Friday, February 29, 2008
His lopsided grin and black curls are not handsome. He wears no watch. Johnny owns one suit which he wears on Fridays. Briefly. Women at this hotel-bar are looking for something raw and unpredictable.
This evening, Johnny takes the newly-lit cigarette from the woman’s hand. He is easily a decade younger. Johnny caresses her older fingers and takes a step closer. “You’re too beautiful for this,” he says, and drops the cigarette to the floor. Its flame rolls around and settles. Johnny crushes its embers in a slow, rhythmic tease. Her eyes are drawn to his feet. She thinks of youthful sayings and smiles. Johnny wears large shoes.
Women like a man with a sense of humor. Johnny knows. He grins. He's always grinning. He asks her to smell the rose in his lapel. She resists. She knows better. He shrugs and turns around.
Johnny's car is at the curb. He points at it through the window and beckons her outside. It's tiny, and a wreck. The doors could fall off at any moment. She shakes her head and makes for the powder room. She can do better than this clown.
Opening: Chris Eldin.....Continuation: Anonymous
I will not gloat over my enemies' predicament before killing them.
I will never utter the sentence "But before I kill you, there's just one thing I want to know."
Now you get to write an Evil Overlord dialogue. You can write a standard one, or do a different take on it. For instance, yours doesn't have to take place at the end of a spy thriller; it could be another genre: romance, childrens, erotica, etc. Or yours could involve the hero doing the gloating. Or an Evil Overlord who's really shy. Anything goes, as long as it's an end of book dialogue with someone gloating over his brilliance, only to look like an idiot moments later.
Deadline Saturday at midnight eastern. 300-word limit. Don't submit as anonymous if you want credit.
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Guess the Plot
The Kings of Box River
1. Card shark, William "Box" River, is going for an unprecedented three-peat as national Texas Hold-Em champion. His bombshell competition, Scarlet Vickens, offers a bribe: if he lets her win, he'll get lucky at love and she'll show him a new meaning to the term "all in." But is he willing to fold his hand and give up fame and fortune when he's dealt three kings?
2. The King family have lived and prospered in Box River, Wyoming for eight generations. But now the Russian Mafia has moved in, and they want a piece of the action. A big piece. Can the King family deal will this threat, or will the Otkupshchikovs become the new . . . Kings of Box River?
3. Jules would give his left eye for a drink. Artemis has been his best friend and drinking buddy since they settled in under the Box Creek bridge three years ago. As Artemis degrades into a cancer-induced dementia and ultimately death, will Jules fall deeper into his self-destructive pit, or will a spiritual epiphany set him on a different course?
4. Outside a small snack bar, near where the Alonguin River ducks between the paper mills and becomes "Box River", two old men play chess, as they have for the past seven years. Each day, chancers, crooks and business men stop by and mumble their requests for advice or money. Then, one morning with a cool frost and long shadows, Solomon doesn't show up to finish a game. That's when the violence starts.
5. The McAllisters have dominated the fishing guide trade of Box River for so long even the local Indians can't recall a time when there weren't any McAllisters on the river. But change is coming in the form of the Bassmasters series. Can the McAllisters survive, or is their reign as the Kings of Box River over? Also, an autistic Sioux boy.
6. Box, Oregon, once a bustling community, is a dying town. The mill is closed, and the mine is empty. When a drifter named King comes along, he and Liam Satler struggle to keep their world together in the face of adversity: dried up farmland, Liam's pregnant cousin and delusional father . . . and of course Jeremy, the prehistoric sea monster living in the river.
I hope you will consider representing my 85,000-word novel, The Kings of Box River.
Box, Oregon, isn't on the way to anywhere else. Its mill has long since closed, its mine shafts grow weeds, and all that remains of its once-bustling frontier community is a handful of ranchers and the persistent legend of a prehistoric sea monster named Jeremy who is rumored to live beneath the surface of the local river.
Only seven-year-old Liam Satler, son of the town's innkeepers, [Apparently, all that's left of the bustling community is a handful of ranchers and some innkeepers. Do the ranchers stay at the inn, or is that just for tourists?] knows that the legend is true. Since the day he accidentally spotted Jeremy from his backyard, he's been determined to protect the creature from the dangerous world around it. Watching out for Jeremy is a welcome distraction from the things in his life that he can't control: his teacher's inability to understand why he's bored and distracted in school, [Could it be because no one will believe him when he says there' a prehistoric sea monster named Jeremy in the river?] his father's determination to grow apple trees in the dry soil of their yard, [Has dad given any consideration to, like, watering the apple trees?] [The well's done dried up, you say? Where can pop get water now? Wait, how about . . . Box River?] the alarming fragility of his pregnant cousin Holly. [In what way is she fragile? Is Liam the one alarmed by it?]
When a young drifter who calls himself King arrives at the inn [Is it Elvis? Look, there are two ways to put Box back on the map: discover a prehistoric sea monster, which will then be captured and taken to an aquarium, at which point Box drops off the map again, or have Elvis move in, in which case Box becomes the center of the paparazzi universe until he dies for real this time. Wait, maybe the sea monster should be Elvis, grown to such gargantuan proportions he's mistaken for a sea monster by anyone who sees him. Imagine an elephant seal with Elvis's head.] and inadvertently comes to share Liam's secret, Liam isn't sure if he can trust him. However, with his parents thinking about sending him away to school, and Jeremy becoming increasingly difficult to watch over, Liam needs all the help he can get. As the young boy and adult runaway struggle to keep their world in order, they are pushed into actions that jeopardize themselves, the people they care about, and the vulnerable creature they protect.
I would be happy to send along the full manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.
What's the threat to Jeremy and why are Liam and King and those they care about in jeopardy? There's no one left in town but a handful of ranchers, who are presumably on their ranches most of the time, so what does Jeremy need protection from? Who's the bad guy? We will care more about this if we know what the danger is.
What I meant was, there's no one left in town but a handful of ranchers, the innkeepers, Jeremy and his cousin, Jeremy's parents and teacher, any other students and teachers at the school, Floyd the barber, and Spongebob.
How can Box not be on the way to anywhere else when it's on a river? Don't they have boats?
Is this a book for adults? When does it take place?
Why am I thinking, "Puff the Magic Dragon"?
You're probably thinking it would make your book ridiculous to have Elvis in it, but I guarantee most people thought it was ridiculous anyway, the minute you mentioned the prehistoric sea monster named Jeremy.
No longer can you Google the scammers' names and find their letters, as claimed in my articles, but that's the price I have to pay for security. At least now they can't Google their own fake names and find Evil Editor's blog and hunt me down.
As those of you who have hacked into Evil Editor's email account are aware, I've received yet another request for assistance in withdrawing money from a foreign bank. Last time this happened, you'll recall I ended up flying to Ghana in hopes of bribing a bank teller into getting me my money. Didn't go well. Turns out the bank tellers in Ghana are heavily armed, and are far more interested--and persuasive--when it comes to deposits than they are with regard to withdrawals. Who knew?
Having been encouraged to let my money in Ghana continue earning interest (along with an additional deposit I couldn't resist making thanks to highly favorable rates of return) I made my way home and this morning found the following email in my in-box:
Your Kind Assistance!!!
Greetings of the day to you, although you may be skeptical receiving this email as we have not met before,I am Mr. Elvis K.W.Stojko(Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer)of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd.,nevertheless I have a business proposition involving the sum of $24,500,000.00 usd in my bank which I know we will be of mutual benefit to both of us, and I believe we can handle together, once we have a common understanding and mutual cooperation in the execution of the modalities. Should you be interested, please forward the following to me:
3.Private phone number,
4.Current residential address.
Via this email address: [address deleted to keep others from trying to beat me to this opportunity.]
Your earliest response to this mail will be highly appreciated.
I was slightly annoyed that Stojko had forced me to look up "modalities," but not so annoyed that I deleted the email. The best thing about computers is that you can cut and paste a word into Dictionary.com and save yourself a walk to the bookshelf and the heavy lifting involved in using the unabridged version.
Eagle-eyed readers will no doubt have noted two major--and agreeable--differences between this correspondence and my previous ones:
1. This one includes no sob story about the original owner of the money and all his living relatives dying in a natural disaster or a freak bobsled accident. I like that. Straight to the point. Let the dead rest in peace; let us get our hands on their money.
