Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Beginning 271

He shrugged as a bear would, to remember this day and not the other. From where the truck was parked, in the cold, sharp October light of a New Mexico noon, he could see the ranchito below. The old house squatted tan and grey below two pines, and a double wide sat perpendicular to the old house, to the East. There were six cars, two of them in an arroyo to the West of the house.

He could safely assume that two of the cars in front of the houses ran, at least most of the time, and that two were in a twilight where their owners wished them to run but seldom were satisfied in their desire. At the gate itself, there was a new pickup parked, 50 yards from the house. Dave hoped that it didn't belong to the Martinezes, or his old friends might be suffering more money troubles than usual....


He heads west toward the arroyo. There are two cars there: a red Mustang, and a rusty Cavalier.

>start car

Which car would you like Dave to start?


He gets in the Mustang, finds the keys under the seat, and attempts to start the car. The car rattles and is silencio.


He shrugs like a bear would.

>start cavalier

He gets in the Cavalier, finds the keys on top of the dash, and attempts to start the car. He hears a clicking noise as the engine turns. It is the last thing he ever hears as the car explodes into rusty scrap, tearing him apart.

Would you like to try again?

Opening: Scott Jones.....Continuation: 150

Face-Lift 326

Guess the Plot

The Magic Gameboard

1. After his parents die horribly, little Jimmy Carlson uses his expertise at Clue to solve the crime. It was the maid with the knife in the parlor. Jimmy won't feel safe until she goes directly to jail without passing Go.

2. A Monopoly board. Paper money. Loaded dice. When John challenged his big brother to a game, he didn't know what real bankruptcy meant. Now his family is destitute, and Sorry won't cut it. Maybe a game of Easy Money can save them.

3. Tommy thinks his birthday present, a holographic gameboard with over 150 games, is pretty lame. Then his real estate agent father wins at Monopoly and has a record month, and his overweight mother successfully removes the bread basket during a game of Operation and loses thirty pounds. But chaos ensues when Tommy tries to persuade prom queen Cindy Givens to join him in a game of Twister, and she instead opts for Hungry Hungry Hippos.

4. When Steve and Andy, ten-year-old friends, find a Checkerboard in an abandoned house, they Risk reading the rhyme on the back. The board magically whisks them to 16th-century Belgium. Boggles their minds.

5. Calvin's latest role-playing game turns him from a nerd to a handsome warrior prince who has exciting battles and tavern brawls and beautiful women at his beck and call. Naturally he wants to disappear into his game board forever. Can his nerdy friends convince him his real Life is worth living?

6. When the Greenbriar twins buy the cracked, old gameboard from the flea market, they expect a jolly time. Instead, they are sucked into a world where they are Chess pieces . . . and survival is not guaranteed.

Dear Evil Editor,

It is with great fear and trepidation that I ask for your query help after the last email I sent. But my need to know what works/doesn't work with my query outweighs that fear! Please help! I have 3 questions:
1) I'm writing middle-grade historical fiction, focusing on artists. I've completed one book, and have started another. Books about particular artists are a niche (for MG). Should I mention in the query that I'm writing stand-alone books about artists that take place in their time period? Or just focus on the one book that I have? [Mentioning it is fine, but you should still focus on the current book.]
2) My 'hook' did well in Miss Snark's crap-o-meter. But it's the first two paragraphs of my book (a kid writing his will). Should I include this 'hook' in the body of my letter, even when agents ask for pages with the query? [If the query letter is better with the hook, use it. However, the agent will see the hook when reading your pages, so if the query is okay without it, don't strive to work it in.]
3) Back in October at a conference, Michelle Poploff (Delacorte) asked for a full ms when I finished. I was told that I shouldn't say this in a query to an agent, and I think I read this somewhere. But I think it's a selling point. What should I do? [For starters, you should send a full ms to Michelle Poploff. If you already did, and she said Thanks, but no thanks, it's no longer a selling point, if it ever was. Wait a minute, that Michelle Poploff? She's a sweetie, but a real pushover. She'd ask for a full ms from her plumber. In fact, at a conference, anyone will ask for a full ms if they think it'll get rid of you.] Below is the query I'm working on now (without the hook from Miss Snark's crap-o-meter). I will copy the 'hook' below the query. Thanks so much!!

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I loved your biography on the Publisher's Marketplace. It has an energy and humor which compelled me to write to you. [Is this a query letter or a fan letter?] My middle-grade novel, The Magic Gameboard, takes best friends, Steve and Andy, to 1560 Belgium in search of Flemish artist Pieter Bruegel. [Allow me to suggest a more appropriate title: The Sadistic Gameboard from the Depths of Hell.]

Steve is a ten-year-old boy who enjoys writing stories, watching the History Channel, and riding horses. He's not very good at reading cursive or cleaning his room. Andy, Steve's best friend, collects tools, reads National Geographic magazines, is fascinated by Zambia, [A ten-year-old? If you want it to be believable, change Zambia to Zambonis.] and is very good at reading cursive and cleaning his room. Steve and Andy's friendship goes beyond Chalk-Walk, Slurp-N-Kick, and Fried Pumpkin Poops. [So far, this is a list of lists. How about elaborating on something?] Their bond stems from an alienation each one feels from his father. Steve's father is overly critical and emotionally distant. Andy's father is an alcoholic. [Amazing. That last list had only one item on it.]

The Magic Gameboard begins with Steve and Andy exploring the Kruger House - an old, abandoned house in the woods. There they find a checkerboard with a mysterious rhyme and carvings on the opposite side. Steve convinces Andy to follow the directions of the rhyme, and both friends are whisked back to the year 1560. [Those three sentences are the best part of the query. You're connecting ideas. Much more interesting than just listing ideas. And better writing. Agents do judge your writing ability when they read your letter.] During their adventure in Belgium, they encounter teenage bullies, kind-hearted peasants, bed-bugs, the plague, and eclectic artists. They learn how to mix paints and make gesso. Their bravery, friendship, ingenuity...and getting painted into Bruegel's masterpiece Children at Play, [Are you sure you don't mean Bruegel's masterpiece Children's Games? I can't find any reference to Children at Play. It's not gonna look good if your big climax is based on a painting that doesn't exist. Maybe it depends on who translates the title from Flemish, the language they speak in Phlegm. (It's a lot like Dutch, but at the end of each noun you make a hacking noise like you're coughing up a phlegmball.)] eventually brings them safely back home.

Michelle Poploff from Delacorte has requested a full ms. [But I'd much rather send it to you.]

I have a Master's degree in education, and am a member of SCBWI as well as Publisher's Marketplace. I belong to an online critique group, and avidly read Newbery books. I am learning about art, one [obscure] artist at a time.

I am currently working on Justin's Turn, which takes the main characters to 1425 Italy where they meet Renaissance artist Masaccio Giovanni. [My goal is to cover all the important artists no one's ever heard of.] Each middle grade novel stands alone.

I have copied below the first ten pages per your website instructions, and will be happy to send the full manuscript at your request.

Thank you for your time, and best wishes for your continued success.


I, Steven Morgan Carter, being able to read and write, would like to give my stuff away if I die. After what happened earlier, I had to be sure the right things would be done. Just in case.

My little brother, Justin, can have any of my toys he wants. Mom can have my clothes, school pictures, and story notebook. Dad can have my dictionaries. Andy, my best friend and the only one who understands Doorstep, can have him. And the red wagon we pull him around in. Pieter can have his checker board back, even though he’s been dead for five hundred years. I’ll tell you how to find him in a minute.


For those unfamiliar with obscure artists, Pieter Bruegel the Elder is considered the greatest of the 16th-century Flemish genre masters. Which is saying a lot, as this was the same time period in which Pieter Bruegel the Younger worked.

The hook is better than the query. I suggest opening with the hook followed by something like So begins the last will and testament of ten-year old Steve . . . And get rid of some of the lists. Anyone can list stuff.

So if it's Pieter's checkerboard they find, as the will claims, what are they going to find that whisks them to Giovanni? Masaccio's pasta strainer? Is there a different relic for each artist, or does Bruegel's checkerboard whisk you to any artist?

Dad would rather have Steve's baseball cards than his dictionaries.

Okay, minions, no need to send comments claiming anyone with any culture would be familiar with the works of Bruegel and Giovanni. I happen to know the author stole those names from a new pizza bagel chain.

Michelle Poploff requesting your manuscript is far less impressive than Miss Snark liking your hook. But don't brag about that either.

New Beginning 270

130...150...170...180 kilometres. Helen gripped the smooth leather steering wheel as the powerful car responded to the pressure of her extended toes. The speedometer needle edged close to the luminous red danger zone. Her stomach twitched with a sick thrill. Maybe if she drove faster she’d blow the engine. Or have an accident. Then he’d be sorry.

