Sunday, January 31, 2010

The author of The Crystal Blade has posted his latest version in the comments there, and awaits your input.

Lawyer 8

Evil's lips puckered into a sadistic smile. "Repeat after me: I, Keanu Subpoena, of Subpoena, Heinous & Wiener, do hereby solemly pledge to serve Evil Editor as in-house legal advisor, in whatever capacity said genius prunester chooses, according to the stipulations detailed in Contract A, and with no right of veto, disagreement, or escape."

The trussed lawyer grunted from behind the strip of duct tape sealing his mouth tight shut.

"Then we are agreed." Evil pulled on a lever under his desk and the swivel chair to which his hapless new employee was chained descended through a secret trapdoor into the gloom below.

Mrs Varmighan appeared with a tray of coffee and squirrel-shaped nibbles. "How'd it go with the lawyer guy?"

Evil's lips puckered again. "Three of us against the world..."


Lawyer 7

The man strode into my office dressed to the nines: Austin Hewitt glasses, Sergio Frank herringbone suit tailored to perfection, crisp white dress shirt and blue Hermes neck tie. Five G’s at least…plus Bruno Malis…make that seven. With a flick of his wrist, a business card appeared in his long fingers. Another flick and the card spun gracefully through the air towards my desk, settling upright before me as though he had placed it there by hand. In embossed gold letters it read, ‘Jesper Tillow Rensfield Esq., Attorney at Law’.


Dark hair, dark eyes, tall and lanky, he sauntered along my wall of fame, scanning the pictures, trophies, and awards.

“Nice shot of you with Anwar Sadat,” he commented. “Hmmm, screen guild award, key to the city, a purple heart, two Grammys, a Pulitzer prize, and even an ESPY.” He flashed me a smile that could melt the heart of every bastard who ever sat in a jury box. “No Nobel Peace Prize?”

“What, with MY reputation?”

“Pfft,” he said, waving his hand dismissively. “Obama got one, and you haven’t done half as much damage as he has.”

“Maybe you’ve got a point,” I admitted.

“Damn right I do!” He gesticulated grandly. “You’re an American icon, for God’s sake. Nobody’s done more than you have to further the cause of literary excellence. Day after day you shun the temptations of pettiness, nepotism, and avarice, and resolutely soldier on in the face of…” he turned and pointed to a table stacked with piles of slush, “unimaginable filth!”

He glanced my way and I swear he had tears in his eyes.

Looking both somber and humble, he pointed to me. “That, my friend, is heroism.”

I stood and shook his hand. “You’re hired.”

He smiled and winked. “Call me JT.”

--Mark M

Lawyer 6

Harcourt Z. Penrose, Esq., at your service. I understand you wish to retain an attorney?

Yes. Err...What's the Z stand for?



The Z is silent. So, what type of legal services do you foresee yourself needing? I'm well-versed in copyright law, contracts, plagiarism, etc.

Nah, none of that shit. For starters, there's the death threats.

Death threats? Sir, if your life's being threatened, that's a police matter.

No, idiot. I wanna make some death threats. To my imbecile authors. I need you to make sure I don't cross the line.

I . . . see.

Also, I need guidance in how far I can go in a form rejection slip without being charged with libel.

I'm not sure I'm--

Oh, and I was wondering, if I should happen to throw out my back carrying boxes of slush down to the incinerator, do I sue my employer? Or the authors who sent the slush?

I suppose that would depend on--

One more question. If you had a client who told you, hypothetically of course, that he murdered John Grisham and stashed the body in a closet--that closet over there, for instance--you'd have to keep your mouth shut, right?


Do you know lots of Latin legal phrases? Like habeas corpus and nolo contendere? I need a lawyer who sounds smart.

Sir, is that blood seeping under the closet door?

--Evil Editor

Lawyer 5

Hesitant, irksome knocking and Mr Archibald enters, wearing trousers like Capri pants, pale, piggy eyes hidden behind thick milk-bottle bottomed glasses.

Holding out a clammy, feeble hand, he laughs self-consciously, a thin slick of spittle spurting from the corner of his mouth. “Sorry I’m late- got caught in court”.

Briefly shaking his hand, Mr Eveeledtor indicated Mr Archibald should sit. “Was it an interesting case?”

“Rush Job. Returning an illegal to Mexico. My maid. She fucked up my dry-cleaning”.

Mr Eveeledtor stared pointedly at Mr Archibald’s ankles. “I thought the ship’s captain had died. I was going to suggest you smeared jam on your shoes and invited your hems down for tea”.

Mr Archibald chuckled and pushed his glasses further up his nose. “So, let’s cut to the chase. I’ve worked with Hustler and Hustler for five years, squeezing an extra 10% in foreign rights from first-time novelists by using cuniform scripts designed to look like watermarks. I’m working with ManfredMann’s agency and have assisted them in the acquisition of Dom Brown’s latest manuscript by persuading an Opus Dei member of the CIA that dear Dom was an Islamic assassin. Hacking into his servers’ mainframe, the Catholic Patriot accidentally published the manuscript online! We pulled it, on Dom’s behalf, of course, yet once that text was officially in the public domain it was ours. And when Frandom House wanted to squeeze the dead balls of George Orwell by re-releasing his material via Kindle- I was there, too”.

Mr Eveeledtor frowned. “You sail close to the wind”.

“I stick strictly to the letter of the law, Mr Eveeledtor. It is not a mere quirk of fate that I am able to create obtuse contractual conundrums so great they would make existentialist’s weep. I did graduate Summa Cum Laude”.

Eveeledtor leant back in his chair and smiled. “I look forward to doing business with you”.

--Sam Albion

Lawyer 4

Upon entering, Mr. Harry Miles’s Polyester pant pocket caught on EE’s door handle and ripped a fist-size hole in his pants. In a 180° turn, the 6’6” attorney then accidently tripped over his clown shoes and careened his briefcase.

Seeing the leather case spin wildly towards his head, EE zapped the case, causing it and its contents to burst, leaving shards of paper scattered around his desk.

Forgoing all introductions, Mr. Miles instantly began retrieving his papers and said, “Sorry, Mr. Editor. Darn door knobs.”

EE sat irritated in silence, pondering exterminating Mr. Miles, thinking “One less lawyer – that’s really not a bad idea.” Dismissing the thought, EE replied, “Yes. I see you’re riddled with clumsiness.” He continued to gaze in disgust, waiting for the fool to clean the clutter. As Mr. Miles gathered, EE said, “I’d like to continue, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure thing,” Miles said.

“Good. You see, I befriended an old colleague of mine on FaceBook. We chatted and I mentioned I needed an attorney. She later tweeted me your name. And here you are. Do you know Ms. Page Turner?”

“Sure. Did some copyright work for her.”

“Great. You see. My brand is booming. My Google Page Rank is a 6 and well…just 3 more points and I’ll be as big as Yahoo. I’m growing my enterprise. Soon, I may have Oprah working for me.”

“More book deals, eh?” Mr. Miles replied, stopping in mid clean-up. “You know…I’m a writer too. Since you’re an editor, could you review my manuscript? It’s a paranormal legal drama.” He ogled down at the papers on EE’s desk, and caught a glimpse of his bound ream. “Hey look. There it is. Must be fate.”

With molten fury in his eyes, ready to burst, EE cursed and said, “Get out!”

--Mina Burrows

Lawyer 3

"Well, hello," said the lawyer. "I guess we'd better get to know each other. I'm J. Pennington Fosdyce III."

He smiled, showing brilliant white teeth. EE said nothing, but sat behind his desk, glowering.

"And I guess you'll want to know about my background," Fosdyce continued, unperturbed. "I've spent the last ten years working on intellectual property and copyright -"

"Hold on," said EE. "Copyright?"

