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...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured in Face-Lift 1280 has submitted the following revision, and would like your feedback:

Sixteen-year-old Ariel Hawk has always known Fae exist; her dad made sure of that, no matter how often the neighbors called him crazy. [Did he make sure of that by proving it, or just by telling her? Parents tell kids Santa Claus exists, but that doesn't ensure they will always believe it. If your father insists zombies exist, you don't believe it until you see one eating brains.] So while being kidnapped comes as a shock, knowing she’s captive to Fae royalty just makes her angry. [Is your point that she wasn't angry about being kidnapped until she realized her kidnapper was Fae royalty?] 

Ariel’s abductor—His Royal Smugness, the Winter Prince Fiachra—embodies everything she fears and hates about the Fae. Eerily handsome and insufferably proud, he sees humans only as objects to use for his desires: in this case, marriage. Ariel is exactly the young, fertile bride Fiachra wants. Her uncommon knowledge of his kind intrigues him, and her instinct to fight him offers a worthy challenge.

Though Fiachra’s courtship grows increasingly abusive, Ariel refuses to be bribed or beaten down. He feeds her enchanted fruit, and she spits it in his face; he proposes with a priceless silver ring, and she drops it in her chamberpot. She even uses the pain of a whipping to fight enchantment. [Not clear what that means.]

Unknown to Ariel, the wedding is only the first stage of a deadly plot. Fiachra’s scheming to murder his father after the ceremony, and seize the throne of the Winter Court with Ariel as his queen. If Ariel can’t escape, she’ll be trapped in Faerie with a patri-regicidal maniac for eternity. But if her attempts push Fiachra’s patience to the breaking point, he just might kill her too. [Does Fuchsia have to marry someone before killing his father? Does he have to seize the throne? Who would have claim to the throne if he doesn't seize it?]

WINTER'S QUEEN is a YA fantasy of 80,000 words. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Note from author: With regards to the phrase "bribed or beaten down", it was originally "wooed or subdued". I'm trying to get across the point that abusers like Fiachra can and do display outwardly-nice behavior (eg. Fiachra giving Ariel a ring) as a means of trying to win over or guilt-trip their victims between bouts of more blatantly harmful behavior. Most of the people who have looked over this query so far haven't understood this. If there's a clearer way I can get this across, please advise.  [Starting that "bribed or beaten down" sentence with the word "though" creates a connection I don't see. It suggests that normally the more you abuse someone, the more likely she'll accept bribes. What you probably want to say in the query is that when first his wooing and then his bribery (specifically, if she'll marry him he'll do X) don't work, Fiachra shows his true colors, becoming abusive . . . but still Ariel refuses to give in. In the book he may alternate abuse with kindness and bribes, but we don't want the query getting too complicated. The standard way to win a woman is to be nice, and if she sees through that, bribe her, and if that doesn't work, resort to threatening to kill her.]


What is he bribing her with? Not if you marry me I'll make you queen; she'd get that automatically, right? If you marry me I'll stop abusing you? Or I won't kill your parents? 
I'm not sure I like bribery being part of the equation. Bribery is usually treasure.  I can be abusive or kind, take your pick, seems like the option he would give her.

This is mostly the situation your main character finds herself in. We want to know what she does about it. You could condense this into something like:

Sixteen-year-old Ariel Hawk has been abducted by His Royal Smugness, the Winter Prince Fiachra, who embodies everything she fears and hates about the Fae. Fiachra seeks a young, fertile bride to be his queen--after he murders his father and assumes the throne. But Ariel wants no part of this patri-regicidal maniac, tossing his engagement ring into her chamberpot. 

That leaves plenty of room to tell us what Fiachra does to try to win Ariel (fake kindness, threats, enchantment), how Ariel manages to ward him off, how Ariel plans to make her escape, and what goes wrong. She's your heroine, she has to take action, not just hold out.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Feedback Request

The author of the book featured here would like your opinion of this revision of the opening.

