Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Face-Lift 570

Guess the Plot

Rose Lodge

1. Come to where the boys are: Rose Lodge, the home of the anatomically correct mannequin maker, Rose Cowry. Also, haunted sewing machines and weeping bloody walls.

2. When Laurel buys a lodge in Oregon, she's not looking for romance, but it's not long before the carpenter she hires to restore the place falls for her. Then the carpenter gets murdered, and other attacks convince Laurel the lodge is haunted by the malignant spirits of a secret society. Will she survive living in . . . Rose Lodge?

3. All the kids in town are sure the ruined Rose Lodge is haunted by the ghost of a teenaged girl murdered by twin brothers in 1897. Twin brothers Dave and Darren decide to investigate. Will they find the truth . . . or only death?

4. Henry Dreadlock falls in love the moment he lays eyes on the woman of his dreams, Valerie. Except she resides at Rose Lodge, one of Rose City's oldest hotels and one rumored to be haunted. Soon Henry is wondering why Valerie is always dressed in medieval garb and will never let him spend the night.

5. It was supposed to be a happy weekend of singing and cookie-baking, but when Bootsie Campbell arrives at the family reunion, an eerie wail from the forest signals that they must, again, contend with the banshee.

6. Jenny and Rick are booked into Rose Lodge for their honeymoon, but the place is nothing like its brochure. Not only is it a dump; they have to share a bathroom with the adjoining room, which is occupied by an annoying couple who spend more time in the bathtub than in their room. Can Jenny's marriage survive the honeymoon from hell?

Original Version

Dear Perceptive Agent:

Rose Lodge is a 100,000-word contemporary romantic suspense story.

Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees notoriety and suspicion in Seattle and buys Rose Lodge, a derelict inn deep in the coastal mountains of Oregon. She's looking for community and trust, not romance, but soon two men vie for her attention. One is an engaging carpenter hired to restore the lodge, the other is her neighbor Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who opposes her living in Rose Lodge, for reasons he will not name. [But which may have something to do with the effect on property values of having a serial killer living next door.]

When mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate, she has reason to suspect everyone close to her. [When you just moved deep into the mountains in a new state, it doesn't seem like you'd be that close to anyone.] Even the lodge itself seems to be trying to harm her. Then the carpenter is murdered, Laurel's handywoman is viciously assaulted, and Laurel's best friend vanishes. [Her best friend in the Oregon mountains, or her best friend forever?] The attacks cease and Laurel believes the perpetrator has been stopped--but by whom? [What do the police believe? I assume they're investigating the murder, if not the other attacks.]

Laurel finds a hidden cellar [Hidden in the attic, the last place anyone would look for a cellar.] containing a trunk holding clues to the inn's troubled past. The clues lead to a labyrinthine lava tube, which she learns was the "place of spirit" of a shamanist secret society. During the chaos of a hurricane-force windstorm Laurel is kidnapped by her best friend, who insists that Davis committed the Seattle murders and plans to kill Laurel by the same brutal method. [Let me get this straight. Her friend wants her to believe that the person who killed her husband in Seattle happens to be the same guy who lives next door to the lodge she bought deep in the Oregon mountains, bought after the murder of her husband? No one would expect someone to buy that. Have you held back some key information that makes this somehow reasonable?] Laurel escapes to the unexplored and unstable caves. Fighting for her life, she must decide whom to trust: her friend [from whom she escaped after being kidnapped,] or the man she loves [who tried to convince her not to live in Death Lodge]. [Tough decision.]

Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Rose Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence. Laurel creates a place for herself in her new community, and she and Davis open themselves to love.

I have sold romance stories to True Story and True Romance. For many years, I lived on the Oregon coast, where I survived more than one hurricane-force windstorm.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


This has several similarities to The Diary of Ellen Rimbauer. In that book the house is called Rose Red, rather than Rose Lodge. The place is under construction, it's in Seattle, built on a native American burial ground, has a life of its own. The heroine has a cheating husband. Gruesome murders occur in the house. It might be worth having Laurel start in California instead of Seattle, and giving the lodge a different name to reduce the similarities.

As he gets murdered anyway, we don't need to know the carpenter has a romantic interest in Laurel. On the other hand, you might mention her attraction to Davis earlier, as this is a romance to some extent, and it's a little jolting to describe him near the end as the man she loves, when all we know about him up to then is that he didn't want her in his neighborhood, and he might be a murderer.

The plot portion could be made shorter by leaving out some of the information that inspires questions, questions that may not come up when reading the book:

Acquitted of the stabbing murders of her husband and his mistress, Laurel White flees notoriety and suspicion in San Francisco and buys Doom Lodge, a derelict inn deep in the coastal mountains of Oregon. She's looking for community and trust, not romance, but soon finds herself attracted to Davis Odenkirk, a widowed geologist who lives nearby.

When the carpenter restoring the lodge is murdered, Laurel's handywoman is viciously assaulted, and mysterious attacks against Laurel escalate, Laurel begins to think the lodge itself is trying to harm her. She finds an old trunk holding clues to the inn's troubled past, and learns that the lodge is built over a maze of caves that were once the "place of spirit" of a shamanist secret society. Suddenly the idea that the lodge is haunted doesn't seem far-fetched.

Davis uses science to uncover the secret of Doom Lodge's strange power while Laurel takes a spiritual approach and opens the caves to the shamans' descendants. Together they lay to rest the house's malignant influence. Laurel creates a place for herself in her new community, and she and Davis open themselves to love.

Cartoon 225

Photo: Hilary McHone
Caption: Evil Editor
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Monday, September 29, 2008

New Beginning 556

Mikey Sullivan unsnapped the rubber band and pushed the final stack of bills through the slot in the cashier's cage. This was well-worn currency, the paper ripped, faded, and soft as a ratty pair of jeans.

The cashier thumbed through the money. "All singles?"

"Girlfriend's a stripper." He grinned at the explanation, but the cashier had already ducked her head and begun counting rapid-fire, laying the bills into short piles. As she silently mouthed each ten count, Mikey caught tantalizing glimpses of the wet, inner part of her lower lip.

"I change her tips because she don't like bringing a bunch of crumpled little bills to the bank. Thinks it makes people stare at her." He worked a toothpick from one corner of his mouth to the other. "Which is funny, seeing as that's what she gets paid for, right?"

The cashier kept counting.

Mikey leaned into the counter. The bars of the cage blocked most of his view, but he was able to sneak a peek down the front of her turquoise blouse. He thought he saw a bit of lace down there.

"You know," he said slowly. "You could be."

"Could be what, sir?"

"A stripper."

Somewhere behind him bells rang, and a woman squealed in delight.

Mikey turned around and let his eyes wander across the huge room. He expected to see one of the slot machines flashing and churning out quarters, but what he saw was a middle-aged woman with a piece of paper, shrieking and jumping in the air.

"What's with the dame?" he asked, turning back to the cage.

The cashier stopped counting and looked up at Mikey, her professional demeanor hiding her distaste. "Kasino Kreep Keno," she said, glancing past him. "Apparently your stripper line just won her the ten grand jackpot."

Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 224

Caption: R. Watson

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Talking Dog 6

"Here's another one that gives no title or genre, nothing about the plot or characters, but insists it would make a great movie. And three typos in the first paragraph. Shall I throw it in the slush fire, sir?"

"Of course, you idiot," Grisham replied. "When are you gonna make a decision on your own, EE?"

"Sorry, sir. I just don't want to be held responsible if we miss the next Harry Potter."

"Screw Harry Potter. I fell asleep during every Potter movie. Find me the next Marley and Me. Or how about a memoir from Dogbert?

"I'll see what I can do," EE said.

"Man, I could go for a BLT right now."

"You eat lettuce and tomato?"

"Of course not. I'm talking about a bacon/liver/turkey." Grisham took off his glasses and cleaned them on his shirt. "You know it's kind of funny," he said. "All these babes being in love with Evil Editor. And not one of them realizes I write all the blog posts. Hell, I also do all the book editing, and I'm even "anonymous."

"You're not the only anonymous," EE said.

"I'm the only one who ever submits anything funny," Grisham retorted. "And I still haven't figured out what I need you for. A writing blog written by a dog would bring in a much bigger audience than one written by a . . . donut fetcher. If your love-starved minions met us, every one of them would choose me over you. I'm shutting down Evil Editor and starting a blog called Grisham the Gossip Hound. I'll dish dirt on celebs. Cute dogs and pathetic loser celebs. Who can resist that?"

"But what about--"

"You? You'll be my first celeb. And you can still fetch me donuts."

--Evil Editor

Talking Dog 5

Evil Editor peered at the security monitor; at the door stood two policemen and a bedraggled border collie.