"Well, yes. I'm highly skilled when it comes to negotiating licenses and subsidiary rights -"

"Sub - what?" EE growled. "If you think I'm gonna subsidize authors -"

"Ha, ha!" But Fosdyce's laugh sounded forced. "No, I mean rights in the work beyond first publication - you know, movie deals, translations, foreign sales, all that."

"Sounds complicated," EE grumbled.

"Yes. Which is why you need someone with my experience."

EE seemed to be looking at something far in the distance. "Go back to the copyright thing," he said.

"What about it?" Fosdyce found his smile was beginning to slip.

"Well, what the hell is it?"

"Copyright?" The smile was getting harder and harder to keep up. "You mean, the exclusive right of the author to license or prohibit publication, distribution or adaptation of their work? It's - well, it's kind of a basic concept -"

"So you say." EE drummed the fingers of one hand on his desk. Fosdyce felt himself starting to sweat. His cheeks hurt from smiling.

"All right," EE said. "Fact is, you seem to know what you're talking about... and I guess I'm gonna need someone who knows all this crap." He heaved a heavy sigh. "It's the goddamn economy. Everything's going to hell these days. I've been putting it off, but I've got to face it... sooner or later, I'm gonna have to accept a manuscript."

--Steve Wright

Lawyer 2

“Mr… Kerflumble?”

The man in the rumpled blue suit loosened his tie and cleared his throat. “That would be me.”

EE peered down at the papers in front of him. “And how would you rate your performance so far?”

“I plead the 5th, sir.”

EE looked more closely at the papers. “I don’t see why. You passed the cage match with flying colors….” He pressed the intercom button. “Mrs. Varmighan, what’s this asterisk by the Triathlon report?”

Mrs. V’s voice buzzed through the speaker. “Oh, that? I meant to check with you earlier. Did we have any rules about submachine guns?”

Mr. Kerflumble cleared his throat again. “I plead the 5th.”

“Thank you, Mrs. V.” EE scrutinized Kerflumble. “Creative. I like that. And you did well in the obstacle course, too.”

“Thank you, sir.”

EE straightened the papers and set them aside. “So, you’re through to the 2nd round, the questions. What would you say if John Gresham disappeared after a private dinner with me?”

“Innocent until proven guilty.”

“That it?”

Kerflumble glanced over his shoulder at the door. “Well, there is this lovely little meadow only a few miles from here, with soft, loose earth.”

“Oh, there. Was that you last week?”

“I plead the 5th.”

“It really is a nice spot, though. But what if things were bad, really bad?”

“Oh, we’ve had similar cases before. Plead insanity and show the jury the slush pile.”

“Congratulations. Mr. Kerflumble, you’re hired.”


Lawyer 1

The afternoon began when a man in a blue suit and oxblood shoes rapped his knuckles on the frame of the door to EE's office. "Shamus Prendergast O'Toole of Squiremore, Smithee, Clausen and Rancid attorneys at law at your service."

"Rancid?" EE asked. He sat at the far end of the office and brushed apple brown betty crumbs from the ornate desk to the floor. Piles of paper covered the chairs, bookcases, credenza and floor.

"My Mother's maiden name. Her father founded the firm. As the story goes the clerk on Ellis Island thought mother's great grandfather smelled of butter gone bad. But that's unimportant. Shall we get down to business," he paused and looked at the nameplate on the rickety desk. "...Mister Editor?"

"My regular lawyer is off on a fishing trip with an Indian guide. They're exploring the Finger Lakes up at Michigan's Cheesy Cheese Country Festival. I've been subpoenaed to produce a month's worth of rejections for evidence by tomorrow... Impossible." He handed the lawyer a blue folder holding the subpoena. O'Toole scanned it.

"Surely there are a month's rejections in this vast pile of hoo-hah." He waved his hands at the stacks.

"A month? We had to put the weekend's delivery of slush out here in my secretary's office because my office is filled with last week's fare." EE opened the door. O'Toole stared down a narrow path into a Never-Never Land of paper. "And that's only seven days worth. I was lucky to get out of my office alive. I lost my rejected stamp."

"It's easy enough to quash. I can almost cite the relevant decisions and prepare a writ."

"But I don't want the subpoena quashed. You can inform the court to send rejections while Mrs. V. and I each take a well-deserved vacation."

--Dave F.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Friday, January 29, 2010

New Beginning 724

Leaning forward, Jane Fogg trained her Nikon on the scarlet tanager in the canopy of leaves. The songbird cocked its head. It would be a good photo. The muted light was perfect.

“Stay there, you little bastard,” she whispered. “Stay there, stay there.”

Branches cracked across the creek. Mouth open, the birder forgot about her shot. A black saucer-shaped craft flew through the sparse woods on a low trajectory toward the ground, mowing down thin green saplings and clumps of underbrush. The impossible craft grazed a huge oak. Spinning, the saucer veered off, skimmed the forest floor, bounced, came down hard, and crashed in the distance with a sickening metallic thud. Screaming birds flew up out of the trees.

Twenty seconds, and that was it.

“A plane crash,” the birder said in disbelief.

Somebody might be trapped in the wreckage. With a pounding heart, she slung the Nikon around her neck and slid down the overgrown embankment to the creek. It had to be a military aircraft.


The instructor stopped the film. "OK," he said. "Now, what was Ms. Fogg's worst mistake here?"

One student raised a hand. "Going alone into an unsecured danger area instead of calling for backup?"

"Pretty stupid, but not the worst. Anyone else?"

"Assuming the flying saucer is a military aircraft and not, well, a flying saucer?"

"No, though that's still pretty dumb. Next?"

"She didn't get any pictures," the third student said.

"Right! The camera's round her neck, not in her hand. No shots of the saucer, nothing on the screaming birds flying away - she didn't even get the goddamn tanager, for Christ's sake!" The instructor glared at Jane. "You call yourself a birder?"

Opening: H. Grant.....Continuation: Steve Wright

Cartoon 567

Caption: John

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Face-Lift 724

Guess the Plot

Playing Dead

1. Kaleena Shrapner, agent of the Midwest Regional Supernatural Control office, is dead . . . but only in the realm of the living. In the realm of the dead, she's alive. Which is highly annoying to those in the Realm of the Dead who are dead. Or undead.

2. Unlike all the other foxes, Eddie hates hunting and killing. Eddie enjoys the relaxed life of swimming in the pond and lounging in the sun. So, taking a cue from his possum friends, he plays dead in order to get everything he has ever wanted in life: to do nothing. But will he be happy?

3. Sick and tired of school bullies and his overbearing parents, 17-year-old Gus decides to start over by faking his own suicide - only to be shocked when his long time crush admits in her eulogy that she's always had a thing for him. Can he carry on a romance from beyond the grave?

4. After years of dinner theater and TV commercials, classically trained actor Jacob Foxworthy finally gets not one, but two chances at legitimate theatre. But which role should he take? The ghost of Hamlet's father, or Higgs in The Real Inspector Hound?

5. Eric Tripp wants everyone to be sorry, so he engineers his own suspicious disappearance. In front of the TV at the vacation cabin he's broken into, he sits back to enjoy the weeping and searching. Except there isn't any. After three weeks, he gives up and heads home--only to discover no one remembers him.

6. It's 1974 and Bob's dream has come true: front row for the Grateful Dead. When the keyboardist dies midway through "Truckin'," Jerry calls out, "Can anyone play piano?" Bob can, but getting on stage will tip off the IRS that he's been . . . Playing Dead.

Original Version

Dear Agent,

My name is Michelle Garrett, and I am [telling you this because I'm worried I'll forget to sign this letter. I am] seeking representation for my fantasy novel entitled Playing Dead, complete at approximately 120,000 words. Below is a very brief synopsis of a twisting and turning story. [Turning and Twisting. Alliterative synonyms should be listed alphabetically unless they also rhyme.] I have made significant progress on the sequel, yet to be named, and I plot material for additional novels in the same world as Playing Dead outlined. [Say what?]

