Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Trick or Treat

Campfire I

The Costume Shop

Campfire II

The Mysterious Shop


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Face-Lift 1082

Guess the Plot

The Wanderer and the Wyvern

1. Phoebus the vampire would have an easier time wiping out his former clan if he had an ally who was a wivern. Unfortunately, he turned the only wivern in town into a human. And then fell in love with him. Maybe they should just move to Manitoba together and get married.

2. He wanders the villages of East Umbria, riding upon his shoulder the last living wyvern in the Northern Realm. Those who would blaspheme the Lord of West Onyx tremble before his approach, many fleeing to the Southern Reaches, or maybe Palm Beach, depending on the season.

3. After twenty years of marriage to a nagging, passive-aggressive woman, Vern hits the road searching for happiness. Yet he cannot escape. A tiny black bird with his wife's voice and overdone make-up haunts his nights, endlessly asking: "why, Vern?"

4. Kakafonius is an itinerant bard. Dulce is a mauve and green were-wyvern, who can transform at will. Together they deliver tales of love, ambition, glory and deception as they ride united across the Kingdom.

5. Jack Schultz sets out to hitchhike across the United States. The first ride he gets is from a wyvern. As the two fly over the Great Plains, the Rockies, and the southwestern deserts, they debate serious philosophical questions.

6. Dr Marian Jacobs has finally found her Holy Grail: a pristine copy of the 13th C romance, "The Wanderer and the Wyvern". Unfortunately her long-term department rival, Dr Jason Reynolds, has also spotted the manuscript. Should she seduce him--or shoot him? Also, tenure.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Phoebus and Abatis are not your typical heroes. They're the ones you would usually find terrorizing villagers or taking over the world. [But with kindness.]

Phoebus has managed to capture Abatis, the legendary dragon. He hopes the creature will aid him in his conquest against [Conquest of or battle against.] his former clan, the Demon Whisperers; a formidable group of vampires that make pacts with the demons of Hell in exchange for dark powers of their own. [Do they whisper when making these pacts with demons? I ask because I've never thought of demons as the type who like it nice and quiet.] [Also, I'd go with a comma or a dash or a colon rather than a semicolon.] Though, instead of just asking for his help, Phoebus has turned the dragon human. [Big mistake. A dragon's power rating is much higher than a human's when it comes to fighting vampires.]

Having to deal with this resentful and foul-mouthed servant, Phoebus tries his best to keep things as professional as he can with a whip in his hand. This becomes difficult when his own demon, the flamboyant Gwynfor, continually insists on interfering and making things more intimate. [Things? What things? Is it Phoebus and his servant or Phoebus and his demon who are intimate?] There isn't much the vampire can do against the demon, lest he wishes for [without effecting/inviting] his own death. Or worse. So he goes along with it, and eventually the two [Which two?] begin to form a much closer bond. A bond Gwynfor intends to take full advantage of.

Just as things [There's that word again.] between Phoebus and Abatis have become nice and comfortable, Gwynfor comes to the vampire with the news that his new lover will be his downfall. That his goal to destroy his former clan has been greatly compromised by their relationship. [When a demon comes to you with "news," is it a good idea to base important decisions on that news? Is it a good idea to even believe him?]

Now the proud Phoebus must make a choice. Either one that will keep him from his victory over the Demon Whisperers. Or one that could not only endanger his own life, but the life of Abatis as well. [Apparently you're saying the choice to stick with Abatis means the clan win. From which I infer that dumping Abatis means the clan loses (though I'm not sure how that can be known; if Phoebus ends his relationship with Abatis, does he fight the clan alone or does Abatis fight with him?). You're also saying dumping Abatis endangers Phoebus and Abatis. From which I infer that not dumping Abatis keeps them safe. But if dumping Abatis means fighting the clan in an epic battle, I don't see how they can be assumed safe. Nor is it clear what endangers them if they stay together and move to Manitoba.

It sounds like P and A are pretty much through whether the Whisperers are defeated or not. So the obvious choice is to defeat them. Maybe. I need a chart to make this clear.

Stick with Abatis..............Dump Abatis
     Clan wins ..................  Clan loses?
  A and P safe?............A and P endangered.
That didn't help. The sentence (not three sentences) should be: Now the proud Phoebus must make a choice: victory over the Demon Whisperers, or his friendship/bond/fling/romance with Abatis. At least that's a choice. Is it the choice in the book?]

THE WANDERER AND THE WYVERN (137,111 words) is a co-authored erotic fantasy, where the point of view switches between both Phoebus and Abatis. [No need for the word "both," as it's implied by the word "between."] [And it's unlikely the reader will care whose POV the story is told from, anyway.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


((P.S. I know the word count is HUGE. I am working on that. A lot. There's still a good amount to do editing-wise to my MS, but I figured I'd start on the query to help keep me motivated.))


In my opinion you must tell us why Phoebus is out to destroy his former clan. What does he gain from victory that might make it worth giving up Abatis?

How can one normal vampire defeat a whole clan of vampires who've acquired new dark powers? If only his one ally were still a dragon instead of a puny human.

Is Phoebus the wanderer? I would assume he hangs out where his clan is, plotting their demise. Where does he wander to?

Monday, October 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1081

Guess the Plot

Soul Birds

1. Dulled by midlife failures, Homer and Bernice Byrd change their name and become a singing duo. They achieve unexpected fame and fortune, but in the end realize that they were happier when they were nobodies.

2. Each of us is accompanied, from birth to death, by a soul bird that sits on our shoulder, makes sarcastic cracks about us to all the other soul birds, and occasionally takes a crap on our Sunday best. That's about it, really.

3. Often seen as a bad racist joke, the crows from Dumbo have decided to make a comeback, and this time they're out for revenge. Known as the dreaded Soul Birds, this band of buddies will live up to their name as a murder of crows to regain their honor.

4. Okay, they aren't really birds, they're more like butterflies. People use them to send prayers to the gods. It's a pretty cool idea, but lately the system isn't working like it's supposed to, so as usual it's up to one unqualified female to step in and prevent an apocalyptic war.

5. When the dismembered body of former Laker Jeremiah Smitts is discovered in the speakers of his jazz club Soul Birds, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, cutting up a body that big had to leave a mess somewhere, and two, he'd better wear his Dwight Howard jersey if he wants them to beat the Trailblazers tomorrow night.

6. When people die, their souls enter the bodies of birds, where they can soar to the heavens. Except for people who've been bad; their souls enter flightless birds, like ostriches and penguins. That's the belief system that has evolved on Earth by the twenty-fourth century. The plot is basically the war between flightless birds and the humans who want to eradicate them.

Original Version

Dear EE,

When Adwen attempts to permeate the home of a waiting girl she is forced away and lands on the sidewalk, momentarily powerless. [For starters, it's not clear whether "she" is Adwen or the waiting girl. By which I mean it's clear you mean Adwen, but "she" should refer to the most recently mentioned female singular entity.] [Also, "waiting girl"? Is that a waitress? Or a lady-in-waiting? Or just a girl who's waiting for something? If the latter, is she waiting for Adwen? If not, what is she waiting for, and if that's irrelevant, why call her a waiting girl?]

Adwen is the Corpreal of physical love and fertility. [The what? I, like Google, assume you misspelled "corporeal." If you made up the word, I recommend not using it in the query. Even if it's inaccurate, use "embodiment" or "goddess" or capitalize a known word like Minister, Custodian, Big Enchilada.] It is her duty to enter the rooms and fantasies of Thea's youth to awaken their sexual desires. [Ah, to have lived in a land where, as a teenage boy, I could look forward to the night Adwen permeated my house and awakened my sexual desires. One question: is she more like Betty or Veronica?] The God of All Things made it so when first man looked at first woman with lust in his eyes and first woman responded with a blush and a smile [and a can of mace].