Through cracks in the stone, it [What is "it"?] shines like a full moon drenched in blood. [That would take a lot of blood.] [If something is glowing behind cracks, it's more likely to remind you of lightning bolts than a full moon. In fact, if all you see is the light coming through the cracks, it could be a half moon or a sun or a light bulb.] Another strike from my pickaxe exposes the precious crystal. When I pry it loose, it pops out and bounces near the chasm beside the mineshaft.

I dive for the crystal and catch it. I look down. A shiver jolts up my spine, numbing my body with a frozen wave of fear. I’m on the edge of a bottomless pit. [Not crazy about a mineshaft, a chasm and a bottomless pit. Presumably the mineshaft is above, and you came down it to get here, and the chasm is below. And the pit is . . . the chasm?] Helplessly I watch as a chunk of dirt falls until the darkness below consumes it. ["Helplessly" would make more sense if the crystal were falling. He may be helpless to prevent the dirt from falling, but I doubt he cares.]  Regaining control of my body, I squirm back, inch by inch, before sinking into the sand and taking a deep sigh. I hate heights. [I would expect a mine to be mostly rock, not sand, especially not in enough quantity to sink into.] 

I open my hand and find the crystal cradled in my palm. Unlike diamonds that sparkle in the sunlight, it glows with an unnatural brilliance even here in the darkness. [If this guy's experience with diamonds is from mining them, the ones he's seen probably didn't sparkle much more than a standard rock.] We slaves don’t know why our master wants us to collect them, but these crystals are as precious to us as water. 

A forceful tug on my back pulls me up to my feet. It’s my mining partner, RN107. With thick eyebrows and a rigid jaw, he’s got an intimidating face. Like the feathers that fall from a vulture, his hair and beard have faded to a dark gray. [A simile should make something more clear. Hair faded to gray is already clear enough, and even if it weren't, your readers probably haven't seen fallen vulture feathers.]


I'm not sure how much light there is in this mine; you don't want to be describing things you wouldn't see in the darkness. Do they have a light source?

Here's what I would do with this, just to tighten it up:

A blood-red crystal shines through cracks in the mine wall. One more strike from my pickaxe, and it pops out. I dive and grab it . . . and find myself looking into a bottomless chasm. A few pebbles fall, the darkness below consuming them. I squirm back from the edge, inch by inch, then sigh deeply. I hate heights.

I open my hand. The crystal glows with an unnatural brilliance even here in the darkness. We slaves don’t know why our master wants us to collect them, but these crystals are as precious to us as water. 

A forceful tug on my back pulls me to my feet. It’s my partner, RN107. With thick eyebrows and a rigid jaw, he’s got an intimidating face, even now that his hair and beard have faded to gray.

I took out about 70 words; if I took some you need, put them back.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Feedback Request

You critiqued my query here with Facelift 1304 and then did a feedback request here. I've taken some time away from querying this book to come back with fresh eyes, so hopefully that's improved the query.

Also, as I'm sure some of your commentors will be happy to hear, I have changed the working title of my book.


Eric Ortega doesn't know it yet, but hybrid creatures with magical powers live hidden in his world. The winged Sentinels police the hybrids, keeping them from discovery and protecting the vulnerable. [From the hybrids? Who are the vulnerable, and what do the hybrids want with them?] The Sentinels are after Nikias, a human-wind hybrid who can control the winds and weather and only has a body when he steals one.

When Nikias takes over [possesses? hijacks?] Eric's body, the Sentinels snatch him. Eric wakes up in the Sentinel's [Sentinels'] tower, missing half his memories. The Sentinels failed to trap Nikias. Instead they've got a human who knows too much about their world.

Eric's had enough of this. He wants out, he wants home, and he wants all his memories back, thank you very much. The problem: Nikias imprinted his powers on Eric's mind and body. [Not clear why that's a problem. I wouldn't mind suddenly having the power to control the weather.] The Sentinels tried to erase them and aren't sure if it worked.

