Friday, January 23, 2015

Face-Lift 1246

Guess the Plot


1. When a string of mythical creatures invade their hometown, teen twins Charlie and Rylen must send them back to their own dimension. The catch: they must do so secretly, because like most teens, they don't want to draw attention to themselves.

2. When the body of film 'producer' Roger Frankel is found dangling from the mast of his sail boat Gauntlet, homicide detective Zach Martinez knows two things. One, Frankel was no longer on fire when he was tied up there; and two, Zack's daughter is gonna need a new outfit for the school's Winter Ball.

3. Gauntlet is bummed when the king de-knights him and he's a Sir no more. He can only regain his status by competing in a three-day jousting event, slaying a kraken, and winning the heart of the hunchbacked princess. Hmm . . . going for his MBA is starting to sound pretty good after all.

4. When celebrity buzzard rehabilitator Leroy Kwang cures an Arabian movie mogul's stricken avian of its agoraphobia he becomes embroiled in a covert plot to brand falconry "evil as bullfighting". But twixt every man and bird a bond of glove exists — and this one is MAILED.

5. Frat house pledge (and total dweeb) Elston can't be kept out of phi omega because he's a legacy pledge. So when it's time for the "gauntlet," a hazing ceremony, the brothers trade in their paddles for baseball bats when it's Elston's turn, and he ends up brain dead. Hey, ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

Original Version

Dear [Name],

I am seeking representation for my YA urban fantasy novel, GAUNTLET. [Random personalization nonsense that means nothing to me or the agent.]

As Rylen matured, so did his inexplicable sense of time. As a soon-to-be seventeen year old, however, his mother [If his mother is a soon-to-be seventeen-year-old, how old is Rylen?] tells him he needs to stop spouting the exact time by instinct in public; because it’s odd. [So knowing what time it is is his super power? Actually, while that isn't necessarily useful in defeating Brainiac or Dr. Octopus, I can see how he'd be good to have around as a member of a team of superheroes. I don't think any member of the Justice League wears a watch, so they'd probably like having a new guy who can tell them when it's time for their coffee break. Of course, getting through the job interview could be troublesome:

Timekeeper (That's his superhero name. Rylen is his secret identity): You guys hiring?

Batman: Depends. What's your power?

Timekeeper: I know what time it is. Go ahead, ask me what time it is.

Batman: What time is it?

Timekeeper: 4:15.

Batman: Damn, I was supposed to pick Robin up at 3:30. Gotta run.

Also, Superman can use his X-Ray and telescopic vision to look at clocks no one else can see, and the Flash can run to London, look at Big Ben, and calculate the local time on his way back, all in less than a second. And they all carry i-phones in their capes. So what do they need Timekeeper for? Unless . . .  figuring out the time when you've crossed the International Dateline can be tricky. Like one minute it's noon on Wednesday and the next minute it's 10 PM on Thursday. So if Timekeeper is good at that, I say they should hire him.]

Turning seventeen causes Rylen and his twin sister Charlie to understand that they have far greater problems than just being “odd”. Anxiety becomes their personal parasite as random explosions of unknown power from their bodies turn the simple task of crossing the parking lot into a headache. [I don't see the Justice League hiring someone who can't cross a parking lot to handle their crossing-the-International-Dateline data.] [Is it turning seventeen that releases their power? Because it seems kind of arbitrary. You can cross a parking lot one day, and the next day it's a major challenge? Was it something in the birthday cake?] [Also, there's nothing odd about random explosions of unknown power from people's bodies. My own have been known to clear a room in mere seconds.] Only when Charlie accidentally uses that power to call a beautiful creature named Mirra into this world, do the twins learn of their biological connection to Eden—the dimension below ours that is home to all manner of mythical beings and monstrous creatures called eidolons. An organization called the Sentries sealed the bridge between Eden and Earth three thousand years ago to prevent a war, but Rylen’s sister just broke the seal. [Having revealed Charlie's name, you can use it now.] [Also, that was the first sentence that clued us in to what the book is about.]

A different beast of Eden threatens to expose them almost every day, [What is so bad about being exposed?] and the FBI trying to figure out what is causing so much destruction in the suburbs of Colorado isn’t making it any easier for the twins to remain anonymous. [This is not a job for the FBI (unless we're talking about Scully and Muldur). It's a job for the Avengers.] Teenage life was already dramatic enough, but now the twins have to go to school and secretly repel the steady stream of weird creatures from another world [That sounds like a decent place to start the query:

Teenage life was dramatic enough before Rylen's twin sister Charlie accidentally opened the long-sealed bridge between Earth and Eden. No, not that Eden; a dimension filled with demonic creatures that are now crossing into the twins' hometown and causing massive destruction. The good news: Rylen and Charlie have new powers like force fields and super strength that help them repel the monsters. The bad news: they have to do so secretly because they don't want to be the next TMZ celebrities.]

—if Mirra can teach them to control their powers in time, that is. Charlie’s daydreams for her crush Ben—Rylen’s best friend—slip further out of reach with every demonic encounter, and Rylen can hardly think straight with the dazzling Mirra taking up an extra seat at the dinner table.

Gauntlet is a 106k word YA urban fantasy with elements of traditional fantasy and paranormal romance.

My name is ____________ (writing as C. James), and I am a self-employed 28 year-old in Lakewood, Colorado. The manuscript for GAUNTLET is complete and sample pages or the full ms are available on request. Thank you for your time.



Rylen's time-spouting ability is as useless in the query as it would be against the Joker.

3000 years ago Colorado would have lost a war to demonic monsters. In modern times Colorado would win . . . unless they pin all their hopes on two seventeen-year-olds.

Not clear why the twins must remain anonymous as they save Colorado from destruction. You don't see The Thing and The Hulk being discreet about pummeling monsters.

What are the powers they need to learn to control? The only powers mentioned are clockless time telling and bodily explosions.

I've given you a sample setup paragraph. Follow it (or something similar) with details about the twins' plan, what happens if they fail, what's stopping them from succeeding. One obstacle being their inability to control their powers—until the dazzling Mirra crosses the bridge and takes them under her wing (literally, assuming she has wings.)

Monday, January 19, 2015

Writing Exercise Results

Write Like Poe
(Something Old, Something New)

Happy Birthday, EA

“By his dead smile I knew that place for Hell.”—Wilfred Owen

How different that place appeared from all that fancy had limned or stern morality foreshadowed! No Dantean warning overarched the door which swung lightly at my touch. Still I crossed that threshold with one hand at stretch behind me to preserve the possibility of my escape, my eyes braced for darkness and my nostrils for sulfur.