Kaleena Marie Shrapner has just graduated with a degree in Supernatural Control. [Apparently you can get a degree in anything these days. I assume she attended Paranormal University?] Now, as one of the newest and fastest-learning agents at the Regional Supernatural Control office in the Midwest, she has been assigned the task of killing a notorious demon named Botis. [They send one green agent to kill a notorious demon? Who do they think is gonna win between Kareena Marie Shrapner and Botis the Notorious?] When the tables are turned and he kills her instead, [I don't wanna say I told ya so, but . . . ] the adventure really begins as she regains consciousness in the Realm of the Dead, fully functional and alive. [Also known as undead.] [We will assume she's fully functional and alive from the fact that she does stuff in the rest of the query.]

Wrapped up with the disintegrating barriers [Whaddaya mean, "wrapped up with"?] between the three realms, Living, Demonic, and Dead, Kaleena must learn what it is she has become: the newest Traveler. [From whom can she learn this? Is everyone in the Realm of the Dead alive?] To make matters worse, she’s the only Traveler and the only one who can heal the collapsing barrier separating the three realms … [Actually, she's not the only Traveler, as another one appeared in Face-Lift 305.]

… And the best resource she has for knowledge may be the very demon that killed her.

I've been writing for fun for about six years, and I've had a chance to really watch my writing develop and change. I've finished five novellas previously, and [Delete this paragraph up to here (if not entirely) and use the extra space to explain what happens if the barriers disintegrate.] I have been published as a co-author for a children‘s story called “The Lonely Monkey“ in the anthology The World is Our Home: A Collection of Short Stories, written for children in Rwanda learning English. Thank you for your consideration. I look forward to hearing from you soon.



I suggest dumping the entire first paragraph and starting the last paragraph: Playing Dead is an urban fantasy, complete at 120,000 words.

There's not much here about what happens after "the adventure really begins." All we know is Kaleena will try to mend the barriers and it may or may not be useful to consult Botis the Notorious on the matter.

If there've been barriers separating the Demonic Realm from the other realms, how does anyone know Botis is notorious?

Has the barrier already disintegrated? If not, how can Kaleena get to Botis? If so, why haven't thousands of demons spilled into the Living Realm?

Out of curiosity, if the barriers disintegrate and Kaleena goes back into the Realm of the Living, will she be alive or dead?

They wouldn't call it the Regional Supernatural Control office of the Midwest. They'd call it the Midwest Supernatural Control office. Actually, they'd probably give it a name whose acronym is pronounceable, like Supernatural Control Alliance of the Midwest.

Cartoon 566

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Success Story

Bernita Harris reports that she has a story in the new anthology Weirdly, Volume III.

Synopsis 24

Ryan is a young boy, unhappy with his small-town life. He is, however, given the opportunity to see the world when a soldier rides into town and recruits him. Ryan demonstrates exceptional skill with the sword, and is made the squire to the most skilled knight in the realm, Armand. Unfortunately for Ryan, Armand doesn't want a squire, and resents that his superiors are forcing such a burden upon him. This resentment creates an escalating conflict between the two, which is reflected in the backdrop of war between the Kingdom and its rival, the kingdom of Triol. [The most skilled knight in the realm is seriously involved in an escalating conflict with a young boy? Over what, his bedtime?] [And you compare this escalating conflict to an actual war?] [One kingdom is called Triol and the other kingdom is called . . . the Kingdom?]
[According to Wikipedia, the typical duties of a squire included the following, which leads me to believe having a squire was not a burden, but a necessity:

  • Carrying the knight's armor, shield, and sword,
  • Holding any prisoners the knight takes,
  • Picking locks on fair maidens' chastity belts,
  • Rescuing the knight should the knight be taken prisoner,
  • Polishing the knight's lance . . . frequently,
  • Ensuring an honorable burial of the knight in the event of his death,
  • Replacing the knight's sword if it was broken or dropped,
  • Oiling the knight's knees and elbows after rainstorms,
  • Replacing the knight's horse should the horse be injured or killed,
  • Acting as the knight's human shield while facing a fire-breathing dragon,
  • Dressing the knight in his armour,
  • Reaching under the knight's armour to scratch his itches,
  • Carrying the knight's flag,
  • Arranging the knight's Round Table poker games,
  • Removing the knight's codpiece to allow urination without rust.]
Renek is a man who wakes in a monastery after having survived a great disease. [You seldom see "great" being used to describe a disease.

Knight 1: I just got over a great case of leprosy.
Knight 2: Big deal. I'm recovering from some fantastic scurvy.
Knight 3: That's nothing. I survived a sensational case of Black Death.]

He has the trappings of a soldier--an ancient sword and some serviceable, if simple, armor--and decides to travel to the war's front to seek his forgotten past. Like Ryan, Renek demonstrates finesse with the sword. Initially, upon meeting Renek, the commander distrusts him; however, Renek is too valuable an asset to the army, and so the commander allows him to participate.

Both Renek's and Ryan's units are told to search for the legendary Swords of the Ascendancy, swords made by gods. [You know how much the army values you when the big battle's approaching and they send you on a mission to find a legendary item. Sort of like when I was in the army and we were supposed to take an enemy camp, but before we made our final charge my sergeant took me aside and said, "Much as we'd like you fighting beside us, we need you to go search for the hammer of Thor."] Their similar stories intertwine as they track down the weapons' resting place. As they each separately enter the mountain where the swords hopefully lie, it becomes clear that they are doing so at different times; the mountain is the same, but Ryan enters a living mountain, [also known as a volcano,] with strange creatures guarding the swordchamber, [When you're looking for a sword and all you know is it's inside a mountain, it's always convenient to discover the mountain has a swordchamber.] whereas Renek enters a dead mountain, with dessicated bones instead of living beings.

Ryan finds one weapon where there should be two; Renek finds a broken chamber empty of swords. However, Renek does realize that the ancient sword that he has carried all along is one of the weapons that he sought. [Sort of like when you're searching for your glasses and you discover that you're wearing them.] [Which would be worse: spending weeks searching for a sword only to find it's in a room guarded by strange creatures, or spending weeks searching for a sword only to find it's hanging off your belt?] Both Ryan and Renek leave the mountain having discovered one of the weapons, and both return to the front of their war with the Triols.

At the front, Ryan's wielding of the sword shows great power--too much power for him to control. He struggles, but fails to contain the sword's power; it's release destroys most of both of the armies. [When you realize that your god-made sword is destroying your own army, you might consider trading it in for a non-turbo model.]

Renek, however, has no problems controlling his sword; it seems to have little power beyond what his arm can lend it. He struggles through superior strategy, but more limited resources, and the battle comes to a bitter ending, with only a few dozen soldiers left on each side. During the last few pages of the book, Renek's memory returns when he recognizes one of his boyhood friends. He realizes that he is, in fact, Ryan--somehow he has been given another chance to do things right. [But has failed, as both armies were wiped out again.] He stands up, renewed, determined to make the most of that chance.


Is Renek's sword the same one Ryan found at an earlier time? If so, how come it's no longer uncontrollable?

Renek realizes he's been given a chance to do things right, but what things? The army was wiped out the first time, and it's been wiped out the second time. What went wrong that's left to do right?

Apparently Renek's been given another chance through magic or time travel? How do we know he didn't just have amnesia?

As this synopsis is plot-only (no title, no genre), maybe you should stay with the plot consistently and not step out to make comments like "During the last few pages of the book," and " it becomes clear [to the reader] that . . . "

Cartoon 565

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Beginning 723

People became prisoners of many things. Love, money, and even time. Being bound to a pair of gloves never made it to Callen’s top ten list. Of course it was what the gloves represented that made them penitentiary status.

