Friday, July 31, 2009

Synopsis 19

Morally Ambiguous

[I changed a few words/lines to red to indicate I'd get rid of them.]

When Nodammo Ebonlocke’s afternoon tea is spoiled by a hero with a very big sword arriving in the Generic Little Village, she reacts as any morally ambiguous sorceress would. [She invites him to play sword in the stone.] With a little help from her employees, she manages to bury the hero’s [sword in her garden.] remains in the vegetable garden where he can finally do something useful with his life by helping the vegetables grow bigger. [A joke is seldom improved by explaining it. Also, if you're going to leave out the part where she zaps the hero, start the next sentence: Then, with a little help from her employees, she buries . . . The "Then" lets us know her reaction already happened; otherwise we think her reaction is burying the remains.]

The problem doesn’t stop there, though. Infuriated by their constant loss of heroes to Nodammo, the Company, a mysterious megacorporation that’s mushroomed overnight in Fantasyland, dispatches an army of heroes led by Miss Annoyed, a junior executive in the Company, to dispose of Nodammo and her employees. Nodammo and her employees [Maybe we should leave Nodammo's employees out of the query.] summon up a tea elemental, buying them time to escape from the heroes. After some deliberation as to what to do, Nodammo decides to seek consul [counsel] from her mother, who advises her that running is ultimately futile, and that standing her ground and fighting the Company offers her the best chances of prolonged survival. [Not to quibble, but if her sorcery isn't strong enough to defeat an army of heroes, running would not be futile, as she could use magic to run to the other side of the world, where they wouldn't follow. And if her sorcery is strong enough to defeat the heroes, why did she run in the first place? Why can't she do to Miss Annoyed and friends what she did to so many other heroes?]

Meanwhile, Brommus, a wise old mentor on the Company’s payroll, loses his job to the fact that Nodammo’s been killing off his protégés. After leaving Literacity and wandering for a while with no goal in mind, Brommus receives a prophetic dream from his own chain-smoking wise old mentor, and is advised to hire himself out as a handyman to the very nursing home where Nodammo’s mother is living in. There he finds happiness in repairing carnivorous fountains and other odd jobs--until Nodammo arrives, the army of heroes on her tail.

In the ensuing confusion, Nodammo meets Brommus and learns of his previous career choice. [Wise old mentor was a career choice?] Realising the value of a disgruntled ex-employee of the Company to her cause, she offers to hire Brommus. While he is initially reluctant, Brommus eventually agrees as Nodammo’s cause is the best chance he has of undoing the damage he’s done over the years. That being done, Brommus suggests that they head to the kingdom of Gru’bar’atr, where he gains them an audience with the current king by virtue of being the king’s wise old mentor during the latter’s days as a hero. [It sounds like everyone's got a wise old mentor, in which case there may not be enough wise old mentors to go around, and some people will have to settle for wise young mentors or imbecilic old mentors. Feel free to use a variation of that idea in your book with the standard acknowledgment.]

Nodammo and Brommus soon learn that the kingdom is in dire straits, due to the fact that having a crown-shaped birthmark, a large sword and good intentions is hardly a qualifier for good statesmanship, especially when he [Who?] is under pressure by the Company to turn his kingdom into a cliché. Together, they help rebuild the kingdom by convincing ministers and nobles to return to their posts, fixing the king’s well-intentioned financial disasters and restoring the people’s confidence in their ruler. [Why did they want an audience with the king? Seems like they're helping the king but the king does nothing for them.]

However, Nodammo’s activities have long since come to the Company’s attention, and Miss Annoyed is dispatched once more by the Company’s CEO to assess the situation. Here the Company’s true intentions are revealed to the reader; that they are people from Earth who have crossed over into Fantasyland and are creating artificial stories for the sole purpose of extracting narrative powers such as deus ex machina, million-to-one chances, happily ever afters and the likes for resale on Earth for obscene amounts of money. [Are these true intentions revealed only to the reader, or also to a character? If the latter, that's what belongs in the synopsis.]

Miss Annoyed quickly determines that Nodammo is a threat. While her boss agrees with her assessment, he instructs her to construct an appropriate climax for the narrative structure she’s observed so far with the caveat that she throw the fight, so that the story can be milked for all it’s worth. The idea troubles Miss Annoyed but her objections are ignored, and she secretly plans to eliminate Nodammo for the sake of the Company’s stability.

It doesn’t take long for another army of heroes to be amassed, this time directed at the kingdom. Realising the first signs of the threat, the king asks that Nodammo convince the ex-commander of the kingdom’s armies to help organise the defences. When Nodammo arrives at the cottage she’s been directed to, she discovers to her surprise that the commander doesn’t live alone; the ex-king, the current king’s uncle, is in hiding there too. After listening to the ex-king’s side of the story of how he became and evil usurper, Nodammo ropes them into helping save the kingdom. Through a combination of their own grit and ingenuity, internal sabotage from Miss Annoyed’s boss, who’s realised what she’s doing, and the power of the narrative secretly aiding them, Nodammo’s side manages to defeat the army of heroes. [Once the truth about the Company was revealed, I lost interest in the plot up to then. Just call me Mr. Annoyed.] [By which I mean, it hasn't been made clear what the danger is to anyone, and now that the truth is revealed, it doesn't have much to do with any of the characters. Was the Company causing the kingdom to fall apart?]

Brommus expresses concern that they won too easily, but Nodammo tells him to be content with his victories, even as unknown to them, Company agents pore over the battlefield harvesting huge amounts of narrative power. The story ends with the kingdom reverting to its former and rightful name of Fairbanks and the instatement of the ex-king as his nephew’s [wise old mentor,] head advisor, with the invitation to Nodammo and her employees to stay in the kingdom as long as they wish.


The idea that the villains are in Fantasyland to steal narrative powers seems kind of gimmicky in a novel, especially if it's not revealed reasonably early. Maybe it just needs to be more clear what the company does. They create a story with a Deus ex Machina or a happily ever after in Fantasyland, then extract that narrative power from the story, bring it to Earth, and sell it to someone who is willing to pay for it, and then that person lives happily ever after or is miraculously saved from disaster? Is that it?

If so, what are the narrative powers the army is gathering after they lose the war? Seems like that was an unhappy ending with no Deus ex Machina to save the heroes, so who's gonna wanna buy those powers?

It doesn't seem that what the Company is doing hurts anyone in Fantasyland. Why does Nodammo kill the heroes? Who are the good guys, who are the bad guys, and what's at stake for everyone? The Company must be stopped from creating and selling literary tropes because . . . ? I think we need to know early on what the Company is doing and how this is affecting Fantasyland adversely. Otherwise it feels like the book veers off into craziness long after we've settled in with it.

Writing Exercise

The 2nd Biennial Evil Editor Poetry Slam

You'll find the first in the archives on 8/4/07.

Time once again to give the blog a little culture. Any poetry will do, from Haiku and limericks to sonnets and epic poems in unrhymed iambic pentameter. Humor is always appreciated, as is the immortalizing in verse of Evil Editor.

Deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern.

Cartoon 439

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Beginning 668

Polly Godwin knew she was lost when she smelled the Thames.

More likely it was a canal, but where on the Wandsworth Convalescent Hospital’s great grounds would a canal be? She stopped to make a map in her head. Toward west was the City of London. The railroad station, where the troop trains arrived, was south, nearer the coast. But where the water must be, she couldn’t picture.

She stood Heaven knows how many floors beneath a 100-year-old pile of granite filled with wounded soldiers from the trenches, in a maze of hallways still lit by gas lamps. Looking for a bedpan liner.

First day on her first nursing job, and it was Prank the New Girl all over again. No doubt an orderly meant to jump out at her from a cupboard. Fine chance he’d find her now.

She started back the way she’d come. In the dark behind her someone groaned with pain.

Polly turned to find a man lying on the floor, his face white as a sheet. How had they let one of the patients wander down here?

"Where does it hurt, sir," she asked, kneeling over him.

"Me gall bladder, I think," he said through clenched teeth.

Polly paused and frowned as she drew a mental map. Toward the left was the pancreas. The kidneys, that cleaned the blood, were right, by the lymph nodes. That must mean the liver is down, nearer the foot, so . . . No, wait . . .