Instead I came into the well-lit dining room of a hostelry. The clothing of the diners was elegant, their faces not unhandsome. The babble of their voices drowned the sound of the closing door.

Talk like theirs might be heard at any fashionable watering place; gossip grown slightly stale, and second-hand wit; and they smiled on one another, though with no great warmth. Only when I passed close by a table did the conversation die, and the company turn their eyes on me with a terrible longing. I essayed a smile and asked them if dinner was to be served soon. At this they looked reproachfully on me and turned away. The conversation resumed, halting and hurrying, disjointed as the ticking of a clock gone mad.

There were more tables than I could count, but no food on any, and around all of them the same false laughter. Cold bedewed my brow. I no longer desired understanding or anything but flight. As I passed the last table before the door she spoke to me. “You do not belong here. I can talk to you.” Her figure was shapely and well-nourished, almost beautiful, but her eyes were starving. “He won’t serve us. Oh, there’s food, and he takes our orders, but he’ll never serve us.”

She spoke even lower: “I know why. He believes there’s a famine. Believes no more will come. He told me why, once, when I was new here. Now no one will talk to me. And I won’t talk to them. It’s not safe. You know they’re all waiting.”

As she leaned closer I beheld my face reflected in her eyes, and behind my face the door. But between me and the door a shadow loomed, half-formed, hideous, waiting to engulf the fool who dared try to leave. With horrible clarity I realized that they all had seen this and now waited with desperate hope for someone else to test the door and prove their fear false, or at least to distract that loathly guardian. Not I; surely not I! I could not approach that fearsome shadow. But could I join them? I had disappointed them, and what vengeance might they not take?

Again I met my mirrored eyes, and they were frenzied as hers.


Once upon a noontime dreary,
While I wandered lost and weary,
Searching for that agent most respected,
I came upon my doom,
When I came upon the room
Where my pitch session was expected;
Where I hoped would be selected
Sweet novel now perfected.

With no further hesitation,
I went in with aspiration,
Eager to confirm what I suspected.
When with a flirt and flutter,
The agent moved to utter,
“Sit yer arse down; let’s be ’earin’ yer suggested.”
Though her tone was unexpected
I did as she directed.

I gazed at her breeches velvet,
Leather sash and satin jacket —
Pirate captain? So her clothes suggested.
But what struck my fancy fair
Was the bird upon her chair,
A parrot, by my presence unaffected.
“Well, hello there!” I inflected.
Quoth the parrot, “You’re rejected.”

Still I’d come to make a deal,
So I plunged into my spiel,
Determined that my talent be detected.
“Aargghh,” the agent scritched,
When I’d finished up my pitch.
“That novel should be quartered and dissected.”
“But you’ve not read it yet,” I interjected.
Quoth the parrot, “You’re rejected.”

“Time’s up!” The agent swore,
Pointing cutlass at the door.
I felt trod down, unworthy and dejected,
She’d rammed my life’s boat
And left my dreams afloat,
So from that wretched room I fast defected.
And in my soul it echoes still,
the judgment thus inflected,
That cruel refrain, that oft-heard strain:
“Author, you’re rejected.”


Having completed the task of walling up yet another living being in my basement (now reduced to the size of a closet, owing to the number of new walls I'd been obliged to construct therein), I took leave of the city. A week at my country home would, I hoped, reinvigorate me. And so it did.

Thus it was that I boarded the train home, ready to plunge into my latest project with renewed energy.

Not long after taking my seat, I chanced to notice, on the floor of the aisle, a quarter dollar. As I pondered whether to simply lean into the aisle and collect the coin, or whether to "accidentally" drop my book, allowing me to surreptitiously snatch the coin as I retrieved the book, I couldn't help but notice a fellow passenger across the aisle also eying the coin. Before I could release my book to the floor, this boor was reaching down and taking possession of what I now considered to be my prize.

I need not impress upon you the rage I felt at this moment. And yet I resisted the urge to claim the quarter as my own, or to lay siege upon the thief. No, instead I calmly befriended the fellow, asking his destination, and his business. So clever was I that when I invited him to dine with me at my home, he readily accepted, having no business in the city until the following day.

How convincing I was as we partook of the venison stew and the wine. I gave no sign of what was to come, and he suspected nothing, even as, after dessert and brandy, I led him down the stairs to my basement and shackled him to the wall under the guise of helping him stretch his tired limbs. Not even after the bricks and mortar had reached his waist did he fully perceive his peril, but when he was at last fully walled in, his muffled screams brought me satisfaction unimagined. Until the moment I realized that I had neglected to remove my quarter from his coat pocket.

—Evil Editor

The gray-haired grouse toddled in, unannounced, sidling his way up to my booth with nary a look hither or yon. His nerves must have sought out mine in a misguided sense of camaraderie—but mine were the shivery jitterings of first-day employment at Rebekah’s Ped-y-Man; where his were plainly in agony from excessive contact with inferior composition. For yes, I did recognize Evil Editor Himself—and despaired he could smell the failed manuscripts ink-stained on my hands.

I kept my face averted even as he ascended the throne where I would service him.

“Hah,” he cried. “What’s with the sudden shyness? No need to be coy—attend me!”

Too much to hope his ratty eyes and eagle mind would not identify me as a minion. I could not even look up to see the response from my co-workers, so mortified was I.

Arms atremble, head bowed, I grabbed my pumice stone and set forth to remove my frustrations from his feet. Propping his left foot in the stirrup and removing his sandal, though, I saw not dead skin but a shimmery darkness like onyx caked to his feet. He laughed at my sudden hesitation.

“The souls of those I have crushed. No matter, they will soon be gone. Scrub hard.”

And so I did, imagining his foot an unpolished manuscript, and I— I, the editor.

—Kaolin Fire

My humble work, the reek of laudanum and ink clinging to the pages still, lay like a sacrifice before this mad editor upon whose word the whole of industry now turned. My breath held bated in my lungs as his eyes, glossed with filmy blue, peered through the thick portals of the pince-nez perched upon his nose. I could scarce hold still as each second ticked away, interminable as sea rock being beaten into grains upon the strand.

At long last the man let out a sigh that rolled through the close chamber like a death knell. He raised a hand that had surely seen too many days wielding a quill, curved as each finger was in the semblance of a tiny scimitar, and flicked that monstrosity of flesh my way in the modern fashion of bored dismissal. “Pass,” he ejaculated, and the word sounded to my ears like nothing so much as a knife’s dull edge drawn across the whetting stone. In that moment, my revulsion knew no bounds. I admit to great imaginings: his large corpus walled behind stone; a bladed pendulum seeking to rend him in two; a cursed companion shadowing his soul till it could nevermore bear this wretched world.

