Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Face-Lift 748


Guess the Plot

The Shadow's Edge

1. After his family moves to the deep south, Julien is treated like an outsider. He has no close friends. And just when he thinks things can't get any worse . . . Hitler invades! The shadow of the Third Reich has a long reach.

2. Hank Horowitz always thought of his shadow as an out-of-focus, benevolent figure that followed him around. But when he finds his shaving cream replaced with denture adhesive, and discovers he’s unable to go half a block without encountering a banana peel, he realizes that fuzzy shape’s got a definite mean streak.

3. Jim's friends all say that it's impossible to step on your own shadow's head. But Jim has recently become aware of an amazing celestial phenomenon: the sun moves in the sky! He issues a challenge to the nay-sayers: "Meet me on the playground by the swings at high noon." Jim will crush the puny psycho-religious beliefs of the other four-year-olds.

4. At the Shadow's Edge there is a town of peg-leg men and parrots, where all the dogs are named Millie. Is there something in the Shadow's Edge that robs men of their legs and their imagination? Now, one man dares to name his dog Bob. Can Javis avoid the Shadow and keep both his legs? Or will the mysterious drunk woman chasing him with a chainsaw claim more than his love.

5. Postal carrier Mark Kingman doesn’t worry about getting mauled by an untrained dog on his route. He fears sunny days—and the shadows they bring. Demons lurk in the shadows. When Mark trips while sprinting from a front porch to his mail truck, will he be trapped in the darkness . . . forever?

6. The Planet Xanth has a Light Side and a Dark Side. Rotating on its axis as it swings around Beta Centauri, one side of the planet faces away from the sun in eternal night. No Xanthan dares enter there--except one intrepid Xanthling named Grol. What terrors will Grol find beyond . . . the Shadow's Edge?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In The Shadow's Edge, set in France during the first two years of World War II, a school rivalry becomes a matter of life and death for two Jewish refugees.

Fifteen-year-old Julien is angry. His family has moved from Paris to his father's hometown in the deep south, [This makes me think Mississippi rather than the south of France. I'd name the town instead of saying the deep south.] where the guys at school stare at him and won't let him in on their soccer games. His family's new boarder--German, Jewish, nerdy, and in his class--isn't helping. Nor is the fact that Hitler has invaded Poland, and France has declared war. [This seems to imply that Julien blames Hitler for his troubles at his new school. That may be the case, but the order of magnitude of the causes of his problems is so different it sounds like a joke: I'm not making friends because I'm new in town, there's a nerd living in my house, and Hitler invaded Poland. It's like saying Jeff is afraid to ask Millie to the prom because he's shy and he wears braces and the Zorgon fleet is attacking Earth.]

But nothing happens on the border for months, while Julien, through grit, soccer skills, and a near-death experience in a snowstorm, finally wins over most of his class--except for class leader Henri. Then Germany invades. [Don't you just hate it when a genocidal megalomaniac bases his military decisions on how best to screw up your social life?]

As his country falls in a matter of weeks, Julien's world changes drastically. School closes, there's not enough food, no one can believe this is happening. Profoundly relieved when surrender terms name the south as an unoccupied zone, Julien gradually realizes all is not well: [Your country just surrendered to Hitler; "all is not well" is an understatement.] the new Vichy government is collaborating with the Nazis. As school resumes he sets up a rivalry with Henri over the new fascist flag-salute; Henri's power is eroding, his belief in Vichy growing unpopular. Julien is gaining ground. [He thinks, If Belgium would just hurry up and surrender, Henri would be toast.]

Then two teenage refugees get off the train: Gustav and Nina from Austria. Henri's father, the stationmaster, looks at them and smells trouble; he offers them a ticket back out of town, and Julien witnesses the scene. They refuse; Nina is very sick, they need help desperately. Julien guides them to the pastor's house at their request. But Henri's father has called the mayor, who tells the pastor's wife these "illegal immigrants" have a choice: to leave town quietly or be sent to a Vichy internment camp. She says they'll leave. Julien helps to hide them in town.

Then Henri tells Julien he knows they're not gone, and asks where they're staying. Now Julien has to convince him not to tell his father--if he fails, Nina may die.

But who has ever listened to his enemy?


The story of Gustav and Nina's journey from Austria is also told, in short vignettes between chapters. As Nina's father lay dying of TB in the summer of 1939, he told her:Leave Austria, you and your brother. Burn your papers. Find a place where you are safe. But a narrow escape from a stranger who offered to help them cross the border makes Nina wonder: did her father understand what kind of world he was sending them out into? Or is her uncle right, who told her to stay put, that there is no safety, that everywhere there are evil men? This question haunts her as she and Gustav make their uncertain way across half of Europe, wondering if there will ever be a place for them. [Their story sounds more exciting than Julien's.]

Complete at 88,000 words, The Shadow's Edge is a Christian historical YA novel for teens who like a good life-or-death story and for parents and teachers who want to enrich their kids' school study of WWII and the Holocaust. It is loosely based on the true story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, the only town to be honored by the state of Israel for rescuing Jews during the war.

I won contests for poetry and creative nonfiction in college. The Shadow's Edge is my first novel. My mother, Lydia Munn, and I are the co-authors.

Sincerely,


Notes

This too much detail for a query letter. The Gustav/Nina vignettes paragraph can go. The nerd boarder can go. The pastor can go.

I assume the main plot involves saving the refugees. This is more compelling than whether Julien gets to play soccer. Possibly the story lies in Henri and Julien realizing there are more important things than the school pecking order? (The story might be even more compelling if Julien weren't on the rise and Henri on the decline already.) In any case, focus more on saving Gustav and Nina, and less on Julien's problems. We just need to know Henri and Julien are rivals, so we can appreciate how their relationship affects the bigger picture.

It seems like it would be hard for the Nazis to round up Jews in the south if the south was unoccupied. Not they were trustworthy, but if you want to give the impression you aren't occupying the south, infiltrating every town looking for refugees is going about it the wrong way. No wonder they lost.

If this is for a Christian market, are you sure you don't need a little something about the religious angle? There's no indication the pastor does anything to help the refugees. The stationmaster and mayor don't strike me as typical Le Chambon-sur-Lignon heroes.

Cartoon 610

Caption: anon.

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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

New Beginning 741

There stands a bridge in the northern country, a bridge nigh as ancient as the mountains in which it stands, a bridge so high in the mists that it is scarcely real, and it is with this arch from solidity to solidity that our story begins.

It is the dead of an autumn night, the sort of night where the cold seeps into your bones—the cold of dead adventurers' stony graves, hidden deep from the sun's light in the folds of the mountain. Farther down the mountain, below the tree line, the pines rustle softly and nervously where they stand, and even their cousins, the maples and oaks much farther below, hesitate to display their brilliant autumn foliage to decorate the harvest-feasts of the valleys.

But here there are no harvest-feasts, and no lanterns but one, which is held very tightly in the sweaty palm of a young man's hand. He's looking up at the twin pillars of the bridge, shifting from foot to foot, glancing over his shoulders, and biting his lip.

He knows it is the date. He knows it is the hour. He scaled a mountain, and crossed that treacherous bridge, and descended back through the treeline to this silence, this absence of feasting. Something has gone terribly wrong. Or . . . his Facebook friends have punk'd him again.


Opening: Rachel.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 609

Caption: anon.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Face-Lift 747


Guess the Plot

Unearthly Beginnings

1. Librarian Jeannie Flaherty knows there's something wrong when every new acquisition that comes into her library involves fog, spectral dogs, alien abductions, and Sasquatch. Could it be a sign that the zombie apocalypse really is happening? Also, undead hamsters.