“Grisham!” EE bellowed as he recognized his dog. Moments later he opened the door. “Thank you for finding my dog, officer.” He reached for Grisham’s leash.

“Whoa, not so fast sir.” The policeman moved in front of EE. “This dog claims to be the famous author John Grisham.”

“What?” EE stared at his dog, “You’re kidding.”

“Sir, may we come inside?” The policemen stepped inside.

“Looks like I don’t have a choice.” EE motioned to the living room.

The officer spoke to the dog. “Please, tell us again what you just told us.”

The dog padded to chair, jumped on it and spoke. “My name is John Grisham. Two months ago, after attending a book signing, I found myself transformed into a dog and trapped in this house, the home of my nemesis.”

“What bull.” EE stood. “Grisham, go to your crate.”

“See officer, he didn’t even bother to change my name.”

“Sir, please place your hands behind your back.” An officer pulled out his cuffs.

“This is crap. Grisham quit lying.” He turn back to the officers “I’ve had him since a puppy. He’s a border collie and a bit deranged.”

“Poor deluded fool, He’s envious of my success as an international bestselling author. You see, we were college roommates and he always ridiculed my writing.”

Just then an officer’s cell rang, after a brief chat he told his partner to put away his cuffs.

“It’s confirmed: the real Grisham is having dinner with his agent. Sorry sir.”

After they left, EE found Grisham cheerfully ripping up a manuscript. “All right, you win. You can help shred the slush pile, slobber and all.”


Talking Dog 4

The Tale of the Dog

“What do you guys want, and who are you anyway?”

“I’m Sethra, and this is my sister Aliera, and this is my other sister Aliera. I want tuna.”

“Shut up, Sethra. There’s only one of me. And I want what any cat wants—to rule the world. Who are you, dog?”

“My name is Grisham, and I like to cause trouble.”

“Want to come with us? We’re going to catch moles and---oooh, shiny!”

“Shut up, Sethra. Hey, Grisham, I know where we can steal some cheeseburgers. Interested?”

“Sure. Just lead the way.”

“Does this mean no tuna?”

“Shut up, Sethra!”

“Here we are. I saw Evil Editor laying out the patties of meat on the kitchen table. I’ll go in the window and grab them, then toss them one by one to Sethra, who will be sitting on the windowsill; she’ll toss them down to you, Grisham. You carry them off, and we’ll hide and have a feast. Got it?”

“Got it. Let’s lock and load.”

A short while later:

“YOU DUMB, STUPID CATS! I ate them all. Now you've got nothing and you’ll get caught! Bye-bye, losers!”

“DAMMIT! What happened to the poisoned hamburger I was going to use for mole bait? That rotten mutt Grisham again, I suppose. Hey, there are a couple of cats snoozing on the windowsill. Could they—nah, if they were guilty they'd have run off. Maybe if I feed them, they'll stick around and catch those damned moles for me.

“Nice kitties—have some tuna.”

“Oh, good! Tuna! Just what I always wanted.”

“Shut up, Sethra!”


Talking Dog 3

“What in blue blazes?” exclaimed Evil Editor.

“I said,” said Evil’s faithful mutt, Grisham, “Here’s your umbrella. I’d like to go for a walk in the rain. I guess I must’ve growled the first part.”

“No, I heard every word quite clearly. I just couldn’t believe the words were coming out of your mouth. How is it that you now speak?”

“Ubi sub ubi! Fils de chen! Can ya believe it? I speak Latin, French, Jamaican, English and Mandarin.”

Evil gently placed the brandy snifter on the end table and stared intently at his dog. He clucked his tongue twice and Grisham sat, just as he always had. EE patted down the dog briskly, searching for microphones or implants, finding nothing but a couple of belly burrs and a tick. He checked the dog’s tags; they were accurate. He checked the backside of the dog’s front left paw for the distinctive starburst of white; it was there. Evil sipped his brandy and studied his dog with renewed interest. He called out, “Grisham! How long have you been able to speak? I can’t believe I’ve somehow missed this hidden talent.”

Grisham bounded into the kitchen, returning a moment later with a can of China-Choose Dog Pet Food which he dropped in Evil's hand. “Okay, I’m not positive, but I think I finally realized I could talk and didn’t have to howl at the moon just after your last visit to Costco. By the way, it’s very tasty, whatever it is.”

Evil looked closely at the can and realized there was a label beneath the label. Suddenly he fainted, dropping to the Aubusson rug like a sackful of breakfast-sausage links as the can, labeled Zombie-Meerkat® Pet Food, rolled across the floor.


Talking Dog 2

Slowly waking up, I groaned. The memories of the last few hours came rushing back—the trip to the emergency room, the massive internal bleeding, the surgery. I wanted to stay asleep.

Someone was leaning over the bed, watching me. “How are you feeling?” a deep, slightly odd voice asked. I focused my blurry vision.

“What the…” Clearly I was not lucid. I was staring into a pair of warm, chocolate eyes. Eyes that belonged to a dog.

“Well?” he prompted.

“Umm, where is the nurse?” I asked, not wanting to be rude.

“Oh, she’ll be back. I’m Grisham; I’ll watch over you for a bit.”

“Grisham…” I muttered. Suddenly it clicked. “Grisham! You’re EE’s dog!”

He nodded pleasantly. “I understand you’ve had some bad luck lately, and I wanted to help. I’m going to read your manuscript.”

A tear dropped from the corner of my eye. “Oh, really?” I said. “That means so much to me! Thank you!”

“So, where is it?” he asked.

“Where is…wait, where is my manuscript?” I peered down at the flimsy hospital gown I was wearing. I didn’t even have shoes, much less a copy of my book. “Well, given the rush this morning, I don’t have it here.” He sighed. I continued quickly, “But I can email it to you!”

Giving me a flat look, he held up one blunt paw. “I’m not exactly made for typing.”

“You’re not exactly made for talking, either,” I said, desperate. He lowered himself and started walking away.

“You can’t do this to me!” I called, trying and failing to sit up. “It’s evil!”

“Like master like pup,” he shrugged, turning the corner and disappearing.

Overwhelmed with losing so much blood and my one shot at publication, I slipped back into welcome oblivion.


Talking Dog 1

Never-Ending Dog Story

“This is great, a talking dog,” said Evil, thinking he'd get a novel or two out of the mutt. Then he realized...talking dog...cliché. He looked at Grisham. “You've got no reason to pee on the slush pile again. Just let me know, okay?”

“Food...food...bitch next door. Food.”

“Yeah, yeah. Forget the dog next door. She's a teacup chihuahua. You're a lab.”

“Food...food...crumbs by your feet. Lick myself. Bitch next door. Food.”

“Yeah, yeah.”


“Great, you're learning,” said Evil. “Damn--”

“Too late.” Grisham sniffed the couch and drove his head under the cushions. “Crumb. Funny smell. Food. Bitch next door. Lick myself. Food.”

Literary ending: “Well...you don't dangle your participles, at least...you apparently don't use them.”

Horror ending: “I'm getting you fixed if you pee on the floor or mention that bitch again.”

Romance ending: “If I introduce you to the bitch next door would you introduce me to the hot babe who owns her?”

Erotica ending: The bitch next door nosed open the front door....

SF ending: “Hey! What's that pod on your neck?”

Western ending: “Come on, doggie, let's rustle us up some chow and go walkies into the sunset.”

Fantasy ending: A mage, an elf and a dwarf with longbows entered the room. End, Vol. 1.

Historical fiction ending: Richard Nixon entered the room. “Checkers! So there you are. Come home to daddy.”

Humor ending: (Sorry, I couldn't think of one.)

--Bill H.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Saturday Film Series

You never know what's going on in Evil Editor's Shorts. You just know it's sure to be big.

Writing Exercise

Friday, September 26, 2008

Face-Lift 569

Guess the Plot

Nick Rossi and the Real Piece of Work

1. In this light-hearted romance, ambulance driver Nick Rossi is enjoying a day off at the beach, when who should collapse unconscious on the sand nearby, but Amy Winehose?

2. That he's been chosen to mentor a toy doll in her transformation to human form is bad enough, but Nick Rossi discovers that the doll is a bubble gum-popping shopaholic. Before he can even ditch the doll, she's kidnapped by a life-sized wax figure. Will Nick bother trying to rescue his charge? Also, an inflatable yard Santa, a clipboard-toting cricket and a demented CPR dummy.

3. Nick Rossi invests the modern way -- blindfolded. Tactile vibes from annual reports tell him what to buy and sell. But where will all the money go when secretary Bootsi Campbell slips him a deck of mickies to choose from? Plus: three poodles, 12 red roses, a hunky motorcycle cop, and sixteen karate thugs.

