Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Film Series

Drama, excitement and personal growth - you'll find it all in Evil Editor's shorts.


Text intro by McKoala.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Cartoon 311

Caption: Kiersten

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar

Face-Lift 597

Guess the Plot

The Last Prince of Numea

1. The fecund queens and virile kings of Numea were the envy of surrounding kingdoms. With thirteen healthy young princes, the succession was assured. Or so the king thought, until he refuses to pay the mysterious piper in his motley cloak.

2. Numea's throne is empty, for only a prince can rule. Sandala, daughter of the last prince of Numea, joins with a snooty elf, a grumpy dwarf, and an easily-distracted unicorn, to quest to the furthest reaches of the world in search of the sex change that will save her kingdom.

3. Meet Joe Strident, president of Numea, the biggest moisturizing lotion manufacturer in the western world. His R&D boys have been working overtime and now say they have the greatest moisturizer of them all. But the new formula, Preparation V, has sinister side effects, turning the skin deathly white and inducing an insatiable craving for blood.

4. Master assassin Avarice is the last hope of the kingdom. Can one greedy, cold and ruthless killer change his ways, helping those upon whom he once preyed? Can he restore peace and civility? Nah.

5. Gilhad, Prince of Numea, wants nothing more than to marry the lovely Ernilda and unite his war-torn land -- but when Broh, the last Prince, rises from the grave and seeks out Ernilda for his zombie bride, Gilhad must raise his own army of the undead or lose his love forever.

6. As his people's Calendar of All Time roles to its end Prince Dolan of Numea must choose between the needs of his subjects and of himself. Will he eat the poison egg the priest will hand him tomorrow or is there another way that might save them all?

Original Version

"I have written a 60,000-word heroic fantasy/adventure novel aimed at adult readers entitled The Last Prince of Numea

The book follows the adventures of an assassin, known as Avarice, [If there's a master assassin hanging around your kingdom, and you don't know his name, you're gonna call him something cool like Torpedo or The Eliminator, or The Butcher of Numea, or Liquidator. Anything but Avarice.] who is compelled to aid those upon which he once plagued. [Compelled by whom? Most people are extremely reluctant to boss around master assassins.] It is set in the extravagant kingdom of Alborea, [Alborea? What's Numea? Never mind, I'm sure you'll get to that.] whose stability is maintained largely by the covert acts of this master assassin. After his deeds are manipulated to place an evil ruler into power, he joins an endeavor to restore peace and civility to the country. Although he at first seems cold and ruthless, his noble lineage and heroism are ultimately revealed.

This story travels off the beaten path of traditional fantasy novels and will be refreshing to fans of the genre. My goal was to create an engrossing world, with its own rich history, and emphasize the mystery and adventure of Avarice the main character."


So a master assassin who's been "plaguing upon" the people is suddenly hailed as a hero just because he helps get rid of an evil ruler he helped bring to power?

Is this a fantasy just because the setting isn't a real place? I expect a fantasy to have magic or fantastical creatures or something supernatural.

This isn't enough plot to interest me. It's like a few topic sentences with no elaboration. Double the number of sentences in your plot description. Give more detail. Make us want to read the book.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The 3rd Annual Oscar Guess the Plot Quiz

The nominations are in for this year's Academy Award Ceremony. And while film buffs will be familiar with many of the nominees, the rest of us can have fun once again with our annual Guess the Plot feature. Below are the five best-picture nominees, each followed by its actual plot and some fake plots. Answers are at the bottom.

1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

a. Benjamin survives Treblinka, only to find that his brother Joseph worked as a doctor in the camps. Now it's 1970. Should he turn in his brother, a now-famous surgeon in New York?

b. When below-the-belt dweller Benjamin Button goes missing, no one seems to notice. But soon other buttons higher up the seam are getting popped, and now it's up to rookie private eye, Zoey Needle, to solve this curious case before the unthinkable happens: full frontal nudity!

c. Benjamin Button is found dead in La Patisserie, a New York City bakery, his head baked into a loaf of sourdough. It's up to police detective Colin Woods to investigate, but Woods seems unable to resist the pastries long enough to gather any information.

d. The complete life story of man living in reverse: born an old man, he becomes younger and younger with time, eventually growing into his childhood years. A most curious case.

e. When a button falls off a favorite shirt at the drycleaners, all the clothes in the wardrobe band together to find the fallen fastener in this light-hearted children's adventure.

2. Frost/Nixon

a. Bored with an eternity of nipping at people's noses, Jack Frost decides to give himself an extreme makeover and begin his life anew in the arena of American politics. But after reaching the pinnacle of power as President of the United States, Jack realizes he was happier playing with snowflakes.

b. Something has brought not only the frost, but also a glacier to Nixon, Texas. Climatologist Pablo Excondido discover the source and reveals the secret communist plot to freeze out the USA and drive the population south. Will Mexico and Central America become the next ten states of the Union?

c. Former President Nixon, forced from office, wants to resurrect his political career, so he agrees to several TV interviews with talk-show host David Frost. Hilarity ensues.

d. Once married, two lawyers find themselves on the opposite side of an important environmental case.

e. Having recently resigned from the Presidency in disgrace, Richard Nixon desperately wants to regain the respect of the American people. Getting wind of a plot concieved by Jack Frost, it's Nixon to the rescue as he battles the crafty ice wizard to save Christmas.

f. A modern fable pitting Richard Nixon against Jack Frost in a bid for the position of county commissioner in a small Montana town. Musical numbers, animation, and classic footage of the Watergate hearings create a tale mythic in its sensibility and miniscule in its scope.

g. A history of the global warming debate predates Al Gore, stretching back to President Nixon's efforts while in office to hide evidence of the melting polar ice caps.

3. Milk

a. Leah's mother and father died in the Holocaust. A true story about how she fled the soul-crushing conformity of American Suburbia in the 1950s to work tirelessly to bring donated breast milk to Ethiopean Jews.

b. From his discovery of the rabies vaccine, to making milk safer to drink through his namesake process Pasteurization, this historical epic documents the rise of Louis Pasteur from lab rat to international celebrity.

c. "When you give a child milk, don't forget the cookies" begins the adorable tale of a mouse, a cow and three orphaned urchins who discover new daddies and mommies and brothers and sisters and cow flops.

d. A gay camera shop owner runs for office with his lover as his campaign manager. But can his victory be attributed to illegal campaign contributions from the milk lobby?

e. A Cuban widow fights to make Castro's dream of miniature cattle for the people come true.

f. In a post-apocalyptic world, the last herd of cows grazes in a carefully protected field. But when a local orphanage takes in a new group of youngsters, the demand for milk increases and tensions rise.

g. Most cows forget about their stolen calves. Not Daisy Lou. Her vengeance has already destroyed her home farm and now she's taking on the village.

h. High school dropouts, Kevin and Lojack, decide to pursue their lifelong dream of starting a dairy empire, but they quickly realize they're not into the whole cow thing. Determined to succeed, they hatch a new strategy and head to the mall armed with raw ambition, a new breast pump, and a well-rehearsed spiel guaranteed to persuade new mothers at the Gymboree Store to join their cause.

4. The Reader

a. Nearly a decade after his affair with an older woman came to a mysterious end, law student Michael Burk encounters his former lover. Whether he should try to strike up the romance again is open to question, as she's currently on trial for war crimes.

b. A hard hitting mockumentary detailing the evolution of the most frustratingly useless invention of all time, and the events that led up to a small band of disgruntled consumers exacting their revenge on Sony Corp.

c. Epistle Reader Mildred Goshen is surprised one Sunday when her pastor sprouts horns and a tail. Can Mildred find the "Magicus Volumus" that contains the spell to convert demons into Princess Sparkle Pony dolls?

d. Words come to life under the power of The Reader. Kathryn Lloyd has a gift; anything she reads manifests itself in the material world. Unfortunately, her job as a literary agent unleashes havoc on the world as the contents of thousands of horrible queries come to life.

e. Gabriel, a mute, shy autistic loner, never talks about his experience at Auschwitz. When a gentle black man becomes his new caretaker, he slowly begins to trust his new friend to read his diaries of the Holocaust to him.

f. Reading for the blind can be tedious and Helena decides to spice things up by reading naked. They can't see her, right? Not necessarily. Turns out most of them are faking blindness for tax advantages.