2. Born into a superhuman race from the planet Iridium, Hugh Halogen really just wants to emigrate to Earth and start a career as a printer-fax salesman. But when he beats every sales quota on record, rival Morris Molybdenum threatens to expose Hugh’s origins unless he slacks off. Will Hugh triumph in his quest for mediocrity, or return to his . . . unearthly beginnings?

3. Molly Walker is the head writer for the Education Channel's hit alien hunting show "Unearthly Beginnings". Handsome Gary Brockman is the series' narrator, bringing Molly's words to life. He doesn't even acknowledge her existence. Maybe having the Zericolans abduct him will finally get him to notice her.

4. While excavating a Mayan temple, archeologist Saul Pannelli finds a chamber with circuitry embedded in its walls. When they hook the circuits to a generator, a beam of light shoots into space. Panic ensues.

5. Loner Charlie gets assaulted by a bully, and wakes up as prisoner of an evil unearthly monster. He escapes, but the evil is inside him, and Charlie must decide if it's worth unleashing the evil to kill the bully, even if it means the annihilation of the human race. He decides it is.

6. Medicinal pot-grower Marv Sweets didn't know what he was getting into when he tried to market hydroponic-grown weed under the brand name 'Unearthly Beginnings'. The Feds he can handle, but the organic foods fanatics can smell the chemical fertilizers he uses from miles away. When his greenhouses are wrecked by Birkenstock-clad vandals, Marv knows he's in a fight to the finish with foes who will stop at nothing to prevent scientifically grown pot.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Unearthly Beginnings:

When sixteen year old Charlie Wilkins falls into the hands of a deranged scientist, he leaves the encounter alive, but loses the life he knew forever. Charlie finds himself in the middle of a bittersweet nightmare as the transformations within him destroy everything he once hated and loved. [We don't really need this paragraph, as it's all covered in the next paragraph. You could keep the first sentence, adding, " . . . in my YA dark fantasy, Unearthly Beginnings," and just dump the second sentence which is too vague to interest us.]

Alone except for his mother, kindly old Mr. McFarland, and his paranormal artwork, [As "alone" means alone, the more exceptions you list the more we wonder why you used the word to begin with. I could say I was alone except for my family, the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, the cast of Troy and the fans at a U2 concert in Wembley Stadium, but you wouldn't shed any tears for my life of solitude.] [Also, I wouldn't include artwork on a list of exceptions to his alone-ness. If he's alone except for his artwork, he's alone. A bonus advantage of leaving the artwork off the list is that you can put "and" after mother, so it won't sound like kindly old Mr McFarland is the mother.] [Also, why are we mentioning mother and kindly old Mr. McFarland up front, when they play no role in the rest of the query?] Charlie wants nothing more than to slip under the radar going unobtrusively from day to day. [No need to say both "slip under the radar" and "going unobtrusively from day to day," as they mean the same thing.] But, when he's captivated by the unattainable beauty, Amy Gold--girlfriend of the star quarterback--and his most relentless antagonist, Tom Sterling, [This makes it sound like Tom Sterling and the quarterback are two different people. And that Tom is the quarterback's relentless antagonist.] Charlie pours his emotions and passions into the creation of his own comic book with Amy in the starring role, and Tom as a grotesque snake-like predator. When it is discovered by Tom and his peers, Charlie is pursued and brutally assaulted. [You don't see The Joker and Lex Luthor assaulting the authors of Batman and Superman comics. I thought there was no such thing as bad publicity.] [Evil Editor comic books! Why have I never thought of that?] Left to his own fate, [You don't need that phrase, whatever it means. And start a new paragraph here.] Charlie awakens in a place of indescribable horror, and is forced to become the first human test subject of a monster. Although unaware of it, Charlie is face to face with a creature not quite human, [A monster.] who's [whose] race has been persecuted to near extinction and his [whose] use of Charlie will mark the start of his specie’s [species'] rebirth. Having escaped the inhuman man and his lab, [When did that happen? How long was he a test subject, three minutes?] Charlie attempts to resume his life--but finds that his life is no longer his own. A beast has taken residence within him, and he must fight for control of his body and mind. When his new abilities [What are his new abilities?] allow him to destroy everyone who'd ever hurt him, [i.e.Tom Sterling.] however, he gives himself over to the conversions. Summoning the last bit of will in him, Charlie seeks to end the evil that was unleashed but it might already be too late to save our race from a monster's Unearthly beginnings. [Once Charlie unleashes it, the evil beast is powerful enough to destroy the human race, yet this puny kid was able to hold it back?]

This dark fantasy novel for young adults, complete at 62,500 words, is available for review upon request. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Is there a connection between the comic book and the monster? Like, did those who assaulted Charlie give him to the monster?

Calling the deranged scientist a monster and a creature may give the wrong idea. Does he look like a human?

Turn that long paragraph into three.

The monster (or his creation) has the power to destroy the human race, yet his own race has been persecuted to near extinction? By whom?

Photo Caption Contest Winners

Caption: Matt Ryan


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Caption: Paul Penna


Caption: anon

Cartoon 608

Caption: Steve Wright

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Detective Story 5

The big stooge was sitting behind his desk when I walked in. There were a couple sheepskins on the wall behind him, and a painting of some dame who wouldn'ta given him the time of day if his watch were broken. "What can I do ya for, Chuck?" he said. I hate it when guys say that. And how'd he know my name? Either he called everyone Chuck, or it was a lucky guess. Or--and this was the most likely explanation--I'd forgotten to remove my name tag after the Shamus Club luncheon.

"I'm a private dick," I told him.

"You look like someone who values his privacy," he replied.

"I've written a book."

"What's it called?"

"The Cock Crowed at Dusk."

"Dusk? I thought cocks crowed at dawn."

"That's the point. The cock was the clue that led to me closing the case."

"Who gets killed in this caper?"

"Plucky chick. Real looker. Slung hash at the Breakfast Nook."

"She cooked at the Nook?"

"We found her corpse at the Tick Tock Club."

"Lemme see if I've got this straight. In the book by the dick, the plucky Nook cook's corpse was found at the Tick Tock club, and the case was closed 'cause the cock crowed at dusk?

"Correct."

"Where'd you collar the killer?"

"Connecticut."

"Of course. Look, it comes across as dreck. I can't offer a contract, Chuck."

"Fuck."

--Evil Editor.

Detective Story 4

So we’d figured out the problem was in that star system—a star system’s mighty big, you know, and here we are looking for one person. And we had to figure it out, because this spy was leaking info right and left, like a plumber’s first day on the job. Codes, technical info, you name it.

Are you going someplace with this, buddy? I’ve got a novel to edit.

Yeah, yeah. So I was trying to figure out who’d have access to all this know,

and you went through databases and then hit up some of your usual leads, and you couldn’t find anything?

How’d you know?

I’m an editor. Look, this isn’t all that unusual. Don’t you have a feisty blonde in this?

Brunette, actually.

What’s the scoop on her?

Worked at a military base, engaged to a captain, smart but canny enough not to show it.

Aren’t they all. Continue.

She was the leak. Got slammed with a couple of high-powered stun blasts, nearly paralyzed.

That’s it? I thought you said she was feisty, and here you’re saying she’s nearly paralyzed and separated from the one hope of romance in the whole thing. If I don’t hear something about weredingoes, zombies, or pirates in the next dialogue section, you’re striking out.

Uh. So, she falls in love with a space-pirate-turned-admiral? And because of the nearly-paralyzed thing, she has to get a body transplant with a zombie?

Hey, I like that. Throw in a few more zombies, and you’ve got a deal.

Advance and everything?

Two figures, same on royalties if a zero counts as a figure.

