Friday, September 30, 2011

Face-Lift 957

Guess the Plot

Half Truths and Bursting Bubbles on Kao San Road

1. I wanted this book about my quirky heroine Kayley to reflect how funny and quirky she is so I gave it this long quirky title.

2. When Soon Kim, owner of Koreatown's only gay bar "Bursting Bubbles", is found dead in a bathtub full of Merlot, homicide detective Zack Martinez knows two things: Kim didn't shoot himself; and it's a cheap Merlot, so no great loss.

3. Lost in the countryside on a road littered with old memoirs and novels, Minnie Jones suddenly realizes -- OMG, the lair of Evil Editor must be near! If only she can find it, she'll be able to submit all those manuscripts locked in her trunk! But night is coming, and so is a hurricane.

4. Julie's uncle dies in Bangkok, leaving her his journal. She heads for Thailand and quickly makes some friends and gets married and meets her uncle's ghost. Then an accident puts her in a coma. Her husband isn't sure he wants her to wake up because he's been having wild sex with one of her new friends. Also, metaphysical swimming.

5. Freshly graduated from college but lacking goals and prospects, Rob backpacks off to Thailand. Buddhism, betel, cheap whores, many bowls of cow intestine stew, crooked pols, and an innocent schoolgirl ensue.

6. The blacktop paver has lied about the quality of his materials, and the new surface on Kao San Road bubbles in the heat of a Bangkok summer. It gives a whole new meaning to "stuck in traffic," and half the Thai population can't get out of Krungthep. Can Dorphy, a drug addict from Boulder, Colorado, avert a revolution and save the monarchy?

7. On his death bed, Kao San tells his nephew he hid the treasure he looted from a wax museum near the road he built across Thailand. Awa's frenemy Han overhears and it becomes a race -- interrupted by moguls, mongols, and mongrels. Hey, maybe that should be my title.

Original Version

Dear Evil,

My new novel is complete at 90,000 words. Absurdist fiction is the closest genre I can come to.

A young woman receives her uncle’s journal after his death in Bangkok. Julie is curious why he left it to her and wants to fill in missing blanks [The blanks aren't missing; she wants to fill them with whatever is missing.] by travelling to Thailand to poke around. She wasn’t close to him but she has the feeling there’s more involved than the pages of a journal. [More involved in what?]

Fresh to Bangkok [Nice phrasing. Setting a novel in Bangkok does present numerous opportunities for laughs, as would setting it in Intercourse, PA or Dickshooter, ID or any of these towns.] she makes friends with three women backpacking around Asia. [Asia's a pretty big place to backpack around. Maybe they should be Backpacking in Bangkok. Maybe that should be the title.] [Of course, three women backpacking in Bangkok wouldn't last a day without being kidnapped and forced into the sex trade.] She also meets a man she marries in short order [who turns out to be a short-order cook]. While sleeping one night Julie has the crap scared out of her by her uncle’s ghost. [I once had the crap scared out of me while sleeping. The maid was not amused.] An accident puts her in a coma after the haunting.

Julie doesn’t remember the journal, her husband, friends or the ghost as she enjoys a metaphysical swim around her hospital room watching people watch her body that is plugged into monitors. Her short term memory is gone when she rejoins her body and comes around. Her husband was engaging in wild sex with one of her friends finding relations exceptionally enjoyable as Julie was getting her melon smacked on a sidewalk. His guilt robs him of any residual afterglow. His partner of that moment, Julie’s friend, [You told us his partner was her friend two sentences ago.] is mortified and satisfied at once. [Which came first, the mortification or the satisfaction?]

The women and husband hope Julie’s memory returns but dread the moment when it does. Julie meets a man who looks like her uncle. He’s carrying an old journal. Like hers. [Hers? Meaning her uncle's?] He introduces himself as her ghost. [Her ghost? Or her uncle's ghost?]

Half Truths and Bursting Bubbles on Kao San Road is an earthy story of changing lives and circumstances in a land where nothing runs quite right or as expected.



Tell us specifically what's in the journal that sends Julie to Thailand to poke around. That's a pretty big undertaking just because he left you a journal.

I assume Julie didn't know her husband was involved with her friend, so why is everyone dreading the return of her memory? What is it they don't want her to remember?

This falls apart early. The journal is interesting. Something in the journal compels Julie to go to Thailand. If you tell us what, then you can focus the rest of the query on whatever her uncle wants from her, whether it be to solve his murder or discover that he's her father or kill his business partner or submit his journal to a literary agent.

Instead of a cohesive plot you give us a list of things that happen, and we can't tell which are important. Is the journal just a gimmick to get Julie to Bangkok so the real plot can involve her, or is the journal the main focus of the book?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

New Beginning 888

The young god rowed across a violent ocean, voyaging to wed a bride he did not want, a cold Titan witch: Circe's daughter. Waves as tall as castles rolled beneath the hull. He plied the oars with rapid strokes, traveling alone in his small boat, cursing the hurricane at the end of the world, moving against the current and wind. A son's duty powered his work at the oars, not passion.

Greater gods than he arranged this marriage, uninvited. He did not wish to be the agent of their diplomacy. His important business was in Thrace and Ireland. He had sweet ladies, mortals, to entertain in Venice and Normandy. This wedding was a detour, a distraction. He journeyed for honor, not love, to fulfill an ill-conceived promise that could not be undone by his own good reasoning or desires.

He never liked passing through the storm between the worlds, but on this day it seemed worse than ever and the farther he went, the more it raged, as if to blow him back to Britain. Why so difficult? He must cross this barricade to reach the world of immortals, then find Circe's island. Perhaps she made the journey especially impossible now, to test him.

Slowly his thoughts turned as cold as the waves that washed over the stern.

Typical, creating a fucking storm when all he was trying to do was the right thing. Bitch. Jesus, all he'd done was knock up her daughter, and now he was going to spend eternity under her thumb. Did he deserve that fate? Did anyone, really?

Too late to back out now. He kept rowing. There was one small kernel of comfort: Odysseus had told him Circe was a real MILF. But still. He wished he'd just joined the Army.

Opening: Susan Brown.....Continuation: Stacy

Mrs. V's Twitter Update

I seem to recall reading that if you put a penny in your piggy bank yesterday and two pennies today, and four tomorrow, and then eight, and kept doubling the number, at the end of three weeks you'd be a millionaire.

That's the way I was told it would work with Twitter. The twits would multiply exponentially, and after three weeks I'd have more twits than Evil Editor has minions. Then he'd have to give me a raise.

Well, after day one I had 8 twits, and after day two I had 17. That's much better than the three cents I'd have had after two days of banking pennies. But most of my twits are also minions, so to outpace EE I started following the International Association of Administrative Professionals, which has 1158 followers. I tweeted to them about my new blog. Hopefully all of them will start following me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Face-Lift 956

Guess the Plot

Beauty and the Bouncer

1. HE'S a high-class fashion model. SHE'S a pogo-stick champion. Will she ever stay still long enough for him to win her heart?

2. The depressing tale of why you're not cool enough to get into the trendiest club in town, even if you slip the bouncer a twenty, while that harlot in the miniskirt doesn't even have to wait in line.

3. Bree Taylor loses everything in a bad investment except the one asset she doesn't want: a biker bar in the hinterlands of Northern California. She takes it over reluctantly, realizes she can't handle the customers herself, and hires a bouncer. Happily ever after?

4. A lovely and brilliant cat named Beauty shares her house with a slave human named Melissa, who exists solely to bring Beauty's food, keep her litter box fresh, and provide something warm for the feline to lounge upon. Life is good until Melissa brings home an idiot dog: a distracting pestilence known as "The Bouncer," who intends to stay, but must be eliminated at any cost. War ensues.

5. She's a type A med student with an adorable drinking problem! He's a tough guy from the wrong side of the tracks trying to put his past behind him! Can they look past their differences and find love? It's a romance novel, so, yeah, probably.

6. When Elissa's friends set her up with the rough, hunky Jake, she knows he's bad news. Until the day he flattens some bikers trying to get too friendly. Now she can't get enough of him. But can she at least housebreak him before she takes him home to meet her mother?

7. Norman is the lanky dork who gets hired as a bouncer at Jezebel's Bar. Lucy is the slutty shot girl who already works there. Their boss has a strict no-dating rule, especially between bouncers and slutty shot girls. So you just know they're gonna hit the sheets posthaste.

Original Version

Dear Benevolent Editor,

I am seeking a publisher for “Beauty and the Bouncer,” a contemporary romance, complete at X,000 words, [Never combine Arabic numbers with Roman numerals; use one or the other. And try to expand this to at least LX,000 words.] that should appeal to fans of the wry humor and playful sexiness in the works of Jennifer Crusie, Victoria Dahl, and Rachel Gibson.

