, then said, "Sorry, you can't have this one either. Apparently he has a deal with the devil. Gets to live till he's sold every copy of Novel Deviations."

"Shit. You know what that means? He's virtually immortal!"

"True, but look on the bright side," Morpheus said. "Someone finally got the best of Satan."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Evil Editor

Cartoon 960

Caption: Whirlochre

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Face-Lift 935

Guess the Plot


1. When her guardian is kidnapped by the god of nightmares, Penny must develop the ability to manipulate dreams in order to rescue him.

2. The well-known Adobe web-building application must lead a band of elite software products to save the world from the evil Emperor Analog. When Adobe is unable to decide on a single partner, PageMaker and Illustrator fully integrate with her in a seamless, turnkey solution.

3. A lonely programmer's quest to sell his website creation program to the world. Versus an unscrupulous group of hackers who want to keep website creation exclusive, and will stop at nothing to...stop him. Based loosely on the story of Adobe Dreamweaver.

4. Larry and Sam set out to be the best web designers in Milwaukee, but it all goes bad in a bout of rum-fueled madness in which Larry kisses their first and only client on the lips. Mistook him for a girl, somehow. Turned out he's a vampire. And now, so is Larry.

5. Just as Jayna finishes the sixth in her best-selling series, writer's block hits. Desperate to fulfill her contract, she resorts to weaving single plagiarized sentences from other books into one unified novel. And she would have got away with it, if it weren't for the nerd fan wiki started by those meddling kids.

6. The true story of Tennessee Walking Horse Dreamweaver, her devoted family, and their long journey to a national championship.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Penny can't sleep. Well, it's not that she can't, she just doesn't want to. [Are you aware that your second sentence would be unnecessary if your first sentence were Penny doesn't want to sleep? Of course you aren't. That's the difference between a writer and a world-famous editor.] Dreaming of an ocean full of bodies and one helluva scary dude every night is no fun at all. A strange guy named Nyxon shows up and can hopefully explain her freaky dreams. ["Strange" is vague. Either delete it or elaborate.] [And why is she hopeful that a complete stranger can explain her dreams? Who even tells a complete stranger her dreams?] Instead, he tells her she's not entirely human. [People tell me that all the time. I don't think they mean it as a compliment.] Then, her family-friend-turned-guardian is kidnapped and there's not much Penny can do about it without this stranger's help. [Didn't Penny's family-friend-turned-guardian ever tell her not to talk to strangers? She not only talks to this stranger, she's become unhealthily dependent on him.]

Nyxon is part human and part dream god – an Oneironaut – and has spent years training to become a leader of his kind. Now, he's been sent on a mission to find Penny, whom the god of nightmares, Icelos, finds very interesting. [Has he been sent by Icelos, or to protect her from Icelos?] When Penny's talents of manipulating the dream world start to equal his own, Nyxon isn't sure he wants to help her hone her powers. [Just when I was thinking Nyxon helping Penny find her guardian was the main plot, you've abandoned it for this rivalry over dream manipulation.] [Last I heard, Penny didn't even want to sleep; suddenly she's a master dream manipulator?] Another thing he'd like to figure out is why he finds her so damn fascinating. [The god of nightmares finds her very interesting and the dream god finds her damn fascinating. If you thought Frost/Nixon was tense, wait till you see Icelos/Nyxon.]

With the help of Nyxon and the other Oneironauts, Penny must prepare for what she might meet in the dream world in order to save her guardian. In her dreams, Penny sees things that make her think Icelos is not just a small-time kidnapper, but something much worse. [A big-time kidnapper.] [How does she know Icelos is the kidnapper?] And, while she is just discovering who and what she is, the god of nightmares is plotting to make his sinister dreams become reality.

DREAMWEAVER is a YA fantasy complete at 60,000 words. It is the first in a planned trilogy, the second of which is my current work-in-progress [and the third of which is my future work-in-progress]. (A sentence or two about why I am querying this particular agent) Thank you for your time and consideration.


What I gather from the Google Dolls (That's what I call the women I hired recently to do my Googling.) is that oneironauts study and interact with their own and other people's dreams, as in The Cell and Inception. Not that they're any kind of god. I suggest calling your dream god a dreamweaver.

How old is Penny? When I hear that name I think of someone no older than eight.

Why didn't Icelos kidnap Penny?

Are you wedded to the name Nyxon? Everyone's gonna think of Richard Nixon. It's like calling him Hitlur. Distracting.

I would start with the kidnapping. Then Nyck shows up and introduces himself as? And reveals to Penny that her guardian was kidnapped by Icelos? And that she can save him if he helps her hone her dreamweaving skills? Which he'll do if she agrees to be his girlfriend? Am I getting any of this right? Basically, focus on Penny's problem and her plan and what happens if it all goes wrong. And try to work in who Penny is. Is she a high school student? Do these gods who find her fascinating look like teenagers or old men?

Cartoon 959

Caption: John

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Beginning 871

The small crowd applauded at the previous answer, the contestant sat with the others, all pretty, all done to the nines. Make-up just so, dresses all alike, smiles fixed on with Vaseline petroleum jelly.

“And now we'll hear from Miss Des Moine, Jennifer Haynes.”

Jennifer Haines walked up in stairs and to the microphone. She looked to the audience, her smile as in place as her brown hair.

“Distinguished judges, ladies and gentlemen. If I could be anyone in history, I would be Adolf Hitler.” The audience sucked its collective breath. “I don't think I could be as smart as Cicero, as courageous as Winston Churchill, or, alas, as honest as George Washington. But I would also not be as evil as Hitler, I could stand and say no to the things he did. I could turn away from wrong. And if the world seems to lack heroes, maybe it needs to start with people who will just say no to doing wrong.”

The applause was more than polite, it was stunned polite. People were out of sync, starting way too early or way to late, and sometimes starting, stopping, and starting again.

“Did you get that? Did you get that?”

“It's not like a war or sporting event, I point the camera and it gets all the action. Jeez, Jekkie, like I don't know what I'm doing.”

“It's not like that, Henry. I'm going to lead with this, tonight. It's gold.”

"I'll admit it was refreshingly original," Henry said. "But no one will care unless she wins."

"She'll win. The parade of Abe Lincoln and Sarah Palin wannabes was putting everyone to sleep."

The contestant had returned to her seat and Miss Cedar Rapids had moved to the microphone. "If I could be anyone in history," she said, "I would be Osama bin Laden."

Jekkie's mouth hung open. "You gotta admit one thing, Henry," he said. "For once the Miss Teen Jewish Princess of Iowa Contest is worth covering."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: EE/Anon.

Cartoon 958

Caption: Redstar

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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Face-Lift 934

Guess the Plot

Outcasts of Velrune

1. In a totally unprecedented twist, it turns out that the gritty underground resistance to a feelgood totalitarian society is actually where it's at. The kickass heroine doesn't know whom to trust. And the fate of a planet hangs in the balance.

2. Kal'Ta'Rel, Herenvas, and Jolue are sentenced to hang for the murder of popular Dike Nakora. But before they can swing, the wizard KarKaChel frees them, sending them stumbling down the street. Now all they have to do is kill that pesky demon, Archy.

3. When the frontier planet of Velrune decides to clean up its act, it banishes a prostitute, a procuress, a drunk, and an infamous gambler. The four hapless Outcasts, led by the gambler, meet up with a pair of runaway lovers. The rest is history. If you can call something that happens in the future history.