“Bastardo. Vacca Cane.” she muttered. It was far more satisfying to swear in Italian.

Helen Gill (neé Bertolini) eased off on the pedal and flexed her foot. The gleaming red Porsche slowed to 130. No point in melodrama. Her mother would provide enough of that. There was still an hour of driving to Papá. She’d better save the car for the divorce settlement.

Divorce. Peter’s early morning announcement stuck and repeated in her head like a cheap CD. Or a badly cooked lasagne, churning her stomach.

He’d pulled his top lip down over his teeth, checking his reflection in the bathroom mirror as he trimmed nose hairs. “We have to talk Helen. I’m in love with someone else,” Peter grimaced.

Helen stopped mid brush, her battery operated toothbrush hummed on like a doll’s miniature vibrator. “What? What are you . . . ?” Helen trailed off into silence as she watched Peter check his nostrils one last time. He smiled, happy with the results.

She'd had an insane urge to shove the toothbrush up one of those flaring nostrils, but resisted the idea. No, not the toothbrush. Papá has something much better.

With a grim smile, she urged the car faster, visualizing Papá's pneumatic drill invading Peter's nasal cavity until the 12-inch-long bit emerged from the back of his meticulously coiffed head. I'll help you get rid of those nose hairs, darling, she thought.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Chumplet

Saturday, April 28, 2007

First Kiss

Directly below are the missing lines I've whited out of the excerpts that appear further below. If you prefer, you may use your cursor to highlight the entire page and simply read the excerpts, each of which involves the first kiss between two characters. If you prefer to make a game of it, try to match each missing line with the excerpt it was taken from. To find out if you're right, highlight with your cursor. The word directly before the whited out area has been shaded red.

If you have constructive comments for any of the authors, be sure to identify which passage you're commenting on.

Missing Lines

a. It was a shock to feel my lips pried open and to sense an alien tongue rolling into my mouth.

b. His forked tongue entered my mouth; our hands explored each other's bodies, at once strange and yet familiar.

c. It was like the universe tilted and somewhere in there the time changed and our faces were in the same places they were before, inches apart, but something was different—something indefinable.

d. She had never wanted anything so much in her life.

e. He swung her against the wall, one hand cupping that lovely ass, pressing her against his crotch, moving rhythmically against her.

f. He smelled of cinnamon and sulphur, cigars and candlelight.

g. Here in the bowels of the world where flame roared and myths came to life he felt surprisingly safe -- and the boy in his arms surprisingly right.

h. Then he cupped her chin in his hand and kissed her.

i. It was the only rational explanation for the liplock that followed.

j. His lips met mine and I could tell he thought about fending me off; but then he changed his mind with a 'when in Rome' sort of noise.

k. Eventually, I stopped thinking of everything except the waves of throbbing heat crashing over my body.

l. He tipped his head forward and brushed his lips against hers before she realized his objective.


1. I was surprised to feel Ryan’s tongue touching my lips, but I parted my own lips in response and allowed his to explore my mouth.

My initial reaction was that this was totally disgusting, and to wonder why people would ever do it, but I soon realized why when the heat spread down between my legs and began to throb.

“Mmmhmmmm,” I moaned. When I realized that I’d made the sound not only aloud, but into Ryan’s mouth, I pulled back in embarrassment, opening my eyes to see if he’d noticed.

When he smiled, I relaxed and we moved toward one another for another kiss. Eventually, I stopped thinking of everything except the waves of throbbing heat crashing over my body. I’d never felt anything like this. It took several seconds for me to recognize the distant buzzing in my ears as voices.


2. On impulse, Jerel gathered the mage close. He tilted Tory's face to his, saw the question in Tory's eyes. Well, the mage had come here for answers, and now Jerel had one for him. He caught Tory's head between his hands, cradled it there, trapped it there. Life was far too vulnerable, he thought. A simple twist of his hands could crush the mage's neck. A mere whim on Tory's part and Jerel would burn to ash. Only one thing allowed them to cling so close. Trust.

Swift as a falcon on its prey, Jerel bent forward. Tory was ready for him, arms circling his shoulders, drawing him into a hard embrace. Lips touched, pressed, bruised, neither giving ground. Only parting slightly, then opening wide in surrender. Jerel plunged in first, his hard tongue swearing promises for the rest of him. Tory answered with promises of his own and a passion that more than compensated for inexperience.

Jerel abandoned himself to the exuberant exchange. Here in the bowels of the world where flame roared and myths came to life he felt surprisingly safe -- and the boy in his arms surprisingly right. He ground his mouth over Tory's, focusing all his desire in that interminable kiss. Desire that went on and on.

At last, reluctantly, Jerel slipped out, Tory's own tongue flicking over the tip as it retreated.

"Next time," Jerel promised. Away from the WorldFire. When all the world was sane again. When next they were alone. He would surrender everything.


3. "My father's ring. The bank took the tavern and everything else we owned, but I took this before they could. It's all I have left." He slid the ring back on his finger.

Tears ran down Marian's face as she thought of her mother, and a father she never knew. Is anything left? Will I go through life with less than a ring to show my heritage? She looked at Jex and knew that here, at least, was someone who understood. Throwing her arms around him, she buried her face in his shoulder. After a moment his arms came up to hold her and she felt his own tears wet her hair.

She didn't know how long they held each other, each taking comfort. He moved first, shifting to lean back and look at her. Marian flushed at his intense gaze. He tipped his head forward and brushed his lips against hers before she realized his objective.


4. When I noticed our hands were together I looked down slightly—looked down like you would to see if your shoes are untied or if your fly is unzipped, the kind of cautious, unsuspicious looking down that people notice—and when I looked back up her face was closer. The lighting was different, and I saw she had half-closed her eyes and tilted her head slightly. Her eyelashes were tiny solar flares pirouetting from two twin crescent-shaped suns that were her half-open eyes. Her cheeks looked soft in the new light, and I could feel her soft breathing against my own lips. She parted her lips slightly and all I was aware of was her breathing—her soft, warm breath like one of those tiny angels they fit onto the heads of pins beating its tiny wings against my lips…that was her breath, and it was the breath of an angel I thought.

I don't know if we kissed. It was like the universe tilted and somewhere in there the time changed and our faces were in the same places they were before, inches apart, but something was different—something indefinable.


5. "Ooooh, look who's under the mistletoe!"

The over-loud cry cut through the party chatter, and Jack glanced around the room in sympathy for the poor soul who'd just been brought to everyone's attention. It didn't take long to realize that everyone was looking at him. Paling, he glanced up and...yup...mistletoe.

"Damn." He rolled his eyes, then glared across the room at the loud-mouth. "Laura, you've had too much to drink. There's no one here but me."

Laura narrowed her eyes and crossed her arms. "And Garrett."

His old friend, who was indeed leaning in the same doorway, blinked. "I'm what?"

"You're under the mistletoe. You two have to kiss."

Both men sputtered, but the crowd--having imbibed entirely too much Christmas cheer--was wildly behind the idea. The "Kiss him!" chant echoed to the rafters.

Jack must have had too much cheer, too. It was the only rational explanation for the liplock that followed.


6. Julie faltered as she felt the heat of his body warm her cold skin. “You’re too close,” she said, stretching out a hand to feel for him and inwardly cursing the day she lost her sight. Her heart raced, arrhythmic beats threatening to put her into a faint.

“I can hear your heart beating,” Jasfoup said, his voice soft against her ear. “No matter how afraid you are of my proximity, you want the intimacy more than you can bear.”

Julie twisted until she could feel his hot breath against her face. He smelled of cinnamon and sulphur, cigars and candlelight. “I don’t want to become lost in you,” she said. “I have too much to lose to become one of your possessions, loved and discarded at a whim.”

“Never that,” Jasfoup said, the words blowing across her lips. “Never discarded.”

Julie dipped her head forward, her lips touching his.


7. "You have a crush on her, don't you?"

I wasn't trying to catch flies, so I shut my mouth. "What?"

"You know what I said, girl." The highlights on his dark skin outlined a smirk.

"She's my friend, stress friend, Agent Green."

That velvet chuckle of his threaded through the air.

Suddenly, this beat up old junker was far too small.

"You go by her room hoping you'll see her, don't you? Once a day? Twice?"

So they'd been spying on me, too. I glared at him. He grinned, the self-confident bastard.

"I don't have a crush on Gina."

"You like her," he repeated, teeth gleaming in the dark.

Suddenly all I could think of was shutting him up. The man was driving me crazy. And since I couldn't smack a federal agent, I grabbed his shirt and hauled him into range.

His lips met mine and I could tell he thought about fending me off; but then he changed his mind with a 'when in Rome' sort of noise.
His hand covered the back of my head and tangled in my hair.