5. Slumdog Millionaire

a. Simon is the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. Using his wits he builds a clothing store in New York City, marries a model, and buys into the soul-destroying lifestyle of the 50s. Can his free-spirited children save him, or is he doomed to be The Establishment?

b. The controversial biopic of Lindsay Lohan.

c. An American family takes a vacation to the slums of India and discover just how lucky they are and that starving orphans will eat the food they throw away. Even the yucky stuff.

d. An Indian teenager from the slums becomes a contestant on the Hindi version of "Who Wants to be A Millionaire?", and wins.

e. This surprisingly sophisticated comedy focuses on Ted, a man who makes a fortune, then spends it all adopting and caring for dogs.

Answers below

Fake Plots contributed by Blogless_Troll, Khazar-khum, Dave F.,
Rick Daley, McKoala, PrincessBlord, MHeaggy, EE

Actual Plots: 1: d, 2: c, 3: d, 4: a, 5: d

New Beginning 601

The car rocketed from behind the hill, getting air as it did. The sleek red body was barely visible through the thick fog. The car hit and skidded on the slippery road. It hit a tree. The driver and passenger were thrown out, dismembered by broken glass and fragmented metal. The fog seemed to close around the remaining body parts, grow thicker, and then to dissolve to show two forms, each a teenager.

"Ohh, man, did you see that!? That was the coolest one, yet!"

"I dunno, Wal. I think we left the park behind back there."

"Aahh, If they want us to stay in the park when we crash things, they should mark them out more clearly."

Small red and green lights passed overhead.

"Man, I am going to have to get a plane and crash that."

"Wall, d'je'ever think what we'll do, y'know. We got enough blood for ten years, what do we do after that?"

"Ask me again in nine years and ten months, Dunc, when I might be interested."

"But, Wal, without humans, what are vampires going to feed on?"

"We'll figure out something. In the meantime, Dunc, me old mate, enjoy. We don't have to run, no one's hunting us. There's a feed on tap at the local pub. Life's sweet."

The producer sighed, and shook his head. "I don't know, Uwe. Sure, you've added car crashes, vampires, and youth appeal, but does Waiting for Godot really need a remake?"

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Batgirl

The Brenda Novak Juvenile Diabetes Auction . . .

. . . has requested that I once again participate (actually, anyone can participate, but previous participants get contacted). I'll have several "items" up for bid again, but whether I should again offer "Your book discussed in an Evil Editor Book Chat" I leave up to those of you who regularly attend the chats. (I would offer the August chat and switch our currently scheduled August book to November.) I would also specify that the book must be a novel, and published, and easily obtained. None of this guarantees everyone will like the book, however, so are you willing to risk it to put an extra whatever into the coffers? I can easily come up with another idea if you feel life's too short to be reading a book Evil Editor didn't hand pick for you.

Cartoon 310

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Writing Exercise

Blogless_Troll's comment on the Time article linked to in the post titled "A New Publishing Model" (a few posts below) inspires this exercise. How would an agent feel about receiving an e-query in which there were several links to semi-relevant web sites?

Step 1. Use this random number generator to get one integer between 1 and 593.

Step 2. Search the blog for the Face-Lift with that number.

Step 3. Choose one of the five fake plots, (Don't change the title.), and write a query letter for that book.

Step 4. Insert two or three links that barely have some tangential relevance to the query. They can be real, working links, or fake ones you make up. No real links to porn sites, your own (or your friend's) web site or blog, or sites that are more entertaining than this blog.

Deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern. 250 words max (no address, closing, date etc. need be included).

Face-Lift 596

Guess the Plot (Sorry, too lazy this morning to reduce this to only five fakes.)


1. Khoughing with khonstant khatarrh, the khalico khitten Kharon seekhs a khure. A riskh-filled qhuest khoncludes with the akhuisition of a khodex khontaining the recipe for the khure--khoded in Khufic.

2. When Karen Cooper holidays in Greece, she little imagines that helping the weary old ferryman she meets will lead to an unexpected change in her career, her life, and her name.

3. King Khoran has serious girl trouble. Everybody wants to be the Queen. The whole country's loony, he can't get a moment of peace. So he sails away in search of his long lost cousin, Rolligar, former crown prince who scrammed and is rumored to be hiding out on some remote island in the South Seas.

4. Six young mountaineers set out to climb a remote peak in the Himalayas, and soon become lost. They're so lost, they slip through time to a wild ancient frontier and are captured by a force of axe-wielding yakmen who decide to sell them to Alexander the Great's army as entertainers. Will the Emperor appreciate line-walking and rap music?

5. The ferryman of the river Lethe, smitten by the shade of a waifish Goth girl, breaks all the rules by returning with her to the world of the living, only to find that she's happier in the gloomy underworld.

6. Twins Karen and Sharon find a mysterious sequined dress at the thrift shop. When they make themselves matching bustiers from it, they are transformed into the superhero Kharon, and the whole double-dating thing gets even more complicated.

7. A beautiful woman with a red evening dress and a broken-down car, a barking dog, twin midgets, a "magic wand," and a sullen cook with a limp -- these are all out of place at Willows Manor -- but were they part of the jewel heist of the century or the murder of aged billionaire Pasha Parma? It's Mike Kharon's job to find out -- if he can stay ahead of the masked bandit long enough to discover the truth!!

8. In the ancient land of Yofflia, a thin little prince nicknamed "Grasshopper" seeks enlightenment down by the fishing hole. When a winsome damsel comes skipping along with a basketful of muffins, will he toss off his crown and say yes?

9. College freshman Karen Smith learned belly dancing, changed her name to Kharon, splashed herself all over the internet, and started handing provocative photos to foreign MBA students, which soon brought her to the attention of Sgt. Jones, vice squad officer. Then a Russian oil mogul's heir disappeared, leaving Kharon's chocolate-smeared picture as the only clue. Now homicide detective Zack Martinez knows he must find Sgt. Jones -- before he kills again!

10. Kharon believes his demise is imminent. Sure, he's innocent, but that doesn't appear likely to halt his execution . . . until a group of vigilantes who believe in his innocence rescue him from jail. Now, with the help of a monk, a circus contortionist, and a dwarf, he must prove his innocence without being re-arrested.

11. Ferrying the dead was boring, until the day that thug Kharon took over for his cousin Charon. Will the Underworld ever recover? Also, a talking flute.

12. Kharon hated his Mom and hid Dad and his little brother, but could he have murdered them? The GPS unit in the computer chip located in his brain says he was at the skate park at the time, but does it tell the whole story?

13. When one of her classmates disappears from campus, Camden suspects Kharon of kidnapping her. Kharon suspects that Camden suspects him, and Camden suspects that Kharon suspects that she suspects him. The big question is whether Kharon suspects that Camden suspects that Kharon suspects that Camden suspects.

14. All her life, Kharon Jones has grown up with that lousy name. When her family moves to a new town, she gets a chance to become popular and admired. However, her arch rival Britancy Broadships has other plans and the battle of the blonds is engaged.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Going away to boarding school is like getting a new life. I mean, you practically show up wet, cold, and with a freshly snipped umbilical cord or something. It's a pretty big change when you're fourteen.

Sometimes things suck. Like roommates. Especially when your roommate hates you. Or when she says messed up stuff like, "your parents don't want you anymore. That's why they sent you here."

You know that's total crap. Except somehow it gets in your head. So when that butt-munch roommate leaves herself open to the best prank ever, you'd totally take it, right? [What would you take? The prank? I'd say "You'd totally go for it, right?"] Yeah you would. I did. [You did? Is this an autobiography? A cry for help? Do I need to arrange a rescue?]

But I probably shouldn't have. Because instead of getting even with my roommate, I ended up scaring the crap out of this girl named Jamie, who was pretty fragile to start with. Now she's gone. Official word is she went home voluntarily. In the middle of the night. And left all her stuff. Including her wallet. Rumor mill says she killed herself, and that prank I pulled was what sent her over the edge. Everyone hates me. If the rumors were true, I'd hate myself too.

