Thursday, July 31, 2008

Face-Lift 550

Guess the Plot

Monster Hunter Fraternity

1. Okay, it's not really a frat house, it's a tree house, where Jamie and his friends track Bigfoot and werewolf sightings, hoping to prove the existence of monsters. It was all in fun until the moon became full and stayed that way. Now the town's overrun with a mob of terrifying creatures that the boys must defeat . . . if they want to live.

2. When ten-year-old Billy McQuaid sees something strange going on in the abandoned orange groves near his suburban California home, he knows what to do: put together a team of kids who can help him investigate. But Ginny Fillmore wants to come, too, and she has a walkie-talkie set. Can they confront monsters and survive with a girl in the group?

3. Now settled across the US with families, mortgages, and desk jobs more mind-numbingly horrifying than they ever were, Frankenstein, Dracula, the Wolf Man, and the Swamp Thing decide to start a yearly retreat. While sitting on the back of a pickup truck, drinking warm beer and pretending to look for deer, the old friends reminisce about the good old days. But when Bigfoot stumbles across them, they'll have to reawaken the monsters within if they want to get home alive. Or undead, depending.

4. Sean and Brendan, a pair of exchange students, try to join Sigma Xi. Blackballed for being geeks, they seek revenge in a Guinness-fueled killing spree, only to find that Sigma Xi is home to a pack of zombies. Joined by fellow losers, they form their own fraternity, dedicated to destroying the zombies before the Physics Department becomes a brains buffet.

5. In a bid to get lucky, the virgins of Alpha Alpha Alpha adopt a manly-man "monster hunter" theme for Halloween, disguising the House, as well as themselves, in gladiator bondage style, which seems to be very exciting for the two dozen scantily clad whip-snapping Medusa sex-pots who join them. All signs point to a lucky night, until the lads realize those snakes are real.

6. Minimum: a Grendel. That's what it takes to get into the Monster Hunter Fraternity, to bag a monster. Lions are for sissies. Grizzly bears, for a girl scout merit award. Bob Lout really wants into the club. He has a plan to snag a vampire, but can he convince his wife, Bertha, to hang around the Drac Klub in a low-cut dress, offering up a jugular, just so he can get the coolest tie tack ever?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

I am seeking publication of my YA novel MONSTER HUNTER FRATERNITY. It is complete at 70,000 words.

At Monster Hunter Fraternity, a treehouse in Blafford Hills, Ohio, Jamie and his three closest friends research and track sightings of everything from Bigfoot to Werewolves, wanting nothing more than to prove the existence of real monsters. After two years of hunting, however, all they have is a grainy photo of something dark and furry [It's never a good idea to carry your camera in your underwear.] they saw in Black Rock Forrest, [Forest?] a picture mostly obscured by Jaime’s forefinger. [I think that was his middle finger.] [By the way, is Jaime Jamie? Or one of the friends?] But lately, Jamie notices something odd – that recent monster sightings are surrounding Blafford Hills – unaware that his weekend pastime is quickly turning more serious. [If he notices it, I wouldn't call him unaware. Besides, it's more dramatic if you finish the paragraph: His weekend pastime is quickly turning more serious.] [Even more dramatic: His weekend pastime has become a bloodbath rivalling in scope the Massacre at Wounded Knee.]

Jamie can’t figure out what’s attracting the creatures. Is it the new girl in class who looks like a vampire? Or the full moon which never seems to change? Whatever it is, monster sightings soon breach the town’s border – family pets are missing, and frightening noises can be heard throughout the night. [The dash suggests that missing pets and noises are examples of monster sightings. There are three different kinds of evidence, so use a comma.] As the town is overcome by a mob of creatures more terrifying than anything they’ve ever heard of, Jamie and his friends are forced into battle with them. When they discover what these creatures are after, a secret that’s been hidden in Blafford Hills for years, they in turn discover what it means to be true Monster Hunters – because their lives depend on it.



I don't see the YA crowd wanting to read about four kids in a tree house talking about wolfmen. Maybe an actual college fraternity on a campus overrun by monsters. As it is, I'd put your audience in the 9 to 13 range, which makes this middle grade. Title: The Monster Hunters Club. As a middle grade book, I'd say it's a good query.

Is there a reason these kids, rather than adults with guns, are forced into battle with these creatures? I'm not saying there has to be a good explanation (especially if it's for a younger crowd), but if there is one, you might work it in. I assume it isn't the old story that none of the adults believe the creatures exist so it's up to the kids; when the town is being overcome by a mob of terrifying monsters, someone's bound to notice.

Geezer 1: Our town's been destroyed. Half the people are dead with their throats ripped out.
Geezer 2: My grandson says it's a mob of monsters.
Geezer 1: Cute. Got any pictures of him?

Cartoon 181

Caption: anon.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Face-Lift 549

Guess the Plot

Morally Ambiguous

1. Vicar Smith's sermon goes completely awry when he advises the parish to love their neighbor. Who knew an orgy would follow?

2. Which is better: killing a murder victim before the slasher does, or letting nature take its course? For Bricely Adams, it's no philosophical question. As a daughter of the Angel of Death, she can kill someone just before their murderer does. But how will she keep her father happy?

3. John Swishem came out of law school vowing to defend the poor. When he realizes that it's more profitable to defend the rich, he must strike a balance between greed and ethics, before his sister, Sister Cecilia, destroys his soul with guilt. With help from his first client, Tony "The Tuna" Pescatore, John learns that morals don't have to be clear and precise, and sometimes valuable electronics really do fall off of trucks.

4. Nodammo Ebonlocke is a morally ambiguous character, and this doesn't sit well with the Conglomerate of Cliched Fantasy Characters, who are out to "normalize" all fantasy worlds and characters. Can Nodammo maintain her individuality? Or will she be killed by vegan elves?

5. Thaddeus Dought wondered if he should run for Congress. He was qualified. He'd just snagged a commissioner's seat in the fifth largest county in the state. He was halfway to a college degree. The only problem was the morality issue; giving up his street drug business would seriously compromise his income.

6. Really, Julie Hatrack is a nice girl. But the rest of the small town of Houghman, AZ thinks the schoolmarm is a loose woman after she saves a stranger with a new-fangled rescue maneuver she's read about. Hilarity ensues as she tries to teach mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the doctor, the judge and the local sheriff.

Original Version

Dear Great and Mighty Evil Editor,

[Personalisation? Maybe. Might work better if I started out quick.]

Nodammo Ebonlocke's business card has "Morally Ambiguous Sorceress" on it in big gold letters, but that doesn't stop heroes from Quest(TM) trying to take away her breathing priviliges.

While Nodammo would like to stay alive, the conglomerate of cliches and poorly-drawn characters [If this is an actual organization, capitalize the words beginning with CCPC; if it isn't, "conglomerate" is a strange word to use for a non-organization.] doesn't agree, especially with regards to those who refuse to be "normalised". [That last phrase doesn't match the rest of the sentence; maybe it should be: especially as she refuses to be "normalised".] After she's offed one hero too many and [been] marked as a "deviant plot thread", Quest(TM) gets fed up and sends a level seven point three five five demolition crew of vegan elves, lewd barbarians and feisty princesses in the direction of Nodammo's amusement park-cum-tower, intending to turn the Ebonlocke family home into a pile of rubble. After all, everyone knows that the evil fortress collapses after the villian's death; the reverse should be just as effective.

Enlisting the help of the locals and a tea elemental, Nodammo escapes with her two employees, Agnurlin the skeletal butler and Victor the black dragon. Wise man say: "One does not annoy the morally ambiguous", and making heroes spill scalding caffeinated bevrages on themselves is just the beginning. Homeless and pursued by heroes, Nodammo travels across Fantasyland, rallying the disenfranchised, disaffected and dissatisfied among Fantasyland's inhabitants against Quest(TM).