4. Three Velrunian criminals are exiled to the Gohr prison planet, Lycus IV. Of course, what passes as major crime on Velrune (spitting on the sidewalk, undertipping a waiter) doesn't exactly prepare one to live among mass murderers and cannibals. Can these three plucky outcasts not only thrive, but rise to lead a revolution?

5. On a distant planet known as Velrune, humans are supposedly coexisting with Lacarna, a race of human-like beings with cat features. But the humans have enslaved the Lacarna, and a plot is afoot to wipe them out. It's up to two teens, one a human and the other a Lacarna, to prevent genocide . . . and find true love.

6. The nerds and fat kids and skaters are high school outcasts on Earth, but on Velrune it's the athletes and preppies and beautiful people who are outcast. Can Muffy and Landon show the world that there's no stigma to being being attractive and popular?

Original Version

My 84,000-word novel, Outcasts of Velrune, is a fantasy adventure set in its own world [We assume a book is set in its own world.] and features two races, Humans and Lacarna. [The first sentence of a query isn't the place to work in the number of races your novel "features." I'm sure Dan Brown's query didn't proclaim in sentence 1 that "The Da Vinci Code features one race: Humans."] The Humans are like us, [We assume Humans are like us.] with the exception of a few that live for centuries. [If the only difference is that a few of them get older than we do, you're spending too much time contrasting them to us. Basically, they're us.] The Lacarna are Humanlike, [Okay, I think I've got it now. The Humans are like humans, whereas the Lacarna are Humanlike.] but have ears, tails and claws similar to cats. [Ah, the Lacarna are like the performers in Cats.] [Saying a race is Humanlike when it has ears, tails and claws like cats is like saying they're catlike but with arms, legs and heads like humans.] [Or, to get my point across more clearly, it's like saying, They're Humanlike, but with an elephant face, a giraffe neck and a stegosaurus tail.] A few Lacarna can transform into large [Humanlike] panthers. [Out of curiosity, are we going to get to some characters and a plot?] Both races can learn to manipulate the spirits that exist in all living things [and are fascinated by yarn, while neither race has an interest in horticulture or Creole cooking].

The story centers on Maxwell, a 16 year old Human boy, and Evangeline, a 15 year old Lacarna girl. When Max is 6, his father is murdered by bandits. [Once you've declared Max to be 16, you might want to use past tense for the part when he's 6.] Max is raised by his god-father in a small village where he meets and befriends Evangeline. It is Max’s goal to become a Protector, like his father before him. The Protectors are the peacekeepers of Velrune. [Also known as the SS.]

It is not long on Max’s journey to join the Protectors that he learns their ideal [idea?] of peacekeeping is to enslave the Lacarna. [This is the plot of Avatar. Are the Lacarna blue?] He and Eve must both confront the ideals and rules between the races to maintain their friendship. ["Confront the ideals and rules between the races" means nothing to me. Do you mean they must endure racial prejudice?] Once Max does join them [He still joins the Protectors after learning that they're enslaving the Lacarna?] he is given a simple mission that leads him to other characters who sit on one end or the other of the Lacarna/Human issue. [I'd rather know what his mission is than that it leads to his meeting other characters.]

These other characters relay [relate?] the history of Velrune and the differences of the two races. ["They have tails and claws. We don't."] A plot by the Protectors to eliminate the Lacarna is uncovered and Max even learns that his father was in league with another Human to overthrown [overthrow] the Protector leadership.

In the end Max chooses to help set the Lacarna free and destroys the leaders of the Protectors. [He's a kid. Are his spirit-manipulating super powers stronger than the Protectors' powers?] As he and his friends set out to reorganize the Protectors [That was the problem with the Protectors: poor organization.] they are greeted by a mysterious woman who claims her kind created both races and placed them into a small section of the planet. She had been watching the two races to see if they could learn to live together. With Max’s recent actions she decides they are ready to enter into the rest of the World so opens a gap in the surrounding mountains. [Lemme get this straight. The mysterious woman has been watching to see if the two races can live together. When one race enslaves the other she's still on the fence. But when one 16-year-old kid decides to destroy a few of his own kind to impress a girl, this proves that the races are compatible?] We leave Max and Eve [Maybe he should be called Adam to avoid comparisons with the biblical Max and Eve.] ready to venture into the new world as an accidental kiss brings the two closer together. [Sorry, I didn't mean to kiss you. I . . . tripped.]


We need less about the races and a stronger focus on the main characters.

These sound more like different species than races. Are they identical other than the cat features?

So the mysterious woman's people decided to try an experiment: create two races, identical except that one of them has tails and claws? To determine what? Do the Lacarna lack opposable thumbs? Because all other things being equal, it seems like those claws would have given them a big advantage over the Humans.

Cartoon 957

Caption: Whirlochre

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Monday, July 25, 2011

Success Story

Dave F. reports that his short story based on the April 2010 Charity Date Auction writing exercise ( has been accepted for publication in Joe Jablonski's anthology "FIRST CONTACT IMMINENT" at Red Skies Press. The "Call for Papers" is open until 23 December 2011 for any minion with a story.

Face-Lift 933

Guess the Plot

Insulin Junkies

1. At a camp for diabetic teens, someone is playing games with campers' lives. Did one of the counselors sneak in a pecan pie? Or is there a killer on the loose? Also, an incontinent dog.

2. Thanks to genetic engineering, the war on drugs is finally over. People just can't get high anymore . . . until eighteen-year-old 'Bones' Jackson hits on the bright idea of selling insulin to the local kids. Also, a corrupt dentist.

3. Diabetic cop Duke Davis has seen it all, but when he catches wind of a string of murders carried out using insulin as a weapon, he's plunged into the murky world of...INSULIN JUNKIES!

4. Hito is the leader of a group of Japanese schoolkids fleeing Fukushima who become morbidly obese on California public school system food. When puberty triggers their genetic metamorphosis into blood-sugar craving vampires Hito realizes their dependence on high fructose corn syrup-infused victims means they can never go home again.

5. It started as a support group for diabetics. But now the tavern is on fire, Miss Laverne's petunias have all been trampled, and twenty pissed-off seniors with low blood sugar and Vespa scooters are terrorizing the sleepy village of Hamlet. Can Constable Cymbolist Mack stop them before they destroy everything in their hunt for low-fat snacks?

6. In the late '60s, earnest diabetic Lori Steinman sets out on her bicycle from West Quoddy Head, Maine, to cross America and prove women don't need no men. At the same time, addict Mike "Sugarman" Sanders sets out on his Harley from Cape Alava, Washington, to cross America and bed as many women as he can. What happens when they meet in Wichita is a secret, but it's sure to astound you.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Eva knows something’s wrong long before the doctor diagnoses her as an insulin junkie, a.k.a. a diabetic. [A doctor calling a diabetic an insulin junkie before she starts on insulin? That's like the time I told one of my psychiatrists I was thinking of starting a small press and she called me a heroin addict.] No seventeen-year-old wakes up having wet the bed for the fourth time in as many days and thinks, “Yep, this is totally normal.” [I would think, I gotta stop drinking a six pack and taking three Ambiens right before bedtime.] [No need to put quotation marks around something not spoken aloud.] She’s blamed it on the mildly incontinent dog that sleeps in her bed, but there’s no fooling a blood glucose meter. [I can't tell if she blames the dog when her mother notices the sheets are wet, or if she blames the dog because she's in denial. It seems like you mean the latter because of the "no fooling a blood glucose meter" comment, but it seems to me that whatever she wears to bed would be wet, thus getting the dog off the hook even without the glucose test.]