I knew then what my course must be: to see each of these demises carried through. Already I could hear the scritch scritch scritch of nib on parchment as my visions found fulfillment. I would allow, nay welcome, this evil, tortured face to haunt my dreams and guide my writings as no opium flower ever could. What greater punishment for this glorified scrivener than to serve as my poor muse?



Friday, January 16, 2015

New Beginning 1038

Chief Detective Tommy Turner flailed in bed, gripped his pillow, moaned, lashed out. He was cold, gasping, and suddenly eyes wide awake. A dim green puddle of electronic status lights lit the room. The bell tower of the Church of St Panfilo Spoltore across the street rang too few times. He heard the never-ending rain on the roof and against the windows; its persistence bringing decay; its burden, guilt.

The three story house, once white brick now brown, leaked, seeped and rotted. Already the basement and first floor were lost to the damp. The gutters bubbled over their edges and flooded the sewers. Brown water gushed into the basement. The pumps struggled to keep it out. Soon, the stone foundation would give way without portent, without ceremony, sucking the house into a muddy hell.

Turner felt Demon’s hand trying to calm him. He pushed it away.

“What’s wrong?” Demon asked. Demon wasn’t its Hellish name, that was its first instrument of torture; an evilness that captured souls, killed at will, inexpressible by human tongues. Hence, it was merely, since the day of the summoning, Demon.

“Chanting,” Tommy spoke in a harsh whisper. He stared at the clock’s greenness - - three-thirty AM. “I thought we agreed no chanting. I thought we agreed the night was mine, no diddling the socks and sheets for fun, no sleep learning, no subliminal messages, just sleep.”

Turner rose from the bed, stumbled to the bathroom, moaned, splashed porcelain. A dim yellow puddle spread toward his bare feet. He heard the never-ending drip in the bathtub and flushed the toilet too few times; its burden, still floating.

The carpet, once plush now threadbare, felt sticky between his toes. Already his side of the bed had grown cold, the mattress sagged, the springs sharp in his back as he settled back in.

Turner felt Demon’s hand again, and did not push it away. “All right,” he said, “maybe a little diddling. But after that, sleep. I need to be up early for the interview with Better Homes and Gardens.”

Opening: Dave Fragments.....Continuation: JRMosher

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Face-Lift 1245

Guess the Plot


1. Here? Are you kidding? Fugeddabout it!

2. Truth is not your typical rat-ass ho working the tracks of New York. She's building a future along with her street family of three boys. She's going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday and live happily ever after. At least that's her plan, but for some reason things don't always go the way you want when the streets are your crib.

3. Plummeting 10,000 feet strapped to a sloth and a bag of surgical waste, Meredith reflects on her recent, regrettable decisions. She can’t help but wonder how her life would have been different if, at Johnny’s alcohol-fueled party the night before, she hadn’t chosen ‘dare’.

4. We here at deplore the excesses of crass commercialism that Nirvana, Inc., has fallen into. We would rather our sincere, but somewhat over-zealous brethren could channel their enthusiasms into more philosophical endeavors… But we are concerned with facts. Facts are true. Our guiding light here at is that "Facts are truth, and truth facts." There is no other way to say it. Anyone who tries to deny that over-riding principle is a heretic.… and will be destroyed.

5. They say truth is stranger than fiction (Google it), so why don't people just write about truth? Saves the bother of making shit up and more interesting to boot. Well, turns out they do. The library has a whole wall of books just about true things. People are making money just writing about things they see happen; about things that actually exist. Fucking awesome, and complicated twists to keep track of. So here's the definitive, totally factual Potatopedia: Volume One -- From Accent to Exquisa.

6. Carol's fat, no one really likes her, her office job pays nothing, and she's scared as hell. But she saw that magic fax getting faxed to The Universe. Now she can read minds. Time to take control of EVERYTHING.

7. Tracy has finally gotten it all figured out. She knows the answer. To everything. It will reconcile all the world's religions, it will end hatred and poverty – it will turn the planet into a paradise. No more war, no more hatred. No more strife or greed. tt really was quite simple, when you came right down to it. It’d been right there in front of us all the time. It wouldn’t cost anyone any money. It didn’t require hallucinogens of any kind. It was perfectly reasonable, and incredibly simple. And it was going to get her killed.

8. High school is hard enough, but when everybody is a lycanthrope, it's twice as hard. Priscilla wants to be popular but the guys all consider her a bit stiff. She is the only wereporcupine in Thrope Academy and simply can't avoid those prickly situations. But it's love at first embrace when she meets Jerry, a werejellyfish. Follow these two kids through all their sticky adventures.

Original Version

Dear evil editor,

I’m seeking representation for my YA thriller, Truth, complete at 83,000 words.

Fifteen-year-old Truth is not your typical rat-ass ho working the tracks of New York. With a fat bankroll, Truth is building a future along with her street family of three boys. She's going to marry one of them on her 16th birthday, rescue her brother from foster care, and live happily ever after. [Possibly introducing your main character as a rat-ass ho--albeit an atypical one--isn't the best strategy. Maybe runaway or foster-care escapee or street orphan? I mean, if a query began "Hannibal is not your typical serial killer who eats his victims' organs; he's going to open a fine-dining establishment," would you want to read that? Bad example; of course you would. It sounds fantastic. But that's because sophisticated serial killers are all the rage, while rat-ass street hos are not. ]  

A brutal kidnapping brings Truth back to the realities of the streets. She manages to buy her way out of a death trap,

[Truth: If you don't kill me, I'll give you a thousand dollars. 

Killer: Deal.

Truth: Hand me my purse, will you?] [That joke sounded familiar, so I searched the blog for the phrase "Hand me my purse," and found it in Face-Lift 1214, which turns out to be for the same book, except that her name was Mercy instead of Truth.]

only to discover that her street family, her husband-to-be [He's included in "her street family," right?] and five strangers have been murdered in a seemingly senseless killing spree. Truth is devastated. Her apartment is sealed as a crime scene; her dreams of square love and happy-ever-after are crushed. As much as she'd like to nail the killer, all she has to work with is a single shitty lead, enough to realize that the cops got the wrong guy. [So the killer isn't whoever had her in a death trap? Why was she placed in a death trap? What is a death trap?]

Alone and homeless, Truth must crack the killer's scheme just to stay alive. The secrets she digs out reveal not only the killer’s identity and the fortunes at stake, but a side of the streets she could not have imagined.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


You've gotten rid of some of the problems with the earlier version. If you tell us Truth ran away from abusive foster parents or something, we might sympathize enough to want to read her story.