2. 24.5 million dollars is nearly twice my highest previous offer. Given that the bank employee always seems to want at least half the money, for just doing his job, and that there's probably a huge tax bill on the interest the money has been earning, an account of a mere three or four million would be worth squat by the time I got my share. But 24.5 million, that's enough, I thought, to make me and Uncle Sam and this Stojko guy happy, especially if I can talk Stojko down to ten percent.
As with my previous correspondents, I took the precaution of Googling the banker's name. There's always the possibility that Googlitivity will reveal a newspaper article about a Hong Kong automobile accident in which your correspondent was killed, and then you're back to square one.
The first six or seven Googlations were all about Elvis Stojko, Canadian figure skater. I had to hope this wasn't my man, as figure skaters are notoriously brutal in financial matters. Who can forget the time a prominent figure skater hired a goon to bash in her opponent's knee with a lead pipe in the conservatory? Also, why do so many violent crimes seem to take place in the conservatory? And what is a conservatory?
Anyway, as I scanned down the Googlations, I came to two links to letters from my same correspondent. These letters, interestingly, were far more detailed than the one I'd received. They told the story of an Iraqi general who'd been making monthly deposits, and whose entire family had been killed in a bomb blast. In one of the letters it was General Bastaan, and in the other it was General Ismael. Understandable. When you're dealing with this kind of money, you don't want to reveal real names.
The only other difference in the letters was that in the more detailed letters, Stojko didn't ask for the recipient's occupation. In mine, he did. Why the decision to add this line to my letter, when he had subtracted so much other information? Then it hit me: if it turned out my occupation was government mail fraud investigator, he was planning to call off the deal. Clever.
I emailed him back offering two grand (it's always best to offer less than you're willing to pay, so they feel like they put one over on you when they talk you up to five or ten grand). I'll keep you informed.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
I miss her. And I miss those stories.
Sometimes, it feels like she’s watching over me. At first, I thought - why not? I’m her son, after all. But I’m a scientist, now. I should know how I know - should feel - all of this.
I’m half an hour late getting back to Roland, but I can’t let it go.
So: an experiment.
I shut my eyes and I see my unfinished email hovering in the darkness; medication 50mg etc etc; Vista, photo of kids. And now - yes - now I can see my Mother. Easy.
Mother. Vista. Photo. Mother. Yes: that’s what the brain does. 11th birthday, degree ceremony - I can even balance a Christmas tree bauble on the top of her head if I want.
A tap at the door. "Professor?" The bauble becomes a hat. A tea cozy. Got to keep the head warm. Medication, 100mg.
Of course. Roland's waiting. I am a scientist; it's not an act. I return to the operating theatre. Bone saw. Stem cells.
Don't worry, Mr. Roland. It's a breakthrough. We'll have your brain fixed in no time -- just like mine.
We went bowling sometimes, mother and I. The ball thumps on the lane and rolls toward the tenpins. Everyone gasps! A strike?
"Professor! Oh Jesus! Oh my God! Professor!"
Oh dear. A slip of the saw. How unfortunate.
Opening: Whirlochre.....Continuation:: ril
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. When wealthy members of the elite South Worbeach Country Club start turning up dead with, quite literally, rods up their asses, suspicion turns toward the often verbally abused janitorial staff. Can Manuela find the real killer before her team run out of broom shafts?
2. From Rod Serling to Rod McKuen, Rod Stewart to Hillary Rodham Clinton, and A-Rod to Rod the Roofer, these hot Rods prove again and again just how agile, untiring and imaginative celebrity Rods can be -- especially when thrust into tight circumstances.
3. Two high school dropouts named Rodney, manning the control panel of the local nuclear power plant, decide to hire hookers over the Internet on the facility's control computer. While waiting for the ladies to arrive, they inadvertently cause all the fuel rods in the plant to superheat. Can Candi and Mandi satisfy the Rodneys and still have time to cool down the nuclear fuel rods before the destruction of the entire Earth?
4. At an outpost in the furthest, blackest reaches of the universe, ruling descendants of the original colonists have evolved beyond the need to see. When a visitor crash-lands and resurrects the science of artificial light, will it upset the planet's delicate balance of power?
5. When Chance McCloud goes to California to settle his late brother Jim's estate, he discovers that Jim was working on a top secret project. As he tries to get to the bottom of Jim's death, Chance must seek the aid of the people who have gathered in Jim's front yard, waiting for a big rod-ship in the sky to beam them all up.
6. When last year's winner of the Mississippi Bass Fishing Championships is found dead in his boat with a boning knife in his eye, every fisherman in this year's tournament is a suspect. Fortunately, detective Bo Seldon, an avid fisherman himself, is on the scene. Unfortunately, the murder weapon belonged to Bo, and the other competitors are providing each other with alibis.
I have recently completed an 85,000 word thriller, titled Rods, set in and around the China Lake Naval Weapons Base in California. [If only because most book buyers are women, this sounds much more promising than the manuscript I received yesterday, titled Tits.] [Try to negotiate some input on the cover art; I have a feeling it's going to make or break you on this one.]
When Navy Engineer Jim McCloud dies in a plane crash, it's the responsibility of his brother Chance to go to California and settle Jim's estate. [You're kidding. It was GTP #5? Even I didn't get it right this time.] When Chance arrives at the naval base where Jim worked, however, Chance finds out that there is a lot more going on than a simple airplane crash. [You got something against pronouns?] [Suddenly I'm getting the horrible feeling someone who won a National Book Award has recommended no more than two pronouns per book. With pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, similes and alliteration eliminated, how long till we can't use nouns and verbs? How long till books contain nothing but prepositions?]
Jim was involved in designing and implementing a program involving rods, the elusive “sky fish” that have become a cause celebre among paranormal researchers. [For those who don't want to look up "sky fish" on Wikipedia, I've done so and will save you the trouble. Some people believe there are creatures that move through the air so fast you can't see them, although a camera can catch a blurred image of them. They're shaped like rods. They've been sighted not only in the air, but also in caves and underwater. I'm not sure if they call underwater rods "sky fish." Possibly they just call them fish.] [The existence of underwater fish has been theorized for some time now.] While many serious scientists regard rods as an artifact of modern photography at best and a hoax at worst, [many quack scientists actually buy into them.] Chance realizes that his brother not only believed in the existence of rods – he had found a way to prove definitively that rods really do exist. [He was planning to catch one with his patented sky-fishing rod.] [Once you call something "definitively proven," it's not necessary to add "really."]
It takes all of Chance's skills as a high-end security specialist to outwit a corrupt Navy captain and find out the truth about his brother's death. Along the way, he is helped by an unlikely group of confederates – a test pilot who considers her job the world's biggest flume ride, a physics junkie who was Jim's biggest fan, and the collection of “rod nuts” that have gathered in Jim's front yard, waiting for that big rod-ship in the sky to beam them all up.
Rods, and the debate about their existence, has been the subject of several television documentaries. [My research shows there have been three such documentaries: The Great Rod Debate: Is Bigger Better?; Is That A Sky-Fish in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy to See Me?; and Buddy, If You Can't Find Anything Better Than This to Watch, You Might Want to Spring For a Dish.] There is also an institute for rods research in Roswell, New Mexico (where else?). [I went to the Institute for Rods Research once. I had a completely wrong idea about what they did there, which led to no small amount of embarrassment when I dropped my pants shortly after entering . . . though I must admit, Miss Dunbar, the receptionist, wasn't complaining.] Rods is a day-after-tomorrow thriller [That's what I used to call Grisham's books. I'd keep asking him, "When are you gonna finish that book?", and he'd keep telling me, "Day after tomorrow." Eventually it was either dump him or kill him.] with up-to-the-minute science and a paranormal twist. I would be glad to provide you with sample chapters, or the entire manuscript, at your request.