8. She knelt in front of him, as was his due, but he thought he detected the flash of her eyes, stealing a glance. He repressed a smile and reached his hand out to her. Now she turned her face upwards and he felt his stomach tauten as her large brown eyes locked onto his. She was shockingly beautiful, exquisite. He'd expected to find her passably pretty but nothing like this. After an eternity, she put her small hand into his. He pulled her to him, almost roughly, until she was upright and standing. She didn't flinch nor look away, their faces so close that he could feel her breath.

"My lord," she whispered, as if they were alone. He reached out, put his finger on her chin, tilted her face up even higher. His eyes dropped to her lips and then back to her unflinching gaze. The sound of his aide clearing his throat was a harsh interruption.

"May I ..." The man paused, confused and embarrassed, and then spoke again. "May I present to you, your bride."

Tyrae smiled and moved his hands to her shoulders. "Enchanted," he said in a rough voice, and was pleased to see just a touch of pink rise to her pale cheeks. He leant forward, paused, and then kissed her formally, as a stranger. She stepped back and dipped her head, staring at the floor, but not before he saw her mouth twitch into a smile.


9. She pulled her fingers free from his, and clung to his body. She could hear the sweetness of the Deeper Power singing within him, and she wanted it. She had never wanted anything so much in her life.


Instead of grasping the lines like he had instructed, she buried herself in the sound of its sweetness, the chorus of all those lives, and the loudest one of all, she knew to be Mor-Lath himself. The chorus built until it overwhelmed her and she pressed her lips against his as if to indulge in more, for she wanted more. Mor-Lath stumbled back under the force of her passion until his back hit the wall, and then he slid down, her body still pressed closely to his. Adrastea shuddered as she pushed against him, trying to grasp one last taste of the sweetness of Power before it ebbed away.


10. The street was almost deserted. Another urge came over me. Why not?

“Kiss me!” I ordered, “Kiss me like a man who needs a woman.”

Rafe didn’t need further prodding. He pulled me by the shoulders towards his body and bowing his head covered my mouth with his own.

I had never been kissed before. It was a shock to feel my lips pried open and to sense an alien tongue rolling into my mouth. My uncle’s hand slipped from my shoulder to my bosom where it remained spread open over my left breast as if afraid to curl and hold the flesh. That hand, coupled with the kiss, was enough to open an entrance to a new world of delight and self-assurance. Finally, he let me go, both of us breathing hard, equal bewilderment shining in our eyes.

“Why did you ask me to do that?” he asked bemused.


11. The cemetery. What happened? And why did her head hurt?

When Whitney lifted her hand and ran her fingers across her forehead, everything came back. “Ouch.”

Someone tried to shoot her.

“You’ll survive, but you’ve got a pretty good bump.” Blake held her close on his lap, so close she felt his heartbeat thump against her arm. “Want me to kiss it better?”

He wouldn’t. The guy had to be joking. Besides, what was he doing here? She forced her eyes open.

He lowered his head.

He wouldn't, would he?

Rain dripped from the ends of his hair and splattered onto her face. His warm lips caressed her forehead, gentle, loving. He raised his head and looked into her eyes with an unruffled gaze that took her breath away. Breathe, damn it.

Then he cupped her chin in his hand and kissed her.


12. This was it. She was truly leaving. She didn't know if she'd ever be back again.

They walked down the pre-cleared VIP corridor. He had that custodial grip on her arm again.
She slowed, then stopped.

"I'm sorry if I've been a nuisance. I'll say good-bye now, and...," she paused and swallowed. She thought he'd be glad to be rid of her. Why did he have a look of contained anger?


It was the "John" that did it.

He set down her hand luggage carefully and reached for her, found her soft mouth and plunged into it. Heat. Desire. Need. Her body moulded to his like hot wax.

He swung her against the wall, one hand cupping that lovely ass, pressing her against his crotch, moving rhythmically against her. And she was letting him.

He thought he was going to explode.

A cough and a "Carry on," brought him to his senses.

Bloody hell.


13. I woke sprawled on my back. One arm stretched out and the other cupped under my head. A giant, reptilian head lay on my chest, snoring softly, our legs wrapped around each other's bodies and our hips pressed together. His horns tickled. His heart beat, reassured. Thick, scaly arms encircled my body. I imagined his green-gold scales on my body. Then reality intruded, too much to drink last night, too many alien drugs. What have I done? He woke.

"I waited many years to afford a pink-skinned earthling," he said, stirring. Rough scales scraped my skin.
"Your scales, they’re irresistible," I said letting him caress me. He pulled his lips to mine. His forked tongue entered my mouth; our hands explored each other's bodies, at once strange and yet familiar.

"All I remember of last night was that bar and those drinks."

"You signed a contract as my bride, Earthling."


Friday, April 27, 2007

Face-Lift 325

Guess the Plot

A Faerie Dream

1. Having mint-green sparkly wings, curly pink hair, and a snub nose just isn't doing it for little Maybelle. Can she convince her godmother to make her dearest dream come true--to look just like Elvira, Mistress of the Dark?

2. Last night, I dreamed we were all on a boat, crossing the river -- you, me, Joe, my car. . . wait, a faerie dream? Sorry, can't help you.

3. After 100 years, Aileen escapes the land of Faerie and realizes her dream to live as a mortal on the Orkney Islands. Also, intolerant Christians.

4. Being promoted to faerie 1st class, Brock makes a few demands: a bigger garden to live in, a spare set of wings, and a year's supply of Pixy Stix. Hey, a faerie can dream, can’t he?

5. Jack, a faerie, dreams of becoming a man. Daniel, a man, dreams of becoming a faerie. A wizard agrees to switch them, but there's a catch. Jack and Daniel now must duel to the death.

6. Enter the mortal world, steal the baby, replace it with a changeling, collect the crown. Simple. Ysevre Bloodfeather's success will ensure his marriage to the Princess, and his dream of ruling Faerie. But when he realizes the baby he's stolen is in fact another cunning changeling, Ysevre is plunged into a Faerie nightmare. Also, an enchanted iron mine.

Original Version

Lhiannan has discovered a dark secret: if mortals can't see her, she might stop existing. When a group of human children fail to spot her napping in the bracken, she realises the whole Sithein is at risk. [If she's asleep, how does she know they didn't spot her?] [Here's a picture of bracken. Do you really expect people to spot a fairy napping in that? I doubt I'd notice a rhinoceros napping in it.] Understanding why her Queen wants to flee still doesn't change her mind; [That clause would make more sense if you'd already established that the Queen wants to flee, and whatever it is Lhiannan doesn't change her mind about.] Lhiannan would rather fade away than forsake the Highlands. [If they leave the highlands, will mortals suddenly be able to see them?] Why won't Lhiannan leave and what does she have in common with a renegade scout and an evil island prince? Unravel the past to find out the future - or lack of it. [This sounds like back-of-the-book copy. Tell us why she won't leave, so we understand her conflict.]

Life in a small Scottish village can be confining for a young girl but Aileen soon learns that going away with the faeries is even worse. She's the only human within living memory to join them of her own free will but it takes her one hundred years to escape the Sithein - with a firm resolution to stick to the mortal realm. [If she's been gone 100 years, whose "living memory" are we talking about?] However, when she moves to the Orkney islands, it becomes clear she can't simply pretend that faeries don't exist. Aileen discovers the evil side of the "Good Folk" and learns the value of iron. But when a newborn is abandoned in the wild, she can't resist getting involved, especially as she suspects the dying fae is of royal heritage. Can she convince the prince to save his daughter? And if he does, will it mean the end of an already fading race? [We need a better connection between the last few sentences. They seem almost random. Who's this prince? Is the dying fae the newborn? What's she dying of? Is the prince mortal or fae? Why would saving his daughter mean the end of a race?]

A Faerie Dream is a historical fantasy set in the Scottish Highlands in the 17th and 18th century. The converging stories of different lives chronicles the legend of the fae leaving Scotland to escape the increasing intolerance of the Christian church.


What's the connection between Aileen and Lhiannan? The book won't feel unified without that information. This reads like queries for the first two books in a series (same setting, different main characters) complete with intriguing questions at the end of each query.

It also feels like a list of the highlights of the book. It might be more compelling if you concentrated on the main problem of each main character (or just one of them), and how their stories converge.

Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I found mention of intolerance of the Christian church a bit jarring. Presumably it's why the Queen wants to leave, but it feels like a heavier issue than I expect to deal with when I pick up a book called A Faerie Dream. It's like reading a Harry Potter book in which Muslim suicide bombers destroy Hogwarts. Just because it's in the book doesn't mean it has to be in the query.

Similarly, while I'm sure learning the value of iron is a crucial plot point, it sounds trivial unless you elaborate on it. I'd leave it out.

