Sunday, December 30, 2007

Guess the Real Titles

The list below includes 14 books (listed on dealing humorously with the subjects of business, money and computers. It also includes 14 titles made up by your fellow minions. Which are the actual book titles?

50 Jobs Worse than Yours

101 Ways to Get Your Boss Fired

100 Bullshit Jobs...And How to Get Them

Office Dirty Tricks: 50 Ways to Sabotage Your Coworkers and Bluff Your Way to the Top

50 Satisfying Ways to Destroy Your Computer

Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics

What Would Machiavelli Do?: The Ends Justify the Meanness

Loving Microsoft Windows: Better Living through Chemistry

Extreme Office Crafts: Creative & Devious Ways to Waste Office Supplies & Company Time

Outsourcing Sleeping Your Way to the Top

Double the Fun with Double Entry Accounting

How to Succeed at Globalization: A Primer for the Roadside Vendor

The Glass Ceiling: Keeping it Sparkling Clean

Your Retirement Plan: Tuning it up or Polishing a Turd?

Now You've Got It, How to Keep It

Cube Chic: Take Your Office Space from Drab to Fab!

Pimp My Cubicle: Take Your Workspace from Boring to Bling!

Make A++ with C++

Cubicle Survival Guide: Keeping Your Cool in the Least Hospitable Environment on Earth

Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison

Every Partner for Himself: Squeeze out your colleagues before they squeeze you out

It's Better Than Nerdsex: All Night Programming Fun!

Death by PowerPoint

Bullwinkle on Business: Motivational Secrets of a Chief Executive Moose

Test your knowledge quotient

Office Haiku: Poems Inspired by the Daily Grind

What to do When You Can't Get Enough (money)

Rich Writer, Poor Writer, Even Poorer Writer, Positively Indigent Writer

Answers Below

Fakes supplied by--McKoala, Bill H., Deborah K. White, writtenwyrdd, EE

The actual book titles are:

50 Jobs Worse than Yours
100 Bullshit Jobs...And How to Get Them

Office Dirty Tricks: 50 Ways to Sabotage Your Coworkers and Bluff Your Way to the Top
Eat the Rich: A Treatise on Economics
Extreme Office Crafts: Creative & Devious Ways to Waste Office Supplies & Company Time
Who Moved My Soap?: The CEO's Guide to Surviving in Prison
Death by PowerPoint
What Would Machiavelli Do?: The Ends Justify the Meanness
Cube Chic: Take Your Office Space from Drab to Fab!
Pimp My Cubicle: Take Your Workspace from Boring to Bling!
How to Succeed at Globalization: A Primer for the Roadside Vendor
Cubicle Survival Guide: Keeping Your Cool in the Least Hospitable Environment on Earth
Bullwinkle on Business: Motivational Secrets of a Chief Executive Moose
Office Haiku: Poems Inspired by the Daily Grind

Friday, December 28, 2007

Satan and the Antichrist

Ten fake plots starring the evil ones. Plus two actual plots from minions' novels. Which are the real ones?

1. Terminal cancer patient Steve Marsden makes a deal with the devil: his eternal soul in exchange for 7665 extra days of life, just long enough to see his infant daughter grow up and get married. But Satan mischievously grants Steve 7665 dog days, which pass at seven times the speed of human days. Can Steve get his daughter married off by the age of three?

2. Bob is a pimply, poor-mouthed nerd, but when Satan comes calling, Bob sells his soul in order to become his opposite in every way. When his silver-tongued opposite brings the world to the brink of destruction, can Bob overcome laws of physics to save humanity . . . and the only girl who liked him as a nerd?

3. Satan couldn't believe it when his performance review came in. No longer would the board of directors allow him to reign in hell. Now he must serve in Heaven. And God is a lousy tipper.

4. When movie director Marcus Bray is told that angelic Annika Angstrom, the child star of his latest film, is the Antichrist, he assumes that means she's a typical Hollywood spoiled brat--until a series of grisly “accidents” start killing off the cast and crew. Is a hit movie worth letting Annika achieve dominion over the world?

5. Hell just wasn't any fun. Sure it sounded good when Satan used that famous recruiting line: It's better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven. The trouble was, Satan was the only one who did any ruling. Everyone else suffered eternal torment. Can Elgin find that elusive chink in the brimstone that will allow him to escape? Also, a clock that runs backwards.

6. Jury duty in heaven is hell. After 1,562,354 years, Molly learns she still can't talk about Satan's trial after his fall from heaven . . . which means she will never, ever get to be on Oprah. This leads her to the biggest existential crisis she has ever faced. Luckily for her, she has plenty of time to think about it.

7. In the cutthroat world of fashion design, Ellen DeLong has always been second rate. That is, until she makes a deal with Satan and gains the magical Shears of Endor.

8. Nine-year-old Ashley-Blanche Carmichael leaves Catholic school to follow her dream of stardom, only to land in the middle of the most bizarre child beauty pageant ever. Can the nuns of St. Wendelyn's keep her from winning the title of . . . The Prettiest Little Antichrist?

9. He was the most amazing man she ever knew: smart, strong, and sexy. But if Maribel bears the child of Satan, will he love her faithfully forever, or will he leave her only . . . A Legacy of Ashes?

10. The first time didn't go so well. The second, well, that whole Hiroshima thing put paid to it. But Satan is back and ready for more, and this time he's got a plan he's sure will succeed.

11. Six years ago Marlene was seduced by Satan himself. Now she's readying their daughter Firenza to compete in beauty pageants. But she needs the father's permission. Will she discover that there are some things too horrifying for even Satan?

12. A cloning experiment in Area 51 creates a hybrid of a human and an alien, a hybrid that proves to be . . . the Antichrist!

Answers below

Actual plots:
4 and 12

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Face-Lift 469

Guess the Plot

Unholy Ghosts

1. Each year, God selects the most worthy spirit in Heaven to serve as the Holy Ghost. This year, He's making his selection through an American Idol style contest, with the losers spending the year in Hell. For Justin, it's damned if he does, and damned if he doesn't.

2. They were ratty, they were torn, they were holey ghosts. But now, thanks to a little help from the Spirit of Christmas Past, they're getting it all together. Demons better watch out - its the all new . . . Unholy Ghosts.

3. The Baptists had it all wrong - way wrong. Now they're sitting in a very Catholic purgatory, all 200 million of 'em, contemplating just how wrong they were. Soon, it's gonna be time for revenge. If you've ever taught Sunday School, pack your bags and get out of town - before the Unholy Ghosts come calling.

4. Lex Hopper's mom refuses to ruin a perfectly good sheet by cutting eyeholes in it so he can be a ghost at Hallowe'en. Later that night, a still-incensed Lex meets the Devil enjoying a hot tub in Mrs. Minchpick's back yard. There's more than one way to make a ghost and Lex's mom is about to discover there's more to life than good sheets.

5. After a long series of flubs and mistakes, paranormal investigator Rory Mitchell isn't really sure of anything anymore. She knows one thing, though: ghosts can't really hurt anyone. But soon she finds out she's wrong. Again.

6. A drug addict is hired by her dealer to banish spirits from an airport so he can use the place for smuggling. It sounds like a piece-of-cake job, but there's a downside: these are no ordinary spirits; they're . . . Unholy Ghosts!

Original Version

Dear Agent,

[Insert line or two about how I found agent or whatever.] [Agent or whatever? Listen, if you can't get an agent immediately, keep trying. Don't settle for a mannequin or a weredingo.] I would love for you to consider representing UNHOLY GHOSTS, my approximately 83,000 thousand word [83,000 thousand equals 83 million. 83 million equals instant reject. Unless it's an encyclopedia.] [Word count should be approximated by rounding down to the nearest ten million, and subtracting 1 so it doesn't seem quite so long. In this case it would be 79,999,999.] dark urban fantasy set primarily in a punk-rock ghetto known as Downside.

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

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

Sometimes addictions are more trouble than they're worth… [If you're going to start your sales pitch with this line, I think I'd start the whole query with it. It feels weird following the previous paragraph.] [Though my advice is to start the query with the song parody.]

In a world where having a ghost in your house could earn you an enormous cash settlement from the Church of Truth—government, state religion, and the only line of defense between humanity and the spirits determined to destroy them—faking a haunting is seen by some as a better shot to [at] riches than the lottery. [Standing in the desert hoping a bag containing 10,000 thousand dollars falls out of the sky is a better shot at riches than the lottery.] [I would delete everything between the dashes. It's a lengthy and somewhat confusing interruption of the set-up.] That's why the Church has Debunkers. Their job is to disprove the hauntings, or banish the ghosts back to the City of Eternity if the haunting is proved real.