Thank you for your time,
I would rather you said what rods are than say that they're a cause celebre among paranormal researchers. That could apply to anything. You could even start out with the explanation:
Navy Engineer Jim McCloud was on the verge of proving the existence of rods--creatures that move so fast they are invisible to the naked eye--when he was killed in a mysterious plane crash. Now his brother Chance has arrived to settle Jim's estate, and finds that something fishy's going on--something sky-fishy.This leaves more room to discuss motives and suspects. It also lets you bring the cause celebre line down to lead off your last paragraph (which can then be divided into two paragraphs after the Roswell sentence), the paragraph in which you try to convince the reader that you didn't make all this invisible flying fish stuff up, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.
Monday, February 25, 2008
“AAHHH! What’s happening?” Tony looked down and saw the blacks of rooftops and the greens of trees whizzing past his watery eyes. When he looked up, he saw his hand grasping the foot of a tiny fairy. Her foot was the size of his thumb, and when she turned back to look at him, he noticed she wore glasses. Oh, great. A fairy who has trouble seeing.
Wink popped out and hailed a hearty “Hang On!” before ducking again into Tony’s pocket.
Tony did hang on, although hanging onto a fairy foot was no easy feat. The wind lifted his shirt up to his chin, causing Wink to grab onto Tony’s bottom lip. Then Wink’s sharp little claws found a fleshy spot on the inside of Tony’s cheek. Tony tried not to open his mouth. The thought of swallowing Wink made his stomach tremble.
Wink pulled a tiny bottle out of his pocket and took another deep draught. He banged the bottle against the side of Tony's jaw. "Ishn't dish great?"
Tony didn't think it was so great. His stomach ducked and weaved as the fairy whizzed around the taller treetops.
Wink tugged at Tony's ear. "You're my besht friend, you are. I love you!" The Elfin beer smelled sour.
The fairy dropped twenty feet to avoid a bat. Tony gasped and felt his little companion slide down his throat. Shocked and choking, he let go of the fairy and plummeted through the trees to the forest floor.
The trauma team finished stitching Tony's cuts and splinting his bones and bandaging his head and relocating his shoulder and filling him with medicine. "So, young man -- what on Earth happened to you?"
Tony closed his eyes. "I swallowed a Tiddly Wink."
Opening: Chris.....Continuation: Anonymous
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Guess the Plot
1. When Aspen enrolls at uber-exclusive, ultrasnobby Rutherford, she has no idea she'll soon be leading her minions in battle against the ruling clique known as the Uppers. It's 21st-century LA, and all-out war has come to . . . The Academy.
2. In a post-apocalyptic future, an elite group of extrasensory mutants are stolen as children and brought to a secret school to be trained as assassins. Marco escapes at sixteen intending to expose The Academy and bring about the downfall of those who run it, but his world is turned inside out when he finds that it's actually a benevolent organization taking out evil megalomaniacs.
3. Sarge Stiff was the deadliest combat specialist in Iraq - in 2006. Now, he's just another drunken has been, working at the only civilian job he could get - counselor at a second rate military school for rebel rejects. When terrorists try to take over the school they get a surprise as the sergeant without a cause leads his charges in a fight to save . . . The Academy.
4. Newly-minted literature professor Christine LeBrock knew her department was full of the usual gossip & politics. What she wasn't expecting was a full-blown Satanic cult operating beneath Childers Hall. Is sacrificing a bright senior a fair price for tenure?
5. Combining the studies of Vlad Dracul, Jack the Ripper, Billy the Kid, Ted Bundy and Seung Hui Cho, The Academy analyzed the most violent of killers throughout the centuries and created the newest breed of serial killers. But can they also create the profilers to stop them? Game on.
6. Jennifer enrolls at the Academy of Fine Arts, then finds her acting instructor dead on the floor, a bullet in his head. It's a classic murder mystery, but as amateur sleuth Jennifer investigates, she encounters a major problem: all of the suspects are great actors.
7. All her friends are going to the Academy next year, but Brianna doesn't have the grades. She hacks into the school computer, but one wrong keystroke changes her life. Rather than Phillips Exeter, she's headed for Annapolis. Can she find happiness among 5000 midshipmen?
Dear Evil Editor,
I am an unpublished author, looking for an agent or publisher. I have absolutely no experience, [Especially in how to lie to make yourself look good.] but I feel that the first book (which I've finished) will be a success. [Okay, I was wrong; but can't you come up with a lie that sounds half-believable?]
First of all, I feel that I understand the market for my book series. I have researched endlessly the market for my audience's age group, [Telling us that you understand your market and that you've researched your market is not so important; telling us what your market is, is.] and have built wonderfully complicated characters. [Mini-robots.] [If they're mini-robots, I'll ignore everything that's wrong with the query and send you a six-figure advance. We've never had mini-robots. And when have we ever had a character more complicated than a mini-robot? Do they have transparent skin so you can see their gears turning underneath?] The Academy isn't just a cliched series about mean popular girls dissing girls that they don't like. [It's about mean popular mini-robots dissing girls that they don't like.] It shows each character's vulnerable side, [For instance, mini-robot 452968G cries when watching soap operas, and mini-robot 739511R has no opposable thumb.] and many life lessons are learned throughout the books. [Sample life lessons: Never go out to dinner leaving your dog and your mini-robot alone together; do not give a mini-robot you've recently reprimanded access to the cutlery.] It is a multi-cultural series, so that readers that are non-Caucasian can also relate to the characters, and their dilemmas. [Ah, finally we get to your market: Caucasians and non-Caucasians.]
The Uppers have ruled ultrasnobby, uberexclusive Rutherford Academy in Los Angeles for as long as they first stepped foot into the school. Kate Cordelle, Melanie Behr, Alancia Peterson, and Lia Wong, [the non-Caucasian,] collectively known as the Uppers (because they are the uppermost section of the upper class) are the creme de la creme. [They sound like downers to me.] Being wealthy, pretty, and powerful (theourh [anagram: U R The Ho.] a combination of threats, blackmail, and manipulation), they have never been challenged. The trouble starts when a middle-class girl from Greenwich, Aspen Thomas, arrives. Aspen is destined to overthrow the Rutherford Academy hierarchy: she gets inducted in the exclusive, only-wealthy-girls clique, when they see that she is charismatic, and popular whether they like it or not. Alancia is the girl behind Aspen's induction, and soon her true motives become clear: that she wants Aspen as a replacement for herself. [In the end, Alancia replaces herself with a mini-robot so she won't have to attend classes.] The tables are turned on Aspen, who gets booted out of their clique, and later joins forces with Alancia and her Lesser friends (so named because they are lesser-known, less-influential, and are everything lesser than the A-Listers), [They're the skim de la skim.] to rule Rutherford with nicer tactics. [They use tactics to rule the school, and their administration's main selling point is that their tactics aren't as bad as the old regime's tactics?] Kate and her posse play down-and-dirty, and Aspen fights back. They both land in detention [If you're trying to make this sound like World War III, I'd leave out the part about detention.] when they take their fight too far, and Aspen and Alancia soon realize that they were holding their power the same way as Kate did, which was with manipulation. Kate apologizes too, [Too?] and the natural balance of things is restored. [Meaning the uppers are back on top and the lessers below?]
This is a great work of mine, [That should have been the first sentence in the query. It would have saved us a lot of time.] and I am confident that we can work as a team to improve it, and make it even better. [I recommend we make it better first, and then improve it; we don't want to do too much at once.] I would be delighted to send you the complete manuscript for the first book. Thank you for your time reading this, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
You said The Academy was the series. Is it also the title of the first book? If not, mention the title. Along with the word count and the age group being targeted.
First you say The Academy isn't just a cliched series about mean popular girls dissing girls that they don't like, then you describe a cliched series about mean popular girls dissing girls that they don't like. What sets this book apart from others? (Hint: did you notice how much better it sounded when it was about mini-robots?)
"It is a multi-cultural series, so that readers that are non-Caucasian can also relate to the characters, and their dilemmas." Translation: Asian readers will relate to Lia Wong's struggle to maintain her position of power.
Uppers and Lessers? Doesn't have the same cachet as Sharks and Jets or Bloods and Crips or Jocks and Nerds.
Trash this whole thing. Here's your plot:
I think you can take it from there.
The trouble begins when Aspen Thomas, a middle-class girl from Greenwich, arrives at Rutherford Academy. Her immediate popularity doesn't sit well with The Tribunal, a ruling clique that includes Kate (the dictator), Melanie (the invisible girl), Alancia (the turncoat), and Lia (the non-Caucasian). Is war inevitable?