Lucy York is an aspiring mechanical engineer moonlighting as a slutty shot girl at Jezebel’s Bar & Lounge to pay her bills. [Is that the actual job description? Was she looking through the help wanted ads and answered one for a slutty shot girl? If a bar owner advertised for a slutty shot girl I would expect women to be boycotting and picketing the place.] [If the reader is familiar with the term "shot girl," I don't see the need to add "slutty" to the description. And if she's not familiar with the term, she'll probably think bartender.] All she has to do is keep the job—and keep herself from smashing a keg over some stupid frat boy’s head—until her student loans come through and she can flee north to live her dream of attending UC Berkeley. [My brief research suggests she could pay her tuition with what she'd make as a shot girl in about eight weeks. If she admits on her loan application that she makes $800 a night, those loans may not be forthcoming.]

Then her boss hires a new bouncer, Norm, a lanky literature dork who seems like everything a bouncer shouldn’t be: tall, gangly, [You already called him lanky. Tall and gangly isn't adding much.] sweet (and, you know, named Norman). But, as she gets to know the new guy, ol’ Norm turns out to be everything Lucy never knew she wanted: funny, passionate, smart, kind, and the best friend she’s ever had.

One problem for their happily ever after: the big boss man [owner] has a strict no-dating rule for employees. Especially between bouncers and slutty shot girls. [Is that how the rule is worded? No dating shot girls, especially not the slutty ones?] If anyone at Jezebel’s finds out she’s dating a bouncer, [We didn't even find out she's dating him. Is she?] [He takes a job as a bouncer, agreeing to the no-dating-slutty-shot-girls rule, and immediately starts dating a slutty shot girl? He didn't seem like the type. Can't he wait a while and follow her to Berkeley?] Lucy will lose her job as well as her best chance of getting out of the dump and away to Berkeley. [I thought she was getting away as soon as her loans came through. Do the loans depend on having a job as a slutty shot girl?] [Why doesn't Norm quit and get a job as a bouncer at the library?]

But, if she loses Norm trying to protect her job, is she losing her best chance at really ending up happy for forever after [happiness]?

I have two full-length novels out now as ebooks under my pen name E.D. Walker. My paranormal romance "The Beauty's Beast" was released by Noble Romance Publishing last year and my YA fantasy novel, “Heir to the Underworld,” was released by Sapphire Blue Publishing a few months later. My novel “The Beauty’s Beast” was a finalist in the First Book category of Romance Writer’s Ink “More Than Magic” contest.

Thank you for taking the time to consider my work.



If Lucy were to lose her job, couldn't she just move to the Berkeley area and get a job as a shot girl there? I don't think you've shown her situation to be a desperate predicament. Should I risk losing this job I'm planning to quit soon anyway just to live happily ever after? Duh.

Has Norm agreed to move north when Lucy does? As far as we know, Norm is the guy who just started working at Jezebel's, and Lucy is planning to move to another city. We need to know that this is true love and that losing her job would ruin everything.

You might want to change the opening to:

Lucy York is an aspiring mechanical engineer moonlighting as a shot girl to pay her bills. All she has to do is keep the job—serving watered-down drinks to drunken frat boy’s at Jezebel’s Lounge—until her student loans come through and she can flee north to live her dream of attending UC Berkeley.

This explains the term "shot girl" to those agents who aren't into the big-city nightlife scene without calling them sluts. The shot girls, not the agents.

I believe the term "moonlighting" means working at a second job after getting off your main job. If shot girl is Lucy's only job, she's working, not moonlighting.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Mrs. Varmighan Tweets

Hi, I'm Mrs. Varmighan. You can call me Mrs. V. It's easier to spell. You may know me as the woman behind the man, the man being the highly disagreeable teddy bear who happens to be the world's most famous editor.

I've tried to get him to join Twitter so his minions could get to know him better, but he refused to join unless his handle could be evileditor or EE, and they were both taken, probably by someone who thinks EE would be willing to pay them big bucks to relinquish the name.

As it happens, MrsVarmighan wasn't taken. MrsV was, so if you want to follow me, you're gonna have to spell "Varmighan" right at least once.

If you're already a twit, you probably know how to follow me using @MrsVarmighan. If you aren't a twit and you don't want to be, I'm going to arrange for all my tweets to appear on Evil Editor's blog as soon as someone tells me how.

Here's the good part. His Evilness would never stand for me tweeting on the clock, so I invite all minions to submit potential tweets to EE's email address (, and I'll pick out the funniest ones to post. All his email goes through me first, and he rarely reads his blog, so he won't know what's going on till it's too late.

BTW, EE would puke on his keyboard if he saw abbreviations like h8 or l8r or Go 4th & X. So pretend you're writing to him, or I'll get in big trouble.

New Beginning 887

It’s only been three weeks but Ian’s chafing already.

Three weeks since he lost control and let his cravings get the better of him. Three weeks since he carved up that yapping little shit that wouldn’t bend to his whims. Three weeks since he dumped Brent’s body deep into a river.

Three weeks without a teenage boy at his free disposal and Ian’s going crazy with the need to have a young, unwilling body trapped underneath him. To feel soft, unmarred skin under his fingertips. To mark that skin with his hands, his teeth - his hunting knife.

His cock starts to twitch at the thought, and Ian pushes down on it with the edge of his hand brutally, forcing it into submission. ‘Wilson’s Snack & Sandwich’ in the middle of the shopping mall is not the place to beat off, not if he wants to remain inconspicuous. Pretending to be focused on the well-worn menu, he lets his gaze wander over the steady stream of people passing by.

With any luck, he’ll find his new boy today, get him home and settled in by tomorrow. And this time, he’ll be more careful. This one will last longer than a couple of months.

He wipes a froth of spit from the corner of his mouth, the corner that twitches in sympathy with his cock, then pulls at the groin of his pants to give himself more room as a mother and her son approach. His palms are sweaty. He can almost smell the boy's hair.

They stop in front of him. He stares intently at the menu, ready to explode.

"Excuse me," the woman says, and he starts to wonder if he might know them.

Ian levels his eyes with theirs. "Uh, yes?"

"A ham-mushroom-swiss on wheat and tuna salad surprise on rye, please."

Ian wipes his hands on his apron and reaches for the bread.

Opening: Red Silverbeet.....Continuation: anon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Face-Lift 955

Guess the Plot

Quinn's Law

1. It's a long journey, especially by dogsled, and Quinn is running late as usual, but when he finally gets here, everybody had better jump for joy.

2. Always sterilize your equipment. Do no harm. And don't tell anyone their new doctor is a woman until it's too late to send you back East.

3. Using proven scientific methods to analyze the female, physics genius Albert Quinn publishes a paper explaining his third law: the bigger the hair, the smaller the brain. Outrage ensues.

4. After winning a national elementary-school essay contest, little Quinn gets to make up a new law of her very own. After she comes down with a traumatizing case of cooties, she demands boys be outlawed in the United States. Hilarity ensues.

5. Zebediah Quinn rules his ranch hands with a velvet glove. He has just one iron-clad law: hands off his lovely daughter, Virginia. But when a new ranch hand who comes to the farm has no hands, lost in a tragic combine accident, will Quinn's Law apply to the man's prehensile feet and toes?

6. Hubert Quinn is grubby, foul-mouthed and malodorous. Follow his career as he buys his way to the bench while representing the criminal who set rats free in his chambers and a fat Santa who got stuck up a chimney.

7. In 1887, Eustace Phillipe Quinn decides to go practice law in Dodge City. But kindly old Judge Hooper thinks that the fragile, effeminate Quinn is overmatched. Will he prove them wrong--and catch the eye of Sheriff John McClanahan too?

8. Arizona, 1885. The tough mining town of Burbage has claimed yet another sheriff. That's when Jonas Quinn, half-breed brother of the dead lawman rides into town, vengeance in his heart. Will he finally break Burbage--or will Burbage break him? Also, a Cheyenne medicine woman.

9. Quinn's mother is supposed to be getting rejuvenating treatments from a "doctor,' but the guy is actually draining her life force so he can live longer. But he doesn't know Quinn has special powers, and that she's willing to take the law into her own hands to rescue her mother. Also, a man with no face.

10. Robert Quinn is an outlaw, making a living by robbing banks and holding up tax collectors. But when Alamanno Gulch loses its sheriff and its deputy sheriff in the same week, he sees the chance to take over; unless the residents decide that they prefer their banks unrobbed.

