Thursday, November 30, 2006

New Beginning 167


Tira closed her eyes and let the stings of the rising, tittering crowd flow away over the gold leaf that surrounded her. Lifting her head and hands from the corrected lace ribbons running through Tsibi’s hair, she looked to see what had set the selection day crowd aloft.

It was easy to find the girl. The golden fabric of a Feernon was rolled up so that it dangled mere inches below the teeth in which she clinched it. Tira watched her, hoping to see her body shaking, hoping to see that she was a girl taking a risk for her family. But the young one’s utter calm betrayed the fact that she believed. She was here to reveal the greatness of Lord Karil, who was now raising his crossbow towards her, whose perfect hands could never miss.

It had not been long since the wide-hipped blonde had muffled a scream when her outstretched arm was pierced by Gandim near the wrist, but this time it was only the outsiders who gave a cry when the shaft landed in the girl’s throat. Was death intended to be like this?


Question 34.

This question is worth 50 points and tests your reading comprehension. Answer each section as fully as possible, and support your answers.

a. What does the description of one of the women as a “wide-hipped blonde” tell us about the status of, and attitude toward, the female gender in the society depicted in this passage? (10 pts.)

b. Who would win an archery contest between Lord Karil and Robin Hood? (10 pts.)

c. Was death intended to be like this? Discuss. (20 pts.)

d. Describe and provide five uses of a Feernon. (10 pts.)


Opening: Pacatrue.....Continuation: ril

Face-Lift 236


Guess the Plot

Wind Weaver

1. The new boutique in town, Zephyrus, has made a big hit with clothes that are lighter than air. But when her best friend is blown off a cliff by her new skirt, Ariadne sets out to find the source of the fabric--and discovers a secret that will rock the climatology community to its core.

2. Bubba Herman and five of his buddies have been booted from the varsity football team for too much partying. But will the school principal let them on the field at half-time during the big game to demonstrate their precision farting routine?

3. A sentient pirate ship named Wind Weaver sails through enemy territory, desperately searching for a new captain.

4. A shocking exposé of the appalling conditions in the textile mill where the fabric for the emperor's new clothes is manufactured, narrated by an seven-year-old thread cutting gnome named Smick.

5. Colonel Huffelrump's insatiable appetite for spicy curry has led to digestive problems, but it's his daughter, Lady Martita Gasbag, who is found in poisoned gastric distress. Before expiring, she leaves a cryptic clue. The air is thick with suspicion and it is up to nosy spinster Amelia Pettipants to sniff out the culprit.

6. A bashful seamstress eats one too many helpings of bean-kabob at lunch. When she returns to her loom on the factory floor, flatulent hilarity ensues! Also, a farting dragon!


Original Version

Dear Mr Evil,

Wind Weaver is a Fantasy novel, complete at 120,000 words.

Sentient pirate ship Wind Weaver delights in chasing down her prey, but when Captain Grace Hallery dies, the Weaver must run a different race -- to find Grace's only surviving son before the ship fades and dies.

A sentient ship fades within weeks of losing its captain, and only a close blood relative will serve as a replacement. The Weaver must risk a voyage through enemy territory [Isn't everywhere enemy territory when you're a pirate?] to find the baby abandoned fifteen years before. Nobody on board knows his name, or what happened to him, yet the Weaver is adamant they will be reunited. [So, your main character is . . . a boat? After it figures out where the kid is, does it send a sentient rickshaw to pick him up and bring him down to the docks?]

Nate is a fifteen year old servant boy on the run. Caught between smugglers out to kill him, and an elfman who might eat him and whose round-eyed mate claims his ship talks, Nate chooses the less immediate threat. [Less immediate because the elfman marinates you overnight before killing you.]

Which is how Nate finds himself captain of an opinionated pirate ship, [I see the ship as a combination of Foghorn Leghorn and Krusty the Clown: "Swab, Ah say swab my decks, boys, and someone get those barnacles off my aft, they're killing me. Oy."] manned by a crew that doesn't care for him. Satyrical first mate Henry resents a boy usurping the command that should be his. When an accident strands Nate onshore, his beloved Weaver is forced up the coast, and beached. ["Get, Ah say get me off this reef before Ah get tubeworms! Hello? Have any of you schmucks ever even heard of biofouling? Oy, it's the crew from hell."] Separated from her captain, she will soon fade, and Henry can claim her wooden carcass for his own. [Not clear what "fades" means. Becomes transparent? Vanishes? What does the carcass consist of? Does Henry know there'll be nothing left but a carcass if he takes over?] Those still faithful to the Weaver need to reunite her with Nate before she dies. [Ah, Ah say, Ah'm fading. Where's that shmegegi of an elfman with my new captain? You can't get good help nowadays, even when you threaten to keelhaul 'em."] Then all Nate has to do is confront the man he fears most, and win over the ship and the rest of her crew.

I am a editor and slush reader for ---------- Magazine, and I've had a couple of short stories published in science fiction and fantasy magazines. In writing Wind Weaver, I have drawn on some of the experience I've gained while crewing on the [sentient] brig ---------.

Thank you for your time. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Notes

It's clearly written, and I suspect those who can accept a talking pirate ship will want to check it out. Though it seems a bit long for a book about a talking pirate ship.

Wind Weaver is a decent name for a ship, but calling it The Weaver isn't so impressive. I doubt the crews of the Golden Hind and the Titanic referred to their ships as the hind and the tit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

New Beginning 166


The firelight flickered in the eyes of the tall, lean man as watched the faces of his two associates. They shivered in the evening chill and stared as the flames danced hypnotically, sending their shadows into frenzied convulsions among the twisted oaks.

Raymond, a lanky man with stringy blond hair and hollow cheeks, looked across the fire. “So, Silver, when do we go after the treasure? It’s getting late. Shouldn’t we be getting started?”

The tall one, Silver, met his gaze. He was looking for something in Raymond’s eyes. Something he’d seen earlier, in the daylight.

“Soon,” he said. Long black hair framed his face, and his deep-set eyes revealed nothing.

He scanned the perimeter of the small clearing but the darkness was impervious to the firelight and hung like a black curtain just beyond the first line of trees. The forest felt alive but completely still, as if resting or lying in wait, and the droning cicadas provided a phonic pulse. A pocket of sap in one of the logs popped suddenly and the two men flinched.

“I don’t see what’s the point of just sitting around...” Raymond stared at the flames, holding back his irritation. There it was again, just as Silver had seen it before. A thirst for adventure, a hunger; but also a hollow emptiness, a tragic void.

“All in good time. We have a long journey ahead, but I assure you, you’ll find tonight’s quest very rewarding.” Silver glanced at the other man, who smiled enigmatically. “But first . . . we must understand what brought us here--”

“Whoa...” Raymond held up a hand. Something else flickered across his eyes: a sudden realization. “There . . . ain’t any real treasure is there? It’s, like, metaphorical? We’re just gonna sit round this fire all night talking?!” Raymond flung his arms out in despair. “Crap. I shoulda known. This is literary, isn’t it?”


Opening: Grasshopper.....Continuation: ril

About those Books


Some of you will receive copies of Novel Deviations in the next day or two. Here are a few answers to questions you may have.

In the front of the book, it says copyright 2007. Although the odds are against it, it's possible the book could get reviewed in some magazine--but the big-name reviewers want the book at least three months before it hits the bookstores. So this book has an official publication date of March 2007. It won't be available in bookstores until then. I've made it available on the blog so the authors could get copies in advance of the publication date (and in advance of the holidays). If a few other people have taken advantage of this, so be it.

If the only pieces you care about are your own, you'll find a list of contributors in the back, along with the story numbers to which each contributed. It might even be fairly accurate.

The order in which the pieces appear is not indicative of anything. I divided them into groups of ten, and put a few of my favorites into each group. My favorites may not be yours, however.

If you haven't ordered a copy, you may be wondering what you get that isn't available on the blog. Not much. Two opening authors didn't want their pieces used, but were kind enough to allow Evil Editor to massively edit them, maintaining the tone and content but not the words. Three continuations were replaced with better ones, but in one or two of these, the replacement was made on the blog as well. Several of the earlier New Beginnings didn't have continuations, but now do, and some of those made the book. And there's a brief introduction. In short, the main advantage of the book is not extra material, but the convenience of not having to scroll through eight months of posts to read the better New Beginnings. Or as a gift for those who read books but not blogs. I do think that for those who "get it," this is one of the funnier books you'll read.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Face-Lift 235


Guess the Plot

Semi-Sentient Soap Scum on the Prowl

1. With the cancellation of If I Did It, O.J. Simpson's ghostwriter comes forward to tell his own story.

2. A pharmaceutical genius tries to turn millions of men with hair loss problems into zombies with his brain-sucking Rogaine shampoo.

3. Investigating an attempt on his life, an overworked--but very clean--private eye is drawn into political intrigue when a spacewoman crashes to Earth.

4. At the 2007 Housewares Show, Mike Hawker demonstrates the latest in dishwashing technology: nano soap! But things get out of hand when an unsuspecting book editor, mistaking it for popcorn, swallows a whole bag.

5. When Marge Norge bought her long-abandoned mid-century modern House of the Future, she envisioned a Jetsons life, with herself as Jane in an apron. But the Kitchen of the Future has other plans.

