Monday, April 30, 2012

New Beginning 942

Some months after my cousin took a bad fall down the grand staircase of his home, I called on him for an extended stay. I arrived but a short hour before the doctor was to arrive for one last examination, and he, having burned off any inherent bashfulness at boarding school and again in the army, invited me to stay and chat throughout the examination.

The doctor struck a match and passed it before my cousin's eyes to watch his pupils follow it; snapped his fingers at either ear to see if he started. My cousin's joints were flicked and found adequate. The doctor seemed pleased with his recovery."

"Has your appetite been well?" he asked, writing mysterious marks into a notebook.

"Strong as ever," said my cousin. "Stay for tea and I shall prove it."

"And your libido?"

"Positively libid."

"And how have you slept?"

I saw my cousin hesitate for a slip of a moment before saying, "Never deeper. Never deeper."

"Appetite and libido good?" The doctor's face wrinkled his concern. "And yet you're sleeping deep? Hmmm."

The omnipresent author slipped my cousin a note. His face lit up, and he spoke with a renewed vigour.

"Maybe I've discovered some fantasy dream world the rest of this story will be about, in which I'm some testosterone-fueled centaur laird taking a stand against the nouveau teen vampire chic with hooves a-blazing."

"Might work," said the doctor, tossing aside his stethoscope, "but you reckoned without the Snake Lords of the Preposterous!"

As serpents slid from beneath his Red Cross poncho, I sensed it was time to play my own hand. It roared from my wrist, half Addams Family appendage, half Fireball XL5 rocket propulsion blast, and stabbed a series of alien-looking sigils into my cousin's bare chest.


"Ha!" cried the doctor. "Your edict has fallen foul of the terminal navel. If you're gonna inscribe a call to arms on a torso, do it on a giant where there's more room to flow freely."

The omnipresent author slipped my cousin another note.

"Forget the horses and the snakes. Looks like we're going with romance."

No need for further words. The three of us embraced each other on the hospital bed. Then we kissed like harlots, ready to spawn some fantasy love child...

Opening: 150.....Continuation: Whirlochre

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Seven Swords

1. It starts when Maria finds a tarot card with seven swords on it outside a church with a broken stained glass window. Now she's being followed by some dude with horns. Maybe she shouldn't be working her way down the list of deadly sins trying to commit them all.

2. To fulfill an ancient prophecy and save his kingdom from destruction, Amir must collect the seven swords of the famous Kings of Olde. If only they weren't guarded by dragons, goblins, angry mage kings, and other creatures who, for no apparent reason, refuse to make this easy for him.

3. While searching for the seven swords of power with which to defeat an evil mage, Syvrus encounters some onionpeople who tell her that her quest may be misguided. Perhaps it's not the mage who's evil, but the gods. Or the talking dragon that sent her on her quest.

4. As midnight looms over Bud's Haunted Bar and Grill in Cincinnati, Iggy the busboy must go to the basement to get the mop. Once there, he hears hideous sounds in the dark and calls to Loretta Muldoon, the savvy waitress, for only she can wield the Seven Swords needed to subdue the Horrible One who lurks below.

5. Her life threatened by an evil queen, princess White Snow escapes to an armory in the forest where she discovers seven swords: Sharpy, Slicey, Cutty, Hacky, Stabby, Slashy, and Gladius.

6. When Sir Gilgebar presents the Eight Sacred Swords of the Dragon of the Eternal Temple from the Mountain of the Magic Emerald to Princess Morleiea of the Northern Fae, she snaps. "Seven swords, you idiot! Not eight, not six, not daggers, not pistols! Seven -- swords! Either read the random rules of my fantasy world or quit wasting my time." Hilarity continues.

Original Version
Dear Evil Editor,

Syvrus has only one desire: to become immortal.

Luckily - or perhaps not - she is given that opportunity by a snobby dragon named RubyFlame, but with one condition: first she must live among immortals for several years. During this highly pleasant - in other words, bloody terrifying - time, Syvrus learns that that there is a threat to her lovable - in other words, bloody crazy - immortal friends. [Your desire to use the word "bloody" as often as possible suggests that you've read Evil Editor's list of: 

15 Words that Make a Query Irresistible

Bag of human heads
Giant Squid

However, I had a different kind of "bloody" in mind, the kind that comes before nouns like "war," "corpse," and "bag of human heads." In any case, I don't see the point of saying highly pleasant means terrifying and lovable means crazy. If she's terrified and they're crazy, where are pleasant and lovable coming from? Are those the dragon's words?

Syvrus: I seek immortality.
RubyFlame: I can give you that, but you'll have to complete a dangerous task to prove you're worthy.
Syvrus: What do I have to do?
RubyFlame: Spend several pleasant years living with lovable characters.
Syvrus. Kill me now.]

A powerful mage named Raven wants to destroy all the immortals in the world - and the gods as well. [Has anyone ever defined "immortal" for this Raven guy?]

The only way he can do this, though, is with the help of a legendary weapon created from seven swords - swords that he has thus far been unable to find, even after decades of irritated searching. [It's not the searching that's irritated, it's Raven. The searching is "irritating." Although a better word would be futile or fruitless. Fruitless? Swordless!] [The reason Raven can't find the seven swords is because the legendary weapon was created from the seven swords. That is, the seven were melted down and the legendary weapon created from their molten steel. I know this from reading the first half of the sentence. You may argue that what you meant is that Raven needs to find the seven swords so that he can melt them down and create the legendary weapon from them, but I counter that argument by saying, If the legendary weapon hasn't even been created yet, how can it already be legendary?] This explains why RubyFlame promises Syvrus that if she finds these swords and (of course) destroys Raven first, she will finally be made immortal. [I get it. RubyFlame = Wizard, Syvrus = Dorothy, Raven = witch, swords = broomstick, and immortality = Kansas. I haven't yet figured out who's playing the scarecrow, tin man and lion, but I'm sure we'll find out very soon.] With this irresistible enticement, Syvrus agrees.

But her journey has barely begun. As she searches for the seven swords, Syvrus meets various bawdy, majestic, and onion-like characters, [Onion-like characters? Shrek described ogres as being like onions: "Ogres have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? We both have layers." Are your characters ogres? Because we were expecting a scarecrow.] [Also, it's not clear if you mean some are bawdy, some majestic and some, like these on the right, onion-like, or if you mean all the characters are, like that on the left, bawdy and majestic and onion-like.] all with different stories to tell. Many of these stories are not ones that Syvrus is happy to hear, especially since they go against her beliefs about the immortals and the gods. [The belief that they're bloody crazy or the belief that they're lovable?] She learns that while much courage is necessary to tell these stories, even more is necessary to truly listen to them. [This is too vague. What message do the stories convey?] As her journey continues, she discovers that there is more to Raven's desire to destroy the immortals and the gods than simple evil [--in other words, bloody complicated good]. And it is Syvrus who must eventually decide the fate of the world's beings - not all of which can survive. [One thing's for sure: the immortals will survive. Right? Right?] [I hope they don't send the onions to the guillotine, or everyone will be crying! Ba dum ching.]

The Seven Swords is a completed 135,000 word fantasy novel [--in other words, two bloody 67,000-word fantasy novels--] (directed at young adults) with philosophical undertones. [Either tell us up front that it's YA or tell us Syvrus's age. Usually it's not young adults who are worried about their mortality, so we might assume she's older; often snobby dragons and talking onions appear in children's books, so we might assume she's younger.] Thank you for your time and consideration,


How is Syvrus supposed to know when she's found the seven swords? How are they different from other swords? Did the dragon give her any idea where to look or how to identify them?

How is Syvrus supposed to defeat a powerful mage? Does she know how to convert the seven swords into one legendary weapon? It would be hard to defeat anyone while wielding seven swords.