Standing at his locker, Callen shook those thoughts from his brain while scrupulously plucking a tan pair out of its package. These gloves were a lighter material to prepare for the impending spring weather and would provide respite for his sweaty palms. Besides, the others pair had seen their day.

He calculated that each pair lasts an average of two months. The fingertips were always the first to fray, followed by the edging along the palms. He was always surprised by how much use his hands got in any given day. He could probably develop a better prototype someday.

And make his life even more about the gloves? Screw that, he thought.

Callen glanced both ways making sure he was alone in the hallway. Every other sophomore was at lunch. He was excused to the bathroom. The lunch monitor, Mr. Stuckey, always took pity on him. Probably figured he needed more time, with the gloves on and all. Savoring this moment of freedom from the confines of his glove detention, he examined his skin in the flailing fluorescent lights. Mottled red bumps ran along the tops of his fingers and moved in jagged lines down his wrists.

He felt disgust.

* * *


"Yes, well, while we at Garrigan's Gloves were initially intrigued by the offer of 'subtle and subliminal' product placement in your novel, I'm afraid this isn't quite what we had in mind..."

Opening: Christina.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 564

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Face-Lift 723

Guess the Plot


1. Exiled from her village, Quill happens upon Fox, injured and lying in a ditch. They make a pact: Quill will Nurse Fox back to health and Fox will teach Quill to survive in the demon-filled forest. When they discover the demons' dastardly plans, which may include burning down the village, they must decide whether to issue a warning or to relax and enjoy the carnage.

2. Toni "Foxfire" Harris is the youngest pilot ever to be awarded her wings for SHEPARD - a super-secret branch of the Air Force. When the aliens attack, will her skill keep her in the air long enough to save the planet? And why do those alien boys have to be so gosh darn CUTE?

3. Alan is writing like a madman. Why? He's had a novel handed to him on a silver platter- in a dream, to be exact. After months of typing till his fingers bleed, lest he forget a plot twist, he has another dream: Joyce Carol Oates suing his ass for plagiarism.

4. When Jared and Jason's father is killed by a mysterious explosion at the Foxfire Lab, they know there's more involved than a simple gas leak. Can they find the culprit--or will they unleash a zombie apocalypse?

5. International superspy Jack Halligan is betrayed by his own side and framed for a crime he didn't commit. To clear his name, and prevent nuclear war, his one chance is to seduce the glamourous femme fatale known by the codename Foxfire. Given the circumstances, Jack will have to wait till next week to come out of the closet.

6. A black-ops unit investigating sudden radio silence from a nuclear command bunker discover a team of high school nerds have disabled America's nuclear arsenal. Is it a political statement, or just a way to impress girls?

Original Version

Dear Mr. Evil Editor

Nineteen year old orphan, Fox, lives alone in the forest, struggling day to day against hunger, isolation and the elements. [It's rough growing up an orphan, but when you reach the age of nineteen, it's time to consider leaving the forest and checking out civilization.]

Oh, and the Demons.

However it’s not the man-eating demons, but a fall, which puts Fox in jeopardy. He’d always thought he’d be devoured by the demons, not that he’d die because he didn’t watch his footing… like his father.

When her irresponsibility causes the death of a child, fifteen year old Quill is ousted from her village, sent to live alone in the forest amongst the demons. It’s not even the death sentence that angers Quill, but the knowledge that the village thought they’d be better off without her, despite her remarkable tracking skills. It’s those skills, however, which turn her condemnation into hope when she discovers Fox injured and trapped in a ditch. [All the important information from the first three paragraphs (there's a demon-filled forest and Fox is injured) is contained in this paragraph, so why not start the query with this paragraph?]

Surely they can’t trust each other; after all, it’s abandonment which brought them together in the first place. But a deal is made: Quill will help Fox recuperate if Fox teaches Quill the way to survive amidst the forest and the demons.

Their trust in each other grows until a demon attack reveals a shocking secret about the nature of the demons, their land and its residents [--a secret so shocking that to reveal it here might cause cardiopulmonary arrest in the reader].

Now Fox and Quill have to make a decision: do they stay complacent and suppress the secret, dooming their abandoners to death? [It would be most refreshing if that were their decision. I recommend rewriting the ending to make it so.] Or do they risk their lives in an attempt to expose the truth?

Foxfire is an 85,000 word fantasy novel. I have a BA in English with an emphasis in creative writing from the University of Minnesota and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


It may seem obvious to you (and to Evil Editor) that your main characters are a fox and a porcupine, but I suspect some readers will need this spelled out for them.

What's the secret?

How does exposing the truth risk their lives? The demons are already their enemies, and if the villagers would kill them for coming in with a warning, they can always find some other way to warn them. A letter nailed to a tree in the village square at 3 AM, for instance. Is there some reason Fox can't enter the village? I didn't get the impression he was an outcast, just an orphan.

Cartoon 563

Caption: Stacy

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Erick the Strange Angelic Man 6

"Halloo and Greetings from Foxtail Acres. I'm Erick Hugo Witheringwall of 1441 Mudcat Square, a cul-de-sac located in the Warf's End neighborhood of Zelienople." EE looked up to find a man dressed in checkered pants, brown jacket with burnt orange bunting and a man bag slung low over his shoulder.

"What Ho yourself, good fellow. I've never been to Foxtail Acres but I have been to Kelb-tal-Fenek. As for Zelienople, one of my minions wrote a query about Baron Dettmar Basse and his daughter and her marriage to Philipp Passavant. Harmony was quite jealous and Petrolia was never the same." EE spoke in a flat, matter-of-fact voice.

"I put the good word in for Callooh Calay that helped them to go national. Tuscaloosa was never the same either." Erick plucked a lock of his ginger-dyed comb-over and moved it over his bald spot .

"I don't think anything is ever the same. What are you selling Erick with the funny gray things sticking out your back? Angel Food cake alamode with strawberries and whipped cream?" EE looked over at the fair grounds where the seventeen man Accordian and Drum Squad was tuning their cordovoxes around the May Pole stage.

"Bunting to festoon the pavilion for tonight's Frankie Yankovic memorial, good cheer in the form of felicitations and an exquisitely written manuscript for your eyes to peruse as your ears are delighted by the entertainment." Erick flourished his arm and an e-reader appeared in his hand. "The Red Queen Wore Scarlet and the Dog Did Indeed Bark" appeared on the screen in gothic letters. EE's eye brows moved in a sideways glance that asked -- can this be serious. A broad smile came over his pale, skinny lips.

"Tell Miss Snark even a month late is good fun for April Fools."

--Dave F.

Erick the Strange Angelic Man 5

Interesting duds, pal. And the wings and halo are a nice touch. I like a man who knows how to accessorize. Are those real wings? I ask because they're kinda small. You look like a pterodactyl with chicken wings.

They're real, asswipe.

So what, you're an angel?

No, but I am angelic. There's a difference. Mostly semantics.

Say, have you ever noticed that there never seems to be a button on a desk that you can push to open a trap door? Why is that, I wonder?

I wouldn't know.

It's a mystery. Anyway, what can I do for you?

I need a publisher for my autobiographical graphic novel. It's called Erick, the Strange Angelic Man: A Life.

That you? Erick the strange angelic man?


Can you draw?

Of course. Here's a drawing of Carlotta, the snazzily dressed lit agent.

Nice. I think I'm in love. Tell you what, I'll have a six-figure contract ready for you in the morning if you'll introduce me to the real Carlotta.


--Evil Editor

Erick the Strange Angelic Man 4

It was cold outside and in, so Evil Editor was working furiously. Giving another manuscript a cursory glance, he hurled it towards the flagging fire in the nearby metal trash can. Appearing from nowhere, a foppish looking stranger in an oversized tweed jacket and double-knit pants snatched the papers from mid air.