6. Persnickety spinster Amelia Pettipants returns to Boring-on-End to discover her tiny cottage in a mess. Partridge, her char, has disappeared, leaving only a dirty mop bucket as a cryptic message. Can the busybody sleuth find her maid before the Vicar's visit? Or will dust and spotty teacups once again spell murder?


Original Version

Attention Evil Editor:

For Marlowe, an over-worked and oft worked over private eye, resurrection is just the start of another long day where nothing can be taken for granted. Not the bar of soap that just murdered him, not the vacuous-looking dog on the corner that has attained a ranking of chess Grandmaster, [As nothing can be taken for granted, could you clarify whether it's the dog or the corner that's a Grandmaster?] and certainly not the flock of colorful birds that control the city's largest crime syndicate. [This should be a cartoon. The crime boss will be a bird who talks like Edward G. Robinson. Get it? ROBINson.] In the dark streets, underground lairs, and seedy salons of a city rebelling against the tyranny of gravity, Marlowe has his work cut out for him. He has to track down the homicidal soap that killed him so he can find out who hired it and why, [Whom do you ask whether they've seen any suspicious-looking soap? A snitch washcloth?] all while being dragged into the political intrigue that erupts when a spacewoman crashes to earth smack dab in the middle of his investigation.

Semi-Sentient Soap Scum on the Prowl is a 98,000 word novel set in the near future of an alternate reality. [When you're in an alternate reality, how do you know whether it's the past, present or future?] In Marlowe's world, the unbelievable is true, the believable a deception, [So if Marlowe doesn't believe soap murdered him, it did, but if he believes soap murdered him, it's a deception. It sounds like one of those logic riddles where one person always lies and the other person always tells the truth and you have to think of a question to ask that will reveal which is which.] and the absurd commonplace. It is a dark noir science fiction novel with humor in the vein of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series [It, too, has an amusing title. Any other similarities should be left to the reader to discover.] and Isidore Haiblum's Tom Dunjer novels.

Thank you for your time. If you are interested, I would be happy to send my manuscript for your consideration. I have enclosed an S.A.S.E. for your convenience.


Notes

The dog and birds are examples of the world's absurdity, but their role in the plot, if any, isn't made clear. I'm sure there's more here than a series of absurdities. Tell us what happens in the book. All we have for plot is the last sentence of the first paragraph.

New Beginning 165


Joey Suzuki spent the three weeks after she learned she was dead in detention. They kept her in a small, heavily reinforced room, only hauling her out for tests every other day or so. She spent very little time thinking about the revelation of her untimely demise, instead thinking through methods of escape. She didn't try to escape. She was fairly certain that wouldn't work. Her captors had never bothered to hide the security they had in plain sight, but she had no recollection of arriving at the place, so she didn't know the way out.

Since she felt none of the every day vibrations or heard none of the city sounds she had been accustomed to she felt certain that she was no where near civilization. She imagined there was something terrible cliché about that.

Joey spent some of her time pondering her rights. She took for granted that her captors had more than just a body with her fingerprints to prove she was dead. And if the body was hers, then who was she? She thought she was Josephine Izumi Suzuki, part time blogger, full time web comic artist. Nothing about her sense of self suggested otherwise, so she couldn't imagine that there was some other identity hiding beneath a façade.


It would have been too much of a shock, so Jeanie and Dale Krebnitz didn't inform Joey Suzuki that she was really Josephine Spruggs of Westchester. Nor did they tell her she wasn't really dead. They did tell little Newton Krebnitz he was in big trouble. He had been through twelve babysitters in the last month, but this was the first one he had managed to imprison in his X-Box.


Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New Beginning 164


Laura stared down at the hand... Slim, neatly manicured… with a pale spot, where the wedding band used to be. "It’s not him."

"Mrs Long," detective Ripkus wiped the sweat of his brow, "I understand how you must feel, but…"

"Do you?"

"Mrs Long," Ripkus lowered his eyes, fighting the urge to slap her. "Please, try to be reasonable. You’ve recognized the wedding band."

"Can it Jack," Laura snapped, "I’m telling you, its not Alex's hand."

"How can you be so certain? All we have is the hand!" Jack Ripkus summoned all his inner strength, just to keep his voice down.

"The ring was his," Laura hissed, "Not the hand."

"Mrs Long, the ring was on his hand, so obviously…"

"It’s not his hand!"

"Maybe we should call his parents, instead," Jessy Joy, Ripkus' partner whispered.

"You think I don’t know my own husband?"

"But It’s A Hand," Ripkus stomped his foot, then howled in pain, as he stubbed his toe, on the evidence table.

"Jack, calm down," Jessy gripped the detective’s shoulder. "Now, Mrs Long--"

"I will not calm down! This woman is insane . . . " The detective banged his fist on the table, sending the bloody hand in flight.

"Am I free to go yet," Laura reached for the doorknob.

Ripkus was about to protest, but Jessy held him back as she left. “Leave it, Jack. With no way to prove it’s his hand, there’s nothing we can do.”

“I know, Jessy. But she's driving me nuts. This is the fourth time. She got his shoes, but the feet were too big to be his. She took his earring, but his ears were flatter than that.” Ripkus put the hand back in the carton with the other pieces. “You know what she said when she came in for his jock strap . . . ”

“Listen, Jack. We both know it’s him; and she knows it too. She’s clever. She’s stayed one step ahead of us so far, but we’ve got to keep calm. We’ll get her. Sooner or later . . . she's gonna want his hat.”


Opening: Ann Onymous....Continuation: ril

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Face-Lift 234


Guess the Plot

Mountain Echo's

1. It's mine! It's mine! It's mine! Sylvan Glen Echo and Green Glade Echo arm wrestle in a duel to the death for the possessions of the late Mountain Echo.

2. The God of Punctuation tells the story of his life and decline to an illiterate shepherd before throwing himself off a tall peak in sheer disgust.

3. 96-year-old village schoolteacher Miss Quadrille is just putting the finishing touches to her 1400-canto Spenserian epic masterpiece when she is throttled with her own typewriter ribbon. Can Miss Amelia Pettipants figure out what the rest of the title was supposed to be?

4. Echo is the size of a mountain. No wonder she's the class bully! Will Echo get the teacher's new shoes, or will there be a wrestling match?

5. A heated argument between Jake and Maggie leads to a night of passion, a betrayal, a car accident, a hitch as an army mercenary for Jake, a career in medicine for Maggie, and a reunion ten years later. Also, a mountain.

6. A bookkeeper, a secretary, a paralegal, and a dental assistant meet at Jack's Bar and Grill every Tuesday night to read their unpublished poetry and cry in their beer, until the remarkable evening a yodeling duo joins the group and changes all their lives forever.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor;

Mountain Echo's is a romatic suspence with 70,000 words.

Ten years ago, Maggie Hanson had been eighteen years old and hopelessly in love with her older brother Scott" best friend, Jake Donnegan. She thought her feelings were only one-sided, but a heated argument between them prom night changed all that [Nothing says I love you like a heated argument on prom night.] and they ended up spending a very passionate night together. Three days later, she went to Jake to tell him of all the plans she had made for the future. [Big mistake.] Coldly, he told her not to involve him in her plans. [Men. How do women put up with them?] It was one night and that was all he wanted from her. Fleeing his rejection, she left in her car with tires squeeling and tears running down her face. Resulting in a near fatal car accident, completely changing her life. She never saw Jake again. [Or at least not until the paragraph after next.]

Ten years ago, Jake Donegan, spent the most memorable night of his life in the arms of his best friend, Scott's sister. When Scott found out his sister was planning to throw away her dreams of attenting one of the best colleges in America for a future with Jake on his Horse ranch, he convince Jake to send Maggie away. So he lied to her and told her he felt nothing for her. He had no idea his rejection would end up almost costing Maggie her life. [I'm starting to think you spend more time on this prom night incident in the query letter than you do in the book.] Holding her unconscious body while waiting for help to arrive, he vowed to God that if she lived he would never hurt her again. In order to keep his word he felt he had to leave. As soon as the doctors assured them that Maggie would survive her injuries, Jake and Scott left for the Army. [They simply leave for the army? Had they previously enlisted? If so, how was Maggie going to join Jake on the horse ranch? If not, there is a certain amount of paperwork and other stuff involved in joining the army. And joining the army seems a drastic way to avoid hurting Maggie. He could just hole up on the ranch with his favorite horse until she leaves for college.]

Present day, Scott has been gravely injured, and as mercenaries he and Jake felt it was to dangerous to take Scott to the hospital. [What do you mean "as mercenaries?" Are they in the army? If so, whose army, and stationed where?] The men that were after them would stop at nothing to finish the job, therefore Scott tells Jake to call Maggie. After recovering from her injuries Maggie is now a Physicans Assistant and works for a local ER. She drops everything to help her brother but is scared to death to see Jake again. After a ten year absence Jake and Maggie are thrown back together in an intense struggle to save Scott's life and stay out of danger. Will true love be able to overcome a lifealtering betrayal? Will Jake be able to protect the only woman he has ever loved from the men that want him dead?

You'd be surprised what love can do.


Notes

No doubt the minions will rake you over the coals for the spelling, punctuation, and grammar problems (some of which would have been caught by spellchecking), which are bad enough by themselves to earn a rejection.

This is pretty much a synopsis, not a query letter. The only part that isn't summarizing the plot is the first sentence, which, by itself, has enough errors to earn a rejection.

