Friday, August 31, 2007

Writing Exercise

One of our more successful writing exercises was this one. I see no reason we can't come up with another batch of publishing-related words and definitions. Deadline Saturday. Include the name if you want credit.

New Beginning 352

Through the attic’s solitary window, I watched a meaty spider build its web between the eaves and the ivy. Evening obscured my view. The next day, in its absence, I did the best I could to draw the spider from memory. The size of a silver dollar, it had distinctive white markings on its back and striations of brown, white and orange on its legs. At dusk, it reappeared. It dismantled the web and started afresh. How peculiarly meticulous--obliterating such extensive work only to rebuild. How contrary to the ideals of modern industry and manufacture. I watched as it performed this seemingly antipodean procedure again and again. Among the dust-laden shelves, I was fortunate to find Father’s old entomology guide; when I was still young enough that he allowed me to explore with him and my brothers, we would spend the day out in the woods collecting myriad crawlers and then spend evenings classifying them. This particular specimen, I suspected and confirmed, was “Araneus diadematus,” commonly called the garden spider or, aptly, the cross spider. On the fifth morning, after my arachnid friend again disappeared, I heard the jangle of keys suggesting my confinement might finally be over.

The door creaked open and I saw the stooped shadow of my Aunt--she called herself Aunt, but in truth there was little genetic similarity--in the lighted gap.

"You readin' books again?" she asked; her voice dry as the door hinges. "I told ya, ain't no good'll come of readin' books. Look what it did to your ma."

It pained me to recall that page, so recently turned; when events made Aunt Jessica my guardian, I did not anticipate she would handle her role so sternly.

"All them books but it seems you ain't learnin' nothin'." She stooped further and left bread and water for me on the floor. "Well, don't let the bugs get ya." Her words, and the door, creaked to a close.

I returned to my little attic window: the only other exit from this room. After five days, I was weakened, but perhaps I could make my escape . . .

The spider was back. It had started to build a bigger web.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: ril

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Face-Lift 411

Guess the Plot

One Highland Night

1. How many Highland Nights does it take to stuff a Scottish kilt? After an unfortunate wager and six pints of Skullsplitter Ale, Gregor Gilroy is about to find out.

2. Brianna is excited to be spending her vacation at a real haunted castle. But when the ghost of Duncan MacNeil appears in her bedroom, will she be ready to meet all his demands?

3. A spunky lass who couldn't keep her knickers on. A laddie with an eye for the ladies. A secret meeting, a warm night in the Highlands--what were the chances it would lead to . . . alien abduction?

4. Traveling in the Highlands, a physicist is suddenly transported 300 years into the past, and must try to prevent the notorious Earl of Breadalbane from committing the infamous Glencoe Massacre.

5. A prim English maiden, lost in the wilds of Scotland. A handsome Scotsman, who's also a vampire and can't come out in the day. Can they find true love . . . One Highland Night?

6. Due to Planet Askew's eccentric orbit, night usually falls only in the lowlands, while the highlands bask in perpetual sunshine. But once every 30,000 years, there comes . . . One Highland Night. Will Ja'na come out of hibernation to propose to Sti'su?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT is a time-travel romance in the vein of Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and the Highlander series by Karen Marie Moning, among others. [No, I think the Highlander series by Ms. Moning is only by Ms. Moning.] [Also while those series involve time travel and romance, I don't believe they're so similar that a book could be in the same vein with both of them.] [Also, it's not so important to tell us whose books you think yours is like. It's a time travel romance is sufficient.] Complete at 100,000 words, it is set primarily in the Loch Awe [That sounds like the noise I make when I hack up a phlegmball.] area of the Scottish Highlands, 1691-92, and includes the historical backdrop of the infamous Glencoe Massacre.

Physicist Elizabeth Martin travels to the Highlands of Scotland in an attempt to flee the heartache of a broken engagement. Her cheating ex becomes the least of her worries when she ends up trapped over 300 years in the past, [Can you furnish a clue to how she ends up 300 years in the past? (You didn't think you were going to just slip that past us, did you?)] pursued by the politically avaricious Earl of Breadalbane who wants to use her "Sight" to further his consolidation of power. Her only choice is to take refuge with an outlaw clan. [I'd divide this long paragraph into two, right here.] Despite her desire to discover a way back to her own time, she finds herself falling for handsome Alec MacGregor: protector, son of the laird, and the only person who knows her true origins. [How did that conversation go?

Liz: Alec, there's something I need to tell you.

Alec: What's that my darling?

Liz: I'm from a strange world where there are flying machines, where there's a tunnel under the English Channel, where popcorn can be made in a bag, where--

Alec: Hey lads, stoke up the fire, we've got us a witch!]

Together they try to prevent the treacherous massacre at Glencoe—Breadalbane's doing— [Doesn't Liz know that changing history could lead to disastrous future consequences, like Evil Editor's blog not even existing?] but Alec is captured and sentenced to death. She spends one night in his arms on the eve of his execution, [What is this, a conjugal visit? Awfully generous of Breadalbane. (I assume she didn't time travel into his cell, as earlier she was hoping to discover a way back to her own time, which led me to deduce that she didn't have time traveling abilities.)] then secretly surrenders herself to the Earl in exchange for Alec's release. When he learns of her sacrifice and subsequent death at the Earl's hands, [Why would the Earl kill her? I thought he wanted to use her "Sight."] Alec's only choice is to attempt time-travel himself to be reunited with the woman he loves.

ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT is my first novel. I am a member of RWA national, as well as my local chapter and the Celtic Hearts chapter.

The synopsis, partial, or full manuscript are available at your request; I have included the first five pages for your review. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.



It's one thing for a 21st-century physicist to attempt time travel. I'm not sure I'm buying a 1692 Scotsman from an outlaw clan figuring out how to do it.

We need to know how one time travels. If Liz could do it at will, she'd time travel out of the Earl's clutches as soon as he released Alec. In Highlander, time travel is a power of the characters; in Outlander, it's accomplished by walking between certain stones. Do your characters have any idea how it's done?

Speaking of which, when Liz offers herself to the Earl in exchange for Alec, what's to keep the Earl from keeping both of them?

Elizabeth should refer to the Earl as Beetlebrain for comic relief.

I hope Alec's plan isn't to time travel to a day in the 21st century before Liz went back in time, because a guy showing up and claiming he's your lover from the 17th century isn't going to go over too well. We have special places for guys like that.

The writing isn't the problem, it's that the plot is eliciting questions that aren't answered. Answer some of them. If something's too complicated to explain, omit the material that's inspiring the question.

New Beginning 351

If I am forced to answer one more personal question from a nosy Scot--especially that question--they cannot hold me responsible for my actions . Outwardly, Elizabeth Martin affected a smile and took the brochure from the kindly clerk behind the desk at the Loch Awe Hotel. "No, I don't have 'a fine braw laddie' to go out on the loch with. I'm traveling alone."

"Ah, now that's a shame. Pretty lass like yourself with your great dark eyes . . . Did ye no' go and pick some St. John's wort last night? They say it will tell if you're to be married in the comin' year--if the flowers dinna wilt. It's best to do it on Midsummer's Eve, ye ken," the clerk explained with a twinkle in her eye. "But I'm sure it'd still work if ye tried tonight."

Midsummer. June 21st. Today was supposed to be my wedding day.

I knew I should have traded in the tickets and gone to Fresno, instead of this god-forsaken, rainswept, fogged in, bagpipe-obsessed, kilt factory. It figures. Scotland was his idea, the two-timing bastard.

I'll have to remember to send him some week-old haggis as a souvenir of "our" honeymoon.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Face-Lift 410

Guess the Plot

Fortune's Fool

1. Upon discovering the elderly King Bronson dead in the garden maze, Prince Gerundin concocts a plan to prevent his elder brother Arlin from inheriting their father's fortune and his throne. Disguising Tortino the Fool as the king, Gerundin proceeds to rule his dead father's kingdom third hand. But Tortino has plans of his own.

2. “Flip” Spencer makes a killing purchasing houses at high prices, slathering on cheap paint, and reselling the same houses for even higher prices. But, when the market changes and interest rate resets loom on his subprime mortgages, can he get rid of his backed-up inventory or will he become . . . Fortune’s Fool?

3. An investigative journalist trains his sights on his own profession in an attempt to discover the identity of the individual responsible for Fortune magazine naming Enron the "most innovative company in America" for six years running.

4. First he was Cathy's Clown, then Doro's Dolt. Each time Charlie falls in love his heart is broken within a few weeks. Maybe everything will be different with his new girl -- or will he end up as . . . Fortune's Fool?

5. Romeo and Juliet are back! Turns out that whole death business was a big misunderstanding. The family feud? Forgiven. Now they have to make the marriage work, and hilarity ensues . . .

6. Dragged to another dimension by a secret agent, Jason will need good fortune if he's to complete a mission for the Queen of Pittsburgh and make it home in time for dinner. Also, a giant river squid.