Original Version

Dear Agent:

I recently completed a 60,000 word young adult horror novel, Quinn’s Law, for which I am seeking representation.

Quinn Sage is the only survivor of a crash that killed thirteen of her friends. [I always suspected it was dangerous to cram so many people into one of those clown cars.] She wanted to kill herself and join them but ended up in a psych ward instead. [Nothing gets you over suicidal impulses like being surrounded by other people who want to kill themselves.] When she’s finally sent home, she thinks things are getting back to normal. Until a man with no face starts stalking her. [If a man with no face is able to stalk you, you need to stop talking so much.] Quinn is terrified she’s having another breakdown. Nightmarish winged creatures scrabble at her windows at night, leaving deep claw marks in the concrete window ledge. [Yep. Another breakdown.]

When her mother, a Broadway actress, starts receiving rejuvenating treatments from a slick doctor, Quinn discovers that his great-grandfather was in the same business—until his patients were found drained of their fortunes and their health in a remote estate, insane, skeletal shadows of their former selves. As Quinn delves deeper, she realizes the doctor isn’t the great-grandson after all—he’s the same monstrous man, who has somehow found a way to drain the life force of his victims and maintain his own youth for centuries. [He sounds like a bad guy, but I have to admit that if I could maintain my youth for centuries by draining other people's life forces, I'd give it a shot. Though I'd try to drain the life forces of only bad people. Unless it turned out bad people's life forces caused indigestion, in which case I'd have to go with the weak.]

He’s become obsessed with the idea of restoring scarred, damaged Quinn to her former beauty. [With his rejuvenating elixir? Is he a plastic surgeon? Can he provide testimonials from former patients? Does he at least have an infomercial?] He’ll do anything in his power to get her, including holding her mother hostage and terrorizing Quinn with horrifying creatures of his own creation. Having balanced on the thin edge between life and death has given Quinn powers, and a purpose, she didn’t realize she had. [Commas not needed.] [What powers? Super powers?] She puts them to the test when she follows the monster to his lair to free her mother and put an end to his evil once and for all.

I would be delighted to send you a sample chapter or the complete manuscript at your request. Thank you for your time and consideration.


The YA genre having been overrun with vampires and werewolves and faeries; perhaps a mad scientist is just what it needs.

Let's drop the man with no face from the query.

Creatures capable of digging their claws into concrete oughta be able to get through a window. Unless . . . are they really stupid creatures capable of digging their claws into concrete?

Most teenage girls would want their mother taken hostage and drained of her life force. Maybe you should make it Quinn's BFF.

If the doctor is obsessed with restoring Quinn to her former beauty, he should just tell Quinn's mother he can do so. He can find some other person to hold hostage and drain of her life force so that Quinn's mom trusts him.

Has he met Quinn?

Why is the title Quinn's Law? What is her law? You need a title like The Island of Dr. Moreau. But not exactly that, as I assume his name isn't Moreau and he doesn't have an island. The Laboratory of Dr. Schizoid. Rejuvenation. My Mother Sings on Broadway: Kill Me Now.

The horrifying creatures of his own creation does remind me of Dr. Moreau. Usually the villain doesn't branch out into new fields. Usually if you can drain people's life force, you focus on that and leave creating horrifying creatures to other mad scientists.

Cartoon 1000!!!!

1000 is enough of anything. But the main reason I'm stopping the cartoon caption contest is because I'm out of ideas. Evil Editor has encountered so many occupations, animals, situations, etc. that it's hard not to repeat ideas.

When I started the cartoons I had no idea if they would last any longer than several other features that fizzled out after a few months or weeks. And they wouldn't have if they hadn't been so funny.

To celebrate the occasion, I've prepared a short film that collects the cartoons featuring my most famous client, John Grisham, as well as the always-popular religion cartoons. The credits at the end of the film honor as many caption writers as I could come up with, not just the ones who wrote the captions for the Grisham and religion cartoons. These are the people without whom the cartoon feature would have died out long ago.

The cartoon music is by Kevin MacLeod. The credits music is from Apple. The film is at YouTube, because it's bigger and clearer there. Here's the link.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Guess the Plot

Hybreed Rising

1. Geneticists create wolf/man hybrids. Also known as werewolves. One thing leads to another and soon an inter-species war looms, threatening to destroy all life on Earth. Also, the usual shadow organization with its own agenda.

2. The secrets of the industrial metal music neoplastic underworld are revealed with interviews and historical notes of some of its greatest contributors: Low Distortion Unit, In-Fused, Dual Proform, Skinny Puppy and Ooomph, as well as some up-and- coming new artists like Frequency Construct and Luser Dazed.

3. All the farmers around Oskaloosa Iowa told Frank he was crazy to let them put a chemical storage facility on his land, but with his vegetables dominating the fair circuit, it looks like Frank will get the last laugh . . . until the deer start growing fangs.

4. Four vikings set sail across the Atlantic hoping to establish their new strains of sweet peas in the new world. But when the manuscript containing their research falls into the hands of an Imperial agent, the last Roman legion rows out after them.

5. Geneticist Judith Fancher perfects the world's fastest growing yeast, but when she uses it in her chocolate souffle recipe, she--and the entire town--get an unpleasant surprise. Now it's up to the National Guard.

6. Mankind destroyed the world, but from the ashes and stew of chemicals and poisonous air rises a new breed, the hybreed...who will stop at nothing to search out and obliterate the remnants of man. Can one reporter from the Galaxy News Network save us from an army of mutants?

Original Version


I am seeking representation for my novel, Hybreed Rising, the first in a series called The Hybreed Chronicles. [I can tell you've formed a strong attachment to the word "hybreed," but if you can't somehow manage to break free of it, this project and your writing career are essentially doomed.]

By the 22nd century the American Empire has ruled the Earth for two hundred years, and now it is on the brink of a paradigm shift. [It's already the 21st century, so you're saying 100 years ago the American Empire started ruling the Earth. Either the math is off, or this is planet Earth but with a completely different history--which makes it Rigel IV.] Christopher Hansen can do a little 'shifting' of his own, but he doesn’t know how or why. When he is forced to put aside his version of community service to find answers, help comes from a most unlikely source: Department 118 of the American Empire. With their aid Chris discovers an inner threat to the livelihood of his kind [His kind has a livelihood? I can think of many livelihoods shapeshifters (if that's what he is) would be good at: body double, female impersonator . . . Elvis impersonator . . . but it's hard to believe all shapeshifters' have one livelihood.] and an outer threat to their very existence – both of which are set against him. What’s more, exposing the threats may lead to the destruction of life on Earth through inter-species war. Can Chris neutralize the dangers to his kind while keeping his life and values intact? [Screw values. When the stakes include the destruction of life on Earth, no one's gonna worry about whether shoplifting is bad.] What are the true intentions of Department 118 and the Empire toward his people? Will Chris ever find a place where he can belong? [And most importantly, will I ever clarify what the hell I'm talking about?]

Hybreed Rising is the first book of an epic tale wherein werewolves play an integral part, but don't be fooled: This is not part of the horror or paranormal genre. [I tried not to be fooled, but you got me.] The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality. [I'd go with alternate reality. I feel like I'm in one now.] It is told in two parts which correlate fluidly and offer further installments. [You lost me after "two parts."] Part One (38,364 words) sets the stage, introduces the main characters, and allows them to meet and overcome challenges. [This sounds like a new season of Survivor.] [Part Two is the Tribal Council, right?] Part Two (50,892 words) brings in lycanthropic cultures [Wait a minute . . . Did you say lycanthropic cultures?!] (you read it right: lycanthropic cultures), a shadow organization with its own agenda, and a grand battle between tribes of werewolves. [Survivor would be much more interesting if it had tribes of werewolves.] The story addresses moral and ethical issues, [Like, is it wrong to vote a tribemate off the island just because he tears out Jeff Probst's throat?] and also offers mystery, action, and humor (bad puns included). [Bad puns are never a selling point.] The full manuscript (97,615 words) [Part 1 (38,364)+ Part 2 (50,892) = 89,256 words. Apparently this is one of those novels where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.] and a synopsis are available upon request. Novellas which explore the adventures of Chris and his comrades are also available, [as are flash fiction pieces and limericks,] and a novel-sized sequel is currently in development.

My name is ______________, but I use the pseudonym _______________. I’m nowhere near as interesting as this story. [Anyone more interesting than his story should trash the story and write his autobiography.] I believe wolves and werewolves are among the most misrepresented and misunderstood creatures in literature and cinema. [I might buy that about wolves, but werewolves? How do you misrepresent a werewolf?] My aspirations include discussing these subjects [You aspire to discuss the misrepresentation of werewolves?] and other related storylines, seeing my works published, and perhaps building a fan base. [For you or for werewolves?] One of the short stories based on this storyline appeared in the final issue of Fang, Claw and Steel, and another appears in beginning issues of Is this Reality? Magazine. [A magazine that publishes werewolf stories can't come up with a better name than Is this Reality?]