However, something much more sinister is afoot. Witnessing the effects of "normalisation", Nodammo sees whole kingdoms turned into bad renditions of overdone sword-and-sorcery settings--their cultures dismantled, peoples' individuality [People's. I'm not sure peoples have much individuality.] broken in favour of monolithic "racial alignments", and whole populations established with the sole purpose of serving "plots", "protagonists" and "issues".

Armed with the power of well-brewed tea, Victor's business acumen and Agnurlin's knowledge of the mysterious workings of butler-space, Nodammo has to discover the dark truth about Quest(TM) and its president, the mysterious Mr. Smiley--before "deviants" like her all have their breathing priviliges revoked.

At X words, [First of all, that's awfully short for a novel, and secondly, why are you using Roman numerals?] Morally Ambiguous is a lighthearted fantasy in the vein of Robert Asprin's Myth series and an enjoyable read by both newcomers and veterans of the genre.

Thank you for your consideration.


Wise man say: Typos don't help your cause. Your spelling: priviliges (twice), bevrages, villian's.

I'm not crazy about mentioning breathing privileges twice.

I also find (TM) annoying.

There seem to be some good ideas here. Quest is ruining fantasy worlds by normalizing the characters--making them all cliches. Nodammo is out to stop them and discover their diabolical motives. However, I think the query goes way overboard. In attempting to be creative, you're making it hard to grasp the plot. Some suggestions:

Make it the Conglomerate of Cliched Characters. Cliches alone wouldn't be members of a conglomerate.

Make it "with the sole purpose of serving "plots." Lists are boring, and you have two in the same sentence.

Delete "level seven point three five five." We don't know what it means, and it sounds like a gaming term, which is the last thing you want.

Delete: After all, everyone knows that the evil fortress collapses after the villian's death; the reverse should be just as effective.

Delete: Wise man say: "One does not annoy the morally ambiguous", and making heroes spill scalding caffeinated bevrages on themselves is just the beginning. Voice is fine, but apply it to major plot points; spilled coffee isn't one.

Delete: peoples' individuality broken in favour of monolithic "racial alignment." This shortens or eliminates a list, and the phrase is vague and boring.

In short, reading a query shouldn't be work. Keep it simple and keep it interesting.

Cartoon 180

Caption: Evil Editor

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

New Beginning 534

I’d only been in a steam room once for five minutes – Mom had let me ignore the No Children Under Sixteen sign – but since we’d arrived in Washington, D.C., whenever I walked outside, I had that same feeling of wet air bubbling on my skin, invading my nose, pounding in my head, just like it had that day. This weather made my chest feel tight and sweat drip down my back. The heat pressed on me. And it was only June 14th, a full week before the official start of summer.

Thank goodness for air conditioning. As my family dragged through neighborhoods, traipsing in and out of houses, I rushed from cool car to cooler house, lingering inside to dry my back and to review my list. I’d learned that there was a street with every state name in DC and I had collected twenty-four – or twenty-five, depending on whether I gave myself credit for California Street. Technically, I hadn’t seen it, since I’d dozed off when we passed the sign. But everyone else had.

Eventually I learned all those street names and where they were. In fact, I now have the entire map to the D.C. area memorized. Yes, even including North Dakota Avenue.

With my extensive knowledge of the city and my HVAC certification from Northern Virginia Community College (see attached résumé), I feel I'm the very best candidate for your Air Conditioner Repair Tech position.

Thank you for your consideration.

Opening: M.C......Continuation: Bunnygirl

Cartoon 179

Caption: R. Watson

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Face-Lift 548

Guess the Plot

Not Just Jane

1. There's also George. And Judy. And Rosie and Elroy and Astro. What I'm trying to say is that the Jetson family is not just Jane.

2. Frank McFarlane should be happy with the wife his family picked out. And he is--Jane is sweet and good natured, everything he should want. But George wants more--not just Jane, but Sally, Lucia, and Andrea, too. Can he convince them that polygamy is the way to go, or will he be stuck with just Jane for the rest of his life?

3. When Jane took a job in a costume shop she thought it might be a little exciting, but she didn't expect to suddenly develop super powers and become . . . Princess Janisha! From now on, she's . . . not just Jane.

4. When anyone asks who the girl next to gorgeous Maya Jennings is, everyone answers the same thing: "Oh, that's just Jane." But Jane is tired of it, and sets out to make people notice her, too. When her video rant making fun of Maya becomes a viral sensation, everyone notices--including Maya. Is it worth losing her best friend to have everyone know that henceforth, she's . . . not just Jane?

5. Tarzan's a creep. After thirteen years of blissful tree-swinging with Cheetah and Jane, his wife, the ape man announces he wants to swing in the bedroom, too. But a corseted Victorian lady doesn't easily assume loose laces OR loose morals, so Jane takes up a new hobby: Dominance.

6. It sucks being named Jane Doe. It doesn't help that she's quiet as a church mouse at the morgue, where she works. It also doesn't help that she dresses like a homeless woman, especially when a serial killer starts murdering homeless women around the city. Police think she's the next Jane Doe to die. Can Jane develop some fashion sense before it's too late?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Some jobs offer the chance of promotion; this one offers a new life.

Until now, fifteen-year-old Jane’s only escape from her ho-hum life and overprotective parents were her day-dreams. But Jane believes the job at the costume shop will provide at least a little excitement. [For instance, she thinks if Spiderman gets ink on his costume while battling Doctor Octopus, he might drop in for a clean set of duds.] What she did not expect was a doorway delivering her into her dreamland. She soon learns her ‘day-dreams’ were actually the result of a close connection with Gregoria, the land of her birth. And her arrival has triggered old rivalries. [What were the odds she'd end up in Gregoria? It's what's known as Gregorian Chance.] [From whom does she learn she was born in Gregoria?]

The Domovye have a long-standing grudge against Jane and her family. [How can they have a long-standing grudge against Jane, when she's fifteen, and she just got there?] Torben, the young captain of the King’s army, helps Jane escape the Domovye. [When did they capture her?] During her quest [What is her quest?] Jane will discover ancient traditions which tie her fate to Torben’s and grant her unique abilities to control her environment with her emotions. In order to harness this power she must learn to control her emotions.

[Torben: Jane, we need a tsunami to wipe out the Domovye army. Go into a jealous rage followed by fear of sharks and then love of puppies.]

Now she must evade capture long enough to claim her birthright, rescue her mother from torment in the enemy’s dungeons [I assume Jane got to Gregoria through the doorway in the costume shop. How did her mother get there?] and reconcile a land torn apart by war and hatred. In order to do this she must remember who she truly is; Janisha, the young Princess -Gregoria’s only hope for peace.

NOT JUST JANE, 45,000 words, is a YA fantasy filled with magic, adventure and first loves.

I thank you for your time for in considering my work.



If by "first loves" you mean Jane and Torben, she's fifteen and he's an army captain. Unless he attained that rank before he finished high school, this sounds a little unhealthy.

Do they use the Gregorian calendar in Gregoria?

What are the Demovye? Another people? Dragons? Aliens?

I think if you answer some of my serious questions with specific information it'll sound less muddled.

Cartoon 178

Caption: Jeroen Nouwens

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book Pitch 9

"Greetings, EE," he said. "I know you're a busy man, so I'll cut to the chase. The name's Donatien Alphonse François de Sade. My book could be described as depraved, cruel, philosophy-laden, violent pornography. Some would call me a perverted degenerate, though I prefer to think I'm simply ahead of my time, being that I see the pursuit of personal pleasure as the highest principle."

"I think I--"

"Whoa, I haven't told you about the book. It's called Justine, and it's about this girl who--"

"Mister de--"

" . . . wants to live a virtuous life, but the more she tries, the worse it gets. Even when she goes to a monestery for refuge from the cruel world, the monks make her their sex slave. Then when she--"

"Mister de Sade," I said, "if you'll just listen a moment--"

"I know, I know, too controversial, not right for you, I've heard it all, thanks any--"

"I'm trying to tell you, sir: You had me at 'depraved.' I'll have a seven-figure contract drawn up immediately. While we're waiting, tell me what else you've got on the burners."