4. Nick Rossi grew up in his dad's vermouth factory. Now he oversees production, shipping, foreign markets and the budget. Unfortunately, the public's penchant for extra dry martinis, not to mention that dirty olive juice concoction, means he has to work hard convincing everyone that vermouth is a necessary part of the drink.

5. Jeannie Glob is a piece of work, all right. Beautiful and vicious, with a streak of stupid right down the middle, she spots Nick at Rossi's Pizza Parlor. But she learns the hard way she's no match for a real piece of work when Nick's sister, mob hitwoman "Messy Tessy" Rossi, finds out about the lunch money scam.

6. Nick's day started out badly. Every one of the samples of so-called genuine Bruges lace from China, guaranteed to make him millions on a certain television shopping channel, looked like a doily from a Russian mobster's Zil. His only hope is to shop the real piece of work to another sweatshop and hope for the best. One more failure and he'll have to apologise to Dave Martini and beg for his old job back.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

Like pretty much every other guy on the planet, fourteen-year-old Nick Rossi assumes he started out as a real boy. He couldn't be more wrong.

When a clipboard-toting cricket hops onto his nightstand and tells him he's been selected as a mentor for TUT – Toys Undergoing Transition – Nick figures there's a locked, padded room in his future. The cricket abandons Nick to a nightmarish fate: Melanie, an eight-inch-high, bubble-gum popping doll. Nick is supposed to be mentoring her toward Real Girlhood, but all Melanie wants to learn is how to online shop and which reality TV star is the hottest. She has all the makings of a real girl all right. A real annoying girl.

Then Mad Dog Marshall, a life-sized animated wax figure and cricket-experiment-gone-wrong, kidnaps Melanie. Marshall thinks Nick's got the secret to becoming fully real, and Melanie is his bait. Nick's tempted to ditch the dumb doll, but as he wrestles with the truth of his own unlikely beginnings, he decides a mentor's got to do what a mentor's got to do. Armed with the world's puniest pocketknife and a Google map, Nick launches his rescue mission. [When entering the lair of a wax figure, the weapon of choice is a flamethrower.] His goal is simple: find Marshall's lair and put the smackdown on the wax figure and [his] henchman freaks – a group that includes an inflatable yard Santa and a demented CPR dummy. But before Nick can defeat the bad guys and rescue Melanie, he's got to figure out just what this secret is he's supposed to have. [Why can't he figure it out after the rescue?]

NICK ROSSI AND THE REAL PIECE OF WORK is a 38,000 word middle grade novel that addresses the burning question on everyone's mind: whatever [what ever] happened to that Pinocchio kid, anyway? Thank you for your consideration, and I hope for the opportunity to speak with you further about this project.



Very nice. Some minor suggestions:

Change "supposed to be mentoring" to "supposed to mentor." Or "assigned to mentor."

Change "wants to learn " to "cares about."

Delete "on everyone's mind."

I assume there's a reason "that Pinocchio kid" assumes he started out as a real boy? Like he's blocked out Gepetto and the Blue Fairy and his donkey days as an emotional defense mechanism?

Cartoon 223

Caption: WO

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

New Beginning 555

"Look, he's there," Ben pulled at Wyatt's arm. Wyatt popped and jerked to the music in his earbuds. He let his eyes wander across the mall to the newsstand. "There! In the black duster." Wyatt shrugged and did his happy dance, both hands in the air and hips shaking. He answered to whatever rhythm filled his brain.

"I saw some bums in brown... some boobs in beige and some bootylicious butt cheeks in almost-translucent pink spandex, but no man in black Dude, no sir, no man in black." Wyatt slid his ballcap up the back of his head and over his eyes. Ben huffed, made fists, made pounding movements with his hands and stomped; so ready to break into a hissy fit.

"Over there. You looked right at him." Ben watched for any sign of recognition on Wyatt's face. Nothing. He tried again. "Broad-rim hat, gray bandana, coal-black pants, dusty boots." Wyatt's eyes opened wide. His eyebrows nearly touched the top of his forehead.

"Jeez, dude, that's him!" Wyatt shouted.

The man by the news stand turned toward them and his eyes widened in startled recognition. In a flash, before they could move, Jacques DuQuene, jewel thief and murderer, disappeared into the crowd.

"Dammit!" said Ben. He looked in exasperation at Wyatt's tee-shirt. Dammit again. If they had to go undercover as mall-rat music fans, why did his partner's favorite band have to be The Police?

Opening: Dave F......Continuation: Anon

Cartoon 222

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Beginning 554

Erin was beginning to decide it didn't matter. She was too in love to care if Sara spent most afternoons leaning over the narrow space of Roger's desk, crushing him to a pulp with a viciousness born of brilliance and an arrogance she had once found entirely off-putting. The unease that had kept her lingering in the corridor the first time she had heard Sara's voice slip from its smooth, cultured casing and smack, unchecked, against the frosted glass panes of Roger's over-sized office — the reflexive nick of protectiveness she had felt for poor Roger with his asthma inhaler and his failed marriage and his hot-cold streaks, mostly cold lately, though not yet indicative of low overall worth — had quietly, mysteriously disappeared. In its place, a sadistic (or was it now masochistic?) bent, also disturbing, but every day less so: she had begun to think only of Sara, pissed off and jagged, and how much she wanted to fuck that particular version of her. Things had gotten so bad that, at the first sign of fallout, she would pass Roger's office nearly five times in as many minutes, a routine voyeur aching for glimpses of pressed pantsuit and sleek up-do. Sometimes Sara caught up with her after, smirking knowingly, and Erin, who had once thought of saying something vaguely condemning, could only focus on lips and teeth and the cool brush of Sara's fingertips at the base of her neck.

The agent put the manuscript down. "It's a little different from your other stuff, Thomas. So. They're lesbians, then?"

"Well, that's not really the--"

"Interesting. Interesting. Do they explore the sensual mystery of each other's--"

"That's not-- I mean, it's more metaphorical. It's about--"

"Any pictures?"

"Pictures? This isn't--" Pynchon shook his head. Penguin's merger with Penthouse wasn't going well.

"This could make a truckload of money."

On the other hand, maybe he could get some pictures.

Opening: hepkath.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 221

Caption: WO/Writtenwyrdd

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Face-Lift 568

Guess the Plot


1. When rocker Davy Spanks dies, Spanks imitator Elroy attempts the ultimate tribute show – and gets mistaken for Davy, accused of faking his own death. Now Elroy must lead Davy's mercurial girlfriend and bickering bandmates on their reunion tour. Even worse, Elroy is beginning to suspect that Davy did fake his own death.

2. In this light-hearted mystery for the picture book set, Silly Chicken dodges falling acorns and thinks the world is ending, but ace detective Shamrock Holmes, the cleverest frog in Ireland, suspects a certain rascally squirrel is responsible. But how can he prove it?

3. Tina Spark sends her poodle out to pee just as the giant Space Globe descends from a cloud and hovers over the back yard. Thousands of tiny parachutes pop out of hatches in the Globe and float down to earth. By the time Tina opens the door to call Fluff in, the grass is teeming with squeaky little blue creatures. Is it wrong to let the dog eat them?

4. It's up to homicide detective Zack Martinez to unmask the culprit responsible for the horrors at Baskerville Manor. He decides to channel Sherlock Holmes and heads to Reggie's Pipe 'N Tweed for a new outfit, where he is nearly taken prisoner by scheming socialite Pamela Bassett. Can his new butler keep this wonton creature occupied long enough for Zack to solve the murder? Or will wedding bells soon be ringing?

5. Every year the Fodellan people sacrifice one of their unmarried youth to the god Ban-Har-Gran. Zula has been selected, and so prepares to meet her god. But Jamaris loves her, and the thought of her death is to much for him to bear. Will he rescue Zula, condemning their people to doom?

6. Alexandra escapes Jezebel and the bad crowd she'd become a part of, and forms bonds of friendship with a new group, joining their struggling band. When one of their own dies, the band plays a song in tribute. Hey, they had to do something . . . but was the Chicken Dance really the most appropriate song?

Original Version

Dear [AGENT]:

When sarcastic firebrand Alexandra Laurence joins up with the wrong crowd of kids, she hardly notices the path of destruction her rebellion instigates.