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil:

I am seeking representation for my middle-grade fantasy novel, Fortune's Fool, complete at 50,000 words.

Jason Wu has a problem as big as Pittsburgh. Specifically, he wishes he was IN Pittsburgh--and not some crazy flooded-out alternative dimension where the sun has been dark for a year and the residents look more like bugs than people. [You can clarify where he is by changing "and not some" to "instead of this." As it is, there's more than one possible meaning.] According to Scrabb, [Change that to Scabb. Middle grade boys appreciate that kind of attention to their needs.] the secret agent who dragged him here, only the city's Queen can send him home. [A Queen? in the Steel City? Unheard of.] And sticking with Scrabb is the only way Jason will be able to get to the Queen in one piece.

It's a dangerous town. Crazed barbarians subsist in the streets; giant, bloodthirsty snipes soar through the skies; and something with tentacles has made its home in the three rivers. [This place sounds almost as bad as the real Pittsburgh.] On top of that, the local mob is less than thrilled to see Scrabb return--and they don't mind taking out Jason at the same time. [In our world, a secret agent and a local mob wouldn't care about each other. What do secret agents do in the alternate dimension?]

But Scrabb's got a little bit of magic that he brought back from the "real" Pittsburgh, and--unwittingly--Jason has some of it too. When Scrabb is kidnapped by a snipe, Jason must use all his strength, his wits, and some good fortune to not only save him, but to finish the Queen's mission and, ultimately, get back to where he belongs. [Wasn't that the plot of The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh? Except instead of Jason it was Doctor J.]

I am a five-year resident of Pittsburgh [and I feel it's about time somebody told the world what's been going on here]. I have enclosed a few sample pages and would be pleased to provide a synopsis and sample chapters at your request; the manuscript is also available electronically. I have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your reply. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,


Two thirds of this describes the setting, and there's very little plot. Why did Scrabb drag Jason Wu to this alternate dimension? If to carry out the Queen's mission, what's the mission, and why Jason? Whether he came for the mission or not, he needs to complete it now, so we should know what it is. How does the magic fit in?

As Dawn of the Dead and Night of the Living Dead are set in or near Pittsburgh, wouldn't a city of barbarians and snipes be preferable? Jason should at least consider staying.

New Beginning 350

He was a gonad looking for trouble.

I heard him before I saw him; the strong, metallic sound of boots striking hardwood out in the dark hall, and then, there he was.

Black-brown eyes, dirty-blonde hair hanging loose and uncut over his jacket, a grin spreading slowly and deliberately across his lean face as he stopped and stood in the doorway of the living room of the party house, looking around, making sure to make his entrance.

I’d first shown up at the party house one night several months before, with a group of people I barely knew. It was the usual initiation. Knowledge of its existence and follow on knowledge of its inner workings grew that way, like a fat and happy virus. There was no Sabbath, no day of rest, from the party that self-perpetuated there.

Now William Tully had arrived again. It wasn’t hard to guess his identity. From what I’d heard about him, he was all and only just one long, blonde gonad. One long and golden piece of trouble. Now who doesn’t sometimes crave a little trouble. And in the last, gasping years of the 1970s, a lot of people had their cravings, flailing along within a dying decade. I wasn’t alone. In fact, the party house was filled with golden gonads and luscious labia.

The tallest labium in the room, I strutted around in my new stilettos. The gonad barely noticed me; instead, his eyes fixed on the doorway, where the newest ovaries had just sashayed in.

"Hello William," she said, looking around. "Quite a party."

"Best in town." His tongue was hanging out.

I still had my hole card: "I brought some coke." I grinned at him. "Is there an empty bedroom we can use?"

We were halfway down the hall when someone yelled, "We need one more for a game of Twister."

The gonad's eyes lit up. My grin faded like the ebbing embers of a decaying decade.

"Later," I muttered at his back. "Have fun with your new testicles."

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: church lady/EE

Monday, August 27, 2007

Face-Lift 409

Guess the Plot


1. Dying solider Tony Block challenges Death to a game of scrabble in order to buy himself a couple more hours of life. But can he convince Death that "garwaf" is a real word?

2. Randy searches for a job where his speech impediment won't be an issue. Emily helps him get a job where she works, at the car wash. Or, as Randy would say it, the Garwaf.

3. After years struggling to make a go of their computer-programming business, Icelandic sextuplets Garwaf, Gafraw, Warfga, Wafrag, Fragwa and Awfgar finally strike it rich by selling their word verification algorithm to Blogger.

4. When the priest sneezes at a crucial point in the christening, Garwaf James Ackerman's destiny is set. While the blessed spittle is soon wiped from his forehead, it causes his death from pneumonia, seventy-three years later.

5. Gabriel has been turned into a wolf by his wife. When he finds himself in the royal court, the king decides to make him his pet. Can Lady Beau help "Garwaf" regain his humanity before he rips her throat out?

6. Hazel is fired from her secretarial job after Word mis-corrects the title of the book her boss is trying to submit to a big-league New York editor.

Original Version

Dear Benevolent Editor:

How is a man supposed to be a man when he’s trapped in the body of a wolf? [I've struggled with that question all my life--except, for "wolf," substitute "god."] And what is the woman who loves him supposed to do about this rather awkward situation? [I once dated a woman who was trapped in the body of a wolf, and it wasn't awkward at all . . . well, except for the night we went to a dinner party at the home of a couple whose son was trapped in the body of a sheep.]

A romantic fantasy/adventure for young adults in the tradition of Robin McKinley and Diana Wynne Jones, GARWAF retells the story of Beauty and the Beast- with a twist.

Gabriel, a werewolf who was once the favorite knight of the king himself, was trapped in his wolf form permanently by his unfaithful wife when she learned his dire secret. [If I'd been unfaithful to my husband, the last thing I would want to do would be to permanently make him a creature capable of turning me into cole slaw.] Ensnared as an animal in the woods, cut off from everyone and everything he ever loved, Gabriel is slowly losing his mind and his memory. By a trick of fate, Gabriel finds himself back in the king’s court. [Trick of fate = whim of author.] Instead of a knight now he is the king’s treasured pet.

[King: I should have a treasured pet.
Trusted Adviser: Yes sire. Dog? Kitten?
King: I was thinking wolfman.]

Entrusted to the charge of the sweet and steadfast Lady Beau, [An oxymoron if I've ever heard one.] Gabriel might, with her help, be able to return to his human form. Old enemies and his own inner demons quickly converge, [How do his old enemies know he's Gabriel, and not an actual wolf?] and Gabriel’s tentative grip on his human half is tested when he almost kills Beau, the one person who is trying to help him.

Opinionated and outspoken, Lady Beau has been packed off to the royal court by her father to snare herself a rich husband. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, Beau’s loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet. [In other words, puts her in charge of cleaning out the wolfman's cage.] Beau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems. Resolving to do all in her power to help him if she can, she is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with the people who betrayed him lead Gabriel to stray ever closer to losing his humanity forever. [This paragraph contains information that's been presented already: Gabriel is the king's pet; he's entrusted to Lady Beau; old enemies are out to get him; he's losing his humanity.]

I did extensive research into the medieval era to help me construct this novel. A synopsis, first 50 pages, and SASE for your reply are included. I look forward to sending you the complete, 90K word manuscript. Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.



As you declare it a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, you wouldn't be taken to task for calling her Lady Belle.

While it's not a strict contradiction, describing Beau as sweet and steadfast and later calling her opinionated and outspoken may give two different impressions of her.

It might be better organized if it began with Beau, something like:

Lady Beau has been packed off to the royal court by her father to snare herself a rich husband. Bored by the petty intrigues of court, her loneliness and frustration are eased when the king puts her in charge of the care and comfort of his new pet wolf.

Beau quickly realizes the beast is more than he seems, for this "wolf" was once Gabriel, the king's favorite knight. Resolving to do all in her power to restore him, Beau is sorely tested as the trials of court and confrontations with those who betrayed Gabriel lead him to stray ever further from his humanity.

Now there's room to tell us what happens beyond the set-up. And to tell us what the twist is. Does Belle fall for the king instead of the beast in this version?

Kudos for conducting extensive research into the medieval era. There's nothing more annoying than finding historical inaccuracies in a wolfman fantasy.

Garwaf anagrams:

FRAWGA--Ted Kennedy's favorite video game
GAFWAR--US invasion of Iraq

New Beginning 349

Winston Campbell shoved his feet into once-white trainers and threw a jacket over his tee shirt. He checked his tight braids in the mirror and wiped away a smudge of ink from the dark skin of his cheek. Patting his pockets, he went into the living room and picked up his tobacco from the coffee table, crossing himself in front of the Madonna on the wall and kissing the pad of his thumb prior to pressing it against the fetish of Maitresse Erzulie.