I'm not sure where the title comes from, but amazingly, even it, by itself, is bad enough to earn a rejection.

I'm more interested in who's after Jake and why, than in his relationship with Maggie. They had one night of passion ten years ago as teenagers. Surely they've had other relationships since, satisfying adult relationships, and haven't been pining away for each other. How many women think back to the guy who dumped her after a one-night stand ten years ago, and wonder, How did I let that one get away?

Friday, November 24, 2006

New Beginning 163


"Get away from me, you freak!" Annette backed away from the bed, clutching the sheet to her chest.

The man's big, lost puppy-cow-sheep eyes widened with bewilderment. "Honey, what's wrong?"

"Don't you dare honey me, you pervert. Who the hell are you?"

He blinked. "Don't you remember last night?"

"Last night?" She dug around in the recesses of her mind, but couldn't come up with anything useful.

"We got married last night. You really don't remember?" He looked more confused than she felt.

She hiked up the sheet, ran her fingers through her tangled hair and stared at the man.

He wasn't remotely close in looks to the guys she dated. She usually went for the GQ candidates, but this one looked more like someone on the cover of Hoser Monthly. He wasn't ugly, just a little plain. Not her style at all.

"What are you talking about?"

"Married, Annette - we got married last night. I'm Phil Smedley, your husband. We'd been dating for six months. You were in an accident a few weeks ago, a car crash. You and the gal in the other car survived, but the doctor said you both might have occasional memory lapses. Guess he was right."

Annette caught sight of herself in the mirror and stifled a cry. The girl who stared back was plain, with hair sticking up and and a few extra pounds around the middle. It wasn't her!


Somewhere across town, Paris Hilton woke up from another dream about the car crash. She took one look at her bed partner and smiled. Evil Editor. Now this was more like it. She couldn't remember her boyfriend Phil much at all.


Opening: Chumplet.....Continuation: Kate Thornton

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Minions Give Thanks


1. FOOD

I give thanks that Uncle Alan no longer does that trick with his false teeth at the dinner table after his second glass of wine. It wasn't funny the first time.

Football and mayonnaise. Without those two staples of life, all would be lost.

I'm thankful for Evil Editor, whose blog is a staple in my daily diet of procrastination. (((hugs!))) (Pours sap all over you.)

I'm thankful I don't have to measure the oven, then measure the turkey, then argue with my husband over whether the MegaBird he's bound to want will fit, and what's the likelihood of gout...until Christmas.

I am thankful for friends who share the gigantic and delicious spread of food on the table...because we divvy the leftovers and that leaves me room in the fridge!

I’m thankful for Butterball.com. No particular reason. There’s just something about the name.

I'm thankful I'm not a turkey - just a chicken.

I'm thankful that I have a bottle of twelve year old Chivas in the cupboard, and that my favorite beer is cheap.

I'm thankful I live in Scotland and no longer have to worry about cooking turkey for a bunch of greedy relatives. We save that fun for Christmas.

I give thanks that cranberries are not sentient beings from another dimension, that cunningly hide in our stomachs until a signal from the mothership commands them to messily devour us from the inside out.


2. THE BODY HUMAN

I'm thankful that I don't have arms growing out of my bottom. No matter how those pictures look.

I am thankful that I have a body; how else could I keep probing where it aches and why my midriff has gone out of shape and myriad other things? A man has got to pass the time, no?

I am thankful for that luxurious hairstyle I've grown. On my butt.

I’m thankful that, at my age, I still have teeth that don’t need a nightly extra-oral swim in the Polident pool.

I'm thankful nothing sags, especially the middles of my manuscripts. :o)

I'm thankful that my soap is not even semi-sentient, therefore allowing me to soap up in the shower without any niggling fears about inappropriate use of cleaning substances.

I'm thankful that at 60 everything still works: when my stomach is full of puke I throw up, most of what I eat turns to shit, and I can still fight gravity every day.

I'm thankful that women have breasts, men have hairy chests, and never the twain shall meet. Because a guy in a bra with a hairy chest just doesn't work for me.


WRITING

I am thankful that I found someone who wants my books. The garbage man.

Im thnakful four my good spleling and tyop-fre etyping.

I'm thankful that Hawkowl has never reviewed any of my openings. Actually, fear of Hawkowl is what keeps me from sending any openings.

I’m thankful that editors have had the good sense to reject everything I’ve done so far. I’d hate to have someone dredge up that over-written bilge when I’m hawking my Great American Novel on Oprah (wait for it – sometime next year, I figure).

I give thanks that I can wake up wondering if there's anything new on Evil Editor's blog; not whether we all made it through the night.

I'm thankful that Dave understands every reference I make to arts, music and New York, no matter how obscure, and like Bertie Wooster, has an aging female relative who also gets it.


MISC.

I am thankful for all the skills I've picked up at the Juvenile hall. Mainly, how to roll my self in a fetal position and cry.

I am thankful that I have an ex-husband...because the alternative would mean I'd have to clean up after him before the guests arrive on Thursday.

I'm thankful, that my kids haven't found out where babies come from yet. Or else, they'd brick me into the wall, to prevent more siblings from spewing out.

I'm thankful, that despite her threats, my mother did not pull my eye out, staple it to my bottom, and make it blink.

I'm thankful that I only spent $22,000 to earn my business degree, just in time for the mega-corporation that employed me to shut down. Hooray for higher education! Also, a dragon.

I'm thankful, that the roach infestation in my building has officially been reduced. I just stepped on one.

I'm thankful whenever I walk a mile in someone else's shoes, they don't wear clogs.

I'm thankful it's only about 6 months until the Eurovision song contest. In these troubled times the world needs more camp festivities with men in tight pants, a cappella groups wearing all-white outfits and Botoxed songstresses with surprisingly upright boobies.

I'm thankful pterodactyls no longer exist because, um, who wants to get a giant plop on the head? Nah, I'd probably be dead with the size of a pterodactyl's crap. Happy Thanksgiving, EE, and posters!

I am thankful that I live among folks like me, simple folks who look down on those who have bigger lawns and more carports. Ah, I love them as they shred the reputations of whoever's absent.

I'm thankful that cats have no hands, because otherwise I'm sure that my trio would be plotting to overthrow me, the government of the United States, and the world (not necessarily in that order).

I'm thankful for the a$$holes at work that make me want to bite their faces off and the non-multitasking, cell phone-using idiots that almost kill me daily on the ride home from work. They give me an excuse to enjoy that heavenly nectar called gin.

Regardless of what the ladies here think of Johnny Depp, I'm thankful that pirates of Caribbean are not real. Ditto on King Kong, Godzilla, and Pokemon.

I'm thankful for politicians. If the dinosaurs did return they'd eat the politicians first because they're so noisy and prominently visible.

I'm thankful for the mute button on my TV remote. Too bad there's no button to increase the intelligence of the comments and commentators.

Grateful? I'm ungrateful. Here's why. I'm an unpublished genius. Laugh all you want, but one day... Also, I get framed for stuff. A lot. The violence, the pee, the cross dressing... Oh, wait... I didn't mean to include... Huh? What do you mean I can't use the computer? This is a public library! What? No, no police. NO lady, DON'T PUSH THAT BUTTON!

I'm thankful for Evil Editor -- and of course his faithful minion, Miss Snark (I can hear the shriek from here).


HAPPY THANKSGIVING ALL

Old Beginnings 20

1. Megan Murphy scuffed through a thick layer of autumn leaves in her round-toed, black leather, gold-buckled shoes. Regulation colonial clodhoppers, she thought happily, bending over to pick leaves out of her buckles. Especially stylish with her blue-flowered thermal underwear and thick gray woolen socks. Yup, she was a real eighteenth-century sex goddess. But hey, it was cold out. Besides, what did the average slovenly trollop wear back then? Silk teddies and designer panty hose?

She did a little tap dance in her big black shoes and kicked at the leaves. When she was a child the leaves in her yard had been immediately whisked away. They were packed in leaf bags, sucked into leaf suckers, or pulverized by the mulch maker, but they were never scuffed through or jumped into or simply enjoyed. That was one of the things that had drawn Megan to Colonial Williamsburg. In its effort to recreate the eighteenth century, Williamsburg had slowed to a walking pace. There was time to enjoy leaves. Even Megan Murphy, who had a strong tendency to hurtle through life at warp speed, found tranquility in the back alleys of Williamsburg.


2. From the first overlook of the Sky Line Drive, heading south, you can only see the old part of Point Royal--washed in hazy distance, an intricately laced aggregate of antique houses and white steeples, set among many shades of blue and green and tawny summer. A sleepy, lovely, Virginia country setting.

Up close there are, of course, the complications of the age.

Antebellum porches mixed in with two-car garages and fast-food chains; an Internet café in a glass-front, low-slung building within a block of a town hall that is almost two hundred years old--all of this across from a parking lot and a red-brick radio station with flags out front and a skinny seventy-foot tower behind.

On the radio station lately there's mostly talk, and the subject is invariably the president and his recent troubles. The call-in shows are full of moral outrage.


3. From under his hat, Deputy Sheriff Harry Gowan surveyed the scene at the local steak house and bar in Rawhide, Wyoming. It was Friday, the second busiest night in town. And he was in charge of keeping the peace.

