Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Face-Lift 1354

Guess the Plot

The Trouble with Larry

1. Larry is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. What's not to like?

2. There's always trouble. Some of it happens with Larry. Some of it happens without Larry. This is the trouble that happens with Larry. And sharks.

3. When Doug the Unyielding lets Larry move into his castle, he has no idea Larry plans to give the place a complete makeover. Absurdity ensues. Also, a chess-playing dragon.

4. Larry Sommers, a sixty-one-year-old paunchy, married, disgruntled chemistry professor can't figure out why twenty-year-old Ellie has fallen in love with him. Maybe his wife can tell him as she's signing their divorce papers. 

5. Larry inherited a very hairy problem. The very merry fairy from the prairie cursed him with a problem most glaring. He may tarry, for being quite wary, but until he locates his uncle most visionary, Larry will stay most scary.

6. An update of the classic 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film, with a corpse named Larry instead of Harry and taking place in Connecticut instead of Vermont, and one of the couples is homosexual, and the other is a vampire and a werewolf, and of course the year is 2017.

7. He hates going to the barber and only bathes once a week. It wouldn’t be a problem except Larry is worth north of a hundred million. His potential heirs decide there is only one thing to do: kill him. The trouble is that Larry is also a werewolf.


Original Version

'My name is Laranius, son of Lavernius' said the lich in the slightly-faded green robe. 'But everyone calls me Larry.' And with that, Larry moves into the domicile of Doug the Unyielding. [Usually you have to do more than tell him your name if you want Doug the Unyielding to surrender his guest room.]

Larry has a secret weapon of sorts: a magic bag that has [contains] everything he needs [to . . . give the castle a complete makeover? Or whatever his goal is]. Hairpins? Of course. Ballistae? Right here. Cow skull--bucrania, says Larry, [ ("bucrania," Larry calls it) ] for decorating the outer walls of the castle? Absolutely.

Larry also has many skills, such as defeating--well, not exactly defeating, but at least outplaying-- the local dragon in a game of [at] chess, redecorating the castle grounds, and dating [--according to] the halfling cook, who informs Doug that Larry knows [--doing] 'what ladies like'. [Best of all, Larry can use his magic to . . . ?]

But one question remains: what happens if Larry's bag happens to spill open? [If you leave that question to the average unimaginative literary agent, they'll probably guess that the cow skull and ballistae will get hung up on each other and won't fall out, but there'll be a few hairpins on the floor. Better to just reveal some of the chaos that results.]

The Trouble with Larry is a fantasy romp that will appeal to lovers of the absurd and bizarre. May I send Larry to you? 

Thank you[.]


You've given this the right tone, but you can do so while also summarizing the plot. Is Larry there to perform a service for Doug or for his own motives? Either way, fill us in. Is there a "trouble with Larry" up until the time his bag spills open? Can you take the story up to the point where something's at stake, and tell us what that is?

This doesn't sound like an homage to The Trouble with Harry, which may not matter, though it's somewhat like choosing a title such as What About Rob? or Life of Ryan or Larry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the opening featured in New Beginning 1067 has placed a revised version in the comments there, and would like your opinion.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book whose opening was featured in New Beginning 1062 would like feedback on the following revision:

I stand in the meadow as a heartbeat echoes in my head. Beat by beat, it pounds to the wild rhythm of fear. People lie. Words deceive. A heartbeat is different. If I listen carefully I can always discover the truth. The truth this heart speaks is simple: everyone, no matter their race, gender, or species is afraid to die.

Down at my feet, the Arctic hare squirms, but it’s pinned by the steel-tipped javelin, jutting out of its gut. I kneel beside it and extract my spear. Blood, dark as oil, gushes out and stains the white snow. Despite the stench, I smell the scent of berries from its mouth, the fresh blackberries I used to lure [it] out in the open. The rabbit’s eagerness for a quick meal was its weakness. Uncontrollable emotions and desires will always leave me vulnerable, a lesson I learned as a twelve-year-old girl.

I brush a strand of hair out of my face before taking the creature in my hands and snapping its neck. That sound used to startle me. Even the thought of hunting made me sick. But soon the grumbling in my stomach outweighed my squeamishness and I gained a new hobby.


I would condense this to something like:

I stand in the meadow as a heartbeat echoes in my head, pounding to the wild rhythm of fear. At my feet, the Arctic hare squirms, but it’s pinned by the steel-tipped javelin jutting out of its gut. I kneel beside it and extract my spear. Blood, dark as oil, gushes out and stains the white snow. I brush a strand of hair out of my face before taking the creature in my hands and snapping its neck. That sound used to startle me, but the grumbling in my stomach always outweighed my squeamishness.

Of course you can argue that I left out vital information. There were some nitpicky things I didn't buy, and it was easy to avoid saying them. For instance:

The heartbeat of a hare doesn't allow her to generalize about everyone in every species. Some species probably don't even know death is a thing. Millions of humans commit suicide; presumably some of them welcome death. 

Any smell strong enough to be called a stench should drown out the smell of a blackberry in the mouth of a hare. 

If hunting for your food is a hobby, then I guess going to the grocery store is a hobby.