It didn't, but Eric's keeping that under wraps. He's less than impressed by these Sentinels. He told them Nikias threatened his family. Just because he doesn't actually remember his family doesn't mean the threat isn't real. [A more effective ending would be telling us what Eric plans to do now that he has Nikias's power. Using it to hunt down Nikias? To destroy all hybrids? To expose the Sentinels? To save the family he doesn't remember? What's his goal?]

Complete at 66,000 words, THE STORM SUMMONER is an upper middle grade contemporary fantasy that features diverse characters. [Until you say this is a middle grade book, a reader could easily assume Eric's an adult. Tell us his age when you introduce him.] I hope it will appeal to fans of The Underland Chronicles, Museum of Thieves, and Savvy.



It's an improvement, but I'm not sure your story doesn't start where your query ends. If you had to summarize the book in one sentence, would it be: When a demon [accidentally?] gives fourteen-year-old Eric Ortega the power to control the weather, he decides to use this gift to . . . ? Finish the sentence. You spend most of the query telling us how Eric got the power he will use to accomplish his goal, but what's his goal? What's at stake? What's his plan?

You don't make it clear that the hybrid creatures are all evil (are they?). Does anyone know the hybrid creatures exist? Do humans know the winged Sentinels exist? Seems like if they fly and have a tower, we'd know about them. What would happen if the Sentinels weren't policing the hybrids? In other words, what is the goal of the hybrids? To take over the world, destroying humanity? To have a country where they can live in peace? To kill random people because it's fun?

I don't think you lose anything by leaving out the Sentinels' wings and leaving out the term "hybrid." The hybrids can just be creatures with magical powers, and Nikias can be a creature who can control the weather. Calling him a human-wind hybrid isn't helping. Maybe you should call them demons if they have the power to possess humans. Then you have a wind demon, a fire demon, a water demon, etc.

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.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


A post from every year of this blog.


The 1st Serial Killers Guess the Plot Quiz

Serial killers pop up frequently in fake plots. And in real plots too, apparently. Six of the following plots were the actual plots of minions' novels. Which ones?

1. When Joe inherits a house from his Aunt Magnolia, he thinks it's his lucky day. But it turns out Aunt Magnolia was a mad serial killer, and the house burns down, so Joe is out of luck--until he's lucky enough to run into attorney Lancelot Fimby.

2. Patricia falls in love with the Earl of Hawksworth. There’s just one problem… he doesn’t know that she is merely a gardener. When he discovers the truth, cruel words fly--until an obsessed serial killer begins stalking Patricia.

3. By day, Guido is the town butcher. By night, he's the serial killer police have dubbed . . . "The Butcher."

4. The Crucifix Killer is back, killing only pale-skinned women. As his victims accrue, business booms in tanning salons across Manhattan.

5. A former police detective comes out of retirement to hunt down the 700-pound serial killer known as "The Brachiosaurus."

6. Five female adult movie director's have been murdered in Tennessee already. Can the Tennessee Serial Killer Unit get the killer before he gets his next victim?

7. A serial killer threads fishing line through the limbs of his victims and makes them "dance." They call him . . . "The Puppeteer."

8. When serial killer "Angel of Death" terrorizes a city, only one superhero has a prayer of stopping the carnage: Sister of Mercy, with her bullet-proof wimple and her Rosary of Doom.

9. When a serial killer nicknamed "The Minotaur" slips up and allows a single syllable of laughter to be recorded on a victim's answering machine, will detective Dan Malone recognize the voice--and overcome his heroin addiction--in time to save the next victim?

10. Serial killer Herbert Hawkins takes his victims on golfing holidays and bludgeons them to death, each with a different club. Can Detective Paris stop him before he goes through his entire bag?

11.The Big Chill meets Friday the 13th, as Josh and his friends gather at the funeral of the latest victim of the sledgehammer serial killer, who always kills the firstborn child of his previous victim.