Confused and scared she rushes to the home of her keeper, Brula, a woman whose magical knowledge is centuries old. [Her keeper? Wait, is this place a zoo?]

Brula discovered a force that can compete with the God of All Things and someone is selling it to the humans. Brula thinks this new power is coming from The Fringe and Adwen should investigate. [Since when do Corpreals investigate anything? That's like if a powerful force were disrupting life as we know it on Earth, and we assigned the investigation to Kim Kardashian. Why doesn't the God of All Things send in a diplomat or a SEAL team or just make The Fringe evaporate?

The Fringe is a desolate place, devoid of magic. [Think Manitoba.] The people live there to escape the rule of the God of All Things and they don't welcome intruders, especially divine ones. Adwen's magic won't work and she won't be able to protect herself from their wrath. [So she has magical powers besides that of awakening sexual desires in youth?]
If Adwen chooses to go, she will be stripped of her powers but if she chooses not to, a war between humans and gods could erupt. [Are you declaring that if she chooses to go, the war won't erupt? Why is war any less likely to erupt if a powerless, unwelcome Corpreal enters The Fringe?] The God of All Things won't turn a blind eye to other forms of magic for long. 

SOUL BIRDS is 80,000 words and is my first novel to see more then just the hard drive on my old laptop. [This one has seen the hard drive on my new laptop.] Thank you for your time and consideration.


[Note from author to EE: The title comes from butterfly like creatures the gods and goddesses of Thea use to send messages to one another. When they land on someone the person is filled with a vision of the messenger. The soul birds are also used by humans to send prayers to the gods.]


Is this Fringe the same place as on the TV show, The Fringe?

Why would anyone suspect that the power great enough to compete with the God of All Things is coming from Manitoba?

What is Thea? A planet? Heaven? A place on Earth? These humans buying the powerful force: are they from Earth?

You spend so much time explaining what stuff like Corpreals and The Fringe are, there's not enough room to tell the story.

Your setup seems to be: When humans acquire power that can compete with the God of All Things, war seems inevitable. It's up to Adwen, the goddess of fertility, to find out how the humans are getting their power, and to prevent the war. But to do so, she'll have to enter the bleakest place on the planet, Manitoba, where no fertility goddess has ever been welcome.  That leaves plenty of room to tell us what she discovers in Manitoba and what she plans to do about it, and who wants to stop her.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. Jimmy’s baby brother witnessed the murder of their Uncle Wences, standing in his crib as the assailant swept through the front window and strangled the old man. The detectives promised to solve the case but Jimmy was unconvinced. All they had to go on was the cryptic word his baby brother kept repeating: “Tarawa. Tarawa.” Unfortunately, no one knew what the hell that meant.

2. Justin was busy saving a bus load of preschoolers when the Justice League handed out the rallying cries for its members. Now he's stuck screaming, "Tarawa!" instead of something cool. It's affecting his self-esteem, his sex life, and--most importantly--his marketability for endorsement contracts. What's a superhero to do???

3. When her town is ransacked and burned to the ground by roving bandits, Tarawa is forced into the wilderness. On death's door, she's rescued by a mysterious monk, who trains her in the ancient art of killing. Years later, she's capable of killing anyone with a single blow. But when she finds love in the form of a simple farmer, she must decide if life is worth something after all.

4. Kidnapped from Earth by the king of the elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory sides with the Tarawan enemy, Suva, in war. The big question is, when a war has lasted a thousand years, is there anything a 12-year-old girl can do to end it? Also, a frog that isn't transformed into a prince.

5. When Master Sergeant Shepard McManus wakes, he sees the rising sun of Tojo flapping over the base. The assault had failed and Tarawa stood firmly in the hands of the Japanese. Thus begins the alternate history of Japan as the dominant power in the Pacific.

6. In Tarawa, words are dangerous tools. Speaking the wrong one can be deadly. When Lieh, street urchin and petty thief, discovers an ancient dictionary, she has no idea the terrors she'll unleash on the city. Can she figure out how to undo the damage, or will her words come back to haunt her?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Researching via the Internet, I found your agency and decided to contact you for representation of my young adult fantasy ‘Tarawa’. With an approximate count of ninety thousand words, it has similarities to Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials Book One, The Golden Compass’, whose protagonist’s life is challenged [by?] her parent’s [Parents'?] secrets. [I'd rather you tell me something about your book before you tell me about this Pullman guy's book.]

Twelve when kidnapped from Earth by her long-absent father Deryck, King of the Elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory rebels. Stunned she is an Elfe, [If she made it to age 12 without even knowing she was an elfe, it can't be much different from being a human.] Fay does not want to be a princess either. Befriending a frog faery a kiss will not transform into a prince, rejecting a king her father betroths her to, [Sorry, sire, but I refuse to marry beneath myself.] and wearing a sword but refusing to fight, [Fight? Don't be silly, this is just an accessory.] Fay’s differences propel her to champion Tarawa’s enemy, the underworld Troll kingdom of Suva. Ending an unjust war that’s lasted a thousand years is a lofty goal. [If there's anyone still alive after a thousand years of war, they must be fighting with squirt guns and snowballs.] It’s also as dangerous as Fay fears. [That's it? What happens? What's her role in ending the war? Warrior? Negotiator? Marry the Suvan prince? None of these seems reasonable for a 12-year-old kid.]

Having decided to write fiction, I attended The Wimbledon Writer’s Conference in Middlemarch, England in 2005, [where my writing didn't change much, but my backhand improved immensely,] and Erstwhile College’s ‘Writers’ in Purgatory’ Conference in Hell, Nevada in 2006. Based on recommendations, I have studied books on technique and written virtual reams to improve my skills. [I, too, have written virtual reams, in my persona as Poet Laureate of Sim City. Someday I may start doing some actual writing.] Regularly, I also exchange pieces and critiques with writers I met at both conferences.

Enclosed in this email are the first ten pages and a brief synopsis of ‘Tarawa’. Thank you for taking time for my query.



For some reason I can't get that song out of my head. How does it go? Tarawa Boom De Ay?

Tarawa sounds like baby talk. Replace the "w" with any other consonant or any consonant plus an "i" or an "h." For instance, Tarania or Taradha.

The title means nothing to anyone.

Apparently Tarawa isn't on Earth. How did the kidnappers get Fay there?

Young adults usually don't want to read about 12-year-olds. Have you considered making Fay older or calling it middle-grade?

Lose the paragraph with your credits and give us more information about the plot.

Selected Comments

Dave F. said...Tarawa is an Atoll in the Marianas (Pacific) and was the site of an important battle in WW2. It ranks with Iwo Jima.

benwah said...Dave beat me to it, but the very first thing I thought of was Tarawa, Battle of. So, yeah, perhaps another name might be in order.

With regard to the credentials paragraph, something doesn't quite smell right here....

Elissa M said...Should have known Dave would be first to mention the battle of Tarawa (besides GTP #5). Suggest a different name to avoid confusing folks who paid attention in history (not to mention the few left who were there).

talpianna said...And Suva is the capital of Fiji. Do you think we don't know these things?

It's pretty hard to make trolls the good guys, what with their fondness for eating people.

Despite the names, these characters don't seem to have much to do with the traditional images of Elves (whether Seelie or Unseelie) and Trolls. Are you just using the names as gimmicks, as Eddison did in THE WORM OUROBOROS?

And I agree that there's no real plot here, just a sketch. And too many unanswered questions: Why is Fay on Earth? Is her mother human or Elfe? Did she flee the King with their baby? And if so, why?

Megoblocks said...And here I was thinking we'd reminiscence the heroics of fellow devil dogs at bloody Tarawa. YA was far, far away from my thoughts of what this would be about.