What crime was committed in Truth's apartment? If the cops have their guy, it shouldn't take long to unseal the crime scene.

Has anyone else ever noticed that when the main character is a cop, he's brilliant (though flawed), but when the main character is a private eye or a little old lady or a kid or a rat-ass ho, the cops are idiots?

Can you pick out one of the secrets she digs out and reveal it to us, just so we have a hint of why Truth is a key player in a plot where fortunes are at stake?

Obviously you're convinced that the people who buy YA books will want to read a story about a 15-year-old rat-ass ho who brings down a killer. Maybe they will. I'm told kids like to read about kids who are older, which, if true, puts your readership in the 13 - 14 year-old range. To me, the plot, despite the youth of Truth, sounds more like adult fare.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Face-Lift 1244

Add caption
Guess the Plot

Nirvana, Inc.

1. The Porn Channel's newest game show is Wordwheel. It's buxom star is Nirvana White who exposes letters. She strips an article of clothing for every correct guess but adds one when a contestant guesses wrong or hits Bankrupt. Zeke Martin, the first patrolman on-scene after she's murdered, knows two things: porn stars can be really hot and, uh, …, well, okay he only knows one thing. But that's an improvement for Zeke. Also a sardonic motorcycle.

2. When Gregory "Guru" Smith's marijuana plant starts talking to him about moving out of his parents' house, he thinks it's a prank. It isn't. Will fame and fortune cloud Guru's head, or will he stay true to his dream of owning a pot farm in Colorado?

3. Cyla makes her living bringing people to ecstasy by manipulating their brainwaves. When a Biotech Regulation officer asks her to help with a murder case, she wants nothing to do with it--until she finds out solving the case could bring down her main competitor . . .  Nirvana, Inc.

4. The realistic sex-dolls industry is booming, and the CEO of Nirvana Inc, ex-stripper Nirvana Meldrew, will never have to give a fat smelly old sleaze a lap dance again. But when the dolls somehow develop a murderous sentience, she must team up with the fattest of sleazes from her old life to defeat the remorseless assassins.

5. Everything Mike Jenkins has tried to make into a franchise from his Boulder, CO store has failed. The used textbooks from 1997--gone. Yoga studio for ferrets? Curled up. But now, with legalized marijuana, he may have finally hit on a winning idea for a franchise.

6. Four out of five psychiatrists recommend Bliss (TM), a new Prozac like drug. When the one unconvinced doctor is found dead, her sister begins a long and dangerous investigation into a pharma world that wants to make ALL humanity happy at ANY cost.

7. You get… not one, not two, but THREE Scratch and Sniff Heavenly Lottery cards, with which to try your luck at guessing which religion is the one true faith… and when it’s all going to end. NOW how much would you pay? But wait… you also receive: Two beautifully custom-designed spray bottles, for those rowdy pets – filled with holy water – to ensure your furry little friends will be joining you in the great hereafter. Order in the next ten minutes, and we’ll double your order… for FREE! That’s six Lottery cards, and four spray bottles, for the price of a single order. All you pay is shipping and handling. Customer satisfaction guaranteed.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In the slums of MainWay, where biotech implants are refurbished and stretched [enhanced?] beyond legality, Pleasure Pusher Cyla Hart manipulates others' brainwaves, bringing them to ecstasy. It pays for a residence pod at the top of the stacks, let's her keep a low profile, [Not clear how manipulating peoples' brainwaves to bring them to ecstasy keeps your profile low. My ability to bring women to ecstasy has made me the most sought-after high-profile editor in Manhattan.] and doesn't hurt anyone - a balance Cyla's worked hard to maintain. [Not clear what this is a balance between.] When her escape from a club raid leaves her EmoCore implant damaged, Cyla has no choice but [to] get it fixed, even when a simple [though the] fix could leave her dead or even worse, mindless. [She works for a firm that refurbishes implants, a job that doesn't hurt anyone. Yet fixing her own implant could leave her dead or mindless? Okay, I see I may have that wrong. She does her harmless brainwave manipulation in the same place where implants are refurbished, but she's not involved with implant refurbishing? I assumed MainWay was a conglomerate because of the capital "W" and because capitalizing "Pleasure Pusher" makes it sound like an official job title. We don't capitalize "drug pusher." Can Cyla manipulate the brainwaves of anyone, or just those with biotech implants? Why does she have no choice but to get her implant fixed? Will she lose her brainwave manipulation ability? Will she die?] [Less information is probably more. Something like:

In the slums of MainWay, where biotech implants are refurbished and enhanced beyond legality, Cyla Hart scrapes out a living illegally manipulating others' brainwaves, bringing them to ecstasy. It pays for her residence pod, not to mention her clubbing lifestyle. So when Cyla's EmoCore implant (her meal ticket) is damaged, she opts to get it fixed--even though the fix could leave her brain-dead.

Biotech Regulation officer Quirin Eberle doesn't like loose ends. He works hard to keep illegal implants off the streets. So when a simple club raid ends up with the dead body of the Augmented Reality CEO and a Pusher on the loose, [This could be interpreted to mean the dead body and the Pusher are both on the loose. We don't need the loose Pusher; a dead body of a CEO is enough to spur Quirin to action.] Quirin is bent on cleaning things up, even if it means heading into the darkest parts of the slums to find answers. However, with slummers sniffing his BR status a mile away, Quirin needs an in. So when [Someone like] Cyla turns [Hart, who just turned] up half-dead at an uptown treatment center, she couldn't be more perfect.

But Cyla isn't the type to help a BR officer infiltrate her neighborhood, even when he threatens to pin the CEO's death on her. Altered by the botched nano-repair job that almost killed Cyla, her implant is much more than an EmoCore [What else is it? (Never mind. You'll probably just say it's not just an EmoCore, it's also a Quasitronic Fluxistat.)] and when Nirvana Inc. gets involved, Cyla must choose: betray the only home she has or become a guinea pig in a corporate research lab. [Settle on whether her choice is between betraying her neighborhood and being tried for the CEO's murder or between betraying her neighborhood and becoming a lab rat. We don't need both in the query.] [Also, it's a little late to be springing Nirvana, Inc. on us. What is it? A legitimate Biotech implant company? Why are they getting involved? Are they the villain? If so, what do they want, and what happens if they get it? Does the real story start when Nirvana, Inc. gets involved, in which case all this was backstory? Is the story mainly about solving the murder or stopping Nirvana, Inc. from making people happy?] 