But the thing is, I'm pretty sure all those people have the story wrong. There are a lot of secrets here on this campus when you shut your mouth and open your eyes. The big one is that Jamie was stolen. I just don't know how to prove it. And last night, I'm pretty sure the guy who stole her figured out that I know something.

Kharon is a literary novel, complete at 70,000 words. It could be described as The Secret Life of Bees meets Five People You Meet in Heaven,
[If you were gambling that I've read those, you lose.] with thematic focuses on the search for identity and redemption.

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

[Title Explanation (not part of query): Kharon is the name of the man our heroine (Camden) believes is involved with the disappearance of students from campus.]


Okay, first a brief discussion of whether it's a good idea to write a business letter to an editor in the persona of a fictional character. If it paid off with any frequency, everyone would be doing it. There'd be query letters starting off like these:

My leg? It got bitten off by a whale. The name's Ahab. Most guys would retire from whaling once they were down to one leg, but not me. I'm gonna find that whale and put a harpoon in his side, preferably before he eats my other leg.

Call me Silas. Yes, I'm a hulking albino. What of it? It so happens I got involved in a tale of intrigue that will shock the Christian world. That I'm a hulking albino is beside the point. Stop staring at me!

Possibly there are agents who would find this clever, though I suspect if they took you on they would rewrite the query letter before submitting to editors. I'm guessing your book is in first person, Camden's POV, and you want to work her voice into the query. But the voice is there, even if you change "I did" in paragraph 3 to "Camden did," and use 3rd person the rest of the way.

In 1st person, you lose the voice in the last paragraph. It should be more like: Kharon is a 70,000-word book I wrote about what happened that semester at boarding school. In 3rd person you can go ahead and talk about the bees who go to heaven if you must.

Here's something in 3rd person that's not much different from your version:

Going away to boarding school is like getting a new life. You practically show up wet, cold, and with a freshly snipped umbilical cord. It's a pretty big change when you're fourteen.

Also, roommates suck, especially when they hate you and say messed up stuff like, "Your parents don't want you anymore; that's why they sent you here." You know that's total crap, except somehow it gets in your head. So when that butt-munch roommate leaves herself open to the best prank ever, you'd totally go for it, right? Yeah you would. Camden did.

But instead of getting even with her roommate, she ended up scaring the crap out of this girl named Jamie, who was pretty fragile to start with. Now she's gone. Official word is she went home voluntarily, in the middle of the night. Right. And left all her stuff? Including her wallet? Rumor mill says she killed herself, and that prank Camden pulled was what sent her over the edge.

But the thing is, all those people have the story wrong. There are a lot of secrets on the Oberon campus when you shut your mouth and open your eyes. Camden can't prove it, but she's pretty sure Jamie was kidnapped by this guy named Kharon. And she's pretty sure that Kharon thinks she knows.

Kharon is a literary novel, complete at 70,000 words. Thank you for your time.

The way the query reads in 1st person (with a few changes) might be a good way to start the book, an intro to the plot. Here's how The Catcher in the Rye begins:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all - I’m not saying that - but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goodam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out and take it easy.

In other words, the main character's voice as he announces that he's about to tell the story of a certain period of time. (Not having seen how your story does open, I'm not suggesting you switch to this, just saying it reads like an opening might.)

If most of the characters are about 14 years old, is there a reason this is a literary novel as opposed to YA? Most adults, having been 14 at one time, are aware that there's not much going on in a 14-year-old's head that they care about. It also sounds like a mystery or a suspense novel.

Kharon doesn't have much query space, considering the book is named after him. Should we know a little more about him?

Cartoon 309

Caption: WO

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New Beginning 600!

As much as I disliked Tessie, seeing the pained tears well in her eyes moved me. Her thin, pale lips flexed downward into a deep frown and began to quiver erratically sending a rippley twitch through her meaty, age-spotted jowls.

Tessie’s eyes widened expressively as she slowly edged closer, her plain blue track pants swishing softly. With a sustained effort, she stooped heavily to the floor and pressed her palms to her erstwhile companion. Her lips parted and a soft sad sigh escaped as she scooped her love into one hand and caressed tenderly with the other. When she finally looked up at me the question in her crystal-blue eyes was clear. Why?

“I didn’t mean to...” I stammered “It was an... He was right behind me and I was... I’d printed...Tessie—I’m so sorry.” And truly I was. I can’t remember the last time I was so sorry.

She looked scornfully into my eyes, and I knew she didn’t believe me. She was certain I’d murdered her dog because I didn’t like her. An electric pause sparked between us for a long moment as we both stared down at the lifeless clump in her cupped hands. The poor thing’s head lolled awkwardly between the thumb and forefinger of her left hand, its scrubby pink tongue jutting obscenely.

But it wasn't personal; it wasn't about Tessie at all. Her dog was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, a little Yorkshire Terrier puppy with a pink ribbon in its hair, its head cocked playfully to one side, just when I needed a cheap emotional release.

Opening: Matthew Heaggans.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 308

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, January 26, 2009

A New Publishing Model?

Wes R. sent this link to a Time Magazine article of interest to writers.

Face-Lift 595

Guess the Plot


1. Henchman of King Fenster, minion of Wizard Gertimont, Sir Toby rides his invisible steed to the rescue. But will the villagers of Wackton Waters actually welcome him? Or is he barking up the wrong tree again?

2. Days on the farm are too dull for Toby Olson, so he packs a knapsack and hops the next freight train to Chicago, where each moment is more exciting than the last as he vies with a gun-toting gangster for the heart of beautiful Roxanne, queen of the double tall latte.

3. The last buddy the cat would accept was a puppy, so when Ted and Sally brought home an uncouth idiotic canine mutant, the feline morphed into the fiercest monster in the Adirondacks. Now Ted is watching the house with General Armstrong, while helicopters hover overhead waiting for the order to drop the bombs, and a distraught Sally calls, "Here kitty, kitty!" But is Toby actually in the house? Or is he sneaking up behind the General?

4. Toby Taylor runs away to join the traveling circus. But once they take him in, things start to get weird. Trapeze artists can't fly, the tiger eats his trainer, and the clowns kill the showgirls. Is Toby behind this chaos?

5. Guardian angel Toby is assigned to watch over Katherine, but he breaks the guardian angel rules by falling in love with her. He is brought back to heaven to stand trial, while she ends up in a loveless marriage. Nice work, Toby.

6. Toby McGreevy spends his days wheelchair-bound and drooling through fifth grade, but at night he soars above the houses of his small Irish village exacting sweet revenge for every childish slur cast in his direction on the playground.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

My name is Kevin _________ and I am fourteen years old. [Nice try, lady, but I'm not going easy on you.] I regret telling you my age not because I don't think you'll take me seriously, but because I think that my writing is strong enough without the mention of my age. And while some people tell me that it doesn't matter about my age others tell me that it does matter. But, despite my age, [Is there going to be a sentence in this query that doesn't mention your age? Just wondering.] writing is my life, and though I'm sure that card is played a lot, [You have no idea. And it's like leading out with the two of clubs.] it is a true statement in my case. [Until you discover girls, anyway.] The proof of my statement is that in the last three years I have written five books (all at least two hundred pages), and I've already started on a sixth. [Editors have a short attention span. If you haven't convinced them by the end of page one, forget it. Thus to help you shorten this query, at the end of each paragraph I'll tell you what was important so you can drop the rest.] [Zilch.]

The novel that I am telling you about is my fifth, and it is titled, Toby. Tatem Alexander has lost everything that she had once known in herself. She can't remember who she was, so the prospect of finding herself now seems near impossible. Her life is a circle, never ending, never changing, and she can't find her way out. Thus comes Katherine Renner sporting a bright smile and a claim that Tatem should already know who she is. Katherine has a story to tell: her own. It's one that will change Tatem for forever. [This paragraph has three important points, but two of them are missing, namely how old is Tatem, and what happened to her to bring her to this low point? That leaves, In her darkest hour, Tatem meets Katherine.]