When Alancia decides she wants to leave The Tribunal and join another clique known as The Oppressed, the bylaws require her to find a replacement. She chooses Aspen, but Aspen doesn't last long with The Tribunal. Kicked out, she allies with Alancia, and the battle lines are drawn. War has come to Rutherford, and third grade will never be the same.
Below are the results of the first annual "Write Like Cassie Edwards" Exercise. This post is time-stamped to stay above the submissions, allowing those who read top to bottom and who didn't see the instructions to . . . see the instructions. Except I'm not posting the instructions here, so if you missed them you get the fun of trying to guess what they were. Later you can scroll down to Q & A 133 to see if you were right.
“You ready?” Kate’s voice came from just outside the door.
“Uh, yeah. Almost done.” He squeezed a dollop of Crest onto his finger and rubbed it over his teeth, then reached over and flushed the toilet.
She was on the bed when he emerged; a plain cotton sheet covered her lower half. His eyes fell straight to her breasts, full and firm, the nipples bigger and darker than he had expected.
Kate arched her eyebrows. He pulled off his T-shirt and shucked off his underpants.
“My, you are ready,” she said, and pulled the sheet away. He was transfixed for a moment by the dark shock between her legs. A brief wave of panic flicked at his stomach.
“I-- I don’t... Do you have, uh, protection?”
She gave him a look. “Sure, I always keep this baseball bat handy…”
“No, I mean--”
“I know what you mean.” She reached into her side-table drawer. “Here.” She held the foil square between her thumb and forefinger. “America’s number one brand; four times the market share of Durex. You know, Trojans have been around since 1920 when they were first manufactured by Young’s Rubber, which later became Young’s Drug Products Corporation before being absorbed by Carter-Wallace Incorporated in 1985. Carter-Wallace sold their consumer products lines to Church and Dwight in 2001, putting Trojan alongside staples like Brillo, and Arm and Hammer. Then, in February 1987, Trojan-- Jesus! What did you--?”
“I-- I’m so sorry. I’m a bit of a history nut… I--”
“Here. Use this Kleenex -- a registered trademark of Kimberly-Clark Worldwide Incorporated…”
MURDER IN DULUTH
"My husband hired a private detective. Robert, he KNOWS about us!"
"Inez, you'll have to decide right now whether we'll go through with our plan. Either you become the richest widow in Duluth, or he divorces you, the prenup kicks in, and we're both penniless."
"Are you sure that the plan to lure him to a deserted warehouse down by the docks will work? IS there a deserted warehouse down there? After all, Duluth is the Atlantic Ocean's westernmost deep-water port and pretty busy. It might be a better idea to push him off the Aerial Lift Bridge which spans the short canal into Duluth's harbor."
"Right in front of the entire population of Duluth, which was 86,918 in the 2000 census? Really smart, Inez. At least down at the docks people will be so busy shipping coal, iron ore (taconite), and grain that they won't see anything."
"What about disabling the brakes of his car? After all, we live in the Goat Hill neighborhood overlooking the 'can of worms' freeway interchange around 18th Avenue West, which is pretty steep and dangerous."
"Good idea. Did you know that Proctor Knott is sometimes credited with characterizing Duluth as the "zenith city of the unsalted seas"? But the honor for that coinage belongs to journalist Thomas Preston Foster, speaking at a Fourth of July picnic in 1868."
“That’s true, Robert. Considering that Waldo drinks like a fish, it’s a pity he couldn’t have died of gout like Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut (c. 1639 – 25 February 1710), the French soldier and explorer who was the first European known to have visited the area where the city is now located, and whose name is sometimes anglicized as "DuLuth."
“Yeah, right. Now give me the money so I can go hire the hitman.”
--Talpianna and Wikipedia
The whitewall tires were solid rubber, made from latex harvested from rubber tree plantations in South America. The milky sap produced by these tropical trees was traded commercially for thousands of years by the BeeGee Tribe of southern Florida, who had cultivated the rubber tree plant and handed down the secrets of the various properties of the substance from generation to generation. The BeeGees, a wealthy and very musically talented but duplicitous group of rubber tree growers traded huge tracts of tropical forest land with the FOMOCO** for pennies on the acre.
During the latter part of the twentieth century, several members of the tribe migrated to Dearborn, Michigan where they were summarily employed by the vast automotive-industrial complex that dominated the area. When a radical group, Mauriene, Bariene and Andriene splintered off (having become overly assimilated into the new culture) and applied their ancient knowledge of coagulation and dehydration to produce vinyl in the local record studios at Motown, the result was the tragic period known as “The Disco Era”. Their most successful single was a multi-track, easy-to-dance-to abomination of the Sinatra/Nelson Riddle standard, “High Hopes” (Lyrics by Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, Copyright Barton Music Corp.).
Down the road, Harley could see Kite Riley, that son of a butcher who drove a faded- red truck to deliver meats to the country grocers and markets in the area. Kite was often high as one, since he also ran a profitable side business delivering moonshine whiskey.
"Getting? I was old when the universe was young, boy." The voice penetrated the door just like it penetrated all of creation. The deadbolts snapped open.
"Stubborn old man. Is this a Busman's Holiday or a social visit?" Ayden opened the door. There, standing before him half-formed and unclothed, stood Death. Not Death with a hood and scythe, not Death who comes to us all in the night, but Death master of all living things becoming corporeal and incarnate. A mass of black curls hanging over a thin face, pale skin forming over even paler bones, an impossibly thin waist supported on pencil-thin legs.
"Busman's Holiday? Rather a little joke on your neighbor. Tell your neighbor that the dogs did not howl for him tonight. His silicosis hasn't debilitated him sufficiently to require my ministries. Pneumoconiosis was a British term to describe what is commonly called Black Lung. The fibroids that are killing him are simply silicosis. The British named it Pneumoconiosis so that giggly prep school boys could hear stories that scared them and frightened old men. Not to mention inspire folk songs about your dogs and death. Dogs howling to greet me, undignified, un-British and more trailer park." Death said.
Ayden knew the rules; he waved his hand in a grandiose gesture. Death incarnate never entered uninvited. "Welcome to my house." Death stepped across the threshold. His body bulked up right before Ayden's eyes. He stood there, a fleshy, handsome man, overflowing with the vigor of youth.
"You look fit my son."
"As do you, Step-father. It's been too many years." Ayden closed the door.
We were the only ones waiting when the elevator doors opened. I pushed the 7 for myself, and asked her which floor she wanted.
“The tenth,” she told me, gazing deeply into my eyes. Her voice was so soft and sexy I had to fight to resist throwing my arms around her.
I stood close to her, and silently cursed the formalities that forced me to refrain from embracing her, simply because we were strangers.
She sensed my shyness, asked me something about my day. It wasn’t what she wanted to ask; we both knew that. But what else could she say?
We reached the seventh floor too fast. I said, “Goodbye,” and stepped out, and suddenly realized how foolish I was to let her get away. Quickly I whipped around to jam my foot between the doors . . . but it was too late. They had already closed.
I realized at once: this must be a ThyssenKrupp Elevator. ThyssenKrupp is driven to exceed customer expectations with a powerful combination of products, services, and technology, backed by the unsurpassed technological and logistical resources of one of the world’s most advanced corporations. The company that invented the Oildraulic® elevator continues to build practically every component that goes into a ThyssenKrupp elevator. The same manufacturing facilities that have produced more elevators than any other company in North America still make their own gears, cut their own sheet metal, and wormhole their own renowned valves. They test and retest at the component and system levels, according to the most exacting standards in the business.
Oh, the agony, the misery, the loneliness. I fell to my knees in front of the closed doors, and reached up my arms, and screamed, “Why couldn’t it have been an Otis?!!”
"And Bruce hits the ball. John hits it back. Bruce misses! Shame."
A child dropped a teddy over the railings and started crying. A linesman handed it back. That was the excitement over for this game.
"John's there in his traditional white shorts as he serves the ball. Bruce has gone for this year's craze, the pink shorts. Have you noticed how all the guys have them? And he hits the ball."