Opening: Susan Hall-Balduf.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 438

Caption: Khazar-khum

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Face-Lift 659

Guess the Plot

Beneath the Ashes

1. They all laughed at Professor Whittaker's insane theory explaining the global uptick in volcanic eruptions . . . until the dragons began emerging from the lava.

2. In the days of old, burning at the stake could kill a witch. But paranormal investigator Kate Hanson is learning the hard way that in modern times fire is not enough, and evil lurks . . . beneath the ashes.

3. Unemployed banker Francois Goibert spends a lot of time gazing out his attic window, so when Mrs. Nash dies in a mysterious explosion, he knows exactly who her sinister visitors were -- but only by sight. Now he must help Detective Cher Wooster identify the killers before these firebugs toast him!

4. Hans-Ruedi Senn's family has lived on the same alp for six generations. He's tolerated the tourists and accepted change, but when city slicker Sylvia Burkhalter launches her new crematory remains scattering service uphill and upwind of his house, he draws the line.

5. Mick Shedly thought he was brilliant to burn the factory, collect the insurance and save his fiscal ass. But he didn't know the scene would be scrutinized by ultra-thorough Fire Inspector Mary Quan, his ex-girlfriend from college --who knows he's a lazy lying cad.

6. Twelve years after committing a double murder by burning down an occupied house, Dondra is released from prison. She sues the state for wrongful imprisonment, then realizes it was probably a mistake to confess to the murders before filing her lawsuit.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor:

RE: Beneath the Ashes

In a small neighborhood in the town of Briarcliff Manor, New York, a fire breaks out. The bodies of a very affluent couple, the Markos, are found. Their foster daughter, Dondra Williams, a young girl of seventeen is charged and later sentenced for their murder.

Twelve years later she is released from prison. [How many people do you have to murder before they give you, oh, say twenty years? I mean, if seventeen is old enough to be thrown in prison for twelve years, it oughta be old enough to be thrown in for any length of time.] Dondra wants revenge [She's out in twelve years after committing a double murder and she's complaining?] and plans to sue the State of New York and the Department of Social Services for wrongful imprisonment. Her allegation: she was physically abused by the Markos. She hires the law firm of Brown, Fisher, and Smalls and is represented by Sydney Taylor, one of the firm’s top lawyers. [I take it Brown, Fisher and Smalls were unavailable?]

Dondra admits to killing the Markos, but refuses to talk about the day of the fire. [When you went into prison at the age of seventeen, how do you have the funds to hire a law firm when you get out? I don't see them taking a wrongful imprisonment case on spec from a client who won't even talk about the day of the alleged murders.] Can Sydney find evidence of any physical abuse or was the motive something more sinister? [If there wasn't any evidence of physical abuse before she spent twelve years in prison, there is now. Do you have any idea how long the waiting list is for jobs as a guard in a women's prison?]

Beneath the Ashes, my 66,000-word novel, is a murder mystery in the same style as Mary Higgins Clark, but infused with social commentary in regards to today’s foster care system.

[Sydney: I've called you together to reveal the truth about the murder. But before I do, social worker Janet Garozzo, who hasn't been a character in the book up till now, would like to provide a brief info dump about the foster care system in the United States. Janet?]

My biological mother had me when she was thirteen. [I was gonna make a sarcastic crack like, Whose brilliant idea was that? Then I realized you might have a different take on it.] I became a ward of the court and was raised in the foster care system for seventeen years. While Beneath the Ashes is fiction, I was able to draw on my experiences living in [and burning down] several foster homes.

With a passion for storytelling, I am currently pursuing my BA in screenwriting at the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. My writing credits include: Rapport magazine; freelance writer for LA Focus and Turning Point magazine; ___________ weblog (relationship and dating advice website); copyeditor and writer for Dysonna, the Fashion magazine and co-writer for the fiction film-short Spin, which won the Global Art Film Festival award for outstanding screenplay 2007. [Remove the least impressive of these credits, starting with the dating advice weblog.]

I look forward to sending you sample chapters and discussing the project with you at your earliest convenience.

Respectfully yours,


Usually in a murder mystery the mystery is who committed the murder. If Dondra did it, and the book is about why, maybe it's literary fiction. If Dondra didn't do it, but is keeping a dark secret that might help reveal what really happened, why would she hire a lawyer to sue the state? Surely this has the potential to bring out the truth she wants to keep hidden.

If you sue someone, don't you have to talk about anything the judge who's deciding the case wants you to talk about?

If you hire a lawyer, he won't want you as a client if you refuse to give him all the relevant facts. And you won't want him as a lawyer if he goes behind your back and digs up facts you don't want him to have from other sources. She's not saying, I don't mind you knowing what happened the day of the fire, as long as you don't get it from me, is she?

Did Dondra claim at her trial that the Markos had abused her? If not, then even if abuse is an acceptable excuse for murder, how can she sue if she didn't tell anyone about the abuse? If she did claim she was abused, maybe that's why her sentence was light. Some people get life (or death) for double murder. Hey, who among us doesn't know two people they'd kill if they knew they'd get only twelve years?

I think we need a bigger hook than "Was the motive something more sinister?" to interest us in this as a mystery.

Cartoon 437

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

New Beginning 667

As Alexander, son of Xavier, walked through the crowd of people in the marketplace, someone who didn’t know any better would think he was royalty. The brown-skinned youth strode forward with all the confidence of a general and all the regal bearing of a king. The bags laden with groceries he carried did nothing to detract from his commanding presence. As he went, the crowd parted before him. But they did so not out of respect, but out of fear. Alex might seem human at a first glance, but there were signs otherwise, such as his pointed ears. While Alex was human on his father’s side, his mother was Kenlor, those hardy and enchanted tribespeople that Men considered savages. In the eyes of many, this was a crime beyond all forgiveness. But despite the prejudice he faced daily, Alex refused to hide what he was, and the word shame held no meaning for him. Neither did humility.

"What the merry Hell?"

Alex stopped in his tracks as a shrewish, gray-haired woman ejected from the crowd.

"Have you no shame? No humility?" The woman glared at Alex.

"Madam, I am--" he said.

You are? Look at me. I just trekked half a frigging mile through this godforsaken parking lot on my bad foot -- I'm diabetic, you know; tell him Herb."

"She's diabetic, you know . . . " Herb told him.

"Because you"--she smacked him with her umbrella -- "took the only handicapped space. Are silly pointy ears a disability now? I don't think so. Are--" she looked -- "Pop Tarts a disability? Not in this version of reality. So what have you got to say for yourself? Eh? Eh?"

Alex had nothing to say for himself. He threw his groceries into his car and drove away, having just learnt the meaning of righteous indignation.

Opening: Brett Wade.....Continuation: ril

Cartoon 436

Caption: Whirlochre

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Face-Lift 658

Guess the Plot

Demon Prey

1. Laci is living a normal life with a normal job. Then one day someone comes into her office, insists that she's a demon hunter, and gives her her first assignment: to single-handedly capture Zathspar, the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth.

2. Thanks to Vincent's experiment with advanced genetic manipulation, aphids the size of Volkswagens emerge from the chicken shack and go in search of religion, only to confront demonic beetles the size of Hummers. Can Vincent quash the ensuing chaos with the power of prayer?

3. Sam and Laura's Yucatan Penninsula vacation is pure bliss--until a trail of dead goats leads right to their tent flap. Can Laura prove Sam isn't the Chupacabra before the locals roast him? More important, can Laura run faster than Sam?

4. Jerrold has been amusing himself by having affairs with girls from the local university's clubs. When he meets Ginny, a dedicated environmentalist, he thinks he can use her like the others. But Ginny's father is a demon, and daddy can't stand to see his little girl cry.

5. Bon Linte is a retired demon hunter who bought an island with the bounties he brought in. Now he owes his girlfriend a peaceful night together, but the children of his victims are looking for revenge and the volcano on his island is set to erupt.