"I'm off out, Lattie." He looked in at the kitchen where his sister was baking and flashed her a smile.

"Mind you're back for five," she warned. "Joseph and his parents are coming over, remember?"

"I know." Winston held up a hand. "They want to go over plans for the wedding. Why do I have to be here again?"

She gave him a mock punch. "Because you're giving me away."

"I wouldn't have it any other way," Winston replied and gave a slight bow in imitation of Hiroshi Koitami, his Jodo Shinshu sensei so many years ago when they were still in Kansas. "I've been trying to get rid of you for years."

Lattie smiled at the old joke and watched the lines of the Ringatu tattoos on Winston's face move as he returned the smile. "If so, perhaps you shouldn't have followed me here to Angkor Wat."

"It was Allah's will."

Opening: Rachel Green.....Continuation: Pacatrue

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Face-Lift 408

Guess the Plot


1. It's not easy having a mother who's such an obsessive Monkees fan she names her children after Monkees song titles, especially when your older sisters, Valleri and Mary Mary, used up the only normal names in the catalog. Still, Grizelda doesn't envy her brother, Randy Scouse Git.

2. Suspected of having political ties to the deposed king, Grizelda is hauled away by the police, but when pixies riding on rats rescue her and take her to their underground world she wonders if she wasn't better off in the hands of the police, since the underground is inhabited by communist goblins.

3. Half bear, half video game princess, Grizelda is torn between her loyalty to pixilated fantasy worlds and her love of scaring campers in national parks.

4. Sick to death of all the "wicked witch" jokes, sixteen-year-old Grizelda Smitts decides she might as well take up witchcraft--and finds that she's surprisingly good at it.

5. When Grizelda sets off to make her fortune in the bawdy-houses of London's East side, she gets kidnapped by a mad alchemist. Can she escape before he gilds her?

6. Grizelda is a 'pillow angel'--a child who cannot move, speak, or hear and must be fed via tube. However, she does think, and in her mind she's a pole dancer married to NASCAR hunk Ellis Whitney--who one day appears at her house to free her from her family.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

I am seeking representation for Grizelda, a young adult fantasy novel.

Deposing the king was supposed to make things better for the people of Corvain. But eleven years later the republican government is becoming more and more like the old monarchy. [Great, yet another Bush administration allegory.] When the police drag Grizelda, a seamstress, away in the middle of the night on suspicion of royalist ties, she expects a death sentence.

Instead she is rescued by a group of rat-riding pixies who help her seek asylum in the world beneath the capitol city. It is a complex world of sewers, abandoned mines that show signs of an ancient catastrophe, and a city inhabited by goblins that are … decidedly Communist. [The Rat-riding pixies are your hook. Can you move them closer to the top? Say, I am seeking representation for Rat-riding Pixies and the Commie Goblins . . . ] They very reluctantly allow her to live with them, but almost immediately she becomes a political tool in their next election. [I see this as a series. This one would be Rat-riding Pixies and the Republican Sewer Dwellers, to be followed by Rat-riding Pixies and the Eco-anarchists, Rat-riding Pixies and the Spotted Hyena Gynecocracy, and Rat-riding Pixies and the Thalassocratic Groupuscule.] [ It's a series designed to teach teens about politics without them realizing it.]

As her relationship with the goblins deteriorates, she becomes involved with a revolutionary group whose alleged goal is to return Corvain to the original ideals of the republic. The missions she goes on become increasingly dangerous and morally ambiguous. [She goes on missions? She just got there. And she's a seamstress. Did they send Betsy Ross to infiltrate the British army?] When one of the revolutionaries discovers that the charges against her of royalist ties are true, she is in even more danger than she was in the hands of the police. [She expected a death sentence from the police. Can you be in more danger than that?]

Grizelda is complete at 70,000 words. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience. I look forward to hearing from you.



The police were going to kill Grizelda for having royalist ties, and when the revolutionaries find she has royalist ties she's in even more danger. Which leads me to ask whom the revolutionaries are revolting against. They seem to have the same ideology as the authorities when it comes to royalists.

Things were bad under the monarchy, they're bad under the republic, the communists don't seem so hot, the revolutionaries do worse than kill you if you have royalist ties . . . who are the good guys?

Can you make it more clear what Grizelda wants to accomplish? Is she a leaf being blown in the wind, or does she lead the good guys to victory?

The opening (or at least what was once the opening) may be read here.

New Beginning 348

Lawrence Norton was a bad, bad boy, is what Lawrence said to himself while he waited there, patiently, at the foot of the bridge. Day after day he waited there, saying his singsong words about himself to himself, repeating in a rhythm, with nobody else knowing about them, about those words floating through him all the time, and him just standing there, having to take his own punishment.

The words ran through his other thoughts like a weaving, even when a window came down and a hand came out and in the hand was money he could have.

He’d been standing by this 14th Street bridge most days for the past seventeen years, is what he’d told the lady. Most people passing by in their cars didn’t stop to talk, and even when they had to stop because the light turned red, there where the road off the bridge became the street, they kept their heads staring straight ahead of them. Maybe they had their own words they were having to listen to. Lawrence didn’t know.

Stay green, stay green, stay green! Marcia thought as she approached the foot of the bridge, but the light changed, as it always did. She'd been coming this way every workday for seventeen years, and couldn't remember ever hitting it green. Shit, here he comes, she thought. Oh God, he's looking at me. Don't make eye contact! She willed him to try the cars behind her.

Maybe I should give him a buck. A buck every 17 years, wonder what that works out to per hour. No, then he'll expect it every day. Probably blow it on cigarettes or beer. Seventeen years I've been missing this light, and has this guy ever not been here? Who puts a traffic light at the foot of a bridge, anyway?

She thought she might bring him some food tomorrow. A nice salad. With croutons. He probably makes more than I do. I should start taking the 12th Street bridge; it's worth an extra fifteen minutes to avoid this. Is this fucking light ever gonna change?!! She wondered what he thought about all day. Maybe he was one of those savants doing calculus in his head. Or calculating pi. Maybe he'd had a truly fascinating life. Marcia didn't care.

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: Evil Editor

Friday, August 24, 2007

Guess the Title 3

The book descriptions were taken from The real title of each book is there, along with five fake titles. Answers at the bottom of the post.

1. Dedicated to teachers of America, this book is a collection of poems to honor the work of these devoted professionals.

a. Nunsense Rhymes
b. No More Pencils, No More Books
c. Rainbows, Head Lice and Pea-Green Tile
d. Those that Can't . . . Write Poetry
e. A Is For Apple . . . and Attention Deficit Disorder
f. Dedicated Schmedicated - If You Think I Could Get My Kids to Read this Stuff You're Crazy

2. Here, at long last, is the holiday songbook your family has been waiting for, filled with beloved Christmas songs whose lyrics exquisitely express the REAL sentiment of the season

a. Badda Bing: White Christmas Italian Style
b. Has Jack Frost Been Nipping At Your Nose, or Have you Been Snorting Coke Again? (Christmas Songs for Modern Times)
c. Forget Tiny Timmy - Just Gimme, Gimme, Gimme, and Other Seasonal Songs
d. Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook
e. Your Frostbit Nose Stayed Black! (& Other Holiday Favorites)
f. Rudolph the Passive-Aggressive Martyr Whose Mother Shows Up Unannounced, Uninvited and Under The Influence, and Other Songs of Holiday Hell

3. Anyone who ever sampled a thirst-quenching bacon milkshake or fondly recalls those days when meat loaf arrived at the dinner table molded into the shapes of farm animals will cherish this hilarious and gut-wrenching book.

a. Carnivore Cuisine: From Alligator to Zebra
b. Mary Ate a Little Lamb - And a Little Pig - And a Little Cow
c. Eating Peacock and Hummingbird: Medieval Favorites for Modern Day Meals
d. Jellied Rosehips, Worm Chutney, or Pickled Carp? Favorites from Grandma's Ozark Cookbook
e. The Gallery of Regrettable Food
f. Pining For Head Cheese: Meals From the Good Old Days

4. Are you ready for a new ethnic cuisine? Well, how about Trailer Toast made with government cheese for starters, followed by RC Cola Salad and Dirt Bag Pudding for dessert?

a. Ruby Ann's Down Home Trailer Park Cookbook
b. Cooking School Confidential: Extraordinary Uses for Government Surplus Foods Besides Doorstops
c. Aren't You Glad We're So Much Better than Them, Book 14: Can You Believe What They Eat?
d. Vittles That’ll Make You Spittle
e. Engine Block Souffle & Other Home-cooked-by-your-car Favorites
f. Skank Burgers and Other Red Neck Recipes

5. This hilarious collection of true tales of mealtime mishaps guides you through the faux pas that other hostesses have made so that you don't make the same mistakes.