If your philosophical undertones make it into the query, you don't need to tell us they're in the book.

If someone is telling me stories that go against my beliefs, it would take tolerance and patience to listen. I don't see why it would take courage. If the stories the onions tell are about actual things the gods and immortals have done, tell us what these things are so we better understand Syvrus's conflict.

Selected Comments

arhooley said...Confusion reigns. These immortal onion-people are bawdy, majestic, lovable, and bloody crazy. Times are bloody terrifying and yet they are passed in story-telling. A quest for immortality, a dragon, a legendary seven-sword weapon, and a mage who wants to destroy gods and immortals all come down to some girl wandering around getting philosophy lessons.
This is very, very weird. This know-nothing girl "must" decide the fate of all the world's beings? I don't like this one bit. I'm not a fan of big, centralized government. I hope I'm on Syvrus's "Save" list. But can she get rid of the coyotes in my neighborhood so I can let my cat out more often?

Also, in a world where immortality is achievable, why is Syvrus the only one seeking it? Where are all the aging despots and Woody Allens and people whose loved ones have fatal diseases?

Angela Robbins said...I think this query is like an onion, the more I try to peel away at it... (finish as you may this sentence).

I'm bloody confused. I don't understand the correlation between
the pleasant/terrifying and loveable/crazy either. Not sure if it's an attempt at sarcasm... but it just doesn't work for me.

Why does the MC want to become immortal? Does she change her mind when she learns that they're (a) bloody crazy and (b) this Raven guy wants to wipe them off the planet or (c) they're not who she first thought they were (as what it seems you are implying by the stories the onion people tell of the immortals)?

Stephen Prosapio said...Hmmmmm. If I were an agent (which I'm not) there would be several things about this query that would concern me. First, as EE alluded to, YA novels are typically shorter than adult novels. First time novelists aren't very successful getting 135k word novels sold. You can cry all you want how unfair it is, or you can accept it as a way of doing business and write something that can get sold.

135,000 words is way way too long for YA. The first Harry Potter novel (the one that was incredibly successful and thus allowed the writer to deviate from the norm) was about 85k words.

Next there are words used awkwardly and wrong "irritating" being the worst one. "In other words" twice in the opening paragraph being another. Be careful with words, they are the building blocks of our craft.

Whirlochre said...Far be it from me to be a predictor of world events, but I suspect the bawdy, majestic, and onion-like characters may attract much minion attention (rather like the strangely angelic man).

But, if onion-like characters there are, and if they feature highly in the plot, along with Raven, Syvrus and Rubyflame, it would help if you just dished things up straighter. There are too many asides here, which (of course) are annoying. Unless there's stacks of humour in the book, I'd drop this in-query commentary.

135,000 words seems very long. Sure this isn't a short trilogy?

Joe G said...That onion man is my new favorite cartoon character. I'm not sure I'm all that interested in an epic fantasy where some girl goes on a journey where she must listen to stories. Backstories are pretty much implied right? Does she actually do anything or did you not want us to think she really did have to fight seven evil ex boyfriends, ahem, I mean, find seven swords? The plot sounds formulaic in the extreme, I'm afraid, like a video game.

The onion man though... gold.

vkw said...I think the author was trying to be "cute" and sarcastic in the query, perhaps even giving a taste of RubyFlame.

Here's the problem with that - the author took it too far, too many times.

I agree with the length, it's too long.

The query needs to be more specific. We need to know more about the immortals. What are they? Why does the mage want to get rid of them? How do they differ from the gods?

what exactly does the MC find out.

_*rachel*_ said...Here's the easy way:

The mage Raven is trying to gather seven legendary swords in order to forge them into a weapon so powerful it can kill even immortals. Syvran aims to stop him; if she can, her reward is immortality. But the friends she makes in her quest make her begin to wonder--are the immortals really the good guys here?

Then tell us what she does on her quest, what she decides, and what she does about it. Leave the dragon out, and include one or two of her main friends. With 137,000 words, I know you've got enough to give us more of the plot.

Speaking of wordcount, isn't that a little long? Between that and having a dragon named RubyFlame, I'm worried. The rest of your query doesn't make any terrible mistakes, but it doesn't have enough detail or zing to balance those two out. Give us a bit--just a bit--of the voice you had in the first paragraph in the revision.

Dave F. said...The Leeks and Ramps have formed a legion under General Garlic and sharpened their chives to object to this query as mocking all good onions. But alas, General Garlic stepped on a Rakkyo and died of blood poisoning.

AA said...To me, this query took a nosedive when the author mentioned destroying immortals. If they're immortal, they can't be destroyed, right? I don't see what purpose is served by making a word mean whatever is convenient for you at the time.

M. G. E. said...There's no unity to the premise and plot, nor to the query. Mages, dragons, immortals, and... onions?

The two asides is a major no-no. It indicates that your repertoire of sentence constructions is lacking, or that it's your pet construction, and that you're unable to spot over-seasoned prose.

Worse, it just doesn't feel authentic, rather it feels like a tacked-on attempt at verve to come-off as having voice.

The unintentional grammar mistake would spike this with most agents, even were everything else pretty good. It's hard to teach people to spot unintentionally misused words / grammar. A manuscript riddled with them combined with an author who's poor at spotting them means the agent may have to hire an editor to get the manuscript to a publishable state. They don't like that.

Lastly the word count is beyond the pale.

I just don't see anything that makes me want to read this. Swords as plot-tokens, a magical bad guy, and some girl who inexplicably wants to be immortal.

So, why does she want it? How is it she happens to know some immortals? Umm, kind of hoped I wouldn't ask this, but, is there any romantic involvement with the antagonist/mage dude?

I ask because you've given her what appears to be an impossible task without -any- hope of achieving it, and no skills to speak of.

Anonymous said...What everyone else has said...but in particular, EE's first sentence in his commentary. What makes this a YA story? YA fiction should have plots that teen readers can identify with, and immortality just isn't usually on a teen's "top ten things I want"...they already think they're immortal anyway. Immortality as coming-of-age...hmm.

Ditto on the weird asides in paragraph one. They smack of trying too hard.

AA said...A lot of people, creatures, onions, etc. are involved- why? To teach the protag some sort of lesson. Why? 'Cause otherwise there would be no story. Imagine this poor girl with a quest and no obliging mages, ogres, meddlesome fairies, snooty dragons or capricious sprites to show up and be the several dozens of characters stories like this seem to require?

Even where the plot is stated here, nothing is clear. Why does the MC have to live among the immortals for seven years? Because the obnoxious dragon says so. How can there be a threat to somebody who's already immortal? Because the author needs a threat for the story to work. How is it that one regular person can decide the fate of an entire world's people? Because that's how the story ends.

Where are the characters' motivations?

Gwen Ever said...I really liked this in a bloody horrifing way. Is this your real query? I ask this because somebody without a lot of time on their hands won't get past the first paragraph. When an editor takes time out of their busy schedule to give you pointers, that’s pure gold. (That’s hats off to you EE, you do a great job!) I like the originality of your onion people. It reminds me of genetic engineering, a kind of post Monsanto world where little Jimmy, who gets sent out to weed the family garden, gets cornered by the onions and carrots. The last thing we hear is “Help me Mommy, Help me Mommy!” Listen to the advice here and edit, edit, edit. You have a great imagination and kudos for a new twist to the ‘dragon, swords, rings, and hobbit people’ theme.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

The Emperor's Edge

1. The citizens are revolting. Seriously. To regain their respect, the emperor will have to rely on something never before seen in Sphereland.

2. What good is being an emperor if you can't have your own private tailor, your own private mistress, and your own private assassin? And, you save money if they're all the same person.