Life changes dramatically for Alex, however, when the gang of defiant teenagers demands retribution for the school's expulsion of one of their members. Alex chafes under the control of her volatile leader, Jezebel Collins, while acting as an unwilling puppet in the plot for revenge. When a violent betrayal shatters her existing world, [It takes no more words to say, "When Jezebel's goons murder Alex's best friend," thus providing us with specific information.] Alex finds herself in a new environment, new school, and a new life. [Finds herself? Did her family move? Was she beamed in the Star Trek transporter? Tell us.] [Topic for discussion: Which is more likely to malfunction: the transporter or the holodeck?] It takes a faulty reinvention of her identity, [What does that mean?] a struggling band, and the reentrance of Jake Garrison, one night’s bad memory, before Alex decides to try and find herself once again. [She just found herself in the last sentence.] In the process, she determines her true identify [Identity. I'm starting to wonder if she really was beamed to her new world in a transporter, one that stole her memory.] and discovers a group of friends with a similar passion for music and devotion to the people they love. Together, Alex and her peers face the harsh reality and angst of modern high school life while forging a bond that proves strong enough to survive even the most painful of experiences: the death of one of their own. [

Many novels emphasize the hyperboles of teenage life, but in actuality the bookstores are becoming devoid of works depicting the true reality of today's high school generation. [If this agent needs you to tell her what's in bookstores, she's the wrong agent.] This 130,000-word work, mainstream young adult fiction, covers the trials, emotions, and events that comprise today's high school experiences while examining the stereotypes and clichés that apply to an age group in constant motion and grasping for independence.

My own teenage years have been spent growing up in a materialistic, commanding, and judgmental society, which has given me firsthand experience to incorporate into this work. [Translation: I am uniquely qualified to write about teenagers because I am one. I suggest keeping that to yourself for the time being.] While not yet published, I have attended multiple workshops and received excellent reviews on this piece from teachers, peers, and aspiring writers. I have also completed two other books and am in the process of writing a sequel to this work, a planned series of four. [If it's 130,000 words, you've already written the sequel.]

Please let me know if you are interested in reading Tribute or receiving a more descriptive synopsis. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience.


[Note to EE (not part of the query; got it minions? NOT part of the query.): The title of the novel comes into play in the last chapter, which involves the group playing a song as a kind of accolade (or tribute) to their friend, which is hinted on within the query, but not fully expressed.]


Your first sentence is set off from the rest of the query as if it's the main hook. Yet it seems this is just setup, and the story really begins after Alex somehow gets to her new world, in which case there's no reason the sentence needs a paragraph to itself.

Terms like path of destruction, volatile leader, violent betrayal, unwilling puppet are better suited to a political thriller than a book about high school angst. If you want to convince an agent you are the person to write about high school kids, talk like a high school kid. And not the one who always aces his vocab tests.

Even if a large part of the book takes place in Alex's original world, a brief mention is plenty. Something like:

When Alexandra Laurence's family move to Charleston, Alex sees it as a chance to start her high school life over, this time avoiding the clique of terrorists she fell in with in Atlanta.


When sarcastic firebrand Alexandra Laurence awakens one morning to find herself in an alternate universe, she decides it's the perfect time to join a rock band.

I'm assuming the main plot isn't Alex versus Jezebel, as moving away would not be a good way to resolve things. I'm assuming the main plot is Alex starting over, so concentrate on that. Is there a villain in that part? Is there conflict? Is it the story of how these kids handle the death? Was the dead kid's blood drained? Because with the Twilight series over, the bookstores are becoming devoid of works depicting the true reality of today's high school vampire generation. Focus on the most important part of the plot. And ditch the biography.

Cartoon 220

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

New Beginning 553

You never want to win a contest on a Friday night in the emergency room. The prize rarely comes with a good prognosis. Most stitches required to repair a wound. Oldest nursing home refugee. Number of security guards called to subdue a psychotic outburst. The main event, however, is always the competition for highest blood alcohol content. And on weekends the field grows crowded with serious contenders.

The highest number recorded that night was 483. At levels above four hundred, the brainstem usually throws its hands in the air and gives up, leading to a loss of respiratory function, coma, and rapidly approaching death. This threshold applies to most people who land in the ER with alcohol poisoning, like keg-standing frat boys or bored housewives who go a bit overboard with their mid-afternoon martinis and Vicodin. But for guys who make serious drinking a lifelong occupation, the ones whose hearts don't so much pump blood as sluggishly marinate in it, such stratospheric quantities of liquor in the blood can be compatible with life.

These men are the ER doctors, pickled and stewed but still on their feet, diagnosing and treating those who try to reach their heights but fail every time. In the world of competitive drinking, they are unmatched, reaching blood alcohol levels that would drop a horse. How do they achieve such numbers?

Find out tonight, as 20/20 investigates.

Opening: Benwah.....Continuation: Mignon

Cartoon 219

Caption: writtenwyrdd

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Pirate-Speak Eulogy 6

Having just polished off a full bottle of rum, I suppose I could be excused for walking into the first building I saw, hoping to spot a bathroom where I could puke my guts out. How was I to know there'd be a ceremony in progress? I wasn't sure what kind of ceremony, but I was sure these people needed a little cheering up. You'd have thought someone had died.

Anyway, when the guy up front asked if anyone wanted to say a few words about Larry, I was just drunk enough to assume he meant Larry McMurtry, and of course I always have something to say about Murch, so I stumbled to the front. My decision to talk like a pirate seemed appropriate, as Murch always called me a pirate for taking my fifteen percent. I always told him, if your agent be worth fifteen percent, I should be gettin' thirty, as I be the one that makes your crap readable, ye scurvy dog. He hates when I talk like a pirate.

I faced the audience. "Arrrgh," I began, a glob of phlegm flying out of my throat and landing in the lap of a woman seated front and center. "If that son of a sea biscuit Larry was here, he'd be the first to admit I made him what he is today. Where be the old dog, anyway?"

The woman in the front, who had attempted to wipe my phlegmball off her dress, but had merely succeeded in smearing it into a glistening patch the size of an ass cheek, cried, "He's right there!" She pointed at a casket, which I now noticed for the first time.

"Larry be dead?" I said. I couldn't believe it. I opened the casket, and that's when the rum decided to return from the depths to which I'd sent it. I barfed all over Larry. Except it wasn't Murch after all. It was Larry Higgenbottom, the guy who delivered pastries to my office.

I turned to the people and said, "Sorry, too much grog I been drinkin'." They didn't look any happier now than when I'd started.

And I wasn't too happy myself, realizing I'd have to do without my prune danish tomorrow morning.

--Evil Editor

Pirate-Speak Eulogy 5

The mutton-chopped old man stepped on the dais and cleared his throat. He glanced at the prepared eulogy waiting for him on the lectern.

“What the…” he muttered. “Arr, this here be codswallop,” He picked up the speech and flung it into the room. “The scurvy dog that thought me read this bilge need be keelhauled.” The man who calls himself Evil Editor glared at the room full of mourners. “Jack were me bucko’ an’ he be the worst scallywag that me e’er know. He be known fer fightin’ sprogs an’ shirkin’ his duties. He be the best in pillagin’ an’ wenchin’ an’ drinkin’, a fine matey.

Gasps arose from the attendees, a elderly lady fainted. Finally, two men rose and rushed the deranged speaker.

“Get him out of here.” Someone screamed

A tall, young women stood, “Belay that.”

Mouths gaped as the mourners turned to her.

“Release the scoundrel I say.” She said

“Victoria what’s gotten into to you?” the black veiled widow said. “Why are you speaking like that Disney film?”

Victoria turned to EE, “Thank-ye, fer gi’in’ me da a proper sendoff. Me step-ma ne’er understood why me da wanted this here memorial on September 19th. She not believe that da were a gentleman o’ fortune.”


Pirate-Speak Eulogy 4

And finally, dear friends, as proof that religion does not inevitably lead to nobility of soul and purity of motive—and that not all piratical communication involves such terms as “Aaargh!” and “Me hearties!” and “Yo! Ho! Ho!”—let me quote from one of the most distinguished, indeed, notorious, clergymen of Colonial American times:

There be now at sea a ship called Welcome, which has on board 100 or more of the heretics and malignants called Quakers, with W. Penn, who is the chief scamp, at the head of them. The General Court has accordingly given sacred orders to Master Malachi Huscott, of the brig Porpoise, to waylay the said Welcome slyly as near the Cape of Cod as may be, and make captive the said Penn and his ungodly crew, so that the Lord may be glorified and not mocked on the soil of this new country with the heathen worship of these people. Much spoil can be made of selling the whole lot to Barbadoes, where slaves fetch good prices in rum and sugar and we shall not only do the Lord great good by punishing the wicked, but we shall make great good for His minister and people.

Yours in the bowels of Christ,

Cotton Mather

--Quoted by tal from Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian

Pirate-Speak Eulogy 3

On this day, a hornpipe blow, and sing a shanty dirge. our dear departed Matey, Willie Momfred lies dead. I come to sing his lauds and celebrate his revelries.

Fair Winds greet ye, Willie me matey. Ye struck the colors for the last time. From your first fulsome days as a sprog to your days on the futtock shrouds, you became a right, good Jack Tar and rose to be boson and Capt'n. The wild waves bore hard upon ye and yer ship and yet, ye believed not in black spots, curses and evil eyes, but the bountiful, goodness of lady luck and the sea. No curse by Neptune gave ye travail when raisin' the Jolly Roger and searching' the seven seas for swaggy brigantines and booty-filled square-riggers.