--Evil Editor

Book Pitch 5

The editor watched the gas lights flicker in the bar of the Willard Hotel where so many meetings and plots were hatched in Washington City. He relaxed in his chair looking quite fashionable in his mutton chop sideburns popularized by General Burnside. Now that the tragic war had ended, memoirs were a dime a dozen. Exactly on time his 7:00 o’clock appointment walked briskly through the door to pitch another. He was slender, ramrod straight, and carried himself befitting his blue uniform with gold trim.

“General Wallace at your service, Mr. Editor,” he said in clipped words.

Please, General, have a seat and tell me about your book. Is it about your capture of the Confederate forts in Kentucky?”


“Then your role in the terrible bloodletting at Shiloh?”


“So it’s about the campaign in the Shenandoah Valley?”


“The trial of Lincoln’s assassins?”


“The court martial of that fiend Henry Wirz who ran Andersonville prison?”


“Good God, man! I mean General. What is your book about?”

“A Jew.”

“A Jew? My dear General, this is a Christian nation. I doubt there will be interest in a Jew.”

“Sir, my last duty was in New Mexico settling a range war between ranchers, and I had abundant time to think.”

“New Mexico? There’s an old sot, name of Kincaid, trying to peddle his memoirs to me. Do you know him?”

“Yes. Sad case.”

“Quickly, give me the essence of your story.”

“A Jewish prince is betrayed and sold into slavery. A Roman benefactor restores his freedom, and he returns to Jerusalem in time to see Christ die.”

“That’s it?” the editor asked, shaking his head.

“What’s the title?”


“I’m sorry, General, but this has no commercial appeal.”

“What if I changed the title to BEN-HUR?”


Book Pitch 3

Paradise Found

“Well, Milton, I think you’ve got an interesting premise. But your villain is flat—absolute evil is fine and good—well, you know what I mean—but it’s so dry. At least make the guy intriguing, or charming.”

“Sir, I simply haven’t the inspiration. Where would I look for a character both evil and intelligent? How can I write a devil appealing enough to compete with deity?”

“Ah. Clearly you have never visited my blog.”


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Cartoon 177

Caption: anon.

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Friday, July 25, 2008

New Beginning 533

Everyone wants to feel unique. To know there is something special that sets them apart from everyone else. Jane Shaw was no different, she longed for that one event that would make her life exceptional. Her parents, John and Amy didn’t seem to understand this desire. As far as Jane could tell they were happy to blend into the background.

The three Shaw’s lived in a non-descript house at the end of Sunnydale Drive. They had moved here when Jane was three. John and Amy both knew the real reasons behind the move but they didn’t like to share them with anyone, least of all their 15-year-old daughter. At the time they made each other promised to never discuss the events leading up to the move; the unexpected guest who turned their life upside-down. They couldn’t bear to think of it happening again, so they moved to this house in a dead-end street in a quiet part of town. To date their plan had worked. There had been no unusual interruptions, which was just the way they liked it.

When Jane was thirty-five, she still lived with her parents at the end of Sunnydale Drive. In all that time, they'd never had unexpected guests. She still lacked anything special to set her apart from everyone else. She snapped.

At least, that's the way I figure it. What other reason could there be for a woman to take a butcher knife and . . .

Anyway, the kitchen was upgraded two years ago, and you can't beat the location. Plenty of storage, three bedrooms, and except for the little incident, it's been a very quiet neighborhood. Can I show you the master bathroom?

Opening: Shell I.....Continuation: Mignon

Cartoon 176

Caption: Shell I

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Face-Lift 547

Guess the Plot


1. Jimmy’s baby brother witnessed the murder of their Uncle Wences, standing in his crib as the assailant swept through the front window and strangled the old man. The detectives promised to solve the case but Jimmy was unconvinced. All they had to go on was the cryptic word his baby brother kept repeating: “Tarawa. Tarawa.” Unfortunately, no one knew what the hell that meant.

2. Justin was busy saving a bus load of preschoolers when the Justice League handed out the rallying cries for its members. Now he's stuck screaming, "Tarawa!" instead of something cool. It's affecting his self-esteem, his sex life, and--most importantly--his marketability for endorsement contracts. What's a superhero to do???

3. When her town is ransacked and burned to the ground by roving bandits, Tarawa is forced into the wilderness. On death's door, she's rescued by a mysterious monk, who trains her in the ancient art of killing. Years later, she's capable of killing anyone with a single blow. But when she finds love in the form of a simple farmer, she must decide if life is worth something after all.

4. Kidnapped from Earth by the king of the elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory sides with the Tarawan enemy, Suva, in war. The big question is, when a war has lasted a thousand years, is there anything a 12-year-old girl can do to end it? Also, a frog that isn't transformed into a prince.

5. When Master Sergeant Shepard McManus wakes, he sees the rising sun of Tojo flapping over the base. The assault had failed and Tarawa stood firmly in the hands of the Japanese. Thus begins the alternate history of Japan as the dominant power in the Pacific.

6. In Tarawa, words are dangerous tools. Speaking the wrong one can be deadly. When Lieh, street urchin and petty thief, discovers an ancient dictionary, she has no idea the terrors she'll unleash on the city. Can she figure out how to undo the damage, or will her words come back to haunt her?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

Researching via the Internet, I found your agency and decided to contact you for representation of my young adult fantasy ‘Tarawa’. With an approximate count of ninety thousand words, it has similarities to Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials Book One, The Golden Compass’, whose protagonist’s life is challenged [by?] her parent’s [Parents'?] secrets. [I'd rather you tell me something about your book before you bring up Philip Pullman's.]

Twelve when kidnapped from Earth by her long-absent father Deryck, King of the Elfes of Tarawa, Fay Emory rebels. Stunned she is an Elfe, [If she made it to age 12 without even knowing she was an elfe, it can't be much different from being a human.] Fay does not want to be a princess either. Befriending a frog faery a kiss will not transform into a prince, rejecting a king her father betroths her to, [Sorry, sire, but I refuse to marry beneath myself.] and wearing a sword but refusing to fight, [Fight? Don't be silly, this is just an accessory.] Fay’s differences propel her to champion Tarawa’s enemy, the underworld Troll kingdom of Suva. Ending an unjust war that’s lasted a thousand years is a lofty goal. [If there's anyone still alive after a thousand years of war, they must be fighting with squirt guns and snowballs.] It’s also as dangerous as Fay fears. [That's it? What happens? What's her role in ending the war? Warrior? Negotiator? Marry the Suvan prince? None of these seems reasonable for a 12-year-old kid.]

Having decided to write fiction, I attended The Wimbledon Writer’s Conference in Middlemarch, England in 2005, [where my writing stayed about the same, but my backhand improved immensely,] and Erstwhile College’s ‘Writers’ in Purgatory’ Conference in Hell, Nevada in 2006. Based on recommendations, I have studied books on technique and written virtual reams to improve my skills. [I, too, have written virtual reams, in my persona as Poet Laureate of Sim City. Someday I may start doing some actual writing.] Regularly, I also exchange pieces and critiques with writers I met at both conferences.

Enclosed in this email are the first ten pages and a brief synopsis of ‘Tarawa’. Thank you for taking time for my query.



For some reason I can't get that song out of my head. How does it go? Tarawa Boom De Ay?

Tarawa sounds like baby talk. Replace the "w" with any other consonant or any consonant plus an "i" or an "h."

The title means nothing to anyone.

Apparently Tarawa isn't on Earth. How did the kidnappers get Fay there?

Young adults usually don't want to read about 12-year-olds. Have you considered making Fay older or calling it middle-grade?

Lose the paragraph with your credits and give us more information about the plot.