3. Tony Spagnolo owns the world's third largest razor company. He sets out with a daring plan to steal a fantastic new blade design from The Emperor Shaving Company. Can he beat the high tech security system and get . . . The Emperor's Edge?

4. Amaranthe Lokdon is supposed to be protecting the emperor with her blade, but she has her own problems: everybody in the city is trying to kill her, and her actual weapon of choice is a coffee canister. At least she's prepared if she needs a caffeine fix.

5. Idealist Jorian Vangnor sets out to compete in the Sacred Games. The victor becomes absolute ruler of the Sycrovian Empire for the next five years. Little does he know that the current Emperor has already marked the cards, shaved the dice, and gimmicked the roulette wheel.

6. For centuries the god-emperors of Dagot have ruled their kingdom with their unstoppable fighting style - until a humble street orphan stumbles onto their secret. All he has to do now is publish it before they can kill him. Of course, first he'll need . . . a query letter.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Imperial law enforcer, Amaranthe Lokdon, [Commas not needed around a character's name.] [Also, Amaranthe? Was she named after a cereal grain? I guess it's better than naming her Buckwheate. Consider naming her Wheaties; might rake in some cash for product placement.] is good at her job: she can deter thieves and pacify thugs, if not with a blade, then by toppling an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters onto their heads. [Of course, as there's rarely an eight-foot pile of coffee canisters nearby (except for this one time when the thug she was pacifying was causing a ruckus in Starbucks), she always carries a blade.] But when an arson [arsonist] destroys a giant kiln, [Fire destroying a kiln is like a rainstorm destroying a swimming pool. In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, the entire downtown was destroyed; the only thing left was a kiln.] a mysterious creature ravages innocent citizens, and a secret coalition plots to kill the emperor, she feels a tad overwhelmed. [I'd remove the kiln from the list of stuff that's overwhelming her. Right now it's like saying a secret service agent is overwhelmed because terrorists are attacking the White House, Klingons are destroying Washington and his toaster is malfunctioning.] Matters get worse when her investigations annoy the wrong person, and a bounty lands on her head. Soon gangsters, assassins, and even co-workers are trying to kill her. [Why would anyone want to be an imperial law enforcer in a world where if an imperial law enforcer annoys you, you can put a bounty on her head and everyone will try to kill her? Instead of having imperial law enforcers they should just put bounties on all criminals.]

The only person not attempting to cash in is the most infamous criminal in the city, an assassin named Sicarius. He has an inexplicable interest in keeping the emperor alive, which makes him the perfect ally, [If everyone's trying to kill me, my perfect ally is gonna be someone with an inexplicable interest in keeping me alive, not the emperor. Screw the emperor.] [In any case, if there are 30,000 people in this city trying to kill me, I'm not teaming up with the only one who isn't; I'm getting out of Dodge.] in a dear-ancestors-sometimes-he’s-more-evil-than-the-villains kind of way. [Not clear what "dear ancestors" is doing there. Is it like Oh my God? I'd get rid of it. Or change it to Oh my God.] His coldhearted indifference to humanity chills Amaranthe, but she finds herself awed by his deadly athleticism, intrigued by the past he won’t speak about, and tickled that he actually listens to her crazy schemes. Together they might have a chance to thwart the ringleaders and save the emperor, but when her curiosity drives her to unearth Sicarius’s secrets, the revelation could start a civil war....

The Emperor's Edge is a fantasy novel, complete at 105k words. I would be pleased to send it for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.



As you focus the query on protecting the emperor with no further mention of the mysterious creature, I'd leave out the creature entirely. Unless Sicarius's secret is that he's responsible for the creature's killing spree, in which case the last plot sentence might read: Together they might have a chance to thwart the ringleaders and save the emperor, but when she discovers that the mysterious creature that's been killing people is actually Sicarius in a bear costume, the revelation could start a civil war.....

If Sicarius is a wolfman, we need to know that.

Selected Comments

Bernita said...The story sounds great. Just clean up the query.

Anonymous said...Why would an arsonIST destroy a kiln? A "tad" overwhelmed? I am not getting this but some days I don't get much. This is one of those days. She uses blades and coffee cans eh? Wow. What is a myterious creature? I have them on my walls and climbing around my balcony.

 writtenwyrdd said..."...a bounty lands on her head." I'm sorry, this is not helpful, but that left me with the image of a roll of paper towels bouncing off her head, and the woman looks up and screams, "Anacronism alert!"

In a more helpful vein, you are compiling a list of lists in this letter. Perhaps reduce that a bit. I don't think this is such a bad letter, but it's so full of stuff that I don't have a feel for what the crux of the matter is, and my eyes are glazed over from trying to digest all this information.

Stephen Prosapio said...Yeah. An assassin not taking advantage of a bounty is like a writer not taking advantage of being trapped in an elevator with a publisher.

Seems like there is a story here, just not coming out through the query because you're bogged down in the wrong details. What does the protag want? What's standing in her way? What happens if she fails?

Agents and editors don't take well to having "mysterious elements" like your kiln thrown into a query and not explained. Focus on your character.

Verona St. James said...Is Sicarius the emperor's long lost brother or something? Is that why he wants to keep the emperor alive?

vkw said...I think there is a story here. I can see it wants to be told but you are not doing it in your query. I don't like the coffee canister part. We need to know more about the mysterious monster. "annoy the wrong person" sounds like she pokes someone or wears too much perfume. I think I would specify exactly what that means. Does she get too close to solving the mystery or finding the culprit.

_*rachel*_ said...There's so much overwhelming her that I'M getting overwhelmed. I'm definitely interested, but it would help if you pared things down a bit.
I like the voice here--for example, the dryness of "a tad overwhelmed." Just a thought, but could you later say the bounty on her head is so big she almost considers turning herself in? I think it'd be funny, though I could be wrong.

I say pare down on what you have and elaborate on what happens after she starts working with this killer. Maybe:

When arsonists, monsters, and conspirators set out to both destroy the capital city and kill the emperor she's vowed to defend, Amaranthe feels just a tad overwhelmed. Even so, she sets out to find whoever's behind it all.

Unfortunately, whoever's behind it all thinks she's a threat and starts pulling strings. Now the city thinks Amaranthe's a criminal, and the bounty is so large even she's tempted to turn herself in.

But there's one person in the city who doesn't care about the reward, and it's not who she expected: it's Sicarius, the assassin. He has an uncharacteristic interest in keeping the emperor alive. He's also ruthless, coldhearted, and a valuable ally. He actually listens to Amaranthe's crazy schemes. Together, they'll either save the city or start a civil war.

The Emperor's Edge is a fantasy novel, complete at 105k words. I would be pleased to send it for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Or something like that. That's not one of my better query revisions.

Joe G said...Now there's a funny story. A city with such a high crime rate the government issues bounties to the criminals if they are willing to turn themselves in and endure jail time. Or maybe they just use the bounties to buy their way out and go back to their life of crime. A never ending cycle of doom.

M. G. E. said...The tone and voice of the query should match that of the novel.

The tone here reminds me of Piers Anthony. Problem is, Piers Anthony matched a light tone with light subject matter (I'll never forget the Vale of the Voles).

Your plot has a very serious subject. Assassins, plots, bounty hunters, emperors, etc. It's difficult to pull that off with such a light tone, unless you're writing in 1st person and the protag is a light-hearted jokester herself.

I don't understand the kiln being destroyed by fire either; The second you do something in a query that is inexplicable there's a problem.

But agents don't want you to be their problem, thus the form rejection :P

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Film Noir


New Beginning 941

Vince looked at me tiredly. I slouched in my chair and looked back as blankly as possible.

“It was a good job, Maus. What was your problem?”

I stared at him, long enough to irritate and not quite long enough to make him repeat himself. Then I said, “Dunno.”

His eyes narrowed, always a danger signal to me. Very levelly, he said, “The problem was that it was legal.”