I posted queries and excerpts on internet forums to gain feedback on my innovative take on werewolves. Many readers commended my portrayal, which incorporates self-awareness, unique cultural aspects, and authentic wolf characteristics [like fangs, claws, lungs that can blow a house down, and an uncanny resemblance to Red Riding Hood's Grandma] into the creature. Hybreed Rising effectively re-envisions werewolves while telling an endearing, entertaining story with strong, relatable characters. Testimonies from readers are available upon request. [It's always helpful, when a query is too long, for it to have a paragraph like that one, so I can just say delete the whole thing.]

Further research proves audiences are tired of the same old 'Jekyll-and-Hyde' storyline forced upon the werewolf mythos. [If you think audiences are tired of it, you should hear what the werewolves have to say.] [If audiences are tired of the same old wolfmen, instead of giving them different wolfmen you might give them kangaroomen or cowmen. Maybe it's not the mythos people are tired of, maybe it's the fact that it's always a wolf. If you're reading about a hybrid, why must it be man/wolf?

Geneticist 1: We have the means to create a hybrid of a man and any animal in existence. Which animal should we use?]

Geneticist 2: How about a wolf?

Geneticist 1: That's what I was thinking.]

Fortunately, Hybreed Rising takes this classic back player of monster stories and brings them into the limelight from the direction of soft genetic science, addressing many never-answered questions of werewolf existence. [For instance, Q: Do werewolves exist? A: Yes.] Hybreed Rising investigates the coexistence of the dual natures such a creature would inherit, exploring what a merger between man and wolf might create under individual circumstances and life experiences.

I hope this short explanation [Short? My Masters thesis was shorter. (But hey, how much can you write about the religious symbolism in John Grisham's novels?)] captures your interest. I give my sincerest thanks for your time and attention, and stand ready to send my work at your request. I can be reached at _________ or __________ for your convenience.

Kindest Regards,


Werewolves don't exist. Thus anyone can portray werewolves any way they want without fear that they are misrepresenting them. I'm sure you wouldn't like it if someone read your book and declared that you misrepresent werewolves.

The first long paragraph, which is your plot, is too vague. What is meant by paradigm shift? What is meant by "shifting"? What is meant by "his version of community service?" What is the inner threat? What is the outer threat? Tell us specifically what's going on. Focus on Chris. If he's a werewolf, say so.

Most of the rest is more likely to hurt your cause than help it. Get rid of everything that could be construed as bragging about your book. Every author thinks his book is innovative and original. An agent can't tell which ones really are until she reads them, so just make the plot sound intriguing/exciting/fun/whatever. That's the way to get her to want to read it. Not by declaring it great. The author is the last person she's gonna believe.

Selected Comments

A lot of that was stuff that's fun to talk about with your fellow aspiring authors, but it sounds daffy in a query letter. The "HYBREED" word does not seem to be an asset. I don't see the benefit of spelling hybrid wrong. If you need to make up a new word, think of something that doesn't look like you can't spell hybrid.

I'm guessing the plot is meant to be a literary expose of racism using space werewolves as the minority, combined with an epic space opera quest in which protagonist must save the world from baddies & machines. More plot detail would be more helpful than the discussion about werewolf genre.

150 said...For me, the most telling detail is that you didn't round off your word count. Round it to the nearest thousand. Giving it to the word indicates that you're not used to rewrites or chopping a few hundred at a time. Read a few good examples in the archives and try again. You're leaving out important information and giving us way, way too much unimportant stuff.

Blogger writtenwyrdd said...Gak! This is all about you and not about the book. Start over please and tell us the story. And I have to agree the word hybreed should go, it's silly sounding.

Steve said...If your novel is about werewolves in the 22nd century, I think it's most likely to be shelved in the SF section of bookshops, despite your attempts to push it into a More Respectable Genre (with or without Superfluous Capitals). As an unashamed SF/fantasy/horror fan, I think you should wear your genre label with pride, but that's just me.

I've lost count of how many times I've heard someone say they've got a uniquely new (and also accurate) take on werewolves ... I like werewolf stories; I'd probably read this. But to convince me you've genuinely got something new and original you've got to fill in some of the details. What are the challenges your protagonist faces? How is he threatened, and how does he respond? What is this "Department 118"? (It's not what you'd call either informative or evocative, that name.) Basically; I'm not interested in your Internet focus groups, I want to know what happens in the story!

Adam Heine said..."The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality." I'm fairly certain it wouldn't be considered Commercial Fiction. Putting it in the future, with a scientific (rather than a magical or merely racial) explanation for werewolves, puts this squarely in the Science Fiction or Horror genre.

Anonymous said...It was very dry reading. For as long as it is, you have barely anything about the story. I don't care what it might or might not do for werewolves in fiction. As is, I wouldn't read this book at all.

Also, aren't epics supposed to be really long? For some reason, 93k doesn't strike me as long enough to really classify as an epic. Especially if it's only in two parts. You might want to look up the requirements for something to be called an epic before you claim your work is one. That's one of my pet peeves.

Another thing, which might just be me, but your side story novellas, are those from the same period of time as the two part story you're talking about here, or are those afterward? If they're part of the story you're discussing, why not go for a real epic and put them in there where they belong? And if they're after, why not just put them in the sequel? It strikes me as odd that you'd want side novellas for what I'm guessing is an adult work. I know children authors do that occasionally, but I don't think I've heard of that being done by adult authors...though I could be wrong.

Moth said...Ok, here’s my issues with this query:
1. Hybreed. It just looks like you don’t know how to spell hybrid. I’d trash this word and come up with a new one.
2. “the first in a series called The Hybreed Chronicles.” You can mention this is part of an intended series, but it’s really not a good idea to write your epic Wheel of Time-esqe series until after you’ve sold the first book. Unless you intend every book in this series to be a stand-alone you'll be wasting your time if the first book never sells.
3. “Can Chris neutralize the dangers to his kind while keeping his life and values intact?” This whole section, with all the questions is really cheesy. It feels a bit like a Flash Gordon serial: “Will our brave hero make it out in time?” Probably not the feeling you want to evoke. Also, don’t ask questions you’re not going to answer in the query. This doesn’t really create anticipation, just annoyance.
4. “The story is set in the future where America is an empire, so it might be considered Commercial Fiction or Alternate Reality.” Or Science Fiction? How much research can you have done if you don’t realize this reads as SF?
5. “It is told in two parts…” They don’t care how you structure your novel. Just give them a rounded up word count at the beginning along with the genre. IE: “My novel, XYZ, is a SF novel complete at 95K words.”
6. “…a novel-sized sequel is currently in development…” Think you mean a novel-length sequel.
7. My name is ______________, but I use the pseudonym _______________. Unless you’re famous for writing under that pseudonym, agents won’t care at this point in the game. Wait until you’ve got a contract to worry about your pseudonym. This line is just wasting space. So is:
“I can be reached at _________ or __________ for your convenience.” As you can put all pertinent contact info in a header at the top of your query.
8. Also, like EE said, telling the agent everything out on the market currently is crap is a good way to insult agents who might already have some of those “same old 'Jekyll-and-Hyde'” werewolves on their lists already.
9. Also, I’m not going to take your word for it that the story is “innovative”, “endearing” or “entertaining”. You telling me it is all of these things makes me think it’s not going to be. Let the writing speak for itself.
10. "and perhaps building a fan base" Perhaps? You're not sure you want to build a fanbase?

I hope you’ll give another whack at this and post the revision here when you’re ready. Best of luck with this.

Matthew said...Show us how werewolf Chris is different than common werewolves, don't tell us. Start a new query and focus on your main character. Explain his ultimate goal, his motivation and what/who stands in his way. Anytime you feel the urge to add something about your views on werewolves, roll up a $5 bill and throw it out the window.

Aimee K. Maher said..."Anytime you feel the urge to add something about your views on werewolves, roll up a $5 bill and throw it out the window." Best. Advice. Ever.

Whirlochre said...Everything after paragraph 2 can go — as WW says, there's too much info about yourself here. This leaves werewolves in the future, which is intriguing, especially if they have zap guns. Flesh that idea out more specifically, and condense all the stuff about the American Empire into a couple of nippy lines and you may have something.

Oh — and 'hybreed' counts against you.

