Friday, March 30, 2012

Face-Lift 1011


Guess the Plot


Sideslip

1. A detailed description, along with precise illustrations, of lovers who are bored with doing it in the other two positions.

2. Hired to impersonate a Nobel Prize laureate during public appearances, Mimi finds said laureate dead and the evidence pointing at her. She runs away to Greece with the hit man who actually did the killing. Although she doesn't know it's him.

3. Dr. Robert Norvich has created the first working time machine, a device that enters a slightly parallel dimension and exits it moments later, back in this world. When his assistants accidentally send a coffee cup back in time, it ends up knocking out John Wilkes Booth. Now our whole world is in chaos as things vanish and reappear. That's the end of that grant money.

4. A temporal rift experiment accidentally goes wrong and causes five scientists to warp out of existence. When they re-appear with politicians in tow, the Tea Party homeworld is revealed.

5. Physicist Lars Kadonneet invents equipment that allows him to traverse time and space. As Lars returns from the past, where he introduced Einstein to LSD, his machine malfunctions; it’s now 1966 and he is three inches tall and locked in a padded cell with a psychopath.

6. A time traveler materializes and informs teenager Sophie that witches' spells are backfiring ever since her grandmother died. Naturally this threatens to destroy the fabric of time, and only Sophie can prevent what may be the end of the universe.



Original Version


Dear Evil Editor,

Army brat Sophie Moore is still reeling from her family’s sudden move to Georgia, the loss of her grandmother, [There's always something you can't find after a move.] and her father’ [father's] deployment to Afghanistan. [If you're sending a soldier to Afghanistan, I see no reason his family would need to move to Georgia. Then again, I see no reason for a lot of things the military does.] [Wait, is it the country Georgia? Now that would make sense, a much shorter trip for dad to visit family.] When a strange boy appears in the woods near her house, she fears stress-induced hallucinations. Each time she sees him, the boy vanishes before she can get a straight answer about who he is and why he’s here. Is she seeing ghosts? Demons? Or is she going bonkers? [Not entirely clear whether he's vanishing as in running into the woods, or literally disappearing before her eyes.]

This story is about a usually self-assured teenage girl thrust into a new environment. Sophie is an expert at fitting in – she has always moved every year or two, [It feels like you've started the query over.] but adjusting to life in Beaumont is harder than it should be. As she struggles to cope with her father’s absence, she grows determined [she determines.] to discover how Ren, a boy her age who repeatedly materializes in the forest, comes and goes. At the same time, Ren takes an unusual interest in her family, [I was under the impression Ren was vanishing before Sophie could even talk to him. Are they having conversations and interacting?] especially Sophie’s grandmother who has recently passed away. Slowly Sophie becomes convinced that her grandmother’s childhood friend Agnes, who ran away from Beaumont when they were teens, is somehow linked to Ren. As she sorts through old letters and memories for clues, she realizes that Ren’s tattoo bears a striking resemblance to her grandmother’s treasured silver necklace.

As she delves deeper into the mystery and Ren reveals more, Sophie discovers that Ren is not a monster or the product of an over-active imagination; he is a bumbling time-traveler. The death of Sophie’s grandmother has released a precious artifact that, without a knowledgeable witch to control it, is interfering with all manner of spells in the area. With no training, Sophie is forced to seek the unlikeliest of help to master the artifact before it brings unwanted attention from some very unpleasant individuals.

I am a recovering Army brat and an unpublished author currently living outside Atlanta, Georgia. [That sentence wasn't needed.] I am seeking representation for my YA paranormal suspense novel, Sideslip, complete at 75,000 words. Partial or full manuscript is available upon request, and feedback is most appreciated.

Thank you for your time and attention,


Notes

When Sophie wonders if she's seeing ghosts or demons or going bonkers, I naturally assume the answer is No, and there will be a logical explanation for her "hallucinations." So it feels off when it turns out time travel and witches casting spells are part of the real world. It may take Sophie three fourths of the book to discover that supernatural stuff is real, but I shouldn't have to wait through three fourths of the query to discover this. It forces me to readjust my view of what kind of book it is.

The first two paragraphs are all setup. And the second paragraph repeats most of what's in the first. Combine what's important in them into one paragraph. I think we can do without the father. Something like this is plenty of setup:

Exploring the woods near her family's new home in Georgia, teenager Sophie Moore keeps seeing a boy her age materializing and vanishing. When she notices that the boy's tattoo bears a striking resemblance to her late grandmother’s treasured silver necklace, Sophie suspects that the boy is somehow linked to her grandmother.


Now you can move forward with (I'm guessing): When the boy finally sticks around long enough for Sophie to talk to him, she learns his name is Ren and he's a time traveler. Turns out the death of Sophie's grandmother has etc. etc. Try to come up with something less vague than "released an artifact," "all manner of spells," "the unlikeliest of help," "very unpleasant individuals." What exactly is happening as a result of the artifact interfering with spells? Who helps? Who are the villains and what do they want?

Do Ren and Sophie work together to prevent some disaster? Spell out what's at stake and what they plan to do about it.

Was Ren sent to the past to deal with this problem? Why would they send a bumbling teenager on such an important mission?

Film Noir Friday

Another film from back in the days when being a dick was just a way to make a living.

video

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Face-Lift 1010

Guess the Plot

The Hot Season

1. When a slight shift in the Earth's axis leaves the UK closer to the sun, the race is on for a new SPF formula. Can British scientist Tony Edwards save his countrymen or is this the end of paleness as we know it?

2. Every season is the hot season in Thailand. Especially when your visiting cousin is found dead and the police don't care and you get involved with a ring of human traffickers in Cambodia. Hey, every season is the hot season in Cambodia.

3. Marine Biologist Sam Whittaker has had enough of single living. He joins Brazilhotties.com and flies Bruna over, but her Latin temper threatens the ice cap when she learns Antarctica is not America.

4. For Alaska native Will Parker, the worst thing about returning to Earth from the International Space Station is that it's August and he now lives in Houston, which is one step up from the Sahara Desert. So you can imagine how he feels when a booster rocket malfunctions, throwing the shuttle way off course and forcing Parker to crash-land on Mercury.

5. After growing up in Antarctica with her scientist parents, Alberta-Marie is ready for warmer weather. A move to tropical Ecuador means she will finally buy a swim suit. But in the hottest summer in 20 years surrounded by even hotter men, which heat will she succumb to first?

6. CeeBee knew the job at Disneyland was going to be tough. Screaming kids, crying parents, meltdowns, high humidity, and pure misery at the Happiest Place on Earth. She just didn't expect to find them all at the toll booth for the parking lot. Now it's August, and if she hears one more whining kid, that .38 is coming out.



Original Version

Dear ….,

I'm writing to ask if you would accept a submission for The Hot Season, a mystery novel of 83,000 words. It's the story of an American journalist in Thailand who confronts ancient superstitions and modern day crime, as she searches for the truth behind her cousin’s death.

I’m currently based in Bangkok, and before devoting myself to writing I spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. I’m also a published author in Australia. My first book, XXX (XX, 20XX), [For those who've forgotten their Roman numerals, allow me to translate: 30 (20, 2020).] is a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein. It was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards.

[I Googled XXX Awards and it took me six hours to pry myself away and back to this blog. Fascinating stuff.]

In The Hot Season, Sam Beckman, [Hang on a minute, switching my mouse to my left hand as my right is inexplicably inflamed.] [Okay, ready.] a foreign correspondent for a US radio network, is visited by a teenage cousin who’s backpacking through Thailand. She’s delighted [Readers may assume "she" is the cousin, as the cousin is the most recently mentioned character.] at the chance to mend some of her frayed family ties, but within days her cousin is found dead on the banks of Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River.

