Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Synopsis 50

Sixteen year old PRINCESS PEGI is a misfit who prefers books to fashions and saves animals instead of hunting them. Her parents plan to marry her off to a suitable prince. Pegi wants to experience life outside the palace walls. On the day of the wedding she escapes into the woods, drawn to the cottage of evil fairy INGENIOSA.

As a baby Pegi had been cursed by Ingeniosa. [Why?] Pegi is to run away on her sixteenth birthday and spend the rest of her life searching for herself. Ingeniosa offers to remove the curse but Pegi sees it as a chance to break free of the yoke that is her royal destiny and chart her own path in life.  [Didn't she just break free from that yoke in the previous paragraph?]

As Pegi begins her quest, Ingeniosa offers her two gifts. The first is a companion – KUMO the were-dog, a mutt who can turn into a wolf at need. The second is a magical cookie which embodies the curse; if Pegi consumes it, the curse will end and she and Kumo will be back in their normal habitats. [You put a curse on someone, wait sixteen years for the curse to take effect, and immediately hand your victim the antidote?] [What is Kumo's normal habitat?]

Pegi’s new life is strange, confusing and full of misadventures. Kumo dismisses her as a silly royal; his superior attitude maddens her. But their relationship evolves as Pegi subsumes her vanity and learns from her mistakes. Mistrust and contempt change into mutual respect and affection, and they become true companions. [This was advertised as a YA book, but the magic cookie and the fact that Pegi grows close to her dog rather than a boy make it seem like a book for a younger crowd.]

When Pegi thwarts a witch hunt, she hears about the TRUTHERS.  [Not clear what that means. Were witches literally hunting, or was someone hunting witches or is this the more common figurative meaning of a witch hunt? I'm not sure we need to know what Pegi was doing when she heard about the Truthers anyway.] There are many groups of Truthers and each group believes it possesses the Sole Truth. [Do all groups of TRUTHERS refer to other groups of truthers as the LIARS?] All of them want to outlaw magic, hunt magical creatures and ban ideas they disagree with. Pegi is appalled by what she hears, but the world seems big enough and the danger remote. She realizes her mistake when she and Kumo try to help a besieged bookseller and witness the Truthists burning books and artifacts considered unacceptable. 

Forced to flee for their lives, they end up in the middle of a desert [It would have to be a pretty small desert to be chased all the way to the middle of it on foot without being overtaken. I was joking in the query when I said she needed a werecamel, but since the dog's ability to become a wolf doesn't seem to be paying off . . . ] [Or the dog could have the ability to change into any animal.] and Kumo begins to ail with a mysterious malady. The cookie is Pegi’s last hope. Eating it will return her to the gilded cage of royal life, but she will make any sacrifice to save her beloved were-dog. [The cookie sends Kumo back to his normal habitat, but I'm not sure why that would cure his mysterious malady.] When the cookie doesn’t work, Pegi is forced to make do without others’ magic. She manages to escape the desert and save Kumo by enlisting the help of a dying dragon, a pair of hungry vultures and a medicine man. [You can hardly claim the cookie is her last hope when a seemingly endless supply of potential allies happen to be in the middle of the desert.] [A living dragon would be more helpful in getting out of a desert than a dying dragon.]

The near loss of Kumo helps Pegi understand who she is and what she must do with the rest of her life. Her precious freedom is useless in a world where books are burnt and thinking is unfree. [It seems to me it's the realization that her freedom is useless that shows her what to do with her life, not the near-loss of Cujo.] She must either accept a yoke worse than her royal destiny or resist in her own way. Kumo says they can still walk away but Pegi knows that soon enough they will run out of places to run away to. Pegi and Kumo head towards a city controlled by the Truthers determined to do what they can, even if it’s just protecting one book, freeing one mind and saving one life at a time


There are so many people who don't request synopses, it hardly seems worth the trouble to write one.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Face-Lift 1317

Guess the Plot

After the Last Dawn

1. Dawn Dimarconi hates her name. really hates it. And she's going to kill every other Dawn on the planet to prove it.

2. When Jo-Jo finds an ancient book with expositions of black sky spattered with shiny dots, he quests for an answer to the still ball of fire overhead. With a photo of a pink horizon he begins a quest to set the world spinning again.