Cesaria "Chess" Putnam is a Debunker. She's also an orphan, a former abused foster child, and a loner for whom drugs are all that make life worth the bother.

When her drug dealer offers her a way to work off her debt to him, by debunking or banishing the haunting at an abandoned airport so he can use it for smuggling, she agrees. [Banishing I can see, but debunking? Why would anyone fake a haunting at an abandoned airport? Who stands to get rich?] Wiping fifteen grand—it should have been only four, but he's decided to charge interest—off the books suits her just fine, and the job should be as easy as swallowing a pill.

Too bad nothing is ever easy, especially in Downside. [But nothing is ever easy in Downside.] A rival drug gang discovers what Chess is doing and offers a counter-deal she can't refuse: if she doesn't banish the ghosts, they'll supply her for free. [That's it? Unless they pay off her debt as well, she can easily refuse.] She'd be glad to turn her back on the whole thing and curl up on her couch getting high, but what's going on at the airport is far more sinister than a mere haunting. When a decaying corpse is found with a soul trapped inside and the black magicians responsible decide to pay a middle-of-the-night visit to Chess' apartment for a little weapons practice, Chess realizes she can't just walk away. Solving this one is going to take every bit of bravery, intelligence, and skill she possesses…and an awful lot of amphetamines too. [What does she need to solve? You said the black magicians were responsible.]

Unholy Ghosts is a stand-alone novel, but is planned as the first in a series.

I have [small press credits]. I'd be happy to send the complete manuscript of Unholy Ghosts for your review. Thanks for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.


Your Church of Truth won't be the only one. There's an International Church of Truth and a Cosmic Church of Truth and a Marvel Universe Church of Truth. But don't worry, I'm guessing more people read this blog than are members of any of them.

What's the point of faking a haunting if the Church sends in Debunkers? Is Debunking an inexact science?

What's the point of banishing ghosts "back" to the City of Eternity? They left it once; why won't they leave again?

Is haunting an abandoned airport more fun than being in the City of Eternity? Just wondering about the spirits' motivation.

You'll have to get Chess off the drugs soon. It'll interfere with her debunking, and her employer won't stand for it.

Guess the Plot Prep

We're in a holiday lull, with no new queries coming in, no one submitting continuations, etc. Those who enjoy writing fake plots have nothing to do. Sympathizing with them, I'm preparing a Guess the Plot quiz for books nominated in a few categories of the 2007 Edgar Awards, given for the best mysteries.

· The Pale Blue Eye
· The Dead Hour
· The Virgin of Small Plains
· Liberation Movements
· The Faithful Spy
· Sharp Objects
· The King of Lies
· Holmes on the Range
· A Field of Darkness
· The Open Curtain

Go to it. Do any or all. Remember, they're all mysteries. I'll remove titles from the list once they have enough good fakes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

2007 Best Face-Lift Nominations

Approximately 40 Face-Lifts were nominated by volunteers and myself. I have narrowed the field to ten. Your job is to choose the very best.

You have 15 points, which you may allocate in any way you wish, but you may not give more than five points to any nominee. You could allocate 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 to your five favorites. You could decide it's a three-way tie for first place and give three of them 5 points. You're judging EE here, so don't consider the Guess the Plots, the quality of the query itself, the genre or appeal of the book being queried, the comments, or the identity of the author.

face-lift 257


face-lift 270

face-lift 347

face-lift 357

face-lift 359

face-lift 363

face-lift 388

face-lift 406

face-lift 437

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Guess the Plot

The fake plots below appeared on this blog during the past year. But not all of them proved to be fake. Which two are the actual plots of minions' novels?

1. When “undocumented worker” Carlos Cruz shows up at the day labor pool on Christmas Eve, the only guy offering work is a pequeno duende with bells on his shoes. Driving the sleigh is no problem, but will Christmas be ruined when Carlos has to take a leak at 30,000 feet? The kid who asked for the jar of marbles will probably think so.

2. A pearl for Christmas, a ruby for Valentine's, and an emerald for her birthday. Sue's husband sure is spending hard to assure her that his cheating days are over. But will the sparkle of her Columbus Day sapphire blind her to his sudden increase in "business trips"?

3. Evelyn told her mother-in-law that she wears a size 12, when a 16 is closer to the truth. With the family reunion drawing near, will Evelyn resign herself to wearing the ill-fitting gifts her mother-in-law sent her for Christmas, or will she find a way to escape. . . The Lies that Bind?

4. Poverty and creativity went hand in hand for Pearl, until her homemade Christmas ornaments became big sellers in Winston-Salem. Success is a puff away, but can she find the right partner for her Cigarette Angel factory or will her plans go up in smoke?

5. Charlotte has a thing for holidays. She poisoned the marshmallow chicks in her first husband's Easter basket, strangled her second husband with the ribbon from the Valentine's Day chocolate box, and suffocated her third with the helium balloons at his own birthday party. Now, as Christmas approaches, hubby #4 wonders why that package under the tree is ticking.

6. Every year, Carrie's creepy boss has groped and French-kissed her at the office holiday party. With the antidote in her hip pocket, she waits near the mistletoe and keeps her tongue away from her poisoned lipstick. By this time next year, she'll be the VP doing the groping.

7. Christmas at the estate of Lord Ajax was supposed to be the climax of this year's social season-- and the moment Lord Ajax proposes to her. But Clarissa discovers she is not to be the recipient of a marriage proposal, when she discovers her Ajax under the mistletoe, locked in the embrace of . . . her brother.

8. It's Christmas, and Christine has no one to spend it with--until she gets drawn into an international drug conspiracy by hunky doctor David McLeod. Now that she's found true love, can she stay alive long enough to enjoy it? Also, Johnny Cash.

9. What started as an innocent kiss at the Devorson’s posh Christmas party turns into an obsession that leaves a trail of bodies from New York to Nevada. Beautiful detective Mary Sky must find the X-mas Killer, following the clues he leaves her, before Christmas rolls around again and his knife finds her under the Mistletoe.

10. Kelly Coosman volunteered to work the kissing booth for the parish Christmas Gala…it was the least she could do after Father McElroy rescued her from the streets of Chicago. But she’s been on her feet for fourteen hours straight, smooching hundreds of nicotine-fouled old men with rotten yellow teeth, and she's thinking prostitution wasn't so bad after all.

11. Confident his parents won't be getting him a Christmas present, Nate runs away from home and moves into Wal-Mart. When a night security guard finds him and realizes he's the missing boy she read about in the newspaper, she sets up a tent, gets Nate a sleeping bag, and helps him set up a household. Hey, the place gets lonely at night.

12. Investigative journalist Shiela Nagig is working on an expose of the child beauty contest circuit when the Archdiocese of Sheboygan hires her to find out why six of their little angels from the Christmas Play have mysteriously disappeared along with a valuable altarpiece.

Real Plots Below

The real plots are

8 and 11

Monday, December 24, 2007


A dozen of the following thirty titles are available at The others were made up by the Evil Minions. Make your guesses; the answers are below.

Zombie Bums from Uranus

Man, Beast and Zombie

White Zombie Astro-Creep

Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse

March of the Undead

How to Make Love Like a Zombie


Would Anyone who has Lost an Arm Please Contact the Service Desk: Your Limb is Waiting For You

Zomboni: the ultimate sex guide for the living dead

Zomboni: My Life Driving the Truck With the Wacky Name

Dead Man's Best

Fred and Anthony Meet the Demented Super-de-Germ-O Zombie

Zombie Monkey Monster Jamboree

The Dead Rise

The Zen of Zombie

The Down-Home Zombie Blues

Zombie Surf Commandos

The Good, the Dead and the Fed

The Dead-Vinci Mode: Renaissance Art from a nonliving perspective.

Love You True, My Eye's On You

Gombie: An Autobiography. From stretchy to stiff and all the stuff in between.

100 Zombies You Should Know: a feel-good book for the undead.

Dead Alive

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned While I Was Still Alive: inspiring anecdotes and observations from a former Rabbi (and yes, he still keeps kosher)

The Secret Life of Z's: The original do-it-yourself book for zombification.

Keep My Hand, Keep My Heart

Dead Sexy

I, Zombie

Mondo Zombie

Undead in the City

Answers Below

Fakes submitted by Deb, December/Stacia, Khazar-khum, McKoala

Actual Zombie Book Titles:

The Zen of Zombie

The Down-Home Zombie Blues

Zombie Bums from Uranus

Man, Beast and Zombie

White Zombie Astro-Creep

Stubbs the Zombie: Rebel Without a Pulse

Zombie Surf Commandos

How to Make Love Like a Zombie

Fred and Anthony Meet the Demented Super-de-Germ-O Zombie

Zombie Monkey Monster Jamboree

I, Zombie

Mondo Zombie

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Face-Lift 468

Guess the Plot

The Spirit Thief

1. When a soul-sucking witch is picked for the cheerleading squad, it's up to cheerleader/amateur sleuth Allie Jones to uncover her identity before all the oomph goes out of her fellow cheerleaders.