12. To escape the serial killer who's after her, Annie flees Connecticut for the safest place she can think of: Dead Woman's Pass, the highest point on the Inca Trail to Machu Pichu in the Peruvian Andes (approx.13,650 feet). But the killer is one step ahead of her.

Answers below:

Actual plots: 1, 2, 6, 7, 11, 12


Bad Analogies

He couldn't seem to get her out of his system, like a three-cheese pizza during the prune factory strike. --truthteller

It was an old man's kiss, like slabs of wet liver clapped across her lips. --writtenwyrdd

She felt somehow incomplete, like a Rubik's Cube with only the top level solved. --EE

They laughed uncontrollably, like someone had just lit a fart with the Thanksgiving dinner candles. --truthteller

You know how when you're taping up a package to mail it with wide clear packing tape, and the thing that's supposed to keep the end of the roll of tape free fails and now you have to find where the end of the tape is, and you finally do, but then you try to pull it up, and instead of the whole thing coming up, just a little piece comes, so you have to keep pulling little strips up? That's what it was like living with Ernie Greeb. --EE

She was thrilled but it was short lived, like a bride who catches the groom with the maid-of-honor in a bathroom stall at the reception. --stick and move

The streaks of mayonaise around her shriveled lips resembled maggots, eager to assist the process of decay. --ME

Even though it was months since she left, her memory lingered, tantalizing at the edge of his perception, familiar yet vaguely discomforting, like when you sniff your fingers and you can't quite remember where you put them last. --ril

Being 30 pounds overweight and dripping chocolate ice-cream on your yellow blouse then running into a hottie someone you haven't seen in 20 years and pretending you don't remember him and you also pretend to not speak English because it's the only way to save face and later get another chocolate ice-cream because by then it's just what you have to do is like my life. --takoda

Professer Mullen was ecstatic: it was as if he'd been sexually propositioned by Jenni Partick who always sat at the front in his Renaissance Art lectures, only this time he didn't need to break into the Dean's office and hack into the ORBIS system to alter anybody's transcript. --ril

The blood-spattered, purple surgical gloves looked like a character in a Dr. Suess book. --ME

His kiss was so bad that it reminded her of the big, red rubber plunger her father used to use to unplug the toilets--cleaned, sterilized and peppermint-scented, of course. --Dave

He was gone, gone for good, and Lainie's heart was as empty as a gin bottle in a literary agent's bottom drawer. --EE


Improving the Olympics

I've been watching the Olympics, and have come up with a few ways they can be improved.

1. In volleyball, the tall players have an advantage. Thus, I recommend that springboards be installed in the area of the net to aid the shorter players in spiking and blocking.

2. In the men's high bar, the athletes are lifted to the bar by a guy. This is humiliating. It would be more spectacular if they had to pole vault over the high bar and then grab it on the way down, smoothly beginning their routine as they do.

3. No one ever sticks the landing on the gymnastics vault, as they have too much horizontal momentum. Thus, instead of landing on mats they should land on one of those small trampolines--the kind mascots use to dunk basketballs at halftime. This would allow them to spring upward, creating vertical momentum and allowing them to dunk a basketball and land without stepping or hopping.

4. The men's pommel horse tends to be extremely dull, despite the great skill involved, because they just go around and around. I propose that the routine be performed on an actual horse as it gallops around the arena.

5. The swimsuits of the synchronized divers are identical; they should be mirror images, with the design of one on the opposite side as the design of the other, so it looks like one diver is a mirror image of the other. Also, the divers should have to be twins. Actually, it's too easy to synchronize with one other diver. The event should involve eight divers going simultaneously, preferably octuplets.

6. No one actually swims the butterfly, so why is it an event? It should be replaced with the dog paddle. That may sound ridiculous, but it's no more ridiculous than race walking. I mean really, walking? In real life, if you're in a hurry, no matter how fast you can walk you'll be left in the dust of people who have enough sense to run.

7. There's no way of knowing who wins a point in fencing unless you just watch the electronic light come on. Thus the only way the fencing will ever be worth watching is if they use real swords and fight to the death.