3. After the last dawn, the demons will be provoked.
After the last noon, the dragons awaken.
After the last dusk, the dead begin to rise.
Now if only Sue can figure out how to put them back to bed.

4. Eerie Filmore always seems to fall in love with girls named Dawn. After his fifth heartbreaking break-up, he decides to become a Tibetan Monk.... Just in time for the End of Days.

5. After he journeys to the end of the world where he finds giant crabs and little else, H.G. Wells's nameless time traveler returns to England, and discovers that Weena is alive, but wounded, somewhere in the future wasteland. Now he must search for her . . . beyond the last dawn.

6. On a cold foggy dawn, Gustav Bouilliard wakes up to newspaper headlines, "The End is Nigh!" When night falls, the Earth stands still. One cannot say whether robots were involved.

7. 2012: Martin has bet all his money on the Mayan Prophecy. The odds against the world ending are 1000:2. But being a pessimist, he’s sure he'll win. When an asteroid as big as Europe hits the world and doomsday arrives, Martin is thrilled. Problem is: where is he supposed to collect his bet … After The Last Dawn ?

8. To avoid her royal destiny (marriage at sixteen), Princess Pegi leaves the palace and travels the world with her were-mutt. Which goes well until they encounter the Truthists, who claim to have the Sole Truth, but that's a lie. If she can't escape these idiots, she's seen her last dawn.

9. Dawn McBally is terrified - a serial killer in her small town has been targeting only women named Dawn. A quick head count reveals she is the last one. Her dilemma: leave town or legally change her name.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor,

Once upon a time, a princess escaped a fairytale marriage and roamed as free as a bird - until she encountered a world where minds are caged. [Dump this. It says nothing that isn't said again later, it's in past tense while the rest of the query is in present, and the fairytale opening gives the impression your book is for young children.]

Pegi prefers books to jewels, saves animals instead of hunting or eating them and dreams of experiencing life outside the palace walls. [How many animals need saving inside the palace walls?] She doesn’t want to marry at sixteen, become a crowned-head and spend her time entertaining other crowned-heads. To escape her royal destiny, she does a deal with an evil fairy.

That entails embracing a puzzling curse [Is embracing a curse the same as being cursed?]– she must roam the world looking for herself and she cannot find herself without losing herself. [She was born at the wrong time. In the 60's people willingly roamed the world trying to find themselves. Without even being cursed.] [A deal usually involves both parties getting something. I don't see what the evil fairy gets from this deal.] 

Life on the road is not quite the adventurous romp of Pegi’s imaginings, what with her tendency to tumble into messes and scrapes; and the infuriating company of Kumo the were-dog, a mutt who can turn into a wolf at need. [I don't think were-dog is the right term. It would have to have "wolf" as part of its name to distinguish it from dogs that can turn into bears or lions. And it needs "dog" as part of its name to distinguish it from humans who turn into wolves. And it needs "were" to distinguish it from anything that doesn't turn into anything. By anagramming were-dog-wolf, I've come up with the perfect term: gwelderwoof.] Still Pegi revels in her newfound-freedom [Hyphen not needed.]  – until she witnesses the Truthists in action. Truthists believe they possess the Sole Truth. [So, her wanderings have either taken her to the Middle East or the Republican convention.] [How long did it take the Truthists to come up with their name?] They want to outlaw magic and hunt magical creatures. [Including gwelderwoofs?] [Or should that be Gwelderwooves?  Hoof becomes hooves, but roof becomes roofs, so it's not cut and dried. This shows how important it is when making up words to settle early on how you'll handle the plural form.] In lands under their control, ‘unacceptable’ books are burnt and ‘incorrect’ ideas are criminalized. [This sounds like Fahrenheit 451, which, coincidentally, happens to be the optimal temperature for roasting gwelderwoof.] 

A failed attempt to save a bookseller turns Pegi and Kumo into fugitives. [In this world it's against the law to fail to save a bookseller.] [Weren't they already fugitives? From the royal court or whatever?] They get stranded in a desert and Kumo begins to succumb to a mysterious illness. Pegi needs to save her beloved were-dog, escape the desert [If only she had a were-camel.]  and fathom how to remain free in a world where thinking is unfree. [Can the Truthists tell what people are thinking?] Unraveling the curse might help, but time is scarcer than water and vultures are hovering in expectation of a rare feast. [To a vulture, fresh gwelderwoof is a delicacy.]