a. Confessions Of A Reluctant Hostess: The Truth, The Whole Truth And The Guests Who'll Never Return
b. Honey, I Carved the Kids - Simple Precautions for Gracious Dining
c. The Hostess Who Mistook Her Guest for the Valet and Other True Stories
d. Dinner Party Disasters: True Stories of Culinary Catastrophe
e. Waiter, There Are Snails On My Plate
f. Don’t Sneeze In The Marmalade (Someone Might Be Watching)

6. Now all fabulous women everywhere can have their own mountains of royal fun and food, thanks to this collection of top secret recipes—and the events that inspired them.

a. The Rich Bitch Eats Phat - - Splurging On Haute Cuisine With The Rich And Famous
b. Let Them Eat Cake, Don’t Cry For Me and It’s a Good Thing: Recipes inspired by Marie Antoinette, Evita Perone and Martha Stewart
c. The Sweet Potato Queens' Big-Ass Cookbook and Financial Planner
d. Trust Me, It Really Is Broccoli: Anecdotes from the Royal Chefs of England
e. Don’t Let The Bastards Blow Your Cover: Valerie Plame’s Crockpot Cookbook
f. Fondue You And The Ski-lift You Rode In On: Food and Fun In Switzerland with Prince Charles and Camilla

7. A book about sex that tells us why Junior Leaguers don't do it in groups, why Baptists won't do it standing up, and why Richard Nixon never did it, among other things.

a. Diddly-Doodles and Canoodling in Heartland America
b. Don't Bend over in the Garden, Granny, You Know Them Taters Got Eyes
c. Conservatism & Its Sexual Discontents: It’s All About That Rod Up Your Ass
d. Kama Shoulda: What Americans Think About Sex and What They Actually Do
e. The No Zone: Puritan Hang Ups In The Bedroom
f. Lezzdooit: A Compendium Of Modern Fornication

8. When Judith and her cousin Renie go on vacation in a remote and possibly haunted Scottish castle owned by a rich whiskey distillery baron, strange things start occurring.

a. Baron Whiskey and the Daring Lesbians of East Orange Tackle John Barleycorn
b. Ghost O Glenfidditch
c. Liquor Once On The Cheek, Twice On The Lips
d. The Drunken Ghost of Castle MacNought
e. Terribly Sorry, But I Seem To Be Dead
f. Scots on the Rocks

9. The humorous journal of a year in the life of a fourteen-year-old British girl who tries to reduce the size of her nose, stop her mad cat from terrorizing the neighborhood animals, and win the love of handsome hunk Robbie.

a. Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
b. Millicent Moonbeam and the Annals of Boreham Near Elstree
c. The Year of Living Drivellingly
d. Jane & The Mind-Altering Spell Of Fabulousness
e. Harriet Smythe and the Duct Tape Nose Job
f. The Totally Bogus Life of Winifred P. James, Aspiring Dunderhead

10. A "chubby" New York City teen faces pressures from her family to get thin.

a. Phats Holdem's Bootylicious Summer
b. Sticking a Fork in The Big Apple of My Family’s Dreams
c. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things
d. You're Not Going to Eat That, Are You?
e. Give Me Pasta Or Give Me Death!
f. If You Didn’t Eat The Dog Again, Why Are There Fleas In Your Teeth?

Fake titles were submitted by Dave, Paul Penna, Sarah, Ouch!, Khazar-Khum, writtenwyrdd, blogless_troll, Robin S., ME, EE and anonymous.


1c 2d 3e 4a 5d 6c 7b 8f 9a 10c

Face-Lift 407

Guess the Plot

The Cursed Queen

1. He was a royal. He was a cross-dresser. He was from Queens. Could anything else go wrong for Pat ("Geisha") Tudor? Oh, yes.

2. After a delivering a brutal fashion critique to a wandering Gypsy woman, Gavin finds he can no longer croak his way through his favorite show tunes.

3. The story of Queen Maria Expletiva, so hated by her subjects they had to invent new words to express their loathing, and to describe her personal blessing of the Spanish Armada.

4. Forced to marry a king feared for his cruelty and savagery, Ariashal discovers the man has no name or face, thanks to an old curse. Now Ariashal hopes her own curse is still working, the one that states that every man she marries will die.

5. Once a month Queen Hepsabah felt the curse approaching. Her body swelled to enormous proportions. She craved pretzels and chocolate and chocolate pretzels. What she didn’t crave was the King. When she runs out of Midol, will the King make it to the pharmacy on time, or will she sic the hounds on him again?

6. When Syrji learns the drought her family has tried to flee for years is specifically following her, she runs from home. But two rogue mages recognize her for what she is - a walking curse and a reincarnated queen. Each means to use her, and Syrji must play them off each other to reach their citadel, where she can break the curse and gain a kingdom.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

Ariashal is cursed: Every man she marries dies.

When the man she loves is murdered just before her sixth wedding, [You know, when you find out that the first five guys your sweetie married dropped dead, you might want to consider just moving in together.] she longs to withdraw from the world. As King Turabar’s only daughter, however, she is a pawn in the family’s schemes for power. To fulfill dynastic ambitions, she is forced to marry the King of Angevar, a sorcerer feared for his cruelty, savagery and might. [Do they hook the daughter up with the sorceror king to form an alliance, or hoping her curse kills him?]

Once they are married, Ariashal slowly gains his trust. [I don't recommend doing anything slowly when you're under this curse.] She learns that has a curse of his own: his visage and name taken by a jealous god. [Does he have no name or visage? Or does he have a different name and visage, like the name Goober and the visage of a cow?] [It would be hard to negotiate treaties if you were a king with a cow's face:

Okay, then it's agreed, you guys get our seaports, our mineral rights and all of our military equipment, and we get your pastureland.]

Her brother’s treachery forces her return to the land of her birth, where the true nature of her curse is exposed. Together Ariashal and the King seek to defeat their curses. [It would seem they've already defeated hers; they're married and he's not dead.]

I am seeking representation for my paranormal romance, "The Cursed Queen", which is complete at 108,000 words. May I send you some sample chapters?

I am a member of RWA, and have published a vampire short story. I have a BA in English and post-graduate work in both Literary Criticism and Art History.

I am looking forward to hearing from you.



Are they using the curse as a weapon? Were they with the previous five husbands?

This peters out when she marries the sorceror king. There's room to tell us more. What is the true nature of Ariashal's curse? What is her brother's treachery? What can they do to defeat the curse placed on the king? Is the goddess available to discuss it? Why is the king still alive? Sorcery?

New Beginning 347

The wind flew through his hair as the eerie chants became faster and faster. He chewed the dried root and revelled in the feeling of weightlessness. The screech of a battle cry signalled the beginning of the procession and they rose as one into the sky.

The wails of the Bean Sidhe rose up from the riverbanks to greet them, their bloody clothes forgotten for the moment. The night was full of the ghostly sounds of the immortals on the prowl. Never did he feel as powerful as when he was leading a procession through their lands.

A scout screamed, a human fool enough to leave the safety of his village had been spotted. There was always one. Tyrae concentrated long enough to find the prey: an elderly man cowering as he ran down the track looking for safety. He would not find it until morning, if he survived. With a smile, Tyrae lead the procession downwards, getting just close enough to drag the man in the whirlwind of their wake. The mortal screams mixed in with the screeches and chants, an evil chorus of sound that filled Tyrae with exhilaration.

No stealth, no sneaking: for the night they ruled the land without challenge, even the Seelie Court cowered in their hill and waited for the night to be over. His rule, tonight, was absolute; his power immense.

Then he saw the light. A beckoning blue glow as unearthly as anything this night. It hovered outside the low house of one of the mortals. Tyrae grinned and swooped toward it: a new spirit to torment. His jaws ground down on the dried root, his muscles rippled like wild animals under his skin, his joyous war-cry echoed through the night. He couldn't resist it -- faster, faster, fas--


The O'Halloran Bugtrocutioner II. Zaps even the most unseelie of pests. Only 12.99 at all good hardware stores.

Opening: Sylvia.....Continuation: ril

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Face-Lift 406

Guess the Plot

Return to Empire

1. In World War III, the United States manages to lose Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Guam to . . . get this - Brazil. Fidel Castro is still dictator in Cuba, and the Philippines are completely under water. But Biff Duckwater plans to change all that.

2. The long voyage was over, and, finally, Alexander was able to return to his throne. But someone was ruling in his stead and claiming to be him, someone more like Alexander than Alexander! WTF?

3. A foundling child leaves his poor but honest foster parents to seek his fortune in the wider world. A seemingly chance encounter with a mysterious stranger, in reality the court magician to the deposed emperor, sets in motion a chain of events that leads our hero on a quest that, though filled with unspeakable dangers, promises a reward of unimaginable scope. Also: two more volumes.

4. 15-year-old Katie is heir to the throne of the Empire. When her father dies, she leaves Earth and warps to the Empire where she does battle with her cousin and with a villain known as . . . the Upstart. Also, an army of geeks.