Worried about damage to the lucrative tourism industry, Thai police write the death off as a drug overdose. [Tourism isn't aided by the knowledge that the corpses of drug ODs are occasionally found on the river bank. Unless you're trying to attract drug addict tourists, wouldn't it be better to write it off as a boating accident?] When Sam suspects foul play, she’s warned to stop meddling. But keeping quiet and playing dumb are not in her nature. [Playing dumb is generally considered a smart strategy.] She’s quickly drawn into a web of human trafficking stretching from Bangkok’s urban jungle to the killing fields of Cambodia and beyond. [The more successful human traffickers wouldn't kill one of their humans the same day they abduct her.]

Sam’s search is helped and hindered by three men – a Thai policeman trying to balance loyalty to the force with his desire to find the truth, a charming but roguish British journalist addicted to life in the fast lane, and Sugar, her driver, who, like most Thais, sees a supernatural explanation behind everything. [Thai food will give anyone hallucinations. Travel tip: Don't order Neua Pad Prik in Phuket.]

A good dose of humor and a sassy heroine counterbalance the serious issues in The Hot Season. I hope this novel will be the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

If you would like to read more of my work or have any other questions, please email me at XXXXXXX. You can also call me in Thailand on XXXXXX [(Monday)]. [On XXXXXXX I'll be in Somalia. Then XXXXXXXXX I'm off to North Korea for a well-deserved vacation.] I look forward very much to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,


Notes

This might be better described as a thriller. I usually expect a mystery to have several suspects. As the cousin didn't know anyone, Sam is basically trying to get to the bottom of what happened, not whodunnit.

The plot summary is three paragraphs. The other stuff is four paragraphs. Cut those four down to two. One way to do this is to open with:

The Hot Season is a stand-alone mystery novel of 83,000 words, and the first in a series of mysteries set in locations where I’ve lived and worked, including Iraq, Sri Lanka, Australia and New York.

Then: Sam Beckman, a foreign correspondent for a US radio network . . . Run through the plot, and finish with:

I've spent over fifteen years as a journalist with organizations such as NPR and the BBC. My first book, ______________, a narrative non-fiction account of my experiences living in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein, was shortlisted for the XXX Literary Awards. If you would like to consider The Hot Season, please email me at XXXXXXX.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

New Beginning 935

John Chandler was in the stables, measuring the oats for the night. The background noise of the horses impatiently banging their hooves against the doors was a welcome distraction to the annoying buzz of the flies.

John wiped the sweat off his face with the back of his hand. Hottest May in years, and no end in sight.

“Move it, buddy.” He poked the grey stable cat to get it out of the wheelbarrow. It barely flicked its ears, too lazy to make a move in the heat. Grinning, John shoved it aside and set the oat buckets in its place.

He heard the squashing noise of wet shoes long before their occupant, his son, reached the doorway and stopped dead in his tracks.

“Hello Luke.” John sized his wet and muddy child up with a glance. “What happened to you? Been swimming in your clothes again?”

Luke’s head came up at that, his mouth twisted into an ugly scowl. Blood dripped from his nose and there was an angry scratch on his cheek.

“Great.” John dropped the measuring cup into the oats chest and took a closer look at his son’s face. “That hurt?” he asked, while gently pressing down on the bridge of Luke’s nose.

Luke twisted in his grip, trying to get away. “I’m fine.”

The boy wriggled out of his father's grasp. "I was doing my chores," he said, "when the cat came flying out of the barn, mad as hell, and darn near took my face off."

John concentrated his gaze on the oats. "That so," he replied. "Well, set yourself down there while I finish this, then we'll go get you cleaned up."

Luke crouched down against a barn support, while his father grabbed the barrow.

Two full buckets toppled over, rolled along the sloped barrow rim and launched themselves into Luke's face.

"Ow! Jesus, Pa!"

"Sorry 'bout that, son. Still, I told you working the stable'd make a man of you. First a face full of pussy, and now you got your wild oats."


Opening: Anon......Continuation: anon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Milestone


The two millionth visitor to the Evil Editor blog arrived at approximately 2:40 PM eastern time today. That makes the winner of the Predict When Evil Editor's Two Millionth Visitor Will Arrive Contest PLaF, who predicted 1:11 AM, missing by more than 13.5 hours, but coming closer than anyone else. PLaF receives all six Evil Editor books, as well as the cartoon DVD and coffee mug. Other prize winners:

......Entrant.......Prediction.......Off by about
2. AM Lyvers..........3/26, 6:45 PM.........20 hours
3. Maureen.............3/26, 3 PM...............24 hours
4. 150..................... 3/26, 9:50 AM.........29 hours
5. Mister Furkles....3/25, 7:39 PM..........43 hours

Winners: contact me to discuss your prize and to provide a mailing address.


Face-Lift 1009


Guess the Plot

Bound

1. When police sgt. Jim Mallory's therapist suggests he try BDSM to work on his trust issues, he agrees. Now there's a dead man in a gimp suit, another tied up with six bullets in him, and the Master is nowhere to be found. Looks like Jim is gonna need that therapist some more.

2. 1864. Frederick Douglas, President of the Grand Alliance of the Negro States of America, has ordered the enslavement of all white people. Terrified, people begin the long, dangerous journey to Canada. Can Louisa and her brothers make it to safety?

3. Wanda Wallaby dreams of competing in the Marsupial Olympics. Standing in her way is champion hurdler Kate Kangaroo. With help from her zany friends Eric Emu and Nelly Numbat, Wanda proves it ‘aint size that matters, it’s how far you can . . . Bound.

4. Bound together by chains, high school students Emma and Daniel are hurled back to a time without modern conveniences and can return only if they save a young woman from being murdered by her fiance.

5. Librarian Priscilla Lezer loves books too much. Her only family: biographies; her only dates: romances. When the county cuts spending, she’s laid off. Going home she buys a book: Demon’s Wish. She opens it and a demon grants her one wish. She wishes to return to the library. Priscilla awakens as a leather-bound book in the stacks.

6. As Josh Booth camps in the north woods, vampires capture him, binding him to a tree. He escapes and warns authorities but Detective Abby Lincoln says he’s crazy. When bodies--drained of blood--are found bound to other trees in the woods, Lincoln thinks Booth is the serial killer.



Original Version

Dear EvilEditor:

High school senior, Emma Harris, [Get rid of those commas.] is going crazy—at least, that’s what she thinks. Seeing a ghost that looks like a long-lost twin isn’t in her definition of “normal”. [Not clear whether she actually has a long-lost twin. If not, don't say "twin," just say she looks like Emma; if so, say "her" long-lost twin.] Already dealing with her stalker specter, Emma has to cope with the unwelcome (and dangerously welcome) [That's not working.] attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt. She knows she should stay away like a good girlfriend, [Girlfriend of whom?] but is it really her fault when they keep bumping into each other? It has to be fate, right? [It feels like you've dropped the ghost thread in favor of the Daniel thread.]

Emma is about to learn that she and Daniel are bound together by chains much stronger—and harder to break— then [than] fate’s.

On the night of a high school dance, the ghost appears to Emma again. [On the one hand, you report in paragraph 1 that Emma sees a ghost, and now you report that she sees the ghost again. That makes me think she's seen the ghost twice. On the other hand, you call the ghost her stalker. How often is she seeing the ghost?] But, this time, [Get rid of those commas.] everything is different. Blood stains her dress like spilled ink, and she is scared. Very, very scared. [Wasted sentence.] Overcome with a compulsion so great, [No comma.] she has to fight for breath; [Change semicolon to comma.] Emma chases the bleeding ghost to the local cemetery. The very place where she first saw the specter. [The ghost and the specter are the same, right?]

There, she runs into Daniel, visiting his parents’ grave. [Both parents are in one grave?] The compulsion hits Emma again, just as the ghost appears. Desperate to be free of the compulsion, Emma reaches out and takes the ghost’s proffered hand. The last thing she hears is Daniel’s cry and his arms wrapping around her waist. Then, [No comma.] everything goes white.

Emma wakes up in an entirely different time and in an entirely different body. The ghost who had been stalking her is no longer a spirit, but a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton. [Not clear if you mean Emma is in Lucinda's body or some other girl's body.] [If it is Lucinda's body, I wouldn't call it an "entirely" different body; you did say they looked like twins.]