6. Kirsty is a vindictive, manipulative college sophomore. One day the devil appears and gives her a choice -- she can live, die, and probably end up in Hell. Or she can become a demon and gain all sorts of cool powers like eternal youth--but only if she tempts her only friend into going to Hell instead. Did I mention the demon powers are really awesome?

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I am currently seeking representation for my first novel, a paranormal romance titled Demon Prey. The novel, including a prologue, is complete at 76,500 words. [When I finished writing the book and realized it was only 36,500 words, I had two choices: Toss it or tack on a 40,000-word prologue.]

I have always been fascinated by the thought that all around us an unseen war rages over souls. [If it must be included at all, always put evidence that you are mentally unstable at the end of the query.] In my novel Demon Prey I give readers a glimpse of the warriors involved in those battles. The war in this realm is fought between the Amolites, a race of demon hunters and Demons. The Amolites live and work among us, but keep their existence hidden. [If they live and work among us, we know they exist. It's just their hobby they're keeping hidden.] This is why my heroine Laci Scott, [At last. A character.] is more than skeptical when an angel in training appears in her office insisting she is an Amolite. [No I'm not, I'm a Presbyterian.] If that were not disturbing enough, Laci has been charged with ensnaring Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth. [If this novel doesn't sell, would you mind if we incorporated Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth as our next recurring blog character?]

In a political move Laci does not understand, the ruling body of the Amolites strip her guardian away from her, condemning her to certain death at Zathspar [the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth's] hands. Terrified beyond all imaginings, Laci tries to return to her normal life.

It is on a routine business trip to Chicago to meet with a client, Dorian Burton, that Laci’s life is forever changed. [Okay, think. Which one really forever changed her life: a routine business trip to Chicago or finding out she was condemned to certain death at the hands of Zoltan?] It is more than the desire Dorian stirs in Laci, but his ability to manipulate the flow of time that gives Laci her first glimmer of hope. [Most women have a list of qualities they want in a man, but rarely does that list include the ability to manipulate the flow of time. I mean, you never read the personal ads and see something like: Looking for a man 30 - 35 yo who likes walks on the beach, fine dining, movies, and can manipulate the flow of time.] In his arms Laci finds the courage and the strength she needs to stand and fight.

[Laci: With you by my side I finally have the courage to fight.

Dorian: Fight who?

Laci: Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth.

Dorian: Hmm. How about instead we start by taking on Zamfir, master of the Pan flute, and work our way up to Zathspar?]

Zathspar must not be allowed to unleash his powers on the world again. [Again? What happened the last time Zathspar the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth unleashed his powers on the world?] If ZathsparthedeadliestdemonevertoplaguetheEarth is successful, the forces of good and evil will stand against each other one final time and decide once and for all who has the right to rule over heaven. Laci must win, not just for the world, but for the life of a man she can not live without. [Why is Dorian's life at stake?]

For further samples of this work, please contact me. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Can Dorian make time stop temporarily and kill Rathbone while he's frozen like a statue? Can he go back in time and kill Rathbone's mother before he's born? What about Hitler's mother?

Why don't the demon hunters assign the task of capturing Z-Spar to one of their more experienced people instead of someone who didn't even know she was a demon hunter yesterday?

How do they expect her to defeat Zamboni? Doesn't she need some training? It's hard enough to defeat one of the least deadly demons on your first mission, let alone the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth.

We don't need to know about the Amolites. After all, Laci didn't know about them. Start with: Literary agent Laci Scott is more than skeptical when an angel in training appears in her office, insists she is a demon hunter, and charges her with ensnaring Zathspar, the deadliest demon ever to plague the Earth. Of course Laci laughs the whole thing off . . . until [insert event that convinces Laci she really does have to ensnare Zimbabwe.] Fill us in on what manipulating the flow of time means, and make it good, because right now I don't feel that good about the chances of an office temp defeating the deadliest anything ever.

Also, consider changing Zathspar's name to Rathbone.

Cartoon 435

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Vocabulary Exercise 10

“'Mother PINXIT?' What arrogance.” EE fluffed his mutton chops, leaned against the gallery wall and frowned at me. “The PRACTICE of PAYING YOU for a REENLARGEMENT of what's inside your shrunken, walnut-sized brain is losing its charm.”

He stepped away from the wall and observed my busy canvas. “A TERNERY of skinny blond SOCIALITES steeped in AMBERGRIS OUTRACE their REPLACEABILITY and FORTIFY their STYLE with a FOURTH of a busted quartet? Why MORTISE an INFIDEL GINK with a WICKER?”

“Here, take this, EE.” I handed him a PREDEVISED joint. As the SENS ARTERIALIZED, he reconsidered, and now that he was chemically ADVANTAGED, he said “... Oh, I don't know. THE VISUAL PARAMETER REGAINS THE SMASHED VIOLIN. I still think the guy with the willow switch up his bottom looks too happy, though. And he looks familiar.”

"Hush," I said, and handed him another joint.

--Mother (Re)produces

Vocabulary Exercise 9

From Evil's latest minion
Stained pages THUMBED with GRITTINESS
and the PINY smell of fear.

Evil must assess the level of SPOILAGE
Limited SKILL; no more than AVERAGE
Scattered with JUMBO errors.

He already knows it CHURNABLE, but reads on
Chewing absently on FENNEL.
But again, scores 'Dull' on the YAWMETER.

'There is no EXPLANATION
For this appalling CONTINUATION
Evil Editor EMERITUS'


Vocabulary Exercise 8

"Augh! What UNCOURTLY DECOR! Every object is a POLYCHROME!"

"Put a BUNG in it, Doctor. What about the MAIMING?"

"The SEVERANCE? That symptom rings a BELL – Captain, my ABSORPTIOMETRIC TEST indicates the cause is a mutant PNEUMOENCEPHALITIS virus, probably carried on that alien meteor. Fortunately, it only affects the PORTLIEST humanoids."

"Warn Neelix to stay on the ship. An alien meteor? Not a local or DISTRICT one?"

"No, Captain. The ROTATIONAL EVOLUTE of its trajectory puts its origin outside this star system – a WINDBLOWN STRAVAIGER of space, like ourselves."

"Nice METAPHOR. Can you cure it?"

"I believe so. THE LOCATED VARIANCE STOPS BENEATH THE REFRESHING VIRUS. Bearing that in mind, we can achieve a SATISFACTORY RETROACTION by inverting the phase harmonics of our standard anabolic protoplaser –

"Excellent. Get right on that, Doctor."

"Won't help us get back to EARTH, though, will it?"

"Let's not get in a MIFF, Doctor. This is still the most coherent dialogue we've had on Star Trek: Voyager in a long while."

"Huh. Some evil editor will probably cut it."


Vocabulary Exercise 7

Evil Editor's lawyer, who was also his brother-in-law Bob, stepped onto his RAFT. It was his day off, and he planned to do a little fishing for CRAPPIE, maybe even SCARDINIUS. Catching two kinds of fish, he thought, would be lucky, LIKE getting two kinds of fish from a random word generator.

Suddenly Evil Editor came driving DOWN the dock in his ACCORD. He jumped out and yelled, "I need you! They're trying to arrest me for possession of CALIFORNIUM. Apparently it's a FELONY."

"What's Cali --"

"It's a radioactive METAL.

"Where'd you get it?"

"Our office CHARLADY planted it in my desk. She's also the charlady at the UNIVERSITY physics lab. If she wanted me dead I'd rather she hit me over the head with a PALEOLITH or give me poisoned SALEP than give me radiation poisoning."

"Sorry, can't help you." Bob shoved off into the lake.

EE took a running leap from the dock, landing SUR the man, who sputtered, "Mmmph."


"Lemme out from NEATH you; you're cutting off my CIRCULATION."

"I've always thought of you as a SUBRELATION, Bob, but now it's literally true."

"We're sinking! Too much weight in the aft. Move FORE."

EE rose till he was ASTRADDLE the lawyer and the lawyer was ATWEEN his legs. Then he shoved the lawyer into the lake.

"What's the idea?" Bob said.

"Maybe it's just bad AUDIBILITY, but I thought I heard you make an insulting crack about my aft."