“It was the manager,” I lied. “He didn’t like me.”

His eyes got even narrower, and he worked his jaw for a minute. If he’d verbalized that expression, he would’ve been saying, I’m not going to punch your face, no matter how much you tempt me to. He looked back down at my file for a moment, long enough to get his temper back under control. Then he told me, “I know the manager. He’s helped a lot of kids with a good job. He's patient, and he likes working with kids.” He met my eyes. “The truth, Maus, is that you don’t want to be helped.”

“The truth," I said, “is he’s all patience and virtue when it comes to Face Lifts and Guess the Plots, but I was two minutes late with his cheese danish. There is no happy ending to that scenario.”

Vince picked up the file with my manuscript and sighed. “I guess we could try self-publishing.”

“Too late.” I buried my head in my hands. “Evil Editor blacklisted me there, too.”

Opening: Rachel Roy.....Continuation: PLaF

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Face-Lift 1021

Guess the Plot


1. In the mystyc land of Faeyrynn a young fey must fight to reclaim his throne and . . . oh, hell. You've already stopped reading, haven't you?

2. Remus Longbow is a plucky orphan destined to find a sword, become a mighty warrior, and then die in combat with the dragon Illuvica before the real hero shows up.

3. When Dr. Shortbread synthesizes a new molecule he calls Illuvica, he has no idea that he has created a substance making people irresistible to the opposite sex. Which is useless to him because he's gay. Can he destroy the substance before his boyfriends all defect?

4. Archeologist Len Bianchi, exploring Rome’s oldest catacombs dating from the third century B.C., opens a crypt releasing Illuvica, the demigod vampire of felines. The Romans sealed her off over two thousand years ago. Now she’s really pissed--especially about that stupid dog thing--and wants revenge on all Italy.

5. Andi Smirnov, the only human still living on a generational starship, survives alone, becomes a cyborg, and finds happiness with the ghost of the ship on a new world.

6. Parry goes to Illuvica to sell pumpkins. But war suddenly breaks out and Parry's big brother Leo is jailed for murdering the king. Can Parry save Leo and Illuvica? More importantly, can he do so without magic, which is a no-no?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Parry Vine can’t wait to travel to a nearby kingdom to help his brother and sister sell pumpkins from their family farm. [Yes, selling pumpkins does sound exciting.] [Basically it means standing next to a pile of pumpkins all day and occasionally someone takes one and gives you five dollars. Though in olden days it was more like five cents.] But when they arrive in Pierceland [So named because all the inhabitants have piercings], excitement quickly turns to despair. Parry’s brother Leo is thrown in jail and falsely accused of poisoning King Radkor. [Kings generally have enough bodyguards around them to prevent pumpkin merchants from slipping poison into their mead. Plus they have food tasters. Plus, even if the king's chef bought a pumpkin, he wouldn't feed it to the king raw, so how quickly could the king have been poisoned by Leo?] 

The beloved king’s death throws all three kingdoms of Illuvica into chaos, [What is Illuvica? A planet? A continent? A video game?] with the Vine siblings in the middle of it all. Parry gets his hands on an important artifact that could buy Leo’s freedom, as long as he can deliver it to the right person.

[Parry: They think my brother murdered the king. I need to get him out of jail before they hang him.

The Right Person: I hear you have the fabled Scissors of Endor. Perhaps we can work out a deal.]

War breaks out, and Nora is caught in the crossfire, [Nora? Who's Nora? Ah, is that the sister mentioned way back in the first sentence? If you name the siblings in sentence 1 it'll save having to later identify them.] searching for a way to help the soldiers without getting in the way herself. [Drop Nora from the query. She's only there for eye candy.] Meanwhile, Leo attempts to escape from prison with no help from his cellmate, a clever princess with a sharp mind but a cold shoulder. [They lock the guy suspected of poisoning the king in a cell with the princess?] [There's a reason men and women aren't put in the same cell: jail is supposed to be punishment.]

And beyond the battlefield, someone is plotting another murder and scheming to break the bonds that have kept magic out of Illuvica for over a century.

If the Vine siblings ever want to return safely to their hometown, they must reunite and work together to stop magic from being released. [The place is at war. And releasing magic would worsen the situation?] But in spite of what he has been told about the dangers of magic, letting it loose might be the only way for Parry to emerge from the shadow of his older siblings. Will Parry put everyone he loves in danger to achieve his dreams? [What has been told about the dangers of magic?] [What are these dreams Parry wants to achieve?]

ILLUVICA, a young adult fantasy novel, is complete at 65,000 words and would work as a stand-alone novel or as the first installment in a series. [How old is Parry? As the youngest of the siblings, and the star of the show, I assumed this was middle grade. Are high school kids gonna want to read about Parry the pumpkinmonger?] [Parry the Pumpkinmonger would be a good title if you convert it to a children's picture book.]

I am an award-winning composer of choral music and a middle school band teacher. [Please buy my book for six figures and set me free.] When I’m not teaching seventh graders to play “Hot Cross Buns” [If you'd teach them something by Maroon 5 or Gaga they might stop hating you.] I am usually blogging about the books I read or sewing costumes for comic book conventions and renaissance faires.

Thank you for your time and consideration.



The main issue here is the release of magic. Apparently the release of magic will help Leo get out of jail and help Parry achieve his dream. But . . . But what? What's the downside of releasing magic? How does it put everyone in danger?

Why does the death of Pierceland's king throw the other kingdoms into chaos?

This is mainly a list of a few things that happen. We don't need to know what Nora's doing or that Leo tries to escape from prison or who his cellmate is. Focus on Parry's goals (to free Leo and achieve the dream of emerging from his siblings' shadow?), his plan, and what's at stake if his plan backfires.

Somehow saying Parry can't wait to help his brother and sister sell the pumpkins doesn't sound like the same kid who's trying to emerge from their shadows. Or maybe it sounds like the same kid but not at the same age.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

New Beginning 940

I remember sadness from when I was a little girl.  Death had taken someone close to my family but i was too young to comprehend the full impact or remember the details.  In my teens death was harsh and in three.  First my cousin, lost to cancer.  She younger than me.  Then the soccer player.  Instant inexplicable death in the locker room after practice.  Finally my friend.  My Christopher all golden haired and perfect.  That fateful day he had called... I wasn’t home, was on my way to see him.  His death hit me like a tidal wave.  Couldn’t breathe, think.  Couldn’t eat for days.  Thoughts of the trigger pull, the body lying in puddles of thick red blood.  Forever congealed in my memory.

So much blood.  Not Dexter’s mother’s death in a boxcar blood.  But years after Christopher death decided to taunt me.  What would I do to save a life?  Always in the wrong place at the wrong time incapable of saving anyone a trio of attempted suicide’s came my way.  I sound like I started to take the grim reaper personally.  As if he had some ill intentioned manner to come after me, my friends, my life, and leave it drained; it certainly felt that way.  There was Andrew, letters written in blood from states away.  I didn’t take him seriously, who does that kind of thing?  Well he did, ended up permanently damaged and locked away.

Shortly thereafter followed Jon.  He was damaged from the start of our brief engagement.  Scar ridden body I figured he was more into torture than the real thing.  Body half eaten alive by Heroine and who knows what else.  The tragic guitar player I couldn’t escape despite my best efforts.  Until one day I finally did.  Took a new job, moved my things into storage and hit the road.  The phone call to my hotel room late at night as his blood filled the tub.  Did he really want to die?  He lost enough to, but the cops beet the door down and stuffed new blood in the places where he’d emptied out his own.  Several months in a hospital and he never tried it again.  Maybe the blood he was born with wasn’t good enough.  Dead already.  Suffocated him without his knowing and all it took was a quick transfusion to fix him.