But Emma wasn’t the only one hurled back in time, Daniel was too. [Is he in a different body too? Wait, are they both in Lucinda's body?] They both realize that the only hope they have of getting home is bringing Lucinda and her forbidden lover together. [Not clear how they realize this, or how they know anything about Lucinda.] But Lucinda is already engaged. Engaged to the very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, [If everyone else in this time is surviving without TV remote controls, I don't see why we should sympathize with Emma on that count.] and a forbidden romance of her own...she may be stuck in the past forever. [Not clear how the inability to overcome a lack of conveniences and her own forbidden lover will affect whether she's stuck in the past forever.]

Complete at 69,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


Notes

I find it odd that Daniel would be in a cemetery at night.

This was too long and disorganized. This version has more clarity:

Dear Evil Editor:

High school senior Emma Harris has somehow attracted the attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt. She knows she should stay away, but is it her fault they keep bumping into each other? It has to be fate, right? Emma is about to learn that she and Daniel are bound together by chains much stronger than fate’s.

On the night of a high school dance, a ghost appears to Emma, blood staining her dress like spilled ink. Emma follows the ghost to the local cemetery where she runs into Daniel, visiting his parents’ graves. When Emma takes the ghost’s proffered hand, Daniel tries to pull her away. And everything goes white.

Emma and Daniel find themselves in a different time and place. The ghost is no longer a spirit, but a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton. Emma and Daniel realize that their only hope of getting home is bringing Lucinda and her forbidden lover together. But Lucinda is already engaged--to the very man who may have been her killer.

Complete at 69,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


You might want to go further, and combine the first two paragraphs of my version into>

On the night of the senior prom, a ghost appears to Emma Harris, blood staining her dress like spilled ink. Emma follows the ghost to the local cemetery where her crush, Daniel Wyatt, just happens to be visiting his parents’ graves. When Emma takes the ghost’s proffered hand, Daniel tries to pull her away. And everything goes white.

That shortens the setup to one paragraph, allowing more room to tell us what happens in Lucinda's time. Do Emma and Daniel speak to Lucinda? If Emma is in Lucinda, does Lucinda have any consciousness? Do they know how to get home once they've united Lucinda and her true love? Is someone trying to prevent them from getting home?

What are Emma and Daniel supposed to do? Two people no one's ever seen before show up in town and no one's gonna object when they start butting into other people's business?

The title is too generic.

The story of the ghost of a murdered person who wants closure is pretty common. I think it happens once or twice a year on Supernatural. Usually the person was murdered recently and just wants the killer punished. If Emma and Daniel go back in time and prevent the murder, won't that alter history? Lucinda could hook up with her true love and they have a child who turns out to be a serial killer who murders Emma's great great great great grandparents.


It appears the following revised version was sent before (but received after) I posted the critique. Presumably it's the version the author would like feedback on.


Dear Evil Editor:

If you'd be so wonderful as to accept this edited query of mine, it'd be fantastic. Here it is:

Emma Harris knows ghosts don’t exist, but that doesn’t explain why she’s seeing one. One that looks like she could be Emma’s twin. To complicate matters, Emma has to cope with the equally undesirable attention of the town bad-boy, Daniel Wyatt.

On the night of the school dance, the ghost hurls Emma and Daniel back in time to 19th Century America, where the spirit is a flesh and blood girl: Lucinda Sutton.

After catching Lucinda kissing the stable hand, Emma and Daniel realize the ghost took them back in time for one reason: to help Lucinda and her lover get married. But there’s a catch. Lucinda is engaged to another man. The very man who may have been her killer.

Unless Emma can overcome Lucinda's treacherous suitor, a lack of modern day conveniences, and a forbidden romance of her own... She may be stuck in the past forever.

Complete at 6
9,000 words, BOUND is a paranormal young-adult novel.


This clears up many of my questions, and reads more clearly. Possibly some of my original comments will still apply.--EE

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Face-Lift 1008


Guess the Plot

The Final Clue

1. At last it is revealed: Colonel Mustard did it on the billiard table with Miss Scarlett.

2. First it was just Mr. Boddy. But now Mrs. White's disappeared, Professor Plum's got a nasty lump on his head, and Mrs. Peacock's been reduced to a quivering lump of terror. This is no game.

3. Nancy Drew has solved over 5,000 cases in her life. At age 79 she’s been retired for a decade, but when she receives a mysterious letter she’s on the case again. If the letter is real she may finally one-up her nemeses’, the Hardy Boys.

4. In the final showdown, it's Bugs Meany vs. Encyclopedia Brown, and this time Sally isn't there to save the random-fact-spouter's bacon.

5. Someone is leaving death-threat poems on Gina's front door. Is it the serial killer known as . . . "The Rhymester"? Maybe, but Gina hasn't rejected the possibility she has a secret admirer.

6. What really happened to Bob's pet chicken? Well, the bloody hatchet in the dishwasher is the first thing that got Bob to thinking. But the discovery of his wife's shopping list, which included eleven herbs and spices, is what gave him . . . the final clue.

7. Jeremy and Rachel are this close to winning the house of their dreams from magazine "Cedar Rapids Today". They've solved all the puzzles, met all the requirements, and jumped through all the hoops. Now all they need is . . . The Final Clue.

8. Jim is convinced he's cracked a code hidden in the Old Testament for centuries, namely that the saga of Abraham isn't really about him, but is instead the story of Akhenaten, the Egyptian pharaoh who tried to install monotheism. Now Mossad, al Qaeda and the Vatican are after him.

9. Detective Clavoue knows cases remain unsolved until the final clue is found. So he ignores all the early clues in a desperate search for the final one. Will the "Clavoue Method" revolutionize criminology?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

FBI agent Gina Russo: A tenacious investigator, but a woman so scorned, she swore off men.

A career criminal presumed dead, devastated over his brother’s life incarceration: Ignites revenge.

[An aspiring author: submits query letters that don't have actual sentences/ Overconfident; invites rejection.]

An egotistical agent assigned to assist Gina, wonders what the hell he ever did that karma would bite him in the ass: Frustrated; dealing with her is more than he ever signed on for.

[An editor so evil he'd rather watch TV than read oddly punctuated fragments and run-ons: New shredder needs breaking in; works fine, just in time for Mad Men.]

She’s fueled like never before when she’s challenged to solve clues [Technically, you solve puzzles, mysteries, crimes; clues are what you gather in order to do the solving.] in the bizarre poems arriving at her front door. It’s imperative that she learns the man’s identity [What man? The career criminal? The poet? Are the poems signed? If not, how does she know it's a man?] to bring his ass down [When I write poetry to a woman, I'm generally hoping for a different reaction out of her than trying to bring my ass down.] for not only threatening her life, but also for causing Joey Zicara, the agent assigned as her partner, to enter and disrupt her comfort zone. [There are plenty of women who wouldn't mind Joey Zicara entering their . . . comfort zone.]

Gina and Joey scramble to unravel the mystery of the rhymester’s twisted vendetta against her, before time runs out. [Are you calling him a rhymester instead of a poet because you think his poems have no literary value? If so, do you feel they have no literary value because they rhyme? Because they include death threats? What makes you an authority on poetry? Here's a little test. One of the following death threat poems has the potential to become a literary classic. Which one?

1.
Death. It cometh to us all,
Bringing grief and sorrow.
And yours will surely cast a pall,
For it's happening tomorrow.

2.
I've got some bad news to impart,
So you'd better sit down, Gina.
I'm planning to rip out your heart,
And feed it to my hyena.

Not as easy as you thought, is it? Show us one of his works so we can judge for ourselves.]
[Also, if you're gonna call him a rhymester, call him The Rhymester. All killers with gimmicks have cool names. Think The Joker, The Riddler, Polka Dot Man. Frankly, I think "The Poet" sounds more villainous than "The Rhymester."]

THE FINAL CLUE is a 100,000-word, character-driven suspense novel set in New York City.