Fair Winds greet ye, Willie me matey. Deep below, in clear blue waters lies me bucko, Willie Momfred.

Yesterday, Willie swung the lead the last time an' we filled his bunghole with gunpowder to blast the devil spirits away. We pickled his carcass in a half-filled hogshead of the finest rum and lowered him to Davy Jones' Locker, an' Npetune's royal realm. There Willie can rest with the booty of ages in the company of great whales and the giant leviathan that haunts the depths and scours the seas for scallywags and curs.

Fair Winds greet ye, Willie me matey. Neptune issue ye Letters of Marque. Ye are now a privateer on the blowing winds of specters, ghosts, and spirits. No Northeaster will harm ye. May the reefs fall before ye, ye old sea dog, and may ye weigh anchor, raise the mizzen mast and sail the seven seas. Fair Winds greet ye, Willie me matey.

--Dave F.

Pirate-Speak Eulogy 2

“I feel for his family, if not for his fans,” said Evil Editor at the podium. “I don't know why I was called to eulogize him. Perhaps he's trying to write my life like one of his trashy novels. John Grisham was--”

“Pssst.” The minister beckoned Evil.

“What? I'm doing a freaking eulogy here.” The minister whispered in Evil's ear. “It's not John Grisham? Who the hell is it?” The minister whispered again. “You have clues but no name? Arrgh!” EE's head spun around and he snatched the minister's notes. “I be a professional. Arrr!”

Evil faced the crowd again.“Blimey. Ya won' rattle an old sea dog like me. The wench or scurvy dog what walked the plank is...” Evil looked at the note “...a pompous gasbag.” He turned back towards the minister. “It be you!”

A voice came from the crowd. “Nyo wits woo!” Talpianna spit the dagger from her mouth. “No, it's you, Evil!” She raised two zombie moles by the scruff of their necks. They hissed at Evil.

“Arrr! Arrr! Arrr!...I like the sound of that,” said Dave.


“Ye're takin' the long walk off the short pier,” said Dave.

“Plank,” said Tal.

“--short plank,” said Dave.

“So...” said Evil. “This be mutiny is it? Who be straightening your mangy dangling participles after I be gone?”

“Outsource him! Outsource him!” said someone other than Bill H. “Twenty-four hour blog updates.”

“So, ye think Indian bloggists can replace me?” Evil searched the room. “Et tu Robin? Et tu?”

Robin doubled over in tears. “Yes. Twenty-four hour blog updates.”

“Fine, I'll walk yer plank.”

Tal led Evil into the Narthex. “Surprise! Surprise! Happy 1,200,000th hit!” The rest of the minions in the narthex raised a pint o' grog.

“You got me that time.”

--Bill H.

Pirate-Speak Eulogy 1

‘And blessèd be mine minions,’ cried Evil, swaggering across the poop. ‘Aha, me hearties, thou art briney-eyed and muchly rummed of spunk.’

‘Punk. Punk. Punk. Aaaaark.’

He stroked the ageing parrot perched on the cliché of his shoulder — gently, as it only had one leg.

‘Mine timbers wert ever a-shiver, when ‘pon the Sabbath, their precious bounty they didst deliver.’


‘And with sails a-set each dawn of ever morrows, mine bluest beard didst sublimest quiver whene’er, from yon booty locker, aloft, I hoisted Jimladdiest of scrolls. Bountiful treasure maps, aaaaar, drawn by rubied souls.’

Evil’s gaze settled on the tip of his question mark hook. He licked his lips and peered into the glaring sunlight through phantom eyepatches.

‘I didst truly, for their ears, a heartiest beseech a-cry — yet for what, mine selfless plunder? Yon Blog Of The Century Award? Yon luxury cruise?’

‘Aaaaaark! Agachooobabe.’

Evil dashed the parrot’s brains against the hull with the relentless rhythm of Johnny Depp testing his lips for puckeriness in a mirror.

Then he was sick, empty saliva sick.

Ten years to train that bird.


Wiping his mouth, Evil turned to face the island.

‘Brigands of the night, I say: thou wilt not take them. Thou wilt not, into thy sargassoes foul, subsume mine only cargo.’

He called out again and again, till his whispers floated as flotsam and jetsam on the silence. In the lifeboat’s lurid husk, he breathed his final shanty.





Saturday, September 20, 2008

Saturday Film Series

Summer's almost gone. What better way to spend its last few hours than in the comfort of Evil Editor's Shorts?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cartoon 218

Caption: Kiersten

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Face-Lift 567

Guess the Plot

Planet Fall

1. Trying to find a place where she fits in, Autumn leaves Planet Sun and ends up on Planet Fall. She loves the remarkable beauty of leaves forever in oranges and reds, and is at peace. But when the frosts come unanounced and unwelcome, she must confront the witches of winter if she is going to protect her perfect world.

2. Emma is enjoying her time on the planet Jellybean, because it gets her away from men. Men. They're such bastards. Then she learns that the Jellies plan to castrate every man on Earth. Emma thinks that wouldn't be so bad. Should she warn Earth that sex is in danger of becoming a distant memory?

3. Goldie tries Planet Winter but it's too cold. She tries Planet Summer but it's too hot. Planet Spring reminds her too much of California because it attracts the preternaturally young and beautifully superficial from throughout the Cosmos. But Goldie strikes, well, gold on Planet Fall. Also strange EZF’s (Evil Zombie Females).

4. When his interstellar space car breaks down, Thor Jones drinks tea with mystic wise guy Obi Chobi Gobi, until an army of giant ants swarms over the horizon and carries Screaming Mimi away. Can Thor and his new sidekick, the barking space rat Whiskers, follow the trail of frayed bikini scraps and find the anthill in time to save her from certain doom at the mandibles of these diabolical insects?

5. Jillian is hoping her new boutique, Planet Fall, will be a showcase for her classic designs. Honore is a gay jewelry designer whose elegant creations have become a hallmark for Jillian. Ned is their bisexual lover--and landlord. Can they all find happiness?

6. High above an Earth ravaged by pollution and disease, refugees of the human race live in clusters of space stations. Julia Sky has lived all her life looking down at the once blue planet. But while playing hooky from her astronomy class, she tumbles to a secret that may allow this tiny community to survive the trip back down the gravity well to the planet's surface. Also, a robot dog.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

All Emma wants is to be alone and far from men but when she finds out that aliens plan to castrate every man on Earth [Bells and whistles and red flags fill the air as Evil Editor starts to consider whether this might be a hoax query letter.] she has to choose between preserving her precious solitude and saving mankind. [Is this really that tough a decision? Ice cream or cake is a tough decision. Save mankind or don't seems pretty easy.] My science-fiction novel Planet Fall is 75,000 words long.

Emma is on Jellybean [We've just shot up from fifty percent possibility it's a hoax to ninety percent.] studying the colour/gesture language of the friendly natives and enjoying the distance between her and the rest of the human race, especially the male part of it. That is, until David is sent to assist her. [When you send someone to Jellybean, how long is it before he actually gets there?] Through him the Jellies find out about the Earth's war-torn history [Blabbermouth.] and they decide to help out. Their solution is to engineer a virus that will interfere with the production of testosterone in humans; then they will release it into Earth's atmosphere. [What? What about the Prime Directive? True, we never obey it, but that's because our bodies are coursing with testosterone.]

David is horrified. If the virus is released then sex will cease; the human drive to explore will vanish; [the porn industry will be in ruins, destroying the world economy;] and human societies based on the subjugation of women will be turned upside down. [Horrors.] Emma thinks that's not all bad until she discovers that the Jellies have already infected her and David without their knowledge. [Apparently it took them twenty minutes to engineer the virus.] Now it's not just men that she doesn't trust. [It's also Jelly.] Communications with Earth have gone down so it is up to her and David to find a way to stop the Jellies from releasing the plague onto the Earth.

The problem is that if they succeed then the Jellies will send them back home. And they are infected. [A minor problem compared to if they fail.]

Please let me know if you would like to see [whatever I'm not enclosing, depending on the publisher's guidelines]. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Yours sincerely,


I was hoping it was a hoax so I wouldn't have to do any work, but no such luck.

"Jellybean" sounds like a planet in a book for people who wouldn't normally be reading about castration, because they're six years old. Once we've learned to communicate with the Jellies, wouldn't we ask them what they call their planet?

What do Jellies look like? The blob?

So, Emma thinks it might not be so bad to infect the entire Earth without telling anyone, but when they infect her without telling her, she's ready to go to war. Or she would be, if she had any testosterone in her.