--_*rachel*_

Detective Story 3

Bick stopped. There was a body on the stairs, head down, feet up. Looked uncomfortable, even for a dead man.

He pulled out his phone but stopped short before calling. Old habits. What to do? He couldn't leave a body on his stairs. The cops knew where he lived and would be by soon enough, even if they knew him well enough to know he wouldn't kill anyone in his own building. He flipped the phone open and made the call. Ruin his day either way.

He sat down, two steps above the up-thrust soles. Odd perspective to view a dead man from. People always looked at the face of a corpse, looked for some leftover emotion, some clue lingering from life. He had seen plenty of corpses, even made a few. Never bothered to look at the boot-soles before.

A secretary from the style. Fairly well off. Good quality leather, almost new. Bick leaned closer, caught the smell of ink on the soles. Some kind of office worker anyway. Distinctive hobnail pattern on the heels. Crosses, to protect from the devil.

Finally they clumped up the stairs, all two of them. Should be enough. Between the three of them they could muscle the corpse down the three flights and into the wagon.

"Ronald Bickley," said Lieutenant Covey.

"Lieutenant," he replied, nodding his head once. He didn't mind the Lieutenant.

The other cop Bick didn't know. A kid, a new beat-walker. He knelt down for a look at the body, clicked his flash. "Lieutenant. It's an editor. Look at the muttonchops."

Bick jumped. The Lieutenant crouched and stared. "Not a pretty one. Damn it Bick. Something in his hand." Lieutenant Covey spread the paper. "Looks like a query, stamped 'send full'. But why deliver it by hand?"

--Tom Bridgeland

Detective Story 2

"It's Sunday, the day of rest when he should have been in church, singing the praises. Instead, he sits at his desk, counting the change from his pockets, from the sofa, from the piggy bank in pieces before him. Not even enough for a cheap bottle of vodka let alone bullets. That's when he hears the rap, rap, rap of high heels on wood in the corridor outside his door. He loads his last bullet into his revolver and watches as the shadow of a lady moves on the other side of the half-glass walls."

"It's the pizza delivery boy," EE said. "He lost a bet and has to deliver the goods in drag. Did you bring pizza? Pepperoni pizza sounds good right about now."

"No pizza. No delivery boy. She hired him to find her husband and now her husband is dead. That's trouble. Widows and dead men don't pay when you deliver the body riddled with bullets."

"Does this private eye have a name? Like Jake or Zeke or Ace? They were great detectives. Characters should have names that match their line of work. I'm reminded of the fried chicken king -- Uncle Charlie's Chicken, Chicken, Chicken. Alas poor Charlie, I knew him well. He died when his delivery truck slid on grease leaking from the dumpster in back of his restaurant. Three bags of golden, luscious, finger-licking, crispy-crust breasts fell and crushed him."

Exasperated, the detective continued with his narrative. "She needs to find her husband's love child because the child has a map to Captain Kidd's treasure tattooed on his buttocks. He refuses. She insists and she's willing to pay."

"Speaking of butts, next time you pitch a novel, bring bacon crispies. Even a BLT would do."

"Do you ever say yes?" The detective moaned.

"No."

--Dave F.

Detective Story 1

Jake Slant, PI moonlighted as an aspiring crime writer. Evil figured him for another wannabe as the man yammered on. Evil doubted he’d ask for a partial.

“The point,” Evil said.

“So this dame has gams up to here.” Jake pointed to his chest. “Hair redder than the devil’s smile, but it coulda been a wig, ya know. And those eyes, they were the death of me. Green like jade… jaded, she was, jilted by her sugar daddy. Asked me to look into this thug.”

Evil stroked a furry chop, shook his head clear. He had manuscripts to incinerate, hearts to trample on, and a bottle of single malt to nurse. “So, what’s at stake?”

“Well, this skirt, she had me at hello, and so for several years she had me snoopin’ around NYC for this real evil fella, said he wore funny little glasses- no stems. Said if I ever ran into him, to take this,” Jake whipped out a scarlet stiletto, “and jam it clear up where the sun ain’t shining.”

Evil clenched his butt cheeks together and removed his pince-nez. His sweaty hands stashed them away. Six-inch stilettos, only one snarky broad fit that bill. She could crack a nut between her knees… Evil drew a hand over his crotch and started to shake.

“You see, acted all sweet as pie, but I could tell the lady was a real killer, a shark, you could say—”

“Yeah. Sure. Look, buddy,” he slid up from his chair and paced to the window, “I’ve heard this all before, so just leave.”

The PI shrugged but exited the office. Evil pushed 1 on his speed dial.

“Big Apple Flowers.”

“It’s me again.” EE whipped out his credit card. “Send the usual. Yep, have it say: Sorry, Snarky-poo-poo. Forever, Your worthless minion.”

--Angie

Friday, March 26, 2010

Face-Lift 746


Guess the Plot

Rage of a Hero

1. Stanley Diefenderfer desperately wants to bang on his chest and bellow at the sky, but can't. Being a secondary character sucks.

2. Angered at the recent success of the Philadelphia cheesesteak, a meatball hero engineers a nationwide Cheez Whiz shortage to ensure his comeback, and his rival’s downfall.

3. Enraged after he accidentally slaughters the maiden he was supposed to be rescuing--the International Federation of Heroes will not stand for such behavior!--Njord the Noble is forced to take an anger-management class. The plot thickens when he also slaughters his entire class and kidnaps the instructor.

4. In a land where “superheroes” are ordinary government workers and dorks have superpowers (if you call bringing comic book characters to life a superpower), one man rages. Forgotten and alone after becoming a centenarian, Superman vows that Metropolis will not soon forget the day his wrath was unleashed.

5. After saving the kingdom from a terrible dragon, Brogdinard is the most popular hero ever--so popular the king becomes wildly jealous and throws him into the dungeon, along with anyone who dares complain. Now Brog's mad as hell, and someone's gonna pay. As soon as he figures out how to escape from a dungeon.

6. A group of corrupt folk are planning to take over the governments of every country in the world. Xavier was the only one who knew about it, but he lost his memory when he died and the Grim Reaper brought him back to life with half of a hell soul, so now his team of superheroes must help him remember, but if Xavier builds up too much rage, his half-hell soul will take over and who knows what its agenda is?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After being murdered, Xavier Van Rui made a deal with the Grim Reaper to return to Earth to settle some unfinished business. The Reaper agreed, [Most accommodating. Does the Reaper get anything out of this deal?] but in order to accomplish such a feat, Xavier’s soul had to be combined with a powerful prisoner of hell’s to give him enough strength to return from the dead. It worked, forming a very unstable and chaotic concoction.

Sure enough, Xavier returns to Earth. One problem though: he can’t remember anything except his name. This may not seem like that big of a problem, [Say what? Unless his unfinished business is to wander about aimlessly, stating his name, it seems like a huge problem.] but Xavier was a part of a supernatural team called the [X-men.] Legends, who work to suppress and eliminate another polarized group of corrupt folk who will stop at nothing to take control of all the governments of the world. They are nicknamed by the Legends: “Corporation Erebus.” [Are they supervillains or just regular folk obsessed with governing countries?]

Xavier knew that Corporation Erebus was finally beginning to acquire the means to make the world fall onto its knees. Like any stubborn neurotic, he didn’t tell the Legends, and he went to stop Corporation Erebus himself, getting killed in the attempt. [Why did he join the Legends if he prefers to go solo? I realize Aquaman has his own personal enemies, like sharks, but when the villain is trying to take over the universe, Aquaman asks Superman to pitch in.] His friends suspected he knew something, something very important, and now they need him to remember. They fear time may be running out. [Do they know he died, or do they just think he has amnesia?]