Cartoon 175

Caption: Shell I

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cartoon 174

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Evil Ad 96

Face-Lift 545

Guess the Plot


1. When Hattie Barnes accidentally walks into an airport men's room in Philadelphia, she has no idea she's just triggered a series of events that will culminate in the assassination of the Prime Minister of Canada. Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

2. When Joe Minkowski signed up for a new experimental procedure, he was just trying to earn a little extra cash. However, now that he's a "trigger"--a human weapon capable of killing hundreds of people at a time--he must decide what to do with the power he's been given. Especially since he still needs some extra cash.

3. Charged with treason, Ramie Ashdyn faces the death penalty. Not only that; an enemy agent has fitted her with a "trigger" that will make her actually become a traitor. Only Rip Rykus believes Ramie's innocent, but he's beginning to wonder if his judgment is clouded by his feelings for her, feelings Rip thought had died six years ago when he finished turning Ramie into a lethal killing machine.

4. In the city of Necropolis, nothing is as it seems. Zombies roam the streets, vampires rule the night, and werewolves make travel dangerous. When the new head of the NRA is found in rigor clutching his rifle in his cold, dead hands, Detective Paul Fontane knows he's looking at a murder. Figuring out the suspect should be simple, since the victim is also missing his brains. But getting around the People for the Ethical Treatment of Zombies protesters to get a DNA sample won't be easy.

5. Travis "Trigger" Thompson thought he was every woman's dream come true. But when a one night stand leads to a dangerous obsession, he finds himself fleeing from a homicidal ex. Desperately trying to figure out which jilted lover has it in for him, Trigger must discover the truth or find himself . . . triggered.

6. When he fires his rifle at a mountain lion outside his cabin, Pete Chalmers triggers an avalanche that buries the cabin and Pete's family alive. Will help arrive before the food is gone? And if not, which family member would make the tastiest dinner?

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Telepaths don't exist, but try telling that to Ramie Ashdyn. [Better yet, try beaming it into her brain.]

After an enemy agent telepathically assaults her, Lieutenant Ashdyn is framed for treason and imprisoned on the Coalition's flagship to await interrogation and possible execution. [What is it she allegedly did?] She’d love to deny the charges against her and prove her government’s stance on telepaths wrong, but each time she tries, she’s silenced by debilitating seizures.

But she has information the Coalition needs, so they bring in Captain "Rip" Rykus, the man who turned Ashdyn into a soldier. Rykus knows how dangerous his former student is, but he also knows her better than anyone else. He doesn't want to believe she's a traitor, but he can't understand why she won't talk, why she collapses, screaming when he interrogates her,

[Mr. Big: Any luck with the interrogation?

Rip Rykus: No. She collapses, screaming in pain, every time I ask her a question.

Mr. Big: Have you considered not sending 5000 volts of electricity into her body each time you ask a question?]

or why she's trying so hard to send him away. He's desperate to prove her innocence, but with so much evidence against her and no denial of guilt on her part, he's afraid his judgment might be compromised by his feelings for her, feelings that should have died six years ago when she completed her training, feelings that never should have developed in the first place [, feelings that nonetheless cannot be denied any longer, feelings that haunt Rip in his dreams and endanger his men when he daydreams about Ramie as enemy agents telepathically bombard the planet with thoughts of Will Ferrell movies, feelings of love and disgust and disgusting love.]

Time is running out for Ashdyn because the enemy agent did more than link her memories with the neural circuit that registers pain; he also changed her into a sleeper agent and inserted a trigger that will make her fears of becoming a traitor come true. [Why did she have fears of becoming a traitor?]

TRIGGERED is a science fiction romance novel and is complete at 85,000 words. Thank you for your time.



What do you mean "inserted a trigger"? Sent it into her head on a beam of brain waves? Why insert a trigger in someone who's about to be tried for treason? What opportunity will she have to really commit treason? Wouldn't it be better to insert the trigger in someone who won't be in jail, someone who has the trust of the higher-ups, someone with the freedom to do the dastardly things you've programmed her to do?

Have Rip and Ramie been apart for six years? Seems unlikely he would know her better than anyone else if he hasn't seen her in six years.

Rip Rykus seems like a cartoon name. I'm thinking Zapp Brannigan, from Futurama.

We wouldn't mind knowing what she's charged with doing and what evidence they have.

Cartoon 173

Caption: anon.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

New Beginning 532

Kincaid rode behind the sheep. Dust choked his lungs, and the stink of sheep sickened him like the raid itself. But riding last was better than being out front leading the column on the hunt for slaves. He told himself he was protecting the food; two sheep per day for twenty days.

He looked ahead at the ciboleros, most of them his friends. Why did they do this? These people he liked, who welcomed him, a foreigner, into their village at the base of the magnificent mountains. These people who forged a life from little, surrounded by enemies, cut off from trade and support. These people who made snug homes from mud, dished up food that nourished a body and lifted its spirit with flavor and spice. These people who cherished their children were riding 200 miles west to steal children of others.

Rico, his horse, snorted dust from his wide nostrils. If only Kincaid could blow out the stench of the voyage and its evil purpose.

Pablo rode up and said “You don’t want to be with us, do you?”

“It’s just not my way.”

“But you have slaves in your country.”

“Yes, but we don’t capture them.” Kincaid watched the sheep, reluctant to meet Pablo's gaze. “In our country, we keep the slaves in identical boxes. We give them pointless, repetitive tasks to do and we berate them when they make a mistake. We treat them like animals; we break their spirits. Eventually they go insane.”

“Then how do you replace them?”

Kincaid scratched at his stubble. “We fill out a form, get it authorised by the manager and send it down to Personnel. A new slave shows up in the morning.”

Pablo spat into the dust. “It is your people who are the primitive barbarians.”

Opening: Wes.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 172

Caption: Anon.

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Saturday, July 19, 2008

Writing Exercise

It had to happen sooner or later. EE has died. You open the newspaper to the obituaries. EE's is about 250 words. What does it say? Deadline Sunday, 10 AM eastern. Submit as a comment to this post. Don't submit anonymously if you want credit.

Idea suggested by Whirlochre.

New Beginning 531

"But why are you taking mom out to dinner?"

"Because I'm a very selfish man. I like to show other men how well I married."

Colonel Hand finished tying his tie and adjusted his medals. He put his eye patch into place and looked at the mirror and smiled at the reflection of his wife. She finished her make-up, then ran her fingers through her hair, then flattened her hair with her palms, then did the whole thing over three more times. She combed her hair one more time before rising to put on her dress and shoes.

Their son continued lolling about the bedroom, too tired to stay still in that way that only the very young have.

"There's the doorbell."

He went to let the sitter in, pausing as he walked down the stairs in order to remember the place. Tomorrow he'd be heading back to the front and this would only be a memory. He opened the door and stood, stunned by what was before him.

"Colonel Mustard?! But . . . you're--"

"Dead? No, my friend. Your lead pipe in the conservatory wasn't enough to finish me." He pulled a revolver from his jacket. "Into the billiard room," he said, "where I can assure you that I won't be so sloppy."

Opening: Anon......Continuation: Khazar-khum

Cartoon 171

Caption: R. Watson

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Face-Lift 544

Guess the Plot

The Only Way

1. Evey wakes up one morning realizing she must escape her fifteen-year marriage to her psychiatrist husband. It just so happens he's also the best-selling author of The Only Way: a misogynist's guide to keeping your wife in line. Can Evey escape without bloodshed?

2. Psychiatrist David Justin is summoned to the White House. The president's eight years are nearly up, power in Congress will soon shift to the other side of the aisle, and the existence of 70,000 detainees being held in secret prisons around the globe will come out. There's only one way to salvage any of the president's reputation: brainwash all 70,000. But is Justin up to the task?

3. There's a right way. There’s a wrong way. And then there’s Chance Harney’s way. If feisty newcomer Sasha McDougal wants to make it in the world of kickboxing, she’ll have to submit to Chance’s dictates. But Sasha’s never been very good at that obedience thing. Maybe it’s time for the hunky coach to learn a thing or two about submission.