Being infected doesn't destroy her drive to save humanity by thwarting the Jellies' plan?

I note that you withhold the reason Emma is down on men. We might be more sympathetic if we knew what happened.

The communication/transportation between Jellybean and Earth suggests they aren't far apart. Just where is Jellybean?

Cartoon 217

Caption: Khazar-khum

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

New Beginning 552

In the crisp, clear, moonless night, the quiet majesty of the stars mocked the firework's feeble imitation that had welcomed the New Year a few hours earlier. Now, natural beauty reigned in the tranquility of the rolling Central Texas landscape, except at the angry chancre of light pollution that was the Seguin Unit. The ugly, yellow-orange lights of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice maximum-security prison obliterated even the brightest star.

Located miles from the nearest town on a small farm-to-market road a mile or so from a main highway, that orange glow made passing motorists uneasy even before they saw the lighted billboards warning drivers that stopping, or even slowing, would result in a ticket.

Motorists who turned off the farm to market road into the prison's two-lane driveway were confronted by a new string of ominous yellow warnings. Not only would carrying firearms or tobacco into the prison result in criminal prosecution, but anyone who passed that point would now be subject to strip searches.

Officer Mark Clotell gave a sardonic glance at the ever-increasing speedometer as his flashing brights shattered like rubies off the rear light clusters of the Cadillac in front of--

Murdoch picked up the phone and dialed. "Dammit, Merril, whose freaking idea was it to get Bill Shatner to voice-over the new series of America's Worst Offenders?" --anon.

Opening: Reb Bacchus.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 216

Caption: writtenwyrdd

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Face-Lift 566

Guess the Plot

Miss Midas

1. Jackie is known as 'Miss Midas' at the brokerage because so many of her stock picks are profitable. She has a secret--a time traveller from 2017 who gives her the annual reports. Can she prevent the Great Depression of 2015 while maintaining her own net worth?

2. Transferring to a new alchemy school in the middle of the term is tough on Carrie Nickel. She's got no chemistry with her classmates and all of her experiments fizzle. In an attempt to win friends, she cooks up a plot to win the homecoming title of Miss Midas. But when it comes to melting the leaden heart of the golden boy quarterback, will she learn that all it takes is a simple touch?

3. Leila brings golden luck to everyone she meets, but her own life is a wreck. When she escapes to a secluded cottage, her gift transforms her wacky, unhappy neighbors' lives. But can she win over Pablo, the hunky gardener, before her Midas touch reunites him with his long-lost sweetheart?

4. Desperate to win the heart of Brandon, Jane wishes for supernatural help . . . and gets it. Now any guy she touches falls head over heels for her. But Jane happens to touch a lot of guys besides Brandon, and they'll go to any lengths to get her. Can Jane learn to control her power before it costs her the one guy she wants?

5. She divorced him after he killed the kids by turning them into gold statuary. Remarried to a slacker, the impoverished former Queen of Pessinus is down to her kids’ last gold toenails, with no other source of income on the horizon. Dare she admit that she might...Miss Midas?

6. No woman has ever entered the Mr. Midas Contest, a grueling competition sponsored by a national chain of muffler and brake shops. Enter Julie, the target of ceaseless harassment as the only female mechanic in her uncle's franchise. Can she prove that her brake lines are as impressive as her bustline?

Original Version

Dear Agent,

All Jane Mitchell wanted was a way to win Brandon Drake’s heart—she never intended for it to be as effortless as a single touch. [It's always that effortless, if you choose the right place to touch.] Especially not when Brandon isn’t the only one who falls head over heels in love, but every guy her hands come in contact with. [An awkward sentence, and an unneeded one.] Complete at 64,000 words, Miss Midas is a contemporary YA novel with a touch of magic.

Jane is proudly entrenched in the "Middle" social strata at Avery High School. But when glamorous Caralina Guererro of the Top Strata lures Brandon into her world, the Middle is suddenly a very bad place to be. Distraught by her failed attempts to win Brandon, Jane makes a desperate wish for some supernatural help in catching a guy’s heart.

Jane gets her man all right, but she quickly realizes that, with her new Midas touch, any and every guy could fall for her. [She immediately thinks, What am I doing hanging around this cow town? and heads for Hollywood to seek out George Clooney.] However, Caralina isn’t giving up on Brandon so easily. When her tactics get dirty, Jane decides to use her powers to dethrone Caralina once and for all. And, as if things weren’t complicated enough, all those guys Jane has touched have plans of their own, and they’re willing to go to great lengths to get her. [And this is a bad thing how?] Jane must somehow control her power, and her life, before she loses the one thing she wanted in the first place: Brandon Drake.

(Personalized agent info.) I would be happy to send you the manuscript at your request. Thank you so much for your time.



I like the idea. It would work for an adult romance novel as well, I think. The query is a bit disorganized; I think the plot reads better as follows:

Dear Agent,

All Jane Mitchell wanted was to win Brandon Drake’s heart—but she never dreamed it would be as effortless as a single touch. Complete at 64,000 words, Miss Midas is a contemporary YA novel with a "touch" of magic.

Jane is happily entrenched in the "Middle" social strata at Avery High School--until glamorous Caralina Guererro of the Top strata lures Brandon into her world. Suddenly the Middle is a gloomy, lonely place. Distraught by her failed attempts to win Brandon, Jane makes a desperate wish for supernatural help.

Jane gets her wish all right, but she quickly realizes that with her new "Midas touch," every guy she comes in contact with will go to any lengths to get her. Not quite what she wanted. And what's worse, Caralina isn’t giving up on Brandon. When her tactics turn dirty, Jane decides to dethrone Caralina once and for all, before losing the one thing she wanted in the first place: Brandon Drake.


That's a bit short; you might want to include a specific example of Caralina's dirty tactics and/or an example of the hilarity that ensues when every guy in the school wants Jane.

I'm not sure whether Jane learns a valuable lesson or whether it's expected in YA that the main character should do so, but beyond the Be careful what you wish for lesson, It's not clear Jane has the right to complain about Caralina's dirty tactics when her own tactics involve a magic spell. And considering that Brandon is the type who is attracted to the glamorous Caralina while ignoring the more grounded and more deserving Jane, who needs him anyway? If she succeeds in dethroning Caralina, great, but if her Midas touch wins her Brandon and she's happy with a guy who's with her only because of magic, maybe not so great.

Cartoon 215

Caption: Kiersten

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Face-Lift 565

Guess the Plot

Cliquing on Time

1. Susan hates her high school, where everyone is organized into cliques. But in Dateline High, the clicks are organized by time, and somehow she got stuck with the 2 AM crowd, which means they are always, always asleep. But Susan has her sights set on high noon, and she won't stop until she's clawed her way out of the sleepers and into the lunch date crowd.

2. The popular girls torment Andrea about her relentless punctuality. Cute geek Dan breaks out in hives whenever she's near. High school is tough for an android. When a disaster hits, can Andrea save the day, put the cliques in their place, and win the love of a boy with a metal allergy?

3. Detective Morris Night of the Minneapolis Police Department has been handed a crucial assignment: find out why local teenagers are suddenly disappearing in droves. Night uncovers a new, memory-erasing designer drug, street-named "Time." In a troubled city, can Night stop Time before time runs out?

4. Unpopular band geek, Hermitrude, obsessed with cuckoo clocks and stopwatches, schemes and murders to secure herself a place in the popular clique at her elementary school.

5. At the Texas maximum security prison, the men doing hard time have formed cliques: murderers, rapists, drug dealers, gang members . . . Now they've suddenly found themselves on a raw new world where their survival depends on cooperation. Can these societal misfits choose a leader and work together, or will chaos reign?

6. Twelve-year-old Mefistia Wrench downloads an Internet computer game, Tiempo No Molestame. She and her girlfriends start playing the game together online, but each girl's world changes with each move. The game then announces that only one can return home. Will Mefistia return to her proper time? And what of her friends?

Original Version

No one at the Texas maximum security prison knew what happened in the small hours of New Year's Day as their regimented world spun into chaos. Murderers, rapists, gang members, drug dealers, and "freeworlders" collided with each other and with nature on a raw, new world. [Whattaya mean, a raw new world? Have they gone back in time to one million B.C. ? Or was there an earthquake that killed the guards and left the place in rubble? Tell us where they are.]

[Rapist: Where the hell are we?

Drug dealer: I don't know, but it smells bad, and there are strange noises emanating from that canyon.

Murderer: Isn't it obvious? We've somehow been transported to Uranus.]

Community would be redefined by the antisocial. Slowly, order, and even romance, emerged, stumbling amid dire setbacks in the tragicomedy of life. [Huh?]

Ultimately, does survival depend more on overcoming the brutality of nature or overcoming the nature of the brutal? [Trying too hard to be clever, I think. "Overcoming the nature of the brutal" is clunky.]