8. There should be a coxswain in every scull, even the singles, and the coxswains should all be equipped with those huge drums like in Ben Hur, to help the rowers get the rhythm.

9. Water polo would be much more exciting if the participants were in those bumper boats, like they have at the state fair. I can't believe no one else has thought of that one.

10. Shot put, discus, hammer, javelin . . . they're all the same event, with a different thing to throw. It's like if you went bowling and you had to alternate among a bowling ball, a basketball, a time bomb and a cantaloupe. Just focus on one.


The Zack Martinez Chronicles

In recent months, homicide detective Zack Martinez (created by Khazar-khum) has made dozens of appearances in the Guess the Plot feature. I've chosen a few for your enjoyment.

Ace Homicide Detective Zack Martinez

The letter pinned to the starlet's bikini said only "N." For Zack Martinez, homicide detective, this meant two things: those first thirteen murders were related, and he'd better stop off for take-home BBQ at Nairobi Bob's.

When the letters U and I turn up missing from alphabet soup cans at crime scenes, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's on the trail of a kleptomaniac serial killer who was traumatized by a childhood word guessing game; and he'd better remember to pick up his wife's Andy Warhol comforter from Hang's Dry Cleaning.

When the partially eaten body of celebrity photographer Marc Austin is discovered in Griffith Park, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: the cougars who stalked the handsome Austin aren't the type with fangs and claws; and he'd better not forget his son's birthday at the zoo on Wednesday.

When homicide Detective Zack Martinez is summoned to the Gem City, a huge wholesale jewelry building, he knows two things: he'll run into his ex-wife at her boutique, and he'd better bring his new wife some earrings.

When Carl Saperstein, owner of top 3-year-old Fortune's Fool, is shot dead outside his store in LA's Garment District, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: finding the perp is a long shot, and he'd better bring his new wife some of that silk dupioni.

When the body of fashion guru Roberto Garibaldi is discovered in his plush Beverly Hills home, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Garibaldi didn't sever his own carotid artery with pinking shears, and he'd better get his wife a new pair of scissors to replace the ones he wrecked gutting fish last weekend.

When the plush velvet curtains of the Pantages part to reveal the corpse of actress Dame Catherine Holt lying in a gory heap, LA homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: he's going to be pulling serious overtime, and he'd better get his new wife orchestra seating to "Wicked" to make up for this fiasco.


The 1st Annual Evil Editor Charity Auction

After seeing how successful the Brenda Novak Auction is, I've decided to have my own auction. I'm starting small, but if this takes off, I'll have more items next year.

EE in Oil.

Self-portrait. As good as the crap you see in places like the Louvre. By the time your kids inherit it, it'll be worth twenty million.Current Bid: $220,000
Minimum Bid: $230,000
Reserve not met.

An Evaluation of your First Paragraph

by Agent Hannah Rogers. Does not guarantee representation.

Current Bid: $950
Minimum Bid: $1,000
Reserve met.

The Lindbergh Baby

I've had this fellow in my cellar since 1932. He's really become a drain on me, so maybe someone else can take on the responsibility.

Current Bid: $48,000
Minimum Bid: $50,000
Reserve not met.

Evil Editor's "Throne"

It's like giving up an old friend. I've spent so much time sitting here my ass has worn an impression into the seat. Autographed.
Current Bid: $1140
Minimum Bid: $1240
Reserve not met.

The Gulf of Mexico

I shoulda dumped this a while back. It's a fixer-upper, so you can probably get it dirt cheap.Current Bid: $8,000
Minimum Bid: $9,000
Reserve met.

Frozen Foot of a Hobo

Right foot.Current Bid: $20
Minimum Bid: $25
Reserve met.

Everything in Evil Editor's Attic Storage Room

Winning bidder will need to bring a truck, boxes and a few workers. Contents of room includes half ton of unopened slush.