With the record of grisly deaths (not The Thing grisly with the spit-drooling dogs; the old black and white version) everyone i come in contact with meats, I am forced to question why anybody would want aught to do with me. Even you, kind reader, you who are perusing this, my gruesome memoir, may well consider suicide after reading only three or four paragraphs. 

Opening: J.R. Moore.....Continuation: Paul Penna

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Face-Lift 1020

Guess the Plot

Playing with Fire

1. Mena's always called 4 year old Rafe the 'devil's own son, and after Rafe sets his 42nd fire at the preschool, toasts the cat on the barbeque, and merrily dances in the exploding fireworks, John is beginning to think a paternity test might be in order.

2. Trapped in an shipping center during a blizzard, plucky warehouse worker Ila Ilsky survives by burning copies of the 7,600 different books already entitled Playing With Fire.

3. What shall we kindle today Mr. Fire?
A marshmallow roast, or a funeral pyre?
This delightful picture book features dozens of games, crafts, and rainy-day projects for ages 5 to 8 all told in verse.
4. A teenaged girl with superhuman power uses it to commit crimes for other people. It's a better way to pick up cash than babysitting--until she gets hired by the guy who murdered her parents. Will she get burned . . . playing with fire?

5. After astronomer Jake Newberg names the killer asteroid about to destroy the world after his ex-wife, she conjures up a fire demon to break the space rock into small chunks that target Jake alone. The entire world watches and places bets.

6. Kieran Keene lands the sax gig with Fire Robinson’s Rock-N-Blues Band. When mutilated groupies are found near the band’s venues. Kieran suspects Fire but hot detective Mary McRae suspects Kieran. He can try solving the mystery and risk being arrested or he can return to second rate bands in third rate clubs.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Seventeen-year-old Pollock Avery can steal anything for anyone. [Either change "can" to "will" or delete "for anyone."] Her electrokinesis allows her to short out security systems with a quick zap, then it’s easy as rolling out of bed to nab an ancient artifact. Since her parents’ murders, the money has kept her and her little sister out of the foster system. [If she just stole money for herself, cutting out the middle-man, she wouldn't need to devote time to selling artifacts to other people.]

When a mysterious new client offers Pollock information about the murders in exchange for stealing exclusively for him, she can’t resist the allure of finally uncovering the killer,

[Client: I know who killed your parents, but rather than inform the police I've kept this information to myself. If you'll commit multiple crimes for me I'll gradually give you clues that will eventually allow you to find the killer.

Pollock: Okay. You seem trustworthy enough.]

and getting her revenge. As the heists get riskier, Pollock’s client grows more deceptive and she learns he wants more than art and jewels…he wants the key to her ability. [So that he can short out electrical systems and risk getting caught while stealing art and jewels? Sometimes it's better to have a middle-man.]

But ending their arrangement won’t be easy.  Even though Pollock manages to slip out of the client's grasp, he gets his hands on her sister.  Now Pollock must face the reality he'll murder her sister just like he did her parents, [Whoa, I missed the part where you revealed that the client is also the murderer.] all to get the secret of their abilities. Killing a murderer won't be as easy as stealing, [That does sound better than "murdering a killer."] but Pollock’s electrokinesis packs a shocking punch.

PLAYING WITH FIRE, a 77,000 word young adult urban fantasy, is a stand alone novel with series potential.  Thank you for your time and consideration.


Avery Pollock sounds like a person's name. Pollock Avery sounds like a wealth management company. Besides, she needs a superhero name.

My theory is that the person who wants the stolen goods is safer letting someone else do the stealing, while the person who wants the money is better off stealing money. Presumably, then, the client wants Pollock's power for something besides acquiring stuff. Namely . . . what?

If I'm the client, I would assume Pollock's power is some kind of accident of nature, a genetic mutation. Not a secret that, once revealed, will grant me the same power.

Client: Tell me the secret of electrokinesis or your sister dies.

Pollock: It's easy. You just stick this fork into that electrical outlet.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Beginning 939

Andromeda Jaunsten was nervous and overwhelmed. She also felt excitement and pure joy, though these emotions didn't belong to her.

 "Come on. It's time."

"I'm not ready," she said.

Wesper Allern had her hand in a firm grip, tugging at it to urge her forward. She refused to move. "We're going," he said.

 "I can't do it. I'm not like you. I don't know how to act around people I don't know."

"Then isn't it time you learned?"

 "Look," she said, pulling her hand free. "I'm socially awkward. You know it, I know it, everyone who's ever met me knows it. I can't help it. I'm literally from outer space. There's no other option than to be awkward."

"You've been using that excuse for years."

"It's a good excuse."

"You don't see me using it."

"You're different."


"You're likable." She rolled her eyes. "I'm just… not."

"I like you," Wesper said. He studied her for a moment, and then smiled. "You don't think that counts, do you?" She didn't answer him, and he took that to mean 'no'. She threw a hesitant glance towards the mass of beautiful teenagers ahead, already huddled together in groups that could certainly do without her.

Well, don't worry about it," Wesper continued. "You're new. Once they get used to you, they'll like you as much as I do."

Space girl still didn't reply. She had her eye on a particularly attractive cheerleader. Before Wesper could stop her, her forked tongue shot out of her mouth, wrapped itself around the cheerleader's neck and hauled her in. A couple of hard crunches and a swallow later, all that was left was a team letter and a pom pom.


Opening: Malin.....Continuation: Anon.

I'm Feeling Old

1000+ Query Face-Lifts, 1000+ Cartoons, 930+ New Beginnings, 147 Book Chats, 180+ Q & As, 2000+ Writing Exercise Results, 6 books, 5750 posts, 850 tweets, Countless Success Stories.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Captain Kissy- Face

1. Hero apprentice Brian Wade learns the hard way why you should never offend the notary whose job it is to assign your superhero name.

2. Captain Kissy-Face is the latest student to arrive at the school for superheroes. None of the other boys can figure out what his superpower is. The girls, on the other hand, all want him as their lab partner.

3. Every mini-skirted, wonderbra-ed space hottie Captain Kirk ever shagged - human, Vulcan or transdimensional energy being - is back for revenge. Revenge for broken hearts, for being dumped after each mission, and most of all for that nasty strain of Romulan herpes.

4. The crew of B17 'Lucky Lulu' aren't too happy when movie star Bill Rollins comes on board. He's always posing with the plane, blowing kisses to his fans. Tonight they're heading for Germany. Will they survive their run, or will the Luftwaffe make them all kiss their asses goodbye?

5. Miriam, nearing her 30th birthday, can't keep a boyfriend. After three potential Mr. Rights disappear without forwarding addresses, Miriam thinks they can't handle her 17 cats. But her suspicions change when she gets a message through her online dating site saying, "no mor boyz!!1! teh next captin kisy-face gonna die!!!!1!!1 lolz"

6. Felix Kissy-Face rose through the ranks from private to corporal to sergeant. But now he keeps getting passed over for promotions. Is there really a glass ceiling in the army? Or is it just that no one can respect a man with a name like Felix?

Original Version

I am seeking representation for my middle-grade novel Captain Kissy-Face, complete at approximately 25,000 words.

It takes more than superpowers to be a superhero. [True. It also takes a tolerance for latex and a secret identity. But don't overestimate the importance of the latter. Most superhero disguises wouldn't fool anyone with an IQ. Superman came up with the idea to put on a pair of glasses so he could mingle with lower beings. Superman disguising himself by wearing glasses is like Evil Editor disguising himself by wearing an ear stud.

Did you recognize me? Lois Lane wouldn't have. Then there's Aquaman. He spent months coming up with his secret identity, but everyone knew it was him anyway, because he breathes through gills. It's a dead giveaway when you're out on a dinner date and you keep running over and sticking your head in the lobster tank. As for The Thing, here he is as a superhero:]

And here he is in his secret identity as an Elvis impersonator.