As he struggles to remember, the other soul within Xavier begins emerging. He calls himself “the havoc, the fury, the Rage of a Hero,” [That's a bit unwieldy for a nickname. I know, because I used to call myself "Evil Genius, Overlord, Mister Amazing, Nobility In A Chair." Eventually I just went with the acronym.] and he can only emerge when Xavier feels enough negative emotion. The Rage of a Hero has his own agenda, [If we knew his agenda we'd have a better idea of what's at stake. Maybe he wants to destroy the planet. Maybe he wants to get laid.] and he wants to take control, and with all the stress in Xavier’s life, he may succeed, ruining any chances of stopping Corporation Erebus. [Why bother? Ninety percent of the world's governments would be in better shape if Corporation Erebus took them over.]

Rage of a Hero is complete at 75,000 words, and is ready to be sent upon your request. Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

The title made sense when I thought it referred to Xavier. Then it turns out it's the nickname of the soul of some prisoner of hell.

Xavier being the name of the X-men's leader, maybe you should have a different name for your member of a superhero team.

What was Xavier's supernatural power before he died? Does he still have it?

When you say Xavier can't remember anything but his name, do you mean he doesn't remember the other Legends, how to speak English, how to drive a car, how to use his supernatural ability? If he remembers nothing, how does he hook up with the Legends when he returns to Earth?

Cartoon 607


Caption: Marissa Doyle

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Beginning 740

My grandmother, Sophia Gorman, met me at the baggage claim in San Francisco.

She wore a 49ners' cap over her curly gray hair, and she waved at me like I was a celebrity or something. I guess I was – sort of. My mom had just married Justin McGraff, the famous fashion consultant to the stars.

Long story.

Anyway, it doesn't matter. Mom met Justin when he hired her to defend him in a lawsuit. The next thing I knew, the two of them were going out for sushi. When Mom invited him home for a sleepover, I knew Justin was a keeper. I didn't care, 'cause Justin made Mom happy.

"Autumn," Grams says, hugging me. Her 49ners' cap falls to the floor. The both of us try to pick it up at the same time and our heads collide.

Grandmother reacts first. "I've got it," she says. She smiles. "So, my daughter is off to Europe on her honeymoon?"

"Paris," I say. "And then Venice."

"Very nice," she says. "I always knew she'd find a man with money. But," she adds, "she's done very well on her own as a defense attorney."

"Yeah. You're right, grandma. She has."

"It wasn't easy for her," Granny continues, "raising you and studying late into the night. But it paid off. Marrying Justin McGraff! He's fashion consultant to the stars, you know."

I nod. "And now he's taken her to Europe. And I'm staying with you, my Oma."

"That's right, Autumn," Grand-mere replies. "Shall we go over it once more, or do you think the readers have it now?"

"Let's do another pratfall," I suggest. "Just to break up the exposition."


Opening: Irene.....Continuation: Batgirl

Cartoon 606


Caption: Anon.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Face-Lift 745


Guess the Plot

Just Jezebel

1. After seventeen years of putting up with Merely Mother's crap, Just Jezebel hit the road. Now she's back seeking revenge, and there's hell to pay--unless Simply Chris can calm JJ down.

2. Jezebelliannalinalia is tired of having a name that's both unspellable and unpronounceable by anyone who's not a fan of epic fantasy. Can she survive the six months until she's old enough to have her name legally changed over her parents objections--or will she kill them?

3. King Gorg's rule of the Kiron Empire is the bloodiest in centuries, but it is Queen Jezebel who secretly holds the reins. When Centurion Marlak and his People's Army execute Gorg for his crimes and install Jezebel as sole ruler, she has no one left to hide behind. She can rule judiciously and against her nature, or lose Marlak's respect . . . and probably her life.

4. Tired of her bad reputation, Jezebel exchanges silk for gingham, tosses out the perfumed unguents and kohl, and starts referring to herself as "just Jezebel." But when Mary Magdalene moves to town calling herself "merely Maggie," a rivalry ensues that threatens to take down at least three religions.

5. To prove she's not shallow, Jezz, the hottest girl in Midlang HS, accepts a challenge: one week without makeup or super-cool clothes. Will she learn to be just Jezebel, or does her character depth depend on the depth of her foundation?

6. When a historian discovers that Jezebel, the murderous biblical queen, was actually a benevolent and popular ruler, can she convince the world of the truth before she's murdered by a Vatican faction determined to preserve Scripture ?




Original Version

Dear Evil Editer,

Lately, it seems like Jezebel’s whole world is in constant motion, between the news of her mother’s betrayal and their abrupt move across the globe, Jezebel is unable to catch her footing. [We're off to a bad start here. First you spell my last name wrong, which is better than using some other editor's name because you're sending simultaneous submissions and forgot to change the greeting, but still annoying. Then your first sentence is a comma splice; the comma after "motion" needs to be a period or a semicolon. Also, "catch her footing" isn't a common expression. "Get" or "regain" would be better than "catch." Finally, having looked ahead and seen that you don't later reveal what you mean by "her mother's betrayal" or where on the globe they moved to so abruptly, you should be more specific about these things up front.] If there is one thing she’s good at its [it's] keeping her mother’s secrets, and playing the faithful ally and cleanup crew. But four years ago Jezebel left California with the assumption that she was never coming back, it was the final goodbye—one that never happened—and a chance to leave all the loose strings behind. [It sounds like you mean she left California four years ago to get away from her mother, but earlier you referred to "their" abrupt move across the globe, from which I inferred that she moved with her mother.] Seventeen years makes for a lot of practice and four years makes for a lot of time to work up the nerve, but when faced with old friends and old feelings, Jezebel cannot apologize any more than she can forgive her mother for her deception or gain her father’s attention. [This entire paragraph is vague to the extreme. Only someone who's read the book would have any idea what you're talking about.]

Chris Freeman was the one string that kept on hanging… [Who?]

And when a plan concocted by Jezebel’s grandmother forces them together again, they find that four years can change a lot and that love can sometimes be forgotten in the dark of an attic. [At least it's consistent.]

JUST JEZEBEL (69,000 words) is a Contemporary YA, merging the confusion of a cynical [editor] girl, the romance of finding someone who makes you a better person, and a lesson in accepting that maybe you can’t fix everything.

This is my first novel, and I’m ready to take the next step with it with a long term agent by my side. JUST JEZEBEL will appeal to readers of Sarah Dessen and Deb Caletti and inspire thought provoking questions about growing up, love and its many cubby holes, and letting go of the past.

The manuscript is complete and ready upon request.

Thank you for your time and consideration. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Kindly Yours,


Notes

Start over. I couldn't tell you a single thing that happens in the book. The only specific is that Jezebel left California four years ago, and I'm not even sure that happened. What did her mother do, where did they go, what are her mother's secrets, more about Chris Freeman, what does Jez want, what's stopping her from getting it, etc.?

We just need to know what happens in the book. We'll figure out the theme and the lesson if you give us enough specific detail.

Cartoon 605

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

New Beginning 739

The Crispy Knight was a quiet tavern usually, not too rowdy or loud, but when the Demon King’s second-in-command, Gote, came cantering inside utter silence fell. The chubby satyr sauntered through the crowded room and idle conversations stopped, even the clink of glasses ceased.

Ruuk leaned forward as Gote clambered onto the bar with his goat-like legs, cloven hooves clicking across the lacquered surface. Raising his chubby arms for silence, Gote said, “All right, lads, any of you looking to impress the boss: here’s your chance.”