--Evil Editor

Vocabulary Exercise 6

THE ASSUMED TOOTH VANISHED PAST THE VOLUME. The FLATTERER laid his manuscript on the pile, traced his finger lovingly over his first line, and smiled at EE. “I think the SUM this’ll get will be a real LANDFALL for us all, Sir.”

The EXACTER glared at him with a CUTTING glare. “Windfall. Strike one; I’d say your OVERPOSITIVENESS is inadviseable.”

The flatterer looked quite ILL, and the BIREFRINGENCE from the DAYLIGHT glowing through EE’s crystal windows gave his face a look of ALLELIC hereditary deficiency. “Perhaps I might explain my story a bit, your wonderfulness? It’s not NORMAL for Betty, my protagonist, to wake up with a SUBLITTORAL NEOLITH—”

“I bet it isn’t.”

“A neolith is an artifact, you see, and because it’s sublittoral it shouldn’t be covered in FLAME, but it is, and that’s why Betty’s house burns down, taking her collection of HETEROGENOUS NITROMETERS with it.”

“Strike two. Boring and obscure.”

The flatterer looked around desperately. “Perhaps you’d like some TANGIER oranges? I’ll get them for you, and then maybe we can talk more. I’m not so UNINITIATIVE I won’t ask for advice on the proper CODIFICATION of my manuscript’s secret messages, and plot stuff, too, Sir.”

EE looked at the whimpering idiot in front of him. “The chamber for maybes is to your right.” The chamber was where all manuscript NONSHIPPERS went, those who really bugged him.


Yup, the MANTRAP was still working. Served him right.


Vocabulary Exercise 5


KEEN to make my pitch, my will was FERRIFEROUS as he looked over the first page.

“ ‘HER KINGDOM COASTS BEHIND THE INSULT!’ What exactly does that mean?”

“It does not have to make any sense. It only has to be eye catching.”

“Ten minutes.”

“It is a 240,000 word story set in a TIMOCRACY society, you know with knight-like ideals but in the future. A plague sweeps the land smiting one-third of the people. This HERPETOLOGIST and TELEGRAPHIST meet at the ISTHMIAM games, that’s the games the Greeks did naked and there is this PARKA wearing SPY who shows them a GRAPH that indicates LINKED plague cells can be unlinked by DEFUSING the LYMPH and adding LITHANE, that is the stuff they give manic people and then they use a BLENDER and the BONIEST reptiles to separate the AGNI through a process like MOLALITY to make a LEMONY smelling potion. And they save the world. TAAA-DAAA!”


“Yes, of course. See how UNINSTATED this is? It wrote itself overnight! Wouldn’t you like to read it? Of course, you would!”

EE gulped down a very large glass of PORT, making me wonder if he had a drinking problem.

“You don’t think the plot is too EXCESSIVE do you, because I can calm it down.”

“No doubt with the prescription you haven’t taken. . . Next.”

I know EE will be calling me any day. And, won’t he be surprised to learn I completed its 540,000-word sequel.


Vocabulary Exercise 4

The General tapped his feet UNDERNEATH the table. His report on Project QUASAR was overdue. A wave of relief washed over him; the specialist entered the room.

“HOORAY!” the General exclaimed, evidenced by the exclamation point. “I have FAITH that you’re the RIGHT man for the job. Just PLUNK yourself down right here. At the rate we are paying to PURCHASE your SUPPORT, we have no time to spare.”

“Just the OPPOSITE is true,” Evil Editor said. “My skills are so advanced that we will complete this exercise quickly. You will still have three million dollars to buy that toilet seat you’ve been raving about. I hear its OUTASIGHT.”

“EGAD, you know about that?”

“PAH.” EE made a dismissive gesture. “Let’s get started. Even though my expertise is in advanced linguistics, I am brilliant and understand PHONEMICS. They are the building blocks of language. Now play me the SAILOR’s phone call.”

The recorded voice said, “A SLIGHEST BUTTON SWALLOWS ABOVE THE WOOD.” EE transcribed it with his many quills, which looked like PENNATULIDAE, when in fact they came from a RATITE, plucked from the abdomen near its CARINA, not from its FORELIMB like many other quills.

“Simple. Our speaker is an ACCIDENTALIST, I can surmise that he sees no cause for the button to ingest anything. Judging by the inflection in his voice he means BEECHWOOD, and given the accent he resides in the northeast LOCALITY. There is no secret code, unless you consider it code for 'that mother-fucker’s crazy.'”

--Rick Daley

Vocabulary Exercise 3

"Professor Lipschlitz is sick and asked me to give his lecture on a special assignment, the evolution of birds. Today we discuss species CONTUPUS. The simple wood PEWEE hangs out in trees feeding on insects." EE pointed the laser at a picture of a bird. "Let's see. They retain their APPEARANCE Phoenix-like, fire and ashes. Won't remain BACHELORS. Rub their beaks on tree trunks creating FLAKES like a wooden PLANE. BAISATE each other, even the same sex and sometimes DISENTOMB enemies for carnivores to defile. In captivity, they exhibit manlike athletics as opposed to the COTTON-throated tweeter who displays WOMANLIKE dances similar to a POLONAISE. They have no natural ability for ASTEREOGNOSIS, unlike the Greek Feel-Goodie. During dissection, their tiny innards appear as ANNEXA. That'sa beginner's mistake."

"Sir, That's a picture of a Pale-Bellied, Tyrant-Mannekin from Birdsong ANNAL."

"Not from this GENRE, uh sorry, genus." He flicked to the next slide. A naked surfer plowed the waves on a square-sailed sailboard, BUNTLINES exposed for all to see.

"Oh-la-la, Lipschlitz is a old DELVER bird. That image dates back to 1994. It carried one of the first Trojan horse viruses and caused much OBLITERATION of hard drives. At my AGE, surfing is, well let's just say I don't want to PREDECEASE my wife. She HELVES axes for a hobby."

"Are you an ornithologist?"

"Etymology and Philology. Is this remedial composition? No? Sorry, THE SIN URGES THE DRUG. Lipschlitz must'ave twittered through a hangover."

--Dave F.

Vocabulary Exercise 2

“THE BRAVE ANCESTOR INTERRUPTS THE WRONG” Evil Editor was reclining on the picnic table, watching William balance on the tree branch.

“Ack! Maître, why can’t you just say ‘excuse me’ or clear your throat? You scared me. I almost fell out. Just a MOMENT.”

“If you were doing it right, I wouldn’t have to say anything at all. Now get yourself ADOWN from there immédiatement.”

“Fine. I’m 'a-hurrying,' ‘a-BOSS.’”

“Insolent! I should put you ATHWART my knees for a thrashing!”

Feeling SULKY, William dropped and sat against the tree. Embarrassed, his face was red, burning as hot as the THORIA in the Coleman propane BEDLIGHT that illuminated the campsite. He could smell the MINOXIDIL from E.E.’s balding pate. “Nothing’s ever good enough, is it? I came camping with you because you said to practice OUTSIDE. Three days now, in the MIDST of mosquito swarms, getting sunburnt, and FER what?”

“To teach you freedom. You’re prohibiting yourself from full expression. You must learn NONPROHIBITION of the body -- Kind of like a chick with NYMPHOMANIA.” E.E. blinked, distracted.

“Ahem. Anyway. I shall show you how a true TERPSICHOREAN dances!” E.E. struck a noble pose, saluted, and danced. Despite his LARGENESS, he performed the most graceful dance William had ever seen. “You must be a CONTRAPUNTIST of your limbs, MESHING with the wind!” E.E. grinned breathlessly.

SUR vos pieds! Now you do it. AFTER you show me PROSECUTION of the dance we’ll go home.” William did, and E.E. hid an APPROVING smile.