Didn't really fool anybody.]

Several newcomers have arrived on Red Cloak Island. The kitchen lady whose face is the same size, shape, color and texture as a basketball is unusual. The substitute teacher whose face is lost in shadow even when he stands beneath the light is bizarre. But the strangest of all is the new sixth-grade student who will come to be known as Captain Kissy-Face. He’s polite, smart, and a bit shy. He looks and acts like a completely normal boy. He introduces himself as Kevin McFarland, which is beyond weird. [I'm afraid I have to disagree with your assessment. Kevin McFarland is not the strangest of all; Basketball-head is the strangest. Does she have a nose and mouth, or do they have to stick a needle in her valve to get her oxygen? I'll bet when she walks down the hall all the students torment her by blowing whistles and calling her for traveling. It's good that she's just a lunch lady, because the most fitting superhero names (Leatherface, The Rock) are already taken. Plus, when you're battling supervillains you need a better super power than a basketball head.]

Secret from the world at large, unaffiliated with any nation, Red Cloak Island looks like a volcano rising out of the sea. Deep within, protected by a cleverly designed dome, is a school for superheroes. One girl has a tendency to raise her hand higher than anyone else – all the way to the ceiling, in fact. [They call her Bighand.]

[No one's yet figured out what good she'd be on a team of superheroes, but the Incredible Hulk insists on keeping her around.] One boy calls himself Invisible Max and likes to keep teachers guessing as to whether he’s actually in class or not. [He's not. He's in the girls' locker room.] Others can fly or crush boulders or create tornadoes in the classroom. In the history of the school, Kevin is the only one who ever passed up the chance to show off his powers to his new classmates. [My money's on super kisses.] He hasn’t even given himself a super-cool hero nickname.

Speculating about the new kid’s abilities and even trying to force him to reveal his secret power becomes the focus of half the sixth-grade class, until something more sinister steals their attention. An illness is spreading across the island, stripping students and teachers of their powers. Could polite, shy Kevin McFarland be to blame? [No need to tell us he's polite and shy a second time.] Why does the new substitute go to such great lengths to hide his appearance? And what secret of Red Cloak’s earliest days lies hidden in the books no one is allowed to remove from the library? [Has anyone tried reading them while in the library?]

Captain Kissy-Face was written as a standalone novel, but I’ve already begun working on related titles in what I’ve been calling the Sixth-Grade Superheroes series. I have included the first 10 pages below in the body of this email, and would love to send you the full manuscript to consider.

Thank you.


Sounds like a winner. I'd shorten it a bit. Get rid of: It takes more than superpowers to be a superhero. It's on an island with no transition into the next sentence.

There are several lists, and more set-up than plot, but that isn't so bothersome in this type of book. That said, you can do without Bighand.

Selected Comments

jrmosher said...This absolutely made my day. Hell, made my whole year. The GTP's were hilarious, and EE's commentary had me in stitches.

My favorite part, of course, was this: "Sounds like a winner." What a way to wind up the week. Thank you, EE.

Angie said...The premise of the book is kind of cute. Your stuff in blue made me pee my pants, EE!

Anonymous said...I like the premise, good luck with it. EE's comments were great. I was reminded of the movie Mystery Men when they have the conversation about why the news reporter(I think) can’t be Captain Amazing because he wears glasses, which blared out the level of their intelligence.

pjd said...Sounds fun, and great title. I only have two problems: First, it seems a bit short (25,000 words) for middle grade with so many odd characters and a full mystery to unravel. I'm a little concerned that it's too short for 5th-6th and too long for 3rd-4th (and 7th-8th wouldn't even pick it up). But my kids read all kinds of books, so maybe this is just fine.

My only other problem is that this secret, hidden school has a substitute teacher. I know the job market is tough for teachers and all, but... really?

Eric said...See, this is the great thing about EE's site; you just have to figure out how to write the book as great as the parts in blue and you'll be all set.

Nice work all around. I'd recommend trimming the query by about 10% to tighten the prose a bit (just because you always can.) Interesting concept with a lot of promise-- though I do hope the ending revelation turns out not to be that polite, shy Kevin is (gasp!) actually the villain!

Sarah Laurenson said...Laughed quite a bit through this one and not only at EE's comments. You've got a nice style and your voice shows through. Good luck!

Kathleen said...EE's comments were hysterical. story is intriguing. good luck author!

Phoenix said...Is it too early for 2010 nominations? Better shortlist this one, EE.
Of it all, I have to say I found this bit to be the most farfetched (what universe are we in?): He’s polite, smart, and a bit shy. He looks and acts like a completely normal boy.  :o) Keep us posted on this one, JR!

wendy said...How can your lead be hiding his secret powers? Isn’t that what they are at the school to practice? Otherwise they could all be mainstreamed in public school. What are we going to watch them do - their multiplication tables?

Also you’ve told us nothing about what it’s like to experience being a student at the school on Red Cloak Island, so I can’t identify with why anyone would want to go there.

And, yes, you’ve told us that an illness is messing with the kids’ mad skills, but you haven’t delineated what’s at stake if they are lost.

It takes more than weird to make a fantasy novel.

I have a feeling those high stakes situations may actually be in the novel, but you haven’t shown your hand enough for my taste. And so far, all I can see is what physically exists on the Island, but I haven’t been able to get behind anyone’s eyes to experience it. How does the conflict between the students manifest itself in their behaviors?

It seems like the story’s there but your query isn’t showing it yet. I am very enticed by the idea that the Island's secrets "from its earliest days" might be the key to saving the students.

I truly wish you the best of luck with this. Hopefully the rest of the gang is right and I am way off base. Wouldn’t be the first time.

 _*Rachel*_ said...
Dunno, wendy, I think it's Sky High for middle school.

Dominique said...It sounds like you've got a really interesting book on your hands, but I felt like most of the query was just raw info. Leap into the conflict of the books sooner and let your style shine.

Jeffthewriter said...Laughed out loud at this one - but I have to make note of an age-old Superman comic about HIS unknown super-power, the one that enabled him to fool everyone with the glasses disguise. In the story, they revealed he had the power of super-hypnosis and showed how everyone saw Clark Kent: as a heavier, more round-faced version of the one we saw in the comics. Can't say I bought the idea, but at least the writers tried! (Personally, I thought a more effective disguise than "Clark Kent" would have been a female wearing a berka.)

Matthew said...Sky High. I was killing myself trying to think of the movie this reminded me of. Sky High wasn't anything original though. The powerless main character turned into superman and his girlfriend was Poison Ivy. The bad guy, if I recall, was a lady version of Doctor Doom (the inspiration for Darth Vader).

jrmosher said...Author here. Thanks for the great feedback and comments, all.

PJD: I've just about done editing and the final draft will be closer to 26K. It's geared more toward the 4th-6th crowd. From what was able to find on the 'net, it seems word counts for that can range anywhere from 18K to 40K, depending on who you ask. I don't want to throw stuff in there just to bump up the count, but I'll keep this in mind when submitting. Also, every school needs subs -- even superheroes get sick sometimes, and someone has to fill in. Plus, some of the teachers in this school occasionally get called away for emergencies, so there are extra staff members on hand to fill in when needed. Seemed reasonable to me, and since part of the book deals with an illness that incapacitates teachers and students alike, it was a necessary piece of info.

Wendy: Critical feedback is what I came for. Thank you. First, the book takes place over the span of just a few days. Realistically he can't hide his powers for longer that (and he's hiding them only from his fellow students; the teachers know who he is and what he can do.) Everything you mentioned is, in fact, in the novel. I can't imagine how I'd fit all that info into a query, however, or whether it all needs to be there. It never stuck me to "wonder why anyone would want to go there." I mean, it's a school for superheroes ... who wouldn't want to go there? :) But you've given me some good questions to think about, so I'm go to try a couple of other versions of the letter with some of that info in there and see what I get before I decide on the one I'll send out.