Current Bid: $209
Minimum Bid: $219
Reserve met.

An Evaluation of Your First Sentence

by Evil Editor. More manuscripts get rejected after the first sentence than any other sentence. Find out why no one has ever seen your second sentence.

Current Bid: $800
Minimum Bid: $850
Reserve met.


Evil Editor in Art

Back before they invented photography, one could preserve one's likeness for posterity only by hiring da Vinci or some other artist to paint one's portrait.

Today, when every Tom Dick and Harry is suddenly a member of the paparazzi, and thus at least tangentially a murderer of Princess Diana, an artist's rendering is once again the classiest means of showing the world what they long to see, namely celebrities such as Evil Editor.

Evil Editor has been the subject of numerous artists' works in the past, including, but not limited to the following:

Self portrait in oils, now hanging in EE's gallery

Evil Dad, by Evil Jr., created for the Ocuritz pince-nez advertising campaign

Evil Editor, by Anthony B, created for the 2nd Blogiversary celebration, 2008

And the latest additions to this pantheon of pulchritude (and I say this hoping it makes sense, as I have no idea what "pulchritude" means, having used it only for its alliterative qualities):

EE at Work, by James Catlett

EE at Play, also by James Catlett

Evil Editor Teaches School cover art by Olga Stomatiou)

Clicking on individual paintings may result in enlargement. Contact the artists for prices on originals or prints. Evil Editor not responsible for marital discord resulting from the hanging of his portrait anywhere in your home, especially on the bedroom ceiling.


Th 4th Annual Evie Awards

The Academy Award show has barely gotten the best gaffer in a foreign film award out of the way, and the Evies are already complete. This despite the fact that the Oscars shows twenty-second snippets of their films, while the Evies shows the entire films. No wonder more people have watched the Evies than the Oscars three years running.

Best Musical Score
Kevin MacLeod for Bodywash


Best Actor

Evil Editor for Publishing Piracy


Best Actress: 

Hannah Rogers for Agent Query


Best Picture
Right Place, Wrong Time



Wait Staff


The Historian

I'm thinking of starting a new Twitter account. I'll call it The Historian.This is my avatar:

The feed would look like this (click to enlarge):

Ultimately it would be a way to promote my book The History of the World in Tweets. But would anyone buy it? Maybe it's all just a pipe dream, my getting rich by selling a copy to everyone on Twitter.


Hot Babes Holding Evil Editor's Books on Trains

This young woman obviously realizes that the best way to attract a man 
on a train is to flaunt her literary chops. Muttonchops, to be precise.

Never thought the subway was the best place to meet a doctor, 
but this MD wants everyone to know laughter is the best medicine.
Not the best medicine for all diseases. Consult your own physician.
Not recommended for spewers.

Decisions, decisions. EE or a delicious slice of chocolate 
mousse cake. Hey, why not have your cake and eat it too?

Coat casually tossed over her shoulder, favorite reading material on
display to any guy who leans into the aisle to check out her gams. She
boarded alone, but something tells me she won't be getting off alone.


World Poetry Day

What better way to celebrate World Poetry Day than by revisiting a few of the poems Evil Editor has composed to bring culture to his query critiques?


[Are you calling him a rhymester instead of a poet because you think his poems have no literary value? If so, do you feel they have no literary value because they rhyme? Because they include death threats? What makes you an authority on poetry? Here's a little test. One of the following death threat poems has the potential to become a literary classic. Which one?

Death. It cometh to us all,
Bringing grief and sorrow.
And yours will surely cast a pall,
For it's happening tomorrow.

I've got some bad news to impart,
So you'd better sit down, Gina.
I'm planning to rip out your heart,
And feed it to my hyena.

Not as easy as you thought, is it? Show us one of his works so we can judge for ourselves.] 


With images of wolves, dry jerky, and affection that vows, "no matter the land / I will call to you", the poems of "A War Bride" lead the reader to the middle of the forest, where words - and the silence between them - are at their most powerful.