Eric P. said...When I hear "hybrid" I immediately and only think of lettuce (my dad's a gardener). So if you must call them "hybreed," you could make them werelettuces. Now that's an innovative take on the mythos.

Steve said...Eric P., curiously enough, a friend of mine at school (many years ago, obviously) used to regale us all with tales of a character called Fred Lettuce, the Abominable Werecabbage. Sometimes I wonder what became of him. (The friend, that is. Not the werecabbage.) But I think you're right - generally speaking, the story potential of werevegetables has not been adequately exploited.

Dave F. said...Were-vegies hasn't been explored but the kiddie version - Veggie-Tales - and the adult version - Aqua Teen Hunger Force - explores the variety of cinematic adventures that vegetables and household objects can solve.

I don't mind "Hybreed" at all. This is Sci-Fi and if Douglas Adams can have Vogons, Vl'hurgs and G’Gugvuntts and a computer with a John The Baptist fixation, I can live with Hybreed.

Not to mention Viltvodle VI where they invented the underarm deodorant before the wheel.

Anonymous said...I dated a werecabbage once but it didn't work out. They go to seed so fast...

Stick and Move said...Specifics. Details. What are the obstacles and the stakes? The agent doesn't care about your aspirations, or your feelings about the poor misrepresented werewolf. Do you have a story they can sell or not? Show the agent critical glimpses of your story that will interest them in reading some pages, don't tell them what is wrong with the current genre selections. And the next time you have the urge to offer testimonies from your beta readers, take a tack hammer and hit yourself between the eyes with it until the urge goes away.

Lick your wounds, take some deep breaths, then consider the sound advice given here and start over. Chances are you have a good story, but it isn't coming through in the query.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


Guess the Plot

From Hopkins to Homeless

1. College sophomore Donna Williams works backward through the encyclopedia to learn about life, love, and spelling -- and gets her first job: baking crumpets at the Mad Duchess, a surreal cafe frequented by passionate young men who all look like Che Guevera.

2. Tired of inspirational stories about homeless guys becoming concert violinists and CEOs? Then you'll love this story of a doctor who threw away a promising career. Prescription forgery, suicide attempts, drug addiction and car crashes take him from respected doctor to homeless guy, and then to rock bottom: homeless guy writing a book.

3. When Bailey Barron discovers she's adopted, she drops out of Baltimore's Johns Hopkins medical school to experience the world of her homeless biological father. What she finds is a world filled with danger, hunger, disrespect and filth. But hey, it's got interning beat by a mile.

4. The true story of Dr. Shereen Martin, who went from Assistant Professor of Wymyn's studies at Johns Hopkins to homeless when her jealous rivals for the attention of biologist Dr. Lynn Morgan exposed her groundbreaking work on the plight of lesbian opticians in Baltimore as a total fabrication.

5. Dr. Jonathan Rydell was a brilliant plastic surgeon whose life fell apart. Alcohol, gambling, and the loss of his medical license, friends and family, are followed by a fall into homeless despair. But when developers plan to bulldoze the shelter and put up a high-rise condo building, Rydell springs into action.

6. Ian Adams, fired from teaching at prestigious Johns Hopkins medical school in Baltimore, demonstrates that even hobos can perform brain surgery. But can he prove his former students aren't behind the recent kidney thefts?

Original Version

I am currently respectfully seeking representation for the publication of my autobiography, “From Hopkins to Homeless: My True Story of Drug Addiction”. This book addresses the disease of addiction and the process of recovery by providing a unique, thought provoking, and inspirational insight [through suffering, sacrifice, and redemption] [Those brackets should be parentheses; otherwise readers will think I put them there, and wonder what's so funny.] into the life cycle of addiction as experienced by a severe prescription addict [myself]. [Those brackets can stay, as that's pretty funny.] This book will have approximately 275 [8.5” x 5.5”] pages [Are you printing your manuscript on 8.5" x 5.5" paper, or have you already chosen the font and font size and book dimensions the publisher is to use?] divided into 12 chapters, 15 appendixes and 12 (if not cost prohibitive) pictures and illustrations. [When a former doctor offers to send me fifteen appendixes, I start to worry about where he's getting them.]

[Appendix 1: Possible side effects of taking six oxycontin tablets a day, including losing your job as a respected physician.

Appendix 2: Baltimore Restaurants with the best dumpster fare.

Appendix 3: Johns Hopkins nurses who put out when you're a doctor, but not when you're a homeless guy.

Appendix 4: Unrealistic things that have happened on House.

Appendix 5: My favorite bridges for sleeping under.

Appendix 6: Why killing other homeless guys and selling their organs isn't the best path back to respectability.

Appendix 7: How the hell did you come up with material for fifteen appendixes?

Appendix 8: Things doctors do with removed appendixes (includes recipes).

Appendix 9: Baltimore area pharmacists with lax ethics.

Appendix 10: Johns Hopkins doctors who are always high but haven't been caught yet.

Appendix 11: Why carjacking people as they pull away from the drive-thru at CVS is a bad idea.

Appendix 12: How you can get drugs to me.

Appendix 13: Heroin vs. aspirin: An ex-doctor's surprising perspective.

Appendix 14: Christ, it looks like I'm gonna make it to fifteen after all.

Appendix 15: Literary agents who refused to take me on just because I'm a homeless guy.]

Starting in my Doctorate program in Respiratory Medicine and ending homeless on the streets, addiction crept into my life [It wasn't addiction that was homeless; it was you. Try: Respiratory Medicine, I ended up homeless on the streets when addiction crept into my life...] and took from me my possessions, my profession, my loved ones, and my sanity. [If addiction doesn't take your sanity, trying to make it as a writer surely will.] One day I was a respected well-known Senior Medicinal Aerosol Scientist lecturing all over the world, and next I was being arrested at a medical conference in Atlanta for forging a prescription earlier that day. [Signing another doc's name to a prescription is illegal; signing another doc's name to one of your prescriptions is stupid. But understandable if you were desperate for a fix.] The police waited until I finished my lecture, approached me, put me in handcuffs, and led me through the conference hall while all my colleagues were looking at me in utter disbelief.

[Cop 1: We should at least let him finish his lecture before we arrest him.

Cop 2: Are you kidding? If he goes on another five minutes we'll all be asleep dead.]

This book describes all of the incidents that I experienced, [All of them?] (some very dark and disturbing), during my 9 year journey/battle from addiction to sobriety and recovery. From 3 suicide attempts, [If you can't slit your wrists properly in three tries, I'm glad you never operated on me.] 2 roll over car crashes, 15 toxic overdoses [each of which is described in detail in its own appendix], having a gun put to my head and many more. It is amazing to me that I did not die. [I'm surprised the doctors didn't let you die after 20 trips to the emergency room and no way to pay for them.] I feel I still have something I need to accomplish. I have kept all supporting documents during my addiction to prove my book is an accurate and factual account of my life as an addict. I knew one day it would be a remarkable story and at the same time have great potential to provide hope, advice, guidance, and assistance [Those last three are pretty much all the same thing.] to other addicts seeking sobriety and long term recovery.

My credentials and qualifications for writing this book include:
Ø For nine years I experienced every aspect of being an addict trying to regain my sobriety in a system that is overworked, under funded, and not always a priority to assist those addicts who truly want help. [Not really a qualification for writing this or any book.]
Ø Being school orientated, for years I researched addiction aggressively to find an answer. I became very educated about this disease but realized there is no textbook answer and I was going to have to trust people I did not know to save my life. [That must have been almost as scary as trusting a drug-addicted respiratory doctor you don't know to save your life.]
Ø A Master’s degree and required thesis in respiratory medicine. [Maybe you can explain why it is I can hear the dog whimpering three rooms away when I'm asleep, but I can't hear myself snoring like a chainsaw cutting petrified wood.]
Ø Nine peer reviewed publications in various medical journals.
Ø Fifty-five medical papers published and presented at the numerous medical conferences that took place every year.
Ø Contributing author, (in one chapter), in the book, “Inhalations Aerosols”, [Anagram: Heroin: Satan's lasso.] edited by Anthony Hickey.

To help you decide if you might be interested in representing my book, I can send the following immediately upon your request: My Promotion Plan, My Curriculum Vitae, My Competition Analysis, and a Proposal of a possible subsequent book taken from daily journals and experiences in my year long residential treatment. [What about the book? Can you send the book?]

Thank you for your generous time. I eagerly await your response and look forward to hearing from you soon. I have enclosed a SASE for your convenience.


It's too long. You don't need to tell the publisher the page count, paper size, number of chapters/appendixes. The word count will do.