She seems to blame the hare's uncontrollable emotions and desires for its death, when for all she knows the hare was as hungry as she was. It would be cool if, just as she picked up the hare, a giant picked her up and said, "Ha, you fell into my trap, so eager for a quick meal you didn't notice that that's a mechanical hare," and ate her. (If that's what happens, you've got a winner.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

New Beginning 1068

"Elizabeth? Elizabeth! Where are you?" Mama sang from downstairs. I giggled, backing deeper beneath the bed. She won't find me here!

Just then, my door creaked open, and I heard her slippers sliding on the hardwood floor. When she walked in front of me, I covered my mouth to keep from giggling.

"Ellie? Oh my, where could that girl be?" Her laughter filled my room with joy, giving me another reason to bite down my chuckles. I squeezed my Mr. Sheep toy, holding my breath as she stood motionless. Does she know I'm here?

Mama slowly bent down until her curly locks were brushing against my rug. She peeked under the bed and smiled when she spotted me. "Found you, princess. C'mon, it's time for bed."

Her arms stretched towards me, making me back further and shake my head. "But I don't wanna!"

She smiled playfully. "Hm, I see. Then, I guess you don't want to say goodnight to your friends either? I bet they'll be real lonely sleeping in the dark without you."

"Oh, no!" Mama's right! I have to protect them from the monsters. I'm not tired yet, but that's okay. They need me.

As I started to crawl toward Mama, Mr. Sheep struggled to break free from my grasp. "I'm not getting in bed with Farmer Brown again," he said. "That guy's a pervert."

Opening: Natanne Norman.....Continuation: jcwrites

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Feedback Request

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

Hello. Because you represent New Adult, I'd like to offer for your consideration SUMMER, 1992, a love story that comes in at 89,000 words.

It's 1992 and 18-year-old singer/songwriter Angel Carlton has her life all figured out. She plans to go to college in Nashville, get a record deal, and finally get over Damon, her brilliant and elusive muse of three years. But first, she'll be spending a long-dreamed-about, unsupervised summer at her family's beach house near Ocean City, Marylandwhere she first met Damon. Her Dad has one rule: no drugs in the house. Not a problem for the straight-edge girl.

When Angel meets up with Damon again, she spends all her time with him in an attempt to fulfill her secret mission, to keep him away from his druggie friends andsave him from drug-fueled self-destruction.Though she's promised herself to keep their relationship platonic, the more time they spend together, the more she finds herself attracted to him, inspiring some of her bestsongs.

After falling in love with Damon again, drug paraphernalia is discovered in the house right before an all-important open mic, leading to a disastrous performance.By the end of the summer, Angel's world is turned upside-down, and shehas to decide between her heart and her dreams.

The story, told in diary format, alternates between 1992 and the present. The main character, now middle-aged, types up her journal from the summer of 1992 and shares it with her sixteen-year-old daughter, who has never heard of "Damon," curious to see if she can guess what it hides.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[BTW - The story is definitely not inspirational, and I can't believe you don't know what a pot bowl is, and/or that you didn't immediately Google it. ;-) I mean, you. You Googled "Please allow me to introduce..." I liked your gif of the bowl smoking though. Also, I finished your book, "Why You Don't Got Published (Vol 1)" and loved it. Thanks again for tearing up my query.]


For some reason the space between words and sentences has disappeared in numerous places. Maybe that was an email thing.

The main change from the last version is that paragraph 4 is a condensed version, which is a good thing, but it has problems. For starters, the way it reads, the drug paraphernalia falls in love with Damon. Changing After falling in love to after Angel falls in love is one possible fix. Also, you could spell out how the discovery of drug paraphernalia leads to a disastrous open-mic performance. I can infer that Angel suspects Damon's been doing drugs in her house when she wasn't there, except that you claim she's been spending all her time with him.

I just Googled pot bowl, and found nothing. Possibly what you and your friends refer to as a pot bowl is known as something else in most places. Common drug paraphernalia would be a small pipe, a bong, rolling papers, a hookah, or DVDs of Tron, Fantasia, 2001, and Rocky Horror. Now that the term is out of the query, I recommend removing it from the book as well, as your readers will be disappointed when they try Googling it.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

New Beginning 1067

Victor sat beside the tomb and decided no good gravedigger was afraid of the dark. As cold mud seeped through his sweatpants, he flicked his Spiderman flashlight on and off, passing its yellow beam over the headstones in Old Jewish Cemetery. He figured it was a good test of bravery—see if he could stand the dark for a whole ten seconds.

Prague creeped him out at night, especially when it rained. Shadows stretched from glowing lanterns. Gothic buildings looked like monsters under the cloudy sky. Victor felt better when he saw other people nearby, struggling with umbrellas or hurrying for shelter. He stood, flicked on his torch, and braced a boot against the shovel. They’d probably call him a grave robber. But he wasn’t stealing bodies, he was adding more.

“Carol,” he called softly, blinking rain out of his eyes. Hoisting his backpack off the ground and onto his shoulders, Victor sought his spirit animal—the polar bear he alone could see. Bark scraped his scarred cheek as he slunk between the trees, hoping no one noticed him.