New Beginning 269

Father Vincent de Paul shivered in the cold vestibule of the Mayfair Mission cathedral building. All his instincts told him he shouldn’t be there. It was two in the morning. He swung his arms and tugged at his loose cloak to prevent any further loss of body heat. He crossed himself again as he looked up the dark Romanesque nave of the church to the high altar almost thirty meters away. God forgive me, he mumbled. But it had to be done. Concentrate, he told himself.

A sound made him stop abruptly. He peered into the darkness.

“Good evening, Father,” a voice said, from behind him.

Father Vincent jumped. “I didn’t hear you come in.”

“The side door was open and I came in that way. I hope I have not kept you waiting.”

“It is cold here,” Father Vincent said, “I have little patience for waiting. Did you bring what I asked you to bring?”

“Yes, I have. Would you like to see it?”

Father Vincent eyed the package hungrily. "Give it to me."

The delivery man extended the parcel in both hands, like an offering. Reverently, as if accepting the Grail itself, the priest took it and held it close. "At last," he said.

The slash of a silver knife, and the wrapping fell away to reveal a heavy tome. Father Vincent turned back to the altar and bowed his head. "I . . . could not help myself," he murmured. "Forgive me, Lord. It shall not happen again." He uttered the latter with full confidence, for he knew from his readings that this was to be the last Harry Potter book.

Opening: Dr. Billy.....Continuation: 150

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Face-Lift 324

Guess the Plot

The Promise

1. Lucas's dad promised him they'd be out of debt soon, but then dad got killed. Now the family's only chance is the dog. But Lucas knows nothing about training dogs. Can he convince the woman who trains chickens for the carnival to show him the ropes?

2. When his girlfriend tells him he’s getting fat, Gilly Winston vows to lay off fast food and take up meditation. But can Gilly find enlightenment in soy crisps and low-trans granola, or will he blow off everything for the winking girl behind the counter at Donut World?

3. Reilly was a surgeon. Denise was a debt collection specialist. They promised one another "till death do us part," but when Reilly finds out the patient with the emergency double-knee replacement surgery was in debt to Denise, and that he's not the first gambler she's visited in a ski mask with a crowbar, Reilly isn't sure he can keep . . . The Promise.

4. When Judy was 14, Jesus promised her she'd marry Elvis and ride in a pink car driven by a sexy chauffeur, plus have a career in pictures. Now 57, she's having a crisis of faith. Sure, her husband looks like Elvis in his heavyset years, her Geo Metro is pink, and her son Todd drives her to church on Sundays. But since when does selling popcorn at the 4-plex count as a career in pictures?

5. Sally only engaged in scandalous behavior with Tiffany after getting a sworn promise NO ONE would ever know. And what happened? Thanks to a hidden camera, they're on You-Tube -- two chocolate-smeared fat girls with bad hair trying to break the world's 120 second speed record for eating a gigantic banana split. She's going to call an attorney tomorrow and get her million dollar revenge.

6. George has broken so many promises the Guinness Book of World Records is tracking his progress and London bookies are taking bets on what broken promise will finally break the record. Heaviest betting is on "I'll respect you in the morning," and "I'll keep this presentation brief."

Original Version

Dear :

Ten-year-old Lucas Gibson knows there's not enough money for his mom's textbooks, a new alternator for the truck, or even a Mega Mini Scooter, but he's not worried. His dad has been hired to train an imported curly coated retriever for a field trial, and he promises that when they win, their family problems will be over. The promise seems for naught when his father is killed in an accident that injures Lucas and the dog and leaves their family deep in debt.

But Lucas can't forget. Despite his mother's objections, the disabled boy takes on the challenge of rehabbing the dog. Joined by his alcoholic uncle and a woman who trains chickens for carnivals, Lucas sets out to save his crumbling family only to find that field trials don't have a cash prize, the bank is going to foreclose on their farm regardless, [So if dad trained the dog to victory their troubles were over, but if Lucas trains the dog to victory, they lose everything?] [So dad's a farmer? Why did the dog's owner hire this down-on-his-luck farmer instead of a professional dog trainer?] and if he succeeds, the dog's original owner will reclaim him. His dad's promise sure isn't turning out like Lucas imagined.

[Lucas: Hey Mister, my dad was supposed to train your dog, but he's dead.

Owner: My dog's dead?!

Lucas: No, my dad's dead.

Owner: Oh, whew. Well, I guess if I want to win, now I'll have to hire a professional trainer.

Lucas: No, me and my drunk uncle and this woman I know who trains chickens will do it.

Owner: Okay. And if you win, I'll pay off the mortgage on your farm.

Lucas: Not so fast. I also get to keep the dog.]

THE PROMISE is a middle grade novel about faith and family. I have included the first five pages for your review. I hope you enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing from you.



Lemme get this straight. The kid's father's dead, the kid's injured, the family's bankrupt, and winning the field trial won't help any of this. And middle-graders will want to read this because . . . they'll see that there's always someone worse off than they are?

Two or three more sentences would help. Instead of implying that all is hopeless, maybe you should hint at what might happen to save the family from complete destitution. Or add another paragraph in which you spill the ending, how Lucas wins and the dog owner marries the chicken lady and finances a dog-training franchise for Lucas, who becomes rich rich rich.

New Beginning 268

Marian stood at the base of the mountain looking to the small village ahead, the moonlight painting each individual building. A chill crept up her spine. Something wasn't right. At that moment, the village plunged into an inky blackness. She looked to where the moon should be and gasped as the silhouette of a huge beast filled her vision. Adrenaline rushed through her and she bolted for the village, desperate to warn people of the oncoming danger. Silence greeted her cries. She fell to her knees, her lungs heaving for air. The beast was above her now, the wind from its wings beating down upon her. She shivered as all the warmth left her body. The air around her chilled as if all the heat was being drained from the world. The next thing she knew, the great beast stood before her, the village in flames around them. A scream tore through her throat as searing heat consumed her.

Marian felt herself being shaken, bringing the realization that she still lived. Her emerald eyes opened to meet the hazel ones of her sister. Knowing she was safe, she stopped screaming.

"You were having a bad dream, Marian. About broke my eardrums with that keening of yours. Interrupted a perfectly good dream about Kerr." Terra paused, but her sister didn't reply. "What, no teasing?"

With a groan, Evil Editor flung the manuscript across the room, straight into the fireplace, where it joined 78 others.

When? When would his minions learn never to open with a dream, unless it involved himself and Claudia Schiffer?

Opening: Mary.....Continuation: McKoala

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Face-Lift 323

Guess the Plot

There Ain't No Free Lunch

1. Burger jockey Thingasa Such is a few fries short of a Happy Meal, but when he chews the fat with Candy, the beautiful new cashier, his co-workers think he’s nutty as a fruitcake and it’s dollars to donuts he’ll be eating humble pie before the cows come home. Turns out they’re two peas in a pod and pretty soon Thingasa’s hiding the salami, until he finds out Candy eats like a horse and likes to cut the cheese.

2. Carmella Jones was annoyed that her blind date with Ernie Fudge turned out to be a sales pitch luncheon at a timeshare. When Fudge claims they're Giovanni and Donna Ponti, they get shoved into a windowless van and driven to a remote forested location where mob boss Fat Bruno gives them ten minutes to sign over the Ponti fortune -- or die.

3. Someone ran an ad in the Beacon with a coupon for a free lunch at Buddy's Diner on Route 214. After setting about a hundred people straight on the matter, Buddy vows to beat the next coupon-bearing patron to a bloody pulp. But the next person in the shop is sultry, sexy Ivana . . . who claims to know where to find Buddy's long-lost, estranged daughter.

4. When the federal government cuts free school lunch programs yet again, first graders take over Washington . . . and teach Congress a thing or two in the process.

5. “Are you listening? I said there ain’t no free lunch. Now get outta here before I call the cops!” Join down-and-out tramp Artie McFink as he tours New York’s finest restaurants trying to get that damn Jedi mind trick to work.

6. Abandoned as an infant by his father, a Texas boy turns to his high school football coach for life's most important lessons. You know, like . . . "There Ain't No Free Lunch, boy." But will these life lessons do him any good when he's forced to move to Appalachia and live among hillbillies?

Original Version


What first reads like Confessions of a Hyperactive Child develops into a memoir of teenage self-reliance in the face of parental abandonment. In the opening chapter the infant protagonist is abducted by his father then returned nine months later to his young manic-depressive mother. [Unless you're going to dive right into the plot, you might mention the title fairly close to the beginning of the letter.] His father immediately disappears for fourteen years, [Nothing that lasts fourteen years is immediate. It's like saying, She immediately left the room and had nine children and a successful film career.] leaving his mother—who seemingly never recovers from the traumatic experience—to raise him and his half-sister with the help of Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and a series of step-fathers whose last names she forces them to adopt.