Ruuk straightened at his lonely table and strained his ears to catch every word. His quest for employment in the city was not going well. During his first week in the underground culture of Faerie, he’d discovered there wasn’t much work going around, and even less for an overgrown ‘brute of a troll’ like him— as one shopkeeper so eloquently put it. Ha.

Through the silence, Buhll leapt to his hooves, the brass ring in his nose gleaming dully in the tavern light. "I'll do it!"

Gote looked at him, amused. "Glad to have a volunteer before I even describe the task."

In the corner, Hogg raised his voice as well. "No, choose me!"

Ruuk sank back in despair, but his mood lightened when Gote asked the Demon King, who had just made his entrance, "What'll it be for dinner tonight, boss? Steak or pork chops?"


Opening: Elizabeth D. Walker.....Continuation: Min Yin

Cartoon 604

Caption: Khazar-khum

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Face-Lift 744


Guess the Plot

Witch Tourniquet

1. Which tourniquet? Yes. No, that's what I'm asking, which tourniquet? Yes, Witch Tourniquet. Which tourniquet? Exactly.

2. Joan thought she had problems when zombies started sprouting in her flowerbeds. Then, this morning it rained lobsters. Maybe scrubbing the marks off that oddly-shaped stone in the back was a bad idea.

3. Called two a bloody seen, EMT Hairy is inn the zone. Cot off guard by the charms of accident victim Merry, he falls head over heals. Meanwhile, he kneads too figure out witch tourniquet will fit thee fatso with thee concussion.

4. After setting the governor's tie on fire, Alice is sentenced to be executed. She is sent to Gallows Hill. There, a group of dead witches stalk her dreams and plot to kill her. That was one hell of a tie.

5. Wounded in battle, Steve Logan is dying when a "nurse" stanches the bleeding with a spell. Is this the beginning of a beautiful romance, or will Steve be unable to deal with the fact that his true love is a witch, sort of like Darren didn't want Sam doing magic on Bewitched?

6. Nearsighted witch Polly thought the big sign was advertising a "Witch Tournament" and decided to enter. When she finds out it's basically a witch bloodletting, hilarity ensues.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

After setting the governor’s tie on fire, Alice Sheraton is discovered to be a witch; thus, the governor appoints [Schedules? Sentences?] her for an execution. Her status as a socialite, however, sets her free when her father bails her [out] and sends her to a safe house known as Gallows Hill. [I'm surprised that a legal system would allow bail for someone sentenced to die. Especially if she's a socialite.] Downtrodden, she resigns herself to being hated by the world and living a life that has no future for witches. [We just did a novel about a persecuted werewolf, now we have a persecuted witch. It's an inevitable backlash against authors who stereotype murderous villains as evil.]

But Gallows Hill isn’t the safe house she expected it to be. On her first night there, Alice finds her way to a secret library where she discovers a hellish cross that sends her visions and nightmares. To worsen matters, a dead witch called a Shadowman begins stalking her dreams, urging her to destroy the cross. [If I had a hellish cross that was sending me nightmares, I wouldn't need any urging to destroy it.] Tired of nightmares and seeking a purpose for her life, she tries to get rid of the cross, only to discover that the same Shadowman who sent her the warning wants to kill her for reasons unknown to her. [If someone wants to kill me, I don't need to know the reasons. I'm long gone.]

Not only does her stalker want to kill her, but when she can’t get rid of the cross, [Whaddaya mean, she can't get rid of it? Did she try throwing it in a lake or in a trash dumpster, or putting it in an envelope and mailing it to Ethiopia?] the leader of the Shadowmen Alliance orders her death as well. [Once you've said that one Shadowman wants Alice dead, telling us another Shadowman wants her dead doesn't raise the threat level much. Move on.] Now she must escape Gallows Hill before any of the Shadowmen have a chance to kill her. [Why didn't she need to escape Gallows Hill before the first Shadowman had a chance to kill her?]

Witch Tourniquet is a YA fantasy complete at 95,000.

My name is _______ ________, [as you will discover at the end of this paragraph when you read my signature,] and I have been published in The Oddville Press Issue V and used to write articles aimed at teens in The Xtreme section of The Augusta Chronicle. [Can you get me into the Masters?] I am also the president of the Augusta State University Creative Writing Club [Change your name to the Southeast Writers Alliance. Being president of a club doesn't sound impressive.]


Notes

I'd prefer a title that means something to me.

You'd think a live witch could handle some dead witches. Is a Shadowman more powerful than a witch? As a witch, what powers does Alice have? Can't she save herself with magic, like by turning her executioner into a warthog and transporting to another country? What's the point of making her a witch if she can't do witchcraft?

Cartoon 603

Caption: Anon.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tax Time 6

"OK. Starting with the basics - standard business expenses, office rental, utilities, all that - looks mostly fine; stationery's a bit high -"

"Remember what sort of business I'm in?"

"Fair point. But there are some entries after that... well, there may be a problem."

"Such as?"

"Well, to take this first one... thermite paste?"

"Legitimate expense. For destroying manuscripts."

"I don't think they'll buy that. Everyone knows you use your laser vision to destroy manuscripts."

"Yeah, everyone knows. Including the goddamn authors. They've started sending submissions on heat-resistant, reflective paper. Got a chick-lit thing the other day - I tried to light it up, and the backblast damn near took my muttonchops off. Now they're doing that, I need industrial grade incendiaries to keep up with them."

"OK. I take it that explains the unusually high expenditure on hair care products."

"Got to take care of the muttonchops, man. They're the best way to get chicks - err, I mean, to maintain my standing in the editorial community."

".... Right. Moving on - seventy-eight thousand dollars on anti-nausea medication?"

"Do I have to show you the slushpile again?"

"No! No, that's - that's fine. Um... the next one. Hire of forklift truck?"

"I got a lot of fantasy trilogies last year."

"Oh. Right."

"One of them ran to eighteen volumes. None less than 200,000 words."

"OK. Now, this next one... I'm sorry, but there could be a problem here."

"Which item's that?"

"Hire of three Angelina Jolie impersonators? There's no way that's deductible as an entertainment expense -"

"Not entertainment. Research."

"Research?"

"Oh, yeah. I learned a lot."

".... I'm not sure I want to know."

"Those girls could do things with a blue pencil you wouldn't believe."

"Tell me you're joking. Please tell me you're joking."

--Steve Wright

Tax Time 5

Your taxes are almost done, EE. If we could just go over one of your deductions?

Which one is that?

This $160,000 charitable contribution for editing a novel.

That was for the Brenda Novak auction.

Yes, but I understand the item went for less than $3500.

I deducted what the item was worth, not what it brought in. We were in a recession. Who had 160 grand?

I see.

Look at it this way: Say the Louvre donated the Mona Lisa to the auction and it went for five thousand; it doesn't mean the painting's not worth millions.

You're comparing yourself to Da Vinci? That's how you came up with your figure?

Actually, I checked the Internet to see what freelance editors were getting. I took the highest one I could find and multiplied by twenty.

Why?

Because I'm Evil Editor. Look at it this way: Say you're hiring someone to ghost-write your autobiography; John Grisham is gonna cost way more than some local hack wannabe writer, even though the hack could write Grisham under the table. You pay for the name.

You're comparing yourself to John Grisham now? I don't see how you can say your work is worth so much, unless everything you edit becomes a number one bestseller.

People don't pay for my services to make money. Writing the perfect novel brings peace to their souls. Look at it this way: Say you've sought salvation through God but you still don't feel fulfilled; so you try writing a novel, but it lacks that inspirational spark that can come only from divine editing, so--

God?! You're comparing . . .

--Evil Editor

Tax Time 4

EE cleared his throat. “I did as you asked…kept every receipt.”