Nirvana, Inc. is a [an] 80,000 word adult science-fiction thriller with cyberpunk and biopunk themes [If you can work in some steampunk too, you can just call it multipunk.] that could be described as Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep (Philip K. Dick) meets The Repossession Mambo (Eric Garcia.) [I think just the titles or just the authors would be sufficient if you need to describe it in this way.]

I look forward to hearing from you,


Basically, you've introduced two characters, one of whom wants to solve a murder while the other wants to keep a low profile. What's going on? What's at stake? Keep it clear and simple. The agent isn't necessarily a science fiction geek who knows what an EmoCore is or what biotech implants do.

If you have to shorten what's here in order to add what isn't, it might be best to focus on either Cyla or Quirin. This would allow you to drop either the first or most of the second paragraph.

So MainWay is her neighborhood? If one of my neighbors can help rid my neighborhood of a murderer, I doubt the rest of us would feel we'd been betrayed. Guess that's the difference between living in MainWay and living in Trump Tower.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

New Beginning 1037

I sprinted to the principal’s office as soon as my name was called, leaving my stuff in the classroom.  Senior Constable Rogers stood as I burst into the Admin building, panting. The receptionists hurriedly looked away and shuffled papers on their desks.

I scanned Roger’s face for any sign of what he had to tell me, any hint that the nightmare of the past two weeks was over.  Because there were two possible outcomes – the one that we hoped and prayed for, the news delivered with a triumphant smile that the police had done a praiseworthy job – “We’ve found your mother”.

Of course, there was another possibility.  The one that I did not dare to think about but that haunted my thoughts and twisted my guts day and night. The reason that tears leaked from my eyes with no provocation at all. The other possible meaning of “We’ve found your mother” –this time said in the gravest voice, delivered with platitudes such as “we’re so very sorry”.

Roger’s face and voice held no clues as he greeted me gently.

My heart thundered in my ears. I had to know. Now. “So what’s…” I started.

My brother Jeremy leaped through the door, wearing just his PE shorts, his back glistening and wet. I guessed he’d just been showering after sport when he heard the announcement and tumbled out of the cubicle barely stopping to put anything on. His desperate expression mirrored mine as he gazed at Rogers.

How desperate we both were, him semi-naked and me just watching him glisten as my heart thumped to the beat of Rogers' pants.

If only my brother were wearing pants instead of PE shorts maybe Rogers' face would make with some regular emotion like "we nearly found your mother but got a dead tramp instead" or "I'm sure as hell sorry I never made the Bug-eyed Cops' necrophiliac weekend in Haiti".

Before Rogers could speak my sister Molly popped in through the window.

“Children, I have news,” Rogers said. “We have found you a mother.”

Just then my stepsister Josie descended through the open skylight, her expression bleak, her parachute billowing.

"Seriously?" Senior Constable Rogers said.

“You found our mother?” Jeremy asked. “That’s terrific! Is she all right?”

“We’ve not found your mother. We haven’t time for that. What we’ve found you is a new mother. Much easier job, that was. And she’s delightful.”

Jeremy and Molly and Josie and I stood silent for a moment. None of us had been prepared for a third possible outcome. We expected good news or bad news, but this was … fabulous news. After all, our original mother could never have been described as “delightful.”

“Thank you,” I said. I looked around the room. “Where is she?”

Rogers smiled and waved a hand at the empty chair next to him. “She’s –” His smile faltered. “She was here a moment ago. Are you telling me you've lost yet another mother?”

Opening: Jo Antareau.....Continuation: Whirlochre, Chicory and JRMosher

Monday, January 05, 2015

New Beginning 1036

I've been a valet for four days, and hated every second of it.

‘Chin up, Collins. You’re not at a funeral.’

Lord Alfred Gordon Byron Lyte Cadogan. A long name for a long pedigree that would look better on a dog than a man. He holds out his arm. The creases in his shirtsleeve are so perfect they’re almost a work of art. I think about stabbing him with the cufflinks, but instead thread them through his sleeves. He fastens them himself, which is a miracle, as I have to do practically everything else for him.

I hate rich people. I hate wizards. Most wizards are also rich. I don’t know why that is. Maybe the poor don’t have enough time to wonder about the existence of the supernatural or magical. Maybe the wizards have a system where one has to live in Kensington or Belgravia to discover their innate magical talent. Either way, they’re all snobs. I think they take extra delight in hiding from the rest of the world. A secret club that only the privileged and well-bred even know about, and only a handful of people are able to join.

Cadogan flicks his hand in my direction. ‘Collins. Jacket.’


Fuck you and your jacket.

'And now, it's time for the fox hunt. So I'm turning you into a hound dog. If you corner the fox there will be a nice biscuit for you.

'And Collins, I advise you not to poop on the oriental carpet. You'll just have to clean it up when I transform you into the maid.'

'As you wish, My Lord.' Fuck you and your carpet.

'Apparently you've forgotten, Collins, that wizards can read minds. After the hunt, I'll be changing you into a hot eighteen-year-old nymph and I will fuck you.'

Opening: Alice Smales.....Continuation: Mister Furkles

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Evil Editor Classics

New Year's Resolution


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

It's that time again.

Like Wikipedia and possibly some other site I don't know about, I keep this blog ad-free. But once every five years I ask you to donate a few minutes of your precious time to watch these ads:



Monday, December 22, 2014

How This Blog Is Like the Universe

It has been theorized that the universe is expanding, and will do so until such time as it begins contracting. (Not unlike my stomach, which I'm hoping will cease the expansion phase before I have to purchase yet another wardrobe.) At some point everything in the universe will shift into reverse and eventually be back in one place, finally allowing people from distant galaxies to read my blog.

On a less galactic scale, I noticed some time ago that this blog was approaching 7000 posts. It occurred to me that someone new to the blog, in order to catch up, would have to read twenty posts a day (plus all the comments) for a whole year. At which point they would still be a year behind.

Knowing that few have the patience and persistence to read 7000 posts, I was relieved to discover recently that the blog's contraction had begun. Apparently the Book Chats and Writing Exercises were the first posts to vanish, and recently the Evil Editor Classics (which were mere copies of posts that remain) disappeared. (Don't worry, everything that's gone has merely been saved as a draft, not deleted. So if you desperately need to read something that's gone, it can be retrieved.)