2. Master thief Kadie will accept any commission if the pay--and the challenge--are enough. But when she "reallocates" the sealed jar on the altar of the crocodile god Sebek, the question becomes, Can she put something back before the world ends?

3. He's Eli, a charming wizard and the greatest thief in the world. She's Miranda, the wizardess hired to hunt him down. But when a more powerful wizard shows up and snatches the kingdom's throne, can Eli and Miranda team up to prevent him from also stealing the souls of inanimate objects?

4. One by one, the cheerleaders at Central High are succumbing to depression. The homecoming pep rally resembles a funeral. When quarterback Jack Van Helsing discovers that the new kid at school is more than a mere Goth/emo weirdo, can he stop The Spirit Thief before everyone starts dressing in black and wearing a lot of make-up?

5. Mrs. Mary Muffleton can't get through a day without a sip or two of hard spirits. When she finds her whiskey flask mysteriously drained, even teetotaling Mr. Muffleton gets involved in the hunt for the culprit. Strange noises in the basement, a blunt axe and a mismatched pair of shoes are the only clues to the identity of . . . The Spirit Thief.

6. When ghosts start disappearing, Trevor the poltergeist hopes that heaven has lowered its standards. But then he discovers the truth: the spirits are being systematically abducted by high-tech mercenaries, led by a nefarious scientist named Egon. In order to free his people, Trevor will pick off his foes one by one, possess a health inspector, and if he's lucky, get people to stop calling him 'Slimer'.

Original Version

Dear (agent-name-spelled-right),

In a world where everything has a soul, [Everything? Do people feel guilty about sending their trash to a landfill, knowing it deserves a proper burial?] and magic is as much about fast talking as raw power, Eli Monpress is a wizard who can charm a door off its hinges. [Does charming a door off its hinges affect the door's soul?] He's also the age's most famous thief, with a price on his head large enough to fund a small war. But that's not nearly enough for Eli, he has a higher goal, a greater purpose: earn a bounty of one million gold, or die trying. Of course, "die trying" is exactly what Miranda Lyonet, the wizardess with the impossible job [It's impossible?] of catching Eli before he ruins the reputation of wizards everywhere, would prefer he did. My fantasy novel, The Spirit Thief, complete at 75,000 words, is about what happens when magic, money, and a royal kidnapping gone wrong change the rules in the old game of cat and cat.

When Eli talks his way out of jail

[Eli: Guard!

Guard: What now?

Eli: Funniest thing. You're not gonna believe this, but . . . I'm innocent.

Guard: You're right, I don't . . . Hey, what's your cell door doing off its hinges?]

and steals the king of Mellinor, [Actually, we have a special word for stealing a person.] a country that has forbidden magic since its founding, there's nothing the nobles can do. [Well, they could send their armies after Eli, but his fast-talking skills would easily thwart them.

General: We've found you at last, Eli. Turn over our king or die.

Eli: Funniest thing. He escaped days ago. He should be back in Melanoma by now.

General: I don't want to believe you, but you're so damn charming.]

Fortunately for them, Miranda arrives right on Eli's heels. She offers to rescue the king, and catch Eli in the process, [Isn't catching Eli impossible? I know I heard that somewhere.] if Mellinor will rethink its ban on wizards. The nobles reluctantly agree, and Miranda begins the dangerous business of tracking down the self-proclaimed "greatest thief in the world." [Begins? I thought she was already tracking him down. Remember? To keep him from ruining the reputation of wizards everywhere?] But things get complicated when the kidnapped king's older brother, Renaud, himself a wizard banished by Mellinor's law, takes advantage of the confusion to make his triumphant return. Happy to have any prince, wizard or no, the nobles rush to follow his orders, but Miranda is suspicious. Can a banished prince really be willing to [Would a banished prince] stick his neck out for the younger brother who took his throne?

She gets her answer when Renaud sabotages the king's rescue, cheating Eli out of his ransom money and framing Miranda for the true king's death. [The true king? Isn't the true king the kidnapped younger brother? Since when is he dead?] To clear her name, and get out of the country alive, Miranda has to face the traitorous prince. But Renaud proves to be a more powerful wizard than she suspected, and it soon becomes clear she's going to need help. Unfortunately, "help" means swallowing her pride and teaming up with the thief who started this whole mess. But even Miranda and Eli together might not be enough to stop the plan Renaud has been hatching since he lost his birthright, and the price of failure could be much higher than Mellinor's throne. [The price of failure is the key. It's your query's Maltese Falcon. Its Ring of Power. Excalibur. The Grail . . . What is it?]

(Closing comments specific to each agent – not to exceed 25 words),

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you soon,


Revised Version

In a world where magic is as much about fast talking as raw power, Eli Monpress is a wizard who can charm a door off its hinges. He's also the age's most famous thief, but that's not enough for Eli; he vows to earn a bounty of one million gold, or die trying. When Eli talks his way out of jail and kidnaps the king of Mellinor, a country that has forbidden magic since its founding, there's nothing the nobles can do.

Enter Miranda Lyonet, a wizardess who arrives on Eli's heels. She offers to rescue the king and catch Eli in the process, if Mellinor will rethink its ban on wizards. But things get complicated when the kidnapped king's older brother Renaud, himself a wizard, takes advantage of the confusion to make his triumphant return. Miranda is suspicious. Would a banished prince really stick his neck out for the younger brother who took his throne?

She gets her answer when Renaud sabotages the king's rescue, cheating Eli out of his ransom and framing Miranda for the former king's death. To clear her name, Miranda must take on the traitorous prince, and for that she'll need help. Unfortunately, "help" means swallowing her pride and teaming up with the thief who started this whole mess--and the price of failure could be the universal destruction of Cocoa Puffs.

The Spirit Thief, complete at 75,000 words, is about what happens when magic, money, and a royal kidnapping gone wrong change the rules in the old game of cat and cat.

Thank you.


How come when a wizard kidnaps the king there's nothing the nobles can do, but when a wizardess is framed for killing the king, she can't get out of the country alive? Are wizards that much more powerful than wizardesses?

I recommend calling the kingdom Melanoma. It has a nice ring to it.

I liked the query, but it seemed too long for one page. The shorter version probably doesn't include the real price of failure, as I don't know it, but if it's something really terrible, you might want to work it in.


Cookbooks are big sellers, especially at holiday time. But even a cookbook needs a catchy title. Which of the following are real cookbooks, and which were composed by the Evil Minions? There are 11 real books on the list.

Faux Paws: Vegan Cooking for Your (Carnivorous) Pets

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

Stoned Soup: Favorite Recipes of the Martyrs

Kangaroo Cookin': 88 Simple Roo Recipes

Man and His Meatballs

Possum Gumbo, Crawfish Pie and Other Cajun Delights

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)

Moon Unit Zappa’s Vegan Goodies

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

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

Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

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

The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef

Chewy, Gooey, Eyeball Stewy

Fishwife's Guide to Cooking for Ingrates

Cans en Croute - Make Cheap Ingredients Taste Special!

Offal Surprise - Tasty Dishes the Whole Family Will Love

Dinner's Brewing: 75 Great Recipes with Beer

Pig Ears: Not Just for Your Dog

Crock of Shitake--Japanese Crock Cooking

The Abs Diet: 6-Minute Meals for 6-Pack Abs

What’s For Dessert In The Desert? A Wartime Baker’s Compendium

Boy Meets Grill

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

Actual titles are listed below.

Fakes were submitted by McKoala, Bill Highsmith, Sarah, Midnight Muse, and EE

The actual cookbooks are:

Mama Nazima's Jewish Iraqi Cuisine

Kangaroo Cookin': 88 Simple Roo Recipes

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry

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

The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef

Man and His Meatballs

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch: Kick-Ass Recipes for Hungry Girls Who Want to Stop Cooking Crap (and Start Looking Hot!)

The Abs Diet: 6-Minute Meals for 6-Pack Abs

The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

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

Boy Meets Grill

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Face-Lift 467

Guess the Plot

Maureen Pope

1. A starry-eyed nun's chance encounter in the Vatican turns into much more when she gives birth nine months later to a baby girl.

2. In a world where the demons are all too real, the daughter of the Pope gains the power of Super Prayer.

3. As a child, there had been nothing she wanted more than to be Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, but at fifty, she had to face the bitter reality: she was just Maureen, Pope of Rome.

4. She was a cross-dresser, she was a nun. And now, thanks to the liberalized rules of the New Catholic Church, she's the Pope. And man, does she have some altar boys to get back at.