He spotted Carol on the grass, sticking her muzzle into a bag of Doritos.

"What are you doing?" he demanded. 

Carol looked up at him. "Hey, hey, hey, Boo Boo," she said, "look what I found in this pickanick basket!" 

Opening: Zombie Boy Bones.....Continuation: khazar-khum

Friday, May 12, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1352 would like your opinion of the revision below.

Hello. Because you represent New Adult, I'd like to offer SUMMER, 1992 for your consideration, a love story that comes in at 89,000 words. [Move "for your consideration" after "offer."]

It's 1992 and 18-year-old singer/songwriter Angel Carlton has her life all figured out. She plans to go to college in Nashville, get a record deal, and finally get over Damon, her brilliant and elusive muse of three years. But first, she'll be spending a long-dreamed-about, unsupervised summer after graduation [Not clear why you didn't get rid of this. It's summer, she's 18, and she's ready to start college. We can figure out that it's after graduation. In fact, I'd get rid of "long-dreamed-about" too. It's not important.] at her family's beach house near Ocean City, Maryland[,] where she first met Damon. Her Dad has one rule: no drugs in the house. Not a problem for the straight[-]edge girl.

But because of an answered prayer, Angel believes that God has sent her to the beach to save Damon from drug-fueled self destruction before the summer's end. [As you referred to the beach summer as "long-dreamed-about," one could assume it's a vacation she planned without God's help. I mean, if Damon needs saving, God's not gonna tell Angel to go to Ocean Beach eight months from now to save him. God's gonna say, Get your ass to Ocean Beach right now.] If successful, she'll become a star; if not, she fears she may never write another song without him to continuously break her heart. [I kinda expected you to say "without him to inspire her." So she wants him to continuously break her heart?] [You know, I think I'd just drop this whole paragraph. The query's too long, and everything in this paragraph leads to questions you don't have room to answer.]

When Angel meets up with Damon again, she spends all her time with him in an attempt to keep him away from his druggie friends and fulfill her secret mission [save him from drug-fueled self-destruction]. [Obviously that change assumes you've dropped the previous paragraph.] Though she vows to keep their relationship platonic, the more he pokes holes in her surprisingly tenuous faith, the more she finds herself attracted to him, inspiring plenty of [some of her best] songs. Will she be able to [Can she] resist his influence the whole summer and remain just friends? [Is he trying to influence her to do drugs or go beyond platonic or both? Has she told him no, and if so, is he still trying to influence her?] Will she still want to?

Meanwhile, Angel's mother suspects the unapproved-of reunion and starts inviting "adult supervision." [I know it's not how it goes, but it would be more concise if it read "Angel's parents suspect the unapproved-of reunion and drop in unexpectedly." I don't know what you mean by sending in "adult supervision." But I can't imagine getting a phone call from someone I know asking me to drive to Ocean City, Maryland and drop in on their kid and search the place for drugs and unapproved boyfriends.] One unwelcome guest discovers a mysterious pot-smoking bowl in the house that no one is claiming, breaking Mr. Carlton's one rule. This puts Angel's music career dreams put in jeopardy, but after a disastrous open mic performance and falling back in love with Damon, will she still want it? If the bowl is Damon's, has Angel failed in her mission? Will she be forced to choose between her heart and her dreams or will Angel figure out the truth [The truth about whose pot-smoking bowl it was? Has Angel been letting people stay in the house when she wasn't there?] before her future goes up in mind-altering smoke?

The story, told in diary format, alternates between 1992 and the present. The main character, now middle-aged, types up her journal from the summer of 1992 and shares it with her sixteen-year-old daughter, who has never heard of "Damon," curious to see if she can guess what it hides without being told. [It would be pretty easy to guess if she were told.] 

Thank you for your time and consideration.


The query mentions God, faith, prayer . . . plus Angel, Damon . . . and the previous version told of a cross that was a direct channel to God. But you haven't said anything about the inspirational genre. Would those into religious novels like this or hate it? If the former, you might want to focus on agents who handle inspirational books, and mention the genre in the query.

I'd rather the query stuck with Angel and Damon, and left mom and her spies out. Let Angel discover the pot-smoking bowl in the query. What is a pot-smoking bowl? You fill a bowl with weed and everyone leans over it and takes deep breaths? Or . . . 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the query most recently seen here would like feedback on the following version:

When a paranormal police officer spares three criminal kids, twelve-year-old Victor becomes her apprentice, charged with keeping the world’s weird creatures in line. As he explores his mentor’s home with his spirit bear, who’s ruder than Victor thinks spirits should be, he opens a door that says DO NOT ENTER. Behind it he discovers things as odd as they are amazing—and even more dangerous. After getting scolded, Victor vows to become better at helping and less good at causing trouble.

He rescues an injured witch named Hugo. By sheltering him from the White Man, a kidnapper with a strange brand on his body, Victor puts his teammates in danger. He has no idea what the White Man’s the Devil brand means. Until him [he] and his friends are [each] marked as [with] one of the Major Arcana Tarot cards. As if dealing with nocturnal zombies and a vengeful fairy army wasn’t hard enough, Victor accidentally creates a thunderstorm and starts detecting lies. [That he starts detecting lies isn't worth mentioning, as it raises questions you don't have room to answer.] 