Suddenly we're down to about 4500 posts. If we can get down to 365, a newcomer would have to read only 1 per day for a year to catch up.  At which point they would still be a year behind. But what else can we afford to lose? The New Beginnings that appear in Novel Deviations, vols 1 - 3, and are thus available to anyone willing to fork over the price of a medium-sized movie theater popcorn? The Q & As that appear in Why You Don't Get Published, vols 1 - 2? The 50 Face-Lifts that appear in Dear Literary Agent? The cartoons that aren't as funny as the other cartoons? Everything that isn't wildly entertaining?

I could remove the cartoons from the blog and give them their own website. Same with the query letters. Then those who care about only one feature wouldn't have to wade through a lot of clutter to get to their favorite stuff. This would require work, but what else do I have to do? It's not like anyone submits anything anymore.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

There've been two "Guess Which Titles Are Real Cookbooks" quizzes over the years. I've combined the best of both into one quiz. Ten of the titles below are actual cookbooks. The rest were made up by EE and his minions. Answers are below the quiz.

Go Fork Yourself: Recipes for Life

Moon Unit Zappa’s Vegan Goodies

The Endangered Species Cookbook

The Hunting in the Nude Cookbook

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine

Ring of Fire: Recipes for Anal Distress
Fishwife's Guide to Cooking for Ingrates

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Stoned Soup: Favorite Recipes of the Martyrs

Long Table: The Complete Giraffe Recipe Guide

Yeast Infections: Natural Bread Baking at Home

Hungry for You: From Cannibalism to Seduction

The Head's the Best Part! 101 Ways to Cook Brain

Unsettling Soups For Your Pre-Suicide Farewell Party

From Here to Eternity: Recipes Inspired by the Afterlife.

Erin go Burp: Traditional Meals from Ireland's Emerald Shores.

The Bulimia Cookbook: Recipes that Taste Just as Good Coming Up

Beyond Offal: Decorating Dishes With Hooves, Teeth, Horns And Fur

The Willie Nelson "Cooked Goose" Cookbook and IRS Financial Advisor

Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: the World's Unhealthiest Cookbook

The Redneck Grill: The Most Fun You Can Have With Fire, Charcoal, and a Dead Animal

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

The actual cookbooks are:

The Hunting in the Nude Cookbook

The Endangered Species Cookbook

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

Hungry for You: From Cannibalism to Seduction

The Willie Nelson "Cooked Goose" Cookbook and IRS Financial Advisor

Eat What You Want and Die Like a Man: the World's Unhealthiest Cookbook

The Redneck Grill: The Most Fun You Can Have With Fire, Charcoal, and a Dead Animal

Heat: An Amateur's Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany

Thursday, December 18, 2014

New Beginning 1035

“Why do you look to the north?”

Esmerelda flinched at the voice from so close behind her. She would never get used to Henrick’s penchant for appearing and disappearing silently. Could not magicians use doors to enter and exit, like everybody else?

“These are my private chambers,” she said, turning to face him. “It would be polite to knock.”

His twisted smile told her, as if she did not already know, that politeness was not much of a concern for him.

“You have golden fields to the east, lush green hills to the south, and a verdant forest to the west,” he said, pointing to the high windows on each side of her top-of-tower room. “Why would you insist on looking in the one direction where the view is so spoiled?”

Esmerelda turned to the north-facing windows again. The ground, so very far down below in the valley at the base of the cliff on which her castle was perched, was withered and black. The trees were thick with gnarled branches outstretched like grasping claws, but no limb sported so much as a single leaf. Patches of limp dead grass floated like islands amid pools of oily mud. Even the northern air seemed still and gray, catching none of the breeze and very little of the sunlight that danced at the other points of the compass.

“You know why,” she mumbled.

“I’m sorry, Princess Esmerelda, I couldn’t quite hear that.”

“It’s just Esmerelda,” she snapped. “I am no one’s princess.”

"Sorry, sorry," he whimpered.

"Never mind. Now, tell me--when are they setting up the drilling rigs? I want to get the crude moving to China while OPEC's still imploding."

Opening: JRMosher.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Monday, December 15, 2014

Satan Guess the Plot

The following Guess the Plots have appeared since the last time we did a Satan quiz a few years ago. Only one of them turned out to be the actual plot of a minion's novel. Which one?

1. The Devil knocks up some woman while possessing the body of some hot guy. The pregnant woman, shunned by her Amish family, finds herself in a New Jersey walk-up, surrounded by a group of devil worshippers waiting for her foretold daughter to be born. Also, a priest who throws himself out of any handy window at the first sign of demon possession, but always manages to survive.

2. Gabriel is not looking forward to this year's Angel Olympics. Michael has won the javelin throw for the past twelve hundred years. Satan offers to replace Michael's platinum javelin with a replica, but in return he wants Gabe to sneak him back into heaven. Will Gabriel lose again, or take the deal?

3. Hades' Devilspawniest EVUH gather to argue the toss over PERSONAL EVIL. Only one will make Apocalypse Academy. And RULE. Will Yellerpants Kindasatany Lite make the grade? Or will the "Jet Black Persona" Clause precipitate foiled fiend oblivion?

4. Baelzebub, Hell's metalsmith, creates a sword for Satan that can slice through any angelic beings. Yes, 'Saint' Michael, this time it's ON!

5. When the severed head of iconic 'scream queen' Devilicious is found stuffed in a cooler inside a burning car, homicide Detective Zack Martinez knows two things: One, she didn't drive herself, and two, that horror film scream-a-thon at the Egyptian won't be the same without her as hostess.

6. Joe Vanderberg thought it was a sure bet when he wagered his firstborn's soul on a game of tic tac toe. Now he must play poker with the Devil himself to reclaim little Aidan from Hell. Can he win...the ten hands?

7. Demon hunter Aldrick will do whatever it takes to save the woman he loves. And by "whatever it takes," I mean bring about the complete extinction of humanity.

8. Lana gives birth to the world's first talking baby. When the infant describes what life before life is like, he skyrockets to fame as Earth's favorite guru. And when he starts growing horns, Lana realizes his father, a one night stand who claimed to be Satan, wasn't lying.

9. Code named "Haven," she's the coldest, deadliest assassin in the world. Until she dies in a freak baking accident. Luckily, the devil needs a good hitwoman and he's willing to make a deal.

10. With agnosticism on the rise, God and the Devil come up with a new scheme to win believers: The Eternity Wars, a reality TV show starring the Big Man, the Big Bad, and your immortal soul.

Answer Below

The actual plot is #7.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Evil Editor Classics

Guess the Title (Children's Books Edition)

Below are descriptions of six published children's books. The descriptions were taken from Your job is to guess which title goes with each book. The fake titles were composed by Evil Editor and his minions.