Katherine's life started out on a rocky path when at four, her father died. His death occurred only because he had to give Katherine the gift that would from then on control her life. [Why did he have to give it to her?] The gift is the ability to see angels which can be beneficiary [beneficial] at times, but at other times it can only cause trouble. After her father's death, Katherine's mother became cold and resentful towards her youngest daughter. Her mother even goes so far as to check her in insane asylums. [I don't think they check kids into insane asylums these days. Though it's not a bad idea.] Katherine had no friends except for her brother who was always preoccupied, and her guardian angel, Toby. Toby began to stay closer and closer to Katherine. He would always wipe away her tears, pick her up when she was down, and finish her thoughts and sentences when she couldn't. He chose to grow up with her, as if he were truly a human instead of being an adult angel watching over a human child. [Katherine's father died when she was four, and her mother is cold and resentful. Luckily Katherine had one friend: her guardian angel, Toby.]

Katherine grows up under the shelter of Toby, but as she grows up she begins to get lost in the game of high school. She tries to break free from who she really is but disaster strikes. She looses [loses.] herself in her freedom, and in the wreckage her sister is killed in a freak accident. Katherine crumbles back to Toby, but not without becoming stronger. Their friendship begins to evolve into something bigger than either one of them expected. Soon, Toby and Katherine realize what they have been holding back for way too long. They are utterly and indescribably in love with each other. This brings conflict in between them because it is impossible for a guardian angel and human to be together, it is against the rules. But what they have is too much to be let down easily. They decide to break the rules and fight. Toby kisses Katherine, violating the code between human and angel, and he is immediately burnt back to Heaven [That sounds painful.] where he will stand trial. [What a drag it would be to make it to heaven and then get called for jury duty.] He only does this after promising Katherine that he will do whatever it takes to get back to her. [As they grow up together, Katherine and Toby fall hopelessly in love, violating the human/angel code, and Toby is brought to heaven to stand trial--after vowing he will return to Katherine.]

In the next ten years that Katherine is alone she does many things she regrets like dating different men, eventually marrying one, and getting pregnant with his baby. In all her haste to escape all the things she had lost [She should want to regain what she lost, not escape it.] Katherine's lies that she has told herself to keep herself going catch up with her. So when Toby comes back to her after all that time, [Apparently there's no right to a speedy trial in heaven.] she is stuck between her husband, expected baby, and the man she truly loves. [Man? Don't you mean alien creature?] Katherine finds herself sliding away though, and eventually through chance and pain she is able to get herself out of her mess [She loses the baby, and her husband accidentally eats chili filled with arsenic.] and return to Toby. Together they begin their lives together. In time, Katherine finally decides that she is ready to have children. Toby has to support her though he knows that the consequences are vast. Katherine has her children, two boys, and in the second week of her youngest son's life she passes away. But in her short life, Katherine has left a legacy. She gave both of her boys the gift that she had held on to for so long. [Toby returns ten years later to find Katherine married and pregnant. He uses his angel powers to eliminate these annoying problems, and moves in with Kate. He knocks her up a couple times, but then she dies, which ain't easy when your guardian angel is living under the same roof with you.]

When Katherine finishes her story, she reveals to Tatem that she is really her guardian angel, and she is here to help Tatem find herself again. But when Katherine reveals herself to Tatem, she has to leave. [That seems somewhat contradictory to the previous sentence. I'm here to help you; see ya later.] Tatem becomes hysteric, [hysterical] but in the end she does exactly what Katherine always planned. Tatem finds herself again. She mends broken bridges with her family, and begins to take back up her great love: writing. She also finds the love of her life, Katherine's youngest son. And when it is all said and done Tatem writes the book that she was meant to write. The book that tells the story of Katherine and Toby, and how through adversity and their growing problems, they stuck together and kept believing. [This is okay information.]

The book is narrated by Tatem the whole time. Tatem scatters certain tidbits that Katherine has written around in the novel. The book has a word count of 136,297. It is divided into ten parts. My book is not told in a straight forward manner, it is mixed up within each part, and at the end of each part it gives all the answers. I believe that this is the best book I have written in my short career, and I hope that you will give it a chance. Thank you for reading! [Only the word count is important here, and it's way too high. I guarantee you could tell this story in half the words. And let's face it, when a complete stranger comes up and starts telling you her life story, you aren't going to sit there and listen for 130,000 words. In fact, when she gets to the part where she says, And then I died, you're probably going to slowly back out of the room.]


What you have here, not counting the first and last paragraphs, is a synopsis. Your query letter should include a short synopsis, but not this much information.

Is Toby an adult in appearance when he enters Katherine's childhood life? Because it's a little weird falling in love with her when she's in high school. Can't he find an adult to break the rules with?

Having a guardian angel doesn't seem so great. Toby lets Katherine die and Katherine ditches Tatem after just telling her what probably seems like a wild story.

Katherine can see Toby because her father gave her the gift of being able to see angels. How is it that Tatem has the ability to see Katherine?

Do you know you're going to die when you give this gift? I can see giving up your life to save your child's but giving it up so your child can see angels? When she's two weeks old?

I don't think we need to know in the query that the ability to see angels is a gift. Let us make our own assumptions about who can see them. (We'll assume you can see only your own guardian angel.)

It's not clear what Tatem's situation is at the beginning. For all I can tell, she has amnesia. But she has broken bridges with her family. If Tatem's going to be in the query, we need specifics about her situation. Otherwise, maybe the query should just be about Katherine and Toby. Especially if they're ninety percent of the book.

We need to know who this book is for. What age group is your audience?

All of which is made irrelevant when I suggest that you will be a better writer when you're 16, and even better when you're 18, so why not continue writing books, and set them aside when finished. When you're in college you can pull them out and read them and use your improved skills to make them even better. What's the hurry?

Cartoon 307

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Poe 9

“By his dead smile I knew that place for Hell.”—Wilfrid Owen

How different that place appeared from all that fancy had limned or stern morality foreshadowed! No Dantean warning overarched the door which swung lightly at my touch. Still I crossed that threshold with one hand at stretch behind me to preserve the possibility of my return, my eyes braced for darkness and my nostrils for sulfur.

Instead I came into the well-lit dining-room of a hostelry. The clothing of the diners was elegant and their faces not unhandsome. The babble of their voices drowned the sound of the closing door.

Talk like theirs might be heard at any fashionable watering-place; gossip grown slightly stale, and secondhand wit; and they smiled on one another, though with no great warmth. Only when I passed close by a table the conversation died, and the company turned their eyes on me with a terrible longing. I essayed a smile and asked them if dinner was to be served soon. At this they looked reproachfully on me and turned away. The conversation resumed, halting and hurrying, disjointed as the ticking of a clock gone mad.

There were more tables than I could count, but no food on any, and around all of them the same false laughter. Cold bedewed my brow. I no longer desired understanding or anything but flight. As I passed the last table before the door she spoke to me.

“You do not belong here. I can talk to you.” Her figure was shapely and well-nourished, almost beautiful, but her eyes were starving. “He won’t serve us. Oh, there’s food, and he takes our orders, but he’ll never serve us.” She spoke even lower. “I know why. He believes there’s a famine. Believes no more will come. He told me why, once; he told me, when I was new here. Now no one will talk to me. And I won’t talk to them. It’s not safe. You know they’re all waiting..”

As she leaned closer I beheld my face reflected in her eyes, and behind my face the door. But between me and the door a shadow loomed, half-formed, hideous, waiting to engulf the fool who dared to try to leave. With horrible clarity I realized that they all had seen this and now waited with desperate hope for someone else to test the door and prove their fear false, or at least to distract that loathly guardian. Not me; surely not me! I could not approach that fearsome shadow. But could I join them? I had disappointed them, and what vengeance might they not take?

Again I met my mirrored eyes, and they were frenzied as hers.


Poe 8

I am a rational man. If you question me, I can discern good from evil, and tell you with certainty that the sun will rise in the east. Yet over my soul hangs an irrational feeling of dread.

The reason is simple enough, but I cannot fight the insidious fear threatening to paralyze my very being. Correspondence from Evil Editor is due, and a cold chill has settled over my heart. I wait numbly to receive my fate. No solace do I find in an empty mailbox, only an unreasonable fear that leaves me powerless – horrified by the thought of Evil Editor’s response. I am clever enough, and talented, but nonetheless a fool. My most fervent dreams and deepest desires rest on the whim of an evil man. A cruel man. A wicked man. A man with mutton-chop sideburns.