I was born and raised in New Jersey then relocated to South Florida where I’ve been working in law enforcement for 23 years to present time.


Notes

I find it interesting that the query mentions both Joey Zicara's ass and the villain's ass. You might want to work in Gina's ass too, by changing "before time runs out" to "before Gina's ass is grass." In fact, you could even say: I was born and raised in New Jersey then moved my ass to South Florida.

If this is romantic suspense, in which Gina and Joey fall in love in the end, say so.

Does anyone get killed? Is the main plot thread two FBI agents race to determine who's writing poems to one of them? I think there should be a stronger hint that lives are on the line. As it stands, the poems could be a practical joke from a fourteen-year-old.

Those first three paragraphs must go. Maybe you could open with one of the poems if they're short. Then you say: So reads the poem FBI agent Gina Russo finds nailed to her front door. She's about to write it off as a prank when she sees that it's signed by the serial killer known as . . . The Rhymester.

Now that you've set up the situation, show us that The Rhymester means business, and what Gina plans to do about it.

Friday, March 23, 2012

New Beginning 934

To be touched by God's grace, and yet live on, is a precious agony.

Since I was in France anyway, I finally made time to visit the Devere's. The taxi dropped me off at a yellow-painted house with a stone arch around its door. I walked through the neat garden and rang the bell.

No answer for a while, but then a man in shirt-sleeves and half a jacket answered, and smiled at me, and spoke rapidly in French.

The poor bastard looked like me.

"Sorry," I said, "can you...?"

"You're English?" He shrugged fully into his jacket. "How far apart are the contractions?"

"No, it's not a baby."

His face fell. "It's very early if it's not a baby, Monsieur."

I glanced up at a sky grey with the promise of dawn. Perhaps it was. "I'm sorry, I didn't think about the time. I can come back later."

"Nonsense, I wouldn't hear of it." He stepped back into his house, and held the door open for me. "You don't mind if I ask who you are? You're familiar, but we've never met before." Perhaps he saw my ring when I offered my hand to shake, for he added, "Ohhhhh, c'est comme ça? Germain told us he'd spoken to you about our poor René. But I was expecting someone--"

"Human? You, of all people, should know we do not make a habit of openly identifying ourselves."

He pulled back, jacket unzipped. "What is this?" he demanded.

"Der Furher is in need of blood. And he insists on your presence." It pleased me to know Hitler had trusted me, of all the Vampirkorps, to carry out his mission.

He nodded. "One moment," he said. "How can I tell you are . . . secure?"

I smiled, letting him catch a glimpse of my vampirzahn. I understood his caution. With all the neoNazis, outcast teenagers, and Twilight fanatics wandering about, a vampir can't be too careful.


Opening: BuffySquirrel.....Continuation: Khazar-khum

Film Noir Friday

Yet another feature from the Evil Editor film vault.

video

Win Stuff!

I was planning to award a prize to the two millionth visitor to this blog, but then I realized that the two millionth visitor could be a spambot, and in any case I have no way of determining who the two millionth visitor is. So . . .

There are 5 prizes pictured on this page. The person who comes closest to guessing the exact date and time when the counter will hit 2,000,000 gets all 5 prizes. Those whose guess is 2nd closest through 5th closest may choose any one of the prizes. Guesses must be in eastern US time zone.

In order to know when the two millionth visitor visits, I need to be monitoring the counter, and if the two millionth visitor happens along at 4 AM eastern, I'm gonna be annoyed, but you'll still get your prize. One guess per person.

The counter is at the bottom of the blog. Your guess must be in before that count reaches 1,998,000. Oops! Deadline has passed. Good luck if you're in.

I'm not going to post your guess comments until after the deadline, in order to prevent "Price is Right" strategy of guessing one minute above or below someone else to improve your chances.

Under normal circumstances (based on the past week's visits) your best guess would be Monday or Tuesday of next week. However, I'll be mentioning this on Twitter and if someone with a thousand followers retweets my tweet to someone with a million followers, who also retweets it, we could zip along more quickly. We would if I were giving away a car.

Attempting to make the counter zoom won't work, as the counter doesn't count you if it counted you in the past 12 hours.

The prizes:




1. Evil Editor Teaches School. Very rare. Only 50 copies printed, and most of those sold.







2. The Novel Deviations Trilogy.

The best of New Beginnings on the Evil Editor blog.






3. Why You Don't Get Published, vols. 1 & 2

The only writing books you'll ever need, and the only ones you could stand to read.




4. The Evil Editor Cartoon DVD. The best cartoons and ads, set to music, viewable full-screen on your TV or computer.






5. The Evil Editor mug.

For your favorite spewables.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Face-Lift 1007


Guess the Plot

Safe-Cracker

1. A wafer of unleavened bread drifts in interstellar space, while the long-dead astronauts who would have eaten it moulder in their own soluble fats.

2. A parrot and a police inspector form an unlikely pair as they hunt the man who killed the bird’s owner and cracked his safe. But the killer has other plans for the feathered witness.

3. Xavier thought he was finished with crime. But when the local loan shark comes after his kid brother, Xavier will have to put his gifted fingers to work one last time. But can even he crack the TL30X6 Elite?

4. The search for a cracker that doesn't contain partially hydrogenated soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup, or even "evaporated cane juice" takes Freida Freelander to the wilds of Inner Mongolia, where she finds love with a yak herder. But still no safe crackers.

5. Zach's regular job is cracking convenience store safes. But now Harry, his partner in crime, wants to move up to high-end targets like jewelry stores. Zach would rather quit his job and become a famous artist. But is it really any easier to make a living in the high-end art world?

6. With all the unavoidable hazardous chemicals and genetically mutated garbage they put in snacks these days, Stan hopes to make a killing by marketing his gentle variety of wholly harmless crisp salty thin biscuits. He plans to decorate the box with inoffensive jokes, and enclose in each package an innocuous pyrotechnic device.



Original Version

Zach Dixon would like to quit his regular job. Cracking safes is beginning to get a little old. [All jobs get a little old when you do them forty hours a week. I would expect a safecracker to have a shorter work week, however.] But his partner and self-titled manager Harry [Nice arrangement. Zach gets the money out of the safes and Harry manages things.] has other ideas: he’s working on getting himself and Zach into Mitch Danaher’s gang. Going from convenience stores to high-end mansions and jewelry stores would be quite a lucrative accomplishment, and Harry is sure they can do it. [I don't see why they need to be in Mitch's gang to rob mansions. One or two guys can claim to be checking the gas main or the cable. It looks more suspicious if a whole gang shows up at a mansion.]

Zach isn’t sure that he wants to do it. His hobby is painting, and he recently met an art dealer who loves his work and might be able to make him famous. Besides, Danaher’s boys play much rougher than pacifist Zach likes. He starts looking for a way out. [The trouble with being a pacifist convenience store robber is that often the people who work in convenience stores aren't pacifists.]

He’s heard the only way out of the Big Leagues is through the morgue. Dying is really low on his agenda right now. But so is betraying Harry, and it’s starting to look as if the only way to quit is to betray Harry and as many of the gang as possible. [He's not betraying the gang if he hasn't joined it. Has he?]


P.S. I beg, I plead, I implore you (or anyone!) for a decent title!


Notes

The whole thing is just setting up the situation. If you condense the setup to:

Zach Dixon and his partner Harry make their living robbing convenience store safes. But now Harry wants to graduate to high-end targets like jewelry stores and mansions, while Zach wants to quit the business and become an artist. He's even found an art dealer who loves his work.

. . . there'll be plenty of room to tell us what actually happens in the book. Do they join the gang? Participate in a big heist? What goes wrong? Does the gang target the art dealer's mansion? Give us some of the plot, preferably something that makes this different from all the movies in which the guy who wants to go straight gets stuck working one last heist.

Whether you like your title or not, I assume you know it should be included in the query, along with the word count. "Safecracker" is a word, even if Blogger doesn't think so, so you don't need the hyphen or a space. I don't hate it as a title if Zach is cracking safes throughout the book. If he's a safecracker for three chapters and spends the rest of the book making his way as an artist, however... Hey, has anyone else used The Artist as a title?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

New Beginning 933

Dephon’s father had a power--a super power. Singleton Johnson had the amazing ability to blend seamlessly into the sofa.