You don't need to list your qualifications. You experienced the events in the book. That's what's important for the writing of an autobiography. Although . . .

I'm not sure I'd call it an autobiography, as it has a narrow focus.

You don't need documentation of your addiction in your book. You may need it to get on Oprah, as she's probably being careful about that stuff these days.

The query details your fall, but as you claim the book will aid other addicts (those who read books, anyway) you might want to tell us how far back you've come. Do you have a home, a job, a family? Do you help the homeless? Show that ultimately it's an inspirational story.

Selected Comments

Matthew said...I'm wondering the same things as EE. Are you back on top again? If you cut the fluff and include how you live now, this could be an enticing query.

Sarah Laurenson said...I don't know if there are many books out there about doctors who are/were prescription addicts. Could be very interesting. Love the Appendixes, EE!

Dave F. said...This reads like a report and not a query.

vkw said...Prescription drug abuse is one of the most common addictions in the United States and, unfortunately, is prevalent within the medical industry. It is incrediably easy, (from what I have been told) to get prescription drugs. I would love to read your memoir especially if it is inspirational and your no longer homeless and if you have solutions to the problem. How do you stop this kind of abuse? How do you recognize this is occuring or that you have become addicted? What can be done to address the problem?

Now this is just my opinion - but I get frustrated with memoirs where I had this problem, I overcame it and I am a better person. That is great. It's inspirational but I want to go a step further and want to know from the person's perspective how did it happen, what could have stopped it and how do we prevent it from happening. I also like some understanding of how it impacted your family, how they reacted, what they did to help or hinder and how are they now.

Blogger Aimee K. Maher said... Yeah, I like the overall premise. This one needs serious work. You have a situation that dragged you into the dregs, and you fought your way out (I assume). Take out the journal moments and inject the ride. I think it has good potential as a memoir.

writtenwyrdd said...This sounds like it could be a good read, but you really do need to show us the point of the book in your query. One presumes it's about your fall from grace and subsequent recovery, but the letter needs to say so, as well as give us something of the events you describe.

The appendices worry me slightly, though. Because I have to wonder what, exactly, you need appendices for in a memoir? People reading memoirs are not looking for scholarly treatises!

I know you have had it rough and am happy for you and the progress I presume you have made. I think the letter should also tell us where you are at at this moment, whether you are working in the medical field again, doing lectures, etc. (If you aren't recovered, your platform for this memoir is a bit of a problem.)

BuffySquirrel said...Drug memoirs are now so tainted (thank you James Frey) that I wonder if it might be worthwhile offering some means of verification. But then I'm not the readership for this, so la.

Anonymous said...If things are still not going well, you might try making a few adjustments, change the ID of your characters, and transform the story to fiction.

_*Rachel*_ said...My eyes were glazing over before you got to the story. You don't need all those details, and I'm used to seeing them at the end.

I think one of the problems I have with this query is one that's shown up again and again in others: too passive. You talk about addiction doing things to you, "I was being," etc. What did YOU DO? That's what I'm interested in.

Aimee K. Maher said...In order for this to be effective, you have to drop the victimization. Drugs didn't do anything to you, you did drugs.

150 said...I'm not getting a sense of why I, a non-doctor and non-addict, might want to read this. You only glaze over incidents, and I don't see a true narrative. Memoir really needs a solid beginning-middle-end story, so the more detail you can give, the better. Anyway, congratulations on getting clean.

Tracey S. Rosenberg said...What grabbed me was the part where you were arrested at a conference. I've been to enough conferences to know that a) this is pretty unusual and b) it's always going to be a more interesting topic of discussion than the keynote speaker. I'd think about using that as your opening/attention-grabber, as that scene seems to encapsulate the range of this book - you're esteemed in your field, and then lo, here come the cops.... (Oh, and maybe don't tell us WHY you're being arrested - not at that moment, anyway - let us wonder for a bit. Not TOO long, as it's a query letter.)

Dave F. said...Your technical publishing history counts only for the fact that you've been handled, manhandled and abused by editors and that you know how to take criticism and do revisions. That's one sentence or two at most in your query.

The rest of the query has to convince a reader that your story is compelling and worth reading. There is a movie titled "Clean and Sober" that I remember as a worthy story but a dark story and when it ended with the character being clean and sober, it still wasn't happy and cheery. It was accurate, gritty, real and one left it not feeling elated but as having watched a true struggle, a life of turmoil finally redeemed from addiction but not angelic or exalted.

There's your job, make the agent reading the query understand your struggle.

Anonymous said..."In order for this to be effective, you have to drop the victimization. Drugs didn't do anything to you, you did drugs."

I quoted this because I tried forever to say the same thing. It think this is very important and what bothered me about this query, after all the information you crammed into this, not one word about 1. Drug of choice (prescription meds is vague since there are so many) 2. How many times you attempted and failed to get clean. 3. How long you've been clean.

A book about an Oxycontin user is different from a book about a valuume abuser. A book about a man who's been six months clean is a different deal than a book about a man who's been 9 years clean, who went to rehab 21 times, who attending 90 AA meetings in 90 days, (and hasn't missed a meeting except for when his mother died) to get that way.

And I'm not placing value on time or the drugs themselves. I'm just saying I need to know more about your addiction.

Leah said...I was so convinced this was a fake Guess the Plot, b/c it's a narration of the last few seasons of House, minus the car accident.

Anonymous said...Drug addiction can't be cured or fixed or prevented, so there isn't a way to address these issues in a memoir. Addiction can be arrested, but not cured. Recovery is a life long commitment.

I believe there is a reason you don't see many memoirs about recovery and that's because of the eleventh tradition in 12 step recovery programs. For anyone who might be interested, "Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films."

There's a good reason for this. There are crazy people in recovery and you don't want them being the poster boys/girls for what 12 step work looks like.

So, to the author, if you aren't in a 12 step recovery program, go for it. But if you are? Call your sponsor, dude.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Face-Lift 954

Guess the Plot

I hate putting out a special call for fake plots and then not using half of the ones that come in, so your task will be doubly hard today.

The Last Ghast-Dancer

1. Little Maggie has a special way of saying good-bye to Mr. Fluffy now that he's become a "ghast."

2. After the weird pink monkey men slaughter all the peaceful monks of her temple, young Grffnghgh swears by the slime of her six tentacles that she will have revenge! With a special guest appearance by Cthulhu.

3. Britney takes "Into to the Paranormal", figuring it'll be an easy A. But when the lonely ghost of Isadora Duncan appears, she's thrust into a world where ghosts actively hunt ghasts--and Britney doesn't know which side to take.

4. At Seance High for the Supernatural, Julie wants more than anything to kiss a boy. Problem is, being a spirit, she's ethereal. But when a vampire hunk transfers to the school, his half-dead status means he might consider taking her to the prom. Can she scare off all the other spooks while she strives to possess his heart?

5. Jasinex hires Salitor to be his live-in necromancer. What he doesn't know is that Salitor is a hoarder. Now the castle is overrun with talking books, piles of skulls, and dancing ghosts. Bit how do you kick out someone who can fry you to a crisp?

6. Iryeh's been ghast-dancing for so long, she's sure it's her turn to be sacrificed to the ghasts. Instead the ghasts kill all the other ghast-dancers. Accused of conspiring with the ghasts, she goes into hiding with the only ghast-dancer ever to retire from the ghast-dancer guild and starts her own ghast-dancing business. Will she ever drive away the ghastly ghasts?

7. Robert Smith is a nobody and knows it. He resigns himself to living a nobody’s life – monotonous, mundane and unremarkable until he discovers by accident he can summon ghasts – ghoulish monsters that are distinguished by their immobilizing stench. Robert suddenly realizes that he is resigned to nothing and quickly plots his revenge against all who offended him.

8. Finally resigned to the reality that his position as a mortgage broker is forever gone, Smedly throws himself off a skyscraper. Alas, even suicide didn't work. He turns to dancing at strip joint where the customers all seem to be gay vampires. He was hoping women, or at least men who weren't actually dead, would be attracted. But no matter; the tips are good.

9. Linguistically challenged Amy needs to hire a Ghost Dancer for her Halloween party. But she misspells her craigslist ad and gets something called a "Ghast-Dancer," a creature from another realm who looks exactly like a hawt human guy and seduces every girl in sight -- except Amy, because she's his new keeper. She can't decide whether to enjoy his charms, or pimp him out.

10. Rock star Dez Gregson takes a break to visit Aunt Mimi at her country pile in Yorkshire, where he can't sleep because shadowy things keep going bump in the night. Is the house haunted, or are those space aliens on the stairway? Maybe a bottle o' whiskey and a tryst with the maid will help Dez solve this mystery. Maybe not. He's determined to find out.