The White Man needs the Tarot cards’ power in order to teach Hugo Apocalypse, a spell that would alter the world as they know it. If other paranormal officers find out Hugo’s card lets him reshape reality, Victor knows they’ll eliminate the witch. [How is it that Victor and the White Man know Hugo can reshape reality (whatever that means) but no one else knows?] Victor likes Hugo—maybe even likes likes him. To protect him from their enemies and allies, he’ll have to hide Hugo’s true nature and defeat the White Man. But if he can’t rein in his new powers, the Tarot card’s magic will [could] kill him before Apocalypse does.


P1: This reads like it's Victor who's charged with keeping the world’s weird creatures in line. I assume it's the paranormal police officer--though it seems more like a job for the head of an organization than for one officer. This episode with the spirit bear and the Do Not Enter room is taking up a lot of space just to explain why Victor is going to be a conscientious worker. We don't need it. You can just let us assume he chooses that over going to jail. This is not an improvement over the opening paragraph I suggested.

P2. It's a rare person who would see Tarot card brands on a few people's skin and note that they are specifically Major Arcana Tarot cards. Most people, including those who know major from minor, would just say Tarot card.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Face-Lift 1353

Guess the Plot

Crimson God

1. He is the Crimson God. All things in the red hue he rules over with an iron fist. Sadly, that includes everything Valentine's Day. Can Alan appease the god so he can charm Gwen or will he have to suffer a bloody-red fate?

2. Yahweh and Satan battle it out for the right to wear that red suit, the skin-tight one. The part where they go at it in the River Styx, sloshing around and hurling taunts is a hoot.

3. Disliking blood sacrifice enormously, the god Filenaiy'dis needs to somehow lose the title of "Crimson God." Unfortunately, his cult warring for sacrifices to him has other ideas. Like adding him to the list of victims.

4. The Crimson God and its gun-toting robots were defeated by Rio's ancestors ages ago. Now they're back, and unless Rio can stop them, her people are doomed. The good news is Rio can become invisible. The bad news is it's hard to beat gun-toting robots even if they can't see you. 

5. When Al Gonzalez, jockey of Triple Crown bound Crimson God, dies after a fall at Santa Anita, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things. One, Gonzalez didn't shoot himself in the backstretch; and two, maybe he should break down and buy his daughter a pony.

6. It shouldn't be that hard for a god to land the goddess of his dreams, but Eros's face turns red every time he tries to talk to a female, and he runs away in embarrassment. 

Original Version

Dear (Agent's name),

In the new world, many have supernatural abilities, but Rio is more transparent than most, she can turn invisible. [That last comma should be a dash, semicolon or period.] When she was twelve, she survived the frozen wasteland, [That comma should be deleted.] known only as the labyrinth. That's where she gained her gift along with the scars the wolves gave her as souvenirs. [What do you mean by she's more transparent than most? Obviously an invisible person is more transparent than one who isn't invisible. Are the others partially transparent? I would just say many have supernatural abilities; Rio can turn invisible.]

Now at the age of seventeen, Rio is the best hunter in her kingdom and has earned the title of Arch-Huntress, but because her father needs an heir, he forces her to marry her best friend, Leon. She protests to no avail. Every king needs a successor and her father will secure one anyway [any way] he can, so he demands that she forfeits her rank to become a loyal and submissive wife.

Just when Rio thought her hunting days were over, a strange sound erupts in the middle of the night. The sound of a gunshot, [or] at least that's what she thinks it is. But no, that's impossible. Guns are the forgotten weapons of robotic creatures who served the Crimson God. [You're just now getting around to mentioning that your book has robots with guns? This changes everything.] Assuming the history books she read in school were accurate, the false god and his empire were defeated a long time ago by Rio's ancestors. [The Germans were defeated in WWI, but still managed to have guns when WWII rolled around. And even if the Germans had been eradicated, it wouldn't be impossible for some of their guns to still exist.] So when her father quickly dismisses the strange sound, she knows that he's hiding something and that he's been doing it for a long time. [I don't see how she can know all that just from his dismissing the sound quickly. It's not like she's ever heard a real gunshot. If a loud noise startled my child, I think I'd be quick to tell him what it was instead of waiting awhile and letting his imagination run wild.]

With nothing else to look forward to but an awkward wedding, she heads out on one last hunt. [A hunt for the robots with guns?] Rio's experience won't help her this time as she uncovers a secret that will leave her city vulnerable to the reawakening God, still bent on revenge.

My novel is complete at 90,000 words and is the first in a planned series. My manuscript is available, in part or full, upon request. Thanks for your time and consideration.


I can see how invisibility would be useful to a huntress. But you don't mention how her gift plays a role in the story. You might as well start with paragraph 2: At the age of seventeen, Rio is the best hunter in her kingdom, thanks in part to her ability to become invisible. But can her gift let her defeat an army of robots with guns? We don't need to know about the wolves and scars and labyrinth if they aren't going to come up again in the plot summary.