After the Last Dawn is a 96,000 words fantasy novel for young adults.


So the lesson Pegi learns is Be careful what you wish for? Staying home, marrying at sixteen, becoming a crowned-head and spending her time entertaining other crowned-heads would have been better than being stranded in a desert, though I doubt that's your point. Does she do anything to change the world she's found outside the palace? Simply fathoming how to remain free in this world isn't the most impressive of goals. What does she want after she gets out of the desert?

As Pegi was reveling in her freedom until she encountered the Truthists, maybe she should limit her roaming to places where the Truthists aren't. Is Truthism a worldwide religion or a local cult?

What are the terms of the curse? First she must lose herself, and then she must find herself, but what happens if she figures out what that means and succeeds? The curse is ended? It's not clear what ending the curse means, since she was basically cursed to do what she wanted to do.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Face-Lift 1316

Guess the Plot

Some Kind of Eternal

1. Mira is an immortal. She will live forever, as long as she doesn't get killed, contract an illness, or grow old. She travels to the Eternal City in order to escape an age-old curse; otherwise she will die. 

2. A 450-year-old vampire longs to leave Earth and become a god, but to do so he needs a bottle of special blood that is also being sought by Freemasons, Russian billionaires, and a Mayan king's ghost, at least one of whom wants the blood . . . to destroy humanity!

3. When Ninet promised Ramses her eternal love, she didn't mean being mummified alive after he died of the plague. He, unfortunately, did. Now she must escape across the eternally shifting sands with a camel and a cute waterboy (girl). Also, scarabs.

4. New nurse Javad Shah can't understand why Mr. "Bats" Linstall and Mr. "Superman" Chen are tampering with each other's wheelchair brakes and tossing nutrisweet packs at breakfast. As Javad talks to the other residents, he uncovers an old baseball feud that has the entire town in its grip.

5. It's a story as old as the hills, but instead of summarizing the plot I'm just gonna list the characters and their occupations. If you want to know what happens, let me know.

6. Lost in the Okefenokee Swamp, Trent stumbles upon the legendary Fountain of Youth. Now that he has an eternity to do so, he's sure to find his way back to civilization eventually. But can he do so before the alligators get him?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor:

Oliver, a 450-year-old vampire, longs to leave Earth and become a god with no need for human blood, while Hugh wishes he could remember his hedonistic past. [You toss out the name Hugh as if we already know who he is. You need to add "Oliver's fellow vampire" or "Oliver's immortal servant," or "really old amnesiac."] Who was the beautiful woman who gave him his ruby necklace over two centuries ago? [If only I could remember who she was so I could finally send her a thank-you card.] [Usually when there are two main characters who are allies, they're working toward the same goal. Becoming a god and remembering who gave him his necklace aren't of the same order of magnitude. It would be like Superman and Batman teaming up because one of them wants to save humanity and the other wants to find his missing sock.]

Together Oliver and Hugh journey deep underground to fight the ghost of a Mayan king, Russian billionaires, ancient vampires, and 33rd degree Freemasons looking for the same bottle of powerful blood. [Putting all that together in a list makes it feel like the book is a comedy. I'd drop the ghost, even if the ghost is the one who wants to destroy humanity. And we don't need to know the freemasons' degree.] [I suspect Oliver and Hugh didn't go underground to fight all these people, as you claim, but because the bottle of blood is there. If so, you can say "racing against" instead of "to fight."]  Each wants the blood for a unique and evil purpose, the worst being the destruction of humanity. [You're only calling that the worst because you're a human.]

Oliver and Hugh vow to find the blood to spare humanity, and transform into gods, [So, Hugh wants to be a god too. Perhaps that should be mentioned earlier instead of telling us he wants to know where he got his necklace.] but saving the lives of the women they love could get in the way. [Who are the women they love? Are they human? If Hugh's necklace woman was  human, it's too late to send her that thank-you card. Why are the women's lives in danger? Are the guys planning to take the women with them when they leave Earth?]