Dephon wasn’t sure if it was due to his father’s fourteen-plus years of practice or some innate ability, but on days when his father wore his cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks‑‑which was everyday‑‑he almost disappeared. Dephon could always tell his father was there from the black remote gripped tightly in his hand.

As far back as Dephon could remember his father had always been on the couch. So of course, on March 26, when he entered their two-story Tudor-style home through the underground passage that linked the school’s sewer system to his home, he wasn’t surprised to find his father in his cream cardigan, beige cargo pants, and faded white socks‑‑on the couch.

“Hey, Dad.”

“Hello, Dephon. How was school?” his father asked in an uninterested monotone.

Dephon really wanted to tell him the truth, that school was a nightmare. The thugs on the football team had filled his locker with urine again. Kerry Dorsey thought it would be hilarious to put a dissected frog from the Biology lab on his seat during English class. And to top it all off, he’d gotten a D-plus on his Math test.

He decided to settle for, "Same as usual."

"We need to talk," his father said, his monotone even flatter than usual. "Sit down."

"Hm?" Dephon looked over at the recliner and realized the usual tell-tale copy of "Us" magazine was missing. Not believing his eyes, he swept the pleather with his hands. Nothing. But . . . where was his--

"Son, your mother has moved out."

"Wha--!"

"And this is Rochelle. She'll be staying here awhile..."

"Hello, Dephon," said the reading lamp, which, Dephon now noticed, was wearing a leopard skin halter-top.


Opening: Folami Morris.....Continuation: Anon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Face-Lift 1006


Guess the Plot

Band Geeks and Football Freaks

1. ...and 20,000 other lyrics that some conscientious editor omitted from Don McLean's original version of the song "American Pie."

2. Twins Kelly and Shelly make a pact to save themselves for marriage. Then they discover their parents are swingers, and make a new pact. Kelly, a cheerleader, will do the guys on the football squad and Shelly, a majorette, will do the guys in band. The one who does the most by homecoming wins.

3. In a last-ditch attempt to garner publicity for his ailing campaign, Newt Gingrinch takes the advice of his campaign manager’s 12-year old daughter and orders new uniforms for the team.

4. High school has been divided into factions since forever. Now Janie, a vampire, and her best friend Lisa, a soft-spoken mummy, plan to change all that. Hilarity ensues.

5. Quarterback Quinn launches a hazing campaign against tuba-tooting Terrance when the musician begins dating his ex. But Quinn has forgotten one thing: no matter how big he and his teammates are, they are outnumbered. When the brass and drum sections rally to Terrance’s aid, Quinn and his cronies learn they aren’t the only uniforms on the field.

6. Band member Simon develops the ability to see the result of the next football play before it happens. The coach rips him from the band and makes him his assistant. With Simon calling the plays, the team starts winning and he's in the popular crowd. But what about his upcoming music audition? And his geeky friends in band?



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

At Wilmington High School’s football home opener, Simon Turner is standing on the sidelines, anxiously waiting to perform at halftime. [Make it the Super Bowl and Tina Turner, and I'm hooked.] After all, aren’t the fans there to see the marching band? Unfortunately, an overthrown pass hits him on the head, knocking him out cold. When he comes to he has a nasty-looking bruise, along with something else – [A lawsuit against the city.] the ability to see the next play of the game before it happens. At first he only uses his talent to make money off of the drumline by betting how many yards the Wildcats will gain (or more often than not, lose) each play. But when Coach “Mad Dog” Miller gets wind of Simon’s new talent, it isn’t long before Simon is ripped from the pep band and transplanted to the sideline to become the football team’s new “student assistant.” If only Simon knew the difference between a quarterback and a wide receiver...

With some intense study sessions, he learns enough about football to help call the plays. To everyone’s surprise, especially Coach Miller’s, the Wildcats actually start winning. But Simon is spending so much time helping the football team [cheat], he hasn’t been practicing for his scholarship audition, and he hasn’t talked to his band friends in weeks. He’s spending every free minute outside of school with the popular crowd, who considers [consider] him Wilmington’s good luck charm and best shot at finally advancing past districts.

When Simon realizes calling the play to win state will result in one of the players suffering a career-ending injury, he’ll have to decide if he wants to lead the Wildcats to victory …or go back to being a band geek. [You've switched the main conflict from popularity vs. his future to popularity vs. some other guy's future. I like it better without this paragraph. This new conflict implies that every single play Simon could possibly call will result in a loss or a career-ending injury. Also, he could turn the decision over to the player who'll be injured and ask if he wants to win that badly. And then the kid says, Hell no, I wanna play college football, but then the coach steps in and says You'll never make it as a college football player, and this may be the only chance we ever have of winning the state championship, even if we are cheating to do it.] [The point is, none of this even comes up if we leave this paragraph out of the query.]

BAND GEEKS AND FOOTBALL FREAKS is a 60,000 word YA novel.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

The query is clear and straightforward, but it's not grabbing me, possibly because the first paragraph is wordy. Here it is with about 50 words deleted:

At Wilmington High’s football home opener, trombonist Simon Turner is on the sidelines waiting to perform at halftime when an overthrown pass hits him on the head, knocking him out cold. When he comes to, he has a nasty-looking bruise – along with the ability to see the next play of the game before it happens!

When Coach “Mad Dog” Miller gets wind of Simon’s new talent, it isn’t long before Simon is ripped from the pep band and transplanted to the sideline as the football team’s new “student assistant.” If only Simon knew the difference between a linebacker and a protractor...


Also, while I know football and band are high school activities, this strikes me as something middle graders would find more entertaining. YA is all sex and murdering each other these days.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Face-Lift 1005


Guess the Plot

The Exemeus

1. After years of warp-speed travel, Captain Jean-Luc Picard returns to Earth with a Klingon makeover, a Romulan wife, and a ship with a new name.

2. Legendary magician "The Exemeus" has recently contracted pancreatic disease. Pissed at the world for such a mundane end to his life he's ready to blow the lid off the whole magical community.

3. The story of Dephon's late mother's role in the oppressive Treptonian government's rise to power is told in a book called The Exemeus. It's a different book from this book. In this book, Dephon reads The Exemeus.

4. Dr. Brock Latner and Prof. Juliette James have always been not-so-friendly rivals in chasing down ancient artifacts. But their latest escapade bogs down when they spend most of the book arguing about how to pronounce their current target.

5. Gemologist Janet Green has been working on the perfect lab-made diamond for a decade. When she thinks she’s found the way to guarantee the best carbon structure possible, her lab is broken into and all her work destroyed. Now she’s on the run -- but from whom?

6. Lawanda White thinks she creatively outdid her neighbors when she calls her infant twins Oranjelo and Lemanjelo. But her sister outdoes her, giving her newborn child a demonstrative article and name: The Exemeus. Family feud ensues.


Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

Fourteen-year-old Dephon Johnson lives on a post-apocalyptic Earth where the Treptonian government would forbid breathing--if it didn’t need its taxpayers. Dephon just wants to survive ninth grade, preferably without repeat dunkings in the toilet, courtesy of the football team. [The apocalypse may leave the world a burning wasteland of rubble, but we will never put up with toilets not working.] However, swirlies become the least of his concerns when his mother’s former mentor, Jacqueline, barrels into his life. Armed with a talking rooster and exploding paper, she has a less-than-well-thought-out plan to commit treason. [Impossible to buy that a fourteen-year-old, dealing with a plan to commit treason and repeat dunkings in the school toilet, would consider swirlies the least of his concerns.] Dephon wants no part of it, but getting rid of Jacqueline isn’t going to be easy. She’s convinced that in ten short days Dephon will inherit a legendary power that may or may not improve his acne, but could possibly destroy the Treptonian government once and for all. [I want nothing to do with your political schem--Did you say it might improve my acne?]