Evil’s eyes pulsed dangerously. “Who the hell are you?”

The haloed stranger smiled. “I’m Eric the angelic man. I come before you…”

“Hey buddy, get in line. I get first dibs around here.”

Eric frowned in confusion. “Um…”

“Oh, you mean alphabetically then?”


“Our names,” said Evil. “’Eric’ comes before ‘Evil’ alphabetically.”

“Come again?”

“Hey, enough with that already. Why are you here, besides stealing my heat?”

Eric drew himself up, trying his best to look virtuous. “I was sent here by the ‘Big Guy’.”

“So, you’re intervening on God’s behalf?”

Eric waved a hand dismissively. “No, no. God’s been slumming for centuries. Satan persuaded me to come by and help you sort manuscripts … something about writer suicides causing an imbalance down there. I was told that in the last month alone, you rejected ten best sellers and three potential Pulitzer prize winners.” Eric the strange angelic man opened his arms wide in a magnanimous gesture. “I’m here to help.”

Evil flashed him a cold, steely grin – a grin forged by reading countless manuscripts filled with poor syntax, inane dialogue, weak plotline, and one-dimensional characters. He nodded to a desk piled dangerously high with a mountain of paper. “Okay tough guy. Suit yourself,”

Two hours later, Evil heard a faint ‘poof’. The desk was still piled high, but Eric was gone. Evil shook his head knowingly. “Panty waists,” he grumbled, tossing another manuscript into the fire.

--Mark M.

Erick the Strange Angelic Man 3

I was working the late shift again, hoping that if I put in enough overtime and got a few results, I’d finally get bigger wings. Easy. I mean, what could happen at 3 in the morning?

The fat guy, that’s what happened. One moment there was silence, the next moment there was slurred singing about Hemingway and bottles of wine on the wall, and the next moment some fat drunk had fallen through the doorway.

“Shthistherighthouse?” he slurred.

“It all depends which house you’re looking for,” I replied. “This is a church, and in your state I’d say it is indeed the right house.”


“Miss Who?” I shook my head and tsked. “No, this is a house of worship. Now, if you’d like, I’ll help you to a seat in the front of the sanctuary, one with a nice view of the cross, and we can talk a while.”

He shook his head. “Doyouaveaphone?”

“Why, yes. If you’re calling to find a ride home, I’ll take you. Don’t drink and drive, and all that.”

He took the phone and dialed quickly. I had the feeling he’d done this many times before, poor man.

Someone picked up on the third ring. “Hello?”

“HeyMishShnark, guesswhothisis!”


“Lishen, Baby, Ibeenthinkingboutyou aaaaaall nightlong, andIthinkwecouldmakeitwork. Waddayashay?”

I cleared my throat. “I do believe she’s hung up.”

“Yeaaaaah, thatsoundsjushlikeher.” He stared at the phone in disgust, and I took the opportunity to step in. “If you need a ride home, sir, I’ll start up my wings and we can be off directly.”

“Whynot.” He blinked at me. “Yougotwings. Andclothes.”

I pulled the cord on my wing rig. “I find they’re a good idea.”

He blinked again, and studied my oufit. “Ilikeit, IIIIlikeit. Where’djaget thosepants!”


Erick the Strange Angelic Man 2

Evil stilled his shopping trolley next to the cinnamon buns.

“One for the office, one for home, and a snazzy one for when I — what the fuck?”

Beside him in aisle 13 stood a strange angelic man, who seemed to have appeared from nowhere.
“Excuse me, can I get by?”

Evil nodded and stepped back — but the strange angelic man moved forward, and their trolleys collided with a chink.

The strange angelic man gestured. But was it you go right and I’ll go left or you go left and I’ll go right?

Evil guessed the former: WRONG! The trolleys collided again.

This time, Evil took the initiative. He signalled I’ll go left and you go right, but forgot the strange angelic man was facing him, and their trolleys met for a third time.

From his pocket, Evil took out a notebook and pen. He sketched out the aisle and plotted the positions of both men and both trolleys. Then he drew in lines — EE, this way; strange angelic man, that way — and smiled at the strange angelic man.

Fourth time lucky, thought Evil.

But no.

For some inexplicable reason, the trolleys still collided— over and over, no matter which way Evil barked out the directions.

Finally, they agreed to part. The strange angelic man needed deodorant and Evil needed to find some way of not forfeiting his store card by punching the strange angelic man. Evil shuffled backwards with his trolley, watching the strange angelic man do likewise. When the strange angelic man turned to his left, Evil followed suit: problem solved.

In the next aisle, Evil surveyed the pickled gherkins. “One for the office, one for home...,” he muttered.

“Excuse me,” came a voice. “Can I get by?”


Erick the Strange Angelic Man 1

Erick walked into Evil Editor's office with a song in his heart. The last time, the woman with purple hair had stopped him at the doorway; today, though, she was lying face down in a litter of empty Southern Comfort bottles, so there was no one to stop him going straight in.

EE was incinerating a manuscript when Erick entered. He looked up, and -


"Whoops. Sorry. Should've turned off the laser vision there. It'll be OK. Anyway, chicks dig horrifying facial scars. Who are you, anyway?"

It took all of Erick's strange angelic willpower to keep him cheerful through the blinding pain. "I was just passing. I thought I'd check on my manuscript - ?"

"Oh, Christ. What was it called?"

"'Memoirs of the Strangely Angelic'. It's autobiographical."

"Right. Here you are." EE slid an ashtray across his desk.

Erick gasped. "My manuscript!"

"Got the usual treatment."

"But - that was ten years of my life in there!" Erick could feel his strange angelic disposition fading. His halo slipped off his head, to shatter on the floor.

"Christ. What a shame." EE shook his head. "All that time, you could have been outside, getting laid, or doing something useful.... Never mind. Shut the door on your way out. Mrs. V. can validate your parking."

Broken, Erick staggered out of the office. He had been strange and angelic before, but now dark twisted thoughts were surfacing in his mind. "I'll have to get a mask, to hide my disfigurement," he muttered to himself. "Or lurk in an underground lair... or both.... I'll spell my name without the C... maybe I'll develop an unhealthy fixation on an opera singer...."

Strangely - but, alas, no longer angelically - he still felt like singing.

--Steve Wright

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Face-Lift 722

Guess the Plot

Little Emergencies

1. When you simply have to have chocolate. When you spill lemonade on the front of your pants right before the debate with the other nominee. When you wake up in your sleeping bag and discover a boa constrictor wrapped around you.

2. When the condom breaks. When you find yourself pregnant with triplets. When your no-good louse of a husband leaves you in your eighth month. When you can't get a sitter on the day of your big presentation so you bring the kids to work knowing the only way to keep them quiet is to breast feed them.

3. When it's your first day at your new high school and your new classmates find out your name is Charmin. When your mother comes to your school and starts yelling at your math teacher . . . during your math class. When you're surfing the web and discover your kid brother secretly photographed you in your underwear and put the pic on

4. When the timer goes off signaling that your souffle needs to come out of the oven at the same time the dog is on the new carpet making pre-puking gag noises. When an alien nursery ship crash lands in North Dakota and lets loose forty species-worth of extraterrestrial infants.

5. When the most popular boy in high school falls in love with you . . . and you're a guy. When your own brother falls in love with you . . . and you're a guy. When your best friend Patrick is so jealous of the guys who are in love with you that he storms your school with a gun . . . and you're a guy.

6. When you see the most darling pair of sandals on sale, and your credit card is already maxed out. When your waitress turns out to be your ex and she's better looking than your date. When your hair is on fire.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am currently seeking representation for my YA novel, Little Emergencies. It clocks in at 69,000 words and, from your list of interests on your website, could be a good fit for you.