His roving gaze stopped when it lit on a young woman sitting at a table in the center of the room. She didn't look like an inhabitant of Rawhide, with her short, spiky brown hair and that bright red lipstick on her pouty lips. Still, she was beautiful...and she was alone.

He strolled over to her table. He had no objection to strangers in his town, and besides, as an employee of the city, wasn't it part of his job to make people feel at home in Rawhide? "Evening, ma'am," he said, tipping his hat. "I suspect you might be new to town. If there's anything I can do to help you enjoy your stay, please let me know."

The young woman smiled at him and he was struck by her beautiful blue eyes. "How nice of you. I could use a dance partner," she said, looking expectantly at him.


4. Later when word of what had happened got about and, in variously garbled versions, was for a time the common property of the entire nation-a television crew set up a satellite dish in a clearing on the hillside at the back of the Faigano property, paying what in local terms amounted to a small fortune for the temporary rights to a few square metres of land so poor, so barren, so utterly useless, that it had virtually ceased to exist on anyone's mental map of the vicinity. People scratched their heads and murmured, 'They paid that? For il Bric Liserdin?', seemingly as shocked by this anomaly as they had been by the thing itself.

That was how it was always referred to: 'the thing', as though it had nothing more to do with them than the metal bowl which the outsiders from Milan trucked in and mounted for a fat fee on the steep, scrub-covered hillside where rocks perpetually shouldered their way to the surface like moles, infesting the ground on which Gianni and Maurizio's ancestors had expended such futile labour, its only produce the stones used for terracing the slopes on the other side of the hill, the vineyards with the good exposure.


Sources below:


Old Beginnings 20

1. Thanksgiving.....Janet Evanovich
2. Thanksgiving Night.....Richard Bausch
3. A Randall Thanksgiving.....Judy Christenbury
4. Thanksgiving.....Michael Dibdin

Face-Lift 233


Guess the Plot

Firstborn

1. 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.

2. Abandoned as infants and raised by a disgraced proctologist, these psychic albino Siamese twin brothers have only each other--until a question of seniority tears them apart.

3. In exchange for the fame and fortune of bestselling novels, two starving artists promise their firstborn child to the devil. Thus is brought into being . . . the Evil Editor.

4. A man bores his wife to death with a dismal endless monologue. Only their eldest son realizes it was truly murder and not an accident. But can he prove it?

5. Birth rates among college educated women skyrocket when the government starts a new student loan forgiveness program, wherein healthy infants are accepted in lieu of cash repayment.

6. Grisham meets Ali Baba, as this dude drops dead and his quadruplets argue over which of them gets the inheritance.


Original Version

Dear Agent:

FIRSTBORN is a 95,000-word horror thriller of the "co-ed splatter flick" variety. In it, eight college friends must survive the fall-out from their parents' reckless youth.

After the gruesome murder of a friend, Josh Parker and his fellow college students retreat to his parent's lake house to regroup. The close-knit troop plan to drink, weep, and reminisce--an Irish wake without the body, so to speak. After all, the funeral hadn't been closed-casket by choice.

Even out of the comfortable college town, however, Josh finds that he can't put the murder out of his mind. [If your goal is to put the murder out of your mind, drinking, weeping and reminiscing at an Irish wake, so to speak, is an odd way to go about it.] Who kills someone by beating them to death with a sledge hammer? [Someone too stupid to realize a regular hammer will do the job just as well, and will be a lot easier to swing.] What kind of rage breeds that kind of intent? ["Intent?" I'd go with "savagery," "brutality," or "cruelty."] He pesters the lead detective on the case and discovers that his friend wasn't the only victim of a sledge hammer bludgeoning in the past year. In fact, she was the fourth,

[Josh: She was killed by a sledgehammer? Bet you don't see that too often.

Detective: You'd be surprised. I've worked four sledge hammer cases this year alone.

Josh: Don't you find that odd?

Detective: Nah. There've been half a dozen wrench killings in the same period. Not to mention several knives, lead pipes, and a candlestick.

Josh: A candlestick?

Detective: In the conservatory. I booked Colonel Mustard for that one.]

and the third was her father, [You'd think if his friend's father was recently bludgeoned to death with a sledge hammer, Josh would already know about it.] a long-forgotten chum from his own father's glory days.

The body count rises as Josh's friends and their fathers fall under the murderer's sledge. [If the killer's next victim is always the previous victim's father or firstborn, seems like the cops would have no trouble figuring out where he'll strike next.] A nameless shape [A nameless shape? Who's the killer, The Blob?] stalks them with juggernaut intensity until Josh's own father reveals an impossible identity [suggests an impossible suspect?] --a victim of accidentally lethal hazing whose pregnant fiancé miscarried from the grief and shock of her lover's death. Unfortunately, the knowledge is more curse than cure. How do you kill what's already dead? [Whoa, you're saying the killer is . . . a ZOMBIE?!! Why didn't you say so in the first place? Serial-killer-with-a-sledgehammer books are a dime a dozen. Zombie-serial-killer-with-a-sledgehammer books are the next wave. We've got to get this book published before Anne Rice comes out with Interview with the Zombie:

"You weren't always a zombie, were you?" the boy began.
"Nnngh," answered the zombie. "Ozza tayfie yeeromun wencame zombie, enthyeers senteenitywun."]

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

I don't think comparing it to "co-ed spatter flicks" is helpful. You may be hoping they'll make a co-ed spatter flick from it some day, but for now you want people to think it has literary value. Cutting the first paragraph off at "thriller" might do the trick.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thanksgiving


In the USA, it's Thanksgiving time. Family gatherings, turkey dinners, football, parades and more. But let's not forget to give thanks.

1. I'm thankful that dinosaurs are extinct, even though I'm pretty sure if they weren't extinct, poachers with machine guns would kill them all.

2. Then again, maybe if dinosaurs weren't extinct, men would have been too busy running away from them to invent machine guns.

3. I'm thankful that all the mirrors in my house aren't the two-way kind, with complete strangers sitting behind them watching me and taking notes and shaking their heads . . . Or are they?

4. I'm thankful I got out of my pre-med studies and went into the humanities, or I never would have found my ideal vocation: blogger.

5. I'm thankful I have elbows, as otherwise I would have trouble getting my hat on.


What are you thankful for? I'm not expecting a huge readership on Thursday, so I'll just publish the most amusing responses. (Sappy responses may be published on your own blogs; expect me to drop by and check them out.)

New Beginning 162 (midgrade novel)


Upon his son Sylvester’s seventh birthday, Mr. Chester had a white picket fence built around his yard. “Now,” he said to his wife as he described all he’d done that day, “We have the perfect family. Two children, a boy and a girl, a nice home and a white picket fence. But, we lack one thing. One very big thing. I think, Imogene, that it is my job to obtain it.”

Mr. Chester scratched his forehead. “What we need now is a nice big brand new sports utility vehicle. That way we can go camping and explore the wilds of nature. How else,” he asked, “will we get to the top of all those mountains?”

Mr. Chester, convinced of his need for an SUV, began his long search for the perfect vehicle, all the while missing the many small problems that brewed in his own home.

On the first day of his search, while Mr. Chester visited the Ford dealership and considered the finer points of the 2007 Expedition, Sylvester was putting the finishing touches on his acetone-based bomb and testing it out on the Martins' doghouse.

On the second day, as Mr. Chester was testing the off-roading capabilities of the Dodge Durango, little Euphenimia was picked up for soliciting.

But it wasn't until he had brought home the Chevy Suburban, with its superior cargo space, that Mrs. Chester pointed out to him that the SUV was just another substitute for his sexual inadequacy, that “those mountains” were a Freudian metaphor for his physical dysfunction, that the picket fence was his only successful erection in months.

The biggest worry, of course, was the children. Sooner or later they would want to know why Sylvester looked so much like Mr. Gonzales, the gardener.


Opening: Judy Gregerson.....Continuation: Daisy, ril

Monday, November 20, 2006

New Beginning 161


The bar of soap killed Marlowe. "Nothing personal," it bubbled to him as the needle retracted, "just business." Not that Marlowe would remember the one-way exchange; he was dead. The soap loitered just long enough to be sure of Marlowe's passing, then dissolved down the drain to make good its escape.

The PDI, or Personal Digital Implant, located just below Marlowe's left ear closed the calendar and phone book programs as soon as it detected the onset of brain death. In their place it launched the resurrection app. This triggered the id box in the floor safe under Marlowe's bed, which hummed to life. As tiny nano probes set about repairing the damage to his body caused by the injected toxin, the backup of Marlowe's memories and personality stirred within the electronic confines of the id box.

The thumping pain told Marlowe his body was once again alive. Maybe not ready to sit up and take nourishment yet, but alive. He ran through the events of the previous twelve hours. Body repair, check. Brain backup, check. Resurrection, check. Soap death, check.

He felt like death warmed over, but he knew it was the price you paid for wasting resources in the twenty-second century. The DWP wasn't kidding about that one shower a day thing.


Opening: Anonymous....Continuation: Kate Thornton

New Beginning 160


"What a mess."

Shaking his head, Detective Munson squatted next to the remains and held his breath. Spilled blood didn't smell so bad, but exploded entrails and rotting meat combined to put up a stench worse than the time his deep freezer shorted out while he was on vacation.

"You sure this is just one victim? Seems like too many pieces for a single body."