Offer me not your platitudes.

Of soothing sleep you must not speak,
for torments dark my soul does keep.
Damned or no, I face the fight,
lying sleepless, night by night,
struggling to find respite.

Darkness magnifies the Hellish horrors in my mind’s eye, eating at my very sanity. Deathly late, the barest whisper of an idea creeps into my head. It seems a crazy thought, offering a simple solution to my dilemma. I ponder it long, testing every angle and exploring every weakness until, at last, I begin laughing uncontrollably, pulling madly at my hair, such that you might wonder if I am sane. But sane I am, and now glean the road to my salvation.

In frenzied state, I rise, rushing madly downstairs to consummate my plan.

The deed is done. Spade in hand, I dance barefoot in the moonlight. “Free! Free!” my soul cries out in exaltation.

Entombed underground, its cruel power already fading, lies my mailbox.

--Mark Mosher

Poe 7

The Tell Tal Tale Heart

Were it not so! --but I had been and am vexed by an evil one, an editor. I was Tal, his copy girl. Listen! For it is all true.

I drafted all manner of correspondence for the evil editor, rejection letters mostly. When the slush pile had gotten waist high, out the bottom third would go. Though he had not read one of them, he'd tell me to 'broadcast apologies to the fallow authors like pollen'. So I'd draft his rejection letters--this one is not right for us, that one smells of derivation. Then, he'd consider my letters--at least he reviewed something!--and his nose would twitch and an eyebrow would arch. Doesn't this letter need one more comma and that one, one less? After many drafts he'd decry my incompetence, and copy each one in his own hand, making his secret corrections.

He had to die! His tea would be his fall. Oh the irony! for I could never fetch his tea at the right time or temperature. Never! So into his tea hemlock went.

He took his tea and raised his bushy eyebrow knowingly. I shuddered for I had been found out. Yet, he succumbed within minutes. Though a girl, I was able to raise some floorboards and push his considerable heft into the void beneath. There! I'd done it! I replaced the floorboards and closed the office for the day. The next morning, I returned to work, playing the innocent part. After some hours, I made a tearful inquiry of the local constabulary, making known my fears about my missing 'blessed employer'. I returned to the office awaiting. Then the sounds began! Like heartbeats from below the floorboards. Awful, hellish sounds, those demonic heartbeats were! Fearing the constable would come soon, I raised a few boards to see if the fellow needed a rock to the head to quiet him down. Though he wasn't there, his breath was at the nape of my neck!

I turned, and his fangs shown to me for the first time and I knew I was doomed.

"Here are a few lessons for you girl:" he said. "You can not kill the undead, and there is no heartbeat where there is no heart."

Into my neck his fangs went, and now--to my great sorrow--I wander the countryside, telling my tale.


--Bill H.

Poe 6

I know not what grotesque energy compelled me to enter the small shop, for its exterior was in no way remarkable; possibly my curiosity manifested itself in the absence of a sign above the entrance. Only a small placard in the window, upon which was printed "EDIT," gave any indication of the shop's purpose, though I could not ascertain how anyone might be drawn in by that enigmatic word. And yet I entered.

The room in which I found myself exuded an atmosphere of gloom, its smoky and unwashed window admitting little illumination, but I readily saw I had been mistaken in concluding that such an easily overlooked establishment could not have sufficient business--whatever its business might be--to support its proprietor. For I found the interior to be filled with stacks of papers and books from floor to ceiling, not unlike some hidden room in an ancient and forgotten library.

It was only after several minutes gazing in wonder at the bookshelves that my eyes fell upon an old man sitting behind a desk stacked high with yellowed papers. He looked at me over his pince-nez, and I was taken aback at the magnitude of his muttonchops, like twin squirrel tails affixed to his visage.

"May I help you?" he inquired, and though he said it with no outward indication of malice, I sensed--and you may well think me mad for it--that he desired me dead.

I stress that I had never before put eyes upon this man, nor he on me, and yet as I looked into his eyes I felt an intense emanation of evil washing over me until I feared, indeed knew, that I would not leave the shop alive.

"I was merely curious as to what trade was conducted here, and stepped within to satisfy my mind," I told him. "I'll take up no more of your time, good man." I turned to leave.

"One moment," he said. "There's something I'd like to show you. If you'd step over here?"

Though I had no desire to do as he said, though every atom of my being screamed at me to run, to exit the shop would have been the height of rudeness. Perhaps he merely wished to show me some prized possession, a rare parchment or book. I stepped his way, and as I did so a previously unnoticed trap door fell open beneath my feet, dropping me onto a mountain of manuscripts in the dungeon below. I noted that I shared my domain with the skeletal remains of a dozen others.

The old man lowered a lantern and said, "A light, that you may read in your final hours, my friend. Sadly, it's all drivel."

My cries have gone unheard, as, no doubt, did those of my unfortunate predecessors, and I scribble these, my final words, in charcoal on the back of some fool's horrid manuscript. Should anyone chance upon it, know that like any sane man having passed three days reading slush, I welcome Death.

--Evil Editor

Poe 5

The Tell-Tale Part

True, horny, very horny I had been. And my lust was answered when I beheld the perfect breast of my beautiful Annabel Lee. Am I a stalker? A rejected suitor, obsessed with the object of his passions? Think I thou naught! For when I tell the tale, you will see how reasonable, how calm and rational all my actions have been in the face of the cruel beauty who mocked me and held me up for ridicule to all who came to the Dip Your Quill Club.

I began my campaign to win her heart with flowers and poetry, buying drinks, selling a little blood so I could stuff her g-string with tens instead of ones.

I stopped eating, so hat I might better purchase chocolates for my love, so found myself rather lightheaded the night she took me into her confidence and revealed that her perfect image had been captured in the pages of an exclusive aquatic journal, Muff Divers Internationale. T'was the 'e' she told me, that certified its artful and scientific nature.

Imagine then, my shock and horror when I eagerly sought out the journal for my own edification, and opened it, only to find out that my darling angel had been exploited to satisfy the lusts of louts everywhere. As I lay awake that night, journal clutched in one sweaty palm, my man-part in the other, contemplating the astounding number of fresh towels I had used that day - I heard the dear sweet voice of my Annabel call out to me softly. My man-part answered her back, and sweet was our pillow talk that night!

The next day, however, when I showed up at the Dip Your Quill to carry her off to our sweet lovers' nest, she acted as if she had no idea of that of which I was talking. Her face was cold and disdainful, but I remembered her words from the day, and afternoon, and evening, and night before, and I flung myself pitiously at her feet, screaming at the top of my lungs my undying love for her.

That's when Annabel called the bouncer, who administered a beating at once as humiliating and as painful as any I had ever endured. And as the Bedlam Wagon came for me, I unzipped my pants and held open my boxers, and screamed at my man part, "Nevermore!"


Poe 4

As I pondered, weak and weary, on a manuscript so dreary
I could stand to look at it upon my screen no more
While I fretted, nearly screaming, suddenly there came a gleaming
As of eyes so bright and beaming, beaming lasers through my door
‘Tis the Editor,’ I muttered, ‘burning through my red front door –
Only this, and nothing more.’

For myself now, writing, writing, fingernails and tongue still biting,
Oh, to be so vain and guilty, coming round to help no more.
From my laptop, blinking slowly, with a feeling dark and lowly,
New Beginnings, cries for help, I continued to ignore.
Even queries I passed over, guess the plots I did ignore.
What a jerk, forevermore.

From the eyes I hid my blogging, manuscripts I now was slogging,
‘I haven’t got the time to help you, not to help you anymore!’
But the eyes still, red with fury, made my own go weak and blurry,
Horror haunted every letter until I could type no more.
‘Please,’ I begged now, ‘I am sorry, I will slack off now no more!’
Quoth the EE, ‘Nevermore.’

Now I shudder, tired and wary, poring over each new query,
Sleeping never never never as I curl up on the floor.
And the Editor, still watching, makes certain there is no botching
Of the duties we both know I must fulfill as once before.
‘But see,’ I whisper, quiet, hopeful, ‘I’ll succeed unlike before,
I shall slack off - nevermore!’