Zach Mulholland has drama on his plate like any other teen: [Actually, most teens have pizza on their plates.] pressure to settle down and conform, parents who just won’t get off his back, and Patrick, his best friend who doesn’t understand that they aren’t a couple. Then suddenly Zach meets Jonathan, the most beautiful and most popular boy in school, who somehow loves him back. Then there’s a hasty engagement to marry said popular boy, [Already? They just met. Wait, which one is pregnant?] [Now that we know his name, no need to refer to Jonathan as "said popular boy."] an engagement that has everyone raising their eyebrows – even Zach himself. [Even Evil Editor.] Then Zach has to deal with Patrick’s insane jealousy, becoming one half of the school’s ‘it’ couple when he’s used to blending into the scenery, and figuring out what he really wants out of all this. Oh yeah, and then his estranged brother just has to fall in love with him, [Seems like there should be a step or two between being estranged and being in love.] and Patrick just has to storm the school with a handgun...

Little Emergencies is a story about impetuousness and practicality, “wanting different things”, [Putting quotation marks around it doesn't make it less vague.] and how much high school sucks. But mostly, it’s a story about three kinds of love: unrequited love, fairytale love, and the kind you call the cops on [i.e. the kind where you need to borrow a set of handcuffs]. Its intended audience could be similar to the audience of such authors as Julie Anne Peters, David Levithan and Rachel Cohn.

I am a first-year university student majoring in Creative Writing. I have a few publishing credits with the local newspaper and high school newsletters. [That isn't gonna sway any decisions. Better to use the space telling us something that happens.]

I can be reached at [phone number] or [email]. I look forward to your response.



Why is everyone so crazy about this guy who tries to blend in with the scenery? Are there any girls in this school? Used to be girls complained that all the best boys were taken by the cheerleaders. Now they're all taken by the other boys.

There's a lot here about relationships--who loves, is engaged to, is jealous of whom--but not much plot. Is the storming of the school with a handgun the big climactic event everything's been moving toward? Does someone get shot? Is there a vampire? What are the driving forces that lead Zach to the conflict resolution? Hey, that gives me an idea for a better title: Mulholland Drive.

Cartoon 562

Caption: Steve Wright

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

New Beginning 722

I’m twelve. I’m a boy. My life is simple. I’m not in puberty yet, although the girls I go to school with are growing tits. I don’t care about that. I’d rather build models and fly my radio controlled airplanes. Do you know you can build a model of Billy Bishop’s Sopwith Camel and drive it into the Red Baron’s biplane for $15.98? Big money. My paper route pays for the models I love to crash.

My Dad had to deliver groceries when he was a kid. Dad says he was always tired as a teenager. He was riding around delivering groceries. I get to crash planes.

My life changed last week. My Mom, she teaches. I don’t know what is in her head, she has allergies. Well my Mom, she brought this thing home. Wizend face, taped ears for crying out loud, taped tail, my God. Marmaduke is a Boxer. This piece of misery, body parts loped off - three that I could count, well that was my new dog. I was afraid to touch him.

So I gave him a piece of my sandwich. PBJ are my favorite, but I like bratwurst too. That one was PBJ. The peanut butter stuck to his mouth and he slobbered all over the carpet, gross, slimy mouth like when Aunty Miriam kisses me at Thanksgiving. But Aunty Miriam doesn't like PBJ so I guess she always slobbers. Aunty Miriam was Dad's sister and she worked in the post office. She told me most of her job was about licking stamps, so I guess slobbering was kind of useful for her, really, but she never put the stamps straight 'cause she only had one eye, but that wasn't totally my fault, everyone said so. Anyway, I think I'm going to like it here at Longthorne Junior High. Any questions?

Good one. Yes, it's true, I'm twelve and I
seriously don't care about tits.

Opening: Bibi.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 561

Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Face-Lift 721

Guess the Plot

Immortal Island

1. On an island inhabited by warlocks, werecreatures, shapeshifters, witches, etc., Sarah's life is constantly in peril. How many times can she expect the strange angelic man who's actually a vampire to save her neck?

2. Isla de Santa Susanna is not found on any maps. When fat, homely Isabel washes up on its beach after a plane crash, she's surprised to find a colony of people only too glad to welcome her. But are they normal . . . or vampires?

3. When a plane crash lands Marsha and her two friends on a strange island, they know they're in major trouble. But, they didn't expect that trouble to include hiding from a mad scientist intent on capturing them to use as subjects in his human immortality experiments. Are they fated to die in pursuit of eternal life?

4. 13-year-old Danny dreads the annual summer vacation on Immortal Island. But this year is going to be different, what with the rumors of buried treasure, disappearing gardeners, suspiciously smart dogs, and the help of a cute pyromaniac named Kimberly.

5. In an alternate-history 1970’s, a small island off the English coast becomes a haven for wannabe revolutionaries and small-time crooks. When an international arms incident catapults the island into the spotlight, thief Jerome and rabble-rouser David must choose between their ideals and their love for each other.

6. The network has spoken, and they've voted off survival reality show host Guy Sly. In a plot of cold revenge Guy orchestrates a mass kidnapping of network big wigs and plants them on an remote island full of immortal beings. Which fat cat will be dinner first? Will Guy redeem himself during sweeps week? Vampires, zombies and faeries galore!

Original Version

Dear Evil editor,

Please consider my mss that I have completed entitled, ‘IMMORTAL ISLAND - Spellbound/Midnight Masquerade’ first book is part one and two. [Your first sentence is a sure deal killer--and not just because it isn't a sentence. The title is three titles; choose one. We don't care about parts one and two. Ms. is the abbreviation for manuscript. My mss that I have completed would be more concise as my completed ms.] [The good news is that you've got an excellent shot at the Least Effective Opening Sentence Award (an Evil Editor coffee mug), though you're in a tight battle with Face-Lift 333.]

It is about a young woman named Sarah Daniels who discovers secrets about her friends and family that changes [change] her life forever.

Sarah begins having visions that she cannot explain. At first they appear as dreams, but when she has them while awake she realizes what they really are. [Which is?] The first vision she has is of the parents [her parents'] death, when they don't return from their vacation she goes to the town sheriff to report them missing. [The sheriff of her town or of the town where they went for vacation?] She meets a handsome yet mysterious Undersheriff



named Chase Gavenport, who she has a unique attraction to. Things slowly start to unravel every day that she spends on the island. [What island? Immortal Island? I had no idea they were on an island.] Then a strange man dressed in all black begins to stalk her while at her parents [parents'] place. (Zadkiel). [Zadkiel? Is that the name of her parents' place? The name of the stalker? An exclamation, like Gadzooks?] When he finally reveals himself to her he tries to kill her but Chase comes to her rescue. They become close and Chase eventually reveals to her that he is a vampire and also tells her what the man in black wants. [(Zounds).]

Sarah’s ex-boyfriend decide [decides] to complicate things even more by adding himself to the equation. He reveals that he is still in love with her and wants her back. [The word "reveals" appears more often in the last four sentences than it does in the entire book of Revelations.] Sarah is torn and can’t decide what she really wants. [No need to say the same thing twice in one sentence.] They [Who?] share a house just off campus [Campus? I had no idea they were on a campus.] with close friends and things start to really heat up. She must choose but who will it be, the vampire who brings with him a life filled with uncertainty or her best friend and ex-boyfriend who loves her for everything he thinks she is. [Which is what?]

But now preternatural beings of Sarah's new world seem to be drawn to her. Her life is in constant peril, she cannot turn to her human friends. With witches, warlocks, were-animals, shape-shifters, [zombies, sharks,] to name a few, come to claim, and the power that dwells inside her begins to grow. [That sentence made no sense to me, apparently because I'm unfamiliar with the expression "come to claim."] A power Sarah does not know how to control.