Ray Freemont, CPA grunted and then pulled out a #2 pencil and began sharpening it. Ray wasn’t the least bit happy about EE staying on as a client. Last year, he swore would be the last time he’d do the ogre’s taxes and yet somehow…EE was here again.

EE pushed the first set of receipts to Ray, forcefully. “Here are the ones I believe will garnish the most return.”

Ray scoped the first yellow slip, and then squawked, “A trip to Aruba? Hah…Did you attend a conference?”

“No.”

“A business meeting?” Ray pried.

“No.”

“Then why the hell are you trying to use it as a write off?”

“That’s for you to figure out.” EE answered dryly.

Ray whined, “These are flagrant lies. You’ll be audited.”

“Audited?....” EE gasped.

“To be sure…I can promise you that.”

“Does that mean you can’t use my pool addition as a legitimate business expense?”

“Do you use your pool for business?”

“Yes. It’s where I conduct my blog’s book chats.”

“Is that a fact?”

EE nodded emphatically.

“Well then…it might be plausible.”

“Great.”

“And what’s this charity deduction you’ve mention…your blog?

“Yes. I’ve been doing some research. This past year I made my Evil Editor blog a 501 c3. It’s quite ingenious. I mean technically it is charity…the work and advice I give to those wannabes. I, by all means, don’t charge. And god knows the only real value I’ve obtained is my notoriety. You agree?”

“You’re talking about a charitable foundation?” Ray asked.

“Yes.”

“An evil one?”

“Why yes…I do believe it is…”

Ray gave a nod. “It just might work…and with no audit’s too. Why the devil didn’t you tell me you were doing charity work?”

“You forgot…I work in publishing.”

--Mina B.

Tax Time 3

EE snapped his fingers, and the minions behind him filed into the office carrying trash bags of receipts. They piled them in a pyramid against the wall and headed outside to the palanquin; EE was trying to go green.

“All right, Mr. Kerflumble,” he said. “Work your… weren’t you one of the lawyers?”

“As a matter of fact, yes,” replied Mr. Kerflumble, straightening his tie.

“Don’t you guys usually specialize? I mean, tax law isn’t the same as legal defense.”

“Of course, sir, but we here at Dewey, Cheatum, and Howe have a slightly different philosophy: your money is safest in our hands.”

“Hmph. Well, if you don’t get me a good refund, I’ll switch lawyers again. Who was the guy I had last time? Bald, thin, fishy smile.”

“That would be Cheatum, sir.”

“Yeah, him. Made off with everything in my checking account and headed for Hawaii.”

“Hawaii is lovely this time of year, but I tend to prefer—”

“—Florence?” EE tilted his head at the brochures poorly concealed under a monthly planner.

“Yes. I’ll be leaving as soon as I’ve finished your taxes. By the way, did you bring your blank, signed checks so I can do your refunds?”

EE whistled, and a minion scurried in and laid a box on his desk. “Get it done,” EE said, and walked out.

Kerflumble smiled to himself and lovingly caressed the photo of the Palazzo Vecchio. “Here I come,” he murmured, and opened the box of signed checks.

Inside was a primed mousetrap. “What?”

He headed for the bags of receipts.

Outside, EE chuckled. “Best use of the slush pile in years.”

--_*rachel*_

Tax Time 2

EE entered the grayish office, paper overflowing his arms. He dropped the yellowish pile of papers onto his accountant's grayish desk and settled into the armchair with a thump. He wheezed like a broken squeaky toy and spoke.

The year my start-up business, mini socks as nose and penis warmers, failed, I was sitting in church praying for my own good, I heard the organ intone the chords to 'It came upon a midnight clear' and I know that the choir sang 'They come on April fifteenth my dear to take our gold away.'"

"No one looks forward to a 1040." The accountant's gray eyes scanned the pile of papers. His slim fingers smoothed the crumple sheets and sorted them into piles.

"It's not fair because it's not theirs to take! It's mine. I'm not sharing a cake at a party where Mumsie insists I cut it up in equal pieces. It's a mugging in the parking lot."

"Are you still a greeter? I need your W2," the accountant said. EE slipped a form to the accountant from inside his pants.

"April most definitely is the cruelest month for words, for those cute little African violet posies my wife grows on the bedroom window and for taxpayers most of all. The Constitution is clear in it's respect for personal property and the government taking it. They have no right to take fruits of MY labor. A privileged few suck off the public tit. Everyone needs to contribute. Those welfare people should give back to the taxpayers in some meaningful way."

"Until then, we must file, mustn't we?"

"Look, I know Miss Snark recommended you and that John AssCrack-McFeely uses you..."

"...Grisham sir, his name is Grisham."

"Who cares? I still won't pay taxes with a smile."

--Dave F.

Tax Time 1

There seem to be a few irregularities in these deductions.

Really?

Yes. We’ll have to go through them one-by-one. . .‘Daisy SilverSpank’?

Stripper.

And, she’s a business expenses because you take publishers on power lunches . . .

Hell no. I wouldn’t take a publisher to see Daisy. I wouldn’t offend her like that. Stress reduction therapy. See, I get unsolicited manuscripts from wanna-be writers and I have this slush pile of trash to read . . . and Daisy makes me feel better.

I’m sure she does . . . but $52,000?

Twice a week, every week. Without her, I don’t know where I would be.

I see . . . moving on. County treasurer’s office, $5750?

Slush disposal charge.

I see. . . you had to be pay a dumping fee to dispose of the slush?

No. It was a fine for littering. I put the slush in the back of the truck and went for a drive. Had four Sheriff’s deputies following me before I pulled over . . . felony littering charge. I swear it’s the only one, actually its not but. . . moving on?

Yes, of course. $15,000 to City Stoves?

Wood burning stove and installation . . to

Burn the slush?

Well, I couldn’t use the truck again could I?

Of course not. Lawyer fees . . . . for the littering charge?

Yes, and retainer for plagiarism, libel and character assassination . . . and the assassination.

Moving on. Mr. errrr, Evil? Why do you do it?

Looking for that diamond in the slush. It’s an obsession. I take medication. It’s right there.

Ah, I was wondering what the $152,000 deduction to Al’s Liquor was . . .

--Vivian Whetham

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Saturday Film Series


video

New Beginning 738

Ralph looked out across the pond from his seat on the swing. The summer afternoon was dying down. The sun was sinking below the hills and everything seemed to be cast in a dim orange light. He reached down, picked up a particularly smooth, flat stone. Then he stood up and tossed it across the pond. Ralph watched as it hit the surface of the pond several times before finally being dragged below the surface and creating a mosaic of ripples sprouting from that spot in the water. Ralph liked skipping stones. For some reason it helped him think. He supposed it had something do with the quiet of it all down here by the pond that cleared his mind.

Tonight, Ralph was down here because of the fight with his parents that had just occurred about ten minutes ago up in the house. Ralph grimaced, he could still hear his mother’s screams at him echoing in his head. There had been a lot of fights like this lately so Ralph thought he would have gotten used to it by now, but each one seemed worse than the last. The reason for all the screaming matches going on in the Stillwell house stemmed from Ralph’s lack of interest, attention, behavior, attendance, or really anything that required effort in school. His parents went berserk and screamed all kinds of things at him like how he was never going to be anything in life if he didn’t try in school and junk like that.