The diagnosis ends Eva’s plans for a post-graduation road trip [to Hershey's Chocolate World]. Instead, she’s off to Camp, [You might want to name the camp, if you're going to capitalize the word.] where the counselors are fellow insulin junkies and every bunk bed comes with a syringe of Glucagon. It’s meant to teach teenage diabetics to take care of themselves, and Eva goes only to placate her grieving mother. [Implying that she doesn't think she needs to learn to take care of herself?] ["Grieving" seems a bit strong. Maybe "distraught," "fearful," "worried"?]

Two of the counselors – known by their Camp names, Rider and Natron – take it upon themselves to teach the lessons not sanctioned by Camp administrators, things like how the campers function with dangerously low blood glucose levels, how alcohol affects diabetics, and how to skirt the rules. Eva, fascinated by Natron and unfortunately attracted to Rider, listens eagerly. [Delete "unfortunately" or explain it.] But when one of the ‘lessons’ puts someone in the hospital, Eva has to figure out who she can trust to teach her about diabetes…and who’s playing with all of them.

INSULIN JUNKIES is a 65,000-word contemporary YA novel. The first five pages follow this email. I’ve had type 1 diabetes since 2000; I also have three YA nonfiction books published: The Diabetes Game (Rewarding Health, 2005), Teen Dream Jobs (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003), and It’s Your Rite (Beyond Words Publishing, 2003). Thank you for your time.



This sounds like a story that will appeal to teens who identify with Eva, and others as well.

The last plot paragraph needs to clarify what it's saying. I'm not sure if you're saying Rider and Natron are teaching secret things a teen diabetic needs to know, even though they aren't sanctioned by the administration, or if they're teaching how to get away with actions that are potentially dangerous. I can't tell if "skirt the rules" refers to rules diabetics must adhere to to stay healthy, or camp rules, like No going in the boys' tent after dark. I can't tell if "playing with all of them" implies that someone is intentionally trying to harm them.

In other words, is there a villain? Is it a mystery? Someone is responsible for someone else ending up in the hospital, and no one is confessing? Is someone in the hospital from a forcibly administered Glucagon overdose or from eating a hunk of cheesecake on a dare?

You might want to cut your set-up to one paragraph: When seventeen-year-old Eva is diagnosed with Diabetes, she cancels her post-graduation road trip and registers at Camp ___________, where the counselors are fellow "insulin junkies" and . . .

That gives you an extra paragraph to fill us in on what's going on in this camp: the conflict, the danger, the stakes, the romantic angle.

Cartoon 956

Caption: Jeanne Lowery Meeks

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Face-Lift 932

Guess the Plot

Duty and Death

1. When Lillianne's father tells her she's to marry the Duke of Gloucester's son, she can't believe he's serious. No man could be more wrong for her. A daughter's duty? Ha! She'd rather die. Better yet, the royal oaf must die.

2. Customs official Temika Wright is used to people trying to sneak something past her with a bland "nothing to declare." But an odd-smelling suitcase arouses her suspicions. What's the duty on a corpse?

3. Raised to be a cold-blooded assassin, the daughter of a tyrant has been tasked with marrying and then killing her father's enemy. But she falls for the guy. Is duty to her country (and her deranged father) reason enough to kill the man she loves?

4. Steve Billings isn't afraid of combat-- quite the opposite. But he has a deathly susceptibility to heatstroke. When his unit is due to ship out to Iraq, Steve is faced with a conundrum. No one is asking; should he tell?

5. Matthew plays pro poker, Mandy cross-dresses and Boutie never learned the multiplication table. And their Customs and Border Protection office now has to share space with the IRS. Wackiness ensues.

6. St. Peter's longing for a vacation - after all, he's the only one in heaven with no time for harp-strumming. When a soul arrives with exactly 50.0000% qualifications for Heaven and the same for Hell, St. Pete jumps at the chance to take her on a road trip around the cosmos until she tips the balance one way or the other.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Skydra is a killer. [That sounds like the name Sea World would give to one of their killer whales.] The daughter of a deranged tyrant, she is supposed to be the delicate weapon her father has molded her to be. [A wordy way of saying she's been molded into a weapon.] A conscience isn’t something he counted on, nor does he suspect she has the ability to hear her family’s thoughts. [Has she always had this power? Because I can't imagine a six-year-old kid realizing she can hear people's thoughts and not telling anyone.] Moments of split consciousness allow her access to the thoughts of others and have made her a silent observer to the atrocities of her father – including her own mother’s death. This gift now shows her that the man she is supposed to marry and kill is in no way worthy of that fate. As she begins to know his mind, she finds her task more and more difficult. Soon she is unsure if she will be able to fulfill her father’s demands, and duty to her country, by killing the man she is growing to love.

DUTY & DEATH, my YA romantic fantasy novel, is complete at 87,000-words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Not that I think you should rewrite the book, but wouldn't the conflict be more agonizing if Skydra couldn't hear people's thoughts? The fact that she knows, rather than suspects, that her target is a good guy and her father is a deranged wife killer makes her decision somewhat easier.

Why is marrying her target part of the plan? They've gotten to know each other, so I assume there's been an opportunity to kill him before the wedding day.

The last two sentences of the plot paragraph say the same thing. And what they say is already implied by the sentence that precedes them. Thus I suggest dropping them and adding two or three sentences about how Skydra plans to resolve her dilemma. You might also work in who the target is and why Daddy wants him dead. And use paragraphing for the plot.

Why specifically say Skydra can hear her family's thoughts, when she can hear anyone's thoughts?

Does she have any family besides her father?

If the "Death" in the title is the same death that's her duty, the title is sort of redundant. Usually a title in the Blank and Blank format has two different items surrounding the "and." For instance, War and Peace, Love and Death, Dumb and Dumber. Skydra's choice is Love and Duty or Duty and Conscience.

Cartoon 955

Caption: Redstar

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Thursday, July 21, 2011

New Beginning 870

They say you can never go back home. ‘They’ weren’t standing at Exit C of Mumbai domestic airport with thirteen years of their lives crammed into a trolley. Beads of sweat trickled down to my elbow and I straightened my spine trying to compose my face. I wanted to make a good first impression on my mother: we had met last when I was four.

Aimee arrived breathless in a standard-issue floral print and a, “You’re looking so tall, Alia!” squeal though she had visited me just last year at Dune’s school.

I looked past her beaming face at the expectant faces of people in the arrivals waiting area. A tiny prick of tears started up in a corner of my left eyelid. I bent down to fumble with my bag irritated with myself when a uniformed man darted forwards and took my suitcases and shoulder bag away.

“Your mother is waiting for you at home,” Aimee said quickly, “and your father is in Delhi on a very big shoot,” her voice hushed to a whisper, “it is like that only when you’re…” she looked around suspiciously. “Come come so much traffic.” She waved ahead.

A shiny black Hummer was boorishly parked right across the exit.

“At least we’re not blocking half the road,” I said.

But Aimee was already making a beeline for the Hummer, so it was just as well she didn’t hear me.

I blinked to clear the tears from my eyes, but could not focus in the heat. The Hummer had come to a screeching, rubber-skidding halt and there hung the body of my grandmother sprawled across its grille, clinging to it as if she’d just hopped on for a ride, the hump of her backside jutting out like a . . . hump.