Now Chase has disappeared and no one will give her any answers as to his whereabouts. [When you ask someone where the vampire is, you seldom get a straight answer.] Who will keep her safe from the nightmare that has become her life. Wait a minute there is always a white knight…Right? Erick the strange angelic man. Who always seems to rise to the occasion mainly when she is in harm’s way? Three times he saves her but why, he is a vampire too. [Making your most compelling character a vampire is a mistake. I liked him better when he was just Erick the strange angelic man. In fact, my desire to read more about Erick the strange angelic man leads me to insert this week's writing exercise here. Write a scene involving Evil Editor and Erick the strange angelic man. Don't make Erick a vampire. 300 words max; deadline: Sunday, 10 AM eastern.]

Then one night after giving up all hope she receives a mysterious letter. A Midnight Masquerade ball? Being thrown by the vilest of creatures out there. He has no sympathy for human kind and would rather rid his world of them. [Naturally she accepts the invitation.] Sarah must do what she can to save her life and the life now inside her as she comes face to face with the man who will take her life…Chase? [You're asking me?]

Sarah survives the Masquerade but not before her unborn child or is it children are infected with vampire blood. Now it's a waiting game. To see whether or not her children will live and be vampires killing her in the process with their savage birth, or if they are healthy and unharmed by the blood that was so easily given to her by the same vampire who on many occasions attempted [to] take her life. Ambrose and Sarah will forever be connected from that day forward. [Ambrose? Who's Ambrose?] Now she must tell the father that his babies could be vampires. How will Jeff [Jeff? Who's Jeff?] take the news that vampires exist and that his unborn children may be one [two] of them?

Turns out that the twins are affected by the vampire virus yet in different ways. Alaina is half vampire and half human, she prefers to drink blood. Wyatt is human but has all the abilities a vampire has, [If you have all the abilities a vampire has, you're pretty much a vampire.] however he is more unique than they know... His blood is the key, the cure to vampirism.

This is four parts all together book two is complete but not ready for viewing just yet.

Please contact me if you would like to review my complete mss.

word count -> 84,328

Urban Fantasy fiction for YA or Adults. There are intimate scenes that can be altered to fit YA.



A query letter should fit on one page. Trash the whole thing, start over, limit your plot summary to ten sentences.

It's riddled with errors. This leads the reader to assume the book is also riddled with errors. Even if cleaning up the query got a request for the manuscript, no one will read far into a manuscript full of spelling, usage and grammar errors.

Your opening hook is that this is a book about a woman who discovers secrets about her friends and family that change her life forever. Her family isn't in the query at all as they disappear while on vacation and never get mentioned again, and the only friend in the query is her ex-boyfriend, and I didn't see any secrets about him.

The hook might be something like this: Pregnant with twins, Sarah Daniels attends a masquerade ball at which she is bitten by a vampire. The pregnancy, birth and aftermath sound like they could make an interesting story. The witches and werecreatures and island and parents and campus and man in black and Zadkiel are cluttering the query. And possibly the book.

Cartoon 560

Caption: Anon.

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


For the past couple months I'm getting dozens of spam comments every day, sent to random posts on the blog. I can continue reading and deleting them or I can use word verification or I can set it so only members of the blog can comment. The latter would require those who comment to become members, and I have no idea how one becomes a member.
Whaddaya think?

New Beginning 721

I could see no good was coming to my niece from finding that sword, nor to anyone else neither. If it was dangerous to the conquerors, I said to her, they wouldn’t of let you find it, would they, missie? They with their magic? Let me find it! she says with her chin up. Let me! I reckon they didn’t let me; I found it myself and brought it back out of the dark, and they couldn’t stop me; and they’ll find out what I can do with it, and it won’t suit them.

Wouldn’t any harm have come of it, maybe, if the others hadn’t flocked around like chickens on corn, gobbling up her look and her voice and the things she could do with that sword. It was better than a soldier, or an acrobat at the fair, the way she moved with it; and it had a music to it that even I could hear was mortal sweet, yet wounding too. Oh, I heard the hurt of it under the sweet, and I told her, get shut of it! She wouldn’t listen. Nor would the other young folks.

And then she teamed up with that boy, the one who had the spear he'd brought out of the forest; that spear that made the faintest high keening note when he danced with it. More of them flocked round her then, and soon there were others; the other girl with the knives that had their sweet plangent tones, and the big fella with the mace that made a deep, deep booming noise that you could hear in your bones.

Wouldn't any harm have come of it even then, though, if it hadn't been for that stranger who came into town. He had them pale, intent, far-traveled eyes that you knew they'd seen a lot. And he looked at our band, with the sword and the spear and the knives and the mace; and he looked at our soldiers, with their flutes and their violins and their combat harpsichords; and he said as he reckoned we were doin' it all wrong.

Opening: Joanna.....Continuation: Steve Wright

Cartoon 559

Caption: Anon.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

Face-Lift 720

Guess the Plot

Superhero Cell Anomaly

1. Sheriff Carson can't understand it. Every time he arrests one of those pesky superheroes, they manage to break right out of jail.

2. When biologist Sara Abrams examines Arthur Curry's cell structure, she's quite surprised at the fish-shaped mitochondria. Is it possible? Could Arthur be . . . Aquaman?

3. Tex has developed a rare condition known as Superhero Cell Anomaly, which gives him super powers--until it kills him. Now he must decide whether to use his powers to prevent the threatened death of all mankind, or to spend his final weeks soaking up the sun in Florida.

4. After her third suicide attempt, fifteen-year-old Jana is sent to visit her genius-violinist cousin, whose own life is near the breaking point. A summer spent guerrilla gardening, staging a coup on a local soup kitchen, and forming a band called Superhero Cell Anomaly won’t fix everything . . . but it might help just enough.

5. In the year 2012 strange things are happening on the planet Earth. The magnetic poles have switched places, Nevada is oceanfront property, and suddenly everyone except thirteen-year-old Jason McGee is a superhero.

6. Martin's superpowers aren't the type to get written up in comic books. Nevertheless, being able to get cell phone coverage in the depths of New York's subway system has its advantages. But now the phone company has found out and wants answers--answers that Martin can't afford to give.

Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Tex is the charming, midnight pleasure you find in most women’s daydreams. [Whatever is in women's daydreams is found by them, not by me.] Unfortunately, age thirty-two will be the end of his life, due to a complex jinx in his genetics, giving him the rare condition dubbed the Superhero Cell Anomaly. It goes undetected until it strikes, causing the victim’s cells to burn up into pure energy at an accelerated rate, granting supernatural strength, speed, and awareness, [He's a combination of Superman, Flash and Spiderman. Also Aquaman if he can communicate with fish.] [Can he?] until there are simply no more cells to burn.

He flees for the hot Florida rays for his final months, [He flees? Who's chasing him?] [If my cells are burning up, I'm heading for Antarctica.] but he won’t find leisure there. An intimidating woman, of beauty, brawn, and brain, tracks him down, drudging [dredging] up one of his old cases from back when he was a cop, where he just happened to be in the right place at the right time, saving a little girl from getting run down by a van.

This woman needs to find that girl because it’s her beloved sister, and she has colossal powers that need to be controlled. The little girl lost her memory, so she cannot control her own powers, threatening all of existence. [Her powers are so great they threaten all existence, but she can't defeat a minivan?] Oh, and did Tex mention that the FBI took the girl into their custody, stashing her away in a secret location for experimentation? [Tex knows this, but the girl's sister doesn't? Why would Tex have kept up with the girl after the van incident?] That might make things difficult.

Uncharacteristically seduced by a beautiful woman in need, and testosterone-pumping adventure, Tex decides to help. He embarks on his last crusade, racing two clocks: the one of his death, and the one of the death of all mankind.

Superhero Cell Anomaly is complete at 90,000 words, ready and available at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.