Another advantage to dumping paragraph 1 is that you get to the robots with guns faster.

How did these primitive people ever manage to defeat the Crimson God with its army of robots with guns?

I think I'd like this query to carry the plot beyond the uncovering of the mysterious secret. All we have is:

 17-year-old huntress Rio, who has the ability to become invisible, is being forced to quit hunting and marry her best friend. Before the wedding, she goes on one last hunt and discovers . . . what? That the Crimson God, who was defeated by her people eons ago has amassed an army of robots with guns and is bent on revenge? And she tries to stop the God by _______, but her plan is foiled when _______.

She could run back and warn her people, or she could try her plan B, which of course requires invisibility. Each has its pros and cons.

Publishing Opportunity

The annual Fark.com anthology is still open for submissions. We are leaving the window for submissions open until June 15 instead of May 15, so there's still time to get your work submitted. We're seeking Fantasy, Humor, Horror, SF, Mystery, Thriller and poetry that deals with same. No minimum; maximum length 10,000.

Through A Scanner Farkly Submissions


Monday, May 08, 2017

Face-Lift 1352

Guess the Plot

Summer, 1992

1. The days are long. The nights are short. The nights are hot. The days are hotter. This is a story about a summer. In 1992.

2. My first kiss. My first job. My first murder. My first pet. My first... whaddaya mean, plot?

3. Ah, yes, good old summer time. Backyard cookouts, kids playing in the yard, mint juleps, lying in the hammock... zzzzz.

4. It is the summer that never ends. Literally. Can Jaden figure out a way to end summer before everyone dies of heat stroke?

5. It's like Groundhog Day, the movie. Except this time it spans an entire summer. Starting off with Joseph getting a bucket of ice cold water dumped on him to wake up.

6. Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are looking forward to a summer of dribbling and tinto de verano. But when a maniac starts murdering tourists with basketballs in the Sagrada Familia, they suspect that Michael Jordan is not doing “salsa lessons” in his spare time.

7. It was a year like any other. Only this year, the first World Ocean Day is celebrated. Then it happens again, and again. Except what happens when the ocean inhabits the entire world? Rick is about to find out. 

8. Angel is hoping to save Damon from killing himself with drugs. If she can't, her career as a singer/songwriter is doomed, because all her songs are about him. That her class ring is a direct line to God should help.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Please allow me to introduce [Here's the problem with opening with those five words. Immediately my mind goes to "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones, which may actually be what you want, but at this point I have no idea what you want, so to be fair I decide to Google the five words and see if anything else comes up. Nope. I discover the song has been covered  by Guns N Roses, Motörhead and Jane's Addiction. Naturally I have to listen to each version on YouTube to see how they compare with the original. The Motörhead version's pretty good. Maybe I should check out this Motörhead group. I click on another of their songs. Nope. Forget it. Not for me. I wonder what that umlaut over the second "o" in Motörhead does, but I resist the urge to use Google to find out. I go to Spotify and arrange for my computer to play "Honky Tonk Women" and "Wild Horses" over and over while I'm working.] [My point being that, assuming you would rather I focused more on your query than on the two greatest songs ever recorded, you've screwed up royally. I'm listening to the wrong songs.] SUMMER, 1992, a contemporary, new adult, coming-of-age saga with a love story at its heart, coming in at 89,000 words. [That's a lot of words to describe the book's category. I think of coming of age books as covering the growth from childhood to adulthood. I think of New Adult as taking place in the period just after becoming adult. As there's usually no coming of age section in a bookstore, I'd go with new adult love story.]

It's 1992 and 18-year-old singer/songwriter Angel Carlton has her life all figured out. At the end of the summer, she plans to go to college in Nashville, get a record deal, and finally get over Damon, her brilliant and elusive muse of three years. But first, she arrives at her family's beach house for [she'll be spending] a long-dreamed[-]about, unsupervised summer after graduation in Ocean City, Maryland [,where she first met Damon.] with her two best friends, and searches for a job on the boardwalk.

But Angel has a secret. She believes that because of an answered prayer that reversed the sale of the house, God has sent her to the beach, where she met Damon, to save him [Damon] from drug-fueled self destruction before the summer's end. If successful, she'll become a star; if not and he dies, [she'll become an even bigger star.] she fears she may never write another song... since they are all about him.

Confident that God has already arranged for them to meet, Angel impatiently waits to run into Damon, and vows to remain just friends when it happens. Meanwhile, she begins to suspect that her class ring with the cross might just be a direct channel to God. Every time she looks at it and prays for something, it happens. [If I had that ring I'd be constantly praying. Why isn't she?]

When she actually does run into Damon, all Hell breaks loose. [So the ring was actually a direct channel to Satan. Nice twist.] By the end of the seven tumultuous weeks with songs written, promises broken, and dreams in danger of going up in smoke, Angel is no longer sure of anything anymore. Now she has to figure out what she really wants and, more importantly, what she really believes before she loses everything and everyone she loves the most. [The first plot paragraph had more specific information than I wanted. This one is the opposite. Broken promises and lost dreams seems pretty mild for something described as all hell breaking loose, and everything after that line is vague.]