--Christopher Goodwine

Vocabulary Exercise 1

With a YAWN, Evil Editor swept a BASSINE-bristle brush down the FRONT of his unique LATEEN-shaped cloak. A quick CHECK in the mirror prompted an approving LABIONASAL resonance. "Mmmmm, this DESIRABLE Goranov Vijenac award for Croatian literature is a much NIFTIER EMBLAZONMENT for my garment than that LOUTISH Bulwer-Lytton medal," he mused. His paper on the Balkan linguistic PHYLUM, a field of study hardly noted for OVEREXPOSURE, had brought the honor from the Dubrovnik Institute of DIGLOTTIC Literature, and invigorated his campaign to achieve the renown he richly deserved, a process previously characterized by much FALTERING. But what if his clandestine use of material from a philological text he'd been sent to edit became known? Momentarily seized with an uncharacteristic sense of guilt, he decided to review the purloined material. Rather than a manuscript, the damned fool had sent a BIBLIOFILM. The made-in-China reader Evil Editor found for it had generated PERIODIC reports of ELECTROCUTION, but what the hell, it was cheap. One passage had elicited particular praise for its masterful translation: "THE OFFICIAL CONGESTS A COMPLAINT WITHIN THE RINGED JOURNAL." Though just as incomprehensible in Croatian, that achievement alone resulted in him being proclaimed a veritable SUPERSAINT among linguists by a whole PARADE of academics. With that memory, his customary megalomania returned. "So what if I'm charged with plagiarism?" he crowed. "What are they going to do, issue a bill of ATTAINDER? Me? Evil Editor? Haahaa! Bipolar, hell! I'm UNIPOLAR, and proud of it!"

--Paul Penna

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

New Beginning 666

Slubka’s throat hurt. Her lungs hurt. Her stomach heaved. That meant, she supposed, that she was alive. Her arm hurt, too, from being pinned under her against a cold concrete floor. She had made it into the Emergency Building, then. That meant she would live a little longer; which meant she still had work to do. She sat up.

She was in a long narrow room, its outer wall lined with windows that seemed to suck light away rather than admitting it. No telling how long she’d been unconscious; the Unwind’s darkness could blot out sunlight as readily as moon and stars. Pale light and a murmur of distant voices came through the half-open inner door. No one else was in the room. She must have gotten this far on her own; if anyone else had brought her in they’d have known her for a Dova, a windspeaker, and stayed to see what she could do for them. Precious little, she guessed; but it was time to find out.

She watched her breath steaming, let her mind spread with it through the stale air of the outer rooms where the Unwind rattled the windows, the worse air of the inner room where the miners huddled, fearing the Unwind, their neighbors and themselves.

“So, what do you think?” said the wife.

“I don’t know, honey.” said the husband. “Slubka just doesn’t sound like the kind of name I want to give to our baby girl. Okay, I’ve heard yours now you listen to mine...

Stephanie went to the grocery store to buy some milk. She discovered--”

“Wait a minute...Stephanie? You want our kid to grow up with a name like Stephanie? No one will take her seriously!”

“Hold on, you said I would get a chance to illustrate my choice with a story.”

“No one wants to hear a story about a girl named Stephanie. Do you think I’m about to give birth to a goblin? Okay, listen to my second choice...

Analby was trapped in a deep, dark hole...”

Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Matthew

Cartoon 434

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Face-Lift 657

Guess the Plot

Mendelve's Daughter

1. An aspiring novelist in Edwardian London writes a juicy romance, but is nearly undone by indecision about the heroine's name -- until she finds a brilliant way to write around it!

2. Convicted of sixteen murders by the age of thirteen, the world's youngest serial killer, waits on death row. And if you think Mendelve's daughter Sarah was bad, wait'll I tell you about Mendelve.

3. One roll in the hay with Fixdwarve and wham, Mendelve the maid is pregnant. Worse yet, a prophecy, a golden spatula and a cabbage-shaped birthmark on baby Patchmix's butt mean trouble from the jealous castle kitchen staff.

4. When Gustavo Mendelve died in 1724, he left behind an impressive array of lifelike automatons that delighted Royal Courts everywhere. Historian Jeff Hunter has found them. But as he restores them, he discovers something strange about the little harpist called Mendelve's Daughter. Is she really just a machine, or did the old inventor find the secret of creating life?

5. Jack John James quit his job after being required to spend a week in purgatory. His new job is to keep the boss's daughter happy. The problem? She wants items from the hells of all the world's religions.

6. Shouldn't that be Mendeleev, like the chemistry guy? The tragic true story of Tiffany Mendelve, and how the 13,121st repetition of that question drove her to begin the bloodiest killing spree in the history of Ogden Dunes, Indiana.

Original Version

Title: Mendelve’s Daughter
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense/ Thriller
Lengths: 90,000 words

Five years ago Joyce Wherret was an ordinary housewife living in one of Seattle’s wealthiest suburbs with her husband, Daniel and only daughter, Satiety. [Satiety? That's her name? Did they decide what to name their kid right after hitting an all-you-can-eat buffet?] But all that changed after Joyce’s husband was caught steeling money from her father’s company. [Which was U.S. Steel.] Disowned by her parents and siblings, [Her entire family disowns her because the guy she married turned out to be a crook?] Joyce followed Daniel into a run down apartment, and took a job as a maid. [When you move into a run-down apartment, it's always nice when someone follows you in looking for work as a maid.] Less than a year later, Satiety is kidnapped from her new school. [Or did she run away because of all the teasing about her name?] Now Joyce lives in East Tennessee with Daniel, struggling to make ends meet and her marriage work. [When you stick your kid with a name like Satiety, you deserve whatever misery befalls you.] Everything changes when a letter, arrives containing details about Satiety’s abduction only the kidnapper could know. The author is Sarah Mendelve, the world’s youngest serial killer. [So far; you can bet there are a few eleven- and twelve-year-olds hoping to break that record.] Convicted of sixteen murders at age thirteen, Sarah has spent the last five years on death row. Sarah will tell everything, all Joyce has to do is stop the serial killer’s execution. Joyce is more than willing. For one thing, she doesn’t believe in the death penalty. But mostly she’ll do anything for her daughter. There’s one problem: her husband. [And there's a second problem: she's not the governor. In fact, she's a maid with no political clout whatsoever.]

Daniel doesn’t want Joyce anywhere near Sarah Mendelve and he tries to stop his wife with violence. Joyce doesn’t know, but Sarah’s grandfather, Gerhardt Mendelve, is the man who kidnapped Satiety. [That's why Sarah is known as . . . Mendelve's Granddaughter.] And he’s been using Satiety to blackmail Daniel. When, Joyce starts digging deeper into the case against Sarah Mendelve, she uncovers a corrupt detective, [who framed an innocent thirteen-year-old for sixteen murders.] and discovers the FBI have classified her husband as a “person of interest,” but refuse to tell her why. ["No specific reason. We just find him extremely interesting."] Then people start dying [Does anyone finish dying?] and all the clues point toward Daniel. [Immediately the FBI swing into action, upgrading Daniel's status to "person of fascination."] In the end Joyce will learn the truth, but it comes with a steep price; to herself and everyone she knows.

I graduated from redacted in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. I am currently an English Teacher [I'm betting "satiety" was one of your vocabulary words while you were writing the novel.] living in redacted. [And that was another one.] Mendelve’s Daughter is my first completed work of fiction. I have attached sample pages. I look forward to further communication.


When you're offered an opportunity to get your kidnapped child back, whether you believe in the death penalty isn't among your considerations.

Nor is it worth stating that Joyce would do anything for her child. It's not like other parents of kidnapped children would say, "Sorry, I'll do anything for my child except stop an execution."

When did they put Sarah on death row? Surely not when she was thirteen. That would never happen. They have special facilities for serial killers who are thirteen-year-old girls.

If your principal sees those commas after "letter" and "When," your English-teacher gig is in serious jeopardy.

Did Gramps kidnap Satiety just to blackmail Daniel, or to try to get the execution stopped? Either way, I see no reason the kidnapper chose Satiety. Why not kidnap the child of someone who's wealthy or who has clout? The authorities will reason similarly and assume she was kidnapped by a relative. Her grandfather. Meaning Daniel is Mendelve. They'll realize they should have known all along, because of the book's title. They'll realize that Mendelve conspired with a police detective to have his thirteen-year-old daughter charged with the sixteen murders he committed, and then moved to Seattle and married Joyce after changing his name to Daniel Wherret.

Not clear what Joyce is expected to do to stop the execution. Her husband doesn't want her anywhere near Sarah Mendelve, but how was she going to get near her anyway? They don't let just anyone visit death row inmates.