All the usual crap about how unfocused he always was, forever babbling repetitively about mundane details, taking forever to get to the gist of the matter. Over and over again she yelled at him like that; sometimes he thought she was going crazy, the way she carried on at the top of her lungs. And it wasn't getting any better. The next time would probably be worse. Just like at school, where his mind also tended to wander, the same as when his mother was berating him loudly. But Ralph had developed a way to deal with that, too, the same way he dealt with his mother's frequent shouting matches when she'd start dumping on him about his poor school work. Times like that he'd think about the pond, about just the right kind of rock, the ones that if you threw them across the water just right they wouldn't sink, but skim along making these really interesting wave patterns, and if you'd thrown it at just the right angle it might never stop, might go on skipping forever. That's what gave his thoughts direction, cleared away the distractions, let him zero in on the important matters, kept him from going off on the same old things over and over again. Like that stuff his mother was shouting at him about a few minutes ago, when all he could do was think about going down to the park and look for some of those rocks, you know, the ones that...


Opening: Ljmaleh.....Continuation: Paul Penna

Friday, March 19, 2010

Face-Lift 743


Guess the Plot

Retribution's Flame

1. Carrie Holmes rules the multimillion dollar world of vanity magazine publishing. When her rival Justin Kerr outmaneuvers her and buys 51% of her business, Carrie vows to stop at nothing to get her company back . . . even if it means unleashing the fire-breathing dragon she has staked in her cellar.

2. The concept of retribution has a problem: it's in love...with hunger. But hunger is a bodily signal, not a concept, and doesn't feel the same. Will retribution kill itself out of despair? Or will it enter the heart of a starving artist to be close to it's one true love?

3. Attila is tired of being picked on by the sons of the senators. He returns home when his uncle dies and picks up an army. Now it's pay-back time. Also, a non-talking dog.

4. When Julia loses the money she invested with real estate mogul Clay Hughes, she takes retribution by framing him for arson. Now he faces the death penalty. Wouldn't it be ironic if the method of execution were burning at the stake?

5. Pete Haskill is driving ladder truck 42 to a three-alarm fire when he realizes the address he's heading for is that of his ex-wife and her lover. Man, it's so easy to get lost in this town.

6. Tired of authors spelling his name wrong, comparing their books to classics, and looking forward to hearing from him, a New York editor sets his slush pile on fire, a conflagration that ups the global warming timetable by half a century.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

I am seeking representation for Retribution’s Flame, a work of commercial fiction, complete at 98,000 words.

Clayton Hughes had [has] never known the fury of a woman scorned – until now.

In a desperate attempt to save his crumbling real estate empire from the ravages of an economic downturn, he [writes a book called Retribution's Flame. Also, he] teams up with a neophyte investor with a checkered past. His judgment clouded by financial pressures, he falls for Julia’s seductive charms and the troubles begin. After placing him high on a pedestal, she turns on him when he fails to live up to her impossible expectations. [This is pretty vague. What were her expectations and in what way did she turn on him?] He ends their short-lived affair and she seeks revenge. Julia’s scheming leads to arson and murder with Clay as the prime suspect. Her skillful frame-up lands him in jail facing a possible death sentence.

A series of twists and turns leads to a showdown between Julia and Clay’s daughter, Melissa. That violent confrontation ends with Julia dead and Clay a free man.

[Judge: You're free to go.
Clay: Just like that? What happened?
Judge: The woman who testified against you was murdered, so you must be innocent.]

In the end he learns that image and pretense mean nothing. Everything he ever needed had been there in plain sight – his family. [All he needed was a family member to murder the woman he duped into investing in his crumbling real estate empire?]

I am currently the consumer columnist for the Vegas Voice newspaper. In addition, I have contributed over 125 articles on various real estate topics to the Bigger Pockets Real Estate Dispatch. [Real estate. That's where the big money is.] In 2008 I self-published A Rehabber’s Tale, a non-fiction work designed to complement various speaking engagements pertaining to rehabbing and flipping real estate. [So it's like prison work-release programs, except you go to rehab centers and recruit addicts to help you flip real estate in return for a few hours out of the center, during which you provide them with booze and cocaine . . . How do I invest in your company?]

Sincerely,


Notes

If you're going to state that Clay learns that image and pretense mean nothing, I think the plot summary should show how believing the opposite led to his downfall.

It's not clear who's the villain. Calling Julia a neophyte investor who places Clay on a pedestal and has impossible expectations makes it sound like she was naive and fell for his scam, lost everything, snapped, and took revenge. But bringing up her checkered past and her seductive charms makes it sound like she was out to scam him from the beginning. Who sought out whom?

Does she want revenge because he dumped her or because she lost her investment?

Cartoon 602

Caption: Stacy

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

New Beginning 737

At 8:34 AM, Eastern Standard Time, Mother entered the clinic, shivering in the cold. It was the seventeenth of January, 1994.

At 11:00 AM, one of her friends picked her up and drove her home, where she told her mother she was sick and didn't mention how she got home from school.

Darcie was born June 18, 1994, at 2:59 AM. She never remembered much about her early childhood, except that she and Mother lived with Grandmother and Grandfather. Grandmother loved her more than anything in the world except, perhaps, Mother and Grandfather. Grandmother spent hours playing with Darcie, and always took care of her when Mother was away. Mother was often away, either at college or with friends. When she was home, she was nice to Darcie, but she never seemed to care quite as much as Grandmother did.

When Darcie was seven years old, she and Mother moved in with Mother's boyfriend. He ignored Darcie, except to complain about her. Darcie didn't like him at all.

At 9:56 PM, Eastern Standard Time, Darcie stabbed the boyfriend with a kitchen knife and then turned the knife on Mother. It was July 16, 2001. Darcie's grandparents are here to take Darcie "back home where she belongs," but I have explained we are required to keep her in custody until her arraignment.

Detective Smith paused to take a sip of coffee. A seven year old tried as an adult, he thought. If this doesn't put me on top of the nonfiction bestseller list, nothing will.


Opening: Rachel.....Continuation: Stacy

Cartoon 601

Caption: John

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Face-Lift 742


Guess the Plot

The Superhero Effect

1. Beeman, Lightning, Snake and The Priest, all dead within a week. Can washed up private eye Wayne Worthington solve the head-scratching homicides of these superheroes before chaos commences?

2. When he’s hit in the head by a space rock, Joe finds he’s not an average Joe anymore. Gifted with superpowers, he's the biggest sensation on Earth. But when a real threat appears Joe finds himself unprepared to defend the world. Will he discover what it means to be a hero?

3. All Mike wants is a steady job, a house with a 30 year mortgage, a wife, a couple kids and a dog. Just because he can fly doesn't mean he should be required to wear spandex and track down evil geniuses. Doesn't the government pay the CIA with his taxes?

4. Movie marketer Pam Rogers calls it the Superhero Effect: whenever a comic book flick opens, have a romantic comedy open opposite to pick up the ladies. Brad Jones, head of OGM, knows it too, and wants to ask her out. But will the new Catlady let him go?

5. Landon is a superhero in a world where superheroes are government employees with no super powers. It's like being Aquaman, except fish ignore your commands and you need SCUBA gear. When the mob puts out a contract on everyone who actually has a super power, it's falls upon Landon to save them.

6. The latest recreational drug makes users feel like superheroes. Suddenly everyone's wearing costumes and fighting crime. The cops love having someone else do their jobs . . . until people start trying to fly from the tops of buildings.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Poppy Gershwin is a lazy, jobless eighteen-year-old living in a city ruled by gang violence. Totally normal – aside from the fact that her best friend Landon is a superhero. But superheroes in Poppy’s world aren’t all flashy capes and gadget belts: they’re elite police operatives, employed by the government to keep the gangsters in check. [If the superheroes are keeping the gangsters in check, why is the city still ruled by gang violence?] Government employees, Landon constantly reminds comic book-obsessed Poppy, and that means no superpowers. [I don't see the connection. Why does being a government employee mean no superpowers?]