The story, best described as ELEANOR AND PARK meets THE NOTEBOOK is told in diary format. It alternates between 1992 and the present as the main character, now middle-aged, types up her journal from the summer of 1992 while sharing it with her sixteen-year-old daughter, curious to see if she can guess what it hides without being told. Because of the dominant time period and the resulting nostalgia, I believe it has cross-over potential for women's fiction.

For many years I worked in Nashville's music industry where I pursued rock stardom after spending a summer at the beach. Currently I work as a web designer and homesteader on Maryland's Eastern Shore. I excel at talking people out of things.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I'd drop the third plot paragraph and rewrite the fourth with more specifics about what happens during those seven weeks and how failing to immediately figure out what she really wants and believes will cause her to lose everything and everyone she loves the most. 

Usually when we get to the end of the plot description the MC needs to take some crucial action or make some crucial decision that will determine how the story ends. Figuring out what she wants and believes is so wide-open it feels bland. Can you at least narrow it down to a couple wants or a couple beliefs?

Using the names Angel and Damon seems heavy-handed to me. 

Sunday, May 07, 2017

Feedback Request

Revision of Face-Lift 1288: The Feast of Masks, previous revision posted 4/23/17.

In legend, dragons could accomplish anything with their magic if they obtained the right treasure.

Mercenary Tali Adilrein, who once wielded dragon magic, finds one such powerful "dragon treasure" in Shimmer, a girl she rescues from kidnappers. Suspecting a rogue mage wants the girl, one who doesn't care that using her to fuel his magic will eventually damage her, Tali hires on as Shimmer's bodyguard.

What Tali doesn't realize is an ancient dragon has roused from a millennium of slumbering captivity. Cautious at first but growing more bold, the dragon sends out [Sends out? Explain.] bespelled traps to kill those who defeated its unwitting minions (the kidnappers) and recapture Shimmer: arrows it can guide to strike specific targets, a necklace that will control the wearer's mind and body, flames that move and act as if alive. [That sentence is easy to get lost in. It's Tali alone who defeated the dragon's minions, right? So all the "traps" are targeting her? So you could replace "those who defeated its unwitting minions (the kidnappers)" with "Kali." Specificity is good, but I'm not sure we need the list of traps (two of which sound more like deadly weapons than traps).] 

To counter the dragon's spells, Tali will need to once again wield dragon magic. To protect Shimmer, she will need to risk accepting the girl's aid as treasure.

To fight the dragon, Tali will need to become a dragon.


Which comes first? The dragon waking up or Tali rescuing Shimmer from kidnappers? It's easy to assume things happen in the order you tell us about them, but hard to imagine the dragon has minions doing its bidding if it hasn't yet awakened from a millennium of sleep.

Maybe we don't need to know the dragon's been asleep. What Tali doesn't realize is that the kidnappers are the unwitting minions of an ancient dragon now set on recapturing Shimmer.

Those three closing sentences, all in the To ________, she will have to ________. format aren't grabbing me.  Maybe something like:

To defeat the dragon, Tali will need to wield dragon magic. And for that . . .  She will need to become a dragon.

Or: To defeat the dragon and protect Shimmer, Tali will need her dragon magic along with the girl's aid . . . even if it kills them both. 

Saturday, May 06, 2017

New Beginning 1066

A small pair of black feathered wings sprouted from Kumo's back. He stepped in front of the sobbing boy who saw him as a guardian angel descending from heaven.

Crimson eyes accompanied by a series of huffs drew their attention to the hallway. Lurking on the other side of the wingless child's home was a beast whose indistinguishable silhouette watched them. Rather than to say it hid in the shadows, it instead was a living epitome of unilluminated space. Every spot of darkness was its to control. It was a blanket growing larger as it grasped at anything light couldn't reach.

More broken whimpers escaped the boy's mouth. The angel looked back, giving a warm smile. "Don't worry," he said to calm the young one's thoughts, "I'll protect you."

"B-But, it's scary!" the other one protested, referring to the beast in front of them. He didn't like scary things. In fact, he detested them.

Its claws scraped the hardwood floor as thick, black goo oozed down the walls. It enveloped the hallway in darkness until nothing but its eyes flashed.

"Harry," the Angel said to the beast, "You're scaring the boy. Can you knock it off, please?" The boy looked at the Angel, confused.

"Sorry," Harry said in a surprisingly soft, high-pitched voice, reminiscent of Mike Tyson.

The boy's fear turned to wonder, and he looked up at the Angel, still holding his hand. "You know him?"

"He's my brother."

"Isn't he a... demon?"

"We're all children of God."

"Oh," the boy said. "I thought that only applied to people. The Bible says--"

"Oh, that. That was an uncorrected proof. The final version never caught on."