The beat cop, pale and just shaky enough to camouflage the hint of Boston in his speech, nodded once. "There are plenty of . . . pieces, yeah, but there's only two hands and two feet in there. I . . . counted, just to be sure." He swallowed hard. "Sir, this looks an awful lot like that one in--"

"Keep that thought to yourself, kid." He didn't make a habit of interrupting other cops, but with press milling all around the perimeter and dozens of personnel running here and there, he didn't dare take a chance.

Munson paced around the room, thinking; searching for inspiration. There had to be something he could use. He turned again to the beat cop. “His wife was first on the scene, right? What did the guy's wife say when she found him?”

The cop leafed through his notebook. “Sorry, Sir. I don’t know.”

She said, “Dammit Larry, pull yourself together.”

The young officer looked at him, a puzzled expression on his face. Munson paced around the room again, looking at the remains. “OK,” he said thoughtfully. “How about this one . . . How do we know that the victim had a scalp problem?”

“Sir?”

“Because we found his Head and Shoulders in the bathroom! Rat-a-tat!”

The beat cop just stood with his mouth hanging open, but a ripple of applause sounded from outside the perimeter. Yes, Munson thought. They don’t call me the Stand-Up Detective for nothing.


Opening: Gutterball....Continuation: ril

New Beginning 159


Annis leaned on the windowsill and swore, yelling so loudly she prompted birds into flight and the gardener into dropping his wheelbarrow. She slammed the window shut, confining her temper, and began to prepare for Rosalind’s betrothal dinner.

No man in Christendom would consider marrying a girl who could throw a dagger into an apple at 20 paces, nine times out of ten. Nor would they wed a wench who owned a sword. Unless perhaps it was Excalibur. But Annis knew the reason for her spinsterhood was her complete lack of a dowry. She kicked the wall, averting her gaze from the glass of wine on the windowsill. It would be easy to succumb, to take a few sips to fortify herself against the stares and whispers. She moved back and picked up her comb.

By the time Annis had forced her hair into what she hoped was a flattering style, she changed her mind and reached for the glass. She emptied it in one neat swallow and poured herself another. Not only would it help her to forget the stares and whispers, but it would add some flattering colour to her cheeks.

A dowry, a dowry . . . How was she to come by a dowry?

By the fourth glass a glance in the mirror showed not only that her cheeks were a becoming shade of pink, but that her hair now looked more like soft ringlets than her usual snaky Medusa-like locks.

Who wanted a dowry anyway? Why throw away all this beauty on some white-wigged, fat-bellied fool like Rosalind's betrothed?

She opened her window and leant out to call the gardener. It was time to play with Excalibur again.


Opening: Emma.....Continuation: McKoala

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Face-Lift 232


Guess the Plot

The Pride

1. Cliffnote Brown on safari tries to solve the murder of a water buffalo whose carcass is found picked clean by some type of carnivore.

2. Emotional struggles are played out as professional wrestling matches in a convention center in Lubbock, Texas. Volume 1: The Pride versus The Altruism. (Altruism gives up freely.)

3. When a teenaged girl escapes a religious cult, she discovers her connection to the Lion People. She teams up with a werelion, a shapeshifter, a grizzly bear, and an eccentric scientist to seek revenge on the cult leader.

4. In this self-published companion volume to The Prejudice, literary critic Bulwer Bluenose presents a compelling personal diatribe against agents, editors, publishers and readers. Citing the entire publishing industry, he vents his venom on uppity New York agents, wickedly evil editors, the Library of Congress and poodles in tams. Profusely illustrated.

5. Vicar Cy Loutly in the the quaint village of Boring-on-End is justifiably proud of his collection of Staffordshire porcelain. But will pride go before a fall when spinster detective Amelia Pettipants discovers a priceless Staffordshire spaniel in the lifeless hands of the village barmaid, Rosie Bottoms?

6. It's midnight in the Museum of Natural History, and Chief Curator of African Mammals Dr. Pinkney Mupps is horrified when the "Lions on the Savannah" diorama is vandalized. But the sight of his wife and the Assistant Curator of Primitive Tools cavorting naked among the tall grasses is what really hurts his pride.


Original Version

Dear Agent, (followed by a short sentence about why I chose them)

THE PRIDE is a young adult urban fantasy, complete at 77,000 words. When seventeen-year-old Alexis escapes certain death [Once someone escapes from it, I don't think you're allowed to call it "certain death" anymore.] from the religious cult that raised her, she doesn’t know she’s only half human. [She thinks it's perfectly normal to have a pouch, wings, and webbed feet.] She gains a protector in Gideon, a shapeshifter out for revenge against the mercenary who murdered his family, and learns the truth about her own connection to the Lion People. [Namely that she's one of them. She's half human, half lion, right? Does she look like the Cowardly Lion, like a person in a lame lion costume? Or does she have a lion's body and a human head, like a sphinx? It could be a woman's body with a lion's head, I suppose, but it would have to be a talking lion. A main character who just roars would get old quickly.] [Vincent had a lion face, on Beauty and the Beast, but being female, Alexis wouldn't have the cool mane, so the lion head idea doesn't get my vote.]

Working together, Alexis and Gideon discover that the cult’s leader is a banished god named Nassaner. Deriving his power from willing sacrifices, Nassaner has convinced his followers, including Alexis’s own mother, to kill their firstborn children. [That's some mighty persuasive convincing. I wonder, what's the best method for convincing your followers to kill their children? Should you talk to them individually, or is it better to gather them all together in an auditorium and speak from behind a podium? Probably the latter. People will believe anything you say if you're standing behind a podium.]

To stop the rogue god and save Alexis’s life, Gideon and Alexis must face the demons of their past and form an uneasy alliance with a newly turned werelion, an eccentric scientist, and an ancient grizzly. [Lions and scientists and bears--oh my!] But Nassanner won’t give up without a fight. He can take the form of a forty-foot snake, his venom will kill a shapeshifter in seconds and his devoted followers will stop at nothing protect him. [Fortunately, the shapeshifter can take the form of a forty-foot mongoose.] In the final confrontation, Alexis must find the strength inside to save herself and those she’s grown to love. [She's grown to love the cowardly werelion the most.]

THE PRIDE is full of action, suspense and a hint of romance. Although this is my first novel, my short stories have appeared in Review and Herald’s Insight Magazine (student contest winner) Horizon, Hope for Women, Angels on Earth, Aoife’s Kiss, Beyond Centauri and Peridot Books. I have enclosed the first five pages for review. For more information about Alexis, Gideon and THE PRIDE, or to read the complete manuscript, please contact me using the information provided below.

Sincerely,


Notes

It doesn't have enough cohesion. It sounds listy; it needs to pause and elaborate on something. Maybe it would help to explain what you mean by "her own connection to the Lion People," "willing sacrifices," "the demons of their past."

I'd leave out the werelion, eccentric scientist and ancient grizzly. It'll sound less wacko without them.

Why is Alexis's life in danger if she's escaped? Is she going back for revenge? Is she being chased?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Face-Lift 231


Guess the Plot

Painted Wings

1. Tired of clipping the wings of the Tower of London's ravens, gamekeeper Nigel St. John decides to try weighing the birds down with layers and layers of oil-based lacquer.

2. Icarus discovers that it wasn't such a great idea after all, to go with the less expensive--but highly flammable--paint.

3. In this latest book in the series, plucky spinster Amelia Pettipants leaves her charming village, Boring-on-End, and travels to Paris on the Dan Brown ABC Art Tour. But a devil with spray paint has been at work, vandalizing the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Can Amelia find the culprit before the albino dwarf tour guide herds them to the next desecration?

4. "Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys," as the song goes. So Sarah leaves home for a better life in New York. Better, that is, until her mother shows up and starts whining about losing out on her dream of becoming an actress.

5. Trevor Mann wants to create a tourist-attracting mural on the tallest building in Rosston. Unfortunately, that building belongs to Delilah Hobsworth, who was abandoned at the altar by a roguish painter, and has refused to allow art anywhere near her since. Can Trevor soften her papier-mache heart, or will Delilah pour latex all over Trevor's dreams?

6. Batman gets lonesome and decides to start dating. But how can he and Miss Ginger focus on getting to know each other when people recognize him everywhere he goes? There's only one way -- a disguise: Pink Painted Wings.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I have written a women’s fiction novel that I hope you will be interested in representing.

Painted Wings explores the relationship between Sarah Richards and her mother Margaret who have communicated mostly long-distance for years, but spend a week together following the birth of Sarah’s first child. Told through the alternating viewpoints of the women, the novel presents the mother-child bond from both perspectives in addition to telling the individual stories of the women: what they had hoped for in life versus what they got.

Sarah has always felt successful for having escaped the stifling confines of blue-collar Munston, Massachusetts for a better life in sophisticated New York with her husband Jack. [They live in New York and Massachusetts, and never see each other? You can walk that far. Assuming we're talking Hudson to Pittsboro; Buffalo to Boston, you'd better book a flight.] But, in the jarring transition from “me” to “mommy”, and stripped of the familiar routines of the job she reluctantly abandoned, Sarah struggles to relate to her husband and redefine herself.

Watching her daughter become a mother stirs memories for Margaret of her own days with newborn Sarah and the many years since that have somehow passed like pages of a magazine - carelessly leafed through and discarded. [Leafed through and discarded isn't that bad, compared to the condition of my Penthouse when I'm done with it.] Nearing retirement age, she continues to work her assembly-line job with no end in sight, having become neither the full-time mother she’d expected to be, nor the actress she’d secretly dreamed of becoming.