Lots of mentions of Sky High here. I haven't seen it. Guess I'll have to check it now and hope it isn't anything close to the book except in the most general sense. Bummer if it is.

Thanks, all!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Guess the Title 10

Below are descriptions of six mysteries available at Your job is to figure out which of the given titles belongs to the book. The fake titles were provided by your fellow Evil Minions. Descriptions were taken from Answers at the bottom of the post.

1. When one of A.J.'s celebrity yoga students gets permanently bent out of shape, and another is accused of the crime, A.J. has no choice but to position herself as a sleuth to find the real killer.

Murder or Knot?
Bend Till it Breaks
Death with a Twist
Dial Om for Murder
The Pretzel Murders
Murder by Pranayama

2. Jordan McAllister can't cook her way out of a macaroni and cheese box, but filling in for the culinary reporter at The Ranchero Globe is better than writing personal ads. Her assignment to review the new steakhouse in town is a disaster that ends with her waiter murdered outside her door-with her name and number in his pocket.

High Steaks
Bloody Rare
Liver Let Die
The Ginsu Diaries
Murder, Well Done
Love Me Tenderloin, Love Me Tartare

3. Small-town librarian Kathleen Paulson never wanted to be the crazy cat lady, but after Owen and Hercules follow her home, she realizes her mind isn't playing tricks on her-her cats have magical abilities. When the body of elderly Agatha Shepherd is found near Kath's favorite café, she knows Owen's talent for turning invisible and Hercules's ability to walk through walls will give the felines access to clues Kath couldn't get without arousing suspicion.

Cat Nipped
Sleight of Paw
Feline Flatfoots
Meow is for Murder
Magical Mystery Tabbies
Hercules Pawrot Investigates

4. When Stacy discovers Rafe's dead body in the ballroom dance studio she owns, the police suspect her of killing him. To clear her name and save her studio, Stacey teams up with Rafe's estranged cousin from Argentina, Tav, to find the real killer. And if Stacy doesn't watch her step, the killer may make this dance her last.

Three to Tango
Deadly Dancing
Quickstep to Murder
Crazy Like a Foxtrot
It Takes Two to Tangle
Save the Last Death for Me

5. 1963. Elvis Presley is contacted by a former army buddy. Littlejon is serving life in a California penitentiary for the murder of a young actress on the MGM lot and he insists he was framed. Elvis figures that solving the crime is just what he needs to escape all those people making demands of him, both professionally and romantically.

All Shot Up
Kill Me Tender
Blue Suede Clues
Don't Be Clueless
Elvis Takes the Case
The Perp and the Pelvis

6. An assistant librarian and a roving reporter make an unlikely pair as they attempt to solve a chain of murders connected to the town library in this mystery set in a small town in Oklahoma.

Checking Out?
Out of Circulation
Death Stalks The Stacks
The Ochelata Bibliognost
Murder by Dewey Decimal

Answers below.

Fake titles submitted by Faceless Minion, Adele, Angela Robbins, arhooley, PLaF, Mister Furkles, Jo-Ann, kbradley67, Anon, anon, anonymous and Evil Editor.

Actual Titles

Dial Om for Murder
Liver Let Die
Sleight of Paw 
Quickstep to Murder
Blue Suede Clues
Murder by Dewey Decimal

Friday, April 20, 2012

Film Noir Friday

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Face-Lift 1019

Guess the Plot


1. When retired chemist Roger Gusty begins converting his farts into ghosts, his love affair with octagenarian heiress Madeleine Crinkly takes a disturbing new turn. Set in a crumbling mansion, this hair-raising tale literally stinks.

2. Dolores knows she's going to die. That's because she's a Mysta, or "Mystic Sista," one of a sisterhood of urban psychics. Her daughter Rosalie is having trouble accepting the inevitable, so the Mystas take her on a road trip. Psychic revelations ensue.

3. Supermodel "Mysta" starts having memories of a past life as a Valkyrie warrior goddess. Then her friend Kieran declares that he's actually an ancient warrior. Kieran's brother, a Navy SEAL shows up, and both brothers want Mysta. But can she figure out which one of them is possessed by a demon who wants to wreak havoc on mankind?

4. Mystie, a Bostonian with a secret, finally achieves her lifelong dream of becoming a parochial school teacher. But her new career is in jeopardy when her nosy students figure out that Mystie is actually a Mysta.

5. Evil Elf Lysander Farklebean finds true love in a fog when the vaporite maiden Mysta helps him navigate to the Ivy Isle, thereby escaping the clutches of the angry King Comytell, father of the spiteful Princess Pearly, who wants Lysander's head on a platter, because he snatched the golden virginity she was keeping in the cupboard. But how long can the new happiness last?

6. In a nearly empty strip mall, the only occupied storefront is for a laser-tag arena, Mysta. Not much happens there, until smoldering corpses drilled with neat, cauterized holes start piling up in the parking lot.

7. Mysta is the fad of the moment only no one can agree what exactly it is: A drink? A drug? A celebrity? Only Pansy knows it's an invasion from another dimension where mind control satellites, death rays, and fate controlled by astrology are real.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

An attack by a jilted rock star-turned-stalker nearly kills Supermodel Mysta. After surgery to repair her crushed larynx, she’s sure the drugs [The drugs? "Her painkillers" or whatever would be more specific.] are causing memories of a past life as Myst, Valkyrie warrior goddess.

Until she displays paranormal powers related to this previous existence. ["Until" suggests that she stops believing the drugs are causing memories of a past life as a Valkyrie warrior goddess when she displays paranormal powers. I would expect these powers to confirm that she has goddess DNA.] [Also, what are her powers?]

The assault reunites her with old friend, Kieran Sigard, [Change his name to Koren Sierkegaard.] who assures [her] he is her prior love, the warrior Sigvarðr. [Did he just find this out, or has he been keeping it from her? Did she tell him about her memories before he told her this?

How that conversation went if she told him first:

Mysta: I've been having these strange visions or dreams or memories of myself as a Valkyrie warrior goddess named Myst.

Kieran: I . . . see . . . Hey, guess what, I'm an ancient Icelandic warrior myself. So you have nothing to worry about. Excuse me, I just remembered there's something I need to tell your doctor before I disappear forever.

How that conversation went if she didn't tell him first:

Kieran: I'm glad you've recovered form the attack on your voice box. By the way, I'm the warrior Sigvarðr, your love from a past life.

Mysta: Welcome to Earth. I have just one question. What's that little thing over the "o" in your warrior name?]

She longs for the passion they share–[Who are "they"?] that is until his Navy SEAL brother arrives. Lieutenant Commander Kaelan Sigard [Giving your children two such similar names may not be uncommon, especially if they're twins, but giving two key characters in the same book such similar names is going to cause confusion.] is temptation incarnate, and offers protection when assassination and kidnapping attempts are made. [It's always nice to have a Navy SEAL visiting you when assassins attack. Especially if, in a past life, the Navy SEAL was Thor.] That isn’t the only thing he offers, but his indifference regarding a lasting relationship compels her to keep her distance. He thrives on a challenge, refusing to give up. This sparks a dormant [awakens a latent] rivalry between brothers, mixing a recipe for disaster as [and] they begin a deadly competition to win her. [Define "deadly."]