What makes the woman think Tex knows where her sister is? How did the FBI know the girl had powers? How does the woman know Tex can help her? How is it the girl's powers can be controlled if she's with her sister but not if she's with the FBI's scientists? If the girl lost her memory, why would she trust Tex or her sister? You don't have to answer these questions, but you might want to simplify the query so these questions don't come up. For instance:

Ex-cop Tex Houston has a rare condition known as Superhero Cell Anomaly, which gives its victim temporary super powers . . . and then kills him. Tex has decided to live out his last few months catching rays on Miami Beach, but when beautiful Sydney Bristow asks him to help find her missing sister, Lucyliu--whose ability to make the sun go nova could wipe out mankind if it isn't held in check--Tex agrees to take on one last case.

Turns out Lucyliu is in the hands of the FBI's most diabolical scientists. Rescuing her won't be easy, but with boots, chaps, spurs, and a ten-gallon hat, Tex becomes . . . Cowboy, the superhero who dares to take on the Feds. Can Cowboy save Lucyliu before his cells burn up into pure energy . . . and before she wipes out all mankind?

I think you need to describe the girl's powers and how they threaten to eradicate all existence.

The first sentence isn't relevant to anything.

If the woman and girl have names, why not use them?

Cartoon 558

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Poe 5

It was the itching. The incessant itching. It would commence nightly as I lay in bed. I would discover some nearly imperceptible itch on some inconsequential limb, perhaps my calf. And I would scratch. A momentary scratch, enough only to relieve the itch, no more. And yet, no sooner would my nails cease their actions than another itch would take the place of the first, this one on my scalp.

And again I would scratch, but only, I assure you, for a moment or two. And then the itch would find my thigh and again I would scratch, this time longer, for it felt good as I scratched but immediately itched again when I ceased. So I scratched and scratched until I was out of breath, until I feared I would scratch my skin from my thigh, would dig through the muscle and sinew to the very bone.

Do not think that I was approaching insanity. Would an insane man have had the wherewithal to go into the lavatory and spread moisturizing lotion on his legs and arms? No! Yet so I did, and to no avail! for the itching itched through the lotion and I could not resist snatching scratches, even from areas I had previously scratched to rawness.

When the itch progressed to my back I nearly threw out my shoulder attempting to reach it. But still my faculties remained sharp. I searched out a long fork of the type used when carving a bird, and with it was able to reach even the most inaccessible portion of my back. My moaning and sighing and flailing about eventually disturbed the people in the room above until they pounded on their floor, and I made a mental note to later brick them into a wall in the basement.

When the itch found its way to my anus, the urge to scratch was unbearable. An epic battle ensued, the hellish itch conquered by the heavenly scratch, but the divine scratching outlasted by the infernal itching. I dared not stop, for each easing of the scratching was accompanied by further intensification of the itching. And though my fingers undoubtedly stink, I scratch on, hoping beyond hope that palliative sleep might overtake me before I disembowel myself.

--Evil Editor

Poe 4

The Ravens

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying singer left its songs upon the floor.
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
' 'Tis some musician entreating entrance at my chamber door—
Some late musician entreating entrance at my chamber door;—
This it is, and nothing more.'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
'Sir,' said I, 'or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and though so loudly you came rapping,
Though so crudely you came rapping, rapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce dared to receive you'—here I opened wide the door;—
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a rapping somewhat louder than before.
'Surely,' said I, 'surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore—
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;—
Bad rappers and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped five black-clad Ravens of the drugged-up days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made they; not a minute quiet or calm stayed they;
But, with miens of lords or ladies, climbed above my chamber door—
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door—
Perched, and rapped, and nothing more.

And those Ravens, never falling, still are sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And their drums have all the seeming of precarious cliff-hanging,
And the rapping from them streaming makes the chamber much too loud;
And my soul from out that noisy pity that comes streaming from the door
Shall be lifted— ne-ne—n-never-more!


Poe 3

At first I did not know if I had awakened or not; for it was still full dark, and the broken vestiges of dreams yet haunted my awareness with their twisted caprices. But soon I knew that I woke, and that my need could not be denied; and I threw aside the covers and stood.

The night wind howled outside my window, and my light was but a feeble gleam as I made my way along the dim corridors. Once more, my mind was full of thoughts for my lost Lenore; Lenore, who had filled my dark world with light and comfort! But she was gone! - gone! - and now I trudged alone through those spectral and unhallowed passageways.

Oh, how I longed for her presence, as I stood at last in that freezing chamber with its nitre-encrusted walls, and did that which was needful, even though the cold and the abominable stench tore like the claws of tigers at my weakened lungs! But even as I did so, I chided myself for my folly; for she was gone beyond all recall, and no earthly or infernal power could bring her back to me. But, I wondered, did my folly lie in regretting her loss - or did it lie in the past, with the actions on my part which had driven her from my side and made her pledge herself to another?

Such speculation was pointless, I told myself as I shuffled back along the shadowy passages towards my empty bed. But before I composed myself for sleep once more, I made a notation on the paper at my bedside, in a thin and tremulous hand: Memo to self: either clean bathroom, or find another cleaning lady.

--Steve Wright

Poe 2

Stately. That's the judgment of the world on my sitting rooms. From the blue and gold ormolu clock that decorates my mantle, the gilt porcelain ladies and gentlemen proffering their elegance and superiority, an age gone by, an era lost to modernity. For the modern is all geometric, all distinct edges, knife-like, severe, cold and emotionless. I long for the gently contoured and incurvated, the lush ornamentation, the brilliant golds and purples of settees and loveseats made soft and round, leathery, overstuffed extravaganzas that pleasure the body and please the eye.

I searched long for the silvers and grays of paper that fill the walls and the hand-carved lintels above the doors and windows, the falls of burgundy velvet draperies and silk-tasseled tiebacks on gilt rods. None of the modern blandness of wooden blinds and bare sisal scattered geometrically. Neither would I countenance a common vase, a middling-quality chotchke, or mold-sculpted greenery -- no plastic urn, nor fake seedling. My shelves were filled with sparkling Swarovski, subtle Lalique and brilliant Baccarat.

But peerless in my ways and with all of my opulence, all of my splendor, I felt forlorn, a solo soul on a unique peregrination. I desired companionship for approbation and good dialogue, the perfect guest as to supped the finest repasts seasoned with the rarest of spices, indulge the most luxurious of spirits from historic vintages, and to quietly, take up residence in my humble abode. I desire a comrade and colleague with remarkable prescience who will perpetually approve my sense of style.

And ergo, in the alcove he sits, stuffed and waxed -- perfectly coiffed, immaculately clothed, a paragon of gentility at high tea. His body served him well when he was alive and it has served me well after his death -- a perfect companion.

--Dave F.

Poe 1

I know not when it first occurred to me, that I should live climbed up a tree. Out on a limb, some would say, but I would say that I was safely away, from the thundering herds of my fellow primates, with their cars and their televisions and their incessant laptop tapping and typing.

Tap tap tap, sometimes in a rhythm, sometimes in a tumble, but whatever process whichever all those he's or she's used, it was all the same to me; part of the mad thundering sounds, the thundering, peace-plundering sounds that bore down on me until I had to flee, up into my forest tree. And so I fled and built my high house, and lived above the fray, in the quiet and peace. Until he came.

I heard him before I saw him, heard him blundering around, making sound after sound in the stillness of my forest; heard him plopping down hard right under my tree, then saw him, this mass of a man with a blue jacket on, bold enough in color to cause pain to my seeing; and then came the sound, the sound I most loathed; the incessant tap typing on his keyboard most bold. He tapped and he tapped, and he tapped more and more, until from up above I pounced on him. And after that, he tapped no more.

--Robin S.

Saturday, January 16, 2010