Saturday, January 14, 2017

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1337 would like feedback on the revision below.

Dear Evil Editor,

When Nolan of Greenbrook stumbles upon a glowing crystal from the sky, he gains magical powers but attracts unwanted attention of the worst sort from the immortal Eldest. To the Eldest, the humans he rules are no better than insects [rats?], to be killed if they annoy him or experimented on if they interest him. And Nolan's magic interests him very much. The Eldest has him captured so he can be studied, a process that always ends in an agonizing death.

As Nolan languishes in prison waiting to be taken to the Eldest, he turns to [hones] his newfound magic for help [magical skills]. What begins [began?] as nothing more than creating blue light quickly develops into the ability to move small objects with his mind. Armed with these powers Nolan picks locks, blinds guards, and leads a daring escape. Once free he takes flight along with his fellow escapees, searching for a place beyond the Eldest's reach.

The Eldest will not give Nolan up easily, and his servants pursue Nolan and his companions at every turn [relentlessly]. [As] Nolan fights off each attack, and even as he flees his magic grows stronger. He gains the ability to deflect arrows, spy on his foes from a distance, and strike them down without touching them. Yet no matter how powerful he becomes Nolan is just one man, and the Eldest's army of genetically-engineered monsters has never been defeated.

Now Nolan has no place left to hide. The Eldest is closing [closes] in on him [Nolan], and he no longer cares about taking him alive. Pursued to the very ends of the earth [and hopelessly outnumbered,] Nolan makes a startling discovery: his magic can be spread to others. If he survives long enough to train his companions, Nolan can finally stop running.

The Eldest has never been defeated... but he has never faced an army of mages. [How many mages constitute an army?]

ETHERFALL is a 122K-word fantasy that will appeal to readers of Brandon Sanderson or E. E. Knight. Thank you for your time and consideration.


I've made a few suggestions for additions/deletions. Whether you you use any or all or none, this is a big improvement.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Face-Lift 1341

Guess the Plot

The Ratline

1. An oddly dressed pop star with sinister motives starts a new dance craze in this modern retelling of The Pied Piper.

2. A cabin boy rises to the rank of captain, all over the course of a month. Includes mermaids, floating stones,  singing sails and living thunderstorms.

3. CIA operative Joe Goralski is charged with tracking down Nazis as they scatter across postwar Europe, uncovering the secret routes that funnel Nazis and their collaborators through the Vatican to safe havens around the world.

4.  Col. Bill Saperstein is charged with tracing the escape routes of dangerous Nazis into South America. Armed with the Spear of Destiny, Crown of Charlemagne and Excalibur, he fights his way across jungles while battling hostile tribes, to the Nazis' secret base in Argentina.

5. This blood red beverage comes in a charmingly-shaped, exquisitely-tinted grey glass bottle. The flavor is heady enough to remind one of the fevers of the bubonic plague. What? You didn't order Rat Wine? Then may I offer you a bottle of '98 Dom Perignon?

6. Rapunzel, exiled and alone, has finally found work on a ship. Her braids are the strongest ropes any man has ever climbed. What did she do wrong? Loving two princes felt so right. Will the captain rescue her before the seamen realize she's the only woman on the ship?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Newly-minted CIA operative Joe Goralski likes his job, and he’s good at [it], too. Tracking down Nazis as they scatter across postwar Europe, he’s continuing the good work he left unfinished during the war. Fearsome Yugoslavian resistance fighter Ava, who lost everything in the war, works alongside him to bring the most brutal masterminds of the Fascist regimes to justice. Together, they uncover the secret ratlines that funnel Nazis and their collaborators through the Vatican to safe havens around the world.

When he follows the ratlines to their source, he discovers the CIA bringing the very men he’s been hunting into the fold. As the official focus shifts from rounding up fascists to battling communists, Ava herself becomes a target. [Because she's a communist?] Goralski is torn between helping Ava seek justice against the Croatian bishop who exterminated her family, and collaborating with his new ex-Nazi associates to fight the spread of Communism in Europe. [Reversing the order of the two options would make it clear the "his" refers to Goralski (if it refers to the bishop, I would change "his" to "the bishop's").]

Goralski mistrusts his government’s agenda, Ava grows suspicious of his CIA connections, and he questions her real motives and endgame. When Ava vanishes one night in Rome, Goralski must choose whether to find her for his government, for himself, or for her own safety. [He can worry about why he found her if he finds her. Why must he choose first?] But maybe she doesn’t want to be found. [Or maybe she was killed by the Russian spy known only as "Eyebrows." Did he even consider that?]

THE RATLINE is a standalone historical thriller with series potential, complete at 95,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The original version sounds pretty good to me. 

While opening with the plot is usually preferable, in this case it might be better to open with the historical context. If the reader thinks you made up the Vatican ratline, she may decide the whole thing is preposterous. Something like:

In 1948, Nazi war criminals were still scrambling to get out of Europe, many via the so-called Vatican "ratline," which helped hundreds (thousands?) escape to South America. My novel The Ratline follows Joe Goralski, an agent of the newly formed CIA, and Yugoslavian resistance fighter Ava   ___________,  as, each with their own agenda, they work together to track down the brutal masterminds of the Fascist regime.