Why hasn't Daniel told Joyce about the blackmail? Why hasn't Joyce told the authorities about the letter from Sarah?

I'm not buying the plot. If it all makes sense in the book, you need to get the stuff that's bothersome out of the query.

Cartoon 433

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Beginning 665

“You murdered her!?” A priestess in white robes turned away, unable to look at her lover.

“I did what I had to do! Don’t you understand? This is for us--This is so we can spend eternity together!” The handsome youth approached the priestess and placed his hands on her shoulders. She stopped shaking upon his touch and he gently turned her until their eyes met. “We talked about this, remember? Why let heaven decide what’s best for us when we can forge our own destiny?”

“But...murder? This is not you...This is not the man I fell in love with. You’ve been listening to those fools in the town--You let them influence you! Why did you have to tell them that I taught you the ways of the priestesses? It is forbidden for a man to know such things!”

“Why is it forbidden? Because it was ordained by the heavens? If heaven is so against what we are doing then why did they not stop you from teaching me their secrets? Why did they not intervene when we stepped beyond our bounds and used our gifts to control spirits?”

"Our gifts? What gifts? You've ruined everything. How can we possibly be together for eternity now?"

"But I thought--"

"Did you? I don't think you thought at all. You could have just told her you didn't care for the arrangements. By the Heavens... I suppose it's up to me to salvage this. You go to the tavern or something; I'll see if I can find us another Wedding Planner."

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

Cartoon 432

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Face-Lift 656

Guess the Plot

Saving Eden

1. All it took was one misheard word on the telephone - and the crack Dutch Cheese Rescue Squad was caught up in a situation for which it was completely unequipped.

2. Archeologist Ellen Suree has just discovered an ancient apple tree after draining a quicksand pit not far from her dig site in the Amazon. When her research reveals the petrified plants are older than any known substance, she thinks she's found Eden. But can she stop it from becoming the next Disney World?

3. Angela has spent her entire life trapped in her father's home and garden, and has never seen another person. But now a group calling themselves The Amenders have taken over the US government, and Angela may be the only person who can save a world she's never seen.

4. Emily Watson loves plants and hates religion - which is why this gifted botanist is startled to be tapped to restore the neglected garden of Eden. Despite the general weirdness of it all, working in Eden is paradise--until she learns why the garden is being restored. But can one lone atheist convince the Big Guy to hold off on the apocalypse?

5. At fourteen years old, Eden already drank, smoked and had a tattoo of a fanged demon on her back. When she takes an after-school job at the Convent of the Trembling Martyrs, the first thing she does is kick Sister Mary Gentile's ass for bossing her around. Will Eden's bad attitude destroy the convent, or will the trembling sisters band together for the purpose of . . . saving Eden?

6. Eden is a teenager lost in the system. He sometimes thinks his graffiti tags are the only evidence he even exists. When his graffiti starts disappearing, his investigation turns up disturbing information about spray paint manufacturers. Can he dodge corporate assassins, while saving himself and other graffiti artists from erasure?

Original Version

Dear (Agent),

Imagine living your whole life separated from the rest of the world. [That does sound like Eden.] The only other face you’ve ever seen is your father, ["Father's". Unless your father consists of nothing but a face. Actually, that would be a cool character. A giant face with no torso or appendages. Sort of like a picture of the Man in the Moon, except you'd have to figure out whether it just sits on a pillow while its kid feeds it grapes and pizza and eventually poison, or whether it rigs up a robotic body for locomotion. Either way it's sure to be better than the actual book, and while it may seem astounding that I can say that after reading fewer than two sentences of the query, trust me. Make the father a giant face.] and he’s not giving you any clues to what life is like on the outside. [What does he tell me? He must have some explanation for why he's keeping me trapped. Why haven't I killed the bastard?] What would happen to you if you suddenly found yourself in the middle of a big city, surrounded by strange and wonderful people? Is it possible that the real question should be what would happen to the people? [The real question should be How did I suddenly end up in the middle of a big city.] [Also, Where's the nearest doughnut shop?]

In my young adult novel Saving Eden, which is 40,500 words long, fifteen-year-old Angela has spent her entire life trapped inside the confinements of ["]paradise.["] The only other person she has ever seen is her father, who built their home by hand and tends their beautiful garden daily. [You can probably do without the first paragraph, as you've just given us the same information and then some.] It’s the year 2201 and all that is about to change when Angela discovers Jessie, a seventeen-year-old boy from Chicago, sitting in the mist of her garden. Jessie is a member of a secret organization determined to stop The Amenders, which is a group of people who have recently taken over the American government. [Their first order of business: amend the constitution to make it legal to go left on red and to make the Chicago Cubs World Series champions. Then they'll declare war on the Swiss.] [What did they do, march into Washington and say, Okay, everybody out; we're in charge now.?] Angela runs away with him to help save a world that she always wanted to see but never had a chance to know. When Angela discovers the reason behind her secluded life she realizes she may have caused her father, her new friends, and herself to be in more danger than she could ever imagine.

After seeing the books you’ve represented like (Super-Awsome-Book), which I have read myself in the past, I think you might be interested in representing Saving Eden as well as the many books I plan for the future. [This paragraph can go.]

I believe I should tell you a little about me. My name is "words-over-numbers" and I am a Ball State University student majoring in journalism with a minor in creative writing. I live in Indianapolis, IN and I have had a love for literature since I was a child. Though I have some journalistic articles published in The Indianapolis Star and The Indianapolis Recorder, this is the first fiction novel [Okay, before everyone writes in to point out that you don't have to describe a novel as fiction, allow me to point out that henceforth you do have to, as I've just completed what I believe to be the world's first nonfiction novel.] I have written that I feel deserves to be seen by the world. [You can dump this paragraph as well.]

The full manuscript is available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



Now that the query is much shorter you have room to tell us the reason behind Angela's secluded life. Right now her father seems like that Austrian guy who imprisoned his daughter as a sex slave in a dungeon for 24 years. If he had a good reason for secluding her (and for not revealing that reason to her), what is it? That seems to be the most intriguing element of the story, and you want to keep it a secret.

If Angela has always wanted to see the world she must have some knowledge about it. Hard to believe she has no idea why she's confined.

Is Jessie there because he knows about Angela? We need to know what's special about her and we need more plot, specifically what happens after she gets out of paradise and what's the danger?

Cartoon 431

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Beginning 664

It was a gully in the forest, far from the city but not far form the rail lines and highway between cities. Rains had come and washed away topsoil and a hiker now in custody had happened upon the find.

Now, wooden pegs and string made ten by ten blocks of the whole area. A couple experts dug through the soil, sifting carefully for anything that might be of value. A photographer made certain to record every bone's position /in situ/.

Police in uniform stood guard on the perimeter, making certain everything went forward undisturbed. Not always with success.

“Detective Castillo.”

“No media, Ms Casey.”

“The public want to know...”

“The public probably wants to see you naked, doesn't mean it's going to happen.”

He motioned and four uniformed police officers came up and seized the reporter and her cameraman.

“What am I being arrested for? What's the charge...”

“There's no charge, charges are for people who have rights. We're just holding you until the military gets here. They'll decide what to do.”

"Is it true you found a kilo of cocaine with the body?"

"You already found out about the nose-whiskey? That's it, get that talking pair of tits out of here now!"

"You can hide behind your sexist remarks all you want, sir, but there's no denying the fact that beneath your rough exterior is a sensitive soul waiting for an independent woman like myself to come along and show you how to love again so we can bump into each other while investigating this case--gradually falling in love as we unravel the mystery--until we decide to work as a team and ultimately sleep together before discovering that your ex-partner is the killer in a gripping denouement that requires you to overcome your mistrust of woman in order to save me. Or you can tell me right now if that body was found with Colombian faerie dust."

One of the officers holding Ms. Casey whispered in her ear, “Um, lady...Detective Castillo is gay.”