5. In 2011 scientist Mark Jeffries creates a time machine to bring young Queen Victoria to modern London. But once she arrives, she refuses to quietly settle down with the handsome Mark, and instead tries to engineer a return to Empire for Britain.

6. Dress designers Aunt Tessie and Uncle Perry discover that their daughter, Antonia, is really the Queen of the ancient order of Faeries and their son, Guillaume, is the Staten Island Faerie. Also lesbians.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Katie is fifteen, outgoing and confident and, now that her father's been murdered, the heir to the throne of an empire. [Who was the heir before he was murdered?] Her father was overthrown by her cousin once removed. Katie tries to stay on Earth, where she grew up, but her cousin might destroy it to be rid of her. [Destroy the Earth? That's like burning down your house because there's a mosquito in your bedroom.] [Some 15-year-old girl's cousin has the ability to destroy the Earth? What exactly are his powers?] The safest course is for Katie, her mom, Brandon and Krystal use an elgon – a gray man who is one of the bodyguards of the Emperor - to warp themselves to the Empire. [You seem to think we know who Brandon and Krystal are.]

Katie finds she understands the Empire and its way of doing things far better than she understood Earth. [Where is this Empire?] She sets about building a coalition with which to take power. [She's the heir to the throne. Why doesn't she already have power?] But she is unlike other Emperors in waiting. She will not accept proskenesis, [If you're going to make me look something up in the dictionary, at least have the decency to spell it right.

Me: What's proskenesis? There's no such word, perhaps you meant progenesis?

Me: How do I know? I didn't write it. Plus, I don't know what progenesis is, either. It's precocious sexual reproduction in a trematode worm in which metacercariae or sometimes cercariae may lay eggs capable of repeating the life cycle.

Me: That could be it; what else you got? How about pyrokenesis?

Me: I used to think I had a decent vocabulary. It's the ability to set objects or people on fire through the concentration of psychic power.

Me: I don't think that's it . . . though I think the book would be better if it were. Wait, I've spotted something in Proskynesis. Something about bowing down to people of higher rank. It's a Persian thing.

Me: Hmm. Nah, I don't think so. I'll go with the screwing worms.]

she is polite to slaves, [Excuse me. If you don't want to be whipped within an inch of your life, you'll clean out the horse stalls . . . please.] she treats the elgons as actual people, and she refuses to let her followers undertake military actions.

Katie learns her cousin is a puppet for even darker forces: the civilian slaughters of recent years had a hidden agenda of mind control. The Upstart is distracted by making clones of himself and killing them. [While that is one of the great sentences in query history, I don't know what it means or what it's doing there.] [You seem to think we know who the Upstart is.] She learns She discovers that the elgonen who protect her are her ancestors; former Emperors taken at the moment of death and put into this state. Katie is determined to save and then reform the Empire.

Fending off the Upstart's assassination attempts, she gathers the groups she needs. But when the Upstart kidnaps her to try to make her an elgon, Katie convinces the captain of the capital ship used to control the process to join her cause.

The geeks, commanded by her friend Brandon, [The geeks? Are they geeks?] blanket the area with messages that all taxes paid to the Upstart count for nothing and the same debt will remain to the true Emperor. [Is Katie the true emperor?] The groups who follow her, like food sellers, transport workers, war veterans and followers of the planet's Wiccans, both of whom have many types of jobs, give that section of the Empire its first taste of a general strike. [This is way too long. I can't believe anything in that paragraph is essential to the query.]

The empire sends a fleet and confronts Katie's ships. To stop them Katie has herself made into a living elgon. [The Upstart kidnaped her to make her an elgon; now she's doing it herself?] It's dangerous, but it allows her to phase through reality like they do. She and the elgonen enter her cousin's ships and disable their weapons. [I remember that part from a Star Trek.] Some ships defect to Katie and she gets about a fifth of the Empire under her rule: she can show what kind of Emperor she is.

Return to Empire is a YA SF novel complete at 60,000 words and I understand from your website you handle this type of work. My previous writing credits include seven books including [novel] and [novel]. I enclose the first three chapters as sample.

Thank you for your consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


A villain who goes by "The Upstart" doesn't leave me quaking in my boots.

You're telling us too much of the plot. Your goal is to interest us in the book. Too much information is as bad as too little. Try limiting yourself to ten sentences. It'll help you see what's necessary and what you can cut. And of course I don't mean ten sentences that list key events; ten sentences that take us logically through the one main story line.

Make it clear what being heir to the throne means. She doesn't seem to have the throne, and goes through hell just to get control of one fifth of the Empire.

New Beginning 346

“I am the goddess Kalypso, daughter of the Titan Atlas," I said as my mortal visitors stepped on the shore. "Ogygain is my home, my haven, which no man may see without my leave. I have allowed you to find it so that you may learn the truth of what happened when Odysseus’s god-driven wanderings brought him to my shore.”

Michael, Susanna and David glanced at each other. It was David’s drunken musings about hunting Greek legends that had lead to their trip across the Adriatic Sea. I knew they hadn’t expected to be on anything more than a pleasure cruise. But, the problem with searching for a goddess is that occasionally I want to be found.

Fears skittered across their conscious minds. That damned Homer had made them nervous. They only knew the fabrication he told. I should have struck him down rather than let him spread that atrocity.

"You believe I held the hero captive by force, don't you?" I asked them. "You believe Odysseus begged his release?

"No, my children. It took only this warm sand and soft sun to tether his wanderings. And, of course, free access to this." I let my robe fall open, revealing the sweet curves and buried treasures of my youthful, nymphic body.

"One look is all it took. Seven years later, that damn clingy archetype was still trying to prove himself bigger, better and longer-lasting than any satyr or centaur. But did he care about my feelings? Oh, no. It was all about him. 'When I slayed the Cyclops . . . when I sailed between Scylla and Charybdis . . . when I got past Helios' cattle . . . when I tricked Circe . . .' Gods, he was insufferable! I kicked his sorry ass out. Had to build the damn boat for him, but it was worth it. Now you go home and tell--uh oh. No, not again. Damn!"

The three travelers had already stripped off shoes and shirts, and pants were quickly following. Closing her robe, Kalypso frowned. It was going to be another long seven years.

Opening: King's falcon.....Continuation: phoenix

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Face-Lift 405

Guess the Plot

The Song the Trees Sang

1. Just give us some waterrrrr and some yellow sunshine.
A breeze now and then and we’ll be just fine.
Hope that ol’ loggerrrrr don’t fire up his saw,
Don’t wanna be a kiosk, or a bench in a mawlllll.

2. Riding their Pony, Magic, in the forest, two girls suddenly find themselves in a new world, where animals talk and trees sing songs. Hmm, this is sounding a little . . . Maybe I better have my mommy tell you about my book.

3. Once upon a time it was: 'Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you draw near?' Now it's all battle hymns. Why are the trees on the warpath? Is it because its . . . Pruning time?

4. It was insidious. As annoying as an advertising jingle, it stuck in everyone's head until it seemed the entire land of Millipund would go mad. Only Raina, the blind and deaf daughter of the woodcutter, can save the others from . . . The Song the Trees Sang.

5. While bivouacking in the Redwood Forest, Sergeant Buck of the Marines hears a strange song from the trees. Is it an alien siren? Or just a homeless dude camping in the canopy of the redwoods?

6. Ellen's sister, Annie, is autistic. When a real-estate developer starts to clear the neighboring farm, Annie begins singing a weird, haunting tune. Is she singing . . . the songs of the trees?

Original Version

The Song the Trees Sang

When ten-year-old Jaice and her older sister Joscelyn go for an ordinary ride on their pony, Magic, they are surprised to discover a river they don’t remember running through the forest near their home. Magic won’t turn back, though, and carries them across the river – to a new world where animals talk and trees sing songs with hidden messages. Almost as soon as they arrive, all three are captured by centaurs. [You call this an ordinary ride on their pony? What happens on their remarkable rides?]

Magic, they discover, has brought them here to retriever her filly. [What's Magic's filly doing in this new world? Was she horsenapped? How does Magic know this world exists, when the river wasn't even there last time they went for a ride?] But while Magic can go back and forth across the river, no-one else can – including her baby. And this country seems to be under a curse: Magic’s filly is the only female of any species born in many years. Magic’s half-brother, Adonai, and a lioness are fighting for control, [Lioness vs. Pony: part 7 of our twelve-part series, Nature's Greatest Combatants.] and both believe that Magic – since her baby was a female - must know the secret of breaking the curse. She doesn’t . [You'd think the centaurs would be the ones challenging the lioness, instead of a pony. Are the centaurs minions of the pony? If so, those are some wimpy pathetic centaurs.] [Centaurs are like horses, except they can shoot guns.] [I think it would be amazing if some year there was an unannounced centaur in the Kentucky Derby.] [I'd like to see a centaur-unicorn race. On the one hand, the centaur would want to win the race, but on the other hand, he might not want a unicorn coming up behind him.]