“Aimee.” I bawled until my face was crushed into a musky madras shirt. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I heard her. I thought I saw ‘them’, as I pulled my face away, slinging her over the luggage on their cart.

“You can’t go home,” someone said, and I knew him for one of ‘them’. The sweat was really running off of me now, flooding down my legs.

What made ‘them’ so elusive one could capture their words, but nothing more? Words instead of a home, security, family, instead of love. For thirteen years ‘they’ had waited, probably camping out in my old room, just to dismantle everything, just to be sure there would be no home for me to go back to. And now 'they' had Aimee.

Opening: Karishma Attari.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 954

Caption: Khazar-khum

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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Face-Lift 931

Guess the Plot


1. A beautiful princess is woken by a kiss from her handsome prince but all she wants to do is catch a few more years.

2. It's only two weeks till the big event of the year - Katie Rossi's slumber party. But a mysterious sleeping sickness is sweeping the school and kids are dropping like drowsy drosophila. Maybe Katie shouldn't have chased those fairies off her poppy garden.

3. Grant, Sevars and Tony are in a 60's folk band stuck in the Summer of Love. Trouble is, they're vampires--and while neither they nor their music may have aged, the same can't be said of the fans. Also, lots of panty-tossing Boomers.

4. In a wonderful land called Slumber, which she visits when she's asleep, Kate Isley meets her identical twin. Kate's life has been sucky lately, so she agrees to switch places with her twin for a while and stay in Slumber. But the twin turns out to be a ruthless murderer. And guess who's gonna get the blame? Also, a bird-watching gas station clerk.

5. 17-year-old Rafer Winslow awakens after 200 years, in a future where global warming has literally fried everyone's DNA so they are incapable of sleep and must "relax" wide awake with the assistance of dangerous drugs. Scientists are the hunters, Rafer is the target, and every 16 hours he has to find a secure place to hide so he won't be captured while he sleeps.

6. When Kelly McKinney, spokesmodel for the Sit & Sleep chain of mattress superstores is found headless and stuffed into a pink Laz-E-Boy, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the security guards were asleep on the job, and maybe it's time to get him & his wife one of those fancy tempopedic mattresses.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Seventeen-year-old Kate Isley can't sleep. Haunted by the car accident that killed her old brother a year ago [Come on, he couldn't have been that old.] and left her scarred, her only comfort stems from a bird-watching gas station clerk and a bottle of whiskey. Until her mysterious therapist places her under hypnosis.

Once hypnotized, Kate gains access to the land of Slumber, a vivid dream world where her brother is alive, [she's married to the bird-watching gas station clerk,] her runaway father is home, and her scars are gone. Everything is perfect again...if only the buzzing of the alarm clock didn't yank her back to reality each morning. But when Kate meets Lilia, a girl who appears identical to Kate in the dream world, she's offered an opportunity to escape her crumbling life.

The deal: Kate would live in Slumber while Lilia would awaken to reality. Thinking the switch will be temporary, Kate chooses to live in the dream, where she's free from her guilt over what happened the night her brother died. But as Kate's forced to watch Lilia take over her real life, she soon discovers Lilia isn't the sweet girl she presented herself to be. Lilia will do anything to get what she wants, including murder.

Kate's dream quickly turns into a nightmare. She must warn those she loves about her replacement before it's too late. But how can she reach them when she's trapped inside her own subconscious? [Enter . . . the parrot. Turns out birds have access to both worlds, so Kate sends a parrot to tell the bird-watching gas station clerk that her evil twin Lilia plans to pour whiskey all over a gasoline pump and toss a match onto it. But will the bird-watching gas station clerk believe the parrot's incredible tale, or will he just find it an amusing novelty act?]

There are two sides to every dream... [If you're going to make that line a full paragraph, I suggest making it the first paragraph. That seems to be the standard place to put vague hook statements.]

Slumber is a YA psychological thriller complete at 55,000 words. Think Black Swan meets Inception for teenagers. [I have a feeling if I tried to think of that my head would explode. Can't we just say it's like the His Dark Materials trilogy?] My short stories have appeared in Monkeybicycle, Staccato Fiction, Word Riot, and Pank. I currently work in the publishing industry. [As what? Better to say nothing than to say something so vague it sounds like you're hiding the fact that you're the janitor at a greeting card manufacturer.] May I send a partial or full manuscript?

Thank you for your time and consideration.



Lilia will do anything to get what she wants, including murder. But what is it she wants? That seems like a vitally important point to include.

The story idea sounds like a winner. The query seems a little long. We can eliminate the movie titles, at least one of the one-sentence paragraphs, the bottle of whiskey, and, alas, the bird-watching gas station clerk.

Calling the therapist "mysterious" leads us to ask a question you don't answer. For purposes of the query, maybe we should just say that she's haunted by the accident and sees a hypnotherapist. We don't need to suspect that there's something mysterious about the therapist.

So Kate thought the deal was that she would spend all of her time in Slumber until she got past her guilt feelings, and then would switch back with Lilia? But the deal turns out to be that she spends only her sleeping hours in Slumber--which she was already doing--and her waking hours are still spent in the real world, except that Lilia has control of her body? Actually, it's a better deal this way, because Kate knows what's going on and can try to stop it. If she spent three months exclusively in Slumber and then returned, she might find herself on death row. And the claim that her evil twin killed all those people probably wouldn't fly.

Cartoon 953

Caption: ril

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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Beginning 869

Clotilde clutched the dead man's wallet as if it could save her. She shoved her way through the slow-moving commuters with a single focus: get to the river. She should never have risked the Tube, never allowed herself to become surrounded by people. Tears pricked her eyes as she thought of home with its plentiful dark streams trickling through the wooded glen. A soft moan gathered in her throat. She swallowed and ran up the stairs, hoping desperately that she was moving away and not towards. Finsbury Park station seemed to be a maze of bright white tunnels and stairwells. Hard-edged people whirled around her in a blur. She stumbled against the soft give of leather shoes underneath her feet as she pushed her way up and out, searching for the exit. A ticket inspector stepped forward then looked at her face and waved her on. She burst through the brightly-lit corridor and bolted out, her hand at her throat.

As her eyes adjusted to the bright daylight, Clotilde looked around to get her bearings. People thronged around her, unaware of who she was or what she was doing, all except one: observing, judging, filming her every move.

But Clotilde hadn't prepared for the task at hand, and her mistake was such a basic one: Finsbury Park was miles from the river. Could she hope get there ahead of the others? Sick to her stomach, she was sure of only one thing: The Amazing Race was getting more brutal with each passing year.

Opening: Sylvia.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 952

Caption: anon.

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Face-Lift 930

Guess the Plot

Bridge of Giants

1. Four retired giants meet for their weekly Bridge game and exchange tales of how many humans they terrified in their younger days.

2. Ivan Stansky longs to be part of the family tradition by working on the Golden Gate Bridge. Can he overcome the fact that he's blind, a quadriplegic and confined to house arrest? Also, a cute girl.

3. Near the entrance to forbidding Black Canyon is the Bridge of Giants, a vast natural bridge carved from sandstone. Can Rhatupet and his little band of adventurers battle wild desert elves and dune dwarves to prove how apt the name is?

4. When NASA decides to cut expenses for once and for all by building a bridge to the moon, soon-to-be-ex-astronaut Bud Narayana goes rogue and attempts to pilot an asteroid into the new structure. It's up to alcoholic environmentalist Rosie Grimaldi to save the day - and Bud's career.