SOME KIND OF ETERNAL is a 73,000-word paranormal novel. The glamorous life of a real German prince I knew a few years ago, [As opposed to a fictional German prince you knew.] Oliver von Anhalt, inspired this book. [Was he a vampire?] The poetry of Lord Byron, Edgar Allan Poe, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as works of gothic literature from Ann Radcliffe to Elizabeth Kostova have greatly influenced me.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

--The title was inspired by a Sisters of Mercy song, Some Kind of Stranger, which makes me imagine a lonely vampire trying to make friends. I am not that attached to the title and don't mind changing it if asked to do so by a future editor (hopefully).-- [Ninety-nine percent of those told your title was inspired by a song will assume the song is "Some Kind of Wonderful," by Grand Funk Railroad.]


We can do without the necklace, as it's importance to Hugh isn't made clear. 

There's space enough in a query to provide more than five sentences of plot. And if you're low on space, feel free to cut the list of your favorite poets. 

Vampires Oliver and Hugh long to leave Earth and transform into gods; to do so they must drink the blood of Lilith, hidden deep underground centuries ago. But they aren't the only ones after the legendary phial of blood. Other vampires, Freemasons and Russian billionaires are racing to find the powerful elixir, all for their own evil purposes.

That's your setup, and leaves plenty of room to tell us what the plan is, what goes wrong, what will happen if the guys fail, how their girlfriends figure in...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Success Stories

The May 13 issue of Entertainment Weekly has a full-page interview with Maggie Stiefvater, which you can read without buying the magazine by going to their website. Stiefvater's YA novel The Raven King, the fourth and final book of her Raven Cycle series, came out two weeks ago.

Kirsten White's YA epic novel And I Darken, the first of a series, comes out next month and is available for preorder now.

Jenna Black's YA horror novel Nightstruck, the first of a series, came out last month.

Each of these authors was a contributor to this blog before being published, and each now has ten or more books in print from major publishers.

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Beginning 1057

I dreamt of earth again. The ground smelled of fresh rain, spring flowers, damp earth, green sprouts, and cool breezes. I could read Shakespeare's sonnets and diplomatic cables, before entertaining foreign ambassadors, and spend my nights in love or at least infatuation with the ones that might be. That life is gone, gone a millennium, countless light years ago. For I am alone and Earth’s ambassador to the stars.

A shadow appeared over my shoulder as I waited for the signal the Aldebaran ambassador would receive me.

“Another report? I can just hear the Secretary of State for Interplanetary Affairs screaming: ‘Who does think he is, Shakespeare? Tell him knock off the hearts and flowers,’ ” Gordon Parvathy the Deputy Associate Director for First Contacts swished his hands in circular motions.

“She’s a Philistine. Her staff assistant can summarize it.” I answered, slamming the cover on my tablet.

“She hates her staff assistant worse than in her words your florid prose.”

“Gillian Twickersham-Bostwick is a hack.” Even to my ears my voice was sharp, cutting, laced with anger. “Karma’s a bitch. She had balls getting appointed Earth’s representative to our interplanetary neighbors when she hates aliens and the Aldebaran alien knows it.” I never let Parvathy see my anger. He raised his hands, indicating he didn’t really care. A stupid, careless gesture.

The diplomatic cable arrowed through the room, a three-inch thick steel snake festooned with Aldebaran prayer flags. I swear they shot those things from harpoon guns.

"!@#$%!" Parvathy reeled back, blood spurting from the place where there used to be a hand. There was a reason I never raised my hands out here in the stars. I like my body parts where they belong. Mainly, with the hemoglobin inside. 

"Karma's a bitch," I repeated, wondering if that in his ears constituted florid prose.

We didn't have any earth to bury him in. But I sent hearts, flowers, and what the heck, a few green sprouts. It's just me and the sonnets now. 

Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: Anon

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's National Limerick Day . . .

and since no one submits anything anymore, I may as well repeat this query critique from about nine years ago.

Guess the Plot

Limorek Ironwood and the Sacred Crown

1. When Lim saw Jesus's thorny crown,
On a museum shelf he took it down.
He mistook it for grass,
Tried to smoke it, alas,
He burned the whole place to the ground.

2. King Ben felt his crown was too dim.
So he called in a young squire named Lim.
Then Lim and his team
Found a crown that did gleam.
Sir Lancelot had nothing on him.

3. A young man named Limorek Ironwood
Tried to roar just as loud as a lion could.
But the king of beasts roars,
While Lim sounded more
Like a porpoise or dolphin that's dying would.

4. Limorek was always impressed
With his dentist, who he thought was the best.
But when the oral surgeon
Sacrificed a virgin
Before Lim's root canal, he reassessed.