When Margaret comes for a week-long visit to help with the baby, the women find themselves re-evaluating the choices they’ve made in life. Through memories and increasingly as the week progresses, in conversation with each other, Margaret and Sarah face the emotional gulf that has grown between them ultimately recognizing the parallels in their lives, beginning a new stage in their relationship and finding their own paths to fulfillment. [That sentence is the worst offender, but many sentences here are too long and unwieldy. Shortening a few, or adding a couple short ones would provide variety.] [In math, parallel lines have no point in common. Yet here, "parallels" means things in common. Go figure.]

Painted Wings - one of the childhood treasures left behind in a song Sarah’s long-absent father used to sing her before bed ["Puff, the Magic Dragon", presumably.] -- is more than a “mommy lit” book about finding happiness in changing diapers. [No need to explain that it's not about finding happiness changing diapers when you've given no indication that it's about that.] The novel will resonate with those who have faced the challenges of managing an infant, raising a child, and finally, letting go. However, the focus on Sarah’s adult relationship with her parent and theme of pursuing a dream before it’s too late should allow the story to reach a broader reader base. [So, the truth comes out. You're Sarah, and you're pursuing your dream of being a writer before it's too late.]

This 87,300 word novel draws on my own experiences as a mother, wife and daughter. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Revised Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I have written a women’s fiction novel that I hope you will be interested in representing.

Sarah Richards has escaped the stifling confines of blue-collar Munston, Massachusetts, for a better life in sophisticated New York City with her husband Jack. But when her first child is born, the jarring transition from “me” to “mommy" leaves her struggling to relate to her husband and to redefine herself.

Watching her daughter Sarah become a mother, Margaret recalls her own days with newborn Sarah and the years that have passed her by, like pages of a magazine carelessly leafed through and discarded. Nearing retirement age, she continues to work her assembly-line job, having become neither the full-time mother she’d expected to be, nor the actress she’d secretly dreamed of being.

When Margaret comes for a week-long visit to help with the baby, the women find themselves re-evaluating the choices they’ve made in life. Through memories and conversation, Margaret and Sarah face the emotional gulf that has grown between them, ultimately recognizing the parallels in their lives. They begin a new stage in their relationship and find new paths to fulfillment.

Painted Wings presents the mother-child bond from both sides, while also telling the individual stories of the women: what they hoped for in life versus what they got. This 87,300 word novel draws on my own experiences as a mother, wife and daughter, and should resonate with anyone who has faced the challenges of raising a child.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

The introductory paragraph was okay; I removed it because the information was available later on, and the query was a bit long.

I assumed NYC because I couldn't picture Sarah being thrilled to escape blue-collar Munston for the sophistication of Rochester.

Everyone has a "What might have been" story. If there's something that makes this one special, tell us. Surely it's more than Sarah has a baby, her mother visits, and they have a 75,000-word conversation. Tell us something that happens.

New Beginning 158


The diary was another secret she kept. I discovered Mom's notebook in the kitchen hutch, hidden behind some old recipe folders. Without opening it, I knew what it was. The urge to know what she'd written about me itched like a scab.

“Don't do it,” said my inner Angel. “Even if she never finds out, reading someone’s diary is just plain wrong. Stealing a person’s privacy is as bad as stealing something tangible. Worse. You can never give it back.”

“Baloney,” said my inner Devil, adjusting her fishnet tights. “Given that she never shares anything with you and doesn't appreciate you, think of it as reconnaissance. In fact, it’s arguably self-defense, like viewing an eclipse through a hole in a box. Staring directly at the sun can blind you. Anyway, you're not going to use anything you read against her, so what could it hurt?”

"Forget the diary, let's eat all the cookies," said my inner child, digging in her nose with her finger.

"Screw her freakin' privacy, my inner New Yorker said, "Read whatever you damn well want."

"Leave her alone," said my inner unhinged loner. "We have bigger problems right now. Did you get the fertilizer?"

"It's out back," said my inner insurance adjuster. "But what are we going to do about the diary?"

By the time my inner Chihuahua weighed in, I was so confused I almost forgot what they were arguing about. I flipped open the notebook and turned pages until I hit--no pun intended--the mother lode.

She still doesn't know they are all real, it read. She thinks they are inner voices. It hasn't dawned on her that the tiny nanoprobes I inserted in her ears really do give me constant input into her decisions . . . Just wait until she starts hearing her inner Editor.


Opening: Amourpays.....Continuation: Daisy, Gutterball, Kate Thornton

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Q & A 91 Q & A Collection?

hi there, mr. evil.
i say, it sure would be nice to have all the Q&As in one place. those are the best.
good day.

Actually, having nine more ISBN numbers at my disposal, I was thinking the same thing, namely a book that would include most of the Q & A's plus some of the funnier query letter comments. The Best of Evil Editor, so to speak.

Or maybe I should query some agents who handle books for aspiring writers. I wonder if books for aspiring writers ever sell enough to interest an agent. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

New Beginning 157


Etta Pearson sits crossed legged in the middle of her grandmother’s old Harvest table. Her great bulking figure sits in repose. Her eyes are closed, elbows resting on solid slabs of legs, her palms cupped upwards towards the ceiling.

In front of her lies a calendar on which various dates are circled with a bright red marker. The circles represent the dates on which her husband, Jeffery, lost what little temper he had and beat her. She has circled, sighed, dated and initialed the calendar after each beating. Someone had told her long ago that that this would stand up in court as a legal document. Beside her lays a serrated knife, blood smearing the shiny sharp blade. The corn colored house dress she is wearing is drenched in his blood.

The woman sits unconcerned about the dead man who lays sprawled out on the clean white linoleum floor beside the table. Having cleaned the floor just before he came home from work, the blood distresses her but just a little. It will take many hours of scrubbing to rid the floor of so much sticky red blood.

Etta hears the sirens in the distance, drawing near with swift urgency. She knows they are coming for her and she is ready.

The doorbell rings.

"Come in," Etta says. "We're in the kitchen."

The paramedics are first. "Jeeze Louise, Etta," one of them says, "you really cut this sumbitch up but good. Help me get the pieces on the gurney, Hal."

The cops are next. "Whew, that's one dead wife-beater," Detective Joe Grit says.

"Yep," the other detective agrees. "Been waitin' for this one to happen."

Etta takes one last look around. She climbs down off the table and goes out to sit in the police car. It was easier than she thought to lose 180 pounds of loathsome fat.


Opening: Melissa J. Rees....Continuaton: Kate Thornton

Face-Lift 230


Guess the Plot

Dire Wolf

1. His grandfather gave him his name as a child, but little Dire Wolf wants to grow up to be someone important. One day he will be Wolf Who Runs Big Casino, the man to lift his tribe out of poverty.

2. The mercenary known as Dire Wolf has never met a situation he couldn't fight his way out of. Until, that is, he meets a mysterious woman and finds himself forced to try and get seventeen contraband refrigerators into Budapest.

3. Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch, terrorizes the Strathspey region of Scotland in the 14th Century in this fact-based work of historical fiction.

4. A youthful shaman contends with monstrous carnivores, manipulative spirits, and a clan of big-game hunters mentored by a witch, in this true-to-life tale of America's first inhabitants.

5. In this collection of short stories, Cliffnote Brown discovers that his uncle Dire Wolf is a werewolf, a werewolf destined to battle Bob the Life Sucking Demon III for dominance over the known universe.

6. Just when glamorous international super spy Jane Bond thinks she can finally relax in the hot springs of Iceland with her crew of Viking henchmen, her undercover gig as a glamorous swimsuit model is wrecked by a demented volcanologist who threatens to blow the island sky high. Jane knows only she and a silent assassin known to the world as Dire Wolf can save Iceland.


Original Version

Dear Agent:

My commercial novel, DIRE WOLF, a historical mystery, might appeal to you.

Hamstrung by self-doubt, yet bent on vengeance and rescue, a youthful shaman contends with monstrous carnivores, [Dire wolves.] human duplicity and manipulative spirits as he sets out across an Ice Age wilderness to discover who murdered his extended family and abducted his sister.

Matters become complicated when an unscrupulous band of big-game-hunting traders extend suspect overtures of friendship after ¡happening¢ upon him. Alas, one of them betrays him, and soon thereafter, attempts against his own life begin. With help, he foils and unmasks the culprit, unwinding a thread that leads to another clan of big-game hunters, mentored by a witch and led by a man who had beheaded his own father. But when, out of gratitude for a healing, a former adversary sacrifices his life helping the protagonist rescue his sister from their grasp, he uncovers a web of conspiracy involving even his own kinsmen. And skulking behind all that¢s happened to him are the Spirit-Masters of the Animal Nations, whose desperate scheme to ensure their own survival hinges upon him. For if the great beasts vanish from the earth, they, too, will cease to exist. [I know you preceded all that by saying "Matters become complicated," but if you really want to prepare us, try "Matters become indecipherably convoluted . . . "]

[Characters mentioned in that paragraph ( with estimate of how many there are): Band of traders (8), shaman (1), clan of hunters (12), witch (1), leader of hunters (1), leader's beheaded father (1), former adversary (1), shaman's sister (1), shaman's kinsmen (10), Spirit-Masters (25). Total: 61 characters in six sentences.]