Unbeknownst to Mysta, a demon is using one of the brothers for its own centuries-old nefarious scheme. [This just keeps getting better.] [Amazingly, this demon with a centuries-old nefarious scheme somehow doesn't seem as out of place as the Navy SEAL.] It blames her for being cast into the underworld, intends to steal her powers, and wreak havoc on mankind. [Can you really steal someone's powers? Powers aren't like false teeth, that you leave in a cup on the bedside table overnight. Ah, research reveals that a supervillain known as The Parasite stole Superman's powers once. And a mythical staff on exhibit in Metropolis had the ability to steal Superman’s powers and transfer them to some evil character. It was up to Batman to locate and rescue Superman. How humiliating for the Man of Steel to have to be rescued by Batman, with his silly toys like his batarangs and bat pellets.]

As the young woman deciphers [investigates] her past, a twist of events causes her present love to [Kieran/Kaelin] become[s] possessed by the very demon she must destroy. [Which brother is her present love?] This heartbreaking challenge [dilemma] could be her unraveling.

MYSTA, my completed paranormal romantic suspense of approximately 92,500 words, is the first in a series where the couple [What couple?] becomes a paranormal investigative team. In book two, while investigating the homicide of a friend’s relative, ties to the underworld are discovered, luring the couple [Mysta and Kieran or Mysta and Kaelan?] into a devastating trap. In book three, Mysta is a month away from delivering their first baby when she is abducted by those who wish to use her, and her child, for evil purposes. [Never mind books 2 and 3 for now. It has series potential is enough.]

My short story, MURDER IN MIDTOWN, has been accepted for an anthology to be published later this year.

Thank you for your creative criticism. I look forward to being publicly ridiculed soon.



At first reading, one could think, Why does this demon think this supermodel is responsible for casting him into the underworld? If you refer to the demon as a Norse demon, and perhaps give it a Norse demon name, it won't sound like an anachronism to those who consider demons a Christian idea. Did she cause the demon to be cast into the underworld? If so, say so instead of saying it blames her. You can say it wants revenge on her for sending it to the underworld.

It's a romance, but I'm not sure who the romantic couple is. It sounds like Mysta wants a lasting relationship with Kaelin and only stays away because he's indifferent. So when the brothers enter into a rivalry for her, Kieran might not want to be involved with her, knowing she has the hots for his brother. Which is why I can't be sure which brother she ends up with. And for some reason you're not telling.

I wasn't thinking Kieran had any interest in Mysta. Is he an old boyfriend or just an old friend?

We can do without the stalker/larynx bit. She doesn't understand why she's experiencing strange visions, but when she develops X-ray vision and super strength there can be only one explanation: she's the reincarnation of a Valkyrie warrior goddess.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Queries, Openings, Fake Plots. No experience necessary.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Face-Lift 1018

Guess the Plot

Amber Friction

1. Just as the substance amber has the ability to hold a charge, so can Amber Aurora manipulate the electrical energy within her body. Will this power help her become queen of an Alaskan village? It must, or no more females will ever be born. Which could cause friction among the males.

2. Luvsalot is trying to market a new type of organic sex toy. Will the all-natural Amber Friction meet the needs of the increasingly desperate divorced/pagan/hippie/vegan/ dildo demographic? Also, revived ancient bugs rampaging through San Francisco.

3. When a serial killer starts leaving his victims' body parts encased in amber all over the city, Detective Zach Martinez knows two things: the police's geological consultants are also his suspect pool, and he's definitely getting his wife a different semi-precious stone for their anniversary.

4. Amber is desperate (or ‘dispirit’, as she writes it) to be the next publishing billionaire. Her typing is terrible and her ‘spilling’ is ‘worst’. She writes stories about ‘cereal’ killers. ‘Butt’ her ‘friction navels’ are rejected by every agent. “It didn’t grab me.” They write. So Amber grabs them and adds ‘cereal’ killer realism to her next ‘naval’.

5. When Kate Goode dons the mask of Amber Friction, superheroine, she finds herself battling not just criminals but paparazzi, would-be corporate sponsors, and an overbearing mother bent on getting herself some grandkids, even if it means pushing Kate into marrying a mild mannered accountant who may or may not be a supervillain.

6. A bestselling author, attempting to prove that titles don't matter and that her fans will buy her next novel no matter what the title, uses a random word generator to name the book. Her career tanks and she's never heard from again.

7. A hard-hitting look at bias in law enforcement, based on the true story of when my beloved Georgie disappeared and the authorities not only refused to issue an Amber Alert, but actually said to my face, "We don't do that for cats, ma'am."

[Author's note, not part of query: Reason for the title Amber Friction: The modern term "electron" is derived from the Greek word for Amber. Amber was given this name for its ability to aquire [acquire] a charge (like friction from rubbing wool against amber). Aurora has the ability to manipulate the electrical energy within her own body, an ability she slowly learns to control. In a sense, she can aquire [acquire!] a charge, but she doesn't have to drag her socked feet against the carpet to do it.] [If she doesn't have to drag her feet on the carpet, where does the friction in the title come in?] [Is Amber her adoptive family's last name?] For those who aren't familiar with the feet-on-carpet electricity idea, this scene from Family Guy illustrates it.

Original Version

Teenagers don’t usually discover new races. Of course, Aurora Amber doesn’t exactly discover the Terraneans. They find her. [Thus I apologize for using an opening sentence that has nothing to do with anything.]

They rescue her during an attack on her adoptive family's vacation home. Their impenetrable armor and acute sensory perception pique her curiosity. By genetic default, she is the last female capable of becoming the Queen of their Alaskan colony. [Are you implying that there's a male capable of becoming queen?] [Lemme see if I've got this straight. Someone attacks Amber's adoptive family, and she is rescued by members of a new race who discover that she has the genetic makeup to become the new race's queen? Does it go like this:

Terranean 1: Holy crap! Walruses are attacking that Alaskan village vacation home! There might be people inside.

Terranean 2: Fortunately we have impenetrable armor. We must prevent a bloodbath.

Terranean 1: Hello, young lady. I see your family has been slaughtered, but at least we got here in time to rescue you and . . . You know, you look kind of like a Terranean. Mind if we swab your cheek for a DNA test?] Without a Queen, the remaining Terranean women cannot have female progeny. She has six months to declare a warrior who will consummate her reign and rise as King. Otherwise, the colony will hold a blood battle to choose for her.

Aurora is certain she can find a way to escape before then, [Is she a prisoner?] but there may be one Terranean worth staying for. Except Aeron isn’t Alaskan-born, and there are few who would kneel before an outsider. [I love you, but I could never marry you. My new people would never kneel before a Canadian.] Possessing an allure as lethal as Terranean venom, he provides a distraction Aurora can’t afford. Because she wasn’t the only one to walk away from the incinerated remains of her family’s vacation home. [The Human Torch and Electro also survived.]

Being the last female capable of restoring the Alaskan colony may give her the right to be Queen. But it’s also the reason someone wants her dead. [And while killing Aurora Amber might be easy, it won't be easy killing the superhero known as . . . Static Electricity Girl!] Killing the only chance for more women to be born makes no sense unless you're trying to wipe out the race.

Complete at 105,000 words, AMBER FRICTION is a young adult thriller with series potential. A biology and chemistry background has allowed me to utilize science and nature as inspiration for this series. I appreciate your time in considering my query.


Is this set in Alaska on Earth? The idea of a vacation home seems pretty modern unless you're royalty, but these days when a new race is discovered they're usually primitives living on a secluded jungle island, not Alaskans with impenetrable armor and acute sensory perception.

Maybe Amber Aurora would be a better title. It sounds cooler, at least until readers discover that it's just a character's name.

Where does the power to manipulate electricity come in?

This might work better if it began: Amber Aurora is the last hope of the Terranean race. Unless she becomes queen of her Alaskan village, no Terranean women will ever be born again.

This leaves lots of space to get specific about who doesn't want her to become queen, and why, and what she plans to do about it, like touch them and give them shocks.