A seagull swooped over the court, lured in by the doughnuts on the umpire's chair.
"The Herring Gull is more formally known as Larus argentatus. It is a flocking bird with a complex range of vocalisations. Adults are mainly white, with pink legs, yellow beaks and dark feathers on their back and wings. Its breeding range includes Europe, Asia and North America. Though primarily a sea bird, many colonies have moved inland to take advantage of food scraps in urban areas. Herring Gulls are able to see ultraviolet light, which is a form of electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than violet light."
It dawned on me that the crowd was staring in my direction.
"And Bruce hits the ball!"
Then he screamed and ran at me. Later I would try to piece the moments together, but nothing more than a blurry collage of memories would ever materialize. He slipped on the linoleum floor but came at me, shoulder down, ready to slam me against the wall. The gun went off, then again and again and again, maybe four times, maybe five. Glass shattered, crashed all around the room. My arm flung straight up in the air behind the force of the shots, bashing my wrist against the wall and shocking a numbing pain all through my arm. The gun fell and clattered somewhere on the linoleum floor.
This wasn’t the strongest type of linoleum, originally called “battle linoleum.” When it was tested in battle, it proved unsuitable because of its flammability. This was likely cheap grade linoleum, constructed from linseed oil and wood dust with a canvas—perhaps a burlap—backing. Linoleum was perfect for this motel lobby. Inexpensive and easily available, it had a water and stain resistance that would be useful in a place where liquids might frequently be spilled. Like coffee. Or blood.
When I opened my eyes what seemed like a split second later, Alfred lay face down across the frame of the smashed-out picture window, not moving, blood dripping down the wall and puddling on the linoleum. The tinted window of the Suburban had disintegrated, and Miguel lay slumped over the steering wheel.
As well, a Yale-New Haven study regarding masturbation dispelled the following ignorant myths: that it causes feeble-mindedness, that it causes acne and pimples, that it causes problems with a normal, adult sex life, that it can weaken body and mind.
And, about the nun who discussed Stephen Schneider’s penis preoccupation with his skinny black-haired worried little mom, well, I’ve seen enough torpedoes in World War II movies on television on Sunday afternoons to know that old nun’s boobs are right on target to be torpedo-shaped. Mushier than those torpedic warhead receptacles, I guess, because you can see the two of them swinging around some under her habit, which is kind of creepy, really, but the shape seems to me to be the same. And those long boobs of hers look like they’re lassoed in at the waist with the black belt of her habit. So I think she shouldn’t be talking about Stephen Schneider’s love of his little penis, when she herself has got her big long boobs to be worrying about.
I confess that these things bother me. And they’ve bothered me more than two times. Or three.
‘Guards closing in,’ he roared. ‘Hurry.’
I hauled myself upwards, grasping the knots tied to facilitate my ascent. Most were simple overhand figure of eights of a type favoured by sailors, but as I swang from side to side, avoiding the poisoned spikes, I noticed other arrangements: a Zeppelin Loop, a Fireman's Chair and simple quartets of Yosemite Bowlines; all strung out, a metre or so apart, like the flower heads of a giant daisy chain. The Fireman’s Chair is a simple, yet effective, means of conveying individuals to safety without the aid of a harness or any specialist equipment, and has saved the lives of literally thousands of people worldwide since its migration into mainstream safety procedure from humble beginnings as an off-duty alternative to sliding down a pole in a ridiculous helmet - so I knew I wouldn’t fall, even if unconscious.
Reaching the bullet-peppered overhang, I looped my fingers round a succession of Alpine Butterflies and prepared for a final swing to the top, conjecturing that since each allowed for a three-way load with a minimum of slippage, it might have been possible to construct a spiders’ web affair using accessory bed linen - and spring the whole darn block.
With sirens wailing and searchlights flashing from the laser-strafed methane clouds all around us like burst inappropriate similes, we somersaulted from the parapet, blasting melted cutlery rifles mercilessly into the maelstrom...
“Oh, theys got their reasons. They ain’t what they used’a be, and it’s hard for ‘em to swallow. They losin’ their land to us. Add it up, and it’s sizable. Their territory north of the Arkansas River is ours now. They kin see what’s in store. Missouri was Spain’s land, and now it’s a state, the first west of the Mississippi, and it’s pointin’ straight away to the western ocean. From their point of view, they got a right to be riled.”
“I ain’t had much book learnin’,” Kincaid confessed.
“My, son,” Joe began, “it is a mistake to view the histories of New Mexico, Arizona, California, Louisiana, and Missouri as separate and isolated because it obscures the role of New Spain in the Trans-Mississippian West. In fact, one can go further in stating that geo-political events in the Americas at the time should not be separated from the Seven Years War in Europe.”
“Does this have anything to do with wettin’ my pizzle?” Kincaid asked.
“Not in the near-term, but perhaps you can impress some senorita with your knowledge and get laid.
“But we digress. Towards the end of the Seven Years War, the two catholic kings, actually cousins, Louis XV of France and Charles III of Spain, concluded the Treaty of Fontainebleau in 1762 to keep the British from acquiring French lands west of the Mississippi. Pursuant to the treaty, Missouri passed to Spain.”
“Kin we talk about girls now?”
“I’m trying to improve your mind,” Joe snorted, “you randy young pup! Let us continue. When Napoleon needed funds, he forced the Bourbon king of Spain to cede the territory back to France which he promptly sold to the United States.”
Saturday, February 23, 2008
EE, how do you do this daily? Don't you have to earn money at a job?I've wasted more time--well, not really wasted since I do learn--reading the GTPs and First Pages, etc. and all EE's minions' comments.
Well, first of all, I don't write the minions' comments and I seldom write GTPs or openings or continuations. In some cases I choose the ones to use or feature, but that's not so time-consuming. And since much of my work is done in front of a computer, moderating comments is no problem. So my main time-consuming activities are:
1. Condensing query letters into plot descriptions that sound ridiculous so readers will Guess the Plot incorrectly some of the time. Difficult when I have no idea where the title came from, but easy when the plot actually is ridiculous.
2. Checking my minions' blog profiles to see if they've loyally included EE's books among their favorites.
3. Trying to hide the points I want to make in the query critiques and Q & A's in enough humor to satisfy those who come just for the laughs. Especially difficult when the plot is three sentences or when the author doesn't provide the expected glut of plot holes.
4. Writing sincere-sounding letters of apology to authors who threaten to sue or kill me.
5. Tearing down authors' first 150 words so much that they figure their entire books must suck, which they could be wrong about, though probably not.
6. Reading my fan mail.
True, none of this brings in money, but just knowing I've brought a smile to the face of one minion is reward enough. Besides, once I have enough people hooked I plan to start charging for blog visits. It'll be like a porn site, but with better spelling.
Yes, it does, if there's a lot of dialogue with a lot of tags. If a book is 20% dialogue, "said" won't feel repetitive. If the book is 80% dialogue, I get sick of reading "said" all the time. The advantage of using "said" a lot is that a lot of writers get a little too creative when trying to vary their dialogue tags.
For example, check out these four lines of dialogue. The first set uses "said" every line, the second set has some variety, but with innocuous replacements for "said," and the third group uses tags that may be descriptive, but also stick out enough that you wouldn't want to use them often.
"Sorry I'm late," Jason said.
"That's okay," Stephanie said. "I just got here."
"Let's go to a motel after we eat," he said.
"I can't," she said. "Too much work to do."
"Sorry I'm late," Jason said.
"That's okay," Stephanie told him. "I just got here."
"Let's go to a motel after we eat," he suggested.
"I can't," she replied. "Too much work to do."
"Sorry I'm late," Jason sobbed.
"That's okay," Stephanie chortled. "I just got here."
"Let's go to a motel after we eat," he bellowed.
"I can't," she puked. "Too much work to do."
When I edit dialogue-heavy fiction I vary the tags. I still use "said" almost half the time, and I've worked out highly scientific ideal use-percentages for every possible tag. You laymen don't need to go into as much depth as that, so I've prepared a chart that should help you determine which tags you can use often and which you should use sparingly.