[Sample poem:

Ode to Dry Jerky

Whether at home or land afar,
I will call to you,
O strip of dry meat, 
Salty and lean.
Ostrich, elk or venison, 
Bacon, boar or kangaroo;
All enshroud the buds of taste
But to a poet, just one will do,
And that, of course, is turkey jerky.]


For instance, Xanaduian. If you pronounce it Zan a du ee an it's five syllables, but if you pronounce it Zan a du yen it's four. If I were writing a haiku, I'd go with four syllables. Otherwise it takes up the entire first line. To illustrate, compare these haiku: 

Xanaduian dome
Brings pleasure to Kublai Khan
But not to students.

It describes Rooster Hat Trick,
Whoever that is.

As haiku, they're equally great, but the first one has more words. That's the point I'm trying to make.]


Told in multi-voiced verse, “Tenth Grade” explores a year in the life of a dozen teens growing up in an unnamed rural community somewhere in the Midwest. There is Jasmine, struggling with the resentment she feels towards her long-absent father upon his unexpected return.

[Father, I'm glad that you've returned, 
Partly 'cause I love you still,
But mostly 'cause now that you're here
You'll be much easier to kill.]

Aaron faces family tragedy when his sister is killed during military service, but his relationship with Alexie helps him not to linger in grief.

[My sister was blown up
By the Taliban yesterday.
Comfort me, Alexie, 
With a roll in the hay.]

Sandra struggles with body image and self-mutilation before she meets artistic Javier.

[I wish you wouldn't cut yourself, Sandy,
But since you do insist,
Let me show you how to make
Cool red designs on your wrists.]


My poetry has been published in Stirring: A Literary Collection, World Haiku Review,[World Haiku Review? I wonder if they would publish any of Evil Editor's Haikus:

Novel? Why Bother?
World Haiku Review:
With seventeen syllables
You can be published.

Perfect Threesome
Penelope Cruz,
Maria Sharapova,
Evil Editor.


The summer Nilla Jeffers moves to Washington, D.C., she’s convinced that eleven years of wishing on birthday candles, dandelion seeds, and the first star in the night sky have paid off: she is finally getting a dog. [Nilla, Nilla, be careful what you wish for. Here's verse 2 from my poem, "I Hate My Pets:"

He sheds on the carpet;
He sheds on my clothing;
The whole house is knee-deep in hair.
He barks at the neighbors;
He bites the repairman;
And chases the cat everywhere.
He chews up my shoes;
He humps my guests' legs;
He nips at my heels when I jog.
So many animals get hit by cars;
Why doesn't . . . my friggin' dog?]

Someone was bound to ask, so here's verse 1:

She pukes on my carpet,
She pukes on my sofa,
She pukes onto my TV set.
She coughs up huge hairballs
And her vet bills have left me
Ten thousand dollars in debt.
She claws all my chairs and my
Curtains, and each day
She brings in a dead mouse or rat.
Hey, the only dead animal I want to see
Inside my house . . . is my own friggin' cat.


... is a suspenseful contemporary story for adult readers who appreciate the work of authors such as Chuck Palahniuk and Bret Easton Ellis. [The only thing I know about Chuck Palahniuk is that his name is an anagram for Haiku Lack Punch. Here's a Haiku he wrote, and it definitely does lack punch:

Bret Easton Ellis
If you can stand him, you'll love
Chuck Palahniuk]


I would love for you to consider representing UNHOLY GHOSTS, my approximately 83,000 word dark urban fantasy set primarily in a punk-rock ghetto known as Downside.

[When you're depressed and shit is making you bitter
You can always go - Downside
When you're hopped up on drugs and feel suicidal
You can off yourself - Downside
Just listen to the racket of the axemen and the drummers
Linger with the emos as they claim their lives are bummers
How can you breathe?

The waste and puke fill the air
You can deny all your responsibilities there
So go Downside, tell yourself life is great
Downside - great place to take a date
Downside - everything sucks when you're there.]