ME said...I had an immediate strong dislike for the wording of this. Iwas annoyed for some reason. I finally realized my annoyance was due to the author's use of gerund phrases such as:

Researching via,

Befriending a frog faery, rejecting a king, and wearing a sword but refusing

Ending an unjust w, and

Having decided to write . . .

in a repetitive manner in the construct of lengthy sentences. I should add that I was reading the blue words first and the actual query black words after, as I chucked at EE's wit and tried to make sense of the character names and plot.(BTW I really needed a laugh and your Evil Edits were Excellent!) To be fair, I've read it again here in comments (where everything is black and white) and I have to agree with others who ask for more plot but not with those who'd heard of "Tarawa". (Sorry Dave for the apostrohed "had") Also thought the MC's age was too young for YA.

Xiexie said...ME and I share the same grievances with the gerund phrases.

Having said this (;p), author, could you tell us the rest?

Also, what's the significance of the frog who doesn't turn into a prince with a kiss other than that he's a frog whom a kiss won't change him into a prince? Why can't he just be a frog? (And what can a frog really do in a battle against evil Underworld Trolls?)

Anonymous said...If Harry Potter is middle grade, the sophistication of this as described here seems to be in whatever category comes before that. Early readers? I don't know. Maybe with more specifics the complexities and aptness for young adult readers would become apparent.

fairyhedgehog said...I don't know why but the frog who won't change into a prince appeals to me. As a story device, I mean. I know how some of you think.

December/Stacia said...I knew Tarawa sounded familiar.

And I agree about the sentence structure. The plot itself is unclear in this query, and the writing makes it harder to unerstand. She wears a sword but refuses to fight? Do twelve-year-old girls normally fight? Why does she wear the sword at all if she's not going to use it--I can't imagine it would be for comfort.

We don't need to know you exchange critiques with people, or that you've read lots of books on writing, or that you've written a lot before this. It's okay to not have a lot of credentials, really it is.

Moth said...The query didn't flow well for me and you have some rather awkward structure and phrases, as anon 11:22 pointed out. The whole thing feels like you're trying too hard to sound lofty and interesting.
But my biggest problem with this was you took a whole paragraph to say you went to two conferences (the last one two years ago), you have other people critique your work, you read books on writing and you write a lot. Well, good for you but these aren't really pub creds. These are the kind of things agents expect writers to be doing to hone their craft just as a baseline. These things don't, I'd say, make you sound much more appealing for publication than anyone else in the slush.

Now, I'm not sure about the conferences but if I had to guess I'd say the agent/editor won't care what specific conferences you went to unless you met them at those conferences and you're jogging their memory.

Basically, you take too much time to present lackluster credentials and then you compound the problem by sounding (to my inner reader) really snooty about it. "having decided to write fiction" sounds to me like you think you're conferring some great honor on the publishing world or something.

Take EE's advice and trim this para to almost nothing. You don't have a lot of space so use what you have to sell the story itself better.

Best of luck.

The Spitzer said...Gerund phrases? Is that what it is? And here I was thinking Yoda had written a novel...

writtenwyrdd said...Weighing in a bit late, but my thoughts, for what it's worth:

Ditto everyone else on the awkward construction. You sound like you are trying too hard to impress your college professor. When clauses and adjectival phrases make up three times the size of the actual base sentence (rather like this particular sentence) you have a problem. Example: "Twelve when kidnapped from Earth by her long-absent father Deryck, King of the Elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory rebels."

Overall, it sounds like there's a reasonably interesting mid-grade or YA plot in there; but you need to give us the info a bit more clearly. What's the conflict? What's at stake?

Finally, a suggestion. You might consider not using cutesy alternate spellings of common fantasy terms. I know a lot of people do it, but adding an e onto elf bugs me. It looks like you have bought into the Olde Englishe addinge ofe ee's ontoe thee ende ofe youre wordes, which, as you can see is just not helpful for pronounciation or clarity.

Anonymous said...To all who commented, thank you for the input. Believe it or not, it is appreciated. All actual names used in this story were changed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Dawn's Rise

1. Get up. Come on. It's 6:32 already, Dawn. Have to wash face. Brush teeth. 6:33. Have to get stockings out of dryer. Come on. It's 6:34. Make coffee. Get up, or at least hit the snooze button. The alarm is driving me nuts.

2. Solar flares! Asteroids and earthquakes! All Earth's cities destroyed, refugees battling over the world's remaining resources, and the survivors on the space station struggling just to breathe. Can Dawn rise above the chaos and save the planet from the coming apocalypse. . . before her head explodes?

3. Now that Dawn is running for President, Brenda wants to save America by telling everyone what happened that day at Ridgemont High. But can she evade Dawn's cousin Louie, the hitman from Chicago, long enough to get to her clandestine poolside meeting with hunky reporter Chad Wilson?

4. Dawn Flamingo, trapeze acrobat, does too much blogging and develops carpal tunnel problems that ruin her grip. Circus master Jack fires her. Now a woeful waitress, Dawn can only dream of redemption . . . until fate makes her the first kangaroo whisperer.

5. Searching in the archives for something more interesting than the "one thousand ways to praise the god Saratorn," Raston, the youngest priest in the Order of Eternal Darkness stumbles upon the truth: the darkness is almost over, Aspilon is about to enter its cycle of light. Hunted by the priesthood who want to hide the truth, can Raston get anyone to believe him before . . . Dawn's Rise?

6. Accidentally "murdered" by her idiotic high school chums, Dawn is dumped overboard into the warm waters of the Burmuda triangle, where she encounters a radioactive substance and grows to be 230 feet tall. Now she's coming ashore to get her revenge.

Original Version

Dear Agent

Savior of the Planet. [If I know most agents, they're gonna think that's part of your salutation.]

That's a hell of a job description and not one that Dawn Anami would have chosen for herself, but it was thrust upon her by prophesy. [I prophesy rejection if if the plot is built on a prophecy and you misspell it throughout the book.] [Did this prophecy name Dawn Anami, or did it just say the planet would be saved by the niece of an Albanian cheese merchant, which she is? I ask only because I have a feeling if there's a prophecy declaring that Dawn Anami will be the world's savior, you're gonna suddenly find a multitude of parents naming their kids Dawn Anami. Some parents would name all their children Dawn Anami.] Now she has to contend with a space station breaking away from Earth, a massive world quake that destroys the cities [All of them?] (all of them!), the combination of an asteroid and solar flares that threaten to annihilate the crippled station and everyone on the ground, plus groups of refugees battling over the world's remaining resources while the survivors on the space station struggle just to breathe. [If the cities are all destroyed and we're about to be annihilated, not even Dawn Anami is gonna care about the space station. That's like World War III breaking out and the American president declaring that our top priority must be protecting the White House rose garden.] Can she unite the warring factions in time or will they all perish in the coming apocalypse? [Whattaya mean, warring factions? The world is about to end, and there are factions? When all our cities have been destroyed and the apocalypse is upon us, I don't see a lot of earthlings forming factions. Unless you mean the curl-up-into-a-quivering-ball faction and the every-man-for-himself-Road-Warrior faction.] [For that matter, when all our cities have been destroyed and the apocalypse is upon us, I don't see a lot of earthlings trusting Dawn Anami to set things right.] Or will her mind explode from her unrelenting visions of death and destruction? [It sounds to me like all anyone has to do is open their eyes and they'll see unrelenting visions of death and destruction.]

It's no wonder DAWN'S RISE is 145,000 words long. Facing just about every disaster known to man, she needs every one of them to meet her destiny and save the planet. [It sounds like you mean she needs every disaster, rather than every word. In any case, it's a flimsy justification for submitting a book that long.] I come from a high-tech background where we face crises on a daily basis.