1. Dialogue tags that are neutral and won't bother readers if they are used frequently:
told (as in told him, told her/me/them/us/Lucy/etc.)
asked (Used exclusively with questions)
replied (Not necessarily to a question; could be to a comment)
answered (Almost exclusively to a quesion)
2. Dialogue tags that have similar meanings to the those above, and may be used a few times per book:
3. Dialogue tags that have specific meanings, and can be used whenever applicable without becoming bothersome as long as their applicability doesn't come up more than once in a chapter:
yelled (and some of its synonyms)
cried (and some of its synonyms)
4. Dialogue tags you can get away with once per book, but only if you haven't used any of the other ones on this list:
5. Dialogue tags you should avoid:
barfed (please have character barf then speak or vice versa)
smiled (pet peeve; you don't smile words)
ejaculated (once a fine choice, now giggle-inducing)
caterwauled (always irritating when an author makes you get out the dictionary on a mere tag)
mooed (unless a cow)
The lists are by no means complete. No need to send in your favorites for lists 1 through 4, as a thesaurus will do. Amusing additions to list 5 will be accepted as comments, but no more than two per customer.
Friday, February 22, 2008
The front door slammed, and Didi cocked an ear.
I sat up a little and peered over the crowd.
"Travis and some Goth chick." The fluffy shirt and embroidered waistcoat were unmistakable, the spiky black coif next to him less so. He'd been doing Interview With the Vampire for the last twenty years; even I could tell it was out of date. "Travis" didn't really go with the image, but you don't get much choice of name unless you are willing to drop some serious money, which he didn't have.
Didi made a moue. "Travis needs a new shtick." Style being his first and foremost consideration, as usual.
I shrugged and took Didi's glasses off his face. He was doing The Italian Job--the original, Michael Caine--but they were his real glasses. He was a bat without them, but they transformed Travis into Austin Powers and Austin Powers fit Travis and the Goth chick like a glove.
"Now what am I supposed to do?" Didi whined.
"Do Alfie." I had to shout over the music. "Michael Caine was in that, too. Same suit." Didi shrugged.
The doorbell rang. Didi squinted across the room and said, "All right! Charlene's doing Policewoman again!" He made his way to her, banging off the furniture like a bagatelle, and greeted her with a friendly pair of mitts to the mammaries. Except it wasn't Policewoman, it was policewoman. Here about the noise. And Charlene was behind us, exiting the kitchen with the rabbit, doing Fatal Attraction. Didi's party ended early.
Opening: A. Minion.....Continuation: Anonymous
I suppose that even you, despite your best efforts, no doubt, have not been able to avoid the current scandal about plagiarism by romance author Cassie Edwards. What has particularly fanned the flames is that her publishers originally denied that she'd done anything wrong by lifting passages word-for-word from reference works, as if it was OK for historical romance writers to do that. (They are now retreating from this position--I guess their lawyers finally got hold of them.) Anyway, over at Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Books, they've created a 25-page and counting PDF of side-by-side comparisons of passages from her books and the originals.
For those unacquainted with the case, Ms. Edwards added other people's work to her own and passed the result off as entirely hers. A visit to the Smart Bitches site reveals more than a dozen posts on the topic, most of them with a couple hundred comments. Thus the only way Evil Editor can say anything original about the case would be to first read a few thousand comments, and I think we know that's not going to happen.
The time-line, as I understand it, is something like this:
1. Bitches [their term (and, no doubt, Edwards's), not mine] notice that some passages about ferrets and their habitats that appear out of the blue in a romance novel were lifted from a nature magazine with no acknowledgment.
2. Edwards says, "I'm innocent."
3. Additional instances of lifting are discovered.
4. Edwards says, "I did it, but there was nothing wrong with it as the works stolen from were nonfiction."
5. Passages stolen from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel are found in an Edwards book.
6. Edwards says, "Wait a minute, plagiarism is a bad thing?"
This reminds me of the current baseball/steroids scandal. Athlete attains unexpected success. Press notices that his head is suddenly the size of a basketball, suggesting steroids. Athlete claims innocence. Evidence mounts. Athlete says, "Okay, I used steroids once, but I was injured, and I thought it was just vitamins." Evidence mounts. Athlete says, "Okay, maybe it was three or four times, but I regretted it immediately." Evidence mounts. Athlete finally confesses, "I'm a blatant cheater. I sleep with a nightly steroid IV drip."
Of course there are others involved:
The publisher, Signet. As I recall, when Kaavya Viswanathan was revealed to have plagiarized, Little Brown stood by her until the evidence mountain became Everest-like, and then pulled the book from stores. That Signet hasn't done so with Edwards's books is idiotic for two reasons: 1. It would be a great PR move, showing they respect the sanctity of an artist's work. 2. The sooner no one can buy the books, the less chance anyone else will recognize even more lifted passages. When a museum discovers that one of their paintings is a forgery, they don't leave it hanging, they bite the bullet and get rid of it.
The editor(s). No editor should be expected to recognize stolen words, but when you're reading your author's latest romance novel and two characters are talking, and suddenly one says, "While alone in my father's study one day, after seeing a family of ferrets from afar in the nearby woods, I took one of my father's books from his library and read up on them. They were an interesting study. I discovered they are related to minks and otters. It is said that their closest relations are European ferrets and Siberian polecats. Researchers theorize that polecats crossed the land bridge that once linked Siberia and Alaska, to establish the New World population,*" and it goes on at length from there, shouldn't you suggest to the author that this is absurd?
Which brings us to the writing exercise, as suggested by Tal.
Write a brief scene in any genre--or, easier still, lift one from your own writings--and at some point during the scene, launch into an inexplicable nonfiction explanatory passage (written by you, not plagiarized). Then get back out and into your regularly scheduled programming. The more ridiculous and out-of-place your tangential exposition seems, the better, but it must be inspired by what just happened in your scene. (If two people are talking and someone mentions a chariot, you may pause to talk about chariot construction or Ben-Hur; but not about lemurs.)
300-word limit, deadline Saturday at 10 PM eastern, include a name if you want credit.
* Cassie Edwards, Shadow Bear (July 2007); Paul Tolmé, Defender Magazine (Summer, 2005).
What's your position on similes and adverbs? Are they in fact text-poison? (Nathan Bransford suggested so today...but you are the one whose authority on style rivals that of Emily Post on the proper placement of soup spoons). I hate the thought of giving up my similes. And adverbs.
While Evil Editor trusts his minions like an astrologer trusts his star chart, I felt I should take a look at the post in question before responding. What the post says about similes is:
Some writers use them to tremendous effect, some wonderful writers even use them often, and I would not take their similes away from them. This doesn't apply to everyone.It does, however, apply to you, so rest easy.
Apparently Bransford's source for his anti-simile stance was an MFA grad with whom he'd been drinking--perhaps a bit too heavily?--and who declared that she'd been told in writing school that you get "one or two similes per book. No more. That's it."
Now, ignoring the obvious question: What the hell is "writing school"? and also ignoring the fact that someone who's been drinking can hardly be expected to remember accurately anything she was told in writing school, let's look at this quote:
Do you see yonder cloud that's almost in shape of a camel?
By the mass, and 'tis like a camel, indeed.
Methinks it is like a weasel.
It is backed like a weasel.
Or like a whale?
Very like a whale.
What's that, four or five similes in six lines? I'm too lazy to look it up, but I wouldn't be surprised to find that the passage continues:
Or perhaps like a tortoise shell?
Somewhat, but more like a big blob.
Wait, I have it! Like the 13th green at Augusta.
You may not recognize the passage because I left off the speakers' names, but here are some more similes from the same book:
What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god!
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore, So do our minutes hasten to their end.
No, I'm not quoting lyrics from Hair and the intro to Days of Our Lives. All these similes and dozens more appear in what was once considered by many the greatest book ever written,* Hamlet.
Here's another list of similes. Recognize them?
a single dim ray like the thread of the spider shot out from the crevice
His room was as black as pitch
there came to my ears a low, dull, quick sound, such as a watch makes when enveloped in cotton.
It increased my fury as the beating of a drum stimulates the soldier into courage.
Four similes. All from the same book? No, all from the same puny 2100-word short story called "The Tell-Tale Heart."