The young boy lives in constant fear of his father returning to steal him. As he outgrows his father phobia, he becomes the toughest and most unruly kid in school, which makes for amusing accounts of his Tom Sawyer-like [Finally, the name of a character. Not yours, but at this point I'll settle for anything.] grade school antics. [The tough fourth-graders nowadays don't put frogs in Becky's desk; they beat up the teachers.] The brazen youth grows into an insecure endearing adolescent while at home his mother's moods swing between overbearing and apathetic.

In junior high the boy finds sanctuary in sports and a six-year sub-plot develops [A six-year subplot? Why, that's like going to a performance of Don Giovanni and having Zerlina sing a six-hour-long aria. (Every once in a while I like to provide a laugh for my more highly cultured minions.)] —the story of a marginal athlete who's sure he's going to make it big but never even comes close. The boy's obsession with becoming the next Bruce Jenner [Now there's a world-class athlete who made it big. Last time I saw Jenner he was losing on Skating with Celebrities.] helps the author develop two key characters. [The author? You're the author, right?] A psychotic head football coach—the most powerful man in a small east Texas town—on his way to becoming a member of the Texas High School Coaches Hall of Fame, who devises unimaginable ways to publicly bully him for his own amusement. [Apparently they weren't unimaginable for him.] A second coach becomes his mentor, then father figure and crams all of life's lessons into three years, including the value of self-determination that is the inspiration for book's title—There Ain't No Free Lunch. [That's an awfully big chunk of a query letter to devote to a subplot.]

During 11th grade the boy, and his family move from Texas to the backwoods of the Appalachian Mountains. A few outrageous interactions with his hillbilly classmates [Hasn't "hillbilly" become politically incorrect yet? If not, it's the only derogatory term for a group of people that hasn't.] demonstrate why the boy is unable to assimilate. In an ironic turn of events, the 17 year-old, whom as an infant was the object of an epic parental tug-of-war contest, is kicked out of his mother's home in one of her drunken rages. Then, after a two thousand mile bus ride, he is turned away by his father. [Always phone ahead before spending 2000 miles in a bus. I'm surprised the coach who taught him all life's lessons in three years didn't mention that one.] He's invited to live with a series of friends but his presence in those households adds to some already dysfunctional dynamics. Before his senior year he finds himself almost penniless while riding a series of Greyhound buses across the country looking for a place to finish high school.

There Ain't No Free Lunch is more versatile than a simple biographical account of one boy's undeterred quest to graduate high school while enduring hunger, illness, and a host of other poverty-related problems. It offers compelling accounts of human righteousness as acquaintances, even strangers, step up in various ways to help nurture the boy. There's a sub-plot of Mommy Dearest, and several micro-plots of Pay it Forward. [Microplots, I assume, are like subplots, except they don't drag on for six years.] In the aspect of triumph-over-adversity the book is similar to The Pursuit of Happyness and the Glass Castle. [What have you got that's fresh and new? This one seems to be similar to an awful lot of other stuff.] But the situational humor and uplifting small victories carry the book between the dark chapters and prevent this from becoming a tale of serial despair with a predictable happy ending.

From 1970's childhood misconceptions that sparked defiant behavior to the nomadic student who spent his time between classes asking around for a place to sleep, this book gives open-access into the mind of a troubled boy who becomes a man with each turn of the page.
This 90,000 word memoir delivers a powerful message of perseverance and resolve while letting the reader laugh at the real life version of that mythical kid who really did walk barefoot six miles to school in the snow—uphill both ways.


The infant protagonist . . . the young boy . . . the brazen youth . . . the seventeen-year-old . . . Does he have a name? Does anyone? You've provided the names of more whiskeys than characters.

Instead of telling us the book has outrageous interactions, compelling accounts, situational humor, dysfunctional dynamics, uplifting victories . . . Give examples. Show us what sets this apart from other books, what makes his story more interesting than those of other kids growing up in poverty. Right now it does sound like a simple biographical account of one boy's quest to graduate high school while enduring poverty-related problems. And who wants to read that?

No one cares what books or movies an author thinks his own writing is like. Which is good news, because this could stand to be a lot shorter.

I see "There ain't no free lunch" meaning if a deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is. I'm not sure the connection between that phrase and "self-determination" will be obvious to everyone.

Have you considered setting the whole thing in Texas, making the six-year subplot your main plot, and bringing in the infant/child sections in conversations with the coach or flashbacks? Eighteen years is a lot of ground to cover, especially when much of a person's first eighteen years is dullsville.

New Beginning 267

I, Kawamoto Shiro, having reached my forty second year, resolve to end my life upon the conclusion of my trial. This I vow to my mother, eager for news of my death to end her interminable shame. I await a trial to punish me for actions taken in the name of the Emperor, our Tenno, the Heavenly Sovereign. No mere mortal but a living god. Or so we have been taught from childhood. To worship, to idolize, and to give up our lives in the hopes of eternal glory. All for our Tenno. So we were taught and so we obeyed. And in his name, I have given nearly everything of value in this world but my own worthless life. No, not given, never given. Given implies acquiescence. I did not acquiesce to the loss of my family. No, they were stolen from me.

Nagasaki. August 9, 1945. My soul died that day. Thirty miles separated my fate from theirs. Thirty miles that can never be crossed again in this world. Thirty miles beyond the shadow of death. I have no more to live for. I have no life to live. This all must end, but not yet.

"Yeah, yeah, that's all very interesting Mr. . . . ah . . . Kawamoto. But you still gotta realize we got standards in this country; and I'm tellin' ya, that fish was undercooked. I mean, Jeez: it may as well have been raw."

Opening: Ellen Oh.....Continuation: Anonymous

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

New Beginning 266

For Jes, being blown up was like having a heavy, invisible blanket thrown over him.

He didn't see the explosion. Some reflex must have triggered his arms to move slowly around his head as his body lifted from the ground. When he opened his eyes mid-flight he could see glass fragments traveling alongside him, spinning tip over base. When his back met the wall it took its time to putty itself into the bricks. Then everything went dark.

Someone was dragging him through the smoke, their arms under his shoulders. He could feel his feet bouncing against rubble, which was a good sign, he thought. Time seemed to be speeding up again, though the invisible blanket still seemed to be wrapped around his head. He could hear nothing. He noticed other shapes in the smoke and dust, people-shaped figures hunched low as their arms fished across the floor.

Water sprayed out from fractured pipes and slicked the floor. Chunks and shards of porcelain skittered to rest. At last the dust settled.

Jes peered into the darkness and saw Marty shuffling toward him. After making his way over and around the debris, Marty crouched down next to him and studied the orange glow at the end of his cigarette. "Sorry, man," he said. "Indian food. Messes me up every time."

Opening: Rik.....Continuation: Anonymous

Face-Lift 322

Guess the Plot

Spirits and Scars

1. Imagine a world where, when you make a promise, it appears as a scar on your skin. If you break the promise, the spirit of the broken promise haunts you forever. Now imagine you've discovered a huge scar snaking from your neck to your navel--and you have no memory of what it is you promised. What will you do?

2. Former Secret Service agent and recovering alcoholic Crash McAvoy attempts to repair his life by working as a bodyguard for crack-smoking pop diva, Rachel Plano. But will Crash fall off the wagon when Rachel’s life is threatened by disgruntled ghosts and Self-Contained Animated Robot Snipers?

3. The new saloon/tattoo parlor is not attracting the sort of clientele that Edgar hoped for. Instead of hard drinking bikers, he's got a table of spiritualists holding a seance and a bunch of dermatologists discussing subdermal lesions. Maybe Spirits & Scars isn't the right name for the bar after all.

4. Wisecracking PI Dirk Beefhead hadn't had a case in months when the woman in red walked into his office. Sure, she was one of Satan's minions, probably sent to destroy mankind. But the rent wasn't gonna pay itself.

5. As an ebola epidemic rages in NYC, Evil Editor, Miss Snark and friends sip gin and swap tales of the nitwit authors they've scarred for life.

6. Fledgling entrepreneur Myles Turbo opens Spirits & Scars, the first of what he hopes will become a chain of specialty stores catering to customers seeking a one-stop solution to both their alcoholic beverage and body-modification needs. But when the more catchily-named "Booze 'n' Tattoos" opens up right across the street, Myles faces a fight for survival.

Original Version

I am happy to submit SPIRITS & SCARS, a 65,000 word YA fantasy novel, to your attention. SPIRITS is set on the desert-ringed world of Versa, where promises appear like scars on the skin and oath-breakers are haunted by the spirit of their broken promise. [You're thrilled to be the woman who finally landed the George Clooney of Versa, but by the time he's done promising to love you and honor you and cherish you, etc. his entire body is riddled with hideous scars, and you can't stand to look at him. But you can't divorce him, or you'll be breaking your own vows, and be haunted forever. This place is like hell.]