Original Version

Dear Agent Bookpimp,

Every full moon, Iryeh and her fellow swordswomen perform a choreographed battle against twelve desert ghasts, a ritual enforcement of the treaty keeping all spirits out of their city. Iryeh's been ghast-dancing for so long that she's sure this is finally her month to disappear in tribute as the sole symbolic casualty. [Every month another ghast-dancer "disappears"? Can anyone ghast-dance, or are you born a ghast-dancer? Is this a volunteer organization?] But this time, the ghasts don't stick to the ritual; they actually attack. Only Iryeh survives.

When the royal family accuses Iryeh of intentionally letting the spirits win, she runs into the desert to hide with the legendary Mazaret, said to be the only woman who ever survived to retire from the ghast-dancers' guild. Although Mazaret isn't as welcoming (or as noble) as Iryeh had hoped, they take refuge together in a town overrun with spirits, with no ghast-dancers to protect it. Iryeh secretly begins using her dancing skills to chase off the spirits...and regain some of the wealth and admiration she's used to. [I was under the impression ghast-dancing was just a show put on to mollify the ghasts, not that it has the power to drive them away.] But her underground business attracts attention, and a kidnapping attempt leaves Mazaret dead. [She has an underground ghast-dancing business? Do people hire her to chase off ghasts?] After a disastrously failed resurrection, Mazaret's ghost [Is her ghost a ghast? If not, what's the difference between a ghost and a ghast?] alerts Iryeh that terrible conspiracies are brewing--ones that will leave her city in ruins and the spirit realm enslaved. But they [the conspiracies] can't proceed as long as even one ghast-dancer still exists.

All her life, Iryeh has been prepared to die to save her city. Now, if she is to do any good, she must fight alongside friends, strangers, and even her former opponent, the capricious, tantalizing sand-spirit Third--and she must live. [Maybe that name should be rethought. Or do you need it for a comic-relief conversation that goes:

Hi, I'm Iryeh. What's your name?

I'm Third.

I meant what's your name?

I said I'm Third.
I heard you. So who's first?

is first?
No, my second cousin is First.

And I suppose your first cousin is second?

No, he's Fourth. Though he does play second violin.
Fascinating. So . . . what's your name?]

The Last Ghast-Dancer is a YA fantasy, unfinished at about 16,000 words. [Ah, you heeded my plea for queries of books that aren't finished. Don't forget to change the number when the time comes.] My short fiction has appeared in several dozen venues, including [Fair-To-Middling Quarterly and The Journal of Semipro Hopefuls]. Thank you for your time and attention.

Best regards,


If ghast-dancing can drive ghasts away, it's not clear why the ghast-dancers participate in the ritual instead of just keeping the ghasts out.

There's too much here. I recommend dropping Mazaret and reducing the long paragraph to something like:

When the royal family accuses Iryeh of letting the spirits win, she flees into the desert, taking refuge in a town overrun with spirits. Though she uses her dancing skills to chase the spirits off, a new threat rises. Terrible conspiracies are brewing that could leave her city in ruins and the spirit realm enslaved.

Whether his name remains Third or you change it to Thyrd, if he doesn't get mentioned until the plot summary is in its last five words, chances are he isn't needed in the query.

Cartoon 999

Caption: Evil Editor

Your caption on the next cartoon! Link in sidebar.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


A few queries have come in, but fake plot contri- butors are slacking off, so . . .

The novel featured in the query below was published by Krill Press as an ebook a few days ago, with a trade paperback version due out in October.

Guess the Plot


1. When wealthy members of the elite South Worbeach Country Club start turning up dead with, quite literally, rods up their asses, suspicion turns toward the often verbally abused janitorial staff. Can Manuela find the real killer before her team run out of broom shafts?

2. From Rod Serling to Rod McKuen, Rod Stewart to Hillary Rodham Clinton, and A-Rod to Rod the Roofer, these hot Rods prove again and again just how agile, untiring and imaginative celebrity Rods can be -- especially when thrust into tight circumstances.

3. Two high school dropouts named Rodney, manning the control panel of the local nuclear power plant, decide to hire hookers over the Internet on the facility's control computer. While waiting for the ladies to arrive, they inadvertently cause all the fuel rods in the plant to superheat. Can Candi and Mandi satisfy the Rodneys and still have time to cool down the nuclear fuel rods before the destruction of the entire Earth?

4. At an outpost in the furthest, blackest reaches of the universe, ruling descendants of the original colonists have evolved beyond the need to see. When a visitor crash-lands and resurrects the science of artificial light, will it upset the planet's delicate balance of power?

5. When Chance McCloud goes to California to settle his late brother Jim's estate, he discovers that Jim was working on a top secret project. As he tries to get to the bottom of Jim's death, Chance must seek the aid of the people who have gathered in Jim's front yard, waiting for a big rod-ship in the sky to beam them all up.

6. When last year's winner of the Mississippi Bass Fishing Championships is found dead in his boat with a boning knife in his eye, every fisherman in this year's tournament is a suspect. Fortunately, detective Bo Seldon, an avid fisherman himself, is on the scene. Unfortunately, the murder weapon belonged to Bo, and the other competitors are providing each other with alibis.

Original Version

Dear Evil:

I have recently completed an 85,000 word thriller, titled Rods, set in and around the China Lake Naval Weapons Base in California. [If only because most book buyers are women, this sounds much more promising than the manuscript I received yesterday, titled Tits.] [Try to negotiate some input on the cover art; I have a feeling it's going to make or break you on this one.]

When Navy Engineer Jim McCloud dies in a plane crash, it's the responsibility of his brother Chance to go to California and settle Jim's estate. [You're kidding. It was GTP #5? Even I didn't get it right.] When Chance arrives at the naval base where Jim worked, however, Chance finds out that there is a lot more going on than a simple airplane crash. [You got something against pronouns?] [Suddenly I'm getting the horrible feeling someone who won a National Book Award has recommended no more than two pronouns per book. With pronouns, adverbs, adjectives, similes and alliteration eliminated, how long till we can't use nouns and verbs? How long till books contain nothing but prepositions?]

Jim was involved in designing and implementing a program involving rods, the elusive “sky fish” that have become a cause celebre among paranormal researchers. [For those who don't want to look up "sky fish" on Wikipedia, I've done so and will save you the trouble. Some people believe there are creatures that move through the air so fast you can't see them, although a camera can catch a blurred image of them. They're shaped like rods. They've been sighted not only in the air, but also in caves and underwater. I'm not sure if they call underwater rods "sky fish." Possibly they just call them fish.] [The existence of underwater fish has been theorized for some time now.] While many serious scientists regard rods as an artifact of modern photography at best and a hoax at worst, [many quack scientists actually buy into them.] Chance realizes that his brother not only believed in the existence of rods – he had found a way to prove definitively that rods really do exist. [He was planning to catch one with his patented sky-fishing rod.] [Once you call something "definitively proven," it's not necessary to add "really."]

It takes all of Chance's skills as a high-end security specialist to outwit a corrupt Navy captain and find out the truth about his brother's death. Along the way, he is helped by an unlikely group of confederates – a test pilot who considers her job the world's biggest flume ride, a physics junkie who was Jim's biggest fan, and the collection of “rod nuts” that have gathered in Jim's front yard, waiting for that big rod-ship in the sky to beam them all up.

Rods, and the debate about their existence, has been the subject of several television documentaries. [My research shows there have been three such documentaries: The Great Rod Debate: Is Bigger Better?; Is That A Sky-Fish in Your Pocket or are You Just Happy to See Me?; and Buddy, If You Can't Find Anything Better Than This to Watch, You Might Want to Spring For a Dish.] There is also an institute for rods research in Roswell, New Mexico (where else?). [I went to the Institute for Rods Research once. I had a completely wrong idea about what they did there, which led to no small amount of embarrassment when I dropped my pants shortly after entering . . . though I must admit, Miss Dunbar, the receptionist, wasn't complaining.] Rods is a day-after-tomorrow thriller [That's what I used to call Grisham's books. I'd keep asking him, "When are you gonna finish that book?", and he'd keep telling me, "Day after tomorrow." Eventually it was either dump him or kill him.] with up-to-the-minute science and a paranormal twist. I would be glad to provide you with sample chapters, or the entire manuscript, at your request.

Thank you for your time,


I would rather you said what rods are than say that they're a cause celebre among paranormal researchers. That could apply to anything. You could even start out with the explanation:

Navy Engineer Jim McCloud was on the verge of proving the existence of rods--creatures that move so fast they are invisible to the naked eye--when he was killed in a mysterious plane crash. Now his brother Chance has arrived to settle Jim's estate, and finds that something fishy's going on--something sky-fishy.