Last year, you may recall, I offered my editing services in the Brenda Novak Juvenile Diabetes Auction. I mention this for two reasons:
1. If I had told the author of the winning book to cut his similes to a maximum of two, the word count would have dropped from 100,000 to 23,000. Instead I talked him down to two per page.
2. I'm offering the same "prize" this year. I'm also offering the four-pack of Evil Editor books, all autographed, so if the reason you haven't bought the books is because it wasn't tax deductible, now's your chance. Well, not now; the auction begins May 1.
Emphasizing Mr. Bransford's original point (namely that if your similes make your book richer and clearer, similize away), if you've read the "bad analogy" writing exercises on this blog, and found yourself admiring the literary quality of the similes, you may be someone who should lay off. But if your similes rival in quality those in Evil Editor's contribution to the recent Valentine's Dinner writing exercise, you should be dispensing similes like change from one of those cash registers that sends your coins down a channel and into a metal container shaped like a hollowed out half of a yo-yo.
Moving on to adverbs, they're words. Of course you can use them. Profusely. Abundantly. Copiously. But not excessively. The problem comes when the verb has been modified already by the context in which it's used, and you then re-modify it. For example:
"GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME, YOU BASTARD!!!!!!!" she screamed loudly.
I pretty much had the volume figured out long before you clarified it.
Try this one, though:
"Would you look at my manuscript, Evil Editor?" she asked reverently.
Here again we don't need "reverently" because it's understood that anyone speaking to EE would do so reverently.
Okay, but how about, "I'm having an affair," she said softly.
You could say "she whispered," but what if she didn't whisper? You could leave off the adverb, but then we wouldn't know whether she was meekly confessing or whether she said it mockingly or gloatingly or in Croatian. Sometimes we want more than the verb. Of course we could change the verb to she mocked or she gloated or she Croated, but it gets a bit tiresome when authors come up with a different word for "said" every time someone speaks. Variety is the spice of writing. Replace "said" with "declared" once in a while (twice per book; that's it; no more), but also, once in a while, you have EE's permission to write, "said confidently."
* until Novel Deviations 3 came out recently . . . and ND 3 contains more than 40 similes!
Thursday, February 21, 2008
1. If Roman barber Septimus Sanguineum clips Caesar's ear one more time, he's lion food. His idea to pin two short daggers together on a pivot would revolutionize the hair-cutting industry, but where can a lowly barber get the money to build a prototype? With the Emperor due for another trim, will Septimus live to see his creation . . . and come up with a catchy name for the new tool?
2. When the body of fashion guru Roberto Garibaldi is discovered in his plush Beverly Hills home, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Garibaldi didn't sever his own carotid artery with pinking shears, and he'd better get his wife a new pair of scissors to replace the ones he wrecked gutting fish last weekend.
3. School supplies in an elementary school classroom become nearly human in this cutting-edge horror fantasy for young readers. Following an unfortunate incident involving an inquisitive youngster in the supply room, the erasers try to cover it up and the pencils get the point, but the scissors just want to be cut-ups.
4. The fortune teller told thief Thad McLarney "You can run with them, but you cannot hide." Turns out she was talking about the Scissors of Dornath--and the wrath of Dornath's priests, who need to shear the sacrificial sheep.
5. Chaim Goldstein wanted to be a doctor, but he never quite mastered the requisite classwork. But now, by God, he's going to be the best mohel he can be. Can he win his father's acceptance by performing the world's first combination bris-appendectomy? Or wouldn't that be Kosher?
6. Everyone who was involved in a botched medical operation is suddenly being targeted for death. Could it be that someone has discovered that the surgeon couldn't find his surgical scissors; that he instead used his child's plastic safety scissors to make a crucial muscle cut; that everyone in the operating room has covered up this travesty? If surgeon Terry Oliphant can't get answers, and fast, more "accidents" are sure to follow.
7. Stan Estrella has been a barber for 25 years: flat-tops, red-and-white-striped pole out front, and lollipops for the kids. But the times they are a-changin', and Stan has trouble surviving when the kids who lined up for buzz cuts stay away to grow their ponytails. The story of one man's struggle to adapt to upheaval during the waning days of the 60s.
SCISSORS is a 100,000 word suspense novel that explores how one deadly mistake has the power to draw blood ten years later. [Another vampire book?]
A decade ago, what began as a simple surgery ended in tragedy after a slip of the hand [, and too late it dawned on our hero that a person with chronic motor tic disorder should not pursue a career as a brain surgeon.] Today a nurse lies unconscious in an intensive care unit, victim of a hit-and-run [, and it occurs to our hapless hero that maybe cab driver wasn't such a hot career choice either]. Although the events appear unrelated, surgeon Terry Oliphant will discover that the two are inextricably linked [, for both the hit-and-run driver and the surgery patient were manatees]. While visiting the nurse, Terry encounters one of his old professors on the verge of a breakdown. [Coincidentally, he, though not a manatee, resembles one from the neck up.] Dr. Posner confides that he's received a grisly message about an old case that's left him looking over his shoulder as he's trying to salvage his faltering career. [I wouldn't refer to a message as "grisly." "Menacing" or "threatening" maybe.] In an attempt to help his former teacher, Terry begins digging into the past only to learn that, despite the gloves, everyone's got dirt under their fingernails: the chief resident thrown out of the operating room, an ex-medical student who now scorns the profession, even the nicotine-stained lawyer of an abandoned malpractice case. [This surgeon seems to have a lot of free time. Can't he afford to hire an investigator?] Despite the skepticism of the police, Terry becomes convinced that random acts of violence are instead the result of murderous intent. [How many acts of violence have there been?] And the more he uncovers, the closer he draws to a man driven by vengeance to rectify the past.
Told [like almost all novels] largely through the rich voices of its characters, SCISSORS offers the reader a grandstand seat at Fenway Park, a barstool in a sour Boston dive, [a look into the thriving paper doll industry,] and a spot at the head of the operating table. [Lists do sound better with three items than with two, but Fenway Park just leads me to say Huh? Can you come up with a setting that doesn't seem to come out of nowhere? How about the Sea World manatee attraction?]
Up through the part where you state that the two incidents are inextricably linked, all was well. But the rest forces the reader to make assumptions. We need clear connections. For instance:
What is the link between the incidents?
Who was the surgeon? Was the injured nurse present during the operation?
Is the old case referred to in the grisly message the same case?
Outside of the hit-and-run, what are the random acts of violence?
If your hook is that everyone who was involved in a decade-old operating-room death is being killed off, say so in so many words. No need to beat around the bush with the hook. Put an irresistible piece of bait on it and dangle it right in front of our eyes.
Also, some paragraphing would be nice.
Below are descriptions of ten animal books with amusing titles. The descriptions come from BN.com, where the books are available. Your job is to figure out which is the actual title of the book. The other titles are fakes, created by the Evil Minions.
1. The unauthorized album of caught-in-the-act photos your beloved furry ones never meant for you to see.
Time to Party! The 'Rents Are Gone!
What Pets Do While You're at Work
That's My Evil Twin Crapping on the Carpet: and other lame pet excuses
The Secret life of Fleas
The Dog Ate My Homework . . . and I Got it on Film
2. Every generation brings a few elite cats who rise above their species. Cats who make a difference. Cats who inspire us with their bravery. Cats who broaden the world's understanding of science, history, art, and religion.
The Crown and the Claw
Under the Fur: Genius and Heroism in Cats
100 Cats Who Changed Civilization
From out of the Litterbox
A CATalogue of Inspirational Pussies
3. Men and dogs have lived in close symbiosis from literally the beginnings of civilization itself and still, after 200,000 years we can't keep the dog from jumping up on the dining room table and eating all the hamburger buns." The legendary Rabbis of the Boca Raton Theological Seminary don't claim that they can rectify that situation, but they can make it funny.
Myron Cohen's Once Upon a Canine
Keeping the Kosher Kennel: Canine obedience lessons from the Talmud
How to Raise a Jewish Dog
First Teach Him Yiddish: Dog training through guilt
I and Chow
Hamming It Up with Your Dog: Keys to kosher dog ownership
4. Adorable dog models dressed in haute couture and even wearing mud masks.
The Dog Fancy Guide to New York Fashion Week
Hounds a la Mode
5. Why look for love in all the wrong places when it's right across the room chasing its own tail?
At Least My Dog Doesn't Cheat On Me
Who needs Craigslist? You've Got a Cat
Cats are from the Pet Store, Dogs are from the Pound
See Tail, Catch Tail. An Illustrated Handbook.