‘Editor! The king of evil! Editor, if man or devil!
As the writing binds us to you – by that craft we all adore
Tell this soul with guilt now laden, if you blame this poor young maiden
For pursuing her own writing, writing she can leave no more!
Please forgive me all my absence, someday I will visit more.
I am minion – Evermore!’


Poe 3

Duct tape, silver in the light and smelling of glue. An aperture supporting tail pipes, bumpers, and adhering the passenger door to my mother’s car- lest it fall off. You know that I’m a kind man, but still you sneer at my duct taped car whilst I dream of your black hair, shiny like Joan’s and your pliable amber skin, so much like Rose’s. Soon we will be together, you and I.

I have followed your rounds over weeks and days- to your house. I sit and wait. You come and go. I can smell your perfume on the evening air- Oleander. I write poems: We are meant to be, just you and me. I shout them from the car. I have to open the door because the window won’t roll down.

A glance, thrown over your bare shoulder, our eyes meet. You trot to your car, lock the doors. A flash of silver flipped open, manicured fingers dial, red lips speak calling them- and then him. I would follow but you have bared your shoulder to me and I am erect. I close my eyes, imagine your hips and what they can do. I do not need to imagine much for I have seen you with him, smelled the sex lingering on you for days- but for me, the duct- tape king, all I get is my hand.

Release and a gratified sigh; fold it in into a newspaper, mother doesn’t like my taint in her car. But it is my car tonight and they’ll be by shortly- flashing lights form their blue and white cruiser. Step, step, step shod flat feet on pavement, flashlight in my eyes, the stench of donuts and coffee on their breath- “Mr. Mallard the restraining order says you can’t be here.”

I start the car, the engine rattles then roars. Not tonight- no. They will not find me when they come. I’ll be gone. They will wait my return, only I won’t come. I’ll already be there, in your house getting ready. I’ve written a new poem for just this occasion: Tonight the time is right- for you and I.

But first I must find a place to park.

--Susan Smith

Poe 2

Within the dark shadows of inner thought my visage was that of a comely nature. Perhaps it was this dichotomy to my reality that spawned the inevitable conflict of feelings which drove me to consider the desperate act. What I know is that, in a growing madness which grew like rabid weeds infesting a garden of beauty, I did consider the act. And once considered, it became a plan. A plan so meticulous in its conception and detail as to impart a sense of wonder and genius to my thoughts.

I acted with confidence. My movements were sure, but serene, lest any should suspect that there was purpose in my behavior. To keep it secret was of utmost import. Should any even suspect my intent the plan would be undone and the madness would remain as a swirling mass of infesting insects, abuzz within my brain and driving me to further acts which would defy any description by any sane woman or man.

But no. I kept control of my being. My breathing was paced, allowing slight variations as I ascended the fateful steps of destiny. The plan was unfolding even as I had intended. The urge to laugh aloud was ever intense upon my person. But I stayed it back with such a degree of strength as to cause me to believe that all tasks were within my power.

As I reached the moment of my climax, the plan before me like a bed, I prepared myself for the final act of consummation. Once done it could not be undone. Had I the courage to commence the act? The darkness of my mind bade me remember my comeliness. I strove with the powers of reality and madness until, at the last, I overcame. And proceeded.

The plan was fulfilled. I had succeeded. The intimacy had begun. The fingers which searched my hairs like a lover’s appetite, bit and clawed in rapturous delight. I gave myself to it. My breathing became labored. All sense of serenity was lost. The plan was more than I could bear. I had to scream!

And then the calmness. The after breezes which follow the storm of intensity wafted over my thoughts and cooled the sweat of my inner desires. I rested in the afterglow of intimacy. And then the words:

“All that hair, Bevie. Next time don’t wait so long to have it cut.”

--Bevie James

Poe 1

This is my testament to the horrors that I, Charles Bonygne, witnessed. Being a man of science, I had no necessity to believe in supernatural or extraordinary spirits. Angels, demons, goblins, the oriental ifrit, witchdoctors and all manners of unscientific and shamanistic superstition had no place in my science; bore no weight in my thoughts, my decisions, or my deeds. Thus, on this ghastly and wretched night, I came face-to-face with criminal behavior, with an evil that men of character seldom see but lesser men rationalize and accept into their hearts.

I speak of the darkness Arthur Denham carried back from the savage and uncivilized Amazonian jungles to his urbane and sophisticated manor house. He had telegraphed weeks before his arrival that walls of obdurate rock and implacable base-iron fences be built around the manor. I dutifully commissioned the ironmongers and stonemasons and they constructed and encircled the manor house much as moats encircled castles and ramparts encircled penitentiaries. I dismissed this idea that mere styles and rails or posts and gates could have any effect other than to give succor to a troubled soul and comfort to a guilty conscience.

Arthur revealed a pair of Tsantas. On the right, a Wakini, the soul of a powerful warrior willingly sacrificed to guard its master from physical harm. On the left, an Arutum, the soul of a powerful Shaman that imbued its master with metal powers sufficient to control men and bend their will to his will. I had dismissed Arthur's treasures, these abominations, as the rankest spiritualism and irrational superstition.

When Arthur summoned me, his voice shrieking, his speech panicked, I came. The adamantine wall had been breached and the iron fence torn asunder. Stupefied, I dashed into the silent manor house. Ruby red blood seeped beneath the heavy wood doors to Arthur's bedchamber. I opened the door and beheld a sight most horrid. Arthur lay at my feet, his neck ripped to the bones by the knife-like teeth of those ravenous fiends. The Tsantas lay smiling through bloody visage and glowing eyes.

I trembled before the hellions that I must return to Amazonia. For the first time, I raised my hand and invoked the Christian Triune Godhead as protection against the demons unleashed on the countryside. Yesterday, I was ignorant of insidious wickedness. Today, I am no longer a child of innocence or whimsy.

I remain, your humble correspondent.

--Dave F.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Saturday Film Series

Life wouldn't be worth living were it not for the slick productions found in Evil Editor's shorts.


Text intro by Meri.

Friday, January 23, 2009

New Beginning 599

I was 41 years old and in the middle of an irresolvable identity crisis when I fell in love for the first time. The object of my affection was a country and western singer who wormed her way into the apple of my heart with belly-to-belly slow dancing and cheatin' type songs that promised moments of passion and rapture-filled joy. I might not have fallen so hard for those false back-alley promises if things had been different at home. If Loretta, my wife of 10 years, hadn't grown so incredibly fat and complained so often about my sexual performance. She took great delight in comparing our seasonal liaisons to the mating rituals of horseshoe crabs and jellyfish. I might not have fallen so madly in love with the voice of a total stranger, if my grandfather hadn’t fallen from a circus wagon and been trampled into Polish sausage by Lippizaner stallions and rogue elephants.

* * *

"It ain't bad, Dwight, and you can sure play guitar, but less'n you can make it rhyme it just ain't gonna sell, boy."

Opening: Thomas Cater.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 306

Caption: R. Watson

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Face-Lift 594

Guess the Plot

Stop the Presses

1. Tom took a night job in the press room of Trinity News to make a few bucks for college. But now the extra printing work the paper took on to cover its costs has Tom wondering what he's gotten into . . . and how much longer he'll be alive.

2. The disappearance of the socialite daughter of millionaire California vintner Loren Charles is linked to the suspiciously high cholesterol content of this year's Charbono, giving new meaning to the wine's description as "full bodied."

3. How will we communicate after the Zombie Apocalypse? Everyone laughed at Gerald Kilpatrick for keeping the presses from the last days of the New York Times, but with Zombies on the prowl no one's laughing now.

4. When Miriam the media medium comes to stay at Halloween Hotel things get out of hand. Her powers are put to the test as the hotel is forced to close its doors with thirteen unlucky guests trapped inside. Crockery flies in the restaurant, towels flap along corridors and there is a sinister gathering of trouser presses in the lobby, where they snap shut on unwary guests.

5. Reporter Lottie Stuart's first assignment wasn't supposed to involve finding a corpse. Was it an accident? Or premeditated murder? Lottie will dig up the truth, or she's not the best sophomore reporter in the history of her school newspaper.