Opening: Natanne Norman.....Continuation: Audra Coldiron

Friday, May 05, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1351 would like your opinion of the following revision:

Dear Evil Editor,

After murdering his abusive parents, Victor’s taken to a manor for mentally ill and paranormally infected teens. If you meet the requirements—crazy, not human, and dangerous—attendance is mandatory. Along with three others, Victor must train to join the rumor detectives, a police force charged with keeping the world’s weird creatures in line. [If you mean attendance is mandatory at rumor police training classes you should mention the rumor police before mentioning attendance (basically, by switching sentences 2 and 3). If you mean attendance is mandatory in the manor, we pretty much assume that from the fact he was taken there after committing murder.] He wants to be a good rumor detective. But sometimes Victor thinks he’s more villain than hero. [Based on the requirements, I feel like everyone in this place is more villain than hero. Why are people who are crazy and dangerous chosen to train as rumor police?]

When Victor discovers that he and his friends have a strange Tarot card disease, it’s more proof his life is rife with oddness. Brands appear on their bodies, marking [each of] them as one of the Major Arcana—which card depends on their personalities and pasts. Victor is branded the Tower, the card of disaster and revelation. Though he gains the ability to create thunderstorms and hear lies, the magic is draining and difficult to control.

The White Man, a murderer branded the Devil, calls them the End of the World. [Is the White Man already a rumor detective? If not, is he training? Does he live in the manor?] Whether the world is destroyed or its reality altered for the better depends on if they can defeat him, but the biggest threat isn’t always who it seems.

Victor believes Hugo, whose card gives him the ability to bend reality to his will, plays a large part in the White Man’s plans. As a rumor detective, he knows he should eliminate Hugo before he becomes a pawn in their enemy’s games. [Wouldn't it be better to eliminate their enemy than his pawn?] But his feelings for the boy cloud his judgement—just like the memories of killing his parents.

A YA urban fantasy, THE ALL MADS takes place in Prague. It is complete at 120,000 words.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


When you say Victor and his friends have been branded, and later say the White Man is branded, I'm not sure it's clear that the White Man isn't a member of Victor's team. This can be avoided either by naming Victor's friends (instead of "along with three others" say "along with his friends Hugo, Sebastian and Caroline." and/or by mentioning somewhere that Victor's team call themselves the All-Mads, so that you can later say the White Man calls the All Mads the End of the World, instead of he calls "them" the End of the World.

It's an improvement, but I still feel we spend too much time on the situation, and too little on what happens. Perhaps opening with something like this: 

Seventeen-year-old Victor Jones and his friends Caroline, Sebastian and Hugo make up a police squad charged with keeping weird creatures in line. It's a job they were born for, as all of them have unique paranormal talents. When brands appear on their bodies, marking each of them with one of the Major Arcana of a Tarot card pack, they aren't sure whether it's a disease or an omen.

. . . and following with a paragraph about the White Man--who is he, what has he done that convinced them he was their enemy, what's his goal, what happens if he succeeds?

Finally, a paragraph telling us how the All Mads plan to stop the White Man, what goes wrong, what decision they must get right to succeed.

You should be able to squeeze some specifics about the Tarot cards into those paragraphs.

This eliminates the awkward situation of having to explain why dangerous crazy teens are given such authority. 

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

New Beginning 1065

Howls of the dead and the horrifying screams of the living were the only sounds that could be heard. The deserted town was potent with the stench of trash and iron making bile burn in the back of my throat. Nonetheless, I didn't have time to think about the disgusting state of the area. Chasing after us was a mob of rotting corpses.

Moving corpses slowly cornered us, literally and figuratively. Backed against a wall, I was forced to come to terms with the fate that awaited us. I looked over to my brother with tear-striken eyes and whimpered, "At least we have each other. I love you, Jack."

His grey eyes wavered when he gave me a shaky smile and ruffled my hair. "I love you too, Lulu. But," he gripped onto my shoulders and said, "I love myself more." A smirk stretched his lips as I registered his last words.

In a matter of seconds, his warmth was gone, replaced by a strong force pushing me away. Jack ran past the zombies before they could blink, never looking back. The echoes of his laughter overshadowed even the groans of the dead.

It only took a single shot to the back of the knee to quiet Jack's giggles, and as he crumpled to the ground, the undead could sense the fresh iron smell leaking from his wound. As they turned to feed on what passed for his brain, I slipped away into the shadows. Yes, Jack was nimble and Jack was quick, but Jack forgot my semi-automatic.

Opening: Natanne Norman.....Continuation: ril

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Face-Lift 1351

Guess the Plot

The All Mads

1. It's a Masquerade and Suzy is enjoying every minute of it. But when the clock strikes midnight, everyone becomes the mask they wear. Can Suzy find her friends and escape the curse or is she doomed to forever be a white rabbit?

2. John Gibbons, head of the Sydney Home for Disturbed Boys, needs to find an outlet for all that youthful energy and violence. And so he proposes a football team to take on the city's best. But they need a name, and the name they pick, the All Mads, might not do them any favors.

3. Every pharmaceutical company, every drug counter at the store, every light-shaded bottle with colorful pills inside.... oh, you said mads.... That works tOo. Them drugs dO things tO yOur mind.

4. After murdering his parents and being diagnosed as mentally ill, Victor trains to be a detective. Not just any detective, though. Part of a team called the All Mads, who police all the world's weird creatures.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After Victor murders his parents, he’s taken to a manor for mentally ill and paranormally infected kids. Along with the mind-manipulating Sebastian, the gentlemanly Caroline, and the insanely adorable (and plain insane) Hugo, he trains to become a rumor detective—a police force for all the world’s weird creatures. [Because in this enlightened world, law enforcement is the perfect field for mentally ill murderers.] 