[Boss: Johnson! The system's down!

Johnson: Did you try rebooting?]

I've put that fire-fighting spirit into my writing.


Is Dawn on the space station? If not, why is the space station in the query? It seems pretty trivial compared to the other stuff raining down on us. If she is on the station, how is she supposed to unite warring factions? Are the warring factions on the space station? What can she do about solar flares and asteroids that are about to annihilate all of us?

The query is mainly a list of bad stuff happening. We need the story. Who is Dawn? When was it prophesied that she would save the planet? What was she doing before all hell broke loose? What are the warring factions at war about? What is Dawn planning to do about anything?

Selected Comments

Matthew said...I'm sure the author has heard this before, but 145,000 is too long for a first story. Even if you wrought the best story ever and had the most enticing query possible, an agent would stop reading the moment 145 pops up.

Try and get the word count in the 100,000 range. It might involve removing some scenes that you're fond of, but it will be worth it when those ms requests come rolling in.

Dave F. said...Didn't I read this years ago when it was called "When Worlds Collide" (BTW published in 1933)... And more recently, didn't Bruce Willis and that kid before he played Frodo save the world in not one, but two movies? The apocalyptic end of the world is almost a sub-genre.

To state the obvious, a query is to sell a story, novel or book. Just presenting an apocalyptic situation will not sell the book. The uniqueness of the destruction won't sell the book. Even an apocalyptic novel with multiple disasters. The reader has grown past "Childhood's End" and the amazement of the end times (like Lahaye's series of books).

What will sell this book is Dawn's story. Who is Dawn? How does she grow from humble beginnings into being a hero of the world? What insights will we learn from her struggles? Why should the reader care about Dawn?

batgirl said...The list of disasters makes it sound as if Dawn's waiting until there's so little left of the planet that she could save it in a terrarium, like that miniature Krypton city in a bottle, in Superman's Fortress of Solitude. I'd want to have some idea of who Dawn is, and how she, one person, could save a planet. The blend of space stations and prophecies is unusual. It could appeal by novelty, or it could put off both fantasy and hard-sf fans.

Anonymous said...No Sci-Fi idea is so cheap that it can't be made into a cheesy movie on the Sci-Fi Channel. They specialize in drivel. They glory in drivel.

writtenwyrdd said...I like your way with words in the letter, actually. You have a good command of the language and the letter flows well. It just doesn't convey the story. We need to know about Dawn, her motivations, her situation. What she has to contend with is important to the plot, but not necessarily to the query.

Which leads me to something else. Not to shoot you down, but, as described, this plot sounds like a fantasy and not science fiction. Too many improbable things (world quakes, a prophecy that defacto places her as "leader of the sane people" or whatever) are dropped on us out of context, which gives an overall impression (to me, anyhow) that the plot won't work. Not to say it doesn't work, but the letter is not selling me on the plot elements.

Perhaps you might give us less of the wacky disasters that befall our main character and give us the emotional hook--why she gives a damn anyhow (besides the obvious, which is she wants to survive)? Show us some focus that gets her through, not just what she has to contend with.

I'd also really suggest you delete that whole "It's no wonder..." paragraph. It's overdoing it, and explaining why your massive tome is justifiably massive is not going to make anyone want to take on such a big book.

Good luck with revising the query!

BuffySquirrel said...For some reason, I'm reminded of the bit in Star Wars where an entire planet is destroyed and its whole population wiped out, and the characters just go "meh" and carry on with their lives.
Perhaps tell us what's so special about Dawn that she can pull herself together and even think about confronting these multiple disasters, rather than sitting in a corner gibbering.

Sarah from Hawthorne said...If I may nitpick for a moment, I feel first full sentence has too many clauses. The third clause "but it was thrust upon her by prophecy" feels tacked on. Perhaps that should be its own sentence: "But that is the title an ancient prophecy thrusts upon this hapless kindergartener." Dawn is in kindergarten, right?

Phoenix said...Brilliant first line rejoinder, EE!

Author: Um, how do I put this delicately? This reads like a farce to me. Do you mean it to be a serious work? At 145K, I would guess so. Lots of SF unites prophecy with science, so that didn't bother me. But my first reaction is that you took all the apocalypse tropes and threw 'em in the pot just because. Now that could work fabulously as a tongue-in-cheek adventure (and hey, if that isn't what YOUR book is, maybe that's something I could try!), but it's really hard for me to take it seriously as a serious plot.

So, more about Dawn and how/where she fits into all this, yes. Not sure how uniting the warring factions will stop an asteroid and solar flares, which I take to be the "coming apocalypse", though it's not overly clear to me what part of this is the actual apocalypse. Plus a mind exploding just doesn't sound quite right. And are her unrelenting visions the actual sights she's seeing or, mainly because you use "her," are they internal visions she's having on top of everything else?

A story is more than just a jumble of events told at breakneck speed. Add a bit more story in without slowing the pace and it might just convince me that this is a Saturday-matinee, popcorn-popping, settle-in-for-a-ride kind of a read rather than a comedic take on all the disaster tropes out there (because I'm off now to go write THAT one...).

Adam Heine said...My comments are not different, but you can tally them as votes for the following:

1. Like the voice, especially if it's the voice used in the novel.

2. Like the idea (it's definitely sci-fi, from a publishing perspective).

3. You need to focus the query on Dawn, her goals, her conflicts, her stakes.

4. Don't justify 145k, even in a cute way. Make it shorter.

5. "A high-tech background" is not a credential for an apocalypse story. You say "high-tech" I think "Office Space" (or my old job, which is the same thing). The "crises" encountered at a corporate or even start-up company are not even remotely comparable to the things in your query.

(NOTE: If "high-tech" means "I am a spy who uses high-tech gadgets like Batman or James Bond," then it might work. But you should be more specific.)

Dominique said...I was with you up until the last paragraph about your word count. Everything after the words "It's no wonder" was a giant NO for me. If you feel you need to justify your word count to the agent, it's too high. And the sentence about "fire-fighting spirit" seemed random as all get out.

I don't mean this to sound harsh, because I think you've got an interesting story, but those two parts really did not work for me.

Iapetus999 said...Hee Hee Thanks, EE. You are as Evil as promised.

I will lay claim to this disaster.

Damn you guys are good. BTW I do have a character named Brenda in the book. Good call.

Actually, the prophecy does name her. Or her image. Whatever, close enough.
And the world does turn into Road Warrior mode.

Matthew: Yes, I know 145K is too long. I'm working on it. It's one thing to write, another to unwrite.

Dave F: Those are great ?'s

batgirl: Yes, exactly. She can't save the planet, just a small piece. In a terrarium of sorts. Seriously.

writtenwyrd: I'm trying to tone down the fantasy part but "prophecy" was the closest I could describe it. It's more like "mass hysteria" than a prophecy. If it makes the query too fantasy-ish, maybe I should drop the word.

Sarah: LOL I can't believe how much people picked up about the book from just a couple lines.

Phoenix: I started out with the intention of putting every damn apocalyptic disaster into the book. I wanted to out-disaster every cheesy disaster flick and novel out there. I wanted to out-cheese the cheese. But somewhere along the way I developed characters and an actual plot, not to mention a somewhat viable scientific cause for all the disasters that makes it plausible (IMHO). I will work on the Dawn story. I think if you want to write a tongue-in-cheek all-disaster-all-the-time piece I think that would be awesome.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Face-Lift 1080

Guess the Plot

High Noons

1. When Curly the Cross-eyed Cowboy gets called out for a gunfight in the middle of the day, he wonders if it might not be the last high noons he'll ever see.