6. When the Herald goes out of business, it has a bigger effect on Sunnydale than just a couple hundred lost jobs, especially when a serial killer begins stalking the residents, and no one can get up-to-date news or check the obituaries to see who the most recent victim was.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

College sophomore Lottie Stuart doesn't want to make the headlines—she wants to write them. She just enrolled at a new college, just got hired at the school newspaper and nearly tripped over a dead body while on her first assignment. Now she's got a front-page story and a sneaking suspicion the student's death wasn't just another drinking binge gone bad.

Life gets more complicated when the dead boy's popular best friend [Now that's what I call a bff.] asks her out [Does she go out with him? If so, I'd say: . . . when she starts dating the dead boy's best friend. If not, leave him out of the query.] and she's welcomed into a clique of Southern sorority belles. [When southern sorority girls welcome you into their clique, it's time to look for a new college, because you'll never live down whatever it is they're up to.] She also discovers the most infuriating person she's ever met is her sexy, enigmatic editor, Jack.

The police rule the student's death an accident, but Lottie can't leave it alone. As she digs deeper into the dead boy's past and befriends those who knew him best, one name keeps popping up: the Sigma Society, a shadowy group that could be responsible for a recent rash of campus crime.

Soon Lottie is sneaking into frat houses, [Sophomore women don't have to sneak into frat houses. They have an open invitation.] breaking into secret passageways, coaxing information from her Greek friends and trying to avoid detection by the Sigmas, who are bent on covering up a murder and its ties to a 50-year-old hate crime. Lottie has big decisions to make: does she pursue the truth and risk alienating her newfound friends (and her newfound social status) or ignore the warning signs and let the Sigmas get away with murder? [She decides to compromise: pursue the story, but not till after the big mixer next Saturday at Alpha Beta House,]

STOP THE PRESSES is a 91,000-word YA suspense novel set on the campus of a prestigious private college in the deep South.

I'm a 26-year-old journalist (and recovering sorority girl). I work for a mid-sized daily newspaper. This is my first novel.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.



This is okay as it is, but possibly we can improve it. The first sentence is catchy, but it seems odd to start by saying Lottie doesn't want to make headlines. That's true of the vast majority of people. It's like saying Baseball player Bob Johnson doesn't want to die in a car wreck; he wants to hit a home run. This might be just as catchy:

Sophomore journalism student Lottie Stuart just enrolled at a new college, just got hired at the school newspaper . . . and just tripped over a dead body. Now she's got a front-page story and a sneaking suspicion the student's death was more than another drinking binge gone bad.

I'm not sure we need paragraph 2 at all. You can bring Jack in in paragraph 3:

The police rule the student's death an accident, but Lottie can't leave it alone, even when Jack, her sexy--but infuriating--editor advises her to drop it.
And if we need to know about the sorority, you can change "her Greek friends" in paragraph 4 to "her sorority sisters." I'm assuming that's who you meant by her Greek friends; if not, we don't need the sorority in the query.

Dumping paragraph 2 gives it a stronger narrative flow. Why interrupt the main plot by introducing some other characters and then immediately dropping them?

I assume college sophomores are old enough to star in books for adults, so is this YA because of something other than Lottie's age?

Why would pursuing the story alienate her friends? Are they in the Sigma Society?

Cartoon 305

Caption: McKoala

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

New Beginning 598

Phil burped. Lunch, breakfast, snack bars, pop and yesterday's late night king prawn curry all swilled round together in a throatquake of palate-shredding magnitude. He lifted his mobile phone from under the pile of empty pizza boxes and polystyrene cups littering the dashboard and pressed a squat thumb to a random selection of buttons. Still dead.

Squeezing a fart from his numb backside, he rocked forward onto the steering wheel and fumbled around for the hole in his bomber jacket pocket. Lost in the limbo of the lining, fluff and coins and dobbers and combs and biros and matches and fags took time out from the interface between his larval desires and the rest of the world. A foreign pack of cigarettes been marooned inside for a while, gradually whittled away by his cacked-up lungs when he'd gasped himself out of his regular brand, and as he dragged it kicking and screaming into the van's oil-stained interior, the scuffed filter tip of the one remaining D'Artagnan Lite poked from the cardboard like a rat's tail leaving the sinking ship of all hope in its wake.

He relaxed back into his seat, with another fart, this one more of a seat-shudderer. Good. If he could unload a few gutquakes, he might avoid the imminent throatquake.

Phil fumbled the scabby cigarette out of the packet while elevating one once-peach-like butt cheek to fire out a thunderous fart that shook the car beneath him. Better and better. He scrambled a match out of the bunnyfluff in his pocket. Solace beckoned. First, just one more. Lift, and release. He elevated the other butt cheek and the car shuddered like a nymphomaniac just freed from a chastity belt on her wedding night.

Then he struck the match on the dashboard.

Some time later, police followed the trail of wrappers, pizza boxes, polystyrene cups and shreds of car to find Phil's corpse floating in a nearby lake. Butt-less.

Opening: Whirl.....Continuation: McKoala

Cartoon 304

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Face-Lift 593

Guess the Plot

New Day Dawning

1. The release of deadly poison gas throughout the US hasn't killed everyone; the gas has no effect on children and teens. Teenager Amy has taken charge of her town, but can the whole country survive being run by kids? And how will her friends react when they discover Amy's father created the gas that killed their parents?

2. College freshman Jane Woodlawn discovers a mysterious substance clinging to her shoe. The gunk resists her efforts to ditch it and proves to be a snide little glow-in-the-dark Shakespearean ghost which makes itself at home under her bed and recites Hamlet at odd moments. Can she convince this disturbing monster to help her impress Arturo with a few quick love sonnets?

3. Ilonna eagerly awaits the President's inauguration, and the new dawn of peace, prosperity and proper grammar, until she learns that the event is likely to be upstaged by the landing of a group of aliens with a very different agenda for reforming the world. Can she convince them to wait eight years?

4. After being arrested in Disney World for drunkenly urinating on Minnie Mouse, Christian rock celebrity Martin Kiechel finds himself exposed to a slew of blistering attacks from left wing media vultures. The most vicious comes from a blog by indie rock sweetheart Dawn Perlman. So why does he think she's the girl of his dreams?

5. Stories of renewal usually begin with giving up the old life for a better future. In Susan's case it means taking a step back in time to relive her Grandfather's greatest blunder and in the process changing mankind's understanding of the Universe.

6. Lost in an unexplored passage of the Carlsbad Caverns, Tiffany and Mallory discover a world of prehistoric mammals and a tribe of Neanderthals. Can the two girls teach the tribe fashion sense or will they have to make due with red mud and sabertooth tiger skins?

Original Version

Dear Agent:

Amy's life is devastated when a poisonous chemical gas is released on the edge of her small town, Lincoln. All of the adults in Amy's town are either killed or made ill by the gas, but the teenagers and children seem to be immune. [They seem to be immune? Meaning the children and teens are all . . . ZOMBIES?!!!] Within days, the agent has spread throughout her state, soon reaching the borders of the USA. Isolated from a nation in chaos, the teenagers realize they must cope with the disaster on their own. [They aren't zombies? You're missing a great opportunity here. Consider making them zombies.] As Amy tries to deal with her mom's death, she takes charge of her town, working out how to ration food, cook without power, and conserve water. She and her friends form a close family, relying on each other as they struggle to survive. [If you decide to make them zombies, change that to: . . . relying on each other's brains as they struggle to survive.]

Just as Amy is starting to rebuild her world, twenty-two-year-old Lee appears in town. Not only did he survive the chemical gas release, but he has vital information: the chemical is in everybody's bloodstream and will activate when the survivors reach a point of biological maturity. Instead of waiting for help, Amy and her friends are waiting to die. When Amy finds a letter written by her estranged scientist father, proving that he had a part in creating the chemical and that he is immune to its effects,

she sets out to find him, and a cure—before time runs out. [She begins her search at the mall, where her friends are running the stores and everything is mysteriously free.]

New Day Dawning is a YA novel, complete at 50 000 words. I am an editor at [educational publisher]. Thank you for your time.

Kind regards,


When teens are in charge of everything, the world is doomed. Any other conclusion makes this high fantasy.