4. In Carla's world, there's no right way and wrong way--there's only Papa's way. He decides what she does, where she goes, who she is. When Carla meets Tom, an impulsive young man with a wicked sense of humor and a dangerously seductive smile, she begins to think that maybe Papa's way isn't the only way. Wonder what Papa's going to think about this.

5. When an editor tells Kiki the only way she'll ever be published is if she sells her soul to the devil in exchange for some talent, she does just that. Years later, after she hits the New York Times Bestseller List, Satan comes to collect, and Kiki realizes that maybe it wasn't worth it. She makes another deal. Now the only way she can save her soul is to write a book good enough to make Satan himself cry.

6. Deedee's friends always said the only way a man could get her attention was if Mister Right tasered her. When her PETA protest gets a little out of control, John, a rookie police officer, does just that. This starts up an unlikely relationship. Deedee and John have nothing in common other than an intense attraction to one another. Can they overcome their differences to find true love?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

When Dr. David Justin agrees to become Director of the Arcadia Operation it’s to help out in the War on Terror, not to become a victim of it.

Justin, now at the reins of a desperate organization, [Why is the organization desperate?] is charged with “recovering” information from detainees before additional lives are lost. During a late-night meeting at the White House, Justin is shocked to learn more than 70,000 individuals (not just the 22 at the Arcadia Operation) are being held captive in secret prisons around the globe. And the President is runing out of time. His eight years are almost up and power in Congress is shifting to the other side of the aisle. [What are the consequences if the president runs out of time? We need to know this if we're to have any sense of the danger.]

In THE ONLY WAY psychiatrist David Justin struggles with his conscience and battles powerful government forces to save his new family after he is recruited by the CIA to brainwash detainees in secret American prisons around the globe. [Amazing. You've somehow managed to have two first sentences.] [The first first sentence would be stronger if it ended: . . . not to become its next victim. But even then it's not accurate. He was already director of Arcadia when the CIA recruited him to brainwash detainees, which is what puts him in danger of becoming a victim of the war on terror, which probably doesn't happen anyway. The second first sentence has too much information. We're bored by struggles with conscience, Justin's family, and vague powerful government forces. Keep the hot-button terms: secret prisons, brainwashing, the CIA. In THE ONLY WAY, psychiatrist David Justin takes on the CIA after he is recruited to brainwash detainees in secret American prisons. If he in fact doesn't take on the CIA in your book, that was the old version of the book. In the new version, which you'll be writing after you send out the query, so that if someone asks for the manuscript you have something to submit that matches the query, he takes on the CIA.] [Now, if your second first sentence becomes your first sentence, your first first sentence can be the first sentence of the second paragraph. Though not exactly. Something like:

Justin, Director of the Arcadia Operation, is summoned to a late-night meeting at the White House, where he is shocked to learn that more than 70,000 individuals (not just the 22 at the Arcadia Operation) are being held captive in secret prisons around the globe. The CIA want Justin to "recover" information from the detainees in hopes of saving American lives. And so on.]
Complete at 92,000 words my sometimes humorous thriller THE ONLY WAY follows Dr. Justin through the painful experience of deciding what role he is willing to play in a distasteful, yet threatening situation. When, exactly, will the good doctor finally say: this far…no farther? [More importantly, when will the person reading your query say: this far…no farther?] And what will happen when he does?

My work will appeal to those who enjoy the entangled hero suspense of Brad Thor and Vince Flynn. Currently I write a humor column, published monthly in a local magazine, and am working on a new manuscript. Thank you for your time and for your consideration.

Best regards,


I don't get a sense of why the situation is threatening. Is it threatening to the country because a new president won't understand the danger? Or threatening to the president because he doesn't want the new regime revealing that he's been holding so many people prisoner?

No need to call it "sometimes humorous" unless you give a hint of what's funny about it.

Let's see, 70,000 prisoners at 22 per prison, that's almost 3200 secret prisons. Keeping 3200 prisons secret is no easy task.

Who is threatening Justin's family? Why?

Cartoon 170

Caption: Evil Editor

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Okay, by popular demand...

Well, not so much popular demand as the fact that we're running low on openings. Henceforth you may submit not just openings and chapter openings, but also excerpts from anywhere in your novel or short story. Here's the run-down:

1. The excerpt should be 150 - 200 words. If it's longer, expect to see it shortened.

2. The excerpts will be posted at They may not technically be openings, but they're the openings to the post that will eventually appear. There's a link to EE's Openings in the sidebar.

3. The excerpt plus continuation will be posted only when a brilliant or at least reasonably funny continuation has been submitted. Which could take weeks. Obviously they aren't posted in the order submitted.

4. When choosing an internal excerpt, keep in mind that commenters haven't read what precedes the excerpt. Try to choose an excerpt in which it's not necessary to know the background of the characters and story.

5. If you have any interest in writing continuations, try to check daily to see if new material has appeared.

New Beginning 530

The first time he saw her as a woman, Jane was sliding into a Pontiac convertible outside the Post Office. He’d seen her before, of course, all skinny legs and pigtails, then with those little breasts of hers and sun freckled face. He’d noticed her but not noticed her, not until now. In her tight pencil skirt she slid into the driver’s seat smooth like water and then poured right on out the other side, across the road and up Ted’s pants. He felt his heart beat fast and a sweat beginning to form.

In a glimpse she drove away. Ted, hands in his pockets, turned back from the street. Not many women drive cars, he thought. But things had been changing since the war started. He knew that. They even had women working at the factory just outside of town. Most had quit, though, when their men returned. Not the worst thing, he thought, a woman driving. Might even be fun for awhile…maybe.

The grinding of metal against metal dragged Ted out of his daydream, just before his head lurched forward and struck against the window. More grinding, and he lurched the other way, cricking his neck against the back of the seat. He sighed.

"Okay, Sally," he said. "Let's leave it there for today. Why don't you get in back and let Greg take a turn at the wheel."

Ted rubbed his forehead as his students traded places.

Not the worst thing, he thought again, as Sally started to cry.

Opening: Wendy.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 169

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

New Beginning 529

The first time I knew to be afraid of my father was the one summer night he swung for my skull when I was five years old, when I was sleeping on a mattress on the floor in my parent’s bedroom. I woke up in the dark and felt around to find the door. What I found instead was their big bed, when I walked my shins into the wood rail on the side of it. My shins stung so hard the hurt made my eyes water. I rubbed on them fast, up and down, whispering ow ow ow there in the dark while I rubbed, so they’d stop stinging.

Then I reached up on the bed and fingered my way up one of my father’s legs. When my fingers had walked just about up to his knee, I felt air moving over my head, and I heard him scream. Screams sound louder in the dark; they make you afraid even if you weren’t afraid before.

Another time, when I was twelve and he was taking me and Mama and my best friend to the beach in his big old Ford, I wanted him to change to the Country station and I tapped him on the shoulder. He closed his eyes and hollered so loud, and though it was daylight, screams sound louder when you're in a little car. Mama had to grab the wheel so he wouldn't steer us right into the concrete bridge support. That was when my best friend knew to be afraid of my father.

Jamie here's the first boy I ever brought home, and I guess I should've warned him not to try and shake hands with my father, but I forgot and . . . anyway, doctor, if you could just pop his shoulder back in?

Opening: Robin S......Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 168

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Beginning 528

“Reading is such hard work,” sighed Lydia.

Luke had his JOB papers and was industriously rolling a joint, laced with a special ingredient. He gave her a wink while his thumbs continued their maneuvers. “Quit yer bitchin’. You won’t be able to read after a few puffs of this magic dragon.”

“Ha! It’s just pot”

“Not just pot. Panama Red with a touch of Angel Dust,” replied Luke, waving the little cigarette to dry it. “Now finish your homework so we can get high.”

“But this is so boring!”