5. Born and orphaned in a taxi in Belfast in 1967, she was adopted and raised by the taxi's deaf driver. She joined the IRA at twelve. Now 26, she's one of the organization's most violent and vicious leaders. When she discovers she's become pregnant, she faces choices and soul-searching she never expected. She's . . . Maureen Pope.

6. She studied the classics when she was very young. Then when she was five her mother sent her to boarding school for ten years. Now she's back, and someone's gonna pay. For something. They call her . . . Maureen Pope.

Original Version

Dear Ms. Agentname,

Maureen is a privileged child from birth. Silent and observant, she spends her time reading and studying the classics with her father, Adam. [What do you mean, "silent"? Does she speak? Can she?] When Adam dies [How?] shortly before her sixth birthday, [She was five? I thought she was studying Oedepus Rex and The Aeneid. Now I find out by "classics" you meant The Cat in the Hat and Winnie-the-Pooh.] though, her quiet life suddenly changes. Her once-vibrant mother banishes her to a far-off school, where Maureen spends the majority of her childhood. Maureen returns home nearly ten years later to find her whole world changed, [How?] and soon discovers a sinister pattern of denial, not only of the dead, [Not only of the dead? The dead are in denial? Of what? If this is a zombie book, that's your biggest selling point. Trumpet it. Change the title to I Was a Zombie's Daughter.] but of the living, as well. [Who's denying what?] She must then struggle to lay her father's soul to rest and free his exiled memory.

Maureen Pope is a literary fiction piece. It is 64,000 words. I understand that you are particularly interested in literary fiction; I think that my novel is well-suited to your tastes and hope it fits your agency's needs. Thank you for considering my submission. I look forward to your response. [Too many blah sentences in this paragraph.]



I don't understand "free his exiled memory."

Why isn't her father's soul at rest?

All we have here is that a girl's father dies, she goes away for ten years, and when she returns things have changed. Not enough to go on. I, as an unusually prescient editor, can deduce that Maureen's mother murdered Adam, and his spirit can't rest until Maureen kills her mother, marries her stepfather, and finishes reading the complete works of Euripides, but most agents and editors will want the specifics spelled out in the query. I've pointed out a few places where specifics can be easily added.

New Beginning 422

In a small apartment near the Hospital Salpetriere in Paris, the doctor is surprised by the soft sounding of his door knocker. It is a polite knock, not timid, but no louder than it needs to be to attract his attention. He has no scheduled patients, and he approaches the door with curiosity, wondering who is calling so long past the dinner hour on such a snowy night.

On the stoop waits a man alone. He wears a thin cape, leather gloves, no hat, seeming impervious to the cold. His eyes are black, rimmed round with lashes so thick it almost looks as if someone has drawn circles around them with Egyptian kohl. His hair hangs in a long, thick plait down his back, his boots are a dark, butter-soft leather, laced up to his knees. His German is flawless, his glance both hopeful and cautious.

Doctor Freud? My name is Dragula. I have been referred to you by a friend. He believes you may be able to help me.”

Freud bows his head. "You may rely on it," he replies, and steps aside. Dragula nods in thanks and enters.

"Perhaps you are my only hope," Dragula says as he removes his cape. "Your skills are the talk of the city."

Freud again gives a modest bow. "Without a doubt." He leads his visitor into the parlor.

"I am at my wit's end. I am racked by a . . . a craving for human blood. I fear . . . Am I insane, doctor?"

Freud thinks for a moment, staring toward the ground. "As I see it, yes."

"The Devil take me! Can you possibly help me?"

The doctor takes a deep breath and rubs his beard. He turns toward the fireplace. "Very doubtful."

"Then I am doomed. I shall serve my eternity in Hell. You can offer me no solace?"

Freud clears his throat. "Reply hazy, try again."

"What I must know is-- Uh, what does that mean? Hey, wait just a minute . . . What's that?" Dragula stands and approaches Freud. "Is that a--? You're getting your answers from a magic eight ball?"

Freud thrusts his hands into his jacket pockets. His eyes dart around the room, like those of a trapped animal. "I . . . Ah . . . " He turns around again. "Ah . . . Signs point to yes."

Opening: deb hoag.....Continuation: ril

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Face-Lift 466

Guess the Plot

Cargo Volante

1. Yet another plane comes to a deadly, explosive end when it skitters off the edge of a too-short runway in Brazil. Two hundred dead is bad enough, but when over half of the bodies are found in the cargo hold, the crash unlocks a secret slave trade that Hugo Volante, investigative reporter, will risk his life to expose.

2. After six months of unemployment, Sue has just started her new shipping and receiving job at Cargo Volante. Soon she learns that the company is bringing huge quantities of marijuana and cocaine into the U.S. Should Sue report this? Or should she just ask for an employee discount?

3. He's a hunky Brazilian soya farmer intent on expanding his farm into the Brazilian rainforest. She's a hard-headed, voluptuous American environmentalist out to stop deforestation. When they collide, it's so hot it could set the Amazon on fire.

4. On an abandoned cargo wharf, penniless, homeless, drunk Hiram falls in with a group of drug-addled anarchists. Together they turn the seedy wharf into a thriving venue for dance parties, with Hiram becoming a popular DJ and flying high in the city's social circles--until he starts to miss his old life of dumpster diving and bongs.

5. Cargo Volante was the code name for a spook research venture, a flying brick with no aerodynamics or fuel. Would this Area 51 project launch the U.S. into interstellar flight, or would the KGB's Cargo Snagglepuss program send it in another direction?

6. It was smuggling of the fowlest kind, and Dirk Destiny was determined to ferret out the depraved ring of black-marketers. But what he hadn't counted on was that the only way to succeed would be to don a tight fur suit and weasel his way in on all fours, hoping that he would be the perfect mole to infiltrate the vole-snatching ring in this spine-tingling tale of small animals gone awry.

Original Version

[It's actually a synopsis/cover page for a serial comic book proposal, which are a bit different from novel queries in that they don't expect you to have the entire thing written when you're pitching it.]

Hiram, a gay teenage delinquent on a prolonged whiskey bender, runs away from his mother's trailer on the Tulalip Indian Reservation out of frustration at the depressed economy and depressing people, and finds himself penniless, homeless, too sheltered and too drunk to consider anything besides crashing on the couch of the first person who offers. [If you're penniless, homeless and drunk, you're rarely in position to pick and choose from among several couch offers.] [Not clear what "too sheltered" means here.] That person turns out to be Sebastian, a quirky South American trust-fund brat turned starving artist squatting with a group of anarchists in a seedy abandoned container wharf on the Seattle waterfront. After several nights of heady conversations with his newfound friends and torrid sex with Sebastian, [Apparently comic books have changed a bit since the days of Archie and Jughead, Richie Rich and The Flash.] Hiram decides to move in with him - just temporarily, until he can get his feet on the ground, of course.

With the help of their circle of drug-addled, counterculture buddies, the unlikely pair turn the remote squat into a thriving venue for underground electronic dance music parties, and Hiram lives out his dream of becoming a popular house DJ and socialite in the big city. [A gay teenage delinquent who grew up on a reservation has a dream of being a big city socialite?] [Let's cut to the chase: what are Hiram's super powers?] It doesn't take him long to get over the culture shock and ditch mainstream day-job society for his chance at a wayward youth full of debauchery, dumpster-diving, bongos and bongs with the man and the scene he is falling deeply in love with. [How can he ditch mainstream day-job society? Is DJ at an underground dance club considered mainstream day-job society?] Hiram quits drinking, begins to take pride in his appearance, and finally starts to tear down the cynical, angry facade he has been hiding behind since childhood, feeling that only now has he found the 'tribe' to which he truly belongs. [This seems to keep going back and forth. He ditched the good life for a life of debauchery, dumpster diving and bongs, yet he also quits drinking etc.? Is the tribe to which he belongs the drug-addled counterculture buddies? If so, do they drink? Do they take pride in their appearances?]

But every party has to end sometime. The unlimited supply of pills and speed tempts Hiram with increasing frequency, he is plagued with guilt about leaving his disabled mother and codependent older sister back on the Rez, the fundamental differences between his world view and Sebastian's cause drama in their relationship, and the parties at the wharf have gained enough notoriety to attract unwanted attention. [Aquaman and Prince Namor want their cut of the profits.] Reckless and hedonistic abandon may have worked out for the best the first time around, but it's going to take maturity, self-sacrifice and cooperation to keep everything he's worked towards from falling apart.