1. A "fanciful creature of undefined nature," it was also once the wisest, kindest, most fun-loving living thing in the world--until people stopped believing in it.

A Young Person's Guide to the Democratic Party
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
When Puffalumps Walked the Earth
The Graveyard of the Imaginaries
My Body, My Elf

2. Three children pore over an extraordinary manuscript forced on them by a passing hen: "The True Story of Harrowing Farm." The hen tells how little green men shoo her and her fellows from the cramped cages where they've been confined to lay eggs, uncomfortably, in public, then fit the cages to humans -- the species they prefer as food.

Three Men in a Kettle
The Chicken Gave It to Me
PETA People Eater
When the Clucking Ends
Guess Who We're Having for Lunch

3. "Some cases start rough, some cases start easy. This one started with a dame. (That's what we private eyes call a girl.)" Fourth-grade gumshoe Chet Gecko searches for a missing chameleon named Billy.

Gumshoe Lizard
Flight of the Iguana
The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse
The Case of the Reptile Dysfunction
How Chet Saved 15% On His Car Insurance

4. Fourth-grader Albert has always been a little afraid of the Pine Manor Nursing Home, which he passes on the way home from school; the residents wave at him, but he just can't relax until he's well past it.

Old People Were Human Once Too
Heaven Can't Wait
Evergreen and Ever Dead
Mannequin Manor
Old People, Frogs and Albert

5. Shamelessly exploiting the intelligence, honesty, and guileless wit of the nation's youth (and apparently having a heck of a time doing it), the author asked over 100 kids the same question: "What do you think would make our world a more perfect place to be?"

No more Homework!
The Kid's Guide to Self-Delusion
Undoing the Damage Grown-Ups Do
Lima Beans Would be Illegal
Have Your Mom Buy You This Book and Make Me Rich

6. The author appeals to the gross-out side of kids in this exploration of edible grub (larvae and otherwise) around the world, past and present, and it's more laughs than a barrel of monkey brains (the one delicacy he missed).

It's Disgusting and We Ate It!
The Big Book of Yuck!
GrassWhoppers and McCockroaches
Surely You're Not Going to Stick That in Your Mouth!
Bugmeister's Insectivorously Delicious Diet

Answers below

The real book titles are:

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
The Chicken Gave It to Me
The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse
Old People, Frogs and Albert
Lima Beans Would be Illegal
It's Disgusting and We Ate It!

Friday, December 12, 2014

The 2nd Jesus Guess the Plot Quiz

Jesus pops up occasionally in fake plots on this blog. The ten examples below have appeared since the last time we did a Jesus Guess the Plot Quiz. But one of the ten turned out to be the actual plot of someone's book. Which one?

1. Dirk Beefhead is a born-again Christian who's been born yet again, this time in the era of Christ. Now it's time to find out whether people in Biblical times will accept or stone a guy named Dirk Beefhead.

2. When Rowena dies and goes to heaven, she gets to rub elbows with angels, the Virgin Mary and Jesus. But when she notices heaven has no homosexuals or non-Christians or sinners of any kind, she realizes God is no caring, generous Father, but a cold-hearted dictator. Not that she can do anything about it . . . until an underground resistance group of undercover angels ask her to join their movement to oust God from the seat of absolute power. Hey, someone's gotta take this egomaniac down a peg.

3. After mob boss Johnny “Bibs” Bibbiano finds Jesus and confesses—it takes nineteen hours and three shifts of priests—he returns to the pole dance emporiums. He buys beer and lap dances so he can talk to the girls. Only this time, between burps and sighs, he proselytizes and they throw him out.

4. Archeologist Gary Davis is approached by a strange woman in Jerusalem, and soon learns her secret. She has a box, with a gun in it--the gun used to kill Jesus. Now the Vatican is after him, and he may need that gun.

5. Sister Mary Agony experiences a series of doomsday visions involving Jesus, JFK, and a dachshund. But it seems no one will listen to the dire prognostications of... the Nun-Prophet.

6. What did Jesus really do? In this memoir based on recently found scrolls, get the true story of Christ's few years of turning water into wine and drinking it, spending too much time "saving" prostitutes, and carving obscene figurines out of olive wood. And steel.

7. Will Callie's Bible class believe that Jesus has been visiting her every Tuesday night bearing nachos and telling funny stories? If not, she'll take over the pulpit, and make the whole church believe with the robe He left behind.

8. Jake has realized that spirits are not souls. No one in Hell wants to buy any, and Jesus just chuckles at Jake's ambition. But why do so many useless specters keep appearing at Jake's door? Is Jake a Specter Whisperer or an unpublished writer with a too-big imagination?

9. Leroy has the job of his dreams: dressing up as a Jesus at The Holy Land Experience (he gets to carry people across sand!) When another Jesus shows Leroy how easy it is to get big tips from older women, will Leroy open his robe for them, or resist temptation?

10. No burden is he to bear. He ain't heavy. He's my broth-- . . . Unnghh. Unnnnngggghhhh, Jesus Christ, he's heavy. Let's leave him here.

Answer below

The actual plot was


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Face-Lift 1243

Guess the Plot

The Transcendent

1. When Lois tells Superman that his name is kind of egotistical-sounding, he decides to come up with something that still expresses his magnificence, but more subtly.

2. Now that scripted programming has disappeared from television, Religious Idol is the latest reality show craze. Can ‘Smelly’ Joe Hippie beat his Buddhist, Hindu, Christian and New-Age rivals in a fasting and meditation contest to become…The Transcendent?

3. You'd probably call them vampires, but they're not really vampires, and when they feed on pregnant humans, the offspring are called transcendents. Anyway, Annika is a 21-year-old torn between her love for a handsome priest and for a transcendent named Bram. It's a romance.

4. They are all things to all people, these beings who appeared on Earth three years ago and now have billions of followers. The world's established religions have dwindled to cult status. That's where things stand, if you want to know about the characters and plot, you're out of luck.

5. When the Greek gods return to Earth after setting up a civilization in a distant solar system, only to discover that no one worships them anymore, they're furious. It's Armageddon time, and this Armageddon is gonna make the biblical one seem like a tea party.

6. They are the ones who hold all of the power in their world. The ones who decide the fates of others on a whim. The ones their followers worship from afar and hope to one day sit at the feet of, if only for a few moments at a gathering of like souls. They are the literary agents, though they prefer to be known as . . . The Transcendent.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Annika Theriot has never been normal, and in her twenty-first year, she learns why: surviving a vampire attack while in the womb has its consequences.

Raised as a devout Catholic, Annika has spent every Wednesday in confession at St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans trying to repress her demons.