5. Everyone who wants a job keeps leaving the tiny Irish village of Kerryboondoggle - until a prodigal son returns from America and builds a theme park on Giant's Island. Now even Granny O'Hare is raking in the cash in costume as a ticket-taking banshee, and won't listen when Padraig reminds her about the poltergeist.

6. Nathan discovers a cache of bizarre maps that can magically transport him across the world from his home in Wisconsin to exotic places like Mongolia. But which map will help him find his missing mother before Evil Santa gets her?

Original Version

I am seeking representation for Mapwalkers:Bridge of Giants, a 72,000 word middle grade fantasy, the first in the Mapwalkers series.

After the inexplicable disappearance of his mother, thirteen year old Nathan Hillbridge finds a collection of bizarre maps in her belongings. He follows one of these maps, [Follows the map? In which direction? Is it like a pirate map with a big X at the end of a dotted line?] and moments after walking out of his back door in small-town Wisconsin, finds himself pursued by armed horsemen across the wilds of Mongolia. [If he's fleeing through the wilds of Mongolia the minute he leaves his house, how can you claim that he followed the map at all? Wait, does the map look like this:

Narrowly escaping, [In Mongolia, on foot, he escapes armed horsemen? Are they blind armed horsemen?] he retraces his steps and somehow returns home. [That is, he wakes up.] He soon discovers that he and his mother are Mapwalkers—members of an ancient people with the ability to travel to distant lands as easily as most people walk down the street to visit a friend. [Is this like the transporter on the Enterprise? By which I mean, Does it malfunction most of the time?] Desperate to find his mother, he begins using her cache of mysterious maps [They're bizarre maps, not mysterious maps.] to scour the world for her.

As he searches, Nathan finds friends who aid him in his quest: Robert, an honors student who helps him decipher the bizarre clues [The maps are bizarre. Maybe the clues can be mysterious?] [Is one of the clues a mysterious bazaar?] [I think they should be Bizarro maps, made out of crystal.] that litter his mother's trail, and Kahn, a Mongolian girl eager to explore the world with him. But as he learns about his mysterious power [We just decided the clues are mysterious. Let's call his power "uncanny."] and the secret history of the Mapwalkers, he realizes that he [and Robert may soon be facing . . .the wrath of Kahn!] and his friends may be up against far more than they can handle: a sinister man in red who stalks their steps,

the uncanny in-between places infested by hideous creatures that may or may not have once been men, [Why does this keep happening? Okay, as Nathan's power is now uncanny, we'll call the in-between places infested by hideous creatures that may or may not have once been men "nightmarish."] and the long-lost hordes of Genghis Kahn. [Kaaaahhhhhnnnn!] [I don't mind if the Mongolian girl spells her name Kahn, but we spell Genghis's name "Khan."]

This novel would best be compared with “A wrinkle in time”, or the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. [That sounded familiar, so I searched this blog and found: "...can be compared to other fantasy works such as “Eragon” or the “His Dark Materials” trilogy. (Face-Lift 762); " has similarities to Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials Book One... (Face-Lift 547); "Similar in theme to the works of Madeleine L’Engle and Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy... (Face-Lift 124); "...their unique adventure combines the quirky humor of Maniac Magee and the heart-capturing adventure of A Wrinkle in Time. (Face-Lift 505). One possible problem with claiming your book is like some classic is that the agent may think, Christ, not another book that's like the His Dark Materials trilogy. Can't anyone write a book that's like something I've never heard of?]


He's walked out his back door a thousand times and ended up in Wisconsin, but if he walks out the same door because a map said to, he ends up in Mongolia? Have I got that straight?

Any creatures can accurately be described by saying they "may or may not have once been men."

Okay, he goes here, he goes there, and each place he goes he has another adventure. And eventually he ends up where his mother is. Is it just a series of trips? Or is the man in red a villain who appears on all of his mapwalks? Is the man in red trying to prevent Nathan from finding his mother? Why? Does he have to find his mother before the hordes of Genghis Khan do?

Cartoon 951

Caption: anon.

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Saturday, July 16, 2011

Success Story

NV reports checking Across the Universe, by Beth Revis, out of the library and recognizing it as the book whose query appeared here in Face-Lift 637 (when it was titled A Long Way Home).


Guess the Plot

The Theft of the Dai- danna Dan- kenka Maru

1. By the time Tony "The Stutterer" Calabrese has finished explaining the intricate details of the heist to his street crew, the cops are on to his scheme and he's on the run. Next time, he'll just rob a bank and forget about the Daidanna Dankenka Maru.

2. Dundenna Kantawanna momo dinteka wantana. Maima ratwonu titi kenka ma kenku, danna mianta Maru. Also, a vampire.

3. Alex, a two-bit street thief, determines to join the ranks of the master thieves by stealing the Daidanna Dankenka Maru, the most often stolen artifact in the world. Now, he just has to figure out two things: where it is, and what it is.

4. An animal trainer, a schoolteacher and an astronaut steal Earth's first starship, the Daidanna Dankenka Maru, in order to escape the Earth's pollution and recreate Earth's biosphere on another planet. Also, a suicidal whale.

5. Police Chief Jake Martin is having no problem tracking the stolen masterpiece, the Daidanna Dankenka Maru. It's filling out the police report that's so difficult.

6. When a new Virginia class attack sub is christened USS Daidanna Dankenka Maru, some of the higher ups in the Pentagon have a conniption fit. Now it’s up to Black Ops Specialist Trick Lambert to do the one thing more difficult than pronouncing it: steal it, and send it to Davy Jones’ locker. Also, an autistic Chinese deli worker.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Editor;

Information on the Internet says you like smart, quirky science fiction, and literary writing on environmental issues. Please consider representing my 122,200-word hard/soft/ [Is this a book or a boiled egg?] literary sci-fi novel (think of Kim Stanley Robinson's work), [I tried. I spent ten minutes thinking of Kim Stanley Robinson's work, only to realize I was actually thinking of Spider Robinson; I blame it on you for calling it quirky.] The Theft of the Daidanna Dankenka Maru (DDM), in which learning to talk with orcas drives a scientist, an animal trainer, a schoolteacher and an astronaut to steal earth's first crude attempt at a starship.

2050: After ten years in captivity, Sam, a Sea-World show orca, [realizes he can no longer reach the splash zone. In a fit of depression, he] tries to suicide. His trainer, Zachary Qualar, saves him and takes him home, [Fortunately, Zack drives a 50-foot limo jacked up on earth-mover tires.] to Robson Bight on Vancouver Island. Zack and cetologist Joshua Mason rehabilitate Sam, and hire Native American schoolteacher Amy Blackstone, talented in linguistics, to help decipher his language. Amy has a secret: she's an empath, preternaturally sensitive to others' emotions. She connects, empathically then telepathically, with Sam and his father, A50, his tribe's historian, and together they write a computer program [Just to be sure I've got this straight, the orca's father is named A50, and he's a historian and he helps write a computer program?] that translates Orca to English. [At last they will know what Sam is trying to say. They jack him into the computer system and hear:

Fish again?! Can't you get me a nice tender elephant seal? Tandoori-style. No cilantro, it gives me hives. And would it kill you to spring for HBO so I could watch The Sopranos? Christ, I get sick of Animal Planet. Oh, and one more thing: there aren't any broads in this bight. I'm a mammal, not a fish. Get an orca babe in here fast, 'cause that empath chick is starting to look good to me. And what the hell's a bight, anyway?]