A Vital Promise should be impossible to forget, but Sterlyn cannot remember how he came to possess the enormous scar which snakes its way from his collarbone to his navel. It has been kept a secret since his childhood, but when Sterlyn promises his life to protect Khareh, his best friend and the heir to the Dagon throne, a new scar appears on his body that immediately conflicts with his secret one. [And vice Versa.] Forced to flee to the desert to live with the clan of disgraced oath-breakers, the Chauk, [I'm not sure which name sounds more like the noise I make when I hack up a big phlegm-ball: Khareh or Chauk.] Sterlyn must solve the mystery of his secret scar to redeem his name and return home to the land he loves. [I'm not clear on why he's considered an oath breaker. Even if we assume he must eventually break one promise or the other, no one knows about the secret scar, right?]

Sterlyn is aided by an unlikely ally: the spirit of his promise to Khareh, who appears to him even though Sterlyn is certain his oath to Khareh is still in tact. [intact] With the spirit's help, Sterlyn performs incredible feats of magic and is hailed by the Chauk as a sage of Versian legend. As rumors circulate of the tyrannical behavior of the new Dagon Khan, Sterlyn embraces his new powers and returns to aid his suffering people. It will not be easy. The cruel Khan is his former best friend Khareh, who has a powerful spirit-guardian of his own and is unafraid to wield it for his wicked purpose.

I have enclosed a synopsis and the first five pages following this letter. Thank you for your consideration of SPIRITS & SCARS.


How does solving the mystery of the scar help? He still gets haunted if he breaks the promise, and I assume if he doesn't break it, he breaks the conflicting promise. If there's a way to avoid breaking either promise, he wouldn't have been exiled. Why do they exile oath breakers anyway? Isn't being haunted by a spirit punishment enough?

I don't quite get how this promise stuff works. Say I promise to protect you from Darth Vader. A scar forms on my thigh. Then I screw up and Darth Vader kills you. People may notice I have a scar, but does anyone know I promised to protect you from Darth Vader? How does anyone know what any of the scars represents? Is it the honor system? Or is there some sort of magical system whereby a record of all promises is maintained?

If you make a promise and keep it, does your scar go away? Even if it does, a promise like "I promise to love you until I die," would leave you scarred for life, even if you kept it. Are scars considered attractive or ugly? If I knew the answers to my questions about scars, I'd only have more questions.

Being haunted by the spirit of a broken promise is a good idea. But being scarred simply by making a promise I don't get. Here's a comparison to show my problem:

Woman 1 promises to give Ann her diamond brooch when Ann turns 15. Woman 2 promises to give Jane her diamond brooch when Jane turns 65. If the scars do go away when you keep your promise, woman 2 is going to be scarred 50 years longer than woman 1, even though they both keep their promises. If the scars don't go away, then what's the point of them? Everyone would be completely covered in scars eventually.

If you eliminated the physical scars, which frankly are hard to buy into, you'd still have a decent story. Unfortunately it's called The Count of Monte Cristo.

Thanks, all

Although the anniversary post was intended to inspire amusing emails from celebrities, which a few people realized, it's most gratifying to also receive your kind words. In fact, I was so touched, I was crying all over the manuscripts on my desk, and had to trash them. It's nice to know that my efforts are appreciated.

Yours are as well. You don't have to provide helpful insights and advice to your fellow minions, or subject yourselves to comments that may occasionally seem evil. Without contributors, and commenters and lurking readers, this wouldn't work. As long as you guys keep coming back, I'll keep it going.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New Beginning 265

My husband is a saint. Well, he’s not really a saint, ‘cause if he was, he’d bore the crap out of me, but still, he has his saint-like moments. Currently he’s a candidate for sainthood ‘cause he’s staying home with our kids so I can spend a long weekend in New York City in mid-May with a friend of mine. We’re having lunch in Manhattan on a Friday to start things off.

My point is this – aside from sainthood status, I know down to my soul, among other places, that a well-hung, wicked-fun sense of humor and a well-developed intelligence are the two things that matter most about a man. Without them you get really bored, really fast. I know I did. Before.

All right, yeah, there’s a triumvirate of the opposite-of-evil that’s really going on, a third leg of the ruling stool, as it were, and if the leg you happen to be rooming with is nice and sturdy and really useful, congratulations. You’ve won the three-leg-ged prize. In fact, if the dick itself is your most pressing passion, the thing that matters most to you – well then, I say just hand-pick a dildo and have at it.

But you’re gonna miss out on the other two legs, and the almost-sainthood part, and they’re really good stuff. Almost-sainthood is the fourth leg of the stool, really. It’s the leg that’s easy not to pay attention to, until you find yourself falling backwards on your ass. I know I did. Before.


"Er . . . No, actually I'm new here, ma'am. Uh . . . Paper or plastic?"

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Evil Editor's Anniversary

I don't get it, Evil Editor thought. April 23 is the anniversary of my first blog post. A whole year of sending electrons into the ether, and I don't even get a lousy email from the one person in the world I want to hear from? Sure, you're a big celebrity now, but where would you be if not for EE? I may as well just end it all.

He reached into the drawer where he kept the knife used in the O.J. murders, his first-ever Ebay purchase. I wonder if his fingerprints are still there after all these years, he thought. It would be ironic if he got away with those murders, but got convicted of killing me.

He was about to plunge the knife into his chest when he was stopped by those fateful words: You've got mail! Could this be it? He clicked on the mailbox. The subject line read New Comment on Evil Editor's Anniversary. He opened it and read:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

New Beginning 264

The door bell tinkled, signaling the entrance of a new customer. I turned slowly on top of my precarious perch, making sure to keep my balance. After all, a ten-foot ladder isn't a fun place to take a nose dive off of.

The sight that greeted me swept all thoughts of my precarious perch, 10-foot drop, and even my middle name from my mind. There stood the most gorgeous man I had ever seen. No, surely the most gorgeous man in all of creation. About 6'4" and solid muscle, and the most amazing chest . . . The whole world stopped as my eyes took in the sights. His dark brown hair—black? I couldn't tell with the light behind him—topped with a baseball cap. His hair curled just slightly—I flexed my fingers, aching to run them through his hair. And those biceps! I used to tease my guy friends in high school that they had pineapples for biceps, but these were better than pineapples. Way better.

My eyes dropped to his chest once more. His pecs were showing through his old t-shirt, and I was sure there was drool coming out of my mouth. Truly, who was built like this in real life?

I took a step forward to greet him into my store. After all, I was owner of this bookstore, and there was no way I was going shirk my duties of making him feel welcome.

I screamed all the way down.

I landed with a thump on the solid oak floor, but this guy was such a hunk I could barely feel the pain.

He rushed over to me, concern etched in every line of his face, and, ohmigod, he had the most delightful hint of 5 o'clock shadow gracing his jawline. I extended a graceful lily-white hand, and simpered up at him in a silent plea for help.

He bent and grabbed my hand. With a flex of his melon-biceps he hoisted me to my feet and crushed me to his manly chest. "Are you all right?" he murmured in a voice like soft velvet, stroking my hair. "What a nasty fall."

I snuggled closer, not wanting the moment to end, but as I did so, a niggling realization hit home. I pulled my head back slightly. Looked up at his Grecian-god face and back to his chest.

"Oh you've got to be kidding me," I said, drawing back in disgust. "Man titty?"

Opening: Hava.....Continuation: Caitlin Macdonald

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Death Scenes

Directly below you'll find the last sentence or two from 22 death scenes. Below those you'll find the expanded scenes--but with the last sentence(s) whited out. As far as I know, these are all scenes from unpublished works of fiction. No one claimed to have written the scenes specifically for this blog.