[Annika: These demons. I don't think I can hold them off any longer.

Priest: Not again. Just once couldn't you confess to impure thoughts about boys?]

It’s there that she learns that vampires really aren’t vampires at all. The church refers to them as rebel angels, legions of angels that followed Lucifer after his fall. They feed on humans to retain their somewhat mortal existence on Earth. They aren’t boyfriend material. [Unless you're Miley Cyrus.] They are completely and inherently one thing: evil. [Are these vampires that really aren't vampires the demons she was trying to repress, or are they a different issue from the demons?] [Also, is this any way to comfort a member of your flock:

Annika: Vampires are out to get me.

Priest: Calm yourself, my child. The vampires aren't really vampires. They're just inherently evil creatures who feed on humans.]

When Annika finds herself running from one of these rebel angels and into the arms of the handsome, new priest, Elias, she quickly falls in over her head. [Not sure what that means. She was already in way over her head from what I could tell. Do you mean she falls head over heels in love?] At least until she meets the reckless Bram, [I'm not sure Elias needs to be in the query if she dumps him that fast.] [Also, Bram?] a man who shares her curse and shows her what she truly is, a transcendent. Bram reveals that all of the transcendents were created for a purpose…except for Annika. She was an accident. [Telling a transcendent she was an accident is cruel, like telling your youngest sister she was an accident.]

Once the rebel angel and creator of the transcendents, Sebastian, learns of Annika’s existence, he will stop at nothing until he has her in his collection. [Sebastian created all the transcendents? By feeding on pregnant humans? How come he doesn't know of Annika's existence?] [If the transcendents were created for a purpose, I would call them Sebastians's army or clerical staff or whatever, not his collection.]

Thrown into a supernatural world and fighting for her life, Annika soon becomes torn between the sinner and the saint, who she is and who she wants to be. [I can't tell if the sinner and the saint are who she is and who she wants to be or if they're Bram and Elias.]

The Transcendent is a new adult, fantasy, [paranormal] romance novel complete at 50,000 words.

I graduated at the top of my class with a BA in English, have worked as a staff writer for my university’s newspaper, and my poetry has been published in a children’s literature anthology. I am also an established blogger. [There are 100 million bloggers...although I can't find statistics on how many of them are established and how many are disestablished.] [For those who are familiar with the word "antidisestablishmentarianism," but never knew what it meant, now you know. It's the school of thought that opposes disestablishing bloggers.] [Dump the credits.]

Thank you for your time and consideration.


What is the purpose for which the transcendents were created? If we knew that we'd have a better idea what's at stake.

Not sure why it's stated that: "They aren’t boyfriend material." Neither Annika nor the readers of the query would be thinking they're boyfriend material.

If this is a romance, make the romantic elements more obvious. Is Bram or Elias (or both) interested in romancing Annika?

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Face-Lift 1242

Guess the Plot

At Stake

1. When Becca Sanchez's uncle tells her that her history teacher is actually a vampire, Becca isn't sure she believes him, but just to be on the safe side, she and her friends decide to kill the guy. Hey, even if he isn't a vampire, at least they won't have to sit through any more of his boring lectures.

2. Down to his last dollar during a high-stakes poker game, inveterate gambler Rhett Lovelace thinks nothing of pledging a first-born child he thinks he’ll never have. Consumed by his addiction, Rhett never questions why his diabolically lucky adversary would accept such a pledge, nor does he realise exactly what’s…At Stake.

3. Where is your heart when you date a vampire?

4. What's at stake? Only the future of Earth, the sanctity of human life, and the future of one very special teenage girl. Only she has the supernatural powers to compete in a winner-take-all game of wits against our alien overlords, who, as luck would have it, are incredibly good-looking.

5. Penley and her small-time Iowa racing family have their hopes pinned on their unlikely stakes winner Norbert, a great-grandson of the immortal Seattle Slew. With the Breeder's Cup fast approaching, she must decide if she wants to sell him to a Japanese syndicate, run him in the Mile stakes race, or retire him to stud. And which way should she bet the family's money?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

AT STAKE, my YA novel of 73k words, is a modern-day mashup of Don Quixote and Dracula. When Becca Sanchez’s uncle Don [Quixote] tries to convince her that her new teacher is a vampire, [Dracula,] she must decide who to believe, and who to stop from killing whom.

The week Becca discovers her uncle is a total whack-job begins with a moving van and ends in handcuffs. First, her creepy history teacher moves in next door. Then Uncle Don tries to stake him. [When you explained the moving van, I assumed you were then going to explain the handcuffs.]

When a student goes missing, Becca starts wondering if maybe crazy Uncle Don isn’t so crazy after all. She decides to find out for herself. But when she’s caught shooting her teacher with a holy water spitball, she lands herself in a whole heap of trouble with the school and, worse, her mom. [A holy water spitball would prove nothing. Even if it was a lucky shot that hit the vampire's skin, at worst it would feel like a bee sting, which isn't much different from what it would feel like to a non-vampire. A garlic bulb soaked in holy water and shot out of one of those T-shirt cannons is what you need if you want to injure the vampire to the extent he can't immediately kill you. True, he's unlikely to kill you in the classroom, as that would blow his cover as a teacher, but as he lives next door, he'll have plenty of opportunity to drain your blood in private.] [Also, a spitball, by definition, is moistened with spit. Thus a wad of paper moistened with holy water would not be a holy water spitball, but simply a holy water ball (not to be confused with a holy water balloon, which, it now occurs to me, is probably the best projectile to launch at the vampire - unless he turns out to just be a teacher, in which case Becca would be in even bigger trouble with her mom).] 

Becca and her friends concoct a plan to kill the vampire before he can turn the Halloween Dance into his own personal buffet line. But she can’t get rid of the nagging voice wondering if this is all just a series of unlikely coincidences and her teacher is simply a creep. [Not clear what events are part of this series of coincidences. Only the missing student seems to suggest possible foul play.] Because this is real life, and really … vampires?

I have no previous publishing credits. Yet. I attend several conferences and workshops each year, as well as a weekly critique circle. My first novel was a finalist in the 2012 James River Writers Best Unpublished Novel Contest. [Credits aren't necessary. If they're requested, I'd just go with the last sentence.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to working with you.


Sounds like a good story, and the query has nice voice.

I don't see much that compares to Don Quixote or Dracula, outside of the obvious possible vampire and guy named Don. Okay, I see how the uncle is like Quixote if the teacher isn't a vampire. Otherwise he's more like Fox Mulder.

Maybe a holy water squirt gun or plant mister would be a good compromise.