Jaice and Joscelyn are imprisoned on an island, [Is the island in the river?] and in the process of escaping, Jaice discovers that she can cross the river both ways. [You already said no one except Magic could could go back and forth across the river. I quote: "No-one."] She’s always resented being in the shadow of her smarter, prettier sister, but now that she has to leave Joscelyn behind and try to save both of them, she’s scared and not sure she’s up to the challenge. Jaice meets Grae, a boy who has previously appeared in her dreams along with a dapple-grey stallion. [Oh thank goodness, a boy has shown up. Now everything'll be all right.] Grae doesn’t know how or why he got here, and doesn’t much like girls, but they realize they need each other to survive and get home again.

After finding the stallion who joins them in helping Adonai defeat the lioness, and discovering the cause of the curse, Jaice has one more challenge: getting her sister, Grae, and Magic’s foal back to their own world. She learns that she has her own special magic and that if the others will trust her – as she is learning to trust herself – she can bring everyone safely home.

I’ve had three short stories published in children’s readers, but most of my writing has been for adults: hundreds of magazine articles and fourteen non-fiction books. [Yes, but we want to know whether this book is for children or adults.]


You're telling us too much of the plot. It feels more like an outline than a cohesive description of your story. Come up with a topic sentence for each paragraph and build on it with a logical progression of ideas, cause and effect, etc. This jumps from idea to idea to much.

Is the song the trees sing important? I wasn't crazy about the title, and the query hasn't convinced me to change my mind.

New Beginning 345

It was late afternoon. I was heading for home, not really thinking about the road in front of me. I’d driven this narrow two lane blacktop hundreds of times over the years. Hell, I knew every turn, dip and incline as it wound its way along the forested slopes of northern Arizona’s Mogollon Rim.

I topped out of a long shaded incline, rounded a curve and burst into a sunlit clearing. My heart leapt into my throat when I saw the woman standing in the middle of my lane. Adrenalin and pure instinct took over as my foot exploded off the gas pedal and onto the brake while the thought I may be hallucinating flashed through my mind. I swung the Crown Vic’s wheel hard to the left and stood on the brake, gritting my teeth and sucking in a long breath as the heavy car went into a skid and began to fishtail. I tensed-- waiting for what I feared would be the inevitable impact of 3000 pounds of automobile hitting a hundred pounds of living flesh.

But then I felt a warm breeze through the car, and the road was behind me and the canyon below. My stomach lurched as I looked down and saw the trees, small as matchsticks.

I had a moment to ponder my situation as I hung there, mystified, in the air. The figure I'd seen wasn't a woman but a bird, a tall bird with a blue crest, holding a sign. It said, "Sucker."

I had just time enough to realize I'd taken a wrong turn into Toontown; then the car began to plummet.

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: writtenwyrdd

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Face-Lift 404

Guess the Plot

Claire's Delusion

1. Claire thinks she's sure to get published, if she writes a good book, goes to conferences and persistently tries to interest a publisher.

2. Claire was born with everything -- looks, brains, a mansion in Bevery Hills, a complete set of Spode china. Pursued hotly by both a handsome prince and a business tycoon worth billions, she is a recipient of a MacArthur grant, a Tony and the Nobel Prize for Physics. So why does she live in an Airstream and eat off Chinet?

3. I know there's a market for first-person fiction dictated to me by my vagina, and this book proves it.

4. Claire and her boyfriend, Blaine, are happy. Or so she thinks. When Claire discovers she's got the clap, she's forced to wonder: is it too much to ask for a girl to have a happy relationship with a nymphomaniac?

5. Patrick is horrified when his wife, Claire, announces that her mind is now occupied by both her own consciousness and that of another woman named Joy . . . until he realizes that he actually likes Joy better than Claire.

6. Claire just wasn't herself today. She looked in the mirror and saw Eleanor Roosevelt. She looked in her bed and saw Bill Clinton. Then she figured it out: she was in Hell.

Original Version

Dear Agent or Editor,

Patrick Becker returns to university life for his second doctorate to apply his electrical engineering expertise to the study of consciousness with his doctoral advisor, Dr. Dylan Freedman, a renowned Philosopher of mind. [Wake me up when this one's over and we'll move on.] While Patrick's wife Claire serves as a “reference brain” to test his specialized EEG equipment, she decides to experiment on her own, in a way for which it was not intended. After awaking several times from periods of unconsciousness in which she hears voices, [It's the voices of her doctors and nurses arguing over who's to blame.] Claire decides that she is now plural...Claire and Joy. [I don't see this as a decision. If she's not plural, or it's unknown, she "claims" or "declares" that she's plural. If Claire is plural, she--or rather they--"realize" that they're plural.]

Patrick is devastated. [Devastated? How many married guys get a shot at a threesome without all the baggage?] He and Dr. Freedman study Claire's condition feverishly and postulate that the normal left/right brain communication has been interfered with (much like a clinical condition associated with an exotic surgery used for severe epilepsy patients), [Thanks, I was wondering what the medical explanation was for this interference.] stranding Claire in the right brain and an “over-achieving” remnant of Claire, Joy, in the left brain. [Doctor House would test the theory by removing the left side of the brain; fortunately he's on his summer hiatus.] Claire's family and friends are skeptical of Claire's claims, especially when an MRI reveals a tiny brain lesion in an area of the brain frequently associated with the aphasic speech pattern that Claire presented for a while. Medical gravity leans towards the lesion despite its size. [The MRI found the lesion that was created by the EEG. Now they need to do a CT scan to find out what the MRI did to her. No wonder no one ever leaves a hospital alive.] Claire insists that Joy has grown, mentally, from a child to a fully functioning adult and she does not want to give up Joy. Claire's sister Abby, a nurse, presses hard for a surgical solution. [Not surprisingly, Joy is firmly on Claire's side in this argument.]

Based on separate interviews, both the neurologist and Dr. Freedman are impressed by the completeness of Joy's personality. Dr. Freedman, an expert theoretician on consciousness, decides Joy is not a personality, but is a person, equal to Claire [, a decision Patrick is forced to accept when he notices that Claire and Joy are conjoined twins]. Abby wants to use a court hearing to force her sister into surgery. [I don't have a sister, but those of you who do can tell me how you would react if your sister dropped by to tell you she and her lawyer had arranged with the courts for you to undergo brain surgery.] Patrick has no interest in forcing Claire into surgery, but sees the hearing as a sort of Socratic moot court to hear the ethical and scientific arguments of the future that will attend artificial life. [I think it's Patrick who needs brain surgery. His brain seems to be stuck up his ass.]

Patrick shivers at the thought of Joy's presence in the “marital theater” of Claire's mind, but he can no longer force himself to hate Joy as a policy...she is a fetching and charming person who grows on him. [Interestingly, where Claire enjoys a minuet, the ballet Russes and crepe suzette, Joy loves to rock and roll, a hot dog makes her lose control — What a wild duet!] (And why not? She is a remnant of Claire.) How will Patrick and Claire (and Joy) resolve Patrick's love of the formerly singular Claire and Claire's love of her newfound 'sister'? [Not to mention Patrick's love of his newfound mistress.]

Claire's Delusion (alt. Mindbender) is a hard SF novel, with medical thriller aspects, of about 100,000 words. I think readers of The Time Traveler's Wife will enjoy this novel. Thank you for your time spent and I hope you will want to see the manuscript.



When you're a Philosopher of mind, and someone asks what you do for a living, do you say, "I'm a Philosopher of mind"? Because if someone said that to me, I would assume he was putting me on.

It's too long, and easily shortened by getting rid of the technical stuff. Also by limiting yourself to a maximum of ten three-syllable words.

Save the science for the book and focus on the people. It's the people who make the story, and it's the story that you're selling.

New Beginning 344

The love duet between Butterfly and Pinkerton echoed through the empty museum. Austin waited for the climactic chords to fade.

"Walt, I got a problem," he waited for the radio to click. "The wax statue in Twenty-Five just slumped over. I was dusting it when it slumped." Austin's fiddled nervously with a nail that he removed from the nape of the statue's neck.

"Wax? You mean Western Man?" Walt asked over the radio.

"Yeah, the naked one with the muscles and tendons showing," answered Austin.

"It's silicone dummy, not wax. What do you want me to do? The curator will be here in a couple hours, let Her Nibs handle it." Walt sighed loud enough for the radio to transmit.

"Aren't you...?"

"No, I'm going home. I'm too old to listen to you get reamed over a twenty year old statue. Be glad Deng Xiaoping isn't alive to ask about his gift anymore."

"Silicone, huh?" Austin went back over to the statue and took a closer look. The detailing on Western Man was exquisite, every muscle ripple, every tendon taut and life-like. Even slumped over at the waist, it was magnificent.

The emotive strains of Puccini's masterpiece echoed in Austin's head. In a low baritone he sang, "Vieni, vieni," over and over as he walked around the model.