You have the opportunity, if you wish it, to guess which endings belong with which scenes. To get the correct answer, simply highlight the whited-out area with your cursor. If you don't care to make a game of it, you may highlight the entire page and just read the scenes. Authors would appreciate any helpful comments that occur to you. Be sure to identify by number which scenes you're commenting on. Character names that appear in both parts of the passages appear as blanks in the endings, to keep it from being too easy.


a. The breath slid from her in a long sigh and she subsided, her body going limp.

b. My head reeled. Mescobal was dead?

c. I'd managed to kill my husband a second time.

d. "Aikel," she whispered as she faded away.

e. She collapsed cross-legged onto the floor next to the dead body that had so recently been an animated human being and stared at it for a very long time.

f. It didn’t take long before his eyes were lifeless and _______ removed his hands.

g. He never saw the wrench before it shattered his skull. He fell, his hands and feet twitching as blood pooled beneath his body.

h. _________ had shot himself in the chest. I don’t know how long it took him to die, sitting there and hurting, alone in his car.

i. "Him," _________ said, and before _________ could do or say anything to save his friend, there was a sickening, wet crunch and the grotesque noise of a tongue lapping at meat.

j. He saw _______ struggling up, heard more shots and then _______ jerked and flopped back, flatter than before.

k. ___________, hero of the Elk Lick Falls High Football Program and Security Officer died screaming in the dark, efficiently separated into his metallic and non-metallic components.

l. Eric! It had to be him. But he was . . . dead. Her thoughts struggled wildly against that reality, the pain of it still too fresh and raw. But if it was Eric, did that mean she was . . .

m. "Maybe you should have taken my advice and returned with six of your friends," _______ muttered.

n. “I’ll take a rain check on that drink,” she said as his face melted away. “I have to see a man about a wolf.”

o. Before I could do much more, in the ominous silence, than seize Lune to me and throw us both to the grassy soil, covering her with my own body, a slamming gale of superheated air rushed over us faster than sound from the deformers' asteroid strike and all I could think as I died in agony, flesh macerated from bone and then ignited, through the desolation and anger at losing Lune and my recovered parents, was, "Oh fuck, they've totaled the dinosaurs again."

p. _______ lifted _______, and as he stood, a line of bullets laced through the two of them. He fell forward over his brother.

q. He was wracked with a spasm, and ________ thought he was going to vomit. Then he unclenched and lay back down.

r. She swayed for a moment and then fell forward, dead before she hit the ground.

s. "I was supposed to look after him," I said, and then blackness smothered me.

t. Then her head went under again and didn’t come back up.

u. It did no good; the scream wasn't auditory.

v. This is my final thought.


1. She knelt over him, tilted his chin back, pinched his nostrils closed and put her lips to his for the first time. Robin blew two breaths, sat up straight, weight evenly above her knees, laced her fingers together and pressed the heels of her hands into his chest to deliver fifteen compressions. Immediately she tilted his head back, pinched his nostrils, blew another two breaths and then listened for his breath. Again and nothing happened. His color just seemed to get worse. She tried again and then one last time. She picked up the telephone from the desk and listened to the hollow dial tone for a few seconds, then slowly put the handset back and looked at Daniel. She collapsed cross-legged onto the floor next to the dead body that had so recently been an animated human being and stared at it for a very long time.


2. It was a service robot from the mining area, a smart electromagnet. Robots like this patrolled the gravity free zones, sweeping up rocks and crushing them to get to the sweet marrow of their ore.

The security chief let out a deep breath he hadn't realized he was holding. He even allowed himself a chuckle to steady his nerves, buzzing with adrenaline.

His sidearm yanked out of his hand. The robot was still operating. Todd tried to back away, but its electromagnet found the prosthetic parts of his body. He fought, but the pull was strong and his boots slid on the polished floor. In frustration, he hurled his heavy flashlight. The robot caught the light and dismantled it.

Todd Burton, hero of the Elk Lick Falls High Football Program and Security Officer died screaming in the dark, efficiently separated into his metallic and non-metallic components.


3. The sun was close to sinking when a tremor went through her. She blinked and sat up, looking around in confusion: something had changed. The snow was falling quickly now, dark clouds covering the sky. She shivered and rubbed her hands against her arms as another tremor touched her. The horizon shimmered and flickered briefly. The fae had left this land, never to return. She gripped the bracken, knuckles white with effort, to no avail.

"Aikel," she whispered as she faded away.


4. Samael grinned. “I was there when you learned about the secret arts, remember? The ones that even God denies exist? You are a powerful magician, Sariel.”

Sariel’s hold on the gun relaxed a little. “I study the knowledge for its own sake, Sam. I always did. Just because. It doesn’t have to mean that I use it.”

Sam’s grin grew even wider. “You have your ways,” he said. “You could get close to them. Waterman’s only a man and he’ll be lonely now that you’ve offed his girlfriend. I’d be willing to bet he’d fall for your like a crow with fresh road kill. You’re a w-”

Sariel pulled the trigger, holding the Demon Lord while he discorporated. “I’ll take a rain check on that drink,” she said as his face melted away. “I have to see a man about a wolf.”


5. I scrambled out from beneath Surya, easing her down onto the floor. She let out a choked cry of pain as I moved. Horrified, I saw blood pulsing from her chest, black in the shadows, spilling over her habit. The horrible warmth soaked into my breeches as I knelt beside her, spurted through my fingers as I tried to staunch the flow. She shuddered under my hands, her limbs twitching spasmodically.

“Don’t move, Surya - Surya – please, please –!” I begged.

She made a little noise; half sigh, half sob. “The price…” she whispered. A bubble of blood broke on her lips, and a droplet of dark liquid ran along her cheek to pool under her eye like a tear.

“No!” I cried. “Please!”

The breath slid from her in a long sigh and she subsided, her body going limp.


6. They were a few feet into the darkness of the main tunnel when something leaped on Coyote Cody's back. He heard Luke hit the ground beside him. Cold, stale breath puffed down over his ear, and he realized that the approach of new threats had been veiled by the blade's reaction to the demon corpses. One of those supernatural sneaks crouched on Coyote Cody's back. It murmured appreciation for the taste of his fear.

The fact that Coyote Cody was sustaining his captor pissed him right the hell off. "You wanna start paying rent, asshole?"

"Scared little humans. Thanks for removing that cursed seal. It burns. Which of you would like to carry it for us?"

"Him," Luke said, and before Coyote Cody could do or say anything to save his friend, there was a sickening, wet crunch and the grotesque noise of a tongue lapping at meat.


7. I was standing there naked when a dead man sauntered into my bathroom.

Sauntered, not shambled.

That was the second frightening thing.

I'm not the screaming type or I would have shrieked. I produced an eeep! Like a paralized parakeet.

I didn't need the air of chemical putrescence he brought with him to know he was a revenant. A smell as sharp as teeth.

"Nathan," I gasped. I shouldn't have. The name gave the empty eyes focus. I skittered backwards until the shelves holding my soaps and pretty bottles bit my bare behind.

He curled back his lips and leered.

That was the third frightening thing.

So I heaved my entire container of rose-scented sea salt at him. The spew of crystals caught him full in the face.

He dissolved, all lacy and pock-marked, like the ice from your chest freezer when you dump it in the sink and run hot water over it. Even his clothes, the funeral black suit writhed and curled like burning paper and collapsed in a drift of dark dust on the bathroom tiles.

I threw up in the tub.

I'd managed to kill my husband a second time.


8. “Are you calling this murder?” Digger asked.

“What else would I call two dead crewmen? I’m going to initiate a full-scale investigation,” the Captain said.

“It looks like a mutual suicide pact between lovers.” Digger wanted to excuse the dead bodies.

“What do you think I am? An idiot? You've been on the bad side of everyone since we took you on as crew. Once the robot gets the surveillance tapes, we’ll know the truth. If you had a hand in this death, you'll face your day in court," the Captain growled, tapping his belt buckle. A robot appeared at his side.

“Aw fuck,” Digger said, jamming an electric power cell against the robot to fry its memory chips. It burst into flame. Startled, the Captain turned back towards his cabin. He never saw the wrench before it shattered his skull. He fell, his hands and feet twitching as blood pooled beneath his body.


9. "You're cracked, Toots, but I guess that'll happen when there's nothing left but your head."

Saki sighed, raising a hand. She felt Jita and Taro on the island and had no doubt they would be here any moment. It was time to clean up her mess.

"You were my first actual enemy. You were a doozy, and you're one helluva fighter, but it's over. You threatened my boys." She raised her energy to a lethal level and formed it to her will. "I wish you peace, whoever you are.

"Nonono! the alien screamed inside her head, the thought so emphatic that Saki wanted to clap her hands over her ears. I will not die on this godforsaken mudball!

She loosed the blast with a hoarse shout, leaping into the air as it detonated--crushing, then vaporizing the alien's head and tearing up the ground for yards around. The internal scream inside went on and on, high and drilling, until Saki did clap her hands over her ears.

It did no good; the scream wasn't auditory.


10. John stood up, kicked Peter so hard that Peter flew off the ground and landed a few feet away. Peter coughed, the air gone from his lungs, tried to get up and managed to, standing in front of John and then swinging at John again with the one good arm he had, trying to hit him and knock him out with the force he had. One punch landed and John took a step back, but the rest of the attack was useless.

John hit Peter hard in the face and Peter flew backwards, landing on the ground again. John kicked him, once, and then again, and then leaned down and held Peter's throat.

“What you do to me, I simply do back,” said John. “See how much more effectively I can uphold my honor.” Peter struggled for breath, but there was no energy left in his broken body, his mouth and nose bleeding, his bones broken. It didn’t take long before his eyes were lifeless and John removed his hands.