Hunting physical monsters is easy. [If hunting monsters is the job, it would have a better name than "rumor detective." You're as likely to hear rumors that there's a thief or a serial killer in the area as a monster.] [Also, if you want me to read about a team who hunt monsters, don't start by telling me hunting monsters is easy. I want it to be challenging.] It’s the ones in Victor’s head that give him trouble. But [maybe] the other kids might be able to [can] tame them, since they’re certainly capable of taming real ones. [That the other kids have tamed the monsters in their own heads would be a better indicator than is their ability to tame real monsters.]

When Victor discovers that himself [he] and his friends have a strange Tarot card disease, it’s just another event that proves [more proof that] his life is rife with oddness. A murderer named the White Man, who plans to use the four in a devilish plot, calls them the End of the World. [(They prefer to go by "The All-Mads.")] Whether the world is destroyed or its reality altered for the better depends on them, but sometimes they seem too bad to be the good guys. 

A young adult LGBT urban fantasy, THE ALL MADS takes place in Prague. It is complete at 120,000 words. The full manuscript is available upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

(The reason the title is The All Mads is because that’s what the kids name their team, claiming “they’re all mad here.”)


Do Caroline, Hugo and Victor have paranormal powers that are useful in their jobs, as Sebastian does? If so, you should mention them rather than using adjectives like "gentlemanly" and "insanely adorable." If those adjectives and the monsters in the kids' heads are attempts to hint that this is LGBT, I think you need something more obvious.

The Tarot card disease is interesting, but it has no apparent connection to the White Man, so either move it, delete it, or connect it.

The second paragraph doesn't tell us much beyond Victor has monsters in his head, which we can infer from the fact he's apparently a mentally ill murderer. If we dump that paragraph, we'll have room to expand on the third paragraph with information like what the White Man wants them to do, and what his goal is, and how they plan to stop him. How the world might be destroyed or its reality altered. The symptoms of Tarot card disease. 

And perhaps why you describe this as LGBT. There's no need to mention LGBT just because you have a couple LGBT characters. If that term applies to the entire team, and their struggles as LGBT are a major theme of the book, that's a potential selling point and perhaps needs to be made more obvious.

They're a police force for all the world's weird creatures. I'm not sure even after reading the whole query whether that means they protect the world's weird creatures (from monsters?) or they protect the world's humans from weird creatures (including monsters).

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1350 would like feedback on this revision.

Ziva Kritikos wants to grow up. Her best friends, Sophie and Abigail already have goals in mind for their lives. Kyle, a boy hooked on messing with her is headed towards his dreams while Ziva doesn't even have any. She doesn't want to be left behind, and her library's books won't help her find a path. Desperate for a change, Ziva relies on a shooting star.

When her wish is granted however, she gets a limitless supply of information at the tip of her tongue instead. Now holding the power to devour her written words, her hunger doesn't allow them to stay on paper. In turn, no one else can see them, leaving her once perfect grades at the mercy of blank tests and notebooks.

To make matters worse, the fourteen-year-old's body now only craves words, rejecting anything else. The more ink she eats, the more she begins to doubt if she's human. However, the only thing beastly about Ziva is her appetite.

As she indulges in her greed, the girl comes to a realization―her meals are memories stolen from humanity. She becomes terrified of what her loved ones would do if they knew, so she keeps the grim truth to herself. Seeing as how the stars won't listen to her pleas, Ziva decides to starve. She can prevent herself from stealing anything else while fading away in silence.

After telling Sophie and Abigail about her powers only to recieve fear-strucken [stricken] faces in response, Ziva confides in Kyle. He learns of her 'solution', but won't let her die so easily. After seeing her pass out from anemia, he brings her to the nurse's office. There, he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing. However, he's ignorant of the consequences.

Ziva, now conscious and frustrated, has to make up for her reckless choices with one last decision: erase any trace of her existence or indulge in her greed without regrets?

A concoction of paranormal and fantasy, Words, a young adult novel is complete at 50,000 words.


While this is an improvement, it's still not clear. Lines I don't like:

a boy hooked on messing with her 

her library's books won't help her find a path (every library has books on careers. WHat more does she want?)

she gets a limitless supply of information at the tip of her tongue (that falls flat since you haven't yet mentioned that she eats words.)

holding the power to devour her written words
indulges in her greed(I would leave off the "in" if you must use this phrase, but I don't think it helps either way. And you use it twice.)

her meals are memories stolen from humanity(Meaning what? SOme of her meals were her school tests and reports. Were those humanity's memories. WHen she eats humanity's memories, does humanity lose the memories? IF she writes 2 + 2 = 4 and then eats it, do people no longer know what 2 + 2 =?)

he makes her write his name in her sleep as a way of apologizing (I don't see how that's an apology.)

These phrases obviously make sense to you, but I'm not sure what they mean.

It's gonna be hard enough to get readers to buy into this eating words concept. Explaining it in vague terms won't help.