Gavin D'Arcangelo, art thief extraordinaire, watched a tiny drop of sweat fall from the tip of his nose. His thighs were cramped and it was a hundred degrees inside the prosthetic skin. He'd never get the vase if that freaking rent-a-cop didn't get the heck out of here. Where is he now? What's he do-- W-Whoa there!

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Anonymous

Monday, August 20, 2007

Face-Lift 403

Guess the Plot

Best of Intentions

1. The client wanted the best, so he gave the paving contract to Seth Purefoy. Now Seth is having second thoughts, especially about the paving material, and he's also worried about the job site. If he'd known he'd be paving a road to hell, he'd never have submitted the bid.

2. Haren had the best of intentions when he tried to decoy the hunters away from Adrielle. Now that he's been captured, he's wondering where the paved road they're taking him down leads.

3. Jenine hopes her new bookstore, Best of Intentions, will revolutionize publishing. She'll carry only e-books, PODs, and self-published titles. Can she convince handsome banker Rodney Treen that investing with her will be a great idea, both financially--and romantically?

4. With the best of intentions, Bob stole Mary's lunch, helping her to lose weight. With the best of intentions, Mary stole Bob's BMW, hoping to bolster his humility. With the best of intentions, Bob burned down Mary house, hoping she would find a better place to live. Will Bob and Mary ever escape reality TV hell?

5. Matchmaker Penelope Thurgood never meant to hurt anyone - it wasn't her fault that she set people up with serial killers. But now they're all dead and Penelope is scared to set anyone else up . . . until the police bring her in to help catch a new serial murderer. Will she find him before he finds her?

6. Charged with a triple homicide to which he confessed, and which was seen by eleven witnesses, Johnny faces the jury and plays his trump card: Sure he did it, but hey, he had the . . . Best of Intentions.

Original version

Title: Best of Intentions
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Word Count: about 50,000

Query Letter:

Adrielle is beautiful, inquisitive, and arguably the most powerful mage in the country of Atnatica. Haren is shy, sensitive, and oblivious to the fact that he has any powers at all. Why he's called upon to protect Adrielle is completely illogical to him, until he realizes that her power may perhaps be too strong for her to wield safely. [At which point his selection becomes perfectly logical?]

Atnatica's protocol states that intentions are everything, and one must never betray a commitment. In this spirit, Haren decides to use himself as Adrielle's decoy when a group of mage hunters enters the country. Taken hostage by her would-be captors, Haren is carried across the countryside and forced to work as a hunter for anyone with superhuman abilities. [This reminds me of Br'er Rabbit and the briar patch:

Haren: Okay, you've got me. I shoulda known I couldn't escape mage hunters, since I have no powers. I suppose now you'll kill me.

Mage hunters' leader: Kill him.

Haren: I deserve it, kill me, torture me, but please, whatever you do, don't make me hunt for people with superhuman abilities.

Mage hunters' leader: Hold it! I have an idea.]

While searching for a means of escape, Haren encounters Sala, a rebellious young woman who is eager to aid his breakout. He also hears whispers of the hunters' leader, Dii, a dark mage whose abilities may even be enough to overcome Adrielle, should he find her. [That's the end? That's too abrupt. Did you cut off the bottom half of the query?]


The mage hunters' leader is a mage? I know they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but if you're a mage, and you hire minions who are mage hunters, you're just asking for trouble.

Have you considered changing Atnatica to Antarctica, and making the mage hunters penguin hunters? Just a thought.

What's the main plot? All I see here is: Life was good in Atnatica until the day the mage hunters showed up.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

New Beginning 343

She struggles feebly against her bonds. She has little strength left, but at least she has courage, or desperation. After the fact they're much of a muchness, really.

I slice her face again. It doesn't look pretty, but then again, it never did. I get really close so I can look at the fear in her eyes, see it not just on the surface of the eyeball but deep in the retina, where the fear really dwells. I speak low and she follows human instinct - she stops screaming to hear what I have to say. It's an old trick interviewers use to keep control over recalcitrant interviewees. And what I have to say is pretty gosh-darn important even though I am almost only whispering it.

"I'm going to kill your children."

Before she can even begin to deal with that, I stab her. The heart isn't so far from the front of the chest, only about 5cm. You can stab someone to death with a paring knife. I use rather more than that. I make sure her last thought is of her children dying.

The way she purses her lips for one final scream tells me everything I need to know. Just as fear dwells in the retina, last thoughts are always betrayed by mouth structure.

"My children! No!"

These are the words she utters as her lower lip buckles and she goes limp. I yank my twenty-four-inch carving knife from her chest, admiring its blood-slicked blade. Rather more, indeed.

"Much of a muchness," I tell her hideous corpse. "Can't get much more much than that."

I'm holding my breath. I let the old air out and inhale deeply; perhaps I breathe in her escaping soul. There is silence, and then noise. I can hear the approval, it fills the room.

I don't need to be judged. They don't need to voice their opinions. I already know: I'm through to the finals on Fox's America's Next Serial Killer!

Opening: Anonymous.....Continuation: Reine/ril

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Guess the Title 2

Below are ten actual book descriptions taken from One of the given titles belongs with the book; the other five are fakes. Answers at the bottom of the post.

1. A lively, hilarious, not-so-reverent crash course through the great philosophical traditions, schools, concepts, and thinkers. It's Philosophy 101 for everyone who knows not to take all this heavy stuff too seriously.

a. I Think, Therefore I Paaartayyyy!

b. Sex and the Single Thinker

c. Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar . . .

d. Camus or Kant You: Putting Descartes Before the Horkheimer

e. Who'da Thunk It?

f. You've Got Guts Between Your Teeth: An Insider's View of the Dog-Eat-Dog World of Philosophy Through The Ages

2. History--long ennobled as the privileged domain of lofty scholars and erudite minds--really just boils down to four things if you think about it. Who killed who, who conquered who, who screwed who, and in what order.

a. The Low-Brow Guide to World History

b. History and Herstory

c. Death and Sex: The Modern Puritan's Guide to History

d. How to Conquer, Screw, and Kill, Using History as Justification

e. They Kill Liars, Don't They? -- Historical Facts that Never Happened

f. Who Did What to Whom and When: A Cheat Sheet for the Historically Illiterate

3. Classic nursery rhymes with a thoroughly modern and charmingly ironic spin that will make the most sleepless fashionista mom smile, even when she's knee-deep in diapers.

a. Mother Goosed

b. This Little Piggy Went to Prada

c. Blah Blah Blahnik Have you any Rhyme?

d. Mother Goose Hangs Loose

e. Politically Correct Nursery Rhymes: Why Should Men Have All the Fun?

f. Refashioned Fairy Tales

4. Even if you've never attended a wedding in the South, you'll find laughter in the pages of this deliciously entertaining slice of Southern life and love, complete with recipes, advice, and a huge dose of that famous charm

a. Sophistication in the Sticks: Staging a Genteel Hillbilly Wedding

b. Too Many Pork Chops: Love, Weddings and Nineteen Cousins Who Can't Fit The Bridesmaid's Dress

c. Somebody is Going to Die If Lilly Beth Doesn't Catch that Bouquet

d. Take a Bite Outta Mah… Key Lahm Pah

e. "I'm Sure She's Very Nice": How to Survive the Southern Wedding

f. The Sacred and the Profane: Southern Weddings, from Tara Tripping to Trailer Trash

5. Everything you need to know about today's fastest growing carbohydrate-based religion.

a. The Bread Sea Scrolls Interpreted

b. Just Paste That Bacon To Your Thigh: Why Fad Diets Don't Work

c. Good Carbs/Evil Carbs: What You Must know to Get to Thin Heaven

d. Celebrating the Church of the Eternal Sourdough

e. Rice Guys Finish First

f. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

6. Finally, a book that guarantees your balls will be stomped, that will make even the burliest of men (and in some cases, the burliest of women) feel inadequate.

a. Evil Editor: Nekkid

b. "I'd Love You If You Lost Twenty Pounds" (And other failed pick up lines)

c. Bull Hockey: Games for REAL Men (and we don't mean you girlie NFL players)

d. My Life among the Invertebrates and other Spineless Creatures

e. Ballbusters!

f. The Alphabet of Manliness

7. Never in the history of humankind have so many people uttered so many statements they know to be untrue. From presidents to priests, from corporate executives to lowly wage slaves, people have taken to saying not what they actually believe, but what they believe others want to hear.

a. Advertising: An Introduction

b. Your Call is Important To Us

c. Excuses to God for My Politics

d. The Slippery Slope of our Slimey Slogans

e. "I Love that Outfit!"-- BullShitting Your Way Through Life

f. Lyin’ Dogs and Laxity: When Tall Tales Take Over

8. A hilarious, good-natured spoof on more than fifty self-help books, this book will leave you feeling better about who you are and laughing your way to becoming the person God created you to be.