During my thirteen years as a volunteer in a Texas maximum security prison, [When you're doing twenty to life and you ask them to let you work in the prison library, does that make you a volunteer?] I have made a number of close friends; most, I pray will never come visit me. [Sounds kinda like me and my minions.] I have used composites of my friends to create characters who have captivated even skeptical readers. In showing these characters struggling to survive on an empty clone of Earth, I portrayed them positively but also realistically and honestly.

The positive responses to my first book surprised me. Looking for feedback from the maximum number of readers, I submitted it to Baen Book's unofficial slush pile. The response was so positive that mine was the first and perhaps the only unofficial submission to make it to Mr. Bean's desk. [Mr. Bean's desk?] [Thanks a lot. I just blew two hours watching Mr. Bean pantomime skits on Youtube.] He had asked to see the second book in my series before he would commit, but he died before I finished editing it. [Yep, that sounds like a Mr. Bean plot.] With Mr. Baen gone, I'm unwilling to submit the over 330K word series to anyone without an agent. [Are you saying your willingness to submit to a publisher was dependent on Mr. Baen's survival? Intriguing. But not as intriguing as if your willingness to submit to a publisher was dependent on Mr. Bean's survival.]

One last personal note: "a man's got to know his limitations," and I know that any competent agent could write a better query than I. I've researched you carefully; I understand and value the talents an agent of your caliber provides for a storyteller.

Thank you for your time and careful consideration.


Instead of concluding with a note about how your query sucks, why not improve it? You're writing a business letter to an agent. It needs to include a clear description of your book's plot. Your premise is that the inmates in a maximum security prison find themselves on an empty clone of Earth. I assume there's an explanation, so what is it?

Which prisoner is the main bad guy, the one who prevents anything from getting done? In what way is nature brutal here? Describe the hardships the "good guys" have to overcome with a couple specific examples.

An agent is unlikely to care that your book once made it out of an unofficial slush pile.

Drop the Baen paragraph and the following one and you'll have plenty of room to tell us what happens in your book in the plain language you would use if we were sitting on opposite sides of a bulletproof window on visitors day. What's the situation, who are the key characters, what's keeping them from attaining their goal?

Cartoon 214

Caption: Writtenwyrdd/Kiersten

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Pedicure 11

The gray-haired grouse toddled in, unannounced, sidling his way up to my booth with nary a look hither or yon. He wanted me--to polish and carve his toenails, grind down his plantar callus and assorted clavi.

His nerves must have sought out mine in a misguided sense of camaradarie--but mine were the shivery jittering of first-day employment at Rebekah's Ped y Man; where his were obviously in pain from too much contact with inferior writing. For yes, I did recognize The Evil Editor Himself--though I hoped he did not recognize me, could not smell my failed manuscripts ink-stained on my hands.

I kept my face averted even as he ascended the throne where I would service him.

“Hah,” he cried. “As overblown an introduction as ever; though what's with the sudden shyness? No need to be coy—attend me!”

Too much to hope his ratty eyes and eagle mind would not recognize me. I could not even look up to see the response from my co-workers, so mortified was I.

Arms atremble, head bowed, I grabbed my pumice stone and set forth to remove my frustrations from his feet. Propping his left foot up in the stirrup and removing his sandal, though, I saw not dead skin but a shimmery darkness like onyx caked to his feet. He laughed at my sudden hesitation.

“The souls of those that I have crushed. No matter, they will soon be gone. Just scrub hard. Put your back into it.”

And so I did, imagining his foot an unpolished manuscript, and I—I, the editor.

--Kaolin Fire

Pedicure 10

“What brings you to Mobile?”

“I’m here for a writer’s conference.” EE untied his shoes.

Deb’s eyes brightened. “You write?”

“I edit. Look I have a headach…”

“You edit?! Wow, HEY PEARLINE, this guy’s a editor.” She pointed. “Pearline’s wrote a book. She’s been lookin’ for a editor.” With a sinking feeling, EE tried not to look.

“Oh hell no she didn’t,” Pearline said under her breath. She picked something up off the counter and started in their direction.

“Pearl,” Jen looked up from the drawer.

OH MY GOD how do I get myself into these situations EE raged inwardly. Now in stocking feet.

He removed his socks as she shoved the manuscript under his nose.

“Sweet baby Jesus toes, them are the prettiest feet I seen in a coon’s age!” Pearline exclaimed. Up close the rest of him looked pretty good too.

A Dog by Any Other Name: The Truth About the Southern Male. EE was intrigued by the title and opened to page one.

“I mean I been lookin’ at feet a long time. Perfect cuticles. Mr., I ain’t seen feet like yours since I done Audry Hepburn’s.”

EE read: While it is a fact well known to women the world over that most men will at least attempt a pretense at civility upon first meeting, this is not so of the southern male. He would rather dry-hump your leg. “Your first sentence is a bit long, but your thesis is clear. EE’s my name.”

“Pearline,” she said

“May I take this back to my room for a further look." EE felt a stirring. "You may have something here.”

“Only if you’ll let me get a picture of those feet.”

“Pearline, if I promised not to dry-hump your leg, would you join me for dinner at the Marriott?”

“Mr., I’d love that.”

"Pick you up at six."


Pedicure 9

It was her first day on the job. The job she had dreamed of since she graduated from massage school and beauty school. The massage school was her idea. If she was going to give manicures and pedicures, she wanted to be the best. But that would only come after word got out about her skill at relaxing people and New York had a lot of people who needed to relax.

Her first customer was an elderly gentleman with gray muttonchops and a scowl etched into his face. It wasn’t her turn, but all the other girls disappeared when he walked in. He followed her to her station where she knelt down to remove his shoes and socks and rolled his pant legs up. She ran the pan with soaking water. He was still scowling so she added some lavender oil to the warm water.

The water did the trick and his scowl softened. She took his feet out and dried them tenderly. The massage oil warmed in her hands as she rubbed them together. He sighed softly when she began massaging his feet. It sent a tiny tremor through her body.

Control yourself.

She continued to rub his feet and kneaded the soles of his feet gently. Each toe received special care. He sighed again.

It was all she could do to keep from leaning over and kissing them, She longed to suck each perfect toe into her mouth.

She forced herself to hurry and finish the pedicure. He tried to give her a twenty-dollar tip, but she waved him off. “I’m new here. First pedicure is free.”

She walked outside to get some air and cool off. This wasn’t the perfect job, it was hell. How long would she be able to control her toe fetish?

--Julie Weathers

Pedicure 8

I tell ya, I was real scared. First job since I quit Wal-Mart.

Dunno what I was expecting. Grandmothers, I guess. Wrinkly and soapy and whiny. So when this guy walks in, I'm thinking what is this? Yeah, he was old — but a real looker.

My boss said talk about the weather. Anything, anything but politics. So I says nice day and he says yeah, and it’s real weird, but before I know it I'm telling him about some book I read in high school. Dunno why. Then he asks me how long I've been a pedicure girl. Normally, I woulda lied, but he seemed kinda nice so I told the truth. He said I was good for a beginner, and made some clever joke I didn’t understand, but I laughed anyway. Then he did this funny wiggly thing with his toes and I had to tell him to stop ‘cos my ribs hurt real bad.

Strange, though. I could see there was something on his mind. Sure, while I buffed him up, the way he was talking, he coulda been sittin' in a coffee bar, telling me about his favourite TV shows and all kinda goofy stuff about his dog, but it was there, behind his eyes, like a sad, sad secret. All locked away.

I shouldn’t have, I know, but as he left, I had to ask him, ‘you OK?’
‘Fine,’ he says, and smiles, but we both kinda knew. Then he asks, ‘you here next Monday?’ So I nod and he heads for the desk.

After that, it was grandmothers. Grandmothers and crazy bimbos. When I got out at six I ran straight for a bar. But I figure I’ll stick it a while. 9.15 Monday sounds fine, right now.


Pedicure 7

I smiled pleasantly at the mutton-chopped man sitting in the chair in front of me. To be honest, guys getting pedicures always creep me out a bit, but hey, a tip’s a tip. So, smiling a little bigger, I looked down at his feet.

“What the…” Glad I was wearing gloves, I reached forward and pulled something from between his toes. “Sir, is this—is this a letter from a keyboard?”

He glanced down. “Oh, yeah. I’ve been looking for X.”

Usually I try not to ask questions about what I find between people’s toes, but I just had to. “How did it get stuck there?”

He leaned back, motioning me to start the soak. “Well, I was always telling writers that a monkey with a keyboard could write a better novel. Then I was fighting with Grisham, that old idiot, and I told him I could probably hack out a better novel typing blindly with my toes. Last weekend Top Chef was reruns, so I decided to do just that.”