“It’s not that bad. I finished reading it last week.”

“I’d like to Thoreau this book away. ‘Pause! Avast! Why so seeming fast, but deadly slow?’”

Luke smiled at the pretty little brunette. She was petite but well-endowed with firm, round breasts. He has wholly approved when she burned her bra. She was willing to get completely naked in the backseat of his Le Mans on Saturday nights; Luke was willing to overlook the fact that she wasn’t an “A” student. He didn’t really mind that beneath her thick and lovely locks lay a very thick head.

“Ok. Light it up,” she said. “This next chapter’s called ‘Higher Laws’.”

Some days later, as Luke cooled his heels in his jail cell on felony drug charges, he would remember Lydia's last words to him with a certain irony.

Opening: ME.....Continuation: freddie

Cartoon 167

Caption: anon.

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Face-Lift 543

Guess the Plot

Dragon's Beginning

1. Hunky anthropologist Petr von Bigun is researching an ancient, forgotten tribe on a remote Pacific island when the sea literally starts to boil. The natives whisper of "Dragon's Beginning" and of the end of the world. Can Petr, aided by voluptuous beach volleyball pro Anette Sands, learn the tribe's ancient language and rituals in time to save the planet from annihilation?

2. When Robby finds a dragon in a box, he makes his way to a magical land where he must drive out evil to inherit a kingdom and rescue a damsel from the evil tower. If he survives to his sixteenth birthday he'll inherit dragon powers, and shapeshifting ability, and might be able to save his family. Also, a grumpy bard.

3. Tired of dealing with riots, Zhu Tzu turns in his officer's badge and heads to the US to start a Chinese restaurant "The Dragon." His endeavour is a success, until his dragon logo comes alive and starts eating employees that complain too much. Can Zhu Tzu soothe the dragon's fragile ego and set things right? And what will happen when a notorious food critic tastes the egg drop soup?

4. Two oversized lizards in love. A passionate encounter. A fateful mutation on chromosome 18. Three weeks of incubation, and: enter, the dragon. Teased by the rest of the Brachiosaurs, he hides in the back of the herd. When a pack of Allosaurs arrives, will he save the day or turn his back on the herd that scorned him?

5. In the beginning was the Dragon. And the Dragon was hungry. And the Dragon was made of flesh, as were the things it preyed upon. And this was good. For the Dragon. But for the other fleshy things, not so much. Thus the need for Galwayn the Dragonslayer and his thirsty sword Mordran. With the assistance of a reluctant soothsayer, a buxom lady’s maid, and a disinherited earl, the stalwart Galwayn sets out to assure that the dragon’s beginning is speedily followed by its end.

6. Alexios Andronikos was born poor and patronless on the back streets of 14th century Trebizond. When his desperate parents sell the strikingly beautiful child, he is castrated and trained for harem life. But Alexios was born to be a warrior, and there will be no denying his destiny. Escape, martial arms training, intrigue, and his own dauntless nature propel Alexios’s transformation from eunuch slave to The Dragon, Scourge of Byzantium.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Details about agent, personalized from research. I hope you enjoy DRAGON'S BEGINNING, the first book in my YA fantasy-adventure series. The novel is complete at 65,000 words.

The tale of a boy and his dog is classic. When the boy is a young sorcerer named Robby who doesn't know he's also half dragon, classic turns fantastic. Mix in his guardian Dire Wolf, Mearlyn, and the amazing creatures and magic's of the land of Drakos Dnal [and you have . . . what?].

Robby's house is destroyed and his mother has disappeared. His only hope of finding her comes from the mysterious black box he unearths from the ruins. [It's obvious what happened: a plane crashed into the house.] Unfortunately, it comes with a dragon-in-the-box. [Is the dragon in the black box? Or is there a dragon-in-a-box inside the black box? The dragon-in-a-box being like a Jack-in-the-box, but instead of a clown popping up, a dragon pops up and spews a wall of flames on the child.] [Expect a massive recall on these within weeks of their arriving from China, by the way.] Setting off with Mearlyn, Robby follows the clue from the dragon, [What clue?] discovering nothing in the land is as it seems. [What land?]

He learns he is the heir to a kingdom - if he can drive the evil from the land. [When it comes to real estate, there's always a catch.] [Is he heir to Drakos Dnal?] He finds friends and enemies along the way, [The way where? Is he going somewhere?] while dodging the evil Daemon who will stop at nothing to steal Robby's magic. [What magic? Is Robby a sorcerer before his house is destroyed? Does he seem to be a sorcerer in "the land"? Because I remember you saying nothing was as it seems.] When one of his companions, Isabelle, is captured, [or at least seems to have been captured.] Robby is given a choice - offer himself up to save her, or find her before time runs out. With new allies - including a grumpy Bard and a batty witch, [Are they really a grumpy Bard and a batty witch? If so, could we have an example of something that isn't as it seems? So far, everything is as it seems.] he discovers where Isa is held. Breaching the tower, Robby must use his wits to rescue her and destroy the tower's evil magic.

While continuing the search for his mother, Robby is shocked to discover the true secret of their past. On his sixteenth birthday, he will inherit dragon powers - great magic and the ability to shift form. [If I had great magic and the ability to shift form, I wouldn't bother trying to drive evil out of some kingdom so I could inherit it. Who needs the aggravation?]

Through his journeys, Robby realizes he cares about saving not just his friends and family, but the land itself. Drawn deeper into this dangerous game, he knows he must eventually fight - and hopefully win - against Daemon, the only one to ever find magic more powerful than a dragon's. Until then, his family will be lost [His family, meaning his mother? Who else is lost?] and Drakos Dnal will continue to be enslaved.

Dragon's Beginning is my first novel. I'd be happy to send you my complete manuscript for your review. Thank you for your time and consideration, I look forward to hearing from you.



It sounds more like middle grade to me.

You keep bringing up stuff and assuming we know what you're talking about. You know everything. We know nothing. Give us a clear progression of the main plot. How and when does Robby get to Drakos Dnal? What's his plan when he gets there?

How come when Robby was fifteen, and didn't yet have dragon powers, Daemon, who has magic more powerful than a dragon's, was so eager to steal Robby's magic? That's like Donald Trump stealing a quarter from a homeless guy.

Although this is missing some key information, it's a bit too long. You'll have to determine which information we can do without.

Cartoon 166

Caption: Evil Editor

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

New Beginning 527

"You took MetalCrack again." Colby sat up on the bed and pointed to the metal computer connector over Skylar's solar plexus. Skylar hid the metal with his hands and avoided eye contact.

"No I didn't. This connector's an artifact, a dream."

"Dream my ass, Sky. Connectors mean active nanomachines." He pulled Skylar's hand away from the connector. "You found a junky with a rig and spent the night racing cops again. Didn't you?" Skylar mumbled, began to invent a lie. He looked into Colby's eyes and sat next to Colby. He slumped over, too tired to argue.

"I couldn't stop myself. Bit-Boy rigged up a little tiny dirt bike out in the desert. No roads. No cops to chase me down. Nothin' but trails an' sand."

"Cops aren't the only danger. Spending hours wired up while nanomachines convert your nerves to metal is dangerous. We know how MetalCrank addiction ends; the driver crashes and dies." Colby held Skylar's head to his chest.

“You’re over-reacting. It’s just computers.” Skylar coughed. “This stuff’s been around for years; I can ha ha ha ha ha handle it.”

“What?” Colby pushed his friend away. “What’s wrong with you?”

“Nothing. I’m fi fi fi fi fi fi fine.”

“You didn’t? Skylar, you idiot, tell me you didn’t--”

Skylar coughed again; his face went blank and his eyes rolled back into his head.

“Jesus, Skylar! I’ve seen this before! I-- You--”

Skylar belched loudly. His lips turned bright blue and he keeled over backwards, dead.

“You idiot.” Colby shook his head. “I can’t believe you used MentalCrank for Windows.”