2. Vampires decide they'll never be treated with respect on Earth, and head for the stars in a space ark. Unfortunately, when they finally find a habitable planet, it has four suns, and nighttime lasts about twenty minutes a year.

3. A gunslinger pulls his trigger at high noon and is sucked through a time vortex into the past. Shooting at a dinosaur the next noon sends him into the far future. Will he ever get back home? Does he even want to, knowing he may not have survived the duel?

4. The Noons lived at the end of the cul-de-sac. Some people said they were crazy - others claimed they were just inbred hicks. But Megan knew the truth. After all, she'd been delivering their weekly package of medical grade marijuana for years, which had just been declared illegal under L.A. law. Now people would find out what the Noons were really like.

5. High Noons-- Memoir of a schoolyard drug pusher who was also a ninth grade algebra teacher.

6. Dosequis-24 is a circumbinary planet--one that revolves around two stars. The discovery of priceless elements attracts competing mining companies, and brings greed and corruption to the provincial government. When a new Overseer of Mines with a mysterious past jets into town, it's a showdown between good and evil -- at High Noons.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

When the world political stage gets too hot for the undead, they commission a space ark and head out of the solar system to find a new home to rule. Who needs cryostasis to travel between the stars when you have immortality? Who needs genetic diversity if all your human servants are mostly food? But the course of true power never did run smooth--the real rhetorical question is: How well can vampires fare on a world with four suns?

A subtle melange reminiscent of Meyer's Twilight, Buchheim's Das Boot, and Colbert's I Am America (And so Can You!), none of which the author has read, High Noons is sure to annoy fans of all types and ages. But at least it will appeal to an audience niche of space-faring vampires. Maybe. If the plot didn't annoy them too. And it would appeal to vampires' stocks of home-grown "sheeple" for sure, but I don't think they can still read, so maybe they don't count either. C'est la morte....

The entire very rough 50,000 word first draft will be complete by Dec 1st. Although I've got my synopsis online so that any rogue literary agents and acquisition editors out there scouring the NaNoWriMo site for the next New York Times best seller can grab this gem of a book, I'd like to offer you the opportunity to grab it first! Otherwise you'll just have to wait for the bidding war after I've made a gazillion off of the self-published eBook sales.

In all humility,

Soon-to-be-rich-and-famous Author


Obviously someone answered the call to think about their NaNoWriMo project in advance so that the Evil Minions could steer them in the right direction.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Face-Lift 1079

Guess the Plot

The Kings of Aelfren

1. The queens of Nerflea have an unusual hobby - luring their lovers into the secret room behind the mirror and biting off the heads of the men who would dare to woo them. But when those men behind the mirror grow new heads and begin to form an alliance, the queens are in for the fight of their lives. Also, a didactic alligator.

2. Forget primogeniture, the tradition in Aelfren is for omnigeniture, in which all the king's sons become kings themselves. Within ten generations, there are more kings than peasants in Aelfren, and with a far greater sense of entitlement. Let the regicide games begin!

3. A sweeping family saga. Over the course of 300 years, from the days of the Puritans to the Watergate scandal, the King family of Aelfren, New Hampshire, occasionally thinks of doing something or going somewhere but invariably changes its mind.

4. Mitch and Lee were finally going head to head in the match of the century. Althea was the hostess with the mostest, and she made flags with each of the competitors' crests. She loved them both, but she couldn't let them know that fact. With the fate of modern knighthood in her fragile hands, would she finally find her knight in shining armor, or would they both turn out to be university prats?

5. Accused of killing the king of Aelfren, Dunstan of Abrotanum is on the run. Will the new king of Aelfren hunt him down before Dunstan can clear his name and regain his own throne and find out who framed him and take his revenge and save his childhood sweetheart?

6. Okay, it's complicated. Aelfren has two kings, one of whom occupies the throne when Aelfren is at war, and one who occupies the throne when it isn't. The system has worked for centuries, but King Chelron is beginning to suspect that King Lesther is prolonging the war in order to keep the throne. Does a peacetime king have the guts to start a civil war with a warrior king?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Dunstan of Abrotanum used to be a prince. Now he is a fugitive, accused of murdering good King Balther of Aelfren. Dunstan is innocent, but his only proof is that someone tried to murder him as well – [If only he had an alibi, like he was in bed with a princess the night of the murder.] and since he fled to escape his assassin, even Dunstan must admit he looks guilty.

In a war-torn empire of quarreling city-states where the three remaining kings play against each other at every turn, Dunstan must find out who is friend and foe – for someone he once trusted is trying to kill him. Is it his fellow prince and childhood friend who seeks more power of his own? [No. It's never the first person on the list of suspects.] Is it his old mentor who struggles to keep the realm together after Balther’s death? [That guy wouldn't hurt a fly.] Is it the cunning princess he accidentally slept with the night of the murder? [Accidentally?

Princess: Was it good for you?

Dunstan: Was what good for-- WTF?!]

Surprisingly, the only person he knows didn’t try to kill him is the one who has every right to want him dead: his traveling companion Kevoca, a warrior maiden whose people have been butchered for centuries by the warriors and kings of Aelfren and who vows to protect him after Dunstan saves her life. [This makes it sound like Dunstan's people have been the butchers, but Dunstan is Abrotanumian and the butchers are Aelfrenians. I know this from the first paragraph, which states that Dunstan of Abrotanum is accused of murdering Balther of Aelfren.]

[Kevoca: I know your people have been butchering my people for centuries, but if you let me be your traveling companion, I'll protect you.

Dunstan: Okay.]

With Kevoca by his side to keep his noble head on his shoulders, Dunstan has three goals. First, clear his name and regain his rightful throne. Second, save Orora, his childhood sweetheart, the daughter of King Balther. [From what?]  Third, find out who framed him and take his revenge – even if it means killing a few kings along the way. [That was five goals. Six if I include killing a few kings.]

THE KINGS OF AELFREN is fantasy, aimed at the crossover between YA and adult. It is my first novel.

Thank you for your consideration.


Is Aelfren the name of the empire, and the three kings are kings of countries within the empire? Or does the "Kings" in the title refer to past and present kings of one country within the empire?

What's this about Dunstan regaining his rightful throne? What throne is rightfully his? Abrotanum's? Does Abrotanum have a king?

Is any story set in a fictional place considered a fantasy these days? I think of a fantasy as featuring something fantastical: wizards/sorcerers/magic or dragons/monsters or vampires/gods/weredingoes. Does this book have a supernatural aspect?

Is Dunstan aware that Kevoca is the only woman he can be happy with, or does he think Orora is his true love? Orora's the one who tried to kill him. She was hiding in his closet, planning to surprise him the night he "accidentally" slept with the cunning princess.

Evil Editor's rule for those who insist on making lists: no more than one list per query, no more than three items on the list. You can condense the Goals paragraph down to: With Kevoca by his side to keep his noble head on his shoulders, Dunstan vows to clear his name and regain his rightful throne – even if it means killing a few kings along the way.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Fake Plots needed.

New Beginning 975

“I should let you starve.”

Old Tom grinned at me from his pallet on the floor. “The Guild wouldn’t much approve of that. You’re still my apprentice.” He raised the bandaged stump of his right leg and pushed himself to a sitting position. A sheen of sweat covered his face and torso.

“And if you die while I’m out foraging?” I asked.

“Then you won’t have to starve me. And don’t be an ass. I’m trapped in the city now, but I’m a Master Forager. I can survive for weeks with just water, even in this miserable place.”

I doubted he’d survive another month, with or without water. Tom had melanoma. The forager’s curse. The result of a lifetime spent outside Atlanta’s walls, away from the shade of buildings and towering solar panels. Black growths mottled his chest and arms.

“I saved the best for last,” he said, holding out a small wooden box bound with rawhide. “It’s for the Marsh Clan. Worth at least thirty pounds of salt meat.” The box rattled like pebbles in a dried gourd.