5. At Toadflax Magic School, London town,
It takes two years to earn cap and gown.
While his classmates took tests,
Lim embarked on a quest:
The seduction of sexy Ms. Crown.

6. "Ironwood," said she, "you're a prat.
To bed me, you must wear this 'hat.'"
"But it keeps falling off!"
"Ah," the damsel did scoff,
"Viagra will take care of that!"

Original Version

Dear :

What's an aspiring knight without a quest? Squire Limorek,[Limorek? Isn't that what happened to Princess Di?]between squirees at the moment, couldn't be happier when his king sends him to help find the Sacred Crown. That King Ben only wants the Crown for profit, and to prove to that meddlesome King Arthur that his knights are just as good as those upstarts Galahad and Lancelot, doesn't much phase 14-year-old Limorek. [Unusual for a king to confide his motives to a 14-year-old squire.] It's a real quest, after all! And quests themselves always seem to be magnets for other adventures.

Lim, though, is more than a mite miffed that he somehow winds up with a ragtag group of companions: The stubborn mule of a centaur constantly complaining about his age and grumbling about how magic is always the first to go. The timid princess with unrequited feelings for Lim who runs away from home to escape an abusive father. The young rebel maid, rescued from a dungeon, whose general brashness and idealism disarm the boy's good sense faster than he can say "infatuation." [It's like Lord of the Rings, but with some babes along.] And the young dragonling who, after a near-fatal misunderstanding in the forest between his mother and Limorek, joins the quest as a sort of "studies abroad" outing. [Somehow he ends up with this ragtag group? I assume they didn't emerge from a dimensional warp. Is it like Dorothy coming across the scarecrow and then the tin man, etc.?]
But what quest comes without peril? This one, this one, and this one.

Tracking the group are two relentless knights, sent by the princess' father to bring her back to court -- at any cost.

To put the jewel on the tiara, when the Sacred Crown is found, it isn't quite as advertised. [Too clever for your own good. Makes the reader think there's a jewel that needs to be put on the sacred crown, thus authenticating its . . . authenticity. Stick with the more mundane: To make matters worse; As fate would have it; Alas; To top it all off; To put the icing on the cake . . . Occasionally a cliché is . . . just what the doctor ordered.] And the consequences of that discovery, of the princess' actions and of the rebel maid's earlier escape from her prison must all be faced before this quest can truly be counted done.

LIMOREK IRONWOOD AND THE SACRED CROWN, complete at 53,000 words, is the first in an older-middle-grade limited series that combines action, humor, fantasy and old-fashioned chivalry to tell the adventures of a young squire working his way toward knighthood in the days of King Arthur.

Thank you for considering LIMOREK IRONWOOD AND THE SACRED CROWN for review.

Kind regards,

This isn't bad, but it raises some questions you might briefly clear up. Did King Ben send Limorek out with some knights? Or by himself? If the former, why isn't he with them? If the latter, how will Lim finding the crown prove that Ben's knights are in a league with Arthur's?

In order to be a princess, as I understand it, you must be the daughter of the king/queen, or marry the son of the king/queen. Your princess--is she the daughter of King Ben, or the wife of the king's son? If the former, I assume you would have said so. If the latter, why is she living with her abusive father, rather than with the prince? Is she the daughter of some other king? If so, just how many kings arethere, and what are they the kings of?

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Face-Lift 1315

Guess the Plot

The King and the Mount

1. King Robert loves his horses. Some of them he loves a little too much.

2. The King of the Horses is an important and regal king. Yet he is lacking in one important thing, a mount. Follow this stallion in his quest to find a mount worthy of his royal equine nature. 

3. Mt. Mik-Mak-Malady has been the choosing grounds for the dwarves of Granicrag for over three millennia. But, when Prince Salmi tries to take the throne, there are three problems: 1) he's not a dwarf, 2) the old king's only mostly dead, 3) the spirit of the mountain wants its minerals back. 

4. The king wanted a horse and traded his kingdom away for it. Now his new mount will take him on an extraordinary journey that will make him rue the day he uttered the words "my kingdom for a horse."

5. An evil king out to destroy the world. A boy who's never been away from his home on the side of a mountain, and whose only talent is whittling. Can the boy whittle a weapon capable of bringing down the king and his army in time to save us all?