At approximately 135,000-words, Dire Wolf is book one of a trilogy. [Three books, at 135,000 words each, starring a cave man looking for his sister on an ice floe?] Researching the setting proved inspirational, for I¢m fascinated by the intrepid souls who first peopled the Americas. Flavored by its supernatural undercurrent and buttressed by a setting based firmly on cutting-edge scientific theory as well as fact, this Ice Age mystery will appeal to a wide audience. [A 400,000-word Ice Age mystery trilogy will appeal to a wide audience? Based on what?]

May I send you samples, a synopsis or my completed manuscript?


Notes

His extended family were murdered, but his kinsmen conspire against him. I would have thought his kinsmen were his extended family.

It sounds nuts, because you're moving too fast through too many plot points. Figure out the main story, which is something like, a guy's family is killed and his sister abducted. He searches through tundras and glaciers over a span of three 135,000-word books until he finally finds her. Turns out she left willingly with hunky Attila the Eskimo, and refuses to go back to her boring life with her over-protective brother, who's now 75 years old, and has lost both his feet to frostbite.

Despite your changing the book's title, it was easily recognizable as the same book submitted as Face-lift 172. I have to say that the third paragraph of that query provides a clearer description of the plot than this query does.

I still don't see why you don't tell us the main character's name. Is it Dire Wolf? Is it a secret? It's much easier to write a clear query if your characters have names. Surely he's not referred to as The Protagonist throughout the books.

New Beginning 156


I hate sweating when I'm not doing anything strenuous. Which I'm not; sitting here in Los Angeles stop and go traffic on a thin aired smoggy hot day in the dawg daze of August.

Why do they call it 'Rush Hour', when no one on this damned freeway is 'rushing' anywhere?

I'm wondering what I'm doing here, so far away from my stomping grounds around Branson AZ. I like my life back home! Where I'm just Margo; the Animal Behaviorist. The uncomplicated Almosta Pet Detective, Doctor to the Fixable, Euthanasiast to the Unsalvagable, The BoonieBunnyBroad. I seem to be a fairly long ways from home.

Stop, Go, stop go, I not only hear the squeals but smell hot brake linings with every slowdown and I'm watching the temperature gauge in my old Ford climb steadily. Eyeballing the same cars and trucks and SUV's race past me on the left, only to be passed by my rig on their right.

I'm busy not looking directly at a single one, watching them all closely. I've heard the stories. I've lived Road Rage from either viewpoint. I grew up in this traffic, and thought I'd left it in my past.

The gap in front of me opens up. Picking up speed feels good for a moment, but then, brake lights. The edge of my Birkenstock gets stuck as I lift off the gas. My truck crunches into the car in front, sending a box of Animals are People Too bumper stickers skittering onto the floor. Dammit.

I jump out, defensive, knowing it was my fault. A tall, well-toned man climbs out of the other car. He’s wearing a khaki safari suit, cool as a cucumber. He checks out the damage. “Jesus," he says, "why am I here, so far away from my hunting grounds around Limpopo, SA? Where I'm just Corgo: the Big Game Hunter. The introspective Wildlife Tracker, Master of the Savanna. Slayer of the Uneatable. The AfricanAnimalAnnihilator.”

The people in the stalled traffic all around us, each with his own back-story, just stare ahead, not wanting to get involved. They know, as Gary Larson would say, that trouble is brewing.


Opening: Maggie Pistel Baker....Continuation: ril

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Face-Lift 229


Guess the Plot

FireHouse

1. When Joe discovers that the lead singer in his band "FireHouse" has given up smoking and drinking to become a wrestler, he realizes his dream of fame and fortune depends on talking some sense into the misguided fellow.

2. The boys at Firehouse 12 stage a strip show to raise money for a new truck. When the fire alarm goes off during the full monty finale, the girls at the burning tri-delta sorority get a pleasant surprise.

3. It's been 9 years since one-armed albino meth-addict Josh saw his dad who with one hand ran a cactus nursery in the heart of New Orleans and with the other hand beat Josh and his mother every afternoon over tea. Now, Josh is bringing a gasoline can to the reunion.

4. When right-wing petroleum tycoons from the Amazon threaten to incinerate all of New Jersey with their "Firehouse" bio weapon, only fashion designer Alara Bouzenbottom stands in their way.

5. Hunky firefighters seemed like a great reality TV show idea--until the pent-up man-passion became hotter than the blazes they fought.

6. 14 year old Katie is the good-natured joke of the DC fire department--until she single-handedly carries the president out of the burning White House on her back.


Original Version

Dear E. Editor,

Zach Bowie has been singing and playing bass with a local garage band for years. [Though he has ten times the talent of his brother David, he doesn't care about the fame and money.] He does it because he loves everything about it. Last winter, though, he got a taste of something he thinks he might like just as much. [Skydiving? Filmmaking? Writing a novel?] When the 152-pounder on the high school wrestling team was injured, Zach filled in and won ten matches. [Wrestling? Who's gonna buy this?] If only he had trained more and partied less, how many more could he have won? Now he's secretly training hard with the intention of finding out. By summer he’s mastered the art of pretending to smoke and drink, [Why? Will his bandmates throw him out of the band if he doesn't smoke and drink?] while at the same time strengthening his body for another season on the mat. Like the Bill Clinton, he doesn’t inhale. [Huh? Falls flat. Delete.]

One obstacle in Zach’s pursuit of his other obsession is the pretentious lead guitarist in the band, Joe Fauquier. With his carefully cultivated rock and roll look and obvious talent, Fauquier still thinks he's going to make it big. [Not with that name, he won't. I suggest he change it to Pork-Sword Fauquier.] He's sure that Zach, with his distinct voice and stage presence, is his ticket to stardom and a record contract. When he sees Zach diverting too much time to wrestling he reacts badly.

[The obvious compromise: limit their musical repertoire to songs about wrestling (a better idea than singing while wrestling).

"Get in the Ring"... Guns N' Roses
"Wrestle a Live Nude Girl"... Michael Franks
"Pin"... Leroy Hanghofer
"Get a Hold"... Loggins & Messina
"Headlock On My Heart"... The Fleshtones
"Half Nelson"... Charlie Parker
"Full Nelson"... Miles Davis
"Takedown"... Pissing Razors
"Body Slam!"... Bootsy Collins
"The Self-Proclaimed World's Greatest Tag-Team"... K-Otix
"All Fake"... John Ford]


There is resentment in the wrestling room over Zach's plans, too. Many of the jocks on the team resent the presence of a "pot-smoking burnout", even if he does appear to have reformed. On top of these problems, Zach has a girl in both [each] of his worlds that [who] thinks he’s looking in their [her] eyes when he’s singing. [If he's in high school, I can tell you where he's looking; somewhat lower than their eyes.]

"FireHouse", a novel for young adults, contains about 70,000 words. Please let me know if you'd be interested in seeing any more of it.

Thanks,


Notes

I realize we're not talking pro sports, but it still seems unlikely a kid could take up wrestling mid-season and be better than so many kids who've been training all along. It's not like playing the bass builds body strength.

If FireHouse is the name of the band (I guessed for Guess the Plot), it would take only a word or two in the first sentence to say so. I assume they chose "FireHouse" because "Pissing Razors" was already taken.

Q & A 90 Should I work on my book without getting paid?


What is your feeling on requests for a writer to revise a novel multiple times before a contract? How often do you see these revision efforts pay off and end up with a contract at the house where the revisions were requested?

I have no stats on how often the work pays off with a sale, but this request isn't uncommon. It's more uncommon than a form rejection, however, so feel good about it. Once you've gotten enough form rejections, you'll consider revising anyway, so at least this publisher has pointed out a possible direction for those revisions. Which is not to say, do anything they ask. The following scorecard should help with your decision:

Are the requested revisions destroying your vision of the book?

Yes: 0 points
No: 20 points

Is this your dream publisher, one with whom you desperately want to get your foot in the door?

Yes: 20 points
No: 0 points

If you revise again and they reject, which version will you send to the next publisher?

The revised: 20 points
The old: 0 points

How much time and effort is involved?

Months of drudgery: 0 points
Hours doing what I love: 10 points

Do you have a more promising project you'd rather be working on?

Yes: 0 points
No: 10 points

Was the request made by a lieutenant or a general? (If the former, it'll still have to get past the latter.)

Lieutenant: 5 points
General: 10 points

How many more times are you willing to revise the novel for them, without blowing up their corporate headquarters if they ultimately reject it?

0: 0 points
1: 5 points
2: 10 points


Now add the total number of points for your answers.

30 - 100: Someone's interested in your book. Revise.
0-25: You're clearly fed up with these people, and are waiting for EE to give you permission to dump them. Permission granted. Now send it to someone else and get to work on your next book.

Success Story?

Dear EE:

Thanks very much for critiquing my query letter
a couple of weeks ago. I revised it, in line with your suggestions, and sent it to several agents. I’ve received requests for two partials so far. I appreciate the time you take to help writers.

Every time I receive a comment like this the minions ask to see the revised version. Since you were kind enough to include it, I've posted it in the comments of Face-Lift 226 .

Monday, November 13, 2006

Face-Lift 228


Guess the Plot

Gasparilla's Gold

1. At least, that's what ad exec Morton Flume's Clio-winning commercial says. But Gasparilla, the hip new soft drink, really does contain gold, and for silver-throated soprano Bubbles Silverman that spells trouble.