[Origin of the title - It's like Disco Volante, which is Italian for 'Flying Saucer' but more commonly used as a pun about discotheque music, but in a cargo wharf, so, cargo! If anyone has any better suggestions, I'm all ears. I haven't drawn the logo yet.] [You removed the "disco" from disco volante and replaced it with "cargo." If anything needed replacing, it was the "volante," since the wharf was converted to a disco. I'd certainly go with Disco Volante as the title over Cargo Volante. And I'd seriously consider adding some flying saucers to the plot.]


The plot sounds more like literary fiction than a comic book series. I suppose if I'm gonna read something depressing it might as well have pictures.

It's not clear what happens after the dance club becomes successful. Does Hiram ditch the club for high society, and then go back to Sebastian? If so, when he goes back I would expect him to find the wharf a thriving venue, not the seedy dump it was when he first got there. So how is going back to life with Sebastian connected with dumpster diving?

Do they charge money to attend the parties? Is it a business? Where do they get the money for equipment and music and decor etc.? Does the starving artist dip into his trust fund for speakers?

Even if there are no super villains, there should be a villain of some sort. Who's the bad guy who threatens to mess everything up for our "hero"?

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Beginning 421

Once safely inside the Tribune Saica's house, we threw off our cloaks to reveal our uniforms. The housekeeper gave me a sterner version of the look with which he'd greeted us at the door.

"Ain't no Twelfth Legion," he said.

Ignoring him, we advanced on the exedra; he retreated before us, slamming his wooden leg down on the floor at every other step, perhaps as a warning.

The smell of food hadn't misled. We interrupted Saica at dinner, he rising from his seat to greet us, and Drusus grabbing the housekeeper and shoving him out of the room. Once Drusus closed the door, he stood with his back to it. That left him conveniently in shadow. No matter--he would have to face Saica soon enough.

Geraint stepped aside. Saica looked at me for a long moment, then reached for his glass of wine, and sipped from it.

"We are sent here from the Twelfth Legion," I said.

Saica examined my uniform as his slender fingers played with the stem of his wine glass. "I know of no Twelfth Legion," he replied.

I cast Geraint a glance. "We have traveled fourteen days from the city of Rudra to meet with you."

"Really?" Saica arched an eyebrow. "Yet I have never heard of a city called Rudra."

"Sir." I took a step closer so he could fully see my earnestness. "Our country is in turmoil. If we do not form an alliance, the Jardian will take control."

Saica shook his head. "Jardian is a name unfamiliar to me." He took another sip of wine.

"Tribune Saica! Your stubbornness does us a disservice."

"You have me mistaken, sir, for my name is Aiken Dromm and I am a farmer."

I heard the tap of a wooden leg outside the door. "Ain't no Tribune Saica," were the housekeepers muffled words.

I snatched the order papers from Geraint's hands. "Bollocks. We're in the wrong buggering story."

Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: ril

Face-Lift 465

Guess the Plot

The Dracula Chronicles: The Dragon Awakes

1. The wind brings glad tidings--a child is born unto a minor prince in the little town of Wallachia. And he shall be named Vlad. And he shall be a good man. Then a dragon shall awake and ruin everything. Also, a vampire.

2. Another in the cross-genre series in which the author seeks to reinvigorate the moribund fantasy novel, following her widely-acclaimed "Frankenstein and the Philosopher's Stone," "Zombies of the Round Table" and "The Lion, the Witch and the Weredingo."

3. Dracula was on vacation, working on his memoirs in Newark, the least likely place to have a sleeping dragon. But there was a dragon, under the old Peoples' Express terminal and it smelled Dracula's aura. Was Newark ready for total war between Dracula and Dragona? Would they even notice?

4. It has vampires, it has dragons. As long as both are on the cover, it doesn't need a plot, because every fantasy/paranormal fanboi will buy it anyway. Now if only we could fit werewolves in there somewhere...

5. Dracula gives the fang to a dragon, creating a new creature that drinks blood and throws away the meat, quadrupling the dragon's harvesting of humans. Thanks a bunch, Dracula.

6. Dracula's late-night heavy toga-partying with his werewolf buds pisses off a neighborhood dragon, causing a flame war.

Original Version

Dear Evil:

I've recently completed a 90,000 word novel of supernatural suspense that focuses on the early life of Vlad Dracula. [Just the first 400 years.]

[Dracula: The Early Years

I. Dracula breast-feeding

Mrs. Dracula: Hey, you little bastard, just suck it!

II. Dracula in kindergarten

Teacher: Okay, which one of you drained Maria's blood?

III. Dracula in ninth grade

Principal: Okay, which one of you drained Mrs. Wallenstein's blood?]

In this richly drawn portrait of the infamous vampire, The Dracula Chronicles: The Dragon Awakes tells the story of an extraordinary man with the power to change the face of Europe forever. [By making it very pale.]

The story begins in 1431, high in the Carpathian Mountains. A Black Dragon sleeps, as he has done for a hundred years, sated on the blood and pain of the Crusades. Then the winds bring Black Radul tidings of a child – the son of a minor prince in the insignificant country of Wallachia, which borders the Black Sea. Vlad has the power to cast Europe back into another Dark Age, and postpone the Renaissance for centuries. Radul's goal is to tie the boy to him before the other Great Dragons of Europe can manipulate him for their own purposes. [When a gigantic lizard wakes up after a hundred years, I suspect his only immediate goal would involve pigging out on a couple dozen knights.]

When Vlad is singled out for induction into the [Vampire Hall of Fame,] Holy Roman Emperor's powerful and secretive Order of the Dragon, the ceremony gives him strange new powers . . . [while robbing him of the ability to pronounce the letter "w,"] and binds him to Radul, the Black Dragon of the Carpathians, in an unholy servitude that Vlad can neither accept nor escape.

This sumptuous tale travels from the debauched and glittering Nuremburg court of Sigismund, the Holy Roman Emperor, to Adrianople, and the hashish-soaked harem of Murad II, the Grand Sultan of the Ottoman Turks.

The Dracula Chronicles: The Dragon Awakes combines the actual events of the life of Prince Vlad Dragula [That's what Dracula goes by when he dresses in women's clothes.] with the myth of Dracula, to tell the tale of an exceptional man at the center of a whirlwind of magic and evil, seeking to insure that the world remains in the hands of the mortals it was created for, no matter what the price. [Wait a minute, Dracula's the good guy?]

Please let me know if there is anything further I can do to facilitate your consideration. Sample chapters and the full manuscript are available at your request.



It wasn't clear to me whether Radul wanted to use Vlad to postpone the Renaissance or wanted to prevent other Great Dragons from using him to postpone the Renaissance. What are the various dragons' motivations? It must be made clear what Radul wants with Dracula.

Better to let the editor discover that your story is richly drawn and sumptuous than to declare it so yourself.

This reminds me of other books based on the actual events of Dracula's life. Except it has dragons.

Anne Rice wrote The Vampire Chronicles. Unless you're Anne Rice, you might consider a new title.

Charter Members of the Vampire Hall of Fame: Dracula, Angel, Lestat, Armand, The Count, Count Duckula, Count Chocula, Evil Editor's first wife, the IRS.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

New Beginning 420

Paul thrust the sword in deeper, straining to reach the center, most vulnerable point before the fumes knocked him out. The dragon roared and shook his head. Paul shoved the sword to the right and thrust again.

“Nope. That’s not it either, man.” The dragon snorted little puffs of smoke. “Try a little to the left.”

Paul sighed, swiping a grimy hand across his sweaty brow. He took a deep breath, then regretted it instantly. “You know this would be a lot easier if you would take a bath.”

The dragon rumbled laughter. Paul grabbed a nearby bright red scale and hung on as the dragon’s belly shook. Nothing like a laughter earthquake to make digging around under dragon scales even more challenging.

Paul moved the sword and thrust again. There was a loud pop. A noxious stench reached his nostrils. The dragon sighed and Paul fell off his precarious dragon belly perch leaving the sword wedged in the dragon’s back.

"Lame!" Paul shouted, and threw down the Xbox controller. He jumped over the wrapping paper and stormed into the kitchen.

"Mo-om! he whined. "Did Dad buy my present in Beijing again? I said I wanted Dragon Ball Z, not Dragon Boilz!"

Opening: Sarah L......Continuation: ril

Hiya EE,

I thought you might be amused by a new story on Ello's blog in which I as the Chosen One defeat my great antagonist, Evil Editor, who has been murdering authors around the world. Here's the link:

I won a contest on her blog a couple weeks ago and my reward was a story.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

New Beginning 419

Chris reached out to the storm door. Sleet pelted the back of his hand then clung with a nearly lost hope. The cold metal handle stung his fingers as the latch pinched his thumb.

"Fuck," he said sucking at the cut.

"I hate this fucking weather !," Chris called down to the farmhouse basement.

Grit sloughing from the hand laid stone walls turned slick under his damp boot soles. Chris slipped over the steps but caught himself. He descended on his toes from the storm's evening twilight to the sawdust twilight of Zach's basement woodshop.