Unfortunately, the government believes it too.

With hundreds of assassins dispatched to neutralize him as a threat, Dephon has no choice but to sign up for Jacqueline’s plan. But Dephon soon realizes what every 14- year-old boy already knows: women are crazy. [14-year-old boys already know that women are demon-spawn; they don't know they're also crazy until they're in their forties.] For her plan to work, Dephon must keep secrets from his mind-reading father, battle a swarm of mystical bees for their allegiance, and infiltrate the very army out to kill him. Oh, there's also the minor complication of it requiring active participation from his dead mother. Yep, all in all, Dephon is fairly confident that if the Treptonian government doesn’t kill him, Jacqueline’s plan certainly will.

THE EXEMEUS is a 100,000 word YA fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


[Note for Evil Editor- the title is the name of a magical book in the story which tells the story of his mother's battle against the Treptonian army.]


[The author provided an alternate ending to the query, kicking in after the one-sentence paragraph:]

With hundreds of assassins dispatched to neutralize him as a threat, Dephon’s only choice is to sign up for Jacqueline’s plan. Unfortunately, her plan includes+ doing recon in the Treptonian army’s lair, battling a swarm of mystical bees for their allegiance, and reading enough to make his ninth grade English class look like preschool. [The football team has no trouble finding him for his daily dunking, but hundreds of assassins are flummoxed while he's sitting around reading?] Dephon is more than ready to give up and go into hiding. But then he stumbles onto the truth about his dead mother’s involvement in the Treptonian government’s rise to power. [What he stumbles onto, I assume, is The Exemeus, a magical book that details his mother's role in... If you go with this version, may as well use the opportunity to explain where the title comes from.]

Before Dephon can decide what to do, the assassins are at his door and Jacqueline’s true plan is revealed: to transport him back in time to prevent the government from ever conquering Earth. [Going back in time is a good way to escape hundreds of assassins. But recon in the enemy lair, bee battling and reading aren't. I'd leave these other activities out of the query unless you want to explain why he's wasting time with them.] With only a swarm of bees by his side, Dephon sets out to destroy the Treptonian government once and for all. But in the past, Dephon reconnects with his mother and faced with saving his planet or his mom, Dephon’s not sure he can choose.

THE EXEMEUS is a 100,000 word YA fantasy novel. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Notes

I prefer the length of the first version. I would like the first version better without the "women are crazy" sentence. Neither version hints at why the book is called The Exemeus, which could be bothersome if it's a made-up word.

If the book wouldn't be described as a comedy, featuring the comedic parts in the query may give the wrong impression. Talking roosters, mystical bees and swirlies don't strike me as noteworthy features of a book set on an oppressive post-apocalyptic Earth, unless this is a satire of the glut of post-apocalyptic YA novels out there.

In what way is the book magical?

How is post-apocalyptic Earth different? Magic exists, time travel is possible, some men can read minds, roosters talk, hundreds of assassins can't handle a job that one used to do... It sounds more like an alternate dimension or a bizarro world than Earth after some apocalyptic event.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Face-Lift 1004

Guess the Plot

Bitter Angel

1. Buffy the vampire slayer is back! And she's got Angel in tow. He no longer has his own show and will appear in only 6 out of the 23 episodes, making for a very . . . Bitter Angel.

2. In the war between heaven and Earth, Kendra, the oldest angel, doesn't want to get involved . . . until her daughter is tricked into joining Satan's side. Now there's going to be hell to pay.

3. After a life performing good deeds, June winds up spending eternity saving the souls of the gluttons in the bulimia club. And to top it off, her disgustingly perfect nemesis Dora is assigned to sinners at the male strip joint. June begins to wish she never quit the Hare Krishnas.

4. Lucifer's daughter knew something was wrong when she didn't get her magical powers on her 16th birthday. All the other Demons got theirs. She's about to go apocalyptic, when she discovers that her father's actually an angel!

5. After escaping from a serial killer and then getting captured by him again, Lila declares that she's a failure as a human, and when she dies she'll be a . . . Bitter Angel.

6. Raphael's had it up to here with Michael and Gabriel getting all the attention. When he gets wind of demonic goings-on down on Earth, he figures he can do just as good a job as his brothers. Sharpen up the flaming sword, it's time for the other archangel to shine!


Original Version

Dear Agent,

Have you ever wanted a do-over? A rewind? [A Groundhog Day moment?] Of course you have. We’ve all wanted to right our wrongs, [win a free ball,] turn back the clock, ["Turn Back the Clock"--Johnny Hates Jazz] strike the black marks from our score cards. Will you get that chance? Probably not. But I will. [Because I have that Memento guy's condition.]

I’m Lila Spencer, nineteen, and I was lucky enough to land [my time machine] at a countryside college in TN with my two best friends, Heather and Nilah, as roomies. It’s Friday, and Jay, love of my life, is visiting from his fancy shmancy art school in Chicago. Problem is, it’s Nilah’s birthday. And I forgot. I have two choices: I can go party with my friends or stay in with my man. ["Should I stay or should I go?"--The Clash] I want to be a good friend, and Jay is sweet and understanding, so I decide to go.

But I also stay.

Confusing, right? [Yeah.] Yeah, for me too. Waking up the next morning, I remember doing both. Going and staying. [This is the plot of the TV show Awake.] When I went, we rocked it out, partied hard, and landed ourselves in a shitty apartment, drugged, hogtied, naked, ["Drugged, Hogtied & Naked"--The Lennon Sisters] and fighting for our lives. I confiscated [grabbed] a t-shirt, escaped, and was able to lead the police back to Heather and Nilah. We all survived. When I stayed, I went to sleep, safe and warm in Jay’s arms. [If this is two books, I wanna read the one about when you went.] But I had the worst nightmare. I was standing by my friends’ bodies in a field, then I was at their funeral. Jay’s hand was on my shoulder, and I started to cry. Blood, not tears. Their blood was on my hands.

As I’m coming to, I can tell it’s morning. Sunlight hits my face, and I’m waiting for the heavenly sound of beeping machines to tell me I’m in the hospital. To tell me we all made it. But to my horror, no. I’m in my room, and Jay is sleeping beside me. My friends are dead. They must be. [Because they were, in your dream?] And it’s all my fault. [Doesn't the killer get any of the blame?] Nilah comes into the room, freaking out because I’m freaking out, and I jolt. Nilah’s alive! Heather’s alive? [Are you asking me or telling me?] Jay and Nilah show me the date on the calendar. It’s not Saturday. It’s still Friday. So… I dreamed it? There’s no way. I felt Alpha’s icky hands on me. [Who's Alpha? We need an introduction before you toss his name out.]

I go to the bathroom for privacy, brave my reflection, and that’s when I see it. I’m wearing it – the t-shirt I escaped in. [Solid white with a crew neck.] My gut tells me this shitstorm has just begun.

Bitter Angel is a 55,000-word YA/Crossover novel that explores the scary Stranger Dangers of the clubbing world and the moral issues surrounding the what-ifs of a rewind. [If it was a rewind to a time before they went clubbing, I don't see how she has the shirt.] Lila’s friends are alive, now what? Is she going to let this happen to anyone else? [Anyone else? Her priority at this moment is not letting it happen to Nilah, Heather and herself. Are Nilah and Heather going to cancel the birthday celebration when Lila claims that they'll all be drugged, hogtied and naked before the night is out?] Hell no! [Exactly!] But she’ll cross that line at her own expense.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from The Ohio State University, and recently returned to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in English. Known for being a girl with severe Peter Pan Syndrome: The College Years, I felt very qualified to write this novel. Bitter Angel is my third finished novel, and the first I am seeking publication for. I am currently working on my fourth. [These credits aren't needed, and the query is plenty long without them.]

Thank you for your time and consideration. At your request, I would be thrilled to send a completed manuscript of Lila’s story.

Sincerely,

[Author's note to EE: The title of this book comes from a discussion Lila has with herself after she is captured a final time by the antagonist. Feeling completely defeated, she says she was a failure as a human and will become a bitter angel after death.]