2. Nosy spinster detective Amelia Pettipants, on a cooking vacation in Spain, discovers it isn't all flamenco and flan. Rummaging through the pantry looking for boullion de pollo, she finds a Basque separatist's cache of bullion instead. And tomorrow they are making iced bombe!

3. After his fiancée dies, tee shirt salesman Jack Darby decides to simplify his life. And what better way than to go off in search of the pirate treasure known as . . . Gasparilla's Gold.

4. One Sunday morning, Bert Dweeble looked out his window. What he saw was a hairy man, chain smoking Marlboros. Now Bert feels compelled to lean the strange story of the man they call Gasparilla.

5. Gaston Gasparilla masquerades as a high-priced rent boy in the evenings, but few know of his real daytime identity, Herbert Gold, securities exchange trader. Few, that is, until the blackmail notes arrive.

6. A new strain of apple takes the market by storm. Nutritionists hail the fruit that people can't get enough of--until it's discovered that Gasparilla's Gold is more addictive than heroin.


Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil,

Gasparilla’s Gold is a mystery written for an adult audience, and is complete with a word count of 105,000.

Small-time entrepreneur Jack Darby is trying to let go of his past and rebuild his life, keeping the complications to a minimum. The death of his fiancé [Presumably you mean "fiancée," though I'd better not rush to judgment.] and his resulting battle with alcohol have left him with a desire for simplicity, and for now he is content to operate his tee shirt business and enjoy the slow lane in Neptune Beach, Florida. [His best-selling shirt: My uncle rebuilt his life, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.] Life gets tricky when he encounters Lou De Silva, a mysterious drifter on a quest for ancient pirate treasure buried near the coast of northeast Florida. After saving Lou from a deadly assault [What deadly assault?] Jack is drawn to his adventure, [Drawn to his pirate treasure adventure? I don't think so. A more likely scenario:

Lou: My God, those guys were trying to kill me! If you hadn't come along, pulled me out of the line of fire, shot out their tires and driven me to safety, I'd be dead meat.

Jack: No problem.

Lou: Hey, I know what we can do . . . you wanna go search for pirate treasure?

Jack (slowly backing away): Umm, I . . . think I'll pass.]

and they set out with only a family myth, a peculiar painting, [The Last Supper, by Da Vinci. If you look closely at the painting, you'll see the tablecloth is actually a map of Florida, the item toward which Jesus is gesturing represents Key Largo, and the apostle to Jesus's left is actually the Dread Pirate Roberts.] and a cryptic poem

[An old pirate named Gasparilla,
Stole some gold from a bank in Manila.
He hid it in Florida
Near the I-95 corridor,
In the crypt of a wench named Priscilla.]

to serve as clues in their pursuit of the gold. [Wait a minute, they have a myth, a Limerick, and The Last Supper, and they have to search northern Florida? I can't find my remote control, even when I haven't moved from the couch since the last time I used it. They have no chance.]

Lou De Silva isn’t the only interesting development in Jack’s life. Samantha Dubois has captured his attention, but even as his interest is growing, a part of him still clings to the remnants of his tragedy. He knows he must allow his past to fall away and permit his heart to heal, and he struggles to move forward.

Graham Kilpatrick – a ruthless drug dealer who attempts to eliminate Lou for being a witness to murder – learns of their hunt for the hoary plunder and plans a heist that will provide him with the means for an early retirement, and leave Jack and Lou in a watery grave. When he abducts Samantha to use as leverage, Jack must find the treasure they are to have any hope of survival. [Assault, murder, drugs, kidnaping, etc. Out of curiosity, what was Jack's life like before he decided to keep the complications to a minimum?] As Jack unlocks the riddles and follows the clues to the gold, he discovers that he and Lou share a destiny wove together by tragic threads from the past that bind them to their demons here and now. [Technically, the threads are the destiny, woven together by a tragic loom from the past.] Intrigue, deception, and revenge interlace as the [loom of death goes on a killing spree and the] search for the treasure becomes a quest for redemption and closure. [How is this plot any different from Sleepless in Seattle?]

I’ll be pleased to send a partial or the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your consideration.

Regards,


Notes

So the mystery is . . . where's the pirate treasure? Is there a murder with a bunch of suspects? If not, you might describe it as a thriller rather than a mystery. There's mystery in most fiction, but to appeal to mystery fans, you usually need a character who solves a murder case.

Rarely does anyone drop everything to search for pirate treasure just because some stranger suggests it. What makes Jack think this is a good decision?

Evil Editor's Vacation Disaster 18


Ms. Gloria Goodtrip,
Midnowhere Vacations Inc.
101 West Strip Mall,
Big City, USA 12345

Dear Ms. Goodtrip,

With reference to our recent phone conversation regarding the "Forget Your Troubles" luxury Southern California vacation package that you sold me, I am writing to inform you that this matter is now in the hands of Sixty Minutes, the Better Business Bureau, my legal specialist, and Oprah.

I would also like to herewith retract my previous professional advice to you, and suggest that you do give up the day job. I now realize that your imaginative talents are more suited to elaborate epic fantasy than to the travel industry.

I will be vigorously pursuing my claim for a full refund of the package costs, together with all medical expenses and psychiatric recovery programs. Be assured that next year I shall be settling for a quiet week at home with the cats. Also, a dragon.

Yours Faithfully,

Evil Editor


--Anonymous

Evil Editor's Vacation Disaster 17

So, my plane gets in (sans luggage, which apparently is somewhere in the corn belt), I pick up my car (which I had to leave in hourly parking because I was running so late, and which has now run up a bill of $1940.00), and head for home. After fighting the California freeway traffic for a week, I find drivers are just as competitive at home. I don't consider myself competitive behind the wheel. True, one of my psychiatrists claims I have a Type Double A personality, which means I constantly rant, scream and curse at other vehicles, even when I’m riding the city bus, but that’s not being competitive--that’s normal human nature.

So I'm tooling along on I-95 doing 65, when suddenly I find myself behind some guy who's doing 64. Which would be no big deal, except that I sense he's doing this solely to irritate me. And the most annoying part is the way he keeps looking straight ahead as he drives, as if he doesn’t even know I'm alive. A tense hatred wells up within my being, a hatred that can be extinguished only if I manage to get past this Nazi Satan-worshiper before I reach my exit. So I pull into the passing lane and up my speed to 70. And surprise! So does he. His speed had been so steady he must have been using cruise control, but now suddenly he's Richard Petty.

I hit the gas. Eighty. Eighty-five. He's still holding me off! One minute he’s a full mile-an-hour below the limit; the next minute he’s Leadfoot, ready to duel to the death. No way am I going to give him the satisfaction of pulling back behind him in order to make my exit, not when I can get off the Interstate further on and then double back. So I floor the accelerator. Ninety. Ninety-five. One hundred. I can’t get a lead on the guy. In my younger days I would have simply side-swiped him and run him off the road, but I have more self control now, self control gained through a slow mellowing process, and through paying $80,000 a year in insurance premiums.

Just when I'm thinking I might have to drive all the way to Maryland to get around this clown, I get the break I need. Up ahead of me, in my lane, is a tractor trailer doing about 115. At first I think he's going to slow me down, but then we hit a downgrade and the truck starts doing 150. I draft him for a few seconds, and then do one of those stock car slingshot maneuvers around him on the shoulder, and when I come back onto the Interstate I have a 1-car-length lead on Leadfoot. I quickly veer in front of him just in time to swerve off the highway three exits too late, and I have to slam on my brakes to slow down in time, even though the exit ramp is a half mile long.

Back on the highway, Leadfoot drops down to 64 again.

Life is filled with these brief episodes, and if we can only learn from them when they come up, we’ll all be better off. One thing I’ve learned, of course, is this: I gotta get a faster car!


--EE

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Evil Editor's Vacation Disaster 16

Evil Editor strode through the sliding doors of Wal-Mart with the last toiletries he needed for the flight home from his vacation in Southern California. He had chosen carefully, making sure there were no sharp instruments or vessels containing more than one ounce of liquid.

I'll wait till I hit Kennedy before I buy Miss Snark her magnum of Tanqueray, he thought. After all, she won't care where it comes from.

He swung open the driver door of his rental Hyundai, and a burst of Santa Ana wind unexpectedly took hold. The door escaped from his grip and slammed against a glossy black Humvee next to him. He sheepishly glanced around. Good. Nobody noticed. He slipped into the Hyundai and made for the airport post haste.

He thought he saw a black Hummer in his rearview mirror. Nah. Everybody in LA has a Hummer. It can't possibly be the same one.

As he dropped off the rental, he noticed another black Hummer pull into the parking lot. Now nervous, he bolted into the airport and practically threw his carry-on bag at the attendant.

Finally, he settled into his window seat and accepted a plastic tumbler of bubbly from the Steward. With a sigh, he flipped up the window blind to watch the takeoff.

A woman's scream assaulted his ears. It took a second to realize that it was his own.

Filling the tiny window was Arnold Schwartzenegger's angry, purple face. Evil Editor faintly heard the words, "You scratched my Hummer!"

The plane picked up speed. Arnold's expression morphed from livid anger to panic. Seconds later, his face disappeared. "I'll be back!" His voice trailed into the wind.

Evil Editor smiled and slipped his headphones over his ears.


--Chumplet