"I wondered if I'd see you before the first," Zach called as a greeting.

Chris helped Zach's cottage toy industry ostensibly for the choice of a winter's evening companionship. The checks Zach left taped to Chris' front door at uneven intervals didn't hurt. Their friendship lingered from Chris' high school days when Zach taught Shakespeare with a passion now absent.

"The irregular blocks need trimmed for the lathe if your are of a mind to cut some elf bellies." Zach hadn't turned around yet but sorted bits of blond wood trinkets into a distressed apothecary's cabinet bearing the labels Viking horns, fish fins (small), and Chris' personal favorite: pirate parrot beaks.

Chris pulled the first of dozens of clamped wooden cubes from hooks screwed into the exposed floor joists above. He turned to the band saw.

"God damm it – this fucking table is still fucking covered in blood !" Chris yelled to Zach. "Didn't you think to fucking clean this bitch ?"

"You think I got the fucking time to do maid service, asswipe ?"

"You're a fucking slob, Zach. I don't know why I--"

The phone interrupted. Zach snatched up the receiver. "What ?!" Chris started to wipe down the band saw while Zach took the call. "Jesus Wept... ! Listen, you fat fuck, we're going as quick as we can. We're not fucking magic. You'll get 'em when they're ready. What's the fucking hurry ?"

Chris grabbed some wood.

Zach sighed. "Yeah. Yeah I guess that's-- Yeah, okay. But don't be surprised if they look as rough as a whore's . . . okay. Okay.... !" He slammed the phone down. "Fucking Santa Claus. Reindeer screwing dipshit."

Chris didn't reply. He remembered what it was like being on the Naughty list last year.

Opening: A. Snarkling.....Continuation: Anonymous

Face-Lift 464

Guess the Plot

For a Short Time

1. The graffiti in the bathroom put him over the edge. "For a short time, call Dave" was the ultimate insult. He's got Viagra now, and Dave is out for revenge.

2. Sylvia knew the man of her dreams was out there . . . somewhere. But, unless she wore stilletos, five-foot-nothing Sylvia couldn't see through the crowds to find him. Until one night, when she was out for drinks and saw, scrawled on the ladies room wall, a message she feared was too good to be true: "For a Short Time, Call . . ."

3. After a lifetime being towered over by women, Shorty wants to do something for other short guys. But will the bank approve a small business loan to start an escort service for the vertically challenged?

4. It took Cassie Trent a long time to figure out that there was nothing wrong with a short time. At least not when that short time was five minutes in bed with Brad Pitt. Unfortunately now she's going to have his baby to deal with . . . for a long time.

5. When Keri meets the Quinn cousins, she immediately falls for tall actor Keith and becomes friends with short carpenter Jeremy. Will she learn that big things really do come in small packages before it's too late and she develops a permanent facial disorder?

6. When Rick tells Gabrielle he has only six months to live, she must decide whether to say goodbye now, or whether the eventual sorrow is worth it, to be truly happy . . . For a Short Time.

Original Version

Dear Agent of My Dreams,

She’s back in town... Keri Ferrita, the “Man-Eat-a”...and once again living in her sister’s basement in the Midwest. [If I asked Keri where she lived, would she say Dubuque, Iowa, or the Midwest?] Fickle, lovable, and a little bit self-absorbed after years of living the good life in far away places, thirty-year old Keri need to find out just who she really is. [And what better place to find out who you really are than in a basement in Dubuque?]

After a lifetime of having any man she’s ever wanted, and then growing tired of each one, Keri meets the Quinn cousins, Keith and Jeremy. Keri falls unusually hard for Keith, a handsome actor running from lurid secrets, [After living in LA and New York, she has to go to Dubuque to meet an actor?] and makes the best friend she’s ever had in his cousin Jeremy, the sensitive and talented--but short--cabinetmaker. [Are we talking Billy Barty short (3', 9")? Or just Tom Cruise short (4' 11")?] After a series of heartaches and two stress-induced episodes with the facial disorder Bell’s Palsy, Keri realizes, almost too late, that [short guys aren't necessarily short where it counts.] the best things in life really do come in small packages. [No, no, Big things come in small packages; the best things in life are free.]

[Keri: Doctor, I was out on a date with Keith Quinn, and suddenly I couldn't move my facial muscles on the left side.]

Doctor: Sounds like Bell's Palsy. That wouldn't have happened if you'd been out on a date with Jeremy Quinn.]

This quirky, 80,000-word romance, For a Short Time, is complete and ready to send at your request. I have enclosed a sample. May I send you the manuscript? Thank you for your time.


This Bell's Palsy thing isn't clear enough. She has it twice, and both times she was with Keith, the guy she's dating? Thus it must be caused by being with Keith? Thus by hooking up with the short guy--who she hasn't fallen for--she can avoid an annoying facial disorder?

She didn't have Bell's Palsy with other tall guys she dated, so what is it about Keith? The fact that she's fallen unusually hard for him? After dating dozens of guys she didn't fall in love with, she finally falls for one, and dumps him for his cousin because her face froze up a couple times?

Researching Bell's Palsy at Wikipedia, I discovered that Ralph Nader, George Clooney and Pierce Brosnan are among the afflicted. I also have concluded that what your character has is not Bell's Palsy. She's been misdiagnosed.

Does Keri's series of heartaches involve Keith, and only Keith? This is pretty brief; you might fill us in a bit on Keith's lurid past and Keri's series of heartaches.

I know you want to make the point that looks aren't everything, but let's be realistic: Jeremy's short.

Guess the Title 6 (Children's Books Edition)

Below are descriptions of twelve children's books. The descriptions were taken from Your job is to guess which title goes with each book. The fake titles were composed by Dave F., Mignon, Scott, Talpianna, Bill Highsmith and Evil Editor.

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

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

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

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

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

How Chet Saved A Ton Of Money On His Car Insurance
The Case of the Reptile Dysfunction
The Geeky Gecko Gumshoe Caper
The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse
Gumshoe Lizard
Flight of the Iguana

4. Chester the cat, Harold the dog, and Howie the puppy set out to save the neighborhood vegetables from a vampire rabbit.

The Celery Stalks at Midnight
Full Vegetable Jacket
The Brave Little Onion
Revenge of Bunnicula
Carrot Dracula
The Vampireteen Rabbit

5. What if your Dad loved books, owned a bookstore, and even called his cherished volumes "my little bookies"? What if, while you're working in the store and hoping shoplifters will ease your burden, you spot a weird, pale stranger drinking a book--with a straw?

Return of The Blurb
Eat Your Words!
Thirst For Knowledge
The Ink Drinker
The Vampire's Book of Party Snacks
One Flew over the Book Coot's Nest

6. The author has a simple philosophy of the fable: "If you can't say something nice about someone, change the guy's name to Donkey or Squid." After all, the alleged Aesop did it.

Animals Are People Too
Squids Will Be Squids
An Ill Wind Blows No Nose
Christopher Hitchens's Book of Nasty People
In Case You Were Wondering, the Donkey is George Bush
Moral Minority

7. Two abandoned kittens encounter mishaps on all sides when they are adopted by a human family.

Cat Scratch Fever
Kitties In The White House: How Two Kittens Started the Iraq War
Snot Stew
Fur from Home
The Fortunate Felines' Fantastic, Fateful Adventure
Snot Stew? What's that got to do with Kittens?

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

Old People Were Human Once Too
Albert Weinstein and the Case of the Agin' Cajun
Heaven Can't Wait
Evergreen and Ever Dead
Mannequin Manor
Old People, Frogs and Albert

9. The sibling rivalry between twelve-year-old Megin and her older brother Greg intensifies after she ruins his science project and he retaliates by throwing her favorite hockey stick into the pond.

Things to Do in Canada When Your Brother is a Dork
Blood Is Thicker--When Spilled
Pucks 'n' Ducks
Siblings from H-e-Double Hockey Stick
Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush?
That Does it: I'm Sending in My Goons

10. In this Edgar Award winner set in medieval times, Anora chooses to marry the obnoxious but wealthy Farold instead of Selwyn, thus making Selwyn the chief suspect when Farold is found murdered.

The Donjon Murder
Death of a Big-Cheese Burgher
Twelve Angry Wenches
Never Trust a Dead Man
Stop, Fief!
Murder on Michaelmas

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

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

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

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

Answers below

The real book titles are:

The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles
The Chicken Gave It to Me
The Chameleon Wore Chartreuse
The Celery Stalks at Midnight
The Ink Drinker
Squids Will Be Squids
Snot Stew
Old People, Frogs and Albert
Who Put That Hair in My Toothbrush?
Never Trust a Dead Man
Lima Beans Would be Illegal
It's Disgusting and We Ate It!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Face-Lift 463

Guess the Plot

Modern Magic

1. When the coach of the Orlando Magic sees Flubber, he decides to fund secret research at the Univ. of Florida. Fortunately, the players don't notice the $200,000 pocket change missing from each of their paychecks.