“When you return, we’ll talk more,” Tom said.

“So you haven’t told me everything.”

“So sue me.”

Once outside the door, I opened the box.

It was filled with acorns, just like I'd expected. Just like those black growths on Tom's chest were probably ticks and leeches, not melanoma. I was used to, and tired of, the exaggerations of my elders.

I got it. They had to feel important. There wasn't enough to feel important about these days. But come on. "Master Forager"? Capitalized? Christ.

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Lisa Hurley

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Evil Editor's New Project

During this alarmingly lengthy lull in query and opening submissions, I put my free time into creating new Evil Editor Comic Strips. I then went to a photobook-creating site and had them print a 100-page collection that includes about 160 comic strips. Basically, because I wanted it. Over the years I've bought collections of The Far Side, Dilbert, Calvin and Hobbes, Doonesbury, Bloom County, The Fusco Brothers and many more. Now I have added the Evil Editor book of comic strips, to my collection of collections.

I asked myself if I should be the only person in the world who owns this book. It is, after all, funnier than 99% of the comic strips that appear in newspapers these days, and why shouldn't every comic strip fan have a chance to get it? Sure, I could post the strips on the blog every day, but they come out small, and while clicking on them supposedly enlarges them, that wasn't working for everyone. The book is 9.5 by 8 inches, so the strips are nice and big, allowing readers to appreciate the artistic talents of whoever invented the various paint programs I use.

Because the book is printed on thick photo paper, and in full color throughout, it is expensive, by which I mean not cheap. Like about $35 and I'm guessing about $5 to mail it. That's more than most of my minions will spend on anything other than their Starbucks addictions and the new keyboards they buy to replace the ones they claim to spew their Starbucks addictions onto on a weekly basis.

I can lower the price by buying in volume, but if I order 100 copies and five people buy it, I have 95 books to store. So now I'm considering a Kickstarter project. This is a way an artistic endeavor can get funding from people who are fans of what the "artist" does. I post a description of the project, some sample strips, a list of rewards comic strip fans can get at various levels of backing, and a financial goal. If enough people back the project to meet the goal, I can order the books in volume. If the goal is not met, the backers don't pay anything. If the goal is exceeded, some of the extra money would be used to print extra copies, as the book itself would be one of the main rewards, but it could also be used to make the book a hardback without having to raise the price.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Evil editor Classics

Guess the Plot


1. Two- year-old Lyle Buffet has an existential crisis when he can't decide between the red lollipop or the orange one. Will he decide before his mother, out of frustration, abandons him at the grocery store?

2. Lee Trenton knew better than to be afraid of vampires. In fact, he made a fine living off of them, running a scam mail-order coffin service. But when he gets an order from Dracula himself, which one of them will end up being the sucker?

3. When Kalinda has a one-night stand with Steve, she never dreams that she'll soon be taking him home to meet her parents. Or that Steve is a vampire. All she knows is he's great in the sack, and that makes him a keeper.

4. Graham Payne always knew his calling in life was to be a dentist. But when his wife leaves him for a candy factory owner, his sanity shatters faster than a rotten tooth. Armed with his trusty drill, Graham declares war on sugar--and anyone who sells it.

5. When Julia takes a shortcut through the creek, eight magical leeches attach themselves to her ankles. Julia, pale and feeling weak, climbs into an unattended dryer at the launderette and undergoes a transformation akin to that of Gregor Samsa without the hardshell: she becomes one of the . . . Suckers!

6. Paul Taylor Barnum's Freak Show isn't just entertainment, it's escape. For years, Paul's been running it as a cross-dimensional underground railway, helping refugees from across the multiverse relocate in more friendly worlds. But when the locals start to catch on, and publicity threatens to close down the circus, Paul has to pull the greatest con ever and hope that his great-great-grandfather was right.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for my urban fantasy novel, SUCKERS, complete at 100,000 words.

When Kalinda's one-night stand disappears before dawn, she's bummed out but not too surprised. The surprise comes when he reappears weeks later, waking her up from a horrible dream about banana crumb cake, [There's a limit to how horrible a dream about banana crumb cake can be. Did she accidentally use crushed red pepper instead of sugar in the recipe? Thank God her one-night stand broke into her house while she was sleeping and woke her before she served it to the Ladies' Auxiliary Club.] and says he's a vampire. She's still trying to wrap her head around the idea that a guy named Steve is a vampire—and wondering what kind of blood-borne pathogens she might have gotten from him— [If a guy I have the hots for breaks into my house and tells me he's a vampire, the only idea I'm wrapping my head around is the idea of pounding a stake through his heart. And not because I believe he's a vampire.] when he admits that he's being hunted...and they've followed him to Kalinda's apartment. He doesn't know why they're after him, but the math is simple. Three supernaturals against one vampire and one human means that it's time to run. Even worse: the only safe place Kalinda can think of is her parents' house. [Why does Kalinda have to run? Won't the hunters just follow Steve if he runs?] [A guy you met two weeks ago breaks into your house, claims three supernatural beings are hunting him, and says you and he have to run for it. Question: Do you start packing, or look for a second option?]
Kalinda's career as a freelance technical writer did nothing to prepare her for this. Mysterious figures are prowling around the house, her parents' desire for grandchildren is resulting in a disturbing level of interest in her sex life, [Now?] and she's trying to figure out whether Steve really has any feelings for her [Now?!] or whether the only thing they have in common is a desire not to be eviscerated. [The undead. It's so hard to read them.] The two of them trap the hunters only to discover that they've been hunting Steve for the wrong reasons. [I hate it when that happens.] [I think if you took a poll of deer and ducks, most would agree that they don't care whether you're hunting them for the right or wrong reasons.] Either there's been a horrible miscommunication or someone is out to get Steve. When they discover Steve's kitchen [Steve's kitchen? I thought they went to Kalinda's parents' house. When supernatural beings are hunting you, it's never a good idea to go to your own home.] drenched in blood with a message written in blood on the table, they figure it's probably the latter. [That depends on the message. For instance, compare these two bloody messages:] 

As they try to figure out how to keep themselves and Kalinda's family safe from the master vampire stalking them, Kalinda wonders about something else, too. Is she safe from Steve, or is the crush spawned weeks ago by an eighties song reference [Livin' on a Prayer.] and a bottle of domestic not-light beer going to lead to her death? All she knows about Steve is that he was fantastic in bed and her parents love him: one positive, one negative. [Two negatives: you forgot the one where he subsists on the blood of living humans.] Does she have enough courage to deal with bloodsucking killers or a potential relationship with Steve? Are those different questions?

She'll tackle those questions later. Right now, things are getting weird(er), as it becomes clear that there's more to this than a little confusion over whether Steve killed his maker. Kalinda has a sneaking suspicion that despite all their attempts to hide, the master vampire knows exactly where they are and is just playing with them—but playing means that people keep dying; every new message means another person's death. The few vampires that Steve has met in his five-month life as a bloodsucker are nowhere to be found. The best plan that he, Kalinda, and their newfound enemies-turned-allies [When did this happen?] can come up with is to go after the master vamp in his own lair. [So the math is now four supernaturals and a human against one vampire? Piece of cake.]

Sometimes, the best plan is still a very bad one.

I'd be happy to send you sample chapters or the full manuscript at your request. While this is my first novel, I have had short stories published in [several places]. Thank you for your consideration.



It's too long. You have four long plot paragraphs, and three is plenty. I'd delete the fourth one, as most of the sentences assume we know things you haven't told us. There's been no mention of Steve killing his maker or new messages or vampires Steve has met or the enemies becoming allies.