6. Elvis enters his horse Blue Suede in the Kentucky Derby, planning to watch the race from Colonel Parker's box. When Blue Suede's jockey comes down with measles, can the King take the reins and ride his mount to victory in the run for the roses?

Original Version

Attn. Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation of my fantasy/adventure novel, The King and the Mount: The Missing Traveller.

Alister never thought his name would be significant enough to earn a place in the histories, but now it looks like the fate of the Union rests in his hands.

In the Union, a civilisation perched on the side of a mountain, [I tend to think of a civilization as encompassing a wider expanse of land than the side of a mountain.]  a travelling merchant has gone missing. His cryptic message to Alister, a young whittler, leads the boy [How old is this boy? Knowing whether he's seven or fourteen would be more helpful than knowing he whittles.] on a journey across the Union to find him. Along the way, he realises the merchant's disappearance is far from the most important matter at hand, because the message tells of a world-ending plot. [If I'm sending a message warning that the world is in danger of ending, I'm 1. not making it cryptic, and 2. sending it to someone with a better chance of saving us than a boy whose chief claim to fame is that he whittles. Just saying.]

For all the years Hawk, the travelling merchant, told Alister about the cities around the Union, he never imagined he'd have the courage to leave his home and explore them. [If these cities are all on the same mountainside, Alister could probably walk to the closest one in an hour. Does that really take great courage?] But when he commits a horrible deed, [He whittles an image of Mohammed.] Alister has no choice but to run away. [First you said Alister embarked on his journey to search for Hawk. Now you say he's on the run because he has no choice.]

His guilt and grief might have overwhelmed him [Guilt and grief over the horrible deed? What, specifically, did he do?] if not for Hawk's message, which instead stacks [places] the burden of the Union's future on his shoulders. He finds himself up against Baudouin, the unnervingly charismatic king responsible for Hawk's disappearance. The king has a history of great evils, and plans to regain his "rightful" reign over the Union, at any cost. [What is he the king of, currently?]

Any hope of ending Baudouin's plot lies with Hawk. On his way to find the missing merchant, Alister uncovers the mysteries of the Hawk's past, ["The" Hawk makes him sound like a superhero.] participates in an illegal glider race, accepts the help of people throughout the Union with questionable backgrounds, and finds himself wondering how far he should be willing to go to stop the ambitious king.

With a level of fantasy and adventure akin to The Ranger's Apprentice by John Flanagan, The King and the Mount is aimed at teenage fantasy readers, but could also be enjoyed by young adults. [Young adults are teenagers.]

Thanks for your time and consideration. The full manuscript is complete at 119500 words and is available upon request. As per your submission guidelines, attached are the first two chapters. I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


When I saw the title I assumed the mount was a horse. Apparently others did too. Maybe you should call it a mountain, as you do in the query. Actually, the title sucks either way. I suggest one of the following:
Alister Crowley and the Scelerate King
Enter the Whittler
Saving Proprietor Hawk
Return of the Ranger's Apprentice

Most of these fantasies have one teenager with no skills who has to save the world by himself, which is hard to swallow, so I'm pleased to see that your teenager can whittle and has the assistance of a traveling salesman, if he can find him.

You say the fate of the Union rests in his Alister's hands, but all Alister is doing is looking for Hawk. You also say "Any hope of ending Baudouin's plot lies with Hawk," but Hawk puts the burden of the Union's future on Alister's shoulders. It's not clear from the query what the merchant or the whittler can do to save the world. If I had to guess, I'd say Alister plans to swoop in on the glider he whittled out of a pine tree and rescue Hawk, who will then transform into the superhero known as The Hawk, and defeat the king's army with his iron beak.

I recommend you focus on one character and his goal, and provide more specifics. For instance, what's the name of the mountain, what's the horrible deed, what is Baudouin's plot, how did the king become not the king in the first place, what does the cryptic message say, what's the biggest mystery of Hawk's past, how is the burden of the Union's future on Alister, why is glider racing illegal, what is the plan, and what is Alister's super power that will allow him to defeat the evil king? (If it's whittling, change his name to The Whittler.)

That reminds me of The Whistler, an old radio mystery series which was adapted into several movies. Which reminds me of an old Smothers Brothers bit. I can't find the full song online, but here's a link to a place where you can listen to the part of the song where Tommy Smothers (as usual) interrupts the song to go off on a tangent. "Lonesome Traveler" is the track.