2. The Prospero siblings, John and Liz, are descendants of powerful magicians. As they grow into adulthood they become crime fighters--but do they have what it takes to bring down the renegade vigilante sorcerers behind an increasingly horrible crime wave?

3. Merlin awakens from the oak tree wherein he has slumbered lo these many years, to find the world in a despicable state. He must locate Arthur to put things aright. His first step is to locate the modern wizards, to enlist their help, and he is shocked to find that there aren't any.

4. The bigwigs at ABC think Madeleine is the perfect choice to play the witch Drucilla in their new sitcom, "Modern Magic". Little do they know just how right they are. Can Madeleine keep the tabloids from finding out she's really 650 and a witch-queen in disguise?

5. Magic the dragon has discarded his beans and fur fabric in favour of the latest cybernetic upgrades. But when a metal-eating virus attacks Earth, Magic finds himself battling for his life and the lives of cybernetically enhanced toys everywhere.

6. Sure, everyone says modern conveniences are a byproduct of science & industry. But young wizard Collinsway Carruth knows the truth--and must protect it from outsiders at all cost.

Original Version

Dear Ms. Agentname,

To Liz Prospero, magic is both commonplace and unattainable. She’s a modern descendant of a long line of powerful sorcerers, but was born without magical ability. [When you're a powerful sorcerer and your spouse's genes turn out to be dominant, you never live it down.] Although she grew up in the sorcerous subculture, she spends her youth in a mad dash to get away from it. [How can a kid whose family is knee-deep in the sorcerous subculture get away from it? Did she leave home?]

Her older brother, John, has the opposite problem. He’s magically gifted, and is called upon to perform near-miracles. A rise in magical crime drafts him into hunting renegade sorcerers before he’s ready, and he struggles to hide his self-doubt under a facade of snarky cockiness.

[Renegade Sorcerer: You're gonna take me down? Don't make me laugh.

John: Yo mama.]

Modern Magic is a novel in stories, [Someone once sent me a short story in novels; this sounds much more manageable.] following the Prospero siblings from their late teens into established adulthood. [What is meant by "established"?] Each story has a self-contained adventure as well as developing the overall story arc. As John and Liz grow into their respective roles [as established adults] and meet fresh challenges, they realize that the rise in crime is something more sinister than a mere societal shift. [Tell me more. What is the rise in crime?]

Liz realizes that she can’t escape her heritage, and then that she doesn’t want to. She learns to balance her magical heritage with her mundane nature, and eventually appreciates how unusual this combination makes her. [That is unusual. A sorceress who can't do magic should celebrate her uniqueness like a ballerina with no feet. ] John, burdened with ever-greater demands, learns that he can handle more than he thought possible. He never completely conquers his fear of failure, but learns to live with the possibility.

Modern Magic is a humorous novel with serious underlying themes. With wit, suspense, and pathos, [The shill who writes the back-cover copy handles the bragging. The author's above all that.] it explores the ideas of different kinds of normal and different ways to be useful. During a tense game of find-the-villain and the climactic confrontation, John and Liz each play a pivotal role in discovering and defeating the group behind the increasingly horrible crimes.

I thought you might be interested because your web site profile states that you like urban fantasy, humor, and character-driven stories. [My web site profile says I like Italian cooking, Uruguayan history, and canasta. I don't want 'em all in the same book, however.] If I had to pick a single work most like Modern Magic, it would be [the one I ripped off,] Carrie Vaughn’s Kitty series. It would also appeal to fans of the lighter work of Connie Willis and Esther M. Friesner.

May I send the complete manuscript of 90,000 words? A sequel, Mind Magic, is outlined but not yet written.

Very truly yours,


Does it have to be described as a novel in stories? Why not a novel in chapters, with each story a separate chapter? A chapter isn't required to pick up where the previous chapter left off.

I didn't get that it was a humorous book. There are horrible crimes, troubled characters . . . Maybe you should throw in an example of what's so funny.

I also want to know what kind of crimes we're talking about. To create space for this new stuff, drop the last sentence of paragraph 1 and add the second paragraph to paragraph 1. If necessary, much of what's in the last two paragraphs can go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

New Beginning 418

When Sandra called from the airport, I was asleep and the brilliant ringing of the telephone clashed badly with my attempts to mend a dream that had already spiraled too far out of control.

"You woke me up," I told her petulantly. Her apology was mostly laughter. Airport security had confiscated a bottle of her favorite perfume, and the singular boredom of an hour spent in hard plastic seats by Gate 14 had surrendered her to her cell-phone. 5:45 in the morning. I was not allowed to complain. If she had been born a crueler, angrier person, she said, she would have woken me two hours before. A hundred pounds of dropped luggage, stilettos on the hardwood floor, all the lights on. But no. She had taken great pains to do everything in relative darkness, the pale yellow glow of the dining room lamp acting as sole beacon to her luggage-laden descent. In a grand show of consideration, she had donned her shoes on the front steps, closed the door without a sound, and gingerly carried her bags to the curb.

"Really," she said, "you should be extraordinarily well-rested by now. All that extra sleep." Her tone was bright and self-congratulatory.

"True," I said, but it wasn't. A sharp jab of consternation had caught me in the chest shortly after 4 AM, waking me just in time to watch her cab pull away. Back in bed, I had suffocated myself with blankets and the knowledge that I was, once again, alone.

"They just opened the doors; we'll be boarding soon." I could hear staccato airport announcements in the background. "So, how do you feel?"

I wasn't sure. Relieved? Rejected? She was really going. I was feeling the need to unload. "I'm just happy to have some room," I said. "I hope they don't sell cheeseburgers where you're going. Go somewhere where they have salads, that's my advice. I hope they got you sitting in the middle on the plane. Listen, Sandy, was there anything else? Only I'm on my own here and it's my first chance in years to have sex with someone who really gets what I need. Oh, and I'm selling that ridiculous buffalo hide sofa of yours, it just reminds me of your mother, anyway."

I woke up for the last time, shivering and blanketless, with winter light streaming under the shades. Sandra was sitting staring at me in her flannel PJ's. "You were talking in your sleep again," she said.

This wasn't looking good.

Opening: Regina.....Continuation: Anonymous

Monday, December 10, 2007

Volunteers Needed

. . . to nominate Face-Lifts for best of 2007.

Each volunteer will be given a set of Face-Lifts to read, and report back with the funniest ones. I'll narrow the resulting nominees down to 5 or 10 on which everyone will vote. The criteria is humor; the query itself doesn't figure in. Thus, if you never find EE amusing, you would make a lousy nominator.

While you're choosing EE's best work, I'll choose yours, the best GTPs and New Beginnings. Once I know how many volunteers I have, I'll decide how many Face-Lifts in a set; no more than 25, for sure.

Face-Lift 462

Guess the Plot

Finders Keepers

1. Haley McGill thinks a $100 bill she found is hers, but when her friends disagree with her assessment and beat the crap out of her for the bill, she remembers that there's a second part to the old saying.

2. The drummer for the band Finders Keepers is perfectly happy with his life--until his biology teacher's invasive blood probing experiment threatens to ruin everything.

3. In a world ruled by vampires, the few remaining humans are a precious food resource. Our heroine is on the run, trying to escape a lifetime of imprisonment as a blood supply. One hunky vampire offers to help her. But can she trust him? In the new world, when a vampire finds a human, it's . . . Finders Keepers.

4. Arnie Bolsover is a serial burglar -- houses, shops, cars, pockets; he can't resist the urge to acquire what is not his. Eventually the full force of the law catches up with him and he is set to acquire a long vacation in a small cell. But thanks to a sharp lawyer, and a little known statute, it's discovered that "finders keepers, losers weepers" is a point of law, and when news gets out, anarchy takes over.

5. Grandpa Finders taught grandson Seth to throw back the fish that were under the limit. When they reel in a suitcase filled with gold bars, however, it's a keeper. Problem is, drug kingpin Hiram "Meth-man" Dunderkindel wants his gold back. Can Seth outwit the drug dealing gang, or will he soon be sleeping with the fishes?

6. A restaurant nearly goes out of business until the chef finds the perfect recipe--tasty men. It's winner-take-all in the culinary world as Chef Paulino scours the streets of New York searching for sweaty biceps, tender thighs and succulent livers. When other chefs demand to know his secret, will Paulino tell them . . . "Finders Keepers"?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In Finders Keepers, a young adult novel complete at just over 59,000 words, a teenage boy struggles to merge his two worlds when the father he’s never met gains custody of him.