When you have a crush on a guy and he tells you he's a vampire, whether you believe him or not you are well-advised to seek alternative companionship. Especially if the second time you saw him was the night he broke into your house and interrupted a delightful dream about cake.

Selected Comments

150 said...To me this sounds like an Idiot Plot:

Nobody seems to be making decisions along rational lines. I'd get frustrated with this pretty quickly. It might help to include details about why Kalinda can't hit Steve on the head and tell him to get out, why they can't run to an anonymous hotel so that her parents aren't in danger, why they stay together once they stop the hunters, and so on. Others may disagree.

Loerstem said...De-lurking to voice my appreciation of the Gregor reference. Good old Kafka. Never commented before because what can you add to EE? Too much detail. The voice was fun, and will work better in a shorter query.

"The undead. It's so hard to read them."


Ulysses said...You've got the hook, but it's buried in a lot of stuff I don't need to know (at this point, I don't care what she's dreaming about, or even that she's dreaming). All I need to know is that her one-night stand is a vampire who puts her in danger by appearing at her bedside while he's being hunted.

For the rest of it, I need to know who the antagonist is and what complicates their confrontation. I don't read about the real antagonist until the fourth paragraph, and I don't understand why the master vampire is messing with Steve instead of simply staking him.

pacatrue said...Take out the technical writer mention since it really just says she has a normal job (no evidence that it's important to the plot) and might sound like the author is writing herself into her first novel. Also concentrate as much as possible on what makes this novel special. My understanding is that agents see several vampire romance queries a week. Yours must be different.

Anonymous said...Way, way too much plot detail for a query letter. Most agents would put it down a third of the way through, I suspect.

Beth said...I like the humorous tone, but it's waaayyyy too long. Most agents are looking for one paragraph of plot, two tops. I can't help thinking Steve must be a real schmuck, not to mention a weenie, for leading the hunters to Kalinda's house and putting her in danger. What the heck is he expecting her to do? Do battle for him while he hides in the closet? Never could get past that, I'm afraid.

BuffySquirrel said...Yeah, why does Steve turn to her?

benwah said...I hate the conceit (more in movies than fiction) that a one night stand can develop into True Love. Why would you accept this behavior in your protagonist when, presumably, you'd scoff at it in real life? Reverse the genders, would you buy it? Just because there are vampires doesn't mean you toss out reasonably normal behaviors among your characters. Otherwise, well, it makes Kalinda seem shallow? needy? She hooks up with a dude and then she's pondering wedded bliss in the midst of all this blood sucking. Why wouldn't she just give him the boot? What is Kalinda's motivation? The big O, I suppose. Wonder where I can find a girl who loves a romp in bed so much that she's willing to wander through blood-splashed rooms for me.

The comment about Kalinda wondering about what blood-borne pathogens she might have contracted from Steve sounds makes me think of HIV and the hep. Not sexy. It implies either he bit her or they had unsafe sex. Sure, fine, whatever. But do you want that in your query?

Too many needless details, not enough explanation of the conflict that drives the plot.

Dave F. said...Aw gee, 150, the greatest con ever perpetrated is convincing the world you don't exist.

Baudelaire, McQuarrie and Singer all know that. Kevin Spacey just gives voice to the line.

Anonymous said...There's a lot of "one time at band camp..." in there. Remember, author, we don't know these characters the way you do and can't remember who's who from one sentence to the next. If you have an endless series of events, each seemingly involving new guys named Steve, it isn't a very pleasant read.

Whirlochre said...I concur with most people so far. The tone of this is jaunty and fun but it's too long. And I'm officially bored by vampires. This ought to prune down nicely however — there's not a vast amount wrong with it.

wendy said...I like that your lead is pushed from her ordinary tech. writing reality into the wild world of agitated vampires. Those life changes should produce some interesting conflict as will the love-hate thing she's got going with her parents.
My concerns are that I don't understand why he comes to her for help, why she goes anywhere with him and why I should care about either of them. Something is missing, at least for me.

Also, I think you may need a more intellectually challenging beginning to keep your prospective query reader entertained. (And keep them reading!)

Good start!

sylvia said...That's the second "one time at band camp" reference that I've seen today. I guess it's a set phrase that's passed me by until today for some reason. Perhaps I shall always remember the 25th of June as the day I found out what happened at band camp.

Assuming, of course, that someone is going to explain it to me?

Sarah T. said...From Steve's point of view: He's in major trouble, life (unlife?) is in danger and the most competent person he can think of to help him with his problem is...a technical writer he barely knows with no experience with the undead? She hasn't got the resume to help him. Why doesn't he ask one of his vampire friends instead?

From Kalinda's point of view: A guy she's known for less than 24 hours breaks into her home and puts her life and the lives of her parents in danger...and this isn't a turnoff? I'd be turned off. I'd be ticked off. (Just one single woman's point of view...)

author said...Okay, this apparently didn't come across at all: She IS pissed off at him. Very. She runs with him because the other option is hoping that the guys chasing him will accept "Hey, I'm just a bystander" as a good reason not to kill her. The vampire you know is better than the undead bloodsuckers you don't.

Also, he doesn't go to her for help. He thinks he's lost his followers and stops by to apologize for bailing on her after their one-night stand, but now that I'm looking at it, I can see how I failed to make that clear. :)

Question: Should I focus more on explaining the plot or on explaining Kalinda's motivations?

Oh, and Sylvia, "this one time at band camp" is a reference to the movie American Pie, although I haven't encountered it in this context before.

sylvia said...I definitely think you need to spend some time on the motivations - at the moment it's a lot of action that doesn't hang together particularly. When he shows up, she's pissed off, he disappeared before dawn. But when he says he's been followed, she freaks out that they are in her house etc. Reduce the total dots but connect them, if that makes any sense?

150 said...Hi author,

Motivations ARE plot. Otherwise you have an And Plot:

Because I am nuts about referencing the Turkey City Lexicon in this thread for some reason.

Even explained, those character actions seem silly. She goes with him rather than calling the cops? He pauses being chased to make nice with a one-night stand? It might help to explain what makes them think these actions are a good idea, a la "When Steve explains that the hunters will kill anyone with his scent on her, K realizes she's a target" or...honestly I can't think of a good reason for a man to break into an ex's house while he's on the run. Or ever. But presumably you could, so use that.

pacatrue said...You might try writing the 1 sentence summary, then the 1 paragraph one; and then expanding it back out to the 3 paragraph one. It sounds like your plot is roughly:

When an attractive but dubious one night stand, Steve, is accidentally chased into Kalinda's home by bloodthirsty supernaturals, Kalinda discovers her would-be one-time lover is a vampire and that her only choices are to escape with him or die. After being a punching bag for too long, Kalinda turns the tables by helping Steve discover who his pursuers are and how to get rid of them once and for all. Unfortunately, the best chance appears to be helping Steve and their friends attack the strongest vampire lord in the tristate area. Kalinda is then faced with a choice: risk her own life in a mad scheme of violence for which she is totally unprepared or risk losing the love she never wanted.

OK, that's kind of uhhh sucky. The key is that I was trying to get the motivations for Kalinda that lead her towards the book's climax in a very small number of sentences. You should rewrite with the actual plot and like good writing and stuff.

sara said...Ok, I LOVE the concept behind the plot here - a girl has a one night stand who's fantastic in bed, he disappears, then reappears just in time to get her into trouble with vampires. I think the plot itself isn't all that new and fresh, BUT the tone that its written in is very fun and makes me very interested to read the whole book. However, everyone else is very right about the query being way too long, and that also makes me wonder if the book, too, is way too long and in need of some serious editing and cutting, etc.