This leaves more room to discuss motives and suspects. It also lets you bring the cause celebre line down to lead off your last paragraph, the paragraph in which you try to convince the reader that you didn't make all this invisible flying fish stuff up, no matter how ridiculous it sounds.

Selected Comments

debhoag said...Every GTP was so good that I now have a new goal - to write a separate novel based on each one, each titled Rods. Instead of each book having a unique title, Ill just pick a different pen name. Although, I must say that Manuela and the falsely accused janitorial staff was my personal fave. And the fishing tournament. And the two dropouts named Rodney who work at the power plant. Once again, EE's minions are the best!

And, EE, your comments on the query are great, as per usual. Thanks!

Polenth said...The premise is fun, but it is too vague about the rods/sky fish. It would be safer to assume the agent has no idea what they are, and explain it early on.

rod the roofer said...Now, I'm no celebrity; not like the folks I've worked for. Me, I'm just a simple man. The air in my nail gun, that's all the power I need.

writtenwyrdd said...Hey, I've met Stanton Friedman, and he's never once mentioned... I just can't say it, the straight line is just too easy! Anyhow, I have met Stanton Friedman on several occasions (for what it's worth) and he has never mentioned the sky fish. Or UFOs. He has mentioned road conditions and asked for directions. My point? Claiming that anything outre' is a cause celebre seems like you're trying to hard.

The premise seems like it could either be comic or a thriller, so I'd avoid some of the more colorful language lest you seem to be aiming for comic.

I'd actually like to read this book, I think, so don't take what I say here as a criticism of the plot elements you reveal. Also, I like EE's reduction immensely.

pacatrue said...

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Phoenix said...This query caught my interest, but not for the reasons the author would care about.

1) I recently saw an episode about rods on MonsterQuest. I'm embarrassed to admit I didn't know what they were at the time, so I only had an hour to speculate about them before they were debunked as a trick of the camera. But are they? mwahaha.

2) I used to live right outside of China Lake, way back when I was a wee lass.

3) I was born in Roswell.


4) How could I pass up a chance to feature our own simple, air-powered Rod the Roofer in a GTP?

How long till books contain nothing but prepositions? But if you can't end a sentence with a preposition, who would dare even begin one (besides the inimitable Pacatrue?)? Ah, the conundrum.

Along with EE's rewrite and spot-on suggestions, perhaps find a way to make this more thriller-esque. I'm not getting that pulse-pounding excitement from the query, especially when you end the hook with such a cutesy line. Not a thriller voice, I'm afraid. And maybe throw some stakes on the grill here. Because you include that last line about the rod nuts and the big rod-ship in the sky, I can't tell whether Jim really, really proved rods exist and they are some alien thingies threatening humanity or if this is a less-thrilling mystery about why a guy was killed for non-alien reasons.

debhoag said...I'm actually saving all my pronouns for my pulitzer acceptance speech. Or maybe it's my wurlitzer acceptance speech. But, Phoenix, I saw the same documentary a couple of months ago, and that's where I got the idea for the book. The whole thing just seemed like such a hoot, it was irresistable. AND, I have a relative who worked as a civil engineer in china lake, and used to visit there as a kid. it always seemed like an interestingly bizarre place, because it's so isolated, and so full of really, really smart people. And kids that work at fast food places. I'm still thinking that if I smushed Manuela the janitorial detective into the two Rodneys at the power plant (after all, janitors need to work somewhere) i'd have the plot for another book. Now, if it was bass instead of hookers . . .

pjd said...Oh. My. God. I'm not sure I've laughed as often as I laughed at the blue text in this one. Of course, I long ago completed the two-drink-minimum, so my judgment is impaired.

Though I'm not entirely sure your revision improved the GTP I submitted. (I know, sacrilege, but like I said, I passed the two drink minimum ages ago.)

Evil Editor said...Sometimes revisions aren't to improve the GTP, but to improve the chances someone will guess it. Which one was yours?

pjd said...The Rodneys at the nuke plant. Now, of course, you'll post my original and prove to everyone that I'm all wet and that your revision was leaps and bounds better than my original. Sigh.

Evil Editor said...You're in luck, I can't find the original. As I recall, there were four GTPs I liked when I started working on this. I think we can agree #2 had no chance of fooling anyone, and #1 had close to the same. Thus, to satisfy those who like the GTP feature to be mildly challenging, I considered the other two. #4 closed with the line that Rods was a follow-up to the book Cones. A clever line I'd have left in if # 1 or 2 had been guessable, but no one would guess #4 with that line. As I recall, the substantial change in yours was removing the name of the nuclear power plant, which was Three Eye Island. As with #4, funny, but sounds more like a minion gag than a minion's book.

Again, I'm not looking for five fakes that are guessable, but a couple. I could have left #3 or 4 as they were and changed Rod the Roofer in #2 to Rodney Dangerfield, but that still wouldn't have fooled anyone.

The fishing fake didn't figure into the mix because I didn't have it until I wrote it myself when it was time to post and nothing else appealing had come in.

So you see, I liked your piece enough to want to use it even without what you probably consider its most appealing feature. You should feel honored.

pjd said...Feeling honored was never in doubt. Can I use this as a pub credit now?

Evil Editor said...Only if you list me as co-author.

pjd said...I was at first surprised you did not ask for top billing, but then I realized that would be compulsory.

pacatrue said...Hi Deb, I hope you don't mind my having a bit of fun at your title's expense. It's just that Rods so clearly opens the door for an entire series, and I couldn't help but think of the critic's historical survey of the Rods series in a decade's time. Here we go:

When P. Envy's first novel, Rods, appeared on the scene, it was no one night stand with critics or readers. Fans loved the proud upstanding nature of the main character and many a dignified literary critic had to confess even they loved spending a night alone with Rods. P. Envy's success continued naturally with Pricks, in which our hero is thrust over and over into the clutches of a beautiful but sinister acupuncturist. The follow-ups, Cocks, with Chance on a poultry farm was a fine sequel, though perhaps a bit obvious, as was the 4th story in the series, Dicks, with Chance investigating a Private Eye drug ring. While the critics weren't so fond of Dicks, readers couldn't get enough, arguably making Dicks the climax of the series.

Naturally, as soon as one hits the high point in a series like this, a little mediocrity is inevitable. Book 5, Dickheads, featuring Chance investigating Congressional fraud inside the Beltway, was amusing at times, but summed up nicely by one critic who stated that, "it seems to be lacking some piece that we'd gotten used to in the earlier novels."

After such a lukewarm reception, Envy clearly tried to pursue virgin territory with the series, mostly to disastrous results. First up was Penises, a book seemingly obsessed with sexual humor and innuendo. The seventh book, Assholes, was little more than a thinly veiled attack on the author's former publishing company after a contract dispute, while the attempted Cozy for book 8 called Pussies, with Chance in a pet shop, seemed to signal the utter collapse of the series. Indeed, many female readers who had formed the core of the Rods audience seemed to smile slyly as they shifted in massive numbers to the Rabbits books by D.I. Yourself. Readers may remember this time as the same period in which candles, scented oils, and old Harrison Ford movies were so in vogue again.

However, as soon as everyone had given up on the Rod series, P. Envy hit a home run, going all the way to home base over and over, with book 9, last year's Manhood. Manhood's transformation of the series in which the old adventure novel format was meshed with Alice in Wonderland-type motifs, including various pills that made important plot devices grow bigger and smaller just as needed, brought everyone back in droves. The almost universal experience was that reading the book was like seeing an old friend again, a friend that was a lot more fun than you remembered.

P. Envy claims to be writing the final 10th book of the series, one more notch in the author's belt you must suppose. The title is as yet unrevealed. Many are voting on Shaft, but surely that name has been taken already and besides the plural, Shafts, sounds undignified. Weiners is a clear possibility, but why would the author want to set anything at a dog show after the earlier failure with Pussies? This critic is betting on Bald-Headed Giggle Sticks.

Anonymous said...Sure, have your fun with the Rodistas. See who's laughing when Father Rod comes...when Father Rod arrives and takes us to Uran...Mars.

debhoag said...pacatrue, the only thing that was offensive to me was that I didn't think of the pen-name P.Envy myself. However, I did want to correct one bit of information. The newest info in Publisher's Weakly states that our author's latest novel is actually "The Shaft", in which the hero plumbs the depths of degeneration in the loosely regulated mining industry, when the owner of sub-standard shaft must decide: expand into a swollen travesty of the company's former sleek silhouette, or wilt.