a. Teatime with God and the 7 Habits of Omniscience

b. As Seen On TV, Or Ten Minutes To a Perfect You

c. Don't Buy this Book . . . Unless You Want to be Over-paid, Over-sexed, Under-worked, and Halfway to Heaven

d. Maybe Life's Just Not That Into You

e. How to Kill Everyone Who Annoys You Without Wiping Out The People You Might Need Later

f. Self-Help for the Self-Help-Impaired

9. The poseur's bible, but with less religious overtones than the real bible-and more pointers on conspicuously carrying an NPR tote bag.

a. Everything I Know I Learned from Baby Jesus in the Manger

b. The Good Bits Bible (Unitarian Universalist Edition)

c. God Wants You to Vote for Me: the Politician's Guide to Acting Devout

d. Faking it: How to Seem Like a Better Person Without Actually Improving Yourself

e. The New Book of Judges (Without All That Judgmental Crap)

f. Pious Eye for the Agnostic Guy

10. A cranked-up collection of affirmations for mommies on the edge, self-styled divas, and domestic goddesses everywhere.

a. Why Mommy Takes Prozac

b. How to Survive Every Ailment Your Kid Can Have, Bake a Mean Souffle, Be the Most Popular Mom on Earth, and Bring Home the Bacon with a Home-Based Business

c. Feminazis, The Maytag Repairman & Other Myths of Mommyhood

d. Gynosaurs: The Lifetime Network As Scripture

e. You Say I'm a Bitch Like It's a Bad Thing

f. Take Your F**king Shoes Off When You Come In Here

Answers Below

Fake titles were submitted by Dave, Robin S., writtenwyrdd, Bill Highsmith, Scott, freddie, Ouch!, Khazar-khum, Evil Editor, and Anonymous

1: c; 2: a; 3: b; 4: c; 5: f; 6: f; 7:b; 8: d; 9: d 10: e

Face-Lift 402

Guess the Plot

The Vessel

1. After a week at a retreat, Stephanie returns to work and proclaims her body is her vessel. Brad, the mailroom supervisor, thinks he has just the thing to fill it. Embarrassment and hilarity ensue when their co-workers notice the stationery closet door is ajar.

2. A twelve-year-old girl must find her missing . . . Staff of Earth! Without it she cannot focus the power of . . . the Vessel! And will never defeat . . . the Adversary!

3. When Kathleen's grandfather presents her with a small ship in a bottle, she thinks little of the gesture. But that's before the vessel wrecks itself against the bottle's glass walls and she finds herself witnessing a series of drownings.

4. A crack team of microsurgeons prepare for a tough case: a man who has 100% blockage of every vein and artery in this body. They shrink themselves down to 1/2 mm to enter The Vessel, their cleverly named surgical icebreaker-like ship used to enter a patient invasively and clear out french fry-clogged blood vessels.

5. When Jake Pidgett, junior caterer in the Titanic's vast kitchens is confronted with a gash in the side of the ship, Jake heroically sets to work with eggs, sugar and the ship's mighty ovens, aiming to seal the gap with a series of souffles. Unfortunately, jealous sous-chef Pierre Le Clerq has other plans . . .

6. Archeologist Dante Stevens unearths a strange green gold vessel from the ruins of a Nazi stronghold, only to have his life disrupted by a steady stream of visiting demons. Should he seek shelter at a nearby convent, or let the demons have . . . the Vessel?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Twelve-year-old Ryder has a problem. She must learn to use the powers of THE VESSEL, the only person with the power to use all Five Powers of ‘magic’: Earth, Fire, Air, Water, and Spirit. [You're modifying "the vessel" with "the only person"; you should be mofifying "Ryder" or "she."] Her predecessor has been killed by servants of the Adversary, [an] evil creature locked in a metaphysical and real sense at the center of the Earth. [If the master you serve is locked at the center of the Earth, and you're still doing his bidding, it's time to sign up for assertiveness training.]

Over the course of a year, she deals with new ‘friends’ who pop out of nowhere to inform her of her duty. They then teach her what she must know. Our young heroine is betrayed and attacked by someone she trusts. Her journey is filled with tragedy and triumph as she learns what it means to save and sometimes loose [lose] the people she cares about. [Too vague. Who pops out of nowhere? What's her duty? What must she know, and why? Who betrays her? Who are the people she cares about? Why be vague when you can be specific?] Ryder uses her talents to play tricks on a mean teacher in one chapter and then fight off monsters in another.

In the end, she’s faced with one goal: recover her Staff of Earth. This weapon focuses the Vessel’s power and is specifically created for her. If she doesn’t recover it by the end of summer, it is lost until the next Vessel comes around. [Which is when? When she dies? Why can't she find the staff in autumn? Has she ever focused the Vessel's power? How did the Staff get lost? Is she in danger?]

I am the host of an online writing-critique group and have experience as an editor. At 85,000 words, THE VESSEL is about change, hope, faith, and friendship. May I send part or all of the manuscript?

Thank you for your time and consideration,

[Title: The power of The Vessel empties out when she dies. So, the power pours from person to person, as if from vessel to vessel.]


The first paragraph sets up the situation, but what's the main plot? Ryder goes on a journey to find her staff and encounters monsters, yet stays close enough to home to play tricks on a teacher? The bad guy is locked at the center of the Earth, so what's the danger? Is the Adversary able to get free? What happens if he does? Ryder's one goal is to find the Staff of Earth, and if she doesn't, it's lost until the next vessel comes around? Not scary enough. Tell us what happens if the staff remains lost until the next vessel comes around. I'm not getting any sense of urgency.

It's not clear how this is about change, hope, faith, and friendship.

What is the vessel? Is it the person with the power? The power poured from Ryder's predecessor into her, making her the new vessel? It's not clear. The explanation, which isn't part of the query, helps a little, but it's not clear either. Does the power ever pour out of Ryder and into someone else? Do the other characters refer to Ryder as the vessel?

What age group is this story intended for? That should be in here somewhere.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Guess the Title 1

Below are five book descriptions taken from Your job is to guess which title goes with each description. Think of it as reverse Guess the Plot. Answers are below the quiz.

A. Robert wants to be a star in the movies. He has invented a system with his computer that could put the old stars back on the screen, alongside him. He has the script and the money, but Hollywood isn't keen. Could the perfect partnership lie with Ernest Fudgepacker of Fudgepacker's Emporium?

1. The Importance of Being a Purple Rose in Egypt

2. Nostradamus Ate My Hamster

3. Lauren Bacall Hates My Guts

4. Talkies, Zombies and Wannabes

5. The Anal Retentive Tourist

6. CPU Oughtta Be In Pixels

B. A passel of brainy, witty sf and dark fantasy writers amuse themselves by sitting around talking about odd diseases.

1. Fifteen Diseases that Could End Civilization as We Know It

2. Blue Rubber Bleb Nevus Syndrome Gave Me Bowel Nipples

3. Scab-Picking Time on Taurus IV

4. Diagnosis: Geeky

5. Homogeneous and Heterogeneous Catalysis in the Realms of the Vampyre

6. The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases

C. A survival guide for parents who find themselves marooned among volatile and incomprehensible aliens on Planet Teen.

1. Get Out of My Life, But First Could You Drive Me and Cheryl to the Mall?

2. Moms are from Mars, Dads are from Venus, Kids are a Pain in Uranus

3. Don't Have Sex, Make Sure He Uses a Condom, and Other Things to Tell Your Teen

4. Surviving the Alien Freak Who Took Over Your Kid's Room

5. There's Julie, Pretend We're Not Together, Mom

6. Teenagers Were Never Like This When I Was One

D. A lab pigeon who believes that he and his cohorts are human, narrates this rollicking tale about experimental subjects who are kept sated with tobacco and sherry.

1. Squabbles

2. The Pulp Pigeon Papers

3. Birdman of the Alcatraz Testing Labs

4. Succulent Squab on the Lam

5. Frisco Pigeon Mambo

6. Murder Most Fowl

E. Feminism, family values, these modern times, shopping, and the battle of the sexes are covered in this no-holds-barred assault on complacency.

1. If You Wanted Any Action You Should Have Noticed My Haircut

2. Get Off Your Ass, Mo-Fo: How to Cope with the Straight Dope in 12 Easy Lessons

3. Get Your Tongue Out of My Mouth, I'm Kissing You Goodbye

4. Father Knows NOTHING

5. Lesbian Bitches from Valhalla and the Battle for the Mall of America!

6. The Adventures of Abigail Schnit and the Cocaine Tampon

Answers Below

The following people contributed fake titles: Dave, Ouch, Bill Highsmith, Khazar-khum, blogless_troll, Scott, ME, Robin S., December/Stacia, Evil Editor, and Anonymous.

The actual book titles that match the plots are:

A: 2; B: 6; C: 1; D: 5; E: 3