--Heather Walker

11. Why was the bastard running? Why didn't he use his own weapon? Alex tossed aside the tranq gun, stooped, pulled up his jeans leg and grabbed his own, real gun. Just as the main doors opened, and two more guards spilled out. Time to stop being heroic. Alex ran for the car, knowing that tranq guns didn't have much of a range. Thankfully, he had driven, and thus was the one with the keys. The sound of gunfire caused him to zag in a different direction, making for the cover of the nearest car not ten meters away. Diving behind it to the sound of more shots, he allowed himself to catch his breath, peering underneath the body of the vehicle to assess the situation. He saw Fabian struggling up, heard more shots and then Fabian jerked and flopped back, flatter than before.

--Functioning Fruitcake

12. I retched, and gagged, and heaved more liquid out of myself. Moved again, I threw up again. And again.

After that my head cleared a little, and I could look up to see who had hold of me. Verdinnian. He was scowling down at me, his nostrils pinched together.

"You with us, yet, Aquilla?

I blinked.


"That daft Arab took a branch for a snake, and you piled into him.

"Scrabbling, I tried to stand up; Verdinnian hauled me to my feet. Everything spun in fits and starts. I tried to find my horse, but the moment I took a step, I fell down again.

I was dragged up once more.

"That's fine work," Verdinnian added. "The Arab's back is broke, and if that weren't bad enough, you've also broke the cat's neck."

His words were punctuated by a shot.

My head reeled. Mescobal was dead?

--Buffy Squirrel

13. With a sudden burst of passion, the commander tried to heave himself up sideways like a wounded crab. The scaly thing on his body surged forward, writhing up his skin.

“Rigel! Rigel!” Natalja cried. “Lord Rigel!”

After his last effort, the commander was mostly still. He rocked his head back and forth, muttering to himself. She wasn’t sure if he could hear her.

“Lord Rigel, I can’t take on this sort of demon. Whatever you’re going to turn into is going to kill all of us. Fight it!”

She almost took hold of his hand while she said this, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. Besides, there wasn’t anything much like a hand left.The commander seemed to come to himself a little while later. His eyes wandered the room until they locked onto hers, not quite focused.

“I can’t.”

He was wracked with a spasm, and Natalja thought he was going to vomit. Then he unclenched and lay back down.


14. The wave that came up behind her didn’t seem all that big. It lifted her a little, and I heard her laugh. It hit the shore and began to pull back, and as it sucked away from the sand it took my sister with it. I was close enough to see the fear on her face as she was swept backwards, off her feet.

Rob ran for the house as soon as he realized the riptide had caught her. “Stay here,” he shouted to me, “and don’t lose sight of her.”

I picked his shirt up off the sand and held it. Sarah would want something warm when she came back. It didn’t occur to me, not really, that the ocean could take her. My sister’s head bobbed up and down in the water, farther from me each time it reappeared. I saw her arms thrashing as she tried to swim out of the current sideways like our father had taught us, but it wouldn’t let her go. Then her head went under again and didn’t come back up.


15. Later, as I soak the rest of reality out of every pore through the magic of soapy bubbles, I return to my plans for world domination. The world would really be a better place if I were the only person in it. ‘Oleanders,’ I ponder, preparing my bath. ‘All parts of an oleander are poisonous, maybe I can go around smacking people with branches of it.' I giggle out loud at the thought.

I sigh sleepily. “I'll get started tomorrow,” I gurgle. Something is not right. I take a deep breath, but what I would have said next is lost from my mind, what with not having the ability to breathe water. ‘Why did I have to take such a deep breath!’ I reprimand myself. This is my final thought.

--Crystal Charee

16. The fat asshole contractor took another guy with him for backup - like he needed any, the idiot - and together they found William slumped down in his car. I told myself it probably hadn’t been too hot there in the car even though the morning was almost gone when they found him. You’d expect it to be awfully hot; it was August in the South, but I didn’t think it was hot where William was. I could picture where they found him, sitting in his car beside the river, in the summer shade dapple of gargantuan green-canopy trees surrounding his small stilt house, the swift, soothing sound of the river running past him. A big bottle of Jack Daniels had spilled all over the front seat. William had shot himself in the chest. I don’t know how long it took him to die, sitting there and hurting, alone in his car.


17. Even now Callie could hear the metal scream, feel her body jolt sideways as the two vehicles slammed together. Her T-boned door crumpled inward as the truck's fender plowed its way inside. Quick and irreversible, the damage ground through her -- crushed arm, crushed ribs, crushed heart. If there had been pain, thankfully she didn't remember it. Only a wonderment as the coupled vehicles skidded to a stop.

Like spreading fog, an intense white light rose up, enveloping her. So blinding she tried to shut her eyes against the glare, only to find them already closed. A dim figure appeared in the midst of that brilliance, coming toward her, arms wide and welcoming. She couldn't make out the face, but the figure radiated an aura of peace, warmth and unconditional love. Eric! It had to be him. But he was … dead. Her thoughts struggled wildly against that reality, the pain of it still too fresh and raw. But if it was Eric, did that mean she was . . .


18. Alyson stumbled down the stairs, arms scrabbling feebly for support. A white hot pain was spreading throughout her chest, making each ragged breath a labor.

“Quite a powerful venom, no?” A voice called out from above.

She caught herself on an iron railing and searched for the speaker. Her vision was blurring. Every muscle in her body was contracting painfully.

“I imagine that right now, you’re beginning to regret your disobedience.” The voice belonged to the Duke. He stood atop a dilapidated balcony and leered down at her, his form splitting and swimming as her vision grew worse.

“What did you-“ Alyson gasped. A thousand wasps were assaulting her lungs. Her knees buckled and threatened to give way.

“Sleep now,” the Duke purred.

Alyson choked on something wet and warm. The pain in her abdomen rose to a furious crescendo. She swayed for a moment and then fell forward, dead before she hit the ground.

--Nick Berggreen

19. "Go get two more friends. We'll try again without the archer," Barro said.

"You think you're that good?"

"I'm better than the woman who defeated your leader. He's dead if you don't know yet. She didn't even have a blade in hand and was already wounded. Unlike her, I'm not wounded. Maybe you should go back and return with four Kogs."

Wazig charged upon hearing the insult. Barro stepped to the side at the critical moment. With his sword blocking Wazig's sword, Barro was free to thrust his dagger low from the side so Wazig couldn't make use of his shield at all. The look on Wazig's face left no doubt in Barro's mind that the fight was essentially over. By then Wazig's sword was falling to the ground with Wazig toppling across it.

"Maybe you should have taken my advice and returned with six of your friends," Barro muttered.

--Dave Kuzminski

20. "Get out of here," I told them. "They must know where we are."

A shockingly bright light was scorching down the sky, trailing fire. It struck the ground in total silence. A searchlight beamed upward into its trajectory, luminous as the weapon burn from Phlogkaalik's Adamski saucer crystal. Lune's weapon spoke to the sky. Brilliant crimson light bloomed directly ahead of me, then, at the horizon. Before I could do much more, in the ominous silence, than seize Lune to me and throw us both to the grassy soil, covering her with my own body, a slamming gale of superheated air rushed over us faster than sound from the deformers' asteroid strike and all I could think as I died in agony, flesh macerated from bone and then ignited, through the desolation and anger at losing Lune and my recovered parents, was, `Oh fuck, they've totaled the dinosaurs again.'

--August the 1st is too late

21. “I know,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense now, but when it does make sense--you’ll remember me, and the picture. I want you to know that it won’t be too late, even then, whenever that is.”

“Justin, I--”

“And I want you to forgive me.”


She was interrupted by the sound of many engines straining uphill. Voices came up the road to them, shouting, “The sweep!” and other voices screamed. Strangers began running into the woods.

“Get out of here,” Eli shouted, pulling Kate by her arm away from Justin.


“Shut up and run,” he said.

Black pickup trucks, each holding a dozen Community patrollers with automatic rifles, threaded along the road encircling the camp and stopped, evenly spaced like beads on a string. The black-uniformed officers hopped out of the trucks and commenced firing at every upright, un-uniformed being.

Eli lifted Justin, and as he stood, a line of bullets laced through the two of them. He fell forward over his brother.

--Jan Bear

22. Then there was this horrible frozen silence. Trev stood right in front of me, because I was hiding Rose behind me. His breath blew hot and oniony on my face and his eyes were wide, wide open, and I knew this wasn't what he'd planned, and then a shout rang from the other side of the road: "Run, Trev, run!" and he was gone.

The lorry driver staggered out of his cab, with blood streaming down his face and saying: "He came from nowhere, he came from nowhere." He peered at a dark object in the road and then he turned around and threw up on the pavement.

Rose was vomiting into the hedge. I stood alone on the pavement looking thirty metres along the road to where some clothes were scattered across the road with something broken and sprawling in them and dark stuff around them.

"'I was supposed to look after him," I said, and then blackness smothered me.