The "Robson Bight Crew" [Named after Kim Stanley Robson] sets up a hospital to treat sick and injured cetaceans. Treating an orca who has miscarried, they learn that the oceans are so polluted the whales can no longer reproduce. Global warming threatens a new ice age, another species goes extinct every hour, and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans threatens nuclear war. [They learn all this from treating a whale?] Learning of this, A50 demands their help. Using the translation program, he writes a book exposing the minds and souls of orcas and asking that humans recognize the orcas' right to a tolerable planet. [Unfortunately, he can't interest an agent, and is forced to go with PublishAmerica.] His book is derided as fiction. [Unbelievable. A whale manages to write a book, and the critics pan it.]

Joshua's friend, Jeddidiah Jay, was an astronaut until a jet crash ended his career; now his aerospace engineering firm builds space vehicles and mines the asteroid belt. A sociopathic assassin on call to the CIA [It's always good to have a few sociopathic assassins on call, just in case you need one.] sabotages and spies on his company, and corrupt politicians force him to license his spaceship designs to competitors. Then a drunk driver kills his young family. Embittered, Jay plots with his Robson Bight friends to steal the Daidanna Dankenka Maru, earth's first starship, which the government is forcing him to build. He recruits 100 people from among his asteroid miners, and twelve dolphins; [What's the process for recruiting dolphins?] they raid a "frozen zoo" for genetic material to recreate earth's biosphere on a new planet, steal the ship, and on Christmas Morning, 2060, leave earth forever. [Some people go into therapy when their lives are going bad; others recruit dolphins and steal a starship.]

I have a degree in Journalism; I've written for and edited magazines and NPR broadcast copy. I spent years researching whales and dolphins and the Kwakwaka' wakw [Anagram of Waka Waka Waka, the noise Pac-Man makes.] natives of British Columbia, because I believe that the best sci-fi does not stray far from reality. My protagonists' motivation is the mass extinction event we humans are currently causing. [Except for Jeddidiah, whose motivation is revenge on The Man.] I am a science junkie, and the chapter-opening newspaper articles with which I detail the destruction of the environment are frighteningly real. [End of query. If I'm still on the fence at this point, the rest isn't going to push me in any direction you're hoping for.] You will love the depth of my characterization, my evocation of setting and emotion. And DDM (my third unpublished book) tells the story of the main plot point of my second, completed and polished sci-fi novel, which [tells the story of the main plot point of my first completed and polished sci-fi novel, which tells the story of the main plot point of Star Trek IV: the Voyage Home.] I will tell you about when you're ready.

Thank you for your time and help, Mr. EE. I hope to hear from you soon.


What whale would name its kid A50?

I've heard of pods and schools. Do whales also come in tribes?

Wouldn't it be better if Sam wrote the book? Sam seems to drop out once they dump him in the bight.

It's too long. Does the query need Sam at all? It could begin with the crew setting up a facility to study whale communication at Robson Bight. We also don't need Jeddidiah's life story.

I don't care if Jay's company is building it; it can't be easy to steal Earth's first starship. Could the head of NASA make off with a space shuttle? Probably not. And a starship is much bigger; heck, the holodeck alone is bigger than a space shuttle.

Selected Comments:

BuffySquirrel said...It took a lot more people to steal the spaceship in Allen Steele's Coyote, and I still had trouble believing it.

The head of nasa said...You gotta believe how easy it would be. Y'know, they keep those things fueled up all the time, and the keys are behind the sun visor.

GutterBall said...I'm glad Mr. Evil mentioned Star Trek IV because I really didn't want to sound like a trekkie when I said the title sent my mind directly to Kobiyashi Maru. For those not in the know, that's the no-win situation training module for Federation cadets. I spent the entire query wondering when the ship (which, I'm guessing, is not named the Kobiyashi Maru) would blow up.

blogless_troll said...If I was a killer whale in 2050 and humans still thought getting splashed by marine life was neat, I'd commit suicide too. Better yet, I'd squeeze out one of those billowing gray bowel clouds, then splash 'em. Those splash zones would be empty if people had to pick undigested mullet spine out of their hair. Also, Sea World wouldn't name a killer whale Sam. It'd be more like Nanunanu or Ikea. Even in the future.

phoenix said...So a plea to humanity from a whale is best accomplished by writing a book? This from a journalist and a writer for radio? Wouldn't the media be the first step to building credibility? We have been convinced that KoKo the gorilla is not simply a well-trained ape because we see her problem-solving on video and passing tests that would baffle a 6-year-old human kid. And we've seen her teaching sign language to other gorillas. I unequivocably believe in the intelligence of cetaceans. But if someone today published the translated ramblings of a whale without a lot of media/documentary coverage and credibility-supporting and hoax-dispelling testing, I, too, would snicker and dismiss the writing (after I queried the whale's agent and publisher because if they would pub a whale's ramblings, why not mine?!).

Who are the protags trying to convince going with the book approach? The general public? The scientific community? The political wags?

Star Trek IV dealt with the issue of constructing a holding tank large enough to house a pair of whales. Somehow I doubt the first starship will have a convenient aquarium the size of a large pond and all the filtration and equipment needed to keep the salt content and dolphin waste in check for an extended voyage. Or do the 12 dolphins just help steal the ship and get left behind like Sam and A50? (Man, that's gotta hurt -- bet they BOTH suicide after being dumped like that!)

Now I love SF, I recycle and compost, and I vote Green when I can. I think the idea behind this query is good, but the execution sounds like it strays far beyond the bounds of reality. It could well be the fault of the query and not the book, of course.

As for the query: cut, cut, cut.

Anonymous said...I've heard of pods and schools. Do whales also come in tribes?
I believe they come in bucketfuls...

whitemouse said...I just want to address some of the issues in the final paragraph of the query letter. Sentence 1: Sounds good; these are relevant credentials. Sentence 2: Did you really research whales, dolphins and the natives of B.C. just so you could write a science fiction book? Or was the research related to graduate school or something? I'm assuming it's the latter, in which case you might want to rephrase things to imply that you had a good reason to do the studies. It sounds a bit creepy to say you did years of hard-core research just 'cause you felt like it. Every writer does some research (usually via Google-Fu, these days), but you're implying something well beyond that. Sentence 3: You should get your characters' motivation into the paragraphs that describe the storyline. Putting it here seems weird and inelegant, especially plunked down in a stand-alone sentence like this. Sentence 4: This makes the book sound preachy, which will likely make agents/editors automatically reject it. They want a book that tells a great story, not someone's ranting manifesto. You don't want to harp on the book's message, even if everything in the story hinges on it. Sentence 5: I read several agents' blogs regularly and they've all said at some point that they don't like to be told what their reaction to a book will be. Don't tell them they'll love it; make the story sound so awesome that they decide for themselves they might love it. They're not going to take your word for it. Sentence 6 and 7: This makes it seems like you're trying to pitch three books at once, which is also bad form. The agent/editor doesn't care if you have other books until they've seen whether or not this one is any good. Also, if you say this is the third unpublished book in a series, you're essentially admitting that the other two books have already been rejected by publishing professionals. That doesn't speak well of the quality of the books in the agent/editor's mind. I think you'd do well to not mention the other books in the series at all until after you have successfully bagged your agent/editor. At this point, the most you want to say is that the book has potential as a series.