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: anon.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Cartoon 165

Caption: R. Watson

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Face-Lift 542

Guess the Plot

Peyton and Isabelle

1. When their mother wearies of the 10-year-olds’ constant bickering, she sends Peyton and Isabelle away for a summer of “tough love”: three months aboard a 30-foot ketch with their eccentric aunt and uncle. Nothing but excruciating boredom looms on the horizon, until a freak squall leaves the boat dismasted and the adults disabled. Can the twins learn to cooperate? Also, an uncharacteristically aggressive pod of whales.

2. Fresh from their California wedding, brides Peyton and Isabelle arrive in Bunkyville, Kansas, to tend to Peyton’s ailing mother. Conservative locals are agog at the groom-less newlyweds. Soon a local sheriff and self-described hunk is convinced Isabelle is The One he’s been waiting for all his life, and sets out to convince her of same. Comic mayhem ensues.

3. Peyton and Isabelle
Went to Sea
In his beautiful sailing boat

They took all the money
From her murdered hubby
And left cops a suicide note

When cops come a'calling
With questions they're trawling
Will their alibi still float?

4. When painting prodigy Isabelle and football player Peyton accidentally start a fire on the fourth of July that kills four people, Isabelle believes they should turn themselves in, but Peyton guilts her into silence. Over the next two decades, Peyton finds himself haunted, not by the people he killed, but by Isabelle and her macabre paintings of burning, screaming people.

5. Peyton and Isabelle have kept their affair secret from their spouses and the nosy neighbors. But when Peyton’s brother (Isabelle’s husband) catches them in the act, Isabelle shoots him dead. Now Peyton and Isabelle are Out in the Country, On the Road to Sham-ba-la ,driving through a Canadian wilderness colder than a Three Dog Night, holding tight to the One thing they know for sure: Eli’s (not) Coming.

6. When Peyton, a pug, gets separated from his family in Hollywood, he worries about how he'll ever get home. That's when he meets Isabelle, a Latina tabby with a heart of gold and plenty of fire. Can they find his home--and will Isabelle be allowed to stay with him?

Original Version

Dear EE,

Peyton Ryder grows up coal-dust poor in the mountains of West Virginia, hunting, trapping and running wild in the woods. The summer he turns fourteen, he and his mother hitch a ride out of their dead-end hollow in her boyfriend's Dodge, hoping to find a better life in Boston.

Mad at the world for depriving him of wealth and a father, Peyton decides to climb out of poverty and never look back. When he wrangles himself a football scholarship to a private school, [With a name like Peyton Ryder, he was destined to attend a private prep school in Boston. Call it the second law of inevitability.] he works hard and fights anybody who gets in his way. To his surprise, he falls in love with a fellow scholarship student, a strangely innocent painting prodigy named Isabelle Woods. [I'm in love with Isabelle Woods, even though I know nothing about her except that she's a strangely innocent painting prodigy. And fictional . . . I gotta get a life.] [What does strangely innocent mean? Is it strange that she, in particular, is innocent? Or is there something about her particular innocence that's strange?]

When Isabelle and Peyton accidentally start a fire on the fourth of July after graduation—a fire that grows out of control and causes the death of four people—their relationship shatters. Isabelle believes they should turn themselves in, but intent on preserving his worldly ambitions, Peyton guilts her into silence. Over the next two decades, Peyton finds himself haunted less by the people he and Isabelle accidentally killed, and more by Isabelle, [and her macabre paintings of burning screaming people. Hey, I had to put it in the query or I couldn't have used it in the Guess the Plot.] who floats in and out of his life, unable to let him or her despair go.

PEYTON AND ISABELLE is a fast-paced literary novel [An oxymoron if ever I've heard one.] of 107,000 words, following the journey of a fearless boy as he becomes a successful, but constrained man, who in one moment, on the verge of adulthood, has to decide how much he is willing to give up in order to make something of himself.


Well-written, though you haven't made Peyton seem sympathetic. As the fire was an accident, I could see him as a sympathetic character who makes one bad decision, but because he's described as mad at the world, because he "wrangles" a scholarship, rather than earns it, because he fights anyone in his way, I don't care enough about him to feel sorry for him.

Two of the three plot paragraphs are background. We don't need to know about the hunting and trapping and the boyfriend's Dodge. Give a bit of background and get to the story. They start a fire that kills some people. Peyton talks Isabelle into keeping mum. And?

Don't use "mum" in your query.

What about the next two decades? Does Peyton realize his worldly ambitions, becoming rich and successful despite being haunted? Does his bad decision destroy him? Does he blame Isabelle for his ruined life? Do they finally come clean: Officer, remember the big July 4th fire that killed all those people twenty years ago? We're strangely guilty.

Cartoon 164

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

New Beginning 526

In the year of Our Lord 1155, Benedictine Monks gathered at Rannock Abbey to celebrate the vigil of Easter. The invited faithful watched as the monks kindled the the Easter fire to enlighten the Abbey for the coming year. In the light of newly created fire, light representing the Pillar of Fire that plundered Egypt, the light of Salvation and Risen Savior, the deacon intoned the message of joy to the world.

"Exult, all creation around God's throne! Jesus Christ, our King, is risen triumphant from the grave! Most blessed of Nights. This is the night when Jesus Christ broke the chains of death and his blood consecrates all believers. This is the night that becomes as clear as day; it will become my light, my joy!"

The roar of a thousand storms interrupted the prayer. With it, a light as bright as the sun appeared in the west traveling to the East, a biblical portent. The faithful signed themselves, holding their crucifixes and candles high as talismans against evil.

Captain Mickle let out a deep sigh and flicked the PA switch. "Sorry about the bumpy landing there, folks. We're parked a little way from the gate so there's a short walk. Don't forget you're on European time and will need to set your watches back 900 years. Thank you for flying American and we hope to see you again soon."

Opening: Dave.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 163

Caption: The Spitzer

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

New Beginning 525

I stood on the side of a mountain peak, just below the precipice. On the precipice itself stood a silver wolf with harvest-moon eyes, and he made me nervous with the way he breathed. In with in, held with hold; every breath I took, he matched. We breathed together, exhaled together; and by this pacing he held me, pinned, like an insect to a collection. So when at last I fell into wakefulness, I knew I had been infected by the werewolf.

"So you didn't see anything?"


"You didn't see anything when you were attacked?"

"I'm sorry, but no. There was a light and a roar, I put my hand in front of my face and then I woke up here in this hospital."

"You know the girl is dead?"

"Yes, thank you. The doctor was kind enough to tell me in terms that weren't quite so blunt."

The police detective nodded. His eyes fell to my too-large and still slightly hairy fist. "Whattaya got there?"

I opened my hand to find a delicate finger with polished nail.

"Her color," said the detective.

I grimaced. "I want to talk to a lawyer," I told him. "A PETA lawyer."

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Bill H.

Cartoon 162

Caption: Evil Editor

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Face-Lift 541

Guess the Plot

Legends of Sauria

1. Royal intrigue, conspiracy and ambition combine to threaten the Saurians just as King Oran nears the end of his 500-year reign and the mysterious Nrye emerge from thousands of years of isolation to begin an all-out war. Can anyone seize the reins and create new . . . Legends of Sauria?

2. The asteroid struck. The sea boiled. The sun disappeared behind a shroud of darkness. All across the fabled land of Sauria they died, the mighty and meek alike. Now the last-of-the-last huddle together, recounting myths and legends to their few and precious young. Can this desperate bid by the hadrosaurs to keep their culture and their kind alive succeed?

3. It is said that they are a land of losers, of men who have never known intimacy or the touch of a willing female. As a child, Lululani heard the Legends Of Sauria; as a woman who's not very attractive, she will journey to Sauria and uncover the reasons behind the endless rejection. Her master's degree in Personal Hygiene will prove valuable.

4. Her legends preceded her birth by a century, yet when she was born, no one recognized Elberon. But when she takes the Sauria Crown by force, the legends are renewed, and continents join forces against her.