Then continue with each MC's motivation and the resulting conflict.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Face-Lift 1340

Guess the Plot

Red-Eyed Daniel

1. A 2.30 am flight over the Bermuda Triangle returns sans passengers and pilot. No one is sure how it landed safely. The black box recording only has noisy static, and one blip of sound that might or might not be someone screaming Red-eyed Daniel in Taiwanese.

2. Lurking above Silverwood lake is the remains of a burnt mill. In that ruin waits the ghostly fiend known as Red-Eyed Daniel. The kids from Cal State San Bernardino who party there all think it's a legend--until one night in June.

3. Everyone thought Daniel's eyes always showed up red in pictures due to the mysteries of photography. Everyone was wrong. He really is a demon, and he must corrupt three innocent souls to return to hell. The problem? Finding three innocent souls.

4. Daniel, a twenty-year-old 747 jet, longs for retirement. He wishes he could just fly short hops during the day, when his eyesight is at its best. Yet Daniel is stuck on the nightly LA-NY red-eye schedule, and he's not sure how much longer he can take it. But when he meets a shiny new Airbus determined to take over his route, Daniel vows to take up the fight... and the flight.

5. Daniel has a choice. Give the demon who kidnapped his mother what he wants, and become a demon himself, or swallow a live roach. Sure, it seems like an easy decision, but you haven't seen the size of the roach.

6. Daniel has a long trip to make at a terrible time. Can he make it through 11 hours of children crying, terrible food, and absolutely no leg room? He will, thanks to a little dimension hopping and a shadow monster from a bad inflight movie. 

7. He really shouldn't have had that last drink. Now Daniel's eyes are bloodshot, his almost-girlfriend recently confessed she now wants to go by the name of Andrew, and some mafia folk think he is someone else, and want their money back. Maybe another drink will help.

8. Freda Foxx has a problem: her eyes are red during the day as well as at night. Thus, she is an outcast among the foxes. Then she meets Daniel, a Sherwood Forest hare, with the same affliction. Together they join The Red-Eyed League, a charity adjacent to the Bank of London. The two are paid two thousand pounds per week for trivial work. One morning the charity office is left vacant and they are arrested as accessories to bank robbery. Also, Sherlock Holmes.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fifteen-year-old Daniel Venture knows two things for sure: 1. His mother is held hostage in a parallel world. 2. There's no way in hell he will do nothing about it.

When he crosses the bridge between the universes, he finds a world where demons freely roam the streets and kill people, [and] noticeboards hunt for telekinesis experts (twenty years’ experience, high salary assured), and telethoughts are used to message brief thoughts.

He discovers that only soldiers can protect citizens from demons, like the creature who kidnapped his mother. Then Daniel learns something else: If he wants to battle the kidnapper, he must join a military academy and become a demon slayer himself. [Maybe it's just laziness, but I think I'd just inform the soldiers that my mother needs rescuing, rather than spend however many months or years training in a military academy while my mother is being tortured by demons. The soldiers are probably better at rescue operations than Daniel will ever be.]

Daniel is prepared. [Daniel's training goes quickly.] Learn this world’s bizarre physics. Cram for parapsychology. Swallow a living roach to inoculate himself against demons. [If that's all it takes to inoculate yourself, seems like everyone would be inoculated.] [Everyone except me, of course, as I'll surrender my soul to the demons long before I'll swallow a live roach.] [So these people the demons roam the streets killing all refuse to swallow a roach?] But he’s not prepared to discover that his body contains an immense telekinetic energy. Asmodeus, one of the most powerful demons, wants this energy so much that he ordered to kidnap his mother [orchestrated Daniel's mother's kidnapping], knowing Daniel would follow, and fall into his trap. Now Daniel must choose: give Asmodeus the energy he wants and join him and his demons, or sacrifice himself to kill the demon. [I'd give him the energy, even knowing he'd probably kill me and my mother with it, because I'm a spiritual weakling.] 

RED-EYED DANIEL is a YA paranormal mystery, which draws on demons and other elements from the Jewish mythology. It is complete at 92,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.


So Asmodeus kidnapped mom instead of Daniel because kidnapping people with lots of telekinetic energy is impossible or dangerous? And now this powerful demon on his home turf can't take Daniel's telekinetic energy, but Daniel can give it to him?

I think I'd like to know why telekinesis experts are in demand, and why Asmodeus wants Daniel's telekinetic energy. We're talking about the ability to move objects without touching them, right? It sounds more like a parlor trick than a useful weapon against humans or demons. I suppose if a demon can't personally harm a human who's swallowed a roach, being able to mentally tip over a dresser onto the human is the next best thing. 

You spend a lot of space setting up Daniel's situation with what he knows and discovers and learns. Here's the setup: Asmodeus, one of the most powerful demons, has lured 15-year-old Daniel Venture into a parallel universe by kidnapping Daniel's mother. The demon wants Daniel's powerful telekinetic energy in order to _________. To save his mother and himself, Daniel must train to become a demon slayer.

That gets Daniel into Asmodeus's world without us wondering how he happens to find a bridge between universes. And leaves plenty of room to tell us how Daniel plans to rescue his mom and what goes wrong, and what's at stake for the people of Earth if he fails.