“You wrote a novel with your toes?”

He laughed. “Yeah. Turns out I was right—just sold it at auction in a three book deal.”

Shocked, I started trimming. It wasn’t pretty.

“Hey, watch it!” he grumbled. “Random House just insured these toes for three million. As a matter of fact…” he said, pausing thoughtfully, “writing that novel was a lot of work. Have you ever considered a career in insurance fraud?”

“Will I have to look at your feet again?”


I thought about it for a minute. “Do I have to read the novel?”

“Of course.”

I sighed. “Nevermind then. Just don’t stiff me on the tip,” I said, as I offered him a choice between clear and buff polish.


Pedicure 6

Toesies and Posies

Evil Editor sat in the pedicure seat in Elite Toesies and Posies, the finest pedicure/flower shop between Fifth and Seventh Street. “Why are there two of you?” said Evil.

“I'm trying for state certification for pedicurary; this is my examiner, Liz.”

“How many times must I tell you, pedicurary is not a word,” said Liz. “It's 'state certification for pedicurists.'"

Hmm, I like this pediwench, thought Evil Editor.

“Okay, let's see what we have here,” said Liz. “Please take off your socks, Mr. Editor....Oh, MY God. Put them back on!”

“See here, madam. I've paid my three bucks and I expect service.”

“All right.” Liz looked over the Evil toes. “Left great toe, paronychia, fungal infection, suggest client watch infomercials for dangerous cures; left second toe, onychia, inflamed matrix, possibly pathenogenic, suggest client take antibiotics; left middle toe, evident clubbing, suggest client see lung, liver and heart specialists; left fourth toe, Mee's lines, suggest client find new marital partner who won't feed him arsenic; left small toe, dark nail, suggest client add B12 to diet. Right great toe, nail impaled with ink pen nib, suggest client take anger management course; right second toe, ewww!, tinea unguium, infection similar to ringworm, suggest client go away; right middle toe, okay, but doesn't need pedicure procedure; right fourth toe-”

“Never mind, I'll just leave now,” said Evil Editor. “I've got to come up with some decent writing exercise topics and report a minion for wikipedia abuse.”

--Bill H.

Pedicure 4

"Welcome to the Crossed Cleavers Podiatric Clinic. Ward was never trimmed the piggies like this. And the three little piggies just couldn't imagine the comforts of a foot spa built into their houses. And Pigsy would never have traveled to the West with Monkey if his toes had bunions, corns or calluses."

"What's does literary nonsense have to do with feet?"

"Literary? It's like I have a manuscript with me. Allow me to undress your soon-to-be beautiful feet."

"I don’t wear socks." EE smoothed his gray sideburns.

"Kinky, dude, kinky! I promise not to expose your feet to split infinitives, adverbs and dangling participles, especially my dangling participle, waaah-hoooie."

"Were you born of gypsies with silly genes?" EE asked. The podiatrist snorted EE's cheesy sneakers.

"My family was the clown troop with Cirque Du Lichtenstein. They're ready to entertain; fat clowns, skinny clowns, sad clowns, bare-ass naked clowns and," he raised his hand and tooted.

EE raised his voice. "I want is my feet cleaned. I want my feet smelling like roses for an important picnic, and looking pretty too."

"Does it involve a poodle? Perhaps your date is a dog?" the man, smirking and barking like a lapdog.

EE leaned forward and bellowed at the podiatrist. "Take care of my feet!"

"Yes sir. Sorry sir. I'll do that sir." The podiatrist soaped up EE's feet to the ankles.

"I have water from the fabled Fountain of Youth for a slightly higher fee," the podiatrist asked obliquely.

"If I read your manuscript, will you shut up?"

"I'll sing your praises -- This little piggie wrote a novel, this little piggie wrote a query..."

"Pavarotti you ain't. No one shall sing tonight!" EE kicked the bucket. "You're all hat, no cattle!" He strode out of the clinic, shoeless and soggy.

--Dave F.

Pedicure 3

WELCOME TO TALPIANNA’S TOTAL TOE JOINT! read the sign above the door of the shop. It was impossible to see in: the windows were covered with ruffled taupe curtains. Gingerly, Evil Editor opened the door. Instead of the usual tinkling bell, a deep GONG! sounded from the depths of the salon.

A lovely young woman met him. “Hello! I’m Talpianna—and you’re our first customer! As a welcoming gift, you’ll receive the nail polish of your choice absolutely free. Do have a seat.” She gestured at a plush recliner that looked like a cross between a BarcaLounger and Sweeney Todd’s barber chair.

EE hesitated. “I’ve never done this before.”

Talpianna smiled. “We’ll be gentle with you. I’ve invented an entirely new method that I’m certain you’ll enjoy. It’s utterly luxurious. Do sit down.” She more or less shoved him into the chair. Cuffs whipped out automatically, immobilizing his feet, his legs, his arms, his entire body.

“Whaaaa-? Why am I tied down?”

“Not to worry,” she chirped. “We wouldn’t want any sudden moves now—they could lead to nasty accidents!” She drew back the taupe curtain at the back of the room, and ten moles came trotting in.

Evil Editor screamed.

“Now, now, mustn’t be a fraidy-cat. They know exactly what they are doing. I promise it won’t hurt.

“Now, Robin and Dave, the big toes; Troll and Wes, the pinkies….”

As Dave the mole’s teeth met in his left big toenail, Evil Editor fainted dead away.

Dave the mole raised his snout and grinned. “Tasty!”


Pedicure 2

Day Job

First day on the job. I gotta do good. Gotta do good. Not like the last three jobs. Do good.

“All right, Poikens,” said Joe. “Here's your first client. Remember, you're on probation...with me and Department of Justice.”

Evil editor mounted the hobby horse and put his feet into the stirrups at Dollar Joe's Fun House, Pedicure and Bail Bond Outlet. “Trim the sides and top, and easy on the muttonchops.”


“Just a little joke. The usual: trim till it bleeds, super-glossy finish, and mole repellent.”

Don't kill the bastard. Don't strap his ankles to the stirrups and slice off his toes. “Yes, sir.”

“So you're starting a new career. Here's my advice: if you're living beyond your means, act your wage...Get it?”

Don't jam the scissors into his knee. “Yeah, I get it. Funny.”

“I was watching a show last night about renaissance church music. I turned it off. Too much sects and violins...Get it?”

Don't jam the nail file up his nose.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I kicked John Grisham's butt?”

“Not unless you visited the Federal Correctional Institution in Fort Dix in the last ten years to life.”

Evil Editor shivered. “What were you in for?”

“While running a Jersey drug cartel and brokering political favors to the mob, I dated a senator's daughter. I got one year for drug and corruption charges, and eight for dating the senator's daughter.”

Ka-ching. Work the would-be minion. Work the would-be minion. “I'm Evil Editor. I think I can work a book deal for your story with Grisham's publisher. I'd get the usual thirty...forty-nine percent.”

Kiss EE's feet...Kiss EE's feet. “We'll talk.”

--Bill H.

Pedicure 1

"Okay, it's your first day," Sheila said. "And the one with the least seniority gets Evil Editor."

"What is he, a Hobbit?" Angie asked. "How bad can it be?"

"You'll need some special equipment." Sheila dragged a trunk out from behind a curtain and opened it. "They probably didn't train you in all of this at beauty school, so let me run through it. This case contains your chisels. You'll need the hammer to drive them under his corns. This is a belt sander for buffing; plug it in over there. The jigsaw is for his nails. Don't use clippers or scissors; they snap like pretzel sticks. And that's the jackhammer. For his calluses."

"Can I take sick leave my first day?"

"You wish. Now, if he's wearing his gym shoes you'll want to wear the Hazmat suit and gas mask. What else? Ah yes, when you prepare his foot bath, add some sulfuric acid. It's the only way to get rid of his warts. Oh, and he sloughs off dead skin like a snake, so don't drain the foot bath until you've skimmed out the scales and other solids with a slotted spoon; otherwise you'll clog the pipes."

"What's that in the corner?"

"It's a medieval disemboweling hook. It's the only tool we've found that can dig under his ingrown nails."

"And the blowtorch? Is that to burn off his foot fungus?"

"It's so you can prepare him a crème brûlée. He insists on it."

Just then Evil Editor walked in, kicked off his shoes and placed his feet in the bath. Angie looked down. "But . . . your feet are so delicate, so gloriously beautiful! The feet of a god! A god who walks through fields of rose petals!"

"Thanks," EE said. "I had a long career as a foot model before I went into editing."

Angie looked over. The other pedicurists were laughing. "Gotcha!" Sheila said.

--Evil Editor

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Saturday Film Series

Today it's a double feature of film-noir detective movies. Same price as always, but twice the pleasure you usually find in Evil Editor's Shorts.