Anonymous said...While I do see problems with this query, as others have pointed out, I also find the story interesting and would probably want to read it. If the author has figured out ways to solve some of the technical questions (like how dolphins help steal a space ship - and do dolphins speak the same language as whales?) I think it has potential.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Face-Lift 929

Guess the Plot

Gold Valley

1. On Ashley's eleventh birthday, Mum finally gives her her own key. The first time Ashley uses it, she lets herself in--not to their grotty flat, but to Gold Valley, where every day is a carnival and coins drop from Ashley's mouth every time she speaks. But a fairy steals the key and Ashley needs to get back--with some of the loot for Mum, of course.

2. When Casey gets a reception job at Gold Valley Chinese Takeaway she thinks she’s hit it lucky; she’s getting over £6 an hour. But when she hears rumours about the other receptionists, and finds bodies in the freezer, she can’t help but wonder if she should have applied at McDonald's.

3. The economy sucks. Greg is yet another victim of corporate downsizing. Desperate to fend off impending foreclosure, he heads to Gold Valley, hoping to eliminate his financial woes. Barely a day into the valley, Greg is lost and forced to endure violent storms, swarms of hungry mosquitoes, and the affections of a lonely sasquatch. Suddenly, bankruptcy doesn't seem like such a bad option.

4. Ava, Isaac and Adam, three survivors of a bus crash in the remote mountains, stumble upon Gold Valley, a small town that Ava thinks is Eden. But when the women in town start disappearing, Isaac and Adam suspect . . . the Hungry. Can they get Ava out of town before she, too, is eaten?

5. Author Buck McClain's life takes a turn toward terror when he discovers that Gold Valley, the serial killer bestseller he wrote plagiarized was actually written by a real serial killer--who’s not happy with Buck making bucks off his back!

6. When gold plummets from a record high to a more traditional $350 an ounce, Minuteman and survivalist Will Whitbread is convinced it's just a valley, and the price will climb again. But when he tries to buy up all the krugerrands in Arizona, investors from a rival militia take it personally. Hilarity and automatic weapons fire ensue.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Ava Gunner just assumed the McCormick brothers were dead. She hadn’t seen or heard from them since the Hunger Sickness struck the population ten years ago. Since they abandoned her, and civilization crumbled. Since the dream of Eden came alive.

Now, on a bus promising to take its passengers to Eden, [This was a Star Trek episode.] [How about "destined for Eden"?] Ava finds herself once again face to face with Adam and Isaac McCormick. She got along fine without them, even learned how to shoot a gun. And judging from their scars, they managed to take care of themselves too. But despite her grudge she’s relieved that they’re together again.

After the bus crashes on a remote mountain pass in the Colorado Rockies, the survivors are forced to find a place to hide from the now nocturnal Hungry before the sun goes down. [Having read ahead and seen that you call this literary fiction, I can appreciate your desire to use the term "now-nocturnal Hungry" instead of "mutant Cannibals" or "ravenous Zombies." But if cannibals or zombies are roaming the country, maybe you should call this a thriller or a horror novel.] Waiting out the night in an abandoned cabin, it begins to dawn ["Begins to" is implied by "dawns."] on the group that they’ll be together for a while. Which means Ava, Adam, and Isaac need to resolve their issues if they want to focus on survival. [Their "issues" being that the brothers abandoned her to be eaten by the Hungry ten years ago. That's gonna be a tough one to resolve, what with the Hungry now lurking outside the cabin.]

But the three of them are stubborn.

[What you've provided so far is about the amount of plot summary a query should have. But all you've done is introduce the characters and their situation. Condense all of that into one three-sentence paragraph.] With no food or water in the cabin, it's obvious that they have to keep traveling. They stumble almost too late into Gold Valley, a well preserved town that has managed to thrive despite its isolation. They have food, whiskey, and Joshua, a leader who cares deeply for the well being of his town and shows the survivors hospitality. [Joshua is Captain Kirk. The survivors keep calling him Herbert.] As the days wear on, Ava begins to believe that Gold Valley just may be Eden.

But when female survivors start disappearing [They disappear. Or are they gradually fading away?] and Joshua sits idly by, it becomes clear to Adam and Isaac that Gold Valley and its leader are far more sinister than they appear. However, [I don't like starting consecutive sentences with "but" and "however." You could put "however" after "easy." Or start the previous sentence: After three female survivors disappear...] convincing Ava isn’t so easy, [How many women have disappeared? Does Ava have a theory as to where they've gone?] and the brothers know the survivors are running out of time to escape before Gold Valley makes her disappear too.

I am actively seeking representation [I've never understood what "actively" means when I see that. I know you've sent the query letter. Does "actively" imply you're doing other things besides sending query letters?] for my 60,000 word literary fiction novel titled GOLD VALLEY, a story of survival, sacrifice, and lost love. [Lost love? Was Ava in love with the McCormick brothers when they abandoned her to be eaten by the Hungry?] Chapters or a synopsis are available upon request.



Isn't it possible the Hungry are slipping into town and taking the women, and that Gold Valley and Joshua aren't sinister?

In the Star Trek version, the people who make it to Eden get hungry and eat the fruit and die. So the difference is that in one version the people get hungry and in the other version the Hungry get the people. That probably wasn't worth the effort I put into it.

Hyphens often belong between words that, together, form what is really one word, as in well-preserved, now-nocturnal, well-being, 60,000-word.

Who or what are the Hungry? And if they're hungry, can't they find a way to seek food than hanging out in the remote Rocky Mountains hoping for a bus crash?

Cartoon 950

Caption: anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Face-Lift 928

Guess the Plot

The Sin Eaters

1. Environmentalists consider it a sin that endangered species are so rare. Bubba Richards and his redneck friends agree: those critters should at least be medium rare to bring out all the juicy flavors.

2. Every millennium or so the “Sin Count” reaches its limit and God initiates the Apocalypse. The world has already ended and begun again 665 times. Each time the Sin Eaters have failed to defeat the Sin Army. Is the 666th time the charm?

3. A rash of missing person cases strikes Fluvanna County, Virginia at about the same time detective Anna Robertson's new boyfriend stocks his freezer--and hers--with ground beef. Would it be rude, while eating his tacos, to ask him where he shops ?

4. They're called "Devil's food cake" and "Deviled eggs" for a reason: the secret ingredient is the blood of innocent victims. A trail of bodies points Inspector Jarrett toward a secret society of chefs on a culinary journey to sample all foods so decadent they're sinful.

5. Amy Williams is the world's most unusual vampire, but can she get a date? The beauty gene never even sniffed in her direction. Maybe it's time to head to the gym and set sights on brooding rogue cop Drake Heattrew. If he ever finds out she sucks sin out of mortals, he'll book 'er - but by then, Amy might just have reformed this bad boy.

6. When Jason attempts an escape from prison, he is hit by a runaway golf cart. In limbo he meets Satan who offers him a deal; eat seven people who embody the seven deadly sins, or rot with him in hell. Jason’s a vegan. Will he accept the deal or barter for a vegetarian alternative?

Original Version

Dear Evilest of Editors,

When Archangel Michael drives the getaway-car after Dove accidentally kills her foster brother, Dove knows her life is about to change. [If the death was an accident, why is there a getaway car?] [Also, shouldn't an archangel be able to come up with a better escape plan than driving away in a car?] But how could she have expected she would soon be responsible for saving the world? [I don't see any need for that paragraph. The foster brother killing is never mentioned again, and the rest of it is general.]