Opening: D Jason Cooper.....Continuation: Matthew

Synopsis 18

Trial By Fire, Volume One of the Everstar Saga

Alexander, who goes by Alex to most people, [That's not important enough for the synopsis. Just call him one or the other.] is a teenage halfling gifted with the ability to manipulate fire, living in the city of Mora at the story's outset. [Those last four words are wasted.] In this context, "halfling" means someone who has parents of two different races. [That sentence isn't needed; the next sentence makes it clear what the word means.] In Alex's case, his father is human while his mother is of the Kenlor, magical woodland tribespeople considered savages by the humans (a la the European viewpoint of the Native Americans). [Also the European viewpoint of current Americans.] Alex's status as a halfling incites persecution from his fellow townspeople, who see him as a disgrace to the town and a possible threat, as halflings are stereotyped as having uncontrollable powers as a result of their parentage. However, Alex is indifferent to their animosity and is even proud of his heritage(s). This pride causes tension with his cousin, Karen, who is also a halfling but hides it to avoid persecution. [This is all set-up. Focus on what happens.] Eventually, their bickering lands them in a situation where they and their family are pursued by a corrupt officer of the Royal Guard who hopes to destroy them. Their flight from the law leads them to seek shelter on a mysterious island with a peacekeeping fraternity called the Knights Telessar. [A peacekeeping organization should be headquartered somewhere violence is likely to break out, not on Fantasy Island.] While staying with them at their training Academy, Alex learns more about his heritage(s) as his parents, in concert with the Knights, prepare him to assume his rightful place not only as a part of Kenlor society, but as a king. [His father is human and his mother is described as "of the Kenlor, magical woodland tribespeople considered savages by the humans." No mention of either parent being royalty, so why is Alex's rightful place king? If humans think Kenlor are savages, why would humans or Kenlor want Alex as their king?] However, he is not without opposition. In his journey toward power and self-realization, Alex must confront not only prejudice and persecution, but betrayal, romantic tension and rivalry, friends ranging from outright crazy to downright buffoonish, the machinations of a corrupt politician, kidnapping, and torture. [You finally get to the stuff we want details about, and you just list it.] Through it all, he learns to think strategically, relate to others, and to use power not out of anger or revenge, but out of a responsibility to protect and defend those placed under his protection.


Drop the last two sentences, which are just lists, divide the rest into three paragraphs, and you'll have a synopsis just brief enough to go in your one-page query letter (though one with too much set-up and not enough plot).

However, what you were trying for is the kind of synopsis that might be requested along with your manuscript. It should be longer than this (how much longer depends on what the recipient wants), paragraphed, and more detailed, especially in plot. It should tell us the main character's story.

"Kenlor" sounds like a coating for frying pans.

Cartoon 430

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Historical Pitch Session 7

Evil Editor scoffed as he pushed the stone tablets off his desk.

“Your manuscript is fundamentally flawed on too many levels. I could never publish this. For starters, the word count it way too low. This isn’t even a short story.”

“But it's-” the author stood up to interject.

“Don’t interrupt me.” Evil Editor cocked his fist back. In the early days, he was much more evil. The author whimpered and sat back down. “Second, you’re pitching this as some kind of memoir, when it’s just a list of stuff. Who told you this again?”

“The burning bush.”

“Right. Next time try not to inhale the smoke, OK? Third, it’s been done before. Hammurabi published his code of laws about three-hundred years ago,” Evil Editor said.

“But he self-published. I want to go with a major publisher.”

“You can want in one hand and crap in the other. Tell me which one fills up first. Listen, Hammurabi published his code on a giant stone tablet in the middle of the city and you know what? Nobody read it. You know why? Nobody can read yet. Except, of course, me.”

“Well, can you give me some advice so I can do a re-write?” the author pleaded.

“Fine. If you want it to sell, you need a story. When you tell it, start in the beginning. Then you need a conflict, people need to break the rules and there should be all sorts of exciting acts of retribution. Then end it with hopeful redemption. And come up with a new title. ‘The Ten Commandments’ is too facile.”

--Rick Daley

Historical Pitch Session 6

“It’s a rending tale of right and wrong, love and—”

“Love? Does the guy get the girl?”

The old guy adjusted his white drapery. “…He gets her body.”

EE rubbed his hands in glee. “I can tell already it’ll be a best-seller. How juicy is the scene?”

“Juicy? Oh, you mean dramatic. Very.”

“Very as in adult audiences only, or we can still get some teens to read it?”

Sophocles squinted. “I’m not sure it matters… it is very dramatic, heartwrenching, gut-ripping….”


“Well, not her—she hangs herself.”

EE raised an eyebrow. “So you’re going for an audience that likes necrophilia.”

“Huh—oh—OH—no, no, no. When I said he gets her body, I mean he gets her dead body. He comes in and finds she’s hanged herself. Then he—”

“He what?”

“He kills himself, too. And then Creon—”

“Let me guess. Kills himself.”

“Uh, no, actually. His wife does, but he begs the gods to kill him.”

“What a wimp. Look, you got anything spicier?”

Sophocles shuffled his manuscripts. “I’ve got another about a king named Oedipus.”

EE yawned. “Let’s hear it.”

“Well, the problems started with a prophecy.”

“Prophecy shmophecy. Get to the meat.”

“He… killed his father and married his mother?”

EE sat up straight. “Now THERE’S something I can work with!”


Historical Pitch Session 5

The poet swallowed nervously. The idea had seemed such a good one, at the time. Now, as he sat before the man with the strange facial hair and the ominous glint in his eyes, he wondered if he'd done the right thing.

"Hwaet!" he began, desperately.

"You already got my attention," the man replied in a world-weary growl.

The poet blushed. "Sorry," he said, "I'm sorry - I've, uh, I've got a poem - "

"I guessed that," the man said.

"I think it could be big," the poet said. "Like, commercial. Successful. It's got everything - there's, uh, this hero, he fights a monster, and a dragon - "

The man drummed his fingers impatiently on his desk. "Sounds like same old, same old to me."

" - and there's, um, the monster's mother, he fights her, too - "

The drumming fingers stopped. The man's eyes narrowed. "The monster's mother?"

"Yes. She's, um, dangerous - could be kinda sexy in a way, too. I thought, in the movie, she could be played by Angelina Jolie - "

The man snorted. "Don't hold your breath waiting for that," he said. "But the monster's mother ... "

His voice trailed off. There was a long pause. The poet hardly dared to breathe.

"It's an interesting wrinkle," the man said at last. "Okay. Get me your manuscript by nine tomorrow morning, I'll read it. No promises, mind."

"Thank you." The poet's voice was faint with relief.

"Like I said, no promises," said the man. "Oh, and if we do it, what name do you use?"

The poet thought quickly. It had all seemed like such a brilliant idea - but that was before he had met this man -

"If you don't mind," he said, "could I be credited as 'anonymous'?"


Historical Pitch Session 4

What happens when a Southern Belle can't have the man she wants and doesn't want the man who's best for her? Scarlett O'Hara has always longed for the unattainable but when her cousin marries the man she loves, she is willing to do anything to win him back. Rhett, a profiteer and a scoundrel, falls in love with her fiery ways but Scarlett is convinced that Ashley is the man for her and continues to woo him despite his marriage to Melanie. Meanwhile, Rhett asks Scarlett to become his mistress and later his wife, but she puts it off until she's had two failed marriages of her own. But when she has a daughter, Rhett's affections focus on the little girl and the couple further drift apart. When the daughter is killed as the result of a horse riding accident, Scarlett realizes the depths of her feelings for Rhett and Rhett realizes that Scarlett is a selfish bitch. The story ends with Scarlett sitting alone in a ruined plantation, plotting for Rhett to come back to her, who really doesn't give a damn.

The setting is the American South at the time of the Civil War. Romance is interspersed with men fighting and people dying and general poverty in order to keep the saccharine elements of the story from becoming too overwhelming. Readers will love the touch of humor included such as Scarlett wearing a dress made from a curtain in order to appear well-to-do. The book would work well as a musical.

My novel is complete at 418,000 words. I look forward to hearing from you regarding representation.

-Margaret Mitchell


Historical Pitch Session 3

Evil Editor scratched his chin. "It seems clear that Holden Caulfield is thinly disguised. By any remarkable chance, were you ever dismissed from a highfalutin prep school, Mr. Salinger?"