Mooch vs. Pooch
101 Reasons to Dump Your Man and Get a Cat
6. Your cat's idea of a perfect Sunday-The Times, a smoke, and a great Bette Davis flick.
Is Your Cat Gay?
Seventh Heaven, Kitty Style
A Double-Martini with Anchovy-stuffed Olives: The lounge cat in repose
Days of Feline and Roses
How Your Boyfriend is Like a Cat
7. This hilarious book reminds us why we give them free room and board. The occasional comment on human affairs in dog disguise, and a lot about pups on their own terms. From howling at the moon to refusing to fetch, from the merits of canned versus dry food to those irresistibly wagging tails . . .
Men Are Really Reincarnated Dogs . . . NOT!
Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Lassie: A modern American dog's lament
Everything I Need to Know I Learned in the Kennel
You Had Me at Bow Wow
Can't Live With 'Em; Can't Live Without 'Em: One dog's story of human ownership
8. Want to know what your dog really thinks of you? In this hilarious exposé, Genevieve, a two-year-old papillon, takes you into the inner sanctum of dogdom, revealing canine secrets never before shared with humans.
My Prying Canine Eyes - Believe It Or Not
Why I chase cars: 100 secrets your dog is keeping from you.
Scratch 'N' Sniff
Memoirs of a Papillon: Living with humans without going mad
The Papillon Diaries
9. Sterling Sugar Magnolia, the sassy pup who narrates the book, offers highly opinionated views on everything from personal hygiene to commitment issues, from holiday garb to human food.
A High-Class Dog's View of the Trailer Park World
Basic Training: Keeping your owner in line
Who Shit in my Shoe?
For the Last Time, Don't Feed Me Chocolate: a dog opens up.
Don't Eat the Yellow Snow: and other tales from the kennel
The Complete Petrosexual: A Handbook for the Modern Dog
10. A whimsical compilation of amusing, unusual photos of cows, along with words of wisdom from our bovine friends.
The Tao of Cow
Udderly Delightful Proverbs
The Milk of Bovine Kindness
Till the Cows Come Home: A book of tripe
No Bull . . . but Plenty of Beef: Real complaints from cows
Actual Titles Below
Fake titles were submitted by Dave F., BuffySquirrel, ChristineElden, Debhoag, Khazar-khum, Anonymous, and EE.
Actual Book Titles:
What Pets Do While You're at Work
100 Cats Who Changed Civilization
How to Raise a Jewish Dog
101 Reasons to Dump Your Man and Get a Cat
Is Your Cat Gay?
You had me at Bow Wow
Memoirs of a Papillon: The Canine Guide to Living with Humans without Going Mad
The Complete Petrosexual: A Handbook for the Modern Dog
The Tao of Cow
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Guess the Plot
Wild in the Night
1. When a blood-drinking serial killer starts operating in New York City, no one knows if it's a vampire or a psycho, but two things are certain: someone's got to stop him, and the best person for the job is a street-smart wolfwoman.
2. Mother Superior has asked the nuns to reach out to the run-down community of St. Clare's parish. Can Sister Serena, the Tattooed Nun, convince her colleagues that they should bring Jesus to the local biker gang? Can the sisters be holy in the day and wild in the night . . . without giving up their old habits?
3. When the gibbous moon shines fully bright
And bathes the world in frigid light
Lord Ardred and his werewolf den run . . . Wild in the Night.
4. Down-on-her-luck waitress Betty Wilde swallows her pride and takes a job at Night Magic, Denver's most notorious strip club, where the skimpy uniforms and drunken patrons guarantee a steady haul of tips. But when the star pole-dancer twists her ankle just before the big number and begs Betty to sub for her, Betty discovers a talent she never knew she had.
5. The noises wake Mikey Tolliver up every night for weeks. Despite pulling the blankets over his head, he’s unable to sleep. Armed with his trusty teddy bear, he finally tracks the noise to his parents’ bedroom door. Will solving this mystery bring him peace, or will it haunt him for the rest of his life?
6. Even for a biology grad student, Stephen was fairly sedate. Yet when his mentor sends him off to study the nefarious mating rituals of the nocturnal hyena, little does Stephen expect that his guide will turn out to be a bewitching woman who's love of natural history is surpassed only by her desire to shimmy out of her Banana Republic shorts. Also, a rain of vampire frogs.
Dear [agent / editor, or in this case Mr EE];
I am seeking [representation for / publication of, delete whichever is inappropriate] [Is this whole thing gonna be multiple choice? If so, here's one for you: Dear author: I didn't make it past your (first paragraph / salutation)] Wild in the Night, an urban fantasy novel of 90,000 words.
Asa knows the ground rules for being a werewolf in contemporary society: 1) [always keep shaving cream and a razor handy and] spring for the really good fake ID, 2) smile with your mouth shut, and [use a pooper scooper, especially if you take a dump on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Burger's place] 3) don't attract attention. What the "dentally gifted" fear most isn't silver bullets but exposure; telling people you're 400 years old and can turn into a wolf will get you either into a mental hospital or onto the front page of the National Enquirer. [Personally, I'd take either of those over a silver bullet, but that's me.]
New York City is a great place to be anonymous, and has enough of Asa's kind of people to allow her to let her hair down (or out) once in a while. The "community" help each other deal with the petty annoyances of life: finding pets-allowed apartments, faking life histories on job applications, explaining the facts of life to newbies who have just turned and think they're God's gift to Goths [and finding affordable full-body wax jobs]. Life is pretty good, especially compared to that "Dark Ages" stuff the oldies keep complaining about, even if you do have to pull up stakes whenever the neighbors start complementing [sp.] you on the way you maintain your youthful appearance. ["Charlie, you don't look much older than when I met you thirty years ago. Sure, your hai--fur is a little grayer, and there are wrinkles in your . . . snout, and . . . You know, Charlie, it's kind of annoying when I'm talking to you and you start licking your balls."]
But when a blood-drinking serial killer starts breaking rule #3 in a big way, the community find themselves under unwelcome scrutiny from the police
[Captain: Carlton, there's a blood-drinking psycho on the loose. Go down to the "community" and see what you can turn up.
Carlton: The community, sir?
Captain: Oh, right, you're new here . . . the werewolf district.]
and the media. Whether the killer is a rogue vampire or just a psychotic normal, ["Just"? You make it sound like it would be a relief if the blood-drinking serial killer were a psychotic normal.
Carlton: Captain, you were right: someone's killing people and drinking their blood. I think we might have a rogue vampire on our hands.
Captain: Relax. It's probably just a normal psychotic blood-drinking killer.]
the community wants him found and stopped - dead - before any awkward secrets get spilled.
Asa's good nose, street smarts and natural snoopiness make her the best wolfwoman for the job, until the killer starts stalking bona fide vampires [They're the worst kind.] - and Asa. Facing down a madman who is willing to wade through a river of blood to become "King of the Undead" is bad enough, [I once waded through a river of blood. The white socks I had on still haven't come clean.] but doing so in a way that won't expose them may take all the ingenuity and experience Asa and the little community of all-too-mortal gifted can muster. [Can you muster experience?]
Thank you for your consideration. I would be delighted to send a partial or full manuscript upon request.
I'd change the ending (right now it's a bit wordy) to something like:
Facing down a madman who wants to become "King of the Undead" will be hard enough, but doing so without exposing the community? That'll take all the ingenuity Asa can muster.
The idea of a werewolf community being threatened with exposure by a killer is clever, though I'm not sure why exposure is considered a disaster when it's been stated that they regularly pull up stakes and move anyway (whenever anyone compliments their youthfulness).
Having read the list of ground rules in the previous paragraph, I wasn't crazy about the lengthy list of petty annoyances. Obviously you want to set an amusing tone, but it starts to feel like you're putting off getting to the plot. I'd cut that second list to the two funniest items, maybe the pet-friendly apartments and . . . the body wax.