Are the adults who get ill but don't die incapacitated? Or do they just feel kinda lousy?

Is it specified at what point one reaches biological maturity? Has Lee reached it? I see a lot of potential in losing your virginity being what causes the gas to activate.

It seems like the gas would go only where the wind blows it, and that after a few miles there'd be an insignificant amount in the atmosphere as it spread itself thinner and thinner. Of course, with all the scientists dead, I guess there's no one around to explain the special properties of this gas, so you're off the hook.

Cartoon 303

Caption: McKoala

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Monday, January 19, 2009

New Beginning 597

Lord Verenth rode into town at the head of a dozen Listurgian guards. Despite the back paths they had traveled, their leather and metal armor still gleamed, their formation was perfect, and the halberds they held as a mark of their rank glistened in the sun.

At a signal, the group halted. Lord Verenth looked about the town. Typically of towns everywhere, particularly those on the edge of the Empire, though larger than most. It held a few central houses and what he took to be a trades hall. People milling about their business. Lord Verenth leaned over to address an old man leaning on a tall staff on the knot of which he'd fixed a light to help him find his way at night.

"Excuse me. I'm looking for Pradek Malkovic Imbar."

Just then, there was a loud roar from the east. Everyone looked to see some great structure flying through the air and dragging behind it some great plume of fire. From the sheen of the thing it was made of fire, though Lord X could not figure how it would be gotten into the air. It had wings, but surely they would be useless, after all, they didn't move.

Eventually the noise settled as the vehicle moved out of sight. Lord Verenth's attention turned back to the old man. "Incredible!" he exclaimed. "Absolutely incredible. What unearthly technology is it?"

"This?" The old man shrugged. "It's nothing. I already had the stick, and I just tied the flashlight on with some string. Pretty cool, eh?"

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: anon.

Cartoon 302

Caption: Freddie

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Sunday, January 18, 2009

As You Know, Bob 11

"Have you ever taken a package of chicken parts out of the refrigerator and it's so cold that there are bits of ice on all the chicken and you have to remove the skin from all the parts because it's healthier that way, but it's so cold your hands are going numb as you try to pull off the frozen skin? That's how cold my feet were the night I climbed into bed with Lurleen and put them between her thighs to try to warm them up. She screamed like a soprano in a shark tank. I ended up sleeping on the couch, and the next day she threw me out like a gold glove shortstop handling a soft grounder. As you know, Bob, Lurleen is your sister, and you introduced us, and we lived in the blue house right next door to you. I'm hoping you'll talk to her for me, because I miss her like a blind, one-armed archer misses a bull's eye."

"Sure Joe," Bob replied. "I'll talk to her. I'll talk to her like a stool pigeon talks to a city dick. But promise me one thing, Joe."

"What's that, Bob?" I asked suspiciously, like a wife asking her husband why he's going out at midnight carrying a bottle of peach schnapps and wearing clean underwear.

"Get a hot water bottle. According to Lurleen, your feet are colder than the superconducting magnets in the Large Hadron Collider."

--Evil Editor

As You Know, Bob 10

"As you must know by now, David, my last marriage was the marriage from the hell that is the sucking dried up lack of anything sufficient to cause anything like a fire in the way fire's supposed to be felt, warm like a mad rush over the inside and the outside of your skin, as opposed to the warm that's like an itching like a crawling mass of red ants in the middle of your back, right on your bra line, and you're just standing there frustrated and pissed off, because you're itching like, you know, hell, but there's no relief in sight and no way way to scratch the itch, or even spray the red ants with ant killer before they can bite you. It was like that, David. It was just like that."

"As you know, you've mentioned the guy before, Daphne, and listening to you rant on is like being stuck in traffic with a demented cop controlling the cars. Screwed in place, but not in a good way."

--Robin S.

As You Know, Bob 9

Stephanie looked around the apartment. “Nice place you have here, Bob,” she said. In truth the place looked as though it had been ransacked by an incompetent burglar. “May I sit?”

Bob moved a stack of mail and some dishes from the sofa to the table. “Sorry it's such a mess,” he said. “I haven't had time to clean since the police executed their search warrant.” He sat down beside her on the sofa, his grin the grin of a used car salesman about to sell a lemon for a cool five thousand.

Stephanie nodded as if this sort of thing happened to her all the time. “What were they looking for, if you don't mind my asking?” She edged closer to the sofa's arm, hoping to get out of range of Bob's breath, which smelled like he'd eaten a case of sardines and topped them off with a bottle or two of Tabasco sauce and then had a cup of coffee.

Bob moved closer. “Oh, nothing special,” he said, still smiling. “Coppers just give me a hard time because I'm always beating them at their own cases. They also hate it when I steal all their broads.” He picked an imaginary piece of lint off of Stephanie's shoulder. She thanked God she was wearing a turtleneck. It may have been in a color that made her face look like it exploded out of her neck, but at least it kept him from touching her bare skin.

“Well, as you know, Bob,” Stephanie said, getting up off the sofa. “This isn't 1948, and I would argue the 'coppers,' as you put it, probably have access to state-of-the-art laboratories and equipment. I think I'll go home now. Thanks for the chat.”


As You Know, Bob 8

The cat lady’s tiny bungalow was nearly hidden by overgrown shrubbery and sat well back from the line of newer brick homes, giving the street a gap-toothed appearance. Deadly nightshade clung to the battered pickets of the fence in front of the dilapidated house like spinach on a hobo’s teeth. The wafting aroma of ammonia and cat feces was strong enough to cause a passerby to gag, but Cindy managed to stifle the reflex as she unlatched the rickety gate and stepped onto the detritus of what was once a concrete pathway. She was beginning to regret having taken the dare to knock on the crazy cat lady’s door.

She paused, looking back over her shoulder at her siblings on the other side of the street. Jan and Marcia waved while Greg and Peter cupped their hands and shouted encouragement. The ground beneath her Keds was suddenly soft and squishy. Looking down, Cindy was horrified to see that she’d stepped into the decomposing carcass of a cat, half buried in the weeds. Vomit spewed from her mouth and shot out her nose like bilge water from a sump pump. She scraped her shoes on the grass, wiped her face with her sleeve and ran up the stairs to slap the rotten wooden screen door, triumphal as a winner in a hog-calling contest. She was down the path and out the gate quick as the flash of a lightning bug.

“I win! I win! Now you’re my slave for a week,” she cried gleefully. “That means you have to do whatever I say.”

“Big deal,” Bobby sneered. “Whaddya gonna make me do, play Barbies?”

“Yes, but that’s for later. As you know, Bobby, I puked all over my shoes,” Cindy said, kicking off her Keds and dangling them by the laces in front of his nose. “So, my first order to my slave-Bobby is. . . lick my shoes.”


As You Know, Bob 7

As you know, Bob.....I thought marriage with you would be like Paris every day and creme brulee, unfortunately it’s more like remembering a honeymoon bus ride to Texas for a stale enchilada. My feelings for you are not only dark as night, they are as dingy as coal dust is on a darkling plain. My thoughts too are black Bob. Bat black, bible black, black as the grim dim ragamuffin shine that gleams like a forgotten Christmas on the worn-out shoes of death. Of late I’ve wished for death; your death, my death, us both dead -- dead as a doornail or a hangnail or like Eddie Frankmuller, who I wished was dead cause while doing the cha-cha he stepped on my toenail.

Ah, to die like a dog, to sleep like a baby in the cradle of a bog, to scream in a dream like a helpless grub, that indeed Bob, is the rub-a-dub-dub.

So, as our love canoe peels out of the harbor for the last time, like an over ripe banana headed for a recycling bin situation as inevitable as our past is cluttered with totally irredeemable tidbits of affection; I want you know that no animals, small as a kitten in a tea cup, or as big as Saint Bernard puppy love, were harmed, during the making of my decision to leave you. This is the truth, not a pack of lies, scurrying like enchanted field mice over the ruined crumbs of our relationship, but a rodent-free rendition of facts solid as the ice-like chill inside your wizened little heart. Which, if it opens it’s wintery-like mouth will warble, we are just a no go....which I guess after all of this time Bob -- you might very well know.

--R. W. Glover