Every millennium or so the “Sin Count” reaches its limit and God decides to initiate the Apocalypse. [I'm pretty sure this doesn't happen every thousand years on Earth. You might be able to sell every ten thousand years.] The world has already ended and begun again 665 times. [If we accept the first sentence, that means Apocalypses have been happening for 665,000 years. Which means the Sin Count was reaching its limit before man even existed.] Dove learns she is part of a legendary group called the Sin Eaters, who are reincarnated on the eve of every Armageddon to attempt to save the world from its violent end. They have never yet succeeded. [I have a non-violent solution. Every millennium or so, raise the Sin Count ceiling.]

Dove is brought to a secret encampment deep in the Rocky Mountains where she is reunited with a variety of battle-weary, but hopeful, allies she has known for eternity, as well as an eccentric army of “End-of-Worlders.” But they have a crisis to prepare for: the first stage of the Apocalypse is going to start soon, and when it does an army of sin incarnate is going to storm the earth. [That sentence shouldn't have a "but" at the beginning.] If they don’t defeat it before the seventh stage ends, God will destroy the world. [This "God" character is a real downer. Is this the same God so many people think is hot stuff?]

Not only are they fighting a Sin Army, they also have to deal with the numerous trials God sends their way (famine, earthquakes, rivers of blood, etc.), and an Antichrist. Is it any wonder they have never yet succeeded? [You'd think the Antichrist would send the famine and rivers of blood. Is the Antichrist the good guy?]

But Dove is determined to triumph, and throws herself into training and plotting. She would probably have more success if Michael, her soul-mate, wasn’t so hell-bent on staying away from her; [What is it she's not having success at?] he believes their relationship is one of the reasons the Sin Eaters have continuously failed. [If you've failed at something 665 times and you still don't know what you're doing wrong, blame it on your woman.] But just when the group’s chances are looking up, someone in their number finally gets fed up with God’s antics, and joins ranks with the Antichrist, deciding the world might be better off under different rule. [This person who gets fed up with God's antics should be the main character. Anyone with the guts to show God the error of His ways deserves star billing.]

Dove and the Sin Eaters continue to attempt to vanquish the world of evil, but is it finally time to take the world back from God as well? [It was time during the Roman Empire. What are we waiting for?]

The Sin Eaters is a YA urban fantasy, complete at 75,000 words.

Thank you very much for your time!


We don't need this much information. Dump the first paragraph and the fourth. Rewrite the fifth, getting rid of Michael and focusing on how things are going well, who betrays them to join the Antichrist, and what they plan to do about it.

Possibly I shouldn't bring up the math problems. Possibly readers should accept this as an alternate history of Earth, in which everyone was killed off a thousand years ago, and the population has reached seven billion since then. But it seems when a fantasy is set on Earth, and you ask the reader to accept the existence of Sin Eaters and a Sin Army, that you might want to ground the book in reality as much as possible. It might as well be another planet if nothing is recognizable other than the Rocky Mountains. I can accept that there's an Apocalypse every thousand years on the Gohr prison planet Lycus IV, because I don't know any better.

You'd think Hitler would have pushed the Sin Count to Apocalyptic levels all by himself, but we're still here. Maybe Rupert Murdoch will push it over the top.

Cartoon 949

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Face-Lift 927

Guess the Plot

Through a Glass Darkly

1. The school's science nerd hacks Kari's digital scale and livestreams the results on the Internet, launching Kari into a deadly struggle with anorexia, bulimia, cutting, and a mean stepmom.

2. Nerdy Aaron could not believe his luck! His cool new house-mates not only turned him on to the joys of substance abuse, but they actually trusted him to store the pillowcase full of weed in his room. Hilarity ensues when their house gets raided.

3. The light is out. The glass is broken. Preacher man Joss Simpson will either lose his soul or save it when he enters the mysterious mirrored portal to Dimension X. He has to build a city, an army, and save the world.

4. A gay Japanese man in his last year of law school in the US goes out for the football team and falls for the wide receiver. But will his conservative family in Japan approve? Also, other characters who see life . . . through a glass darkly.

5. At a wild party celebrating his divorce, Steve Betts falls through a second story picture window in the dark. He wakes up in the hospital to find that his wiseacre friends have left him a gift: copies of all 273 books listed on Amazon under the title "Through A Glass Darkly".

6. Kids holding a giant bar mirror across one lane of a dark mountain highway are causing causing a rash of fatal roll-over accidents by drivers trying to avoid head-on collisions (with themselves) -- until a suicidal divorcee sees her chance at escape and floors it dead ahead.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Stephen James has finally accepted himself as a gay man when he meets Grace and, one coffee later, is left torn between his undeniable attraction to men and the red-headed exception that proves the rule. [Does that mean I can't be sure I'm straight unless I find a guy who's the exception that proves the rule?] [How many coffees did it take for him to accept himself as gay?] He and Grace marry, but his confusion continues, and the marriage fails. [Too bad. But how could anyone have foreseen that?] Another year, another coffee shop, and this time it is Gabriel who has Stephen brushing up on his flirting skills. Will it be different with Gabriel, [Count on it.] or will Stephen push him away as he did Grace? [Don't take this the wrong way, but who cares?]

Higen Nishida attends law school in the United States, planning to return to Japan, the family law firm, and an arranged marriage upon graduation. [Apparently you've overreacted to my last comment by switching the query to a different book.] [Is the legal system in Japan so similar to America's that going to law school in the US prepares you to practice law in Japan? A lot of law school involves studying cases that can be cited as precedents, but not in any country.] When Gabriel encourages him to try out for the football team, [In his last year of law school? Can you make that the badminton team?] Higen finds himself more interested in scoring points with the wide receiver than in scoring points on the field. [Some gay guys do like a wide receiver. Others prefer a tight end! Ba dum ching.] Their relationship [Higen and the wide receiver?] develops over wine, poetry, and summers spent together on the Johnson family ranch, but as Higen’s time in law school nears its end, he must choose whether to meet the expectations of his family and culture or pursue his relationship with Gabriel. [Something tells me Higen isn't going to meet his family's expectations no matter what he does.] [Is Gabriel and Stephen over?]

Raven Madison and Jack Johnson slip away from a party and make love on the beach. [Third time's the charm?] [Is this Jack Johnson of the Johnson family farm?] As Jack rejoins the crowd, Raven is raped, [You'd think he'd stick around until she was ready to go back. What did he say? "This was nice, but it sounds like they're doing the limbo."?] and her injuries leave her blind. [Those are some pretty serious injuries not to have been mentioned at the same time you said she was raped, i.e. Raven is attacked, beaten and raped.] Jack stays by her side as she heals and adjusts to life as a blind woman, ["I'll hang around until you stop bumping into things. Should be good for a few laughs."] but the terrifying flashbacks brought on by his touch leave Raven wondering if her sight is the only thing she lost that night.

Complete at 117,000 words, Through a Glass Darkly is a work of literary fiction that follows the overlapping lives of Stephen, Higen, and Raven [The only names that appear in more than one of the mini-plots are Johnson and Gabriel. Yet Stephen, Higen and Raven are the ones whose lives overlap?] as they struggle to define themselves while relating to others. [Vagueness is always boring. Note how much more interesting the book sounds with a more specific wrap-up: . . . follows the overlapping lives of Stephen, Higen, and Raven as they lead an army of zombies in an invasion of the Johnson family farm.] Thank you for your time and for your consideration.



There's no evidence that any one of the three main characters even knows the other two.

Is it possible to focus on one character and how that character's life overlaps with the other two, instead of doing these separate paragraphs for each character? It's hard to form an attachment for a character who merits mention in only a third of the plot summary.