Notes

This needs to be shorter. Besides dumping the credits, I think you can do without the first paragraph. It's basically a bunch of synonyms for do-over.

The plot is described from Lila's POV until the "Bitter Angel is . . ." paragraph, where "I" changes to "she." To be consistent, start that paragraph:

My friends are alive, now what? Am I going to let this happen to anyone else? Hell no!

Or you can eliminate all the plot after the shitstorm sentence.

You can close the query with one paragraph from your own POV:

Bitter Angel is a 55,000-word YA/Crossover novel that explores the scary Stranger Dangers of the clubbing world and the moral issues surrounding the what-ifs of a rewind. Thank you for your time and consideration. At your request, I would be thrilled to send a completed manuscript of Lila’s story.

Film Noir Friday

Another double feature from Evil Editor's library of classic films.

video

video

Thursday, March 15, 2012

New Beginning 932

“I lead a hard life,” the Castle Bard sighed.

“Hmm,” said the princess. Ordinarily, she would have responded more articulately, but she was in the middle of trying to twist her hair into a neat bun and was only half-succeeding. It was twisting, but it was not neat.

He looked at the back of her head reproachfully. “I slave for your father the king, I suffer for my art, I work myself to a shadow, and you only say ‘hmm’. Is that kind?”

The princess released her hair and took her hairpins out of her mouth. “Would you really say you slave?” she inquired. “I can’t quite imagine Father demanding that you work without pause. Slaves do work without pause, don’t they?”

“I didn’t say I am a slave, I said that I do slave,” the Bard corrected. “I think they pause sometimes, if only to eat.”

* * *

Ethel hit "pause" on the Tivo and pushed herself up from the sofa.

On the way to the kitchen to get another bag of chips, the Bard's words hit her. "Oh God," she thought, "I'm . . . I'm a slave to afternoon TV!"


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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Face-Lift 1003


Guess the Plot

Vampire Sharks versus Zombie Werewolves

1. His brilliant diplomatic coups have all but assured the president of a second term in office when it's learned that vampire sharks and zombie werewolves are about to invade the US. Can he recruit a moody, brooding teenager in time to save the day--and his administration?

2. For centuries the zombie werewolves and the vampire sharks have done nothing but bark and snap at each other from the water boundaries. But when a sorcerer bestows upon everyone the ability to breathe both air and water, war erupts!

3. It’s World War IV and the fight is between the ocean dwelling vampire sharks and the land owning zombie werewolves. Ming is next in a long line of werewolf diplomats sent to become chummy with the sharks.

4. The Jefferson High Sharks and the Lincoln High Zombies are finalists in the state football championships. But during separate closed practice sessions, the Jefferson players cross over and the Lincoln players are infected. Strangely, none of the fans finds the game any more violent than usual.

5. The hottest new video game is Vam-sharks VS. Werezoms and Kioko is about to make her play to become world champion...when she learns the game is actually happening on an alien planet and the losers will be exterminated. Will she throw the match to save the werezoms?

6. The war is all but over; the zombie werewolves don't seem to have a prayer...until they hit upon the expedient of never going in the water.



Original Version

Dear Evil Editor,

In his first term, President Denton has averted two wars and reinstated the space program, leading to America's first working base on the moon. With the November election only six months away, he's all but guaranteed four more years...but there's one problem.

Intelligence reports indicate that America is about to be invaded by vampire sharks and zombie werewolves. [Okay, I can buy zombie werewolves. I'm not sure if they're werewolves who were killed and then came back from the dead, or if they're zombies who prowl the countryside only when the moon is full, but either way I'm totally on board. Vampire sharks, on the other hand? I mean, sharks that aren't vampires want to bite your neck and drink your blood, right? But their mouths are so big that when they do, they bite off your whole head. And then they eat the rest of you. There's nothing left of you to turn into a vampire shark or even a regular vampire.] [Also, if you get attacked by a werewolf, you actually care whether it's a zombie werewolf or not. If it's a regular werewolf, you may become a werewolf, but you can lead a normal life except when the moon is full. If it's a zombie werewolf, it eats your brains, and your life sucks during all moon phases. Conversely, if you get attacked by a shark, you don't care whether it's a vampire shark or not, because it's gonna eat you either way. Even if you claim vampire sharks drink blood but don't eat their prey, regular sharks would smell the blood in the water and come and eat you. Thus I suggest changing the vampire sharks to vampire cows, which are at least somewhat believable.] [One more thing. The title makes it sound like the vampire sharks and zombie werewolves are fighting each other, but now you claim America is being invaded by both of them. So it should be Vampire Sharks and Zombie Werewolves Versus America.] [Can vampire sharks breathe air? If not, it would be hard to invade a country unless they have big fishbowl-shaped headgear full of salt water. And they'd need prosthetic legs.] [Or they could travel in the back of water-filled trucks driven by humans who are willing to betray their species in return for riches the sharks bring them from the Titanic and other shipwrecks.]

If this were any other threat, Denton could deal with it through diplomacy, drone strikes and/or strategic use of the armed forces. But after reading countless books and watching hours upon hours of movies, he knows the only weapon capable of undoing such a ridiculous plot is a seventeen-year-old girl. Denton has three daughters of his own, but July, his oldest, is only fifteen. He'll have to recruit a reluctant champion from among the people; however, such a champion would not likely join if she were recruited by a soldier, police officer, firefighter or government spy -- men who would be ideal if the target was a middle-aged woman. No, only a moody, brooding teen will do the trick. [End this paragraph at "...among the people." The rest is just a joke that isn't important to the plot description.]

Denton's opponent in the upcoming election, Governor Townsend, has a teenage son. A son who just returned from boot camp after a stint in juvenile hall. A [moody, brooding] son named Thad.

Will Denton use Thad -- that dreamy-eyed bastard [delinquent] -- to recruit a teen girl, ensuring his loss in the next election? [Not clear that this ensures his loss. Sure, the opponent's hoodlum kid played a minor role, but the seventeen-year-old girl does all the work. And Denton will claim all the credit.] Will project LOL, SMH work, whereby they dump the zombie werewolves in the ocean and let them and the vampire sharks "eat it out?" [Now I'm starting to wonder if this is even a real book. To dump them in the ocean requires them to capture them, at which point they can just gas or shoot or bomb them. That doesn't get rid of the vampire sharks, but neither does throwing the zombie werewolves in the ocean, assuming the sharks' home field advantage leads to a rout.] Will Denton figure out that he accidentally switched up his recently prescribed anti-psychotic meds with a bottle of anti-worm pills for the family dog? [What does that have to do with anything?]

Vampire Sharks versus Zombie Werewolves is an 82,000 word YA novel (unfortunately for Denton).

Sincerely,


Notes

Is the LOL SMH plan thought up by the seventeen-year-old girl? She seemed to disappear from the query before she was even recruited. This being a YA book she is presumably your main character. She needs a major role in the query and she doesn't even have a name.

If you have enough free time to compose this query, maybe you can find enough to write the book. It could be a winner if you make it a subtle satire on the YA genre.

Of course, the idea that a teen is the only weapon that can save the world may be funnier to readers of this blog than it is to an audience of teens. Maybe you have the wrong target audience.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Beginning 931

"I’ve had some words of my father’s rolling around in my head for a while now that I can’t seem to get out of mind. Well, maybe that’s not exactly true, ‘cause I read them in a Chinese textbook about two years ago. While I may not have learned much Chinese, I do remember this: Wo renshi yi ge piaoliang de guniang; or, I know a pretty girl. In English it doesn’t sound that special, but whenever I find myself thinking those words I can’t help but feel a little bit different. It’s not that it’s any life changing difference or self-defining; I'm not looking to put any great importance on a line I read one time. For me, I always get a little smile out of it. The truth is, I do know a pretty girl. But I keep fucking it up with all the other pretty ones I know too."

Mr. Craven took a swig from the travel mug on his desk and looked blearily at all of us.