But when Poppy discovers that a fellow comic book aficionado can actually transmit his thoughts on radio waves to nearby television sets, the impossible is proved to be true. Superpowers really exist. [When you consider that having your own cable TV show allows you to transmit your idiotic thoughts to everyone in the country, the ability to transmit them just to nearby TV sets isn't such a big deal.] Poppy may even have one herself. But when the head of the reigning crime family, Tony Mancini, puts a bounty on the head of every super-powered person in the city, [especially the guy who keeps interrupting The Sopranos to drone on about how depressing it is living in his mother's basement,] it’s up to Poppy and Landon to protect the innocent and rally the troops – that is, if their feelings for each other don’t get in the way.

The Superhero Effect is an 82,000 word YA novel that would appeal to much the same audience as Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, and to fans of superhero novels like Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman.

I am a first-year university student majoring in Creative Writing at [institution]. [Admitting this isn't going to help your cause.] I look forward to hearing from you, and thank you for your time.

Sincerely,


Notes

This isn't bad. If there are people with super powers I wouldn't mind knowing more about them.

Apparently super powers were considered impossible. Then someone showed up with the ability to broadcast thoughts to nearby TV sets. Then the mob put a bounty on people with super powers. I feel like we're missing a step or two. Radio Wave man doesn't sound like a threat to the mob. Are there actually lots of super-powered people attacking mob interests?

Poppy might have a super power? What is it? Why does an elite police operative hang out with lazy, jobless comic--book-obsessed Poppy?

Why are the government employees known as superheroes? What's so elite about them? They have no powers and they can't even keep the city from being ruled by gang violence.

Cartoon 600!

Caption: Anon.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Beginning 736

A monk was walking through the cool mists of the forest when something in the brush caught his eye. He knelt in the damp leaves and buried his hands in the foliage, trying to see among the shadows. His fingers tangled in soft fabric.

Standing up, he pulled out a thick, shimmering cloak. As he held it out in front of him, it twisted out of his hands and billowed out as though catching a strong wind. The monk tried to flee and found his limbs would not move. He stared in terror as the cloak settled around the shoulders of a shadowy form.

A dim, sad face appeared beneath the hood.

 “Wait," it said. "You must stay and hear my tale, as I am forced to tell it to all who find me. Listen well.

"Many years ago, I was the lord of this land and forest and all you see around you. I was a grasping, greedy, envious man, but at the time I only thought I wanted what was rightfully mine.

"Let me stop you there," the monk said. "When someone finds you, and you tell them your story, do you always wear those robes?"

"Uh, yes."

"Every time?"

"Every time. Yes . . . Why?"

"Take it from someone who knows: That's a very bad habit."



Opening: Ellie.....Continuation: Anon.

Cartoon 599

Caption: anon.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Face-Lift 741


Guess the Plot

Beast of Burden

1. I work for Burden and Son Refrigeration Ltd., moving coolers all day. The "and Son" is almost funny. The son moves his coffee cup around his desk all day as he instructs us, the beasts, on what needs to go where. He is eighteen, I am nearly thirty. He dines on pickled eggs all day and blames his dog for his own farts.

2. Kat's new boyfriend carries a terrible burden: he's a werewolf. Kat has her own burden: a phobia of dogs. Their families hate each other. It's like Romeo and Juliet, only with werewolves.

3. Loki escaped Ragnarok through a technicality. When the Beast of Revelations shows up on his doorstep, he's determined to prevent the apocalypse by addicting the Beast to freedom.

4. Eddie Pringle, convicted of petty theft, faces a choice: six months in juvenile detention, or being a roadie for the next Rolling Stones tour. Hilarity ensues.

5. Morris's camel, Al, is his only companion as he faces off against marauding hordes, killer insects, desert heat and an irate ex-wife. As water runs low and supplies dwindle, will Morris have to eat his faithful friend, Al, his trusted . . . Beast of Burden?

6. A blind man receives a guide dog as a gift from one of his two sons. This leads to jealousy and fighting between the brothers, but when the dog leads his master into one precarious situation after another, the jealous son begins to question what the dog was really trained for.



Original Version

Dear Glorious, Omniscient Agent or Editor,

Ever since Kat Baset slapped popular jock, Malcolm Kennett, for grabbing her butt at a seventh grade dance she has been cast out and ridiculed as a loser. [Seventh grade is what, twelve years old? That seems a bit young for a school to have jocks. What sport do they play? Tag? Hide and seek?] Subject to name calling and various pranks from the “it crowd,” Kat just wants to scratch through her last year of high school and get the hell out of Dodge- otherwise known as Alpine Ridge, Colorado.

First day senior year: total disaster. Malcolm tosses Kat’s book bag into the boy’s [boys'] locker room just minutes before her first class starts. With a burst of courage and her nose plugged, Kat storms in the midst of sweaty socks and half-dressed jocks. She is taunted and teased by the usual suspects, but one boy comes to her rescue. Her hero is new kid in town, Remi Gere, the same sweet hunk with whom Kat happened to share the best day of summer vacation. The unexpected rematch ["Rematch" doesn't mean that. "Reconnection" might, but you don't really need a "re" word. "Appearance" or "arrival" would do.] with Remi catapults the two teens into a friendship and proves to be the needed distraction from Kat’s personal hell in the hallways of Alpine Ridge High.

While their relationship buds, Kat learns her new love interest bears a supernatural secret. Remi Gere is a werewolf. [How does she learn this? Surely she would never believe anyone who told her.] [When you're describing a book you've written, it's usually a mistake to wait until paragraph three to mention that one of your main characters is a werewolf. Suddenly it's a completely different book. In one book Remi beats Malcolm up after school, and in the other he rips Malcolm's throat out.] Head over heels for him, Kat wonders if she will be able to handle the heat and overcome her greatest fears- falling in love and her phobia of dogs. [I'm guessing she's afraid of dogs, not of her phobia of dogs?] [When you find out your boyfriend's a werewolf, is your first concern really going to be whether you can get over your fear of dogs?]

Knowing the burden of harboring such a secret, Kat opens up to Remi and shares a little mystic of her own. [I would say she shares a secret of her own, not a little mystic.] The amulet around Kat’s neck contains the powers of her personal beast, a mountain lion- the very thing Remi and his family of wolves hates. [In case anyone's interested, my personal beast is the proboscis monkey.]
[Needless to say, I'm highly annoyed that there are no were-proboscis monkey books or movies.]

As if being a teenager wasn’t difficult enough.

Toss out the iambic pentameter, poison and dagger and throw in the daily tortures of teenage humiliation and some Weres, BEAST OF BURDEN is a 64,000 word YA paranormal, akin to Romeo and Juliet. [Every book is akin to Romeo and Juliet if you're allowed to toss out a few things and throw in a few others.] [For instance, toss out the star-crossed lovers and the feuding families, and throw in a cannibalistic serial killer and a green female FBI agent, and The Silence of the Lambs is a thriller akin to Romeo and Juliet.] [Just for laughs, minions may submit their own "akin to R & J" examples as comments. One per customer, please.] It explores the journey of young love pitted against the adversity of prejudice [Prejudice against werewolves? This is the third book we've done in about a year that dealt with werewolf prejudice, the others being Hybreed Rising and Wolves and Walls. How come we don't have any books dealing with weredingo prejudice?] and long-harbored fears.

This is my first novel. I thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Notes

Can Kat turn into a mountain lion? If so, say so. If not, what does the amulet do for her?

It's the first day of school and the first class hasn't yet started, yet the locker room is full of sweaty half-dressed boys? Even if this school has athletic practices before school on the first day of school, the boys should be dressed and gone if their first classes start in a few minutes.

Cartoon 598

Caption: Whirlochre

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