5. A million years ago, anthropomorphic Sauropods ruled the earth, their reign cut short by a few egg-sucking moles. Hiding from the world in caverns beneath the South Pole, the Saurians are preparing an attack on the usurpers - mankind. A lone Antarctic explorer is mankind's only hope.

6. Garrod Durrheth is a great hero. But he has a dark side-- a pact with the enemy to keep his realm safe when he grows too old to fight. Now his grandson, Shurrahh, will be taking over. Will the old warrior reveal his secret, or must Shurrahh fight to keep all Triceratops' safe?

Original Version

Dear Evilest of all Editors,

I am seeking representation for Legends of Sauria, a SF/F novel complete at 90,000 words.

King Oran, who has ruled over the Saurians the last 500 years, lies on his deathbed. [Has anyone else noticed how seldom anyone survives lying on their deathbeds? Makes you wonder why they don't sleep on the sofa.] With so many Royal candidates to replace him, his death could catapult the Saurian race into civil war over the throne. What’s worse, the Nrye, who have remained hidden for thousands of years, have [grown tired of no one pronouncing their name right, and have] attacked.

Damascus and Malakai, being Oran’s only sons, are the top candidates for King. [Who are the other candidates, and why are they considered candidates?] And the brothers struggle to prove themselves worthy in the midst of an all out war with the Nrye. When they finally work together on the battlefield their success gains the favor of the royal bloodlines.

But there are those that would rather see Oran’s familial line end with him, and they plot to pit the brothers against each other, secretly fueling each of their ambitions for the throne. [Much easier would be to kill them.] The brothers must stay loyal to their blood through the many deceits of the conspirators all while holding the Nrye at bay.

I thank you for your time and consideration.


I don't see that pitting Damascus and Malakai against each other ends Oran's familial line. Surely the "royal bloodlines" who are pleased with the sons' battlefield success are also related to Oran?

I don't see where the SF genre comes in.

I note that no one is referred to as a person or human. Are the Saurians saurians? If so, say so. If not, maybe Sauria isn't the best name for them. If you make up a race of people, and choose to call them the crocodilians or the rodents, it's only going to cause confusion.

The conspirators are your villains. Your bad guys. Outside of the good guys, they're the ones we want to know about the most. They provide the conflict. Thus: who are they?

Cartoon 161

Caption: Evil Editor

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Cartoon 160

Caption: R. Watson

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Friday, July 04, 2008

New Beginning 524

He didn’t mean to leave. It just ended up that way. At the time he woulda said he only wanted to scare his folks a bit. You know, yella little, slam the door, and give ‘em something to think on. At least that’s what Billy would say today if you asked him. But you can’t ask him, of course, 'cause Billy McClure is gone.

Oh he’ll be back. He always comes back. And usually he tell you the silliest stories when he does. Some of ‘em are scary too. Some sad. I don’t like the sad ones much. And I really don’t like the ones where there’s kissin’. In fact, I told him if he caught anymore of those kissin’ stories, why he could just keep ‘em to hisself. Billy says he goes swimmin’ in a think pond. His Momma says he goes off to the Devil. I think he just finds himself a tree and climbs up for a little get-a-way.

Mebbe he's up that tree right now. I dunno. That's the thing with Billy McClure -- no one ever knows where he goes or when he'll be back. So leave yer message after the tone.


Opening: Wendy.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 159

Caption: anon.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Face-Lift 540

Guess the Plot

Pickles and Curd Rice

1. Growing up as orphans is tough enough, but Seetha and Senthil now must live with their aunt, who is involved in a bitter war against the cosmos. When poisonous atmosphere threatens to destroy the household, catastrophe ensues.

2. Jonas and Janine decide this will be the year they spice up their sex life. It's been nearly a full year since the sex was pleasing to either. First up: Naming each other's privates based on their scents!

3. Aruna may be from a large Tamil family in a small village in southern India, but she has big plans! Huge! She’s determined to land a spot on the TV show Hell’s Kitchen. With a recipe for Rice Curd and a clever combination of chutney and chutzpah, Aruna finds a whey to have Chef Ramsay eating out of her hands. But when the other contestants find out, Aruna and Gordon find themselves in a pickle.

4. Martha, Caroline and Jolene all find themselves pregnant at the same time. They share their nausea, their pregnancy cravings and their hopes for the future until they discover that their babies all have the same father. Will their friendship survive?

5. Ashima's family have picked out a nice Indian boy for her to marry but she is in love with Spud who is a Goth. They run away to get married but it's soon clear that they have little in common except their love for each other. Can Ashima learn to make gravy the way Spud's mother does, or will he have to learn to like . . . Pickles and Curd Rice?

6. Two AM. Dead husband. Pickles and curd rice on the counter. Half-melted peach ice cream in the bag. Homicide detective Zack Martinez has seen a lot of cases, but this one adds up to a pissed & pregnant wife. Or does it? Either way, he'd better get some rocky road on the way home, or his own pregnant wife will kill him.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor

When Seetha and Senthil’s parents die in a car accident (an incident that is now taboo, unlucky to mention) [And yet you mention it in sentence 1. Something tells me this isn't going to go well for you.] they go to live in Madurai, a small town in South India, as part of a joint family. Growing up as orphans is not straightforward, [Not sure what you mean by "not straightforward."] but they have even more than that on their plate. [They also have biriyani, ghee rice, and naan.] Growing up with a depressed uncle, a paralysed cousin and an embittered aunt is what they are faced with now, four years down the line.

Their uncle feels completely out of place as a small town lawyer, being, in popular opinion, too impractical and dreamy for the job, while his wife is engaged in a bitter war against the cosmos on behalf of their handicapped son, [She's trying to get the kid assimilated into the Borg collective.] in whom her entire life is wrapped up.

In short, though everything in the ordinary middle class family seems normal at first sight, [I don't see how you can say the family seems normal when the lady of the house is at war with the Borg.] there are deep undercurrents of jealousy, frustration and helpless anger.

Meanwhile, the eldest daughter, Ria is idling away her years sitting at home, unqualified and looking with increasing desperation at what seems to be a bleak future. When the tension in the house becomes palpable, she decides that the only way to escape the poisonous atmosphere of the house would be to marry—and quickly. She elopes with a neighbour, only to realise the very next day that it was a catastrophic mistake, when she is deserted. But now she has tasted freedom, and unwilling to give it up, she refuses to return home. [One catastrophic day out of the house provides the sweet taste of freedom? She didn't have to elope; a trip to the Sambar Hut for lunch would have done it.] Facing criticism from home, and conquering her own fears, she plunges ahead to the big bad city, finds a job and a life of her own in Mumbai. [There are thirty million people looking for jobs in Mumbai, and she walks in and immediately lands one? I guess it's possible, if she's willing to work as a telemarketer.]

The story explores how this incident becomes the turning point in the lives of the rest of the family—forcing them to reconcile to change, to take another look at their own lives. [Strange that a character who wasn't even mentioned until she left seems to be the driving force of the novel.] It is the transition between childhood and adulthood for the two children, through whose viewpoint the story is primarily told. It tells of how the Adult World looks at children, and children at their elders, and of the illusions shattered during the process of growing up.

Pickles and Curd Rice is set around the turn of the century [Which century?] is a 65000 word work of literary fiction. [Fix this sentence.]


You should include the ages of the orphans.

If this is Seetha's and Senthil's story, you might want to focus entirely on them. If it's more of an ensemble cast, with no main character, you still might want to focus the query on someone. It's hard to get us interested in this many characters in one page.

It doesn't seem like an adult daughter moving out of her parents' home would be such a crucial plot point. If it's really what sets the story in motion, you might want to make it clear why this matters to the orphans, the mother, the son. Why is Ria being gone such an impetus?

It seems a bit long, so if you add anything I've suggested, be sure to get rid of some less important stuff.