"Well?" he snapped. "Repeat it! Wo renshi yi ge piaoliang de guniang!"

Obediently I muttered it back with the rest of the terrified class. Man, ever since the budget cuts, these community college language programs were getting weirder and weirder.


Opening: Chris.....Continuation: sarahhawthorne

Monday, March 12, 2012

Face-Lift 1002


Guess the Plot

Hand of Chaos

1. After losing her left hand in a car crash, Dorothy has it replaced with a synthetic hand. She's thrilled--until the morning she wakes up with blood on her hands and her fingerprints show up at the crime scene.

2. God has been bored for some time, so every Wednesday he reaches into someone's life and creates massive chaos so he can watch in amusement as the poor bloke rushes around trying to put everything back together again.

3. When his brother is killed, Ethan seeks revenge by unleashing an army of zombies on the nation's Capital while a war between heaven and hell spills over into everyday life. If that ain't chaos, I don't know what is.

4. Aviator Craig Smith crashes in the middle of nowhere and stumbles upon the Hand of Chaos, a relic which gives him unlimited power to wreak destruction. At first he uses this power to fight evil, but soon it's just fun and games.

5. Vinny needs to drum up some rent money to pay back his loan shark. Hearing about a poker game, he joins, but it turns out they're using Tarot cards and his first hand is all these bad cards like the devil and death. Suddenly it isn't the rent Vinny is worried about.

6. Darnowa seeks the ancient Hand of Chaos, which will allow him to reclaim his throne and . . . oh, screw it. It's yet another generic YA fantasy.



Original Version

Evil Editor,

Anna Wei has issue. [Issues? An issue?] She's struggling to balance her demanding job with a social life that evaporates more every day. She has trouble maintaining any sort of commitment in her relationships, unable to even contemplate turning anything she has into a regular thing. [Never a good sign when a query includes an item from Evil Editor's list of the 5 most commonly used vague query phrases.

5. Mysterious stranger
4. Other stuff
3. On a journey of self-discovery
2. A regular thing
1. Nothing is as it seems]

In addition, she has trouble honing her skills to where they need to be if she wants to advance any further. The biggest problem of all? Anna works for the Government. Specifically, she works for the Government by hunting down rogue sorcerors, [sorcerers] mages, and mystical creatures using her own magical powers. [Combine those last two sentences into one.] Always fighting against the clock against gruesome and macabre forces, Anna and her small team is often all that stands between a crazed fanatic and an act of supernatural terrorism that could kill thousands. Whether it's opening the Gates of Hell or, worse, Heaven, [Heaven is worse than hell? A lot of pious people are gonna be pissed when they die and find this out.] there are always new threats and enemies Anna has to contend with and memories she would rather not have. [Whether you're an editor, a supernatural terror fighter, or a burger flipper, you hate your job.]

Her latest case is a tough one, too: a Necromancer who is waging a one-man war against the US Department of Defense. His name is Ethan Morgan, and he's on a mission. After his brother was killed by an experimental magical weapon in the middle east, [He was collateral damage when we sent David Copperfield over to make Syria vanish.] he's out to make everyone connected to it pay. [Everyone?] Everyone. Anna and her team have to find out what Ethan's endgame is, and stop it before he builds his own weapon, one that could set an undead horde against the nation's capital. [If you have an undead horde, you don't need a weapon to set them against the capital. Just truck them in and release them.] After turning a high-rise apartment building into a zombie-infested death trap, [If you really want to kill a lot of people, you should turn a building with a steady influx of people into a zombie-infested death trap. Like the Smithsonian or a movie theater. Once your zombies have killed everyone who lives in the apartment building, no one else is going to be coming along except maybe a couple Mormons. Whereas if they kill everyone at the seven o'clock movie, they get a new crowd of victims at nine o'clock.] his ambitions and crimes only get worse as he begins to attack CEOs of defense contractors, [Suddenly I'm starting to think Ethan is the hero.] unleash murderous Wraiths, and raise an army of the undead. Anna and her team try to track him as he moves through DC striking down anyone who gets in the way of his warped sense of justice. All the while, they have to contend with a hot-headed general whose squad of sanctified and blessed holy warriors think they can handle it on their own, despite failure after failure to contain him. Did I mention Anna also has a little bit of a drinking problem? [More importantly, should I mention it?]

Featuring a strong cast of characters, with romantic aspects for both the heroine Anna Wei in the form of the wise and powerful Dhampir Ayham [Anagram: Dharma Mayhem, a two-word description of the TV show Lost.] and for the villain Ethan Morgan in the manic but psychotic Acolyte Amy. [Is that the name she goes by? Acolyte Amy? Or is "acolyte" just one of the many words you've chosen to capitalize unnecessarily?] With a rogue's gallery of mages and agents blessed and cursed with different powers and abilities, Hand of Chaos blends the pace and tension of a counter-terrorism procedural with the occult trappings of classic dark fantasy. Action packed and gritty, Hand of Chaos introduces the reader to a fictional universe [Whoa! This is fictional?!] featuring a prominent war between Heaven and Hell, where Hell's Demons and Heaven's Angels attempt to influence the daily workings of the world. Sometimes they do so through cultural and social manipulation, other times through overt and covert violence. In addition to Heaven and Hell, there are a group of rogue Angels and Demons that broke away from God and Lucifer in an attempt to prevent either one from gaining the upper hand. [This angel/demon part sounds like a novel in itself.] Anna and her team, being agents of Chaos, [Is Chaos her team name? The term "agents of Chaos" is going to remind everyone of "agents of KAOS," namely Siegfried, the Claw, Ironhand, Bronzefinger, Leadside, Dr. Yes, Simon the Likeable, et al.] really just want to keep everything from getting worse. Easier said than done.

I am an unpublished writer who is trying to change that and leave my depressing day job working for the US Government. [Writing may be less depressing, but the government has a better benefits package.] Any feedback would be most appreciated.


Notes

This is way too long.

Based on the first six sentences, Anna could be a librarian in a tame romance novel. There's no hint that this is a plot starring rogue sorcerers, mystical creatures, gruesome and macabre forces, a crazed fanatic, a necromancer, defense contractors, murderous wraiths, an army of the undead, a hot-headed general, a squad of sanctified and blessed holy warriors, mages and agents, or angels and demons. As you'll be sending this to someone who is into fantastical creatures and violence, you don't want to risk the reader balling it up and tossing it at the nerf hoop just above the wastebasket before she even gets to the zombie deathtrap.

The first section can be condensed to: Anna Wei works for the government, using her magical powers to hunt down rogue sorcerers, mages, and mystical creatures. She and her small team are often all that stands between a crazed fanatic and an act of supernatural terrorism that could kill thousands.

Even better would be to change "works for the government" to "heads up the [insert cool-sounding name of her team]. If you don't have a cool-sounding name of her team, get one. If it's Chaos, change it, and not to CONTROL, UNCLE, THRUSH, or SPECTRE.


The second section is your plot. Possibly you tried to make it sound as chaotic as possible.

Her latest case is a tough one: a Necromancer waging a one-man war against the US Department of Defense. Ethan Morgan's brother was killed by an experimental magical weapon, and now he's out for revenge, attacking CEOs of defense contractors, unleashing murderous wraiths on Washington, and raising an army of the undead to strike down anyone who gets in the way of his warped sense of justice.


The final long section sounds too much like a promotional advertisement. Now that you've set up the situation, you could give us a hint of what Anna plans to do about it and what will happen if she fails. And finish by saying "Did I mention that a war between heaven and hell is also raging in D.C.?" That ups the chaos ante more than Anna's slight drinking problem. And a brief mention of the war is plenty. If you make a big deal of a war between heaven and hell, people will wonder why they should care about the Anna and Ethan "subplot."

Given that you capitalize necromancer, wraiths, angels, demons, government, gates of hell, etc. (presumably because they rate capitalization in the book), it's odd that the Middle East isn't capitalized.

The reader of the query will want the word count. And we want it too, so that the Too Short and Too Long Nazis will know which group needs to set you straight.