Street-smart and independent thanks to his two adult half-brothers, Tyson Mendel doesn’t usually mind that his mom kind of sucks at being a mom, or that he has to play the parent when she’s drunk or high, but he often feels guilty about the sacrifices his brothers have made for him. The summer that he turns fifteen, Ty’s life takes a sharp turn when the father he’s never met reappears and is awarded custody of him. [How does a guy get custody of a kid he's had no involvement with, when the kid doesn't mind that his mom sucks at being a mom? Who complained? Has he been trying to get custody for fifteen years, or is this a spur-of-the-moment idea?

Father: Yeah, I'd like to sue for custody of my son.
Lawyer: You're divorced from the mother?
Father: We were never married.
Lawyer: How old's your son?
Father: Fifteen.
Lawyer: How often do you see him?
Father: I've never seen him.
Lawyer: Why should you have custody?
Father: His mother drinks.
Lawyer: How do you know?
Father: She was drunk out of her mind the night I knocked her up.
Lawyer: Yes . . . she must have been.]

Initially convinced that he should despise his father as much as his brothers do, Ty eventually has to admit that Daniel isn’t such a bad guy, especially after Daniel stands up for Ty when he is accused of credit-card theft.

By the end of the year, Ty has embraced his new life, his brothers have moved forward with theirs, and his mom is living with her boyfriend. A few months later, though, a blood-type experiment in biology class threatens to ruin everything – the father Ty has begun to love isn’t his dad after all.

[Biology teacher: Okay students, tomorrow I want you to bring in some blood from both your parents so we can determine how many of you are bastard children.

Ty: How are we supposed to get their blood?

Biology teacher: I'm getting to that. Jenny, would you pass out the ice picks and turkey basters?]

Now, Ty is faced with a decision – betray his family by keeping his mouth shut, or tell the truth and once again become his brothers’ burden? [They've all moved on; why would they feel betrayed, even if they knew? And how would they find out?] When he chooses to remain with Daniel, Ty’s life becomes a deceptive game riddled with guilt; [I don't get the guilt.] so when his secret is revealed after his mother’s sudden death, Ty runs off to take refuge in the anonymity of the city streets, believing that it was his decision that led to her death. [What was the cause of death? If his living mother can stand that he wants to stay with Daniel, his dead mother ought to be able to handle it.] Longing for his family, but too ashamed to face them, [Ashamed of what?] Ty pairs up with a homeless man obsessed with scavenging discarded food. [What I hate about the homeless is their obsession with eating.] There, he confronts the thing he doubts the most – his own self worth.

Finders Keepers is my first novel. Thank you for taking the time to read my query.


[Origin of the title – Finders Keepers is the name of Ty’s oldest brother’s band, in which Ty is the drummer, and his brothers and cousin are the other band members. Their name for the band came about as a joke derived from the fact that all of them had fathers who were not involved in their lives, and therefore they were all up for grabs to any available dad. This ultimately becomes a reality for Ty, who finds out that even the kids who have been cast aside by a biological parent can mean the world to somebody they don’t even belong to.]


If he's gonna pair up with someone other than his family, why not the guy he's already paired up with (Daniel)? Why a homeless guy?

Does Daniel know he's not Ty's father? Who reveals the secret?

Who is Daniel to the half-brothers? Why do they hate him?

He chooses to stay with Daniel rather than his mother. Presumably a tough decision. But when mother dies, it seems that would make the decision easier. I'm not convinced that taking to the streets and pairing up with a homeless guy would appeal more than Daniel's place. He feels if he'd stayed with mom he could have prevented her death? We need details on her death.

Wouldn't a fifteen-year-old kid be given any input into whether his complete stranger father gets custody? Is the mother present at the custody hearing?

Of course I'm looking at the situation as a rational adult, not a fifteen-year-old, but the kid is street-smart, which might indicate he has enough common sense to talk things over with Daniel or his brothers before running off.

I like the situation, but that assumes the legal part is reasonable, and that the kid isn't acting like an idiot just so you can have him learn a valuable lesson.

Q & A 124

How many rejections should I collect before I shelve my current novel and move on? My polished query has received 31 rejections with no requests to see the manuscript. How much more abuse should I take?

If, by "move on" you mean start working on a new book, you should do that as soon as you are no longer working on the current book. Sending queries doesn't count as working on it.

If your polished query isn't getting people who publish your type of book excited about your book, it might need a stronger hook, or it might need something removed, something that you think is important, but that's convincing editors your plot is ridiculous. You don't think Dan Brown's query for The Da Vinci Code mentioned that amidst all the intrigue surrounding Robert Langdon's quest for the truth, he was also being chased by a giant albino, do you?

Most successful writers have books they never sold, and many successful books were rejected by 31 editors. You may fall into one of these categories.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Seven fake plots about religion are accompanied by four plots that turned out to be actual plots of novels. Which four?

1. Weaving the stories of five seemingly unrelated women together into a telling commentary on "the oldest profession" and its role in the subversion of the Catholic church.

2. After some unkind words by his preacher one Sunday, addled ranchhand Hayseus Rioja declares a blood feud with the preacher, the church, and God herself.

3. As Moses returns to camp, knowing that the Children of Israel will never believe what really happened on the mountain, he makes up the 10 Commandments, figuring that everyone will soon forget about them.

4. Five murders have been committed, all within sight of a church or synagogue. Detective Gray has no clues, but he does have incentive: his estranged wife will take him back if he solves the case.

5. St. Egbert of Bagsdale, temping for St. Peter during the key-keeper's annual vacation in the Florida Keys, misdirects two souls and misplaces three more. He has seven days to find them and get them back to heaven, or he gets demoted from Sainted to Blessed.

6. Father Joseph put his green chasuble away and took out the purple one. Today he would give up his shameful vices, at least for forty days. A strange feeling of peace came over him - no more drinking, no more gambling, no more loaning money to Sister Grevillia.

7. After inmate Roy Smith admits in confession that he murdered someone, he warns the priest not to blab. Will the good Father keep quiet, or will he snitch, in order to reduce his own sentence?

8. Gifted research historian Brent Rasmussen uncovers irrefutable proof of the existence - and identity - of the one true God. The world's religious leaders have mixed reactions to the evidence that they were all wrong.

9. In the year 2017, amid an ongoing world war between Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Athiests unite in a fourth political bloc which is quickly labeled "godless" by the other three.

10. Nik has a highly enhanced sense of smell, but will that help him when the Archpriest of the Church of Vordis contracts to have him killed?

11. A theology student who's also a sorcerer is in danger of being expelled--unless he can find a way to bring peace between the Christian God and the old Roman gods.

Answers below

The actual plots are
4, 7, 10, 11

New Beginning 417

“Excuse me.” Irene lightly tapped him on the shoulder – rock solid under his heavy coat. “I believe I was here first.” Her words smoked in the air between them.

He turned slowly, raising his left eyebrow. His gaze lowered to her feet, then back to her face. Piercing blue eyes locked on her brown ones. “Yeah right.” His gaze lowered again. This time it came to rest on her chest.

Irene’s shoulders hunched forward in automatic response even though no one could see her breasts through her parka. She drew breath to speak, but it whooshed out in another cloud of smoke as he turned his back on her.

“Well I never . . . ” She began in her most irritated voice.

He glanced back. “Probably the heart of your problem. I’d help you with that, but I’m on a tight schedule.”

"Oh my God!" Irene stared at his chiseled face. "You sounded just like Cary Grant!"

"Really," he said in clipped syllables. "And you, my dear, are the image of Doris Day."

"Oh. My. God." Irene bit her bottom lip for a moment. "Is it fate? What do you think this means?"

"We both wanted to sleep with Rock Hudson?"

As Irene's jaw dropped, the man stepped forward to the service counter. "Well," he said, glancing back at her, "I guess I got there before you twice now."

Opening: Sarah L......Continuation: Anonymous

Thursday's Comment Black Hole

I spent most of Thursday wondering why no one was sending comments and feeling unloved and considering whether the problem was Blogger or me. Now several people have written to say I didn't post their comments. If you sent a comment Thursday and it's not posted I didn't get it. It's possible some "First Meeting" writing exercises were also affected. The ones I've received are from:

Wife Meeter
Dave K.
Below this are those I've received since posting this message
Elizabeth Joy Arnold
Dave F.
Deborah K. White
Bill Highsmith

The only Guess the Plot I received yesterday was McKoala's which was time-stamped 11:42 PM. I have several with today's date, but if you sent one yesterday, resend. Also, if you sent a continuation yesterday I didn't get it. If you sent a query or an opening you can check to see if it's in the queue at (query) or evil editor's openings (link in sidebar).