My suggestions:
Cut all details not relevant to the main plot - who cares what her job is? and yes, she probably IS wondering about what pathogens she got from him, but this is not nearly as big of a concern (or so it seems to me) as the fact that, you know, he's a vampire! - and that itself will trim down the query nicely. Also, the whole last paragraph could be cut as well. I'd shape the query like this: he bails on her after a one night stand, then returns to apologize but accidently leads these other vampires to the house (I saw you mention his reasoning for being there in the comments and yes, it's a MUST that you clarify this in the query!), and then theres trouble brewing at her parents house between staying away from the vamps and trying to keep her parents off her back.

Good luck!

stick and move said...I'm wondering what age group the author is targeting. The protag runs to mommy's house for help, so how old is she? She's living elsewhere and is having sex, so I'm assuming at least 18, but can't be much older than that. I'm guessing the protag is 20? If she's much older than that, I wonder why she can't come up with a better place to run. Maybe it's explained in the book, but I think that detail needs to make it into the query. Qualifying comment: I don't know squat about urban fantasy. Or writing query letters.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Plot

Monster Hunter Frater- nity

1. Okay, it's not really a frat house, it's a tree house, where Jamie and his friends track Bigfoot and werewolf sightings, hoping to prove the existence of monsters. It was all in fun, but now the town's overrun with a mob of terrifying creatures that the boys must defeat . . . if they want to live.

2. When ten-year-old Billy McQuaid sees something strange going on in the abandoned orange groves near his suburban California home, he knows what to do: put together a team of kids who can help him investigate. But Ginny Fillmore wants to come, too, and she has a walkie-talkie set. Can they confront monsters and survive with a girl in the group?

3. Now settled across the US with families, mortgages, and desk jobs more mind-numbingly horrifying than they ever were, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Swamp Thing decide to start a yearly retreat. While sitting on the back of a pickup truck, drinking warm beer and pretending to look for deer, the old friends reminisce about the good old days. But when Bigfoot stumbles across them, they'll have to reawaken the monsters within if they want to get home alive. Or undead, depending.

4. Sean and Brendan, a pair of exchange students, try to join Sigma Xi. Blackballed for being geeks, they seek revenge in a Guinness-fueled killing spree, only to find that Sigma Xi is home to a pack of zombies. Joined by fellow losers, they form their own fraternity, dedicated to destroying the zombies before the Physics Department becomes a brains buffet.

5. In a bid to get lucky, the virgins of Alpha Alpha Alpha adopt a manly-man "monster hunter" theme for Halloween, disguising the House, as well as themselves, in gladiator bondage style, which seems to be very exciting for the two dozen scantily clad whip-snapping Medusa sex-pots who join them. All signs point to a lucky night, until the lads realize those snakes are real.

6. Minimum: a Grendel. That's what it takes to get into the Monster Hunter Fraternity, to bag a monster. Lions are for sissies. Grizzly bears, for a girl scout merit award. Bob Lout really wants into the club. He has a plan to snag a vampire, but can he convince his wife, Bertha, to hang around the Drac Klub in a low-cut dress, offering up a jugular, just so he can get the coolest tie tack ever?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking publication of my YA novel MONSTER HUNTER FRATERNITY. It is complete at 70,000 words.

At Monster Hunter Fraternity, a treehouse in Blafford Hills, Ohio, Jamie and his three closest friends research and track sightings of everything from Bigfoot to Werewolves, wanting nothing more than to prove the existence of real monsters. After two years of hunting, however, all they have is a grainy photo of something dark and furry [It's never a good idea to carry your camera in your underwear.] they saw in Black Rock Forrest, [Forest?] a picture mostly obscured by Jaime’s forefinger. [Um . . . that wasn't his finger.] [By the way, is Jaime Jamie? Or one of the friends?] But lately, Jamie notices something odd – that recent monster sightings are surrounding Blafford Hills – unaware that his weekend pastime is quickly turning more serious. [If he notices it, I wouldn't call him unaware. Besides, it's more dramatic without the "unaware that."] [Even more dramatic: His weekend pastime has become a bloodbath rivalling in scope the Massacre at Wounded Knee.]

Jamie can’t figure out what’s attracting the creatures. Is it the new girl in class who looks like a vampire? Or the full moon which never seems to change? Whatever it is, monster sightings soon breach the town’s border – family pets are missing, and frightening noises can be heard throughout the night. [It's the monsters, not the sightings that breach the border. Have there even been sightings at this point? Missing pets and noises don't qualify as sightings.] As the town is overcome by a mob of creatures more terrifying than anything they’ve ever heard of, Jamie and his friends are forced into battle with them. [Is there a reason these kids, rather than adults with guns, are forced into battle with these creatures? I assume it isn't the old story that none of the adults believe the creatures exist; when the town is being overrun by a mob of terrifying monsters, someone's bound to notice.

Geezer 1: Our town's been destroyed. Half the people are dead with their throats ripped out.
Geezer 2: My grandson says it's a mob of monsters.
Geezer 1: Cute. Got any pictures of him?]

When they discover what these creatures are after, a secret that’s been hidden in Blafford Hills for years, they in turn discover what it means to be true Monster Hunters – because their lives depend on it.



I don't see the YA crowd wanting to read about four kids in a tree house talking about wolfmen. Maybe an actual college fraternity on a campus overrun by monsters. As it is, I'd put your audience in the 9 to 13 range, which makes this middle grade. Title: The Monster Hunters Club. As a middle grade book, I'd say it's a good query.

Selected Comments

150 said...If this had a generally funny tone and the first monster sighting happened in the first chapter, I'd pick this up. Your query seems in pretty good shape. Good luck.

Kiersten said...This is a great query, author. I always daydream that I'll put one up and EE won't find anything to criticize. I know, my daydreams are both boring and wildly unrealistic.

BuffySquirrel said...
Getting really tired of the sexism in the GTPs, y'all :).

talpianna said...Perhaps the kids are the only ones to be able to see the monsters because they are the only ones who ate the odd plant/touched the strange meteorite or some such.

author said...Thanks to everyone who commented. No excuse for the typos but luckily I haven't sent this out yet. I chose the word fraternity in the title because the four boys want to establish that their group will not allow girls to join.

The adults can see the monsters too, and though I didn't mean to suggest that the kids would be doing the fighting alone, in the end the kids will "save the day."

Thanks EE and minions.

Jeb said...Definitely juv, not YA. Rule of thumb is that kids like to read about kids up to 2 years older than themselves, but not generally younger than themselves. Also, the themes are too light for current YA paranormal stuff (wearing my ex-YA/Juvenile judge for Canadian Crime Writing Awards hat here - three of this year's shortlist had strong, scary paranormal, but the kids were older than yours).

Still, a cute plot that could be a lot of fun to read.

Follow EE's as-usual brilliant edits and please do post the opening here when you've recovered from this potentially harrowing experience.

Robin S. said...This sounds really fun - every kid loves secret clubs and magic stuff happening, and this set up and set of circumstances sounds really interesting. I'd read it.

Kate said...I just want to know one thing. How many kids are we talking about here? If I was the wolf man and I saw 30 screaming brats coming at me, I might look for another town to ravish. Tiny bones in my teeth = not fun.

Jeb right, Kate... not to mention all those shrill little voices wailing in agony and terror right in your ears, right up to the very moment when you finally get to rip their little throats out.

JB Keyser said...He could just twitch the age to at least senior year kids. It would get some people to actually read, but then again he might've put cheerleaders. Freshman in college would be a good idea though. I did like #3, it was interesting. I don't think I would read the original plot. And I'm in the ages of YA.

batgirl said...This sounds like fun, though definitely middle grade rather than young adult. If my son were still in that age range I'd probably consider it for him, since we were fans of the Fifth Grade Monster series, and of the film Monster Squad, which has a similar plot (treehouse gang discovers and fights real monsters).