"*Elite*, not highfalutin. You'll never hear me use that word--"

"But you just--"

"--ever again," said Salinger.

"I'm just sayin'," said Evil Editor

"I don't think you're right for me at this time," said Salinger. "Can you recommend any other editors that I should avoid?"

"All of them," said Evil Editor.

Salinger whipped out a court order. "This prohibits you from publishing this post on your blog. Since this post is about me, and Catcher in the Rye is about me, this post is derivative of my future novel."

"Blog? What's a blog?" said Evil Editor.

"It's a pathetic form of publication of the future whereby you'll try to eke out a living."

"How would you know about that?" said Evil Editor.

"You used an unreliable narrator. Look upwards in this post."

"I'll read it before I post it in the future and find little narrative therein."

"There's some, and since this future post is about me, it is unreliable. 'Unreliable' includes time references," said Salinger, with a smile.

INJUNCTION: by this writ of the Manhattan Federal District Court of the State of New York you are prohibited from publishing this future and past derivative post of Catcher in the Rye. However, you may publish it in the present for an infinitely short time.

INJUNCTION: by this writ of the REAL Manhattan Federal District Court of the State of New York you are prohibited from publishing this false writ. The previous false writ is fine by us, though.


Historical Pitch Session 2

"Five Poems? You call this hippy free verse stuff poetry?" EE looked like he was having a coronary as I handed him the hand-written manuscript. He flipped through.

"Peace and love."

"I don't see limericks. Don't see Haiku. Do see groovy drugged-out, hippy in a paper sack, smelling of Mary Jane."

I held two fingers to my lips and sucked in a deep, deep breath. "Not to worry. It's a timely, culturally significant gas. It's great shit." I retorted. He frowned.

"Cultural? Like the Aaaawwwwwoooooooooooo poem. Let's meet Raul the Goatherd and his howling dogs."

"It's howl as in wail. Not bay at a moon. A discourse on society's dehumanization and degradation of what's good."

"You're joking, aren’t you? I saw the best minds running naked down mountain paths covered in goat shit, and 'angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night.' What does that mean? Seriously, not my cup of tea, rhymes with Honna-lee and gets policemen beating the doors because they think it's smutty pornography."

"Are you experienced?"

"Apparently not. What's a sutra?"

"An Indian composition of aphorisms accompanied by sitar."

"Are you sure of that?"

"It's a trippy rap from a lost soul."

"Loser, L-O-S-E-R. Bear in mind that 'for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headache' as an American lament can't ever reach the heights of glory that 'In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo' hits. Now that's good free verse by Elliot. I can't publish some bearded hippy named Ginsberg. I suggest you take your rambler vine and climb up the cottage post and experience the leaves in the night and go hang out with that bearded fool Ferlinghetti at City Lights who digs Coney Island beatniks."

--Dave F.

Historical Pitch Session 1

Cut to the chase, pal, it's almost lunchtime.

Okay, I've written a book called Animal Farm. It's a--

I don't do children's books. Wait, is it a pop-up book? If it's a pop-up book I wouldn't mind taking a look. Those are way cool. You can't beat a good pop-up book. I love 'em. Most people think they're for kids, but what kid has the sophistication to appreciate a well-done pop-up book? What I hate is those books where you have to stare at each page for a minute with your eyes unfocused and then suddenly you see some lame 3-D picture of a pig that looks like a sheep or something. It's not one of those, is it? Those were hot for about five minutes. The payoff was never worth the effort. Although I wouldn't mind knowing how they make those. Come to think of it, I have no idea how they make pop-up books, either. If they could make a pop-up book that's not so fragile, they'd have something. Too often they don't pop up cleanly and get stuck. They're too easy to ruin. That's why they shouldn't be for kids. You don't give a child a Van Gogh. You don't hire a child to cut a diamond. Yet parents give their children pop-up books. It makes no sense. Anyway, sorry about taking up all your time. Is it a pop-up book?


Oh . . . Does it moo and oink?


I see . . . Got anything else?

I have a book called 1984.

Ooooo! Is it one of those books that's shaped like the title?

--Evil Editor

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Synopsis 17

Son of a Legend: The Sablestone, Volume Zero of the Everstar Saga [To be followed by the prequel, Volume Negative One: Son of a Bitch.]

Conleth is a gruff, roguish man who is universally known as The Son of Aerthir Everstar, a great hero of the bygone age. [I tend to think of the "bygone age" as when Beowulf was written, not one generation ago.] Conleth dislikes being known only as the son of his father [Is this guy based on Evil Junior?] and embarks on many "heroic" ventures in order to make a name for himself. With time, these ventures degrade into no more than mercenary work and tyrant-heckling. [Tyrants strike me as the type who don't take heckling well. That plus their access to torture squads may explain why I got zero hits when I Googled "tyrant heckling".] [By tomorrow I should be getting one hit.] Throughout it all, he is accompanied by Imbria, his childhood best friend. The story opens with the two of them completing a mission to dissuade a despotic lord from encroaching on the lands of other nobles. [The poor have Robin Hood fighting for them; the rich have Conleth the Gruff.] Afterward, they flee the country as outlaws and go to Anassia, where they will be safe.

Anassia’s King Zorren then summons them to a banquet in honor of Conleth and his father. At the banquet, Conleth nearly gets into a brawl with a noble named Lord Adarik, disturbing the banquet. [We're halfway into paragraph 2 and our main character finally does something: disturbs some diners. Have you considered writing a book about Aerthir Everstar?] Zorren punishes them by [It takes a lot of gall to punish someone for almost getting into a brawl at a banquet you were staging to honor him.] sending them on a perilous quest to find a beneficent talisman called the Sablestone. Conleth and Imbria find themselves at odds with Adarik, who constantly makes a fool of himself. In the city of Pali, the halfway mark of their journey, Conleth is reunited with his fiancée, Queen Shonda. This causes tension with Imbria, who feels that Conleth mistrusted her by not telling her of the engagement and abandons him. [Imbria's a woman? What else haven't you told us? Is Adarik a chimpanzee?] [Actually, I recommend making Adarik a chimpanzee.]

When Conleth arrives at the mountain pass leading to the stone’s location, Conleth is attacked by two demons. [You got something against pronouns?] After holding his own for a while, he is mysteriously helped by none other than Imbria, who [conveniently] never really left. Once they reach the stone’s resting place, [Resting place usually means grave or cemetery.] all is revealed. Conleth and Imbria were deceived. Adarik is actually a clever sorcerer in Zorren’s service and the Sablestone is in reality a giant dragon egg which he intends to use in a war against Shonda’s empire. [What's he gonna do, egg her castle?] Conleth, Imbria, and some ragtag tribesmen are then engaged in battle against Adarik, his apprentice, Joannavitch [(AKA Janet Evanovitch)], and Zorren's army. They are assisted at the last moment by Queen Shonda, who [conveniently] suspected such treachery. After defeating Adarik [and an entire army], Conleth and the group marches [march] back to Anassia and ousts [oust] King Zorren. [They just march in and oust a king? Oh, right, they've already destroyed the king's army.] As the story ends, Conleth, finally at peace with his father’s legacy, marries Shonda. [No, no, he has to marry Imbria. Trust me.] Just before settling down, he, with help from Imbria, [a mysterious stranger named] Tafar, Shonda, and a mysterious stranger named Gabriel, organize a fraternity called the Knights Telessar to carry on the legacy of Aerthir Everstar.


It's a little strange to have mysterious strangers show up on the last page. It's like you're watching The Wizard of Oz and at the end the exposed fraud wizard has just given the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion their diploma, testimonial and medal, and Dorothy asks for a ride home and the Wizard says, "I'll get to you in a minute, but first I'd like to present Claude the Mannequin with this inscribed pair of tweezers," and you're thinking, Who?

Synopses tend to be boring, but this feels too much like a list of stuff that happens. It would be more interesting if it felt like a story.

For some reason I find the name Conleth annoying. Possibly because it sounds like a normal name being spoken by someone with two speech impediments. I